26 Oct 31 HORROR STORIES — SAGA OF THE SWAMP THING 31 “Dark Messiah — The Brimstone Ballet” (1984)
Yes, I was close to choosing something from Neil Gaiman’s SANDMAN books — maybe the serial killer convention, or Dr. Destiny at the diner.
Or, which Alan Moore should I choose? Dr. Gull’s architectural tour through London in FROM HELL? Rorschach’s therapy session in THE WATCHMEN? Or his brilliant Lovecraft pastiche, THE COURTYARD?
But I’m picking the stories that truly scared and stayed with me. And this one, with The Swamp Thing’s nemesis, Anton Arcane, paddling his way up out of hell, and dragging all the other damned souls with him, is horror on a cosmic scale. Reminsiscent of Ellison’s “Hitler Painted Roses”, where the Gates of Hell open momentarily, these aren’t the celebrated infamous. Slimy, forgotten, evil without excuse or background — people who were born bad and damaged, and have only gotten worse in The Pit. And now, all over the world, they’re taking human form, and having a holiday.
Look for the quick insert panel at Arkham Asylum, when Arcane’s evil is spreading over the world like an oily cloud. An attendant peers in horror into one of the padded cells:
The Joker’s stopped laughing.