Abby Arcane has been part of DC Comics almost as long as Swamp Thing. She made her comic book debut as a teenager in the third issue of the 1973 Swamp Thing series. Since then, she’s stayed an integral part of the title character’s story. Often thought of as simply the love interest of Alec Holland’s Swamp Thing, Abby has a lot of backstory fans might not be aware of.
Much of the character changed when DC launched its New 52 universe, so the Abby Arcane of comics today is very different from her original counterpart. Likewise, the DC Universe live-action series sees a different version of Abby. In the streaming series, Abby is a doctor with the Center for Disease Control who only returns home because her help is requested to find a treatment for a mysterious illness that is sweeping the town. A lot of her backstory in the series still remains a mystery for viewers, but comics might be able to fill in some of the blanks.
10 Abby Is From Transylvania
DC Universe’s Swamp Thing series sees Abby hailing from a small town in Louisiana. In her original comic book stories of the 1970s, however, Abby wasn’t from the United States at all.
Instead, she was from the historic country of Romania. More specifically, Transylvania. Transylvania will sound familiar to literature fans because that’s where Bram Stoker’s Dracula was from. In comics, the region is home to all manner of supernatural creatures. The Arcane family was at the center of quite a few supernatural stories, including her place in the Swamp Thing lore. Eventually, she did make her way to the United States and spent a lot of time in the south. In particular, she loved the swamps of New Orleans, providing the inspiration for the live-action series.
9 Her Uncle Framed Her Mother
The Arcane family had an ancient estate in Transylvania. Her father was a count named Gregori and her mother was Anise. Anise was known for her beauty, and Abby’s uncle Anton was jealous of her relationship with his brother. His jealousy and meddling cost Abby her mother.
Anton framed Anise as a witch to the villagers that lived beyond the estate. Superstitious and angry that a witch lived amongst them, they burned Anise at the stake. Abby grew up without her mother, but did split her time between her father and the uncle who changed her life. Her uncle became a recurring villain in both the original series and in the newer comics.
8 She Is An Empath
While the streaming series hasn’t shown Abby to exhibit any special abilities, that’s not true in the comics. She started to develop empathic connections as a teenager.
As a result of her empathy, she was able to tune herself in to what others were feeling. Over time, the ability grew so that she could even sense people in the surrounding area. Her empathy is what initially allowed her to form a bond with Swamp Thing. She could frequently sense him before he made himself known.
7 Her Father Is The Patchwork Man
Like a lot of Abby’s backstory, what happened to her father in the original comics was inspired by some classic horror literature.
After refusing to allow her uncle to train her in dark magic, Abby escaped her uncle by living in the same clinic where she worked. When her father tried to come home to help her, he was blown to bits by a landmine. Her uncle then used a combination of magic and science to stitch her father back together. He eventually became the villain Patchwork Man, in an homage to the novel Frankenstein.
6 Abby Married Matt Cable
The Swamp Thing streaming series introduced Matt Cable as a long-time friend of Abby’s who had a crush on her in high school. Her comic book introduction to him didn’t involve a childhood friendship. Instead, he was a government agent on the trail of Swamp Thing.
Of course, in both instances, the two developed a strong friendship and became allies of Swamp Thing. Eventually, Abby and Matt married in the comics, though the relationship didn’t last. Matt developed a drinking problem and lapses in his memory as a result of magic inflicted on him. It became too much for Abby.
5 She’s Been Resurrected By Magic
Long after their marriage became troubled, Abby discovered that her husband was no longer her husband. Instead, he was a zombie controlled by her uncle.
After she discovered the truth, her uncle used his power to take her life. Unfortunately for him, the soul of Abby’s departed husband was still hanging around. Matt used what little magic was left in him to bring Abby’s body back to life. That just left Swamp Thing to round up a few magical allies to help him retrieve Abby’s soul from the underworld - which he did.
4 Abby Has Several Psychic Abilities
In addition to her empathic skills, Abby also revealed several other psychic-related abilities over her decades in comics.
One storyline saw her kidnapped, but to help herself escape, she suddenly developed telekinesis. Her ability to connect with people emotionally evolved into telepathy. She could also sense someone’s presence from miles away. Abby was able to telepathically locate a tiny plant that started to grow after one of Swamp Thing’s husks died. She nurtured the plant until it became the new host of Swamp Thing.
3 Abby Has A Brother
When DC Comics reorganized with the New 52, a few changes occurred for Abby Arcane. For one thing, she had a brother named William.
William had his own gifts. He had a connection to the force known as the Black, or the Rot. It is essentially the opposite of the Green in the comics. When characters like Swamp Thing and Poison Ivy are connected to the Green, they can bring life to vegetation. Characters connected to the Black, on the other hand, are immersed in death and decay. William once used his connection to the Rot to raise an army of the dead.
2 She’s Connected To The Rot
The New 52 also provided Abby with another major change. Her psychic abilities of the original series were gone in favor of a connection to the Rot - just like her brother.
While her brother wanted to use the connection for his own personal gain, Abby spent most of her life avoiding her own connection (after accidentally 'rotting' her own mother to death as an infant). She even tried to shield her brother from his connection for a time. Eventually, her brother realized that the Rot didn’t want him for its avatar: it wanted Abby. Abby only accepted her fate when she used her connection to defeat her evil uncle. She tried to use the Rot as a force of balance rather than a force of evil.
1 She Has A Daughter
Though Abby fell in love with the Alec Holland version of Swamp Thing, a being made of plant material couldn’t exactly have a child with a human. When they wanted to take their relationship to the next level, they needed a little magical help to do so.
John Constantine, magician and leader of the Justice League Dark on occasion, teamed up with Swamp Thing in the past. He became the surrogate father for Tefe Holland while magically possessed by Swamp Thing. Because Tefe originated as a spirit called the Sprout, she was a part of the Green, and had Swamp Thing’s abilities. She came from Constantine’s bloodline - while he had demon blood in his veins - so she was part demon as well.