Arcane is a scientist whose obsession with gaining immortality has led him to create monstrous creatures known as "Un-Men" as well as other monstrous biogenetic experimentations involving the dead. He was able to resurrect his deceased brother Gregori as the Patchwork Man. He is also a skilled magician, which he is able to channel through his horrific experiments.
Living in the mountains of Europe with his niece Abigail, Arcane was introduced in Swamp Thing Volume 1 #2 after luring the plant based hero to his castle home. Arcane sought to use his scientific and magic abilities to transform his body into Swamp Thing's form, while changing Swamp Thing back into Alec Holland. At first very grateful to be human again, Alec soon overheard Arcane discussing his evil intentions now that he can carry them out. Alec then succeeds in breaking the spell Arcane cast, and sacrifices his humanity, so Arcane becomes a frail old man again. Pursued by Swamp Thing, Arcane fell to his death, only to be resurrected by his minions in a new body. He then attacked Swamp Thing twice more before truly dying, the first time as a hulking corpse-like beast (only to be destroyed by vengeful ghosts) and later as a spider-like cyborg piloting a massive dragonfly-like vehicle. It is after his second death that his soul was consigned to Hell.
Arcane's soul later escaped from Hell, and ultimately helped to summon the Monkey King into the world.
After a fight with Abigail that culminated in her leaving on foot to find Swamp Thing, Matt Cable (Abigail's husband) had an attack of conscience and drove after her. He'd been drinking heavily and wound up crashing his car, leaving him mortally wounded. Ultimately Arcane managed to possess Cable's body, and with it gained access to Cable's godlike power.
In his body, he masquerades as Cable, claiming a new job called Blackriver Recorporations and buying a mansion for them to live. Arcane combined his own magic with Cable's inherent psychic powers to alter reality and the employees of Recorporations were the resurrected souls of deceased serial killers returned from Hell. He finally revealed himself, tormenting his niece and causing havoc and insanity by altering reality on a massive scale. For miles around natural and unnatural disasters occurred, people succumb to homicidal instincts and the resurrected serial killers returned to killing.
He once again battled Swamp Thing, accompanied by monstrous forms resembling Un-men, after killing Abigail and condemning her soul to Hell, all the while declaring the earth as his now.
It was during this battle that Arcane found that the Swamp Thing was an elemental and thus possessed semi-magical abilities allowing the Swamp Thing to combat him on a more even ground. The battle was enough for Matthew Cable to regain control of his body, and Arcane was exorcised directly back to Hell. Cable uses his awakened power to resurrect Abigail's body, but not having sufficient power to repair himself, becomes comatose and finally dies, whereupon he becomes Matthew, a raven living within The Dreaming.
Arcane next appears as a demon, having been promoted to this status by the Lords of Hell. He attacks Swamp Thing yet again, only to be defeated. In a later episode, Arcane temporarily repents his evil ways after having briefly found God, who eventually banishes him back to Hell. Arcane is tortured by the demon Josephine, whom he seduces into helping him escape. Swamp Thing defeats the two demons, causing their forms to morph together, and when last seen, it is revealed that the Arcane/Josephine being is pregnant.
After Abigail was able to fight off the mental control of Sethe, Sethe revives Anton Arcane from the dead.
In the wake of The New 52 (a reboot of the DC Comics universe), Anton Arcane is a regular antagonist in the monthly Swamp Thing comics. Arcane is now the new avatar of The Black (AKA The Rot) trying to take over The Red (colliding with Animal Man as well) and The Green. Anton also has a son named William Arcane and Abigail is his daughter in this timeline.
During Animal Man and Swamp Thing's one year in The Rot, Anton Arcane and the forces of The Rot were able to take over parts of Earth. It was mentioned by Frankenstein that Anton Arcane had imprisoned someone beneath Metropolis. When the forces of The Red and the forces of The Green converge outside of Anton Arcane's castle, Anton Arcane unleashes corrupted versions of Maxine Baker and Abigail Arcane. Anton Arcane and The Rot's conquest of Earth is thwarted and undone when Maxine breaks the hold of the remaining Hunter's Three on her. After being defeated by Swamp Thing, Arcane is put in a hell specifically made for him by the Parliament of Decay when nothing ever rots and all is forever pure. Abigail as the new avatar of the rot comes to him demanding information about her mother. Arcane revels that when she was a baby she already had power over the Rot and she accidentally killed her by 'filling' her with the Rot. To make him talk Abigail let him feel rot but she now says he will never escape his hell and will never touch rot again. Arcane says that when he touched it when she gave it to him he became stronger than he been in ages and he will escape and take revenge on both her and Alec Holland. As she teleports away Arcane rips out one of his eyes and throws it in the portal. On earth a boy is about to eat an apple when it turns rotten. He throws it away and Arcane's eye appears in it. In Swamp Thing #36, vol 5, when Swamp Thing goes in the Rot to warn Abigail about the new realm of machines she initially assumes he is there because of Arcane who has escaped.
Anton Arcane possesses genius-level intellect. He possess the knowledge of creation of synthetic organs and skin through which he made his Un-Men. He initially wanted to create a body and transfer his consciousness into it so he could make himself immortal within a tireless form instead of in his normal aged, worn body. He also possessed many arcane artifacts. He possesses necromancy which enables him to control the dead.
In the New 52, Arcane was brought in as the avatar of the Rot just as Alec Holland is avatar of the Green. As the avatar he could manipulate rot, death and decay to his will. He main objective was to simply help the spread of rot but he caused a wave of carnage as he thought that killing was the best sacrifice for the Rot. He then found a way of allowing rot in a living being, causing decay before death. When Swamp Thing and Animal Man are trapped within the Rot Arcane uses this 'living' rot on everyone except those who have a strong enough connection to the Red (Animals) or the Green, such as Poison Ivy or Man-Bat . There are ways to prevent the living rot, such as using the Man-Bat serum, but only if used before being completely controlled by it. These rot zombies can be weakened or even killed with Alec Holland's bio-restorative formula. Arcane's Un-Men were normal people who gave themselves to the Rot.In the Swamp Thing television series, Mark Lindsay Chapman played Arcane.
Anton Arcane appears in the short-lived Swamp Thing voiced by Don Francks.
Louis Jourdan portrayed Anton Arcane in the 1982 film adaptation of Swamp Thing directed by Wes Craven. He reprised the role in the 1989 sequel The Return of Swamp Thing.
Arcane appears as the main boss in the Swamp Thing video game for the Nintendo Entertainment System.