Thursday, July 14, 2016

Assaults of the Absorbing Man!

A list of some of the more tenacious foes of the incredible Hulk would certainly include enemies such as the Leader, the Rhino, the Sandman, Doc Samson, and the Abomination, all of whom have made numerous appearances in the Hulk's book battling the man-monster and lived to regret it. (Without doing a formal count, I'd have to say that the Leader and the Abomination would be tied in appearances. Anyone care to tally them up?) Stories featuring the Sandman seemed to taper off after Roy Thomas ended his tenure on the book as scripter--but Doc Samson, bless him, continued to hang in there, tackling the Hulk when the situation called for it or there was no other option.

Yet there's another big gun who went after the Hulk a number of times, but perhaps falls into the category of his bark being worse than his bite--Crusher Creel, the brutal Absorbing Man, who started out as a foe of Thor but often guest-starred in other mags where a heavy hitter was called for. Given the nature of his power, the Absorbing Man should come out on top in a fight more often than he does; as it is, his success rate is probably at around 4%, which is absolutely terrible for a foe who can absorb the properties of virtually anything or anyone, even the foe he's battling. Usually he ends up losing because he's been (a) outmaneuvered, (b) outfought, or (c) tricked into absorbing something that makes him extremely vulnerable or helpless. In fact, he's been beaten so often that at times his confidence has been shattered and he goes underground for a time, resurfacing when he's angry enough to take another shot at throwing his weight around.

The Absorbing Man hasn't gone up against the Hulk as often as you might think, so it's a simple matter to take a brief look at their battles and see why this bruiser is always getting his ball and chain handed to him.

When the Absorbing Man meets the Hulk for the first time, he's managed to make his way back to Earth after Odin had exiled him to the depths of space--and as his battle with the Hulk reaches its conclusion, he at last decides to use the Hulk's own power against him. It's a sound strategy; but in this case, Creel is done in by writer Roy Thomas, who sees the issue's final page right around the corner and resorts to a change in the Hulk which shouldn't occur in the heat of battle but does.

No, I don't know how Bruce Banner or any human would roll out of the way of a falling mountain. Thomas probably does, but his lips are sealed.

After seven years to the month (our time), the Absorbing Man is recruited by the cabal known as "They," given a spiffy costume, and sicced on the Hulk, this time ambushing Banner in a skyscraper under construction--and once more Creel tries to use the Hulk's own power against him. But that final page is looming again, and this time it's Creel's misjudgment that defeats him--that, and one heck of a tantrum.

Correction, Creel: All you had to do to protect yourself from the fall was to retain the strength and power of the Hulk, you dunce! What would there be in those building shards that's going to make you stronger?

Fast-forward four years, where by this time Creel has taken his lumps in fights with other super-beings (most recently the Avengers) and isolated himself on Easter Island to get his bearings. Unfortunately, the Hulk washes up on shore after dealing fatally with the revenge-crazed Glenn Talbot--and Creel decides he's had enough of lump-taking. From his breast-beating, Creel obviously realizes the potential of his power--it's just that his execution always seems to fall short. And speaking of falling...

One of the cooler dust-ups between the Hulk and the Absorbing Man takes place seven years later, when the Hulk has shifted to his gray form and taken the identity of Joe Fixit, hired muscle of Vegas casino owner Michael Berengetti. Creel is put on the payroll of a rival businessman who wants to reduce Berengetti's holdings to ruin--and that puts Fixit and Creel in a dream matchup, two seasoned brawlers who duke it out old-school. The battle finally ends up at Hoover Dam, where Creel again tries his absorbing tactic on the Hulk--but a condition of the Hulk's gray form works against his foe, and Fixit is more than savvy enough to take advantage of the situation.

This turns out to be one of the better Absorbing Man stories, where Creel gives as good as he gets and is about as ruthless as they come. Unfortunately for him, the same description applies to Fixit--and though Creel now attacks the Hulk using the power of the dam's generator, Fixit ends up giving Creel the beating of his life.

With Creel's... er, remains being tossed into the river, we can assume that he'll reconstitute himself eventually--but it would be fifteen years and a reboot of the Incredible Hulk title before we'd see him take another shot at the Hulk. (Again, easily qualifying for the tenacity category.) This time, writer Bruce Jones adds an unusual twist, as Creel, from prison, takes control of another's mind (don't ask me how--a new wrinkle to his "absorbing" power?) and forces Banner to break him out. Afterward, the expected Hulk-Absorbing Man battle occurs, with Creel absorbing everything in sight (including his former prison) to make him a colossal, overwhelming opponent. In addition, Creel's self-confidence is off the scale, sadistically assuring everyone present that he'll be trampling over anyone and everyone, including the Hulk.

However, Creel is still vulnerable to trickery, and a third party convinces him that one of the people present holds the key to proceeding with his plans. But he hasn't been told everything about that person's current condition.

A pretty gruesome end for the Absorbing Man, but a T.K.O. for the Hulk. Creel, despite appearances, goes on to many, many more bookings in various Marvel stories through the years. Even with what we've seen here, he must be doing something right, eh?

An animated knock-down drag-out between these two bruisers!


Anonymous said...

I've seen the old ones, but these more recent Absorbing Man-Hulk battles are new to me.
Crusher absorbed a graveyard?! That's pretty hardcore!
That fight on Easter Island made for a great comic, with some Great Sal Buscema art, but that scene with the "lever' doesn't look quite right to me. It looks like Crusher should have been sent flying in the opposite direction, over the Hulk's head.
M.P., Renowned Physics Expert

Comicsfan said...

I tend to agree with you on the Absorbing Man's direction, M.P. Even if he hadn't hurtled over the Hulk's head, he probably would have simply been launched straight up. Perhaps his mass as a virtual island factored into his trajectory?

Anonymous said...

Surely the Hulk's most recurring foe was General Thunderbolt Ross :D

Comicsfan said...

An excellent point, Colin--he'd definitely "rank" right up there!

Warren JB said...

Great overview! I'd love to see all of that Joe Fixit fight.

Wasn't Bruce Jones' run retconned as 'it was all a dream'? Not that I'm too sorry about that, to be honest.

Comicsfan said...

I'm honestly not sure, Warren--but I know that it would be welcome news to the Absorbing Man. ;)

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