Sunday, June 9, 2013

The Incredible Growing Man!


While looking at the classic Avengers story involving a deadly game between the Grandmaster and Kang the Conqueror, it would be remiss not to devote some space to the creature that began that cycle of events in the first place--the Growing Man, a stimuloid in Kang's service that's been used sparingly in Marvel books. And that's probably because his main power is--

Aw, c'mon, do I really have to say it?




(I think the above page would make for a great Joe Jusko reinterpretation, don't you?)


Originally, Kang hid the Growing Man in our century in order to retrieve and unleash him on those he would conquer in future campaigns:



Kang seems to place great value in the Growing Man's use as a weapon, so it's a wonder he doesn't deploy this thing more often. But the thing about having such a tool at your disposal is that it has the potential to recklessly destroy not only its targets but also the world you're seeking to conquer. After all, if it thrives on resistance, chances are there's probably not going to be much of a world left for you to take possession of by the time it's done its job. So the Growing Man's uses to Kang are more likely in the form of specific strikes, rather than simply to cut him loose while the Conqueror steps out to have a beer and returns to pick up the pieces later. By extension, this stimuloid has the kind of power that doesn't offer much of a way forward for those comic book characters who would battle it.

And that includes Avengers:




So given the nature of the Growing Man's power, and the limited story that might be played out as a result, who's the last hero you'd think Marvel would send against him when he makes his first appearance?



It's a head-scratcher, for sure.

A lot of time has passed since I first read this issue, so I was surprised at some of the things that caught my eye that I didn't give much thought to the first time. For instance, the way that we humans still tend to poke and prod at things that are clearly beyond our comprehension:



And since this is the Growing Man being poked, and since there are trigger-happy policemen standing around, it doesn't take long before these nimrods see what they've set in motion:



So, naturally, the first hero the police think to call to give them a hand is a super-powered Norse warrior who likes to hit things:



Now that Thor has sized up his foe (get it? ha ha!), he probably realizes that the one thing he shouldn't do against such a creature is to unleash any of his powers that might only add to the Growing Man's size and strength. That means, of course, that Thor is going to strike this guy with the most powerful, bludgeoning weapon he has. I guess that gods are also no strangers to the poke-and-prod method:



Fortunately, Kang shows up so that Thor doesn't have to go back to Odin and report that his actions resulted in a Growing Man orbiting the sun in place of the rubble that used to be Earth:



But, hey, an evil time-traveller? Now that's a foe that Thor can send packing with a hammer toss:



Frankly, I'm not sure what story could sustain the Growing Man as an adversary. That's not to say that Marvel hasn't found workarounds when necessary. When the Avengers next battle the Growing Man, it's Hercules who takes the lead against him--only this time, after just a few blows, we see that the Growing Man can inexplicably be brought down by force after all:




While Iron Man made the same mistake that Thor and just about everyone else did--try force first, even though you know what will happen:



Though eventually, Iron Man brought down the Growing Man by good old-fashioned engineering:



Reed Richards even took a similar approach and fired bursts of energy at the Growing Man that "reorganized" his bodily structure so that every impact caused shrinking, rather than growing. Once these various workarounds started popping up, the threat of the Growing Man became less dramatic in further appearances; but even if he had no discernible vulnerabilities whatsoever, again there's only so much one can do with him. As we've seen, Marvel heroes can't just run around in a story featuring the Growing Man and not strike out at him.  Or, at the very least:


...give it a poke or a prod.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this post. The Growing Man is one of my all-time favorite supervillians. He was ugly and creepy, his power was scary, and he could give Thor a run for his money. Still, it was cool to see Hercules get annoyed and take him out with one punch. It was nice to see Hercules get his due, as a powerhouse instead of a punchline.

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