What do you get when you cross a boxer, a convict, and a man endowed with powers by the Norse god of mishief? Carl “Crusher” Creel. That’s what.
While no one can ever accuse the Absorbing Man of being one of the top dog villains in any Universe, (With the exception of an attempt at a story arc by Bruce Jones, he’s usually a done in one type villain.) (Actually, that’s not fair. I liked what Jones did with the Hulk..mostly. I didn’t even have a problem with the “evolved” absorbing power of Creel.) I have always liked him and found his power visually interesting. He always puts up a good fight against Thor, the Hulk, and in one instance Quasar, and he’s apparently impossible to kill.
Crusher Creel was a washed up boxer with no future when Loki approached him and gave him a magical , unbeknownst to Creel, but knownst to us gave him the power to absorb the properties of anything he touches. And by anything I mean ANYTHING.
I was first introduced to the Absorbing Man in the pages of the Incredible Hulk, and though his origins are that of a Thor villain, he’ll always be in the Hulk’s rogues gallery to me. In the story, he was beaten by touching the Hulk and absorbing all his strength, however, when he calmed down, he became as weak as Banner and the Hulk readily defeated him.
One of the reasons I’ve always like The Absorbing Man was because of a story I read with him early in my comic collecting years. He was pulling himself out of a river having willed himself back together after a battle with The Hulk. Later on in life, Alex Ross was working on Universe X, and one of the subplots of the story was that some Absorbing Man worshipers were finding pieces of him that had been scattered to put him back together and bring him back…basically from the dead. That’s a pretty formidable foe. No matter what you do to him…he can come back.
With his power, The Aborbing Man can put up a fight with practically any super hero. If nothing worthwhile is around, he’ll start by absorbing the metal from his ball and chain. From there, he may absorb water, brick, other metals, and even energy. In one particular battle with the Hulk, Creel absorbed the power of an electrical station and the Hulk used water to short him out and defeat him. (I mention that to make my point about Creel absorbing energy.)
In one interesting absorbtion, Creel found himself facing off with Quasar. This was in an earlier issue of the series from the late eighties/early nineties.In fact, this is the first appearance of the Absorbing Man after his fight with Hulk in which he aborbed the electricity. In this fight, he absorbed the properties of Quasar’s power bracelets. In a throwback to the first issue, Creel couldn’t contain the power and it “detroyed” him. He’d return later.
From the cover, hopefully you can see one of my other favorite things about The Absorbing Man. He’s visually interesting. The Absorbing Man is one of those characters that can be given a different look depending on his environment or what he has absorbed. It makes for some very neat looks to the character and he turns out being quite visually interesting.
I’d love to see a story (and this may have happened) where Creel absorbs the properties of Captain America’s shield. He’d be indestructable, and he’d probably look pretty cool too. (Get on that Marvel.)
Whether it’s steal, rock, water, sand, electricity, or Quasars power bands, The Absorbing Man has the potential of a different look everytime he’s on the page. It makes for a great challenge to the artist, and also a great freedom.
While I know that The Absorbing Man may not be the most complex or interesting villain in comics, the truth is he provides good times and good fights. I think it would be possible to see him join the Thunderbolts at some point, because we know from his relationship with Titania that he has some kind of heart underneath that absorbing exterior.
I suppose that’s where I differ, though, from a lot of comics readers. Depth of character, as it pertains to a villain, isn’t a prerequisite for me to invest in a villain. I like a villain that can give our hero a good fight, whether it’s over a thwarted bank robbery, a matter of vengeance, or an attempt to take over the world.
I have always enjoyed a good Absorbing Man story and always will. That’s what puts him in my top ten.