Wednesday, January 23, 2008

The Absorbing Man and the Destroyer

These two character popped up in the last month which reminded me about their first appearances. Both came from a single, extended story arc in Thor.

It started in 1965. Marvel had already established several of its new innovations but in 1965 Stan Lee and Jack Kirby started something new - extended plotlines. Previously stories were continued over at most a couple of issues. Starting in 1965 it seemed like the plots never ended. Just to be sure, Stan and Jack often had a second plot going, ready to take over when the current story ended.

In a story entitles "The Stronger I am the Sooner I Die", Loki decided to create someone strong enough to challenge Thor. He picked a brutal prisoner in a penitentiary and spiked his drink. The prisoner, Crusher Creel, gained the ability to absorb the properties of anything he touched. Using his ball and chain as a weapon he broke out of jail and confronted Thor. With his abilities, Creel could match Thor blow for blow.

Thor was called away from the fight. Loki had used Creel as a diversion and kidnapped Jane Foster (Thor's mortal identity was a doctor and he had a thing for his nurse but Odin disapproved). Thor journeyed to Asgard to confront Loki. Odin broke up the fight, demanding to know the cause. Loki claimed that Thor had brought Jane to Asgard, hoping to make her immortal. Odin decreed that there should be a trial of the gods but allowed Thor to go back to Earth to settle things with the Absorbing Man first.

Creel turned out to be too powerful for Thor to beat so Thor tricked him into absorbing the properties of helium. Creel floated away. Thor assumed that he would float until his powers faded.

Returning to Asgard, Thor and Loki began the trial of the gods. This was trial by ordeal. They were transported to a hostile dimension with the first back being declared the winner. They were not supposed to have any weapons (Thor had to surrender his hammer) but Loki cheated with the use of a bag of enchanted Norn stones. Loki won the trial but Thor was given permission to get proof that Loki cheated.

Loki hid the stones by sending them to Viet Nam (in the middle of the war). Thor recovered the stones and fought off some Viet Cong for good measure.

Desparate, Loki discovered that Thor was near the temple housing the Destroyer. Loki revealed the temple to a hunter who activated the Destroyer. Thor, seeing the temple open rushed to secure the Destroyer but instead of was first thing it saw.

It seems that the Destroyer was a creation of Odin. Not alive itself, it needed a living person's astral self to activate. Once it came to life it would kill the first thing it saw - in this case, Thor (later it was revealed that the Destroyer was created to battle the Celestials).

Thor was clearly outclassed. The Destroyer was made from the same metal (uru) as Thor's hammer and it was far stronger than Thor. It also had an array of other powers. One of them shattered Thor's hammer. In desperation Thor tried to levitate away using one of the Norn stones. The Destroyer pulled him back down by increasing gravity beneath Thor. The Destroyer trapped Thor by turning the floor into diamond. He then tried to do the same thing to Thor.

Loki quickly realized that the Destroyer was too powerful and that Odin would quickly realize who released it. No one but Odin could stop the Destroyer but Odin was in the Odin-Sleep and couldn't be disturbed. Loki was imprisoned for trying.

From a cell in Asgard, Loki saved Thor from the transformation ray by making him immaterial. This gave Thor a respite but the strain was too much for Loki to repeat. While Thor played hide and seek with the Destroyer in the huge temple housing the Destroyer, Loki contacted the Norn Queen. She used a spell to wake Odin. Odin offered aid to Thor who refused. Thor had a plan. He made his way back to the body of the hunter whose essence had activated the Destroyer. Unwilling to risk his human body, the Destroyer transfered his essence back to the hunter. Thor was sworn not to hurt mortals so he figured that he could duck behind the Destroyer then transfer back. Before the hunter could do this, Thor brought down the temple, pulling the hunter to safety.

Thor repaired his hammer and returned to Asgard with the Norn stones. Loki was given a humiliating sentence - to assist the royal alchemist.

Obviously this didn't last. Loki used the alchemist's supplies to bring back the Absorbing Man. This time Creel beat Thor. Loki appeared to Creel, explained where his powers came from, and took Creel to Asgard. Creel made short work of Odin's personal guards and the two of them forced Odin to turn over his scepter.

Loki and Creel fought over the scepter and who would rule Asgard before realizing that they were stuck to it. Odin pointed out that the power wasn't in the object, it was in Odin personally. He sent the scepter into space with Loki and Creel still stuck to it.

The following year's annual found Loki plotting from deep space. He sent his astral body to the mound where the Destroyer was buried and activated it. With an Asgardian's spirit in it the Destroyer was able to use the Rainbow Bridge and invade Asgard. Odin was in the Odin Sleep again (he did this a lot) but woke in time to deal with the Destroyer. Even Odin couldn't withstand the Destroyer's disintegration beam but Odin shut down Loki's mind before the Destroyer could strike.

Neither character appeared again under Stan and Jack although the Absorbing Man has become a mainstay. After being beaten multiple times he sort of reformed and keeps a low profile unless provoked. Most recently he tried to save his cousin from She-Hulk who is now a bounty hunter.

The Destroyer has remained exclusively a Thor character. At various times its shell has been inhabited by Balder, Sif, Loki, a retired army officer, Odin and the assembled spirits of Asgard, and Thor himself. He was even made a herald of Galactis for a short time (it was never explained why this didn't work out). The forces that empower the Destroyer are too strong for it to ever be destroyed itself. Even melting it into a puddle was a temporary measure.

As with many villains, neither character has been as threatening as in their first appearance.

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