May 20th, 2012

smokin'

The Abomination



Here's an old Marvel Comics villain I have fond feelings for even though I've barely read any comics featuring the character or know much about him. Despite his looks, he wasn't designed by Jack Kirby or Steve Ditko, which would have been my first (and second) guess. Actually, The Abomination is a Silver Age bruiser first drawn by Gil Kane, a guy who could do most anything well and wasn't a bad designer by any means but isn't someone I think of as a chunky-clunky monster artist (although he was always good with snakes and serpents when he tackled the sword and sorcery/Barsoom/space adventure crap). I know Kane shares co-creator status on oddball C-Listers like Morbius, The Living Vampire (kinda surprised that weirdo hasn't had a major resurrection/movie deal/TV pilot on the name alone. Or has he? I honestly am not Mr. On-Top-Of-That-Stuff.), but besides a lot of Green Lantern stuff, I can't rack up too many trivia points for knowing his Marvel design work. Six-Armed Spider-Man? I guess that counts, if he did it. Whatever. I have a feeling I confuse a few 70's Romita designs with Kane designs. And vicey-versey. 

Anyway, the Abomination, co-created by Stan "I Could Have Been Wealthy" Lee, was a Hulk villain, as I'm sure you kids know. Another Gamma-Gamma-Hey! goofball, green-skinned and rippling with the muscles. He was a slob named Emil Blonsky, I believe (I checked Wikipedia to doublecheck the Lee-Kane connection, but not the guy's traveling papers. If I'm wrong, deduct ten geek points from my score and e-mail Mark Waid to let him know I suck at comic books), and I think he was a Commie Spy, and then he got real gamma-gone and started fighting people for the next thirty years or however the hell long it's been.

Basically, the appeal of this guy was that he was a monster, strong enough to give the Hulk problems, and he had funny bumps and ridges on his head and those nutty ears. It's really not much of a design, it got refined, for good or bad, over the years (more bumps and ridges, I think he changed underpants a few times, green, blue, back to green, back to blue, darker blue, off-register blue...), but man, I dug those flappy ears of his. I used to constantly draw those ears on characters when I was a kid, I must have been obsessed with those ears the way I was obsessed with Sal Buscema mouths and Don Martin noses (some childhood, huh?). I'm sure I still toss those Abomination ears on background monsters without knowing it, maybe even on background people, milkmen, cabaret dancers, proofreaders. Those ears! (Also -- he's called THE ABOMINATION. No effing-around there, I mean, that's a villain name for you, huh? I bet DC wouldn't have called anybody The Abomination back then. No, sir, not the house of The Penguin and The Cheetah and Talk-Down-To-Children Man.)

I actually know the character best from appearances in the 70's Hulk comics, I'm betting Sal Buscema drew those comics (those screaming mouths! My unhappy childhood!), but the version of the character that stayed with me was actually from the covers. I don't know who drew them (I could look it up, I know, but I'm a very complex person with a liquid intellect that requires constant challenges in order to function), I do remember one had The Hulk and The Abomination doing something monster-related atop a rollercoaster. This was back when showing and using specific locations mattered a lot more in superhero comic books, although amusement parks usually didn't factor into things all that often (which is a bit of a shame, really). The plot of this two-part storyline involved the Abomination pretending to be The Hulk's friend or something fascinating like that, a very special ABC Afternoon Special kind of sad thing with pathos and shit, as well as extreme violence and monsters and rushed inking. And maybe a Marvel Value Stamp (oy, don't get me started). Don't know what happened past the rollercoaster. Maybe The Abomination took the Hulk to the amusement park and the relationship unraveled naturally or there was some gamma-infused funnel cake to blame or the Leader or Crackajack Jackson ruined things, I just know deep in my heart's mind they threw down, beat up, and moved on. I'm sure I can go buy this in a $100 hardcover or look it up online but, y'know. I'm complex and shit.

So, the Abomination. A favorite of my childhood, pretty much unearned, a character with presence and a bit of a push but with no real personality or excitement. A character I liked looking at, although seeing the Kane version while referencing the sketch card didn't knock me out at all. Just a bunch of lumps and bumps, not a very cohesive design, a bit like Ditko tracing Kirby on a weak lightbox with only moments to spare, gone over by Kane with a felt-tip while he was talking on the phone and eyeing some art sitting on a pile in the back of the mailroom ("My boy..."). I know from Previews and the statue shelf at my local shop that in recent years the Abomination's been souped up, enlarged and bad-assified to the Marvel Max and I'm sure used to great bloody effect. I understand the intent and all, but the results just look like Killer Croc's streroidal cousin, nothing really reads from the character other than size and badly-organized muscles and veins and teeth and the fact a lot of folks are still influenced by 90's Image books. He's edgier, obviously, and the kids dig him, or at least someone does, because, according to the All-Seeing Myopic Eye of Wikipedia: "In 2009, the Abomination was ranked as IGN's 54th Greatest Comic Book Villain of All Time".

Thank goodness we have folks with the spare time, grit and determination to help us out with those burning questions, I salute you, IGN, you whose initials must stand for something ridiculously brash and edgy and pathetic.

So says the guy drawing ol' #54 and writing paragraphs about his friggin' ears.