HERO HISTORY: KABLAMMAKUS!
Or – “An Epic Hero’s Journey Through Time, Space & Dimension!”
These days, it’s kind of hard to remember that there were companies other than the Big Two (or Big Four, if you’re so inclined.) DC’s pedigree goes back to the dawn of comics Golden Age, while Marvel was kinda-sorta there, in spirit. But in those heady days, hundreds of other companies came and went, with names like Standard, Fawcett, Nedor, Fox Features, Quality, Chesler, Frog and the far-flung Isles of Langerhans! But publishing is a mug’s game, one that just as often leads to a late night exodus with your $#!+ in the trunk and the creditor’s on your tail, and many of those companies (as well as countless others) have come and gone in the ensuing 7 decades. Today’s Hero History entrant carries the somewhat dubious honor of outlasting many a publisher, and stretching the length and breadth of the history of comics (and the inner mind.) Born out of obscurity, eventually rising to slightly-less-obscure obscurity, his name has become synonymous with ‘multi-syllabic placeholder word.’ With hammering fists of justice, and the wind of truth at his back, he never falters from battle, never cowers from combat, never forgets the rule of three!!! This, then, is your Major Spoilers Hero History of Ulysses Montgomery Bronson, also called Balam-Uss of the lost planet Omicron XII, known to the masses as… KABLAMMAKUS!
The story of Kablammakus begins in the Golden Age of Comics, not so very long after National Periodical Publications discovered that they were able to sell more comics featuring caped guys than they were conventional two-fisted heroes or cowboys. From his first appearance, most of what we would come to know as Kablammakus was present: The trademark arrow gloves, the chest shield, the jaw with which you could cut glass. The major differences of the Golden Age version of the character were his complete LACK of an origin (or even a real secret identity) and the fact that his name was spelled “Kablammicus.” Much like Mxytplk begat Mxyzptlk, Kablammicus would proceed Kablammakus and find some minor success in comics, taking the lead feature slot in both “Astounding Tales” and “Punch Comics,” fighting against Nazis and fifth columnists. One of his most tenacious foes, returning from certain death again and again, was the nefarious Swasti-Klaw!
Like Captain America and Daredevil before him, Kablammicus made his presence felt in the European theatre of war, even though his usual stomping grounds (never referred to as anything but ‘The City’) seemed to be located on the Eastern Seaboard. While Cap and DD set their sights on Hitler himself, Kablammicus was more crafty, working underground to try and overthrow Nazi-occupied territories while also returning home to the Kablami-Cave every night. It’s a good thing that sometimes he could fly… As with most of the Golden Age heroes, Kablammicus exhibited varying power levels over the years, and was able to hoist the Eiffel Tower back to an upright position in one adventure, all the while being susceptible to a blow to the head or a tear gas attack. He also had words (or, more to the point, fists) for wartime collaborators, even the Marshal of Vichy France!
That’ll teach him to win the Battle of Verdun! Throughout the Golden Age, Kablammakus went through many changes, not just in the spelling of his name, but in his modus operandi. Sometimes he was a millionaire playboy in the Batman vein, other times a mystical force for good a la the Spectre, and at least once he was secretly Hollywood star Tom Mix. (Legend has it that this was merely a mix-up between the unnamed scripter and artist Lou Fine, but in a Hero History, I try to work ‘in-universe.’) Interestingly, many of the big-name creators of the Golden Age seemed to be fans of Kablammicus/ Kablammakus, as often times, his stories would seem to be echoed in other books. Witness the creation of “Kablamminite,” a strange mineral that gave the K-Man terrible hay fever and swollen limbs in early 1940, his battle with a mad clown known as ‘The Joculator’ in late ’39, and his travels to planet Venus where he met a super-naked young princess named ‘Denise Torres.’ (It was never really explained why the ruler of an alien planet was, seemingly, Puerto Rican.) This last story was adapted from a pulp character believed to have influenced Kablammakus (named, interestingly enough, ‘Bopinnahedicus’), whose publishing history dates back to the turn of the century.
A Kablammakus radio serial in the fall of 1945 was not as successful as hoped, due mostly to the casting of a very young Wally Cox as the hero. The Golden Age Kablammakus gained a small supporting cast, including ace reporter Bobbi Topaz (who worked for radio, newsreel AND newspaper at various points in her career.) As with most of the rest of the superheroes, the end of the 1940′s led to a sea-change and a loss of influence. Drawing upon his occasional mystical powers and presence (although, tellingly, Kablammakus rarely did more with his powers than punch), our hero transitioned into the 1950′s by becoming the host of a horror comic. Telling stories that he claimed came from “The Crypt Of The Tomb Of The Mausoleum Of Doom Of Terror,” Kablammakus managed to headline his ninth consecutive comic book, with his fifth naming variation, lasting into the spring of 1960.
The Silver Age of Comics dawned circa 1954 or so, and with the emphasis on character and origins of science (SCIENCE!!!), Kablammakus’ more seat-of-the-pants storytelling was pushed to the wayside. When he returned in 1964, after a several year exile to reprinted backup stories, his adventures took on a new tone. It was quickly established that Ulysses Montgomery Bronson gained his powers when he was exposed to a rare radioactive isotope of Kablamminite (renamed Kablamminate when the original story was reprinted, reportedly after a sternly worded letter from National Periodical editor Mort Weisinger.) This energized his cells, and gave him his trademark invulnerable fists and the special ability to find the weak spot in any structure, creature or machine. De-aged to college, Ulysses balanced the life of a fab hero with his secret identity of loveable schmuck, trying (and failing to woo the lovely Bobbie Topaz.) A highlight of these years came with his first crossover appearance (as the Golden Age Kablammicus never met any other super-types.)
When a giant ape began rampaging through The( still-unnamed) City, President Lyndon Johnson called together Kablammakus, The Amazing Axlotl and the other-dimensional Technaut as The Multitude of Super-Peoples! The MSP bickered endlessly, in a very Silver Age fashion, but were always able to combine the K-Man’s strength, the Technaut’s analytical prowess and Axlotl’s agility/mediation into an unstoppable force. (One apocryphal tale tells the origin with a character called The Shape-Lifter in place of Kablammakus, though only three or four stories exist with the this “Original Team.”) The MSP grew by leaps and bounds, gaining members throughout the late 60′s, and such stalwarts as The Meteor-Attractor Lad, Spam Boy, Lad Lass, and the Philosophical Father Zero joined the ranks. Eventually, the team spun off into their own adventures without the founding members, and are currently on their thirteenth rebooted universe.
The 1970′s were a tumultuous time for Kablammakus, as he literally awoke one morning to find himself trapped in a strange world called “The Mindfield.” Though much of what he knew of the world was still true, Kablammakus found himself as the only superhero of a strange, barren America full of gas crises, lusting in hearts and a general ennui. Worst of all, thanks to the return of a one-time Silver Age villain called ‘The Bludgeon’, he found his powers racing out of control due to an overdose of Kablamminate.
“Cosmiblammikus” embarked on a months long adventures, an odyssey he called the “Journey To The Center Of The Soul,” during which Bludgeon established himself as not only K-Man’s most persistent foe, but his own karmic duplicate from a dark-matter universe! Kablammikus was finally able to wrestle his dark self under control, absorbing him into his own powers, and using their combined energies to stabilize Bludgeon’s dark-matter homeworld (revealed to be The Mindfield itself) and return home. Kablammakus comic book adventures stopped around 1977, as his publishing company went out of business, and began selling the rights to their characters for adaptation in an attempt to raise capital. Kablammakus was shopped around to many publishers, eventually being picked up by the publisher of Golgo 13 for adaptation into a Japanese manga. Since Kablammakus would be damn-near-impossible to render in Japanese (Ka-Bu-Ra-Ma-Ka-Su?), the publisher dubbed our hero “Efficacious Soldier, Punch-Man K!”
I believe that his translated dialogue there says, “Oh NO! Nikki is in love with GODZILLAAAA!” Or, perhaps not. Punch-Man K proved to be ridiculously popular in Japan, as well as in Finland, and the resulting notoriety brought the character to the forefront of a new decade. In 1980, the character crossed over into live-action Japanese television with a Super Sentai series entitled “Punch-Man K: Battle Century,” which proved to be a cultural phenomenon in Japan. The series was dubbed into English in 1981, but proved a bust in America with its rubbery monsters, and ironically the five-man team of heroes was percieved as a knock-off of ‘Battle Of The Planets.’ The irony there should be obvious, and the early-90′s success of Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers proved that, again, Kablammakus was merely ahead of his time. As for the manga version of our hero, Punch-Man K is still running in Japan, and Adult Swim has made rumblings of translating ‘Punch-Man K: Dengekitai’ for it’s anime block. Bolstered by the additional international funding, Kablammakus made a return to comics in 1984, hitting the tail end of the black-and-white boom that spawned the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and… Um… Well, that’s pretty much it.
The mid-80′s revival really quantified the hero into the form we know him today, emphasizing some of the more cartoony aspects of the character, but playing him completely straight, as Ulysses Bronson left college behind and found a career as a freelance photographer for an underground radical newspaper. But the late 80′s brought the biggest changes for Kablammakus, as the post-Batman comic boom sent movie producers scrambling for properties to adapt. Kablammakus boasted the directing prowess of Jim Abrahams, who threw his net wide for just the right actor to play the stalwart two-fisted hero. Names like Val Kilmer, Ron Silver and Gern Blanston were bandied about, but the role eventually went to Adolfo Quinones, fresh off the success of Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo.
Kablammakus: The Motion Picture also played with our hero’s backstory, changing his origin so that the kablammanate stones didn’t GIVE him his powers, but instead triggered his own inherent alien powers. The movie has Kablammakus discovering that he was actually Balam-Uss, who was rocketed to Earth from the planet Omicron XII, sent by his father Lexx-Uss to escape a plague of exploding squirrels. (This film also finally nailed down the location of ‘The City’ as Kankakee, Illinois, for some reason.) This revelation led our hero on a new cycle of outer-space adventure in his comic series, and a series of clashes with The Bludgeon that led to the infamous “Crisis Of Infinite Crises Crisis.” The entire Multitude of Super-People returned. as well as reuniting Kablammakus with Technaut and Axlotl in a new team called “The Critical Hitters,” debuting the new characters of Deadpan, Wrong-way and The Silence. In the final battle for the fate of the universe, Kablammakus strikes the decisive blow to save the entire MULTIVERSE!
By 1992, though, the bloom was off the comics rose again for both sales and critical success, and Kablammakus was no exception. In an attempt to raise the profile of the character, the book was relaunched with a new number one, written and drawn by Rob Liefeld’s third cousin Tippy. Tippy Liefeld reimagined Kablammakus as “BLAMIKUS!” (always spelled with the exclamation point) and launched the book with seven alternate covers, including an embossed version, a titanium-and-mercury-logo edition (recalled for safety reasons after a poisoning incident) and a completely red “None More Scarlet” cover with no identifying information anywhere on the issue. (An old industry rumor was that many comic shops mistook the issue for a box liner and discarded it as trash.)
Even with a #0 issue that previewed all the best parts, BLAMIKUS! petered out after 3 issues, each released six to ten months apart. Despite a return of the Bludgeon, the MSP, The Critical Hitters, and acres of exposed female flesh (although some of it seemed simply to be miscolored), BLAMAKUS! is today mostly remembered for the transformation of Bobbi Topaz into a superhuman counterpart for the hero, due to his radioactive saliva entering her system during a particularly vigorous makeout session. (It was just as good as it sounds.) Her name changed several times during the production of the 3 issues, as the original issue #0 sketchpad codename “Funbags” was rounded criticized by everyone, even before the first issue went to press. Her name was alternately given as Strike, Strafe and in one particularly unfortunately panel, Delores. That, of course, was quickly pulled from circulation, but the name ‘Smite’ appeared most often and has stuck in Kablammakus canon.
A quick return to a more traditional take on the character was launched, with an accompanying relaunch of Punch Comics as a second monthly companion title. Kablammakus rogue’s gallery has returned as well, with The Bludgeon, Swasti-Klaw, Captain Bitey, Doctor Feedback, Electrojet and more getting facelifts for the 21st Century. A new cartoon series launched in 2009, as well, retelling stories from the 70 year history of Kablammakus with a new twist, balancing continuity and fun. “Kablammakus: The Punched and The In-Need-Of-Punching” is an internet sensation, and a third season will debut on Saturday morning this fall. Throughout the years, though, the underlying awesome of a guy punching the daylights out of evil remains the same…
**If you’ve enjoyed this Hero History, you might want to ‘Read All About It’ at your Local Major Spoilers! You can just click “Hero History” in the “Columns” section on the main page, and read about a hundred or so other guys and gals who are likewise awesome as heck. The adventures of Kablammakus appear entirely in the heads of the Major Spoilers podcast team and the incredibly brilliant and talented Thomas Perkins, who graciously created all the Kablammakus images in this history. If you want more Kablammakus, you can head on over to the Major Spoilers store where you can rep Efficacious Warrior Punch-Man K in style with our super-spiffy new Kablammakus hero shirt! Anybody can go buy one of those shirts with the funny looking bat on them that look like teeth, but to wear Kablammakus means that you’re comfortable with your obscure awesome, and you can tell people that YOU READ THE ORIGINAL ISSUES! (Onlookers don’t have to know that they were only released on Earth-Q.)
Next up: “Stand back, Superman!”