Langdon Everett Caul/Abraham “Abe” Sapien

Emy H wants to celebrate Guillermo Del Toro‘s victory at this year’s Oscar Night (quite late, but we don’t mind), so in the next days we’ll deal with the two franchises he’s worked with: Blade for Marvel and Hellboy for Dark Horse. You can already find some of the characters by clicking on the respective categories, but there are many remaining: let’s start with a co-protagonist in Hellboy and Hellboy II: The Golden Army, the amphibious Abraham “Abe” Sapien, portrayed by the great Doug Jones (and voiced in the first one by David Hyde Pierce). In the movie, he’s an esteemed agent of B.P.R.D., who risks his life dealing with the demon Sammael. In the second one, he’s deepened a bit, as he falls in love with the Elf Princess Nuala, and ends up helping his evil brother Nuada to have her life saved. One of the best characters in the movies, he’s also one of the best in the comics, albeit quite different (to say one thing, his body is not surely “a temple” as in the films, as he shares with Hellboy his passion for cigars). Let’s see together.

Abe was born Langdon Everett Caul, and was born in the first half of the XIX Century. He lived in Littleport, Rhode Island, along with his wife Edith Howard. Langdon was a passionate scientist, a genius who wanted to know the mysteries of the world, and for this he often neglected Edith, who was emotionally unstable and fell in regular depressions. Caul’s studies brought him to the Oannes Society, a group of mystics, scientists and historians who believed that all knowledge had come from the sea in ancient times, and that it was the sea that would have given them all the answers they sought. Caul joined them, and with them he discovered an underwater temple, that contained a jellyfish-like living being, some sort of minor deity from primeval times. The deity had curled into itself in the shape of an egg, in some kind of self-hibernation, and it was found like this by the members of the Society, who decided to use it for one of their rituals. Caul brought the egg to the Society’s headquarters, in Washington D.C., under St. Trinian’s Hospital. Here, things didn’t go exactly as planned, as it wasn’t enlightenment the thing that was waiting for Caul: he was holding the egg in his hand during the ceremony, and it crumbled to dust in the middle of it. In that moment, the man witnessed a monstrous creature staring at him in the hall, but it was invisible to anyone but him: he believed it to be an evil spirit come to punish him for what he had done, but it was actually his future self’s spirit visiting his own, forgotten past. As soon as he spotted the creature, Caul started to change, as his body mutated into something different, something old: a man-fish hybrid, still in a larval state. The other scientists believed him to be Oannes, the fishman sent by the gods to deliver knowledge to humans. They locked him in a tube of water, in the lab, waiting for his body to complete its evolution. It was 1864, and the American Civil War was at its end. The Oannes Society, apparently, got involved in the murder of President Lincoln, and they had to abandon the site as they were on the run. The creature, which they named Ichtyo Sapien, remained in the underground lab for more than a century.

It was November 1978 when the water tube with the creature inside was found by a group of plumbers, still hidden beneath St. Trinian’s Hospital. The body was by then fully developed, but the workmen clearly had no idea of what they were looking at: there was just a label reading “Ichtyo Sapien. April 14, 1865“. The discovery was soon covered by the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense, and the creature was taken into the organization’s lab. Uniting the last name of the creature’s species and the date reported on the label (the same of Lincoln’s assassination), Caul’s was renamed Abraham Sapien: he was still comatose, and completely unresponsive to any attempt of awakening him, so that the B.P.R.D. scientists weren’t even sure he was a sentient being. While studying him, they were about to vivisect him… luckily, with a proper dose of electroshock, Abe Sapien finally woke up. He didn’t remember anything of his past life, and didn’t even know where he came from, but he actually had memories of the time he was unconscious, discussions about his vivisection included. The experiments didn’t stop because he was vigilant, quite the opposite, they continued for a period of time that Abe would have remembered as a “nightmare”. The experiments did stop the moment one of the operative agents, Hellboy, stepped in, and ordered them to stop, feeling empathetic with the creature. Abe Sapien was let out of his tube, quite disoriented… and surprised everybody with speaking a perfectly fluent English, apparently remembering the language rather than learning it anew. Abe Sapien stayed in the Bureau, and he immediately befriended his savior, Hellboy. It was the latter who, some time later, managed to convince Professor Bruttenholm to allow Abe to accompany him and Liz Sherman in field operations, so that he could see the world outside; by June 1979, Abe Sapien had showed his prowess enough to convince Bruttenholm to make him an operative at all effects, becoming Hellboy’s usual partner. Seeing the world, Abe realized he was different from all the other people around, and he started concealing his appearance behind a large hat, sunglasses and a fake beard… but all the disguises in the world would have never answered the question about his true origins, that kept haunting him.

The late (sort of) Langdon Everett Caul is a man (sort of) with the intellect of a genius and a heart of gold, curious about everything, with an extensive knowledge about pretty much any topic, terribly insecure about his own appearance (albeit this trait gradually disappeared). As Abe Sapien, the only known Ichtyo Sapien, he’s amphibian, being able to breathe both on land and underwater, though he needs to come back in water every week; he’s a superb swimmer, as well as an excellent marksman and hand-to-hand fighter; it’s likely that his new body is simply incapable of dying, as he’s been declared dead for mortal wounds at least twice, but always healed and came back to life, and he apparently doesn’t age. Once obsessed with learning who he was before being found by B.P.R.D., the more Abe Sapien discovers about Langdon Caul, the more he thinks he’s happy being who he is now: a monster, maybe, but one with friends who love him for who he is, and with a life worth living, in which he constantly has the chance to help others.