Mighty Marvel Marathon: The Incredible Hulk Part 4

by Jon Quixote

Do you think comics are addictive? I took a break from the marathon the other day, to try to keep my girlfriend from kicking me out of the house, and most of the time I was thinking about getting back to some Hulking. We were eating dinner and I wondered how much the Hulk needs to eat. We were watching a movie and I was wondering what the Leader’s next lovable plot would be. We were ... well, anyway I was thinking about that whore Betty Ross and where I came down on the whole nudity debate (Guess).

I think I’m hooked. I’m spreading out the entries to make room for some other columns on the blog, but I'll probably transition seamlessly from my last Hulk Marathon blog (est. Oct 2008) into Every Fantastic Four. My fellow Bad Genious bloggers are expressing concerns over my sanity, but what do they know? They’re all crawling with ants, anyway.

Friendly Editor's Note: Nuh-uh!

Let’s get going. We're closing out the 70's here. The TV show is in full swing, and the Hulk is hitting the apogee of his popularity, though there's no real discernible change in the comic. Hey, remember when that could still happen?

And guess who's bbbback?

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ZZZAX is BBBACK! I guess some scientists devising a machine that will collect the long scattered electrical brain-waves of any person in history missed the fact that an evil electrical brain-wave monster was recently scattered in the neighbourhood. Whoops. Dumb scientists, I could have told you that was a bad idea. Although to be perfectly fair, I got to look at the cover of their comic, and they didn’t.

That’s a pretty creepy idea though. What would they do with the brain-waves of long-dead Lincoln or Einstein? Would they be brought back to life in some manner, or would they just be able to read a lifetime’s worth of thoughts? I hope no one ever does that to me, but just in case, all those images of bodybuilders are strictly from a fitness phase I went through in college.

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Well, Talbot’s dead again. I don’t know how he’s coming back from this one – there was a bomb in his chest and it blew up. Anyway, it gives Betty a good excuse to flip out again. And she runs with it. I don’t remember Betty being this hysterical when I was reading comics growing up, but I guess I did most of my Hulk-reading in the early-90’s, and by that point Paxil had been invented.

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So Talbot didn’t die. The Soviets didn’t put a bomb in *his* chest. What happened was that when he was captured by them, the evil genius Gremlin surgically altered one of his minions to look like Talbot. Then he used a machine to swap Talbot’s consciousness into the body surgically altered to look like Talbot. And then implanted a bomb in *that* guy’s chest.

Why did they lose the Cold War again?

Len Wein, on the one-in-a-million chance you’re reading this, I think you’re duty bound to slap yourself for this one. Thanks.

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The Hulk’s patois is really interesting. It’s often very funny. Sometimes it’s really corny. But it also has a lot of power. When the Hulk gets righteous or sad about something (and in this issue, there’s both), it can be very effective, very moving. That’s one of the character’s strengths – he puts you inside the emotions of the story in a way that, for example, a Spider-Man can’t.

I think the volume of my exercise here is really giving me a stronger understanding of the character. Every writer (and sometimes, within the stories of the same writer) has a different wavelength on the Hulk. But when they’re all overlapping each other, it’s easier to see the character’s core and compare what really works to what doesn’t.

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It’s called “The Abomination Proclaimation.” I like that. The Abomination convinces Hulk that they’re too alike to be enemies. I like that too. Abomination is a formidable opponent and I’d like to see him mix Hulk-strength with brains to take a bigger role in the Marvel U.

Also, I like that Sal Buscema draws the Hulk as played by Charles Bronson. Actually, I like that Buscema draws everybody like they’re Charles Bronson.

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Talbot’s a veggie. So Betty Ross-Talbot makes out with Doc Samson. I don’t blame her though. Samson looks like Fabio, whereas Talbot looks like Snidley Whiplash. Also, it’s not as fun to call her a whore when she’s actually acting like one.

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It’s written by Chris Claremont. So, like, when I say it’s written, brother, it’s written!

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Hulk Quiz Question: Which of the following things does the Hulk really, really hate?
a) Clowns
b) Water
c) Spiders
d) Sand

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The disc promises over 535 comics. I’m more than 1/3rd of the way there. Holy crap!

This is a typical old school Marvel Milestone issue, where they find an excuse to have a lot of guest-stars. In this case, a whole whack of Hulk-villains who “appear” as, get this, subconscious antibodies produced by Glenn Talbot’s brain (oh yeah, Hulk is shrunken and in Talbot’s brain trying to de-veggie him; also he has Banner’s mind). It’s kind of dumb and not nearly as fun as it should be.

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Add another one to the ‘comics that made you cry’ list. I’m such a girl.

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Talbot leaves to find himself, and when he’s gone, Betty shoots down Samson cold. Hey Marvel, found another Skrull for you!

We’re now in 1977, which is the year I was born. It’s also my PIN number. I’m telling you because I trust you.

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The Constrictor is introduced as the world’s premiere assassin? Really? A blue & orange costume and some whips fastened to your wrists, that’s how you kill more people in more situations than anybody else, huh?

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Going back to the topic of Hulk’s brutish dialogue, I love his simpleton nicknames for people he encounters. They’re just so child-like but appropriate. Jack of Hearts is “Split-Face.” Man-Thing is “Carrot-Nose” and Dr. Strange is “Magician.” Abomination is “Big Ears,” and Karl Rove is “Turd Blossom.”

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A Doc Samson solo story. It’s a nice change-up, plus Samson is really growing on me. This story even takes the time to point out that he’s a physician (as opposed to a scientist, which is how I mostly remember him). I’d say I’d like to see him playing a bigger role in the Marvel Universe, but in this day and age that would probably mean killing him off to show just how big the next big event really is.

I do like the way they write him though. I’d expect a guy like Samson – a reedy scientist who purposefully manipulated his “save Banner” experiments to change himself into a superhero – to be written as having a huge ego or grudge or some other flaw that would show how ill-suited and wrong he was to do what he did. But for the most part, he’s actually a pretty cool and capable guy, and a good Hulk ally.

Also, I wish my hair was green.

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Banner is found in the desert by two little kids named Donnie and Marie. They're the second creepiest Donnie & Marie I've ever seen. They lure him back to their cave where their ‘big brother’, who mutated into a big cannibal after eating toxic waste as a baby, lives. Stupid babies.

Typical chaos ensues, but Billy’s story and his “innocent” siblings are both shiver-inducing. It’s also the type of comic I really love to read – it evokes the same spirit as a Richard Matheson short story, or an X-Files standalone episode. It plays to the strengths of the 22-page monthly.

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Maybe it’s a necessity of having a brutish anti-hero as the protagonist, but it dawns on me – especially when characters like Thunderbolt Ross are being written very even-handedly – that the Hulk, at least at this stage of the game, has perhaps the best supporting cast in comics. When the story cuts away to show what’s going on at Gamma base or with Betty, I’m always as interested as I am with what’s going on with Banner/Hulk. I don’t know how often I’ve felt that way about Flash Thompson and I know I’ve never felt that way about Perry White.

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Eliot S. Maggin stops by to pen a Hulk story about an alien who thinks Hulk might be the secret to his planet’s starvation problem. Because he’s green and therefore must have something to do with plants. I’m not a scientist like this alien, but I’m pretty sure I figured out why his race is starving to death.

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No. That’s not a misprint.
One of the downsides to these “Complete Collection” editions put out by Marvel and GITcorp, is that they’re only sorted by title. So the X-MEN one, which only contains Uncanny X-Men may be virtually unreadable for much of the 90’s. For Hulk it’s not that big of a deal, and the few crossovers so far have been quite easy to follow, thanks to the old-school narrative. I always liked crossovers – the more Marvel Universe the better, I say.

Still, I bought the Captain America DVD as well, so when the crossover happened, I just slapped that puppy in and voila, an extra comic book added to my marathon.

Fun Fact: If the Hulk gets high on weed, he turns back into Bruce Banner. Yeah, that really happens in this comic. Way to stay vigilant, Comic Code.

Anyway, now I can publish a pic of the awesome cover to this issue, which was the real point of this entry.

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The Hulk Kills debate continues to evolve. A fight between Hulk, Machine Man, and The Corporation has laid waste to an entire city. Other than Gamma Base, this is probably the most destruction we’ve seen in Hulk’s wake. He’s destroyed houses and buildings and tanks before, but usually only in fights with giant monsters or robots. Here the downtown of Central City is pretty much gone.

It’s accompanied by this commentary: “It’s a miracle that no one was killed.”

It’s a little far-fetched, but there you have it. Earlier in the arc, another character said of the Hulk that he’d never intentionally hurt an innocent.

It seems clear that the writers, at least at this stage, intend for Hulk to not be killing when he fights, and that he only rampages with purpose, but that the angrier and more feral he gets, the less responsible he is and the higher the risk that somebody might be killed by accident.

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And the 70’s conclude with a forgettable Tyrannus story. Though I guess I could have just said Tyrannus story and made the same point.

Anyway, enough with the stories about the Hulk smoking pot and hanging out with radicals. On with the stories about the Hulk snorting coke, and hanging out with assholes.

Answer to Hulk Trivia: B) Water. Hulk really, really hates getting wet. I'm looking forward to Peter David explaining the childhood trauma behind that one.


Patrick Gaffney said...

Great feature Jon. You are really making me want to go pick these things up. Only about 60 issues to Mike Mignola, 70 issues to John Byrne, and 90 to the dream team of Peter David and Todd McFarline.

Jon Quixote said...

Sadly, I think they just went out of "print." I still have AVENGERS and GHOST RIDER ordered, but I don't know now if they'll get to me.

If you're interested in picking these up, I might suggest doing it quickly. I have to think that it's a good enough idea that there will be more sets like these in the future, but with Marvel pushing their digital comics library, maybe they're eschewing DVD collections like these.

Patrick Gaffney said...

Yeah- i'm looking at them on ebay myself.

The General said...

Jon, I've got a bottle of green dye and a lead-lined pitcher filled with Gamma-irradiated beer. One way or another, we'll make sure your green hair dreams come true!