Mighty Marvel Marathon: The Incredible Hulk Part 5

by Jon Quixote
Hulk in the 80’s! I can see it now. Rrrarh! Hulk want his MTV! Purple leg-warmers. Doc Samson with a ponytail. Maybe a storyline or two where Banner is on a flight taken over by Libyan terrorists. And oh yes, the Atari 2600 advertisements that dreams were once made of.

So wake up and let's go-go!

The Incredible Hulk 243
And we have our first Power Man cameo! The 80’s are awesome already.

The Incredible Hulk 247-248
A beautiful story about Hulk saying goodbye to Jarella. Also he fights some monsters. It’s too bad that Bill Mantlo didn’t stick to the “at the heart of an atom” title motif that ran through the other Jarella stories. I was a big fan of that idea.

The Incredible Hulk 249
Steve Ditko swings by to pencil an issue. You’d think Ditko would put his heart and soul into a story about a reclusive, misunderstood hero. You’d think.
Of course, there’s no way to know under what circumstances this issue was penciled. I just want to point out that on page one I went “Oh cool, Ditko!” and by page 2 my comments were more like, “ummm… Ditko?”

The Incredible Hulk 254
It’s called “Waiting For The U-Foes.” The title is a play on a song “Waiting for the UFOs” by Graham Parker (oh Marvel, you so wacky). But I’ve been waiting for the U-Foes since I started this. I love the U-Foes almost as much as I love the Leader. And now that they’re around, the Hulk officially has a great rogues gallery: The Leader, U-Foes, Rhino, Sandman, Abomination, Absorbing Man, Wendigo, Zzzax. Oh, and the Bi-Beast, naturally.

The U-Foes are a cool idea, although their dialogue here makes 60’s Fantastic Four comics look like Arthur Miller plays. Dispense with the origin and on with the fight, huh Mantlo? Still, the ending of this story is a classic. If the first-half was a little more polished, it would be in the running with the Ellison/Thomas “Heart of the Atom” story as the all-time greatest Hulk issue.

The Incredible Hulk 255
And now, a word from our sponsor.

The Incredible Hulk 256
The Hulk takes on the Israeli-Palestine conflict. And it’s about as succinct a summation as you’ll ever read. If I ever go back to school for a more-advanced degree, I have an idea that I’d like to look at Marvel Comics and Social Conscience in great detail. An issue like this would be front-and-center, especially because it doesn’t pull any punches in its finger-wagging. Detractors might call it naïve and simplistic, and that wouldn’t be untrue, but sometimes simplicity exposes truth, and cries of complexity are just an excuse to obfuscate it. How complicated can the death of a child really be?

The Incredible Hulk 258
It’s the first appearance of Ursa Major! I have modest affection for Ursa Major; in my teen years, I played the Marvel Comics Role Playing Game (by TSR), and one of my characters was a teen who could turn into a bear. His name was Kodiak. (I also played a martial artist who used electric nunchucks, but I don’t remember his name.)
In other news, I had a lot of sex as a teenager.
In further news, I use sarcasm when talking about my sex-life.

The Incredible Hulk 264
The new Teen Brigade helps the Hulk. Candy, a fat girl. Wheels, he rides a skateboard. Guess what distinguishes Specs from the group? Anyway, what we’re seeing here is the all-time record for Most Suck In A Comic Book.
They help the Hulk fight a guy on a hang-glider. This might have been a tough comic to read. Luckily, I’m totally drunk.

The Incredible Hulk 265
It’s the first appearance of The Rangers. In the space of an issue, Bill Mantlo proves that records were made to be broken.
Oh, and Candy’s last name is revealed to be Barr. Nice.

The Incredible Hulk 266
Betty’s naked again. Just sayin’.

The Incredible Hulk 269
Bruce and Betty are surrounded by Giant Aliens who announce themselves as “Hulk-Hunters.” Betty says, “Maybe they don’t suspect you’re the Hulk yet, Bruce.” I recall that they made Betty as a fellow scientist in the Hulk movie. At this point, that’s like making Homer Simpson a tri-athlete/theoretical physicist in the next Simpsons movie.

Anyway, it turns out the Hulk Hunters are Hunting the Hulk so that they can get his help. High IQs all around, this issue.

The Incredible Hulk 271
The Hulk teams up with Rocket Raccoon. I don’t want to talk about it.

The Incredible Hulk 279
Mark Gruenwald pencils this issue! According to Wikipedia, one of only 10 he ever did. It’s not bad. He was a man of many talents.
Anyway, the entire Marvel Universe shows up to pay homage to the Hulk now that he’s got Bruce Banner's mind and isn’t a menace anymore. Boy, they’re gonna feel really dumb soon.
Sort of like I do, after reading a story where the Watcher shows up to speak at a parade for the Hulk.

The Incredible Hulk 281
The Leader beats Banner-Hulk. He’s always said that the only reason the Hulk beats him is because the mindless rage can’t be predicted and accounted for. It’s felt like a plot device, but it’s nice to see it being adhered to.
Anyway, what does the Leader do when he wins? He dumps wine on Banner’s head and then kicks him out. Awesome. Have I mentioned that I love the Leader?

The Incredible Hulk 284
The Leader has scattered the Avengers through time and the Hulk must rescue them before a final confrontation with the Bad Greenious. It’s the sort of cool idea that a dozen years later, guys like Kurt Busiek would have a lot of success with while filtering out most of the dumb. No filter here though.

The Incredible Hulk 288-290
These are the first Hulk comics I ever remember reading. I guess I would have been about 6. Modok tortures a now-cowardly Abomination in order to condition him to fight the Hulk. Thunderbolt is in on the plan. Banner’s new girlfriend/lab assistant/SHIELD agent is captured by the Abomination & AIM and turned into Ms. Modok (seriously). It’s not bad now and I could see how it would really capture my 6-year old imagination.

But I haven’t remembered the storyline in years (with the possible exception of Ms. Modok), maybe 25 years. The cool thing about reading this arc is how it’s all whooshing back into my brain – the Abomination crying, Betty tearing her dad a new one.

If you had asked me before, I would have guessed that my first Hulk-comics were Secret Wars or What If…The Hulk Went Berzerk? But those were almost a full year after this one, so there you have it. Of course, this is all far more interesting to me than it is to you. So post your comments: what do you think your first experience with The Hulk was?

It is worth noting that when Hulk’s new girlfriend got transformed into a Supervillainess, and transformed back, she kept her clothes on.

The Incredible Hulk 291
Assistant Editors month!! What’s that? Only the greatest “event” in comic book history. The conceit was that all the regular Marvel editors went to the San Diego comicon, and when the assistants took over, chaos ensued.

Actually, while I loved Assistant Editors Month when it happened, I think I was lucky enough to pick up the few issues where the real wackiness happened –Thing #7, for example, where he fights Goody Two-Shoes (and John Byrne). Here, there’s a prologue where Banner visits the Marvel Offices for some advice, but most of the issue is basically the Origin of Thunderbolt Ross. It’s an okay idea, and even aside from disappointing my high expectations, is a little shallow and boring.

The Incredible Hulk 300
The Hulk has gone c-c-crazy! If he was a furniture salesman, now would be the time to buy that new dinette set you’ve been wanting.
Here the Hulk is acting as many “Hulk Kills” or “Pro-Ultimate Hulk” proponents envision: just pure destructive rage. The hitch is that it’s all Nightmare’s fault. Banner took care of the demon, but at the cost of his own “life” (y’know, for a few issues anyway). So now all that’s left in the real world is the savage, ferocious Hulk. The Hulk “not a creature of childlike innocence anymore.” “Not a misunderstood monster anymore, attacking only when being attacked.”
So I guess that says it all about who the Hulk is when he isn't being mind-humped by an evil demon.
But I can certainly see the attraction this altered Hulk has to a certain portion of the readership. He’s freakin’ terrifying. And Mantlo and Buscema have never been better than they are in this issue. This is a cool issue with all sorts of heroes going up against the Hulk in what feels like an apocalyptic battle that’s just a few degrees away from being a horrifying What If…? tale. Iron Fist breaks his hand on the Hulk. The Vision gets pounded deep into the Earth. The Thor/Hulk battle takes up pages and is an epic, destructive stalemate.
And at the end, the Hulk is banished to the Crossroads dimension, and we get the famous Crossroads storyline I've heard a lot about. I'm actually excited.

The Incredible Hulk 305
The Crossroads storyline is awesome. But the exploits of the savage, mute Hulk as he bounces from dimension to dimension are a lot of fun and very different. Worlds where he has no power, worlds where he makes friends (although being a friend to the Hulk has about as much job security as being a partner to Dirty Harry), worlds of magic and monsters…

…and now the U-Foes show up. Kick-ass!

The Incredible Hulk 311
Mike Mignola pencils! The Crossroads storyline continues – it was awesome, then it got dumb with the arrival of “Goblin, Guardian & Glow.” I don’t even want to explain who they are, it’s so dumb. But I fear we’re on the cusp of a bunch of really crappy multiple personality stories. Yay.

Anyway, the Mignola/Gerry Talaoc art reminds me a lot of the Severin inks from the early 70’s. It’s expressive and easy on the eyes (not that Sal Buscema hadn’t been awesome for the past half decade’s worth of Hulk).

The Incredible Hulk 314
The Crossroads storyline is over. 1985 is over. John Byrne is on writing & pencils. And The Hulk is back on Earth. And they’re still dealing with split-personality mumbo jumbo and I couldn’t be more bored.

I’ll probably get into that later. I have a feeling things are going to get worse before they get better.

Oh, and what has Betty been doing while the Hulk was in the Crossroads dimension? She shacked up with a greasy Latino Lover in some hovel. Y'know, I thought I was joking earlier, I really did. But Betty has done a good job of making Karen Page look like Aunt May when it comes to debauchery. Well done, Mrs. Ross-Talbot-Banner-Terwilliger-McLure. Thank you for making sure that in the midst of another psychobabble filled "Hulk has hallucinations of old villains" storyline, there was at least something keeping me interested.


The General said...

"What do you think your first experience with The Hulk was?"

Well, I don't usually kiss and tell, but I will say that it involved wine, soft music, candles. And pain.

Actually, while I knew of the Hulk since the TV show days, I don't think I actually read any issue of it until my brother breifly collected it during the McFarlane era.

Jon Quixote said...

Writing this article also flashed me back to the 80's INCREDIBLE HULK cartoon. I remember renting a VHS tape (again and again, from the corner store where we used to rent our tapes) with "The Origin of the Hulk", narrated by Stan Lee, on it. That would have been around the same time too.

Liana said...

I loved the Hulk tv show as a kid. Loved it. It ran late afternoons on like channel 11 (if you grew up in NY, you know what I mean). Anyway, I loved it. But I was scared to death of the transformation. Bruce Banner? Cool. Hulk? Super cool. Bruce Banner turning into the Hulk? Holy crap! I'd hide behind my mom's chair until it was done. I also had recurring nightmares about the Hulk chasing me from around the corner into my house, where I'd hide behind walls hoping he'd walk right past me. (He would.)

Dan said...

I was a big fan of the tv show, but I think my first comic Hulk experience was the Power Records reprint of #159, the Hulk fighting Rhino and Abomination. I loved sitting next to the record player and reading along with the record.

Doug Smith said...

Oh man, I had that same Power Records "Hulk" comic! That, a Spidey with the Man-Wolf, an FF one retelling their origin, and Cap and the Falcon vs. the Phoenix (Baron Zemo, not Jean Grey). Plus, a few Planet of the Apes ones as well.

I think my first Hulk exposure, though, was in the form of cartoons from the late '60s or early '70s...there was Hulk, Iron Man, Captain America, and I think maybe Thor?

William said...

They need to collect the Crossroads storyline in trade.
And I don't remember my first Hulk experience. In fact, I can't remember a time when I DIDN'T think he was awesome.

Cindy Cooper said...

I was a huge fan of the tv show as a kid, but I don't think I read the comic until a few years ago. It was really good for awhile.