Hulk: 1970 - 1972

Beginning! An overview of 70s Hulk.

Not the TV show or cartoon, just the comics.
"Why 70s Hulk, Bryan?"

Good question. Answers: 1) I've never read any of it, so I thought it might be fun to discover whether or not I enjoy it in blog-time. And 2) My wife loves the Hulk. We've seen tons of movies together, and I'm not sure I've ever seen a scene delight her as much as the one in 2012's The Avengers when the Hulk thrashes Loki. (Unless it was the scene immediately after that one, when the Hulk sucker punches Thor.) So hey, one for Mrs. McMolo.

"Why the 70s, though? Just for symmetry with the Batman in the 70s posts?"

Another fine question. Answers: 1) I do like to look at a decade-length chunk of a character's stories, but I didn't pick this because of the Batman ones, no. And 2) I love stuff like this:

And it's my impression that the Hulk does an awful lot of this in the 70s.

"Who gave you that impression?" 

An old pen pal of mine (incidentally, the same guy who introduced me to both Alan Moore and Philip Jose Farmer) always maintained that the best era of Hulk stories was the 70s. He'd xerox (this was well before the age of scanners) me pages to prove his point and send them to me with his notes scribbled in the margins, usually in ALL-CAPS or triple-underlined for emphasis. And while I never really took the bait, that seed has germinated in my imagination for quite some time.

So, here we are. A few largely unnecessary ground rules:

1) I hate The Leader.

"Hate" is perhaps too strong. But I fully intend to skip or skim any Leader-centric story. Life's too short. I'm not interested in him as a character or foil for the Hulk, and he's got such a stupid visual. My apologies to any and all Leader fans.

2) I'll be breaking the decade into chunks rather than covering each year individually. This post, for example, covers all Hulk stories with cover date January 1970 (which, as you probably remember, means they actually came out in fall of 1969) through cover date December 1972. 1972 is when The Defenders began its run, so we'll see a little bit of that below. (There will be an epilogue post covering 1981 Defenders, as well.)

3) The format will probably change from post to post. Or maybe it won't? I don't mean to be cagey, I just haven't decided. For this one I grouped things under headers, but I have no immediate plans to use the same headers, post-to-post.

And 4) Anyone remember this?

Man I love that cover.  (Pardon my crude mash-up of the actual cover.) Okay, this isn't a ground rule, more of a That was awesome aside. 

Let us begin.


That cover to #142 with the Valkyrie (Hulk's future teammate in Defenders) is all kinds of awesome. I'm a sucker for any "They Shoot ____s, Don't They?" riff. 

These all appear to be the work of Herb Trimpe, an illustrator who, like Don Heck or Al Milgrom, earned the respect of his peers but was not always a popular success. For what it's worth - and perhaps it's just my preference for Silver/Bronze Age art - Trimpe's version of the Hulk is much more to my liking than the 'roided-up Gigantor version of more recent years. 

Jim Shooter tells a nice story about Herb Trimpe here. I miss the hell out of that blog. Wish he was still writing it.


The first few years of 70s Hulk are fairly repetitive. 

Part of this is due to the era - reintroducing the core concepts, issue after issue - but part of it just seems to be Stan (the Man) and Roy (the Boy) not really knowing what to do with the character. Both of them claimed to have enjoyed writing the Hulk, but more often than not, these stories feel like they're just re-arranging the same items on a mantle.

As a result, although the Hulk's always a sympathetic figure, I found myself rolling my eyes a lot. There's only so many times you can see the Hulk get almost-befriended and then stomp off due to a misunderstanding.

Occasionally, though, this was handled pretty well. Here's the b-story for issue 147, written by Roy Thomas, told in 7 screencaps:

The mirage taps the Hulk's deepest fear (of being alone) and desire (to belong somewhere.)

What really does it, though, is the last few panels:

"There was nobody around to be hurt by it - nobody at all." Ouch. It's a nice (but cruel) twist ending. The first twist is one the reader knows (the town/ Hulk's acceptance) is a mirage. Then these last few panels drive it home in an unexpected way.

I liked this bit from #145 that provides the origin of the Sphinx.

I wonder if that's still in continuity.


The defining story from this period is #140, a story guest-written by Harlan Ellison. 

It's not one of the all-time great comics stories. But it's a definite spike in the stream of stories surrounding it. Hulk travels to a microscopic universe where he retains Bruce Banner's intellect. He becomes ensnared in the political machinations of the microscopic realm he finds himself in and falls in love with the queen. Before he knows it, he is King Hulk.

Of course, the Hulk is unable to stay in this realm of happiness and returns to normal Hulk-size at issue's end:

Hulk is wracked by memories of a lost love he doesn't understand for the next year and a half, although Harlan never returned to write any more Hulk. (To the best of my knowledge.)

Archie Goodwin took over writing duties, and the scripts generally improve, but Ellison's story is for better or worse the high water mark from 1970 to 1972. The Hulk becomes obsessed with finding his way back to the microscopic world, leading Henry Pym to inject him with a super-shrinking serum. (Naturally, he ends up elsewhere.)


I love Kang. And, of course:


While overall I wasn't blown away by the stretch of Hulk stories from 1970 to 1972, I admired quite a few of the title pages. This isn't one of them -

which is to say it's not a title page, it's an end page. But those last two panels are fantastic. I'm going to venture if you don't get a big kick out of that progression - the dramatic "I almost became... a murderer!" followed by yet another "I'll never become the Hulk again!" proclamation, and then the "Next issue: IT DOES!" bit - you might as well skip over the first few years of Hulk in the '70s.

Often it is true that the stories peak with the title splashes, all by Herb Trimpe:

# 124
# 132
# 136
# 141
Also # 141.
# 149 (I named this one "Hulk Face" in my desktop folder.)
# 153
# 155


The less said by me, the better. Except this first one, which I'd like to say is a fine example of comic book logic:

Who just happened to walk through the door! WIN.

Without further ado:

# 138
# 142
That blonde dude in the bottom right corner is Tom Wolfe, the author and originator of the phrase Radical Chic. The Hulk - and I guess it didn't take me long to break the "out of context" conceit of this section - is briefly embraced by the beautiful people as a cause celebre, ergo Tom Wolfe's presence at their fundraiser.

#155 (Nazi Slug Dimension; every omniverse has them.)
And finally:


70s Marvel was a weird and wonderful place, and it's difficult to imagine it without The Defenders, a series that began in 1972. Doctor Strange, the Hulk, the Sub-Mariner, and the Silver Surfer are the founding members of the group. Only 3 issues were published during our window here, so I won't get into them very much. Just a taste of things to come. (Written by Steve Englehart, illustrated by Sal Buscema.)

Welcome to the party, sir.
Not even any Hulk, I know - he's in the stories, of course, I just found myself with 3 Silver Surfer 'caps, I guess. 

Reading this over, I see a definite lack of Hulk Smash 'caps. I will do better in this area next go-round.