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.


  1. Man, I THOUGHT I recognized John Severin inks up there, and sure enough, as I scrolled down, confirmation appeared.

    I recall reading some Hulk in this era, but given I was only 5 or 6 in this particular post's time-frame, all I recall is some of the visuals and basic gist. My memory will get a bit better as the decade rolls along.

    By the time the '70s ended, any interest I had in the Hulk faded. Even at the height of my interest, I was only picking up an issue once in a Blue Moon, or finding a tattered copy laying around somewhere. I did get into The Defenders, though; that I remember. Too bad I didn't acquire a more voracious taste for comics until later. But hey, I was a kid, and my attention darted from one thing to another.

    I'm amused at your disdain of The Leader. Looking at him now, I wonder if his look was inspired by the Metalunans of This Island Earth (Google Image Search Metaluna Exeter)? Probably not directly, but you never know.

    There is a raft of Marvel second-string world-dominating villains that made me roll my eyes when they showed up - The Leader, Kang, The High Evolutionary, Annihilus, and a few others I'm forgetting. Jonathan Hickman dealt with many of them in his amazing run on the FF, giving them their due in turn. My attitude towards any one of them has softened in recent years. There's something charmingly old-fashioned about them all, almost like more "modern" characters like the Hulk and the FF and Iron Man were fighting villains from old pulps and movie serials.

    I became more genuinely interested in the Hulk as different creative teams gave him intelligence and varying levels of his rage. It's more interesting to me to read about a character who is intelligent but often can't control his anger. By the late '70s, the old "HULK SMASH PUNY HUMANS!" level of character development had worn thin for me. That bit you mentioned about the tiresome trope of "Hulk finds a friend/loses friend over some bit of stupidity" rang completely true to me; I remember being scornful of that trope even as a kid.

    One other thing I recall about not just the Hulk, but also other Marvel characters, was the way their alter egos were often milquetoasts. Besides Banner, Donald Blake was, to me, the biggest waste of space and time in Marvel. I get that Marvel changed things with their flawed heroes, but in the case of the two I mentioned here, the contrast between the heroic persona and his mortal secret identity grated on me no end. It's not a matter of not wanting them to have the flaw, it's just a matter of me not caring about the alter ego at all. Mr. Hyde in League of Extraordinary Gentlemen explored this aspect of these types of heroes, with Hyde being much more dynamic and interesting than Jekyll, to the point Jekyll faded away completely, leaving the monster to his own devices. In that way, I suppose the entire concept behind these characters has to do with opening oneself up and accepting the beast, or the powerful warrior, that exists within one, and trying to cast off the fears and self-limitations of the original identity to become a truly heroic, or at least dynamic, individual. Or maybe I'm overthinking.

  2. See, now if The Leader looked like Metaluna Exeter I'd be happy. That's a visual I can hang with.

    I haven't seen This Island Earth in awhile. I should make watching it part of some holiday tradition so I see it more reliably.

    70s Marvel is reflected well in The Defenders, I think. I'm looking forward to going through it all.

    Yeah the tropes wore thin right quick. Just 70 to 72 was enough for me on that score. I agree on Banner/Donald Blake's not inspiring much interest or loyalty. Interestingly - or perhaps not, I grant you - I got into comics right at the end of the Defenders issues I intend to cover, I got into Thor after Simonson had already discarded the Donald Blake identity, and I got into Hulk (and stayed only briefly, like 2 years, tops) when Peter David had him in Vegas as Mr. Fixit, Bruce Banner totally submerged, and the Hulk intelligent (and gray.)

    I love Kang. A second-stringer, you say! But it raises a good point - why didn't Stan and Jack (or anyone) ever write the classic Kang the Time Conqueror story? He's more or less permanently on a lower shelf (probably even below The Absorbing Man, which is not to take anything away from The Absorbing Man, just by way of hierarchy) for lack of it.

    Thanks for mentioning the John Severin - I'd meant to add him to the Labels for this post and totally forgot. Fixing now.

  3. "The Brute That Shouted Love at the Heart of the Atom" -- yep, of all the Harlan Ellison titles I've ever heard, that's one of most Harlan Ellison-y.

    I love that Valkyrie cover, too. I always liked her.

    1. Were you much of a Hulk or Defenders reader back in the day? Or nowadays/ nowadays-ish?

    2. Not at all, then or now. (I read virtually no Marvel or DC stuff these days. I would love to, but time/money makes that a no-go.)

      I cannot for the life of me imagine WHY I never read any Hulk, though. I loved the tv show as a kid, so it seems like I would've gravitated toward the comics based solely on that.

      My guess: it was a factor of the way I read comics. I hardly ever got to actually buy any (by which I mean, have some bought for me). So the way I read them was, I'd tag along with my mom when she went to the grocery store or the drugstore or wherever she was going that sold them, and then while she was shopping, I'd hang out in the periodicals/books section and read whatever was there that caught my eye.

      Sometimes, that might be comics, but it would be just as likely to be Starlogs or Mad and Cracked or other types of magazines.

      When it was comics, though, I'm sure I must have had to prioritize based on how much interest I had. So, naturally, anything with Spider-Man came first. After that was probably movie adaptations or stuff like the Gold Key Star Trek or the Marvel Star Wars, and after that Batman and/or Superman. After that...? Well, probably whatever covers grabbed my attention.

      So it was probably nothing personal against Hulk; it was a matter of my mom being a bit too fast at shopping for me to get to him. But I rarely got to Fantastic Four or Doctor Strange or Wonder Woman or Iron Man or X-Men, either, just to name a few, so Hulk needn't feel too bad.

      As for Defenders, I do remember having one issue of that. It was a Valkyrie-centric issue, which is probably why I liked her. I don't remember anything about it other than that, though.

    3. Nice. Thanks, I love that stuff. If "Listening to How Other People Got Into Comics and the Circumstances That Governed Their Selections" was a job, I'd be all over that.

      Did you get any Presto Magix on these trips?

      As for me (that's an affirmative on the Presto Magix) I never liked the Hulk growing up, because my older brother didn't. That was basically that. I did read a few of Byrne's stories on the title and then picked it up again around issue 340 or so, when Peter David was starting his long run on the title and the Hulk was gray and living in Vegas as a bouncer called "Mr. Fixit." But that was pretty much it.

      I suspect I would've gotten into the Hulk TV show as a kid had we not moved to Germany when we did, which, as documented endlessly elsewhere (and will be endlessly documented elsewhere again; like John Paul Jones, I have not yet begun to repeat myself!) was a decisive factor in what TV I got to watch.

      Plenty of Valkyrie coming your way throughout the rest of this series, I'm happy to report.

    4. I don't think I ever had any Presto Magix. If so, they didn't make much impression on me.

      One area where your experiences and mine part ways completely is that I had no older brother to influence my likes/dislikes. Mine were left to develop mostly on their own, although I was certainly influenced by whatever my mom and dad liked or disliked. It kind of fascinates me to wonder about how I would have been affected by having an older sibling. I can immediately see how it would be possible for a brother saying "the Hulk sucks" to be all it took to convince you it was true.

      I've heard good things about Peter David's Hulk years. These seventies issues look pretty groovy, too, though.