Hulk: 1973 - 1975 pt. 2

Let's wrap up the Hulk's adventures 1973 to 1975 with these snapshots from The Incredible Hulk 159 to 194. 

All stories written by Steve Englehart, Roy Thomas, Gerry Conway, and Len Wein. All pencils by Herb Trimpe. (Except 194, by Sal Buscema.) Inks by Sal Trapani, Jack Abel, Herb Trimpe, Joe Staton, and Marie Severin.

1. Beans.

From 194.

2. The Plots

The stories are better in this '73 to '75 stretch than they were last time around. Lots of filler, sure, but some genuinely weird stuff. This fight with Tiger Shark is not especially weird -

but it's fun, mainly because I always liked Tiger Shark's visual. We'll see a bit more of him when we get to the "Hulk Smash" section below. 

Most issues have a mix of the pleasantly-weird and the maybe-too-weird. Here's a good example from issue 163:

Sci-fi city buried miles under the ice? Cool. Another / any Oompa-Loompa-looking bad guy? Decidedly less cool.

I think my favorite stretch of stories save for the ones showcased separately below was this trio of stories written by Roy Thomas:

a sequel to his Counter-Earth story from last time around.

The plot is too manic to summarize properly here (though the summary at supermegamonkeymind is certainly an admirable attempt.) You can get by on "Man-Beast: President / Adam Warlock: Jesus."

183 features the welcome return of Zzzax, although he really doesn't do too much.
And then in 184, the Hulk fights his shadow. "Alien has stolen Hulk's shadow?"
Unfortunately, his origin story goes on forever... the above is only a quarter of it or so. "Are you finished?" (in my best Master Shake voice)

3. Sound fx

I began to notice that Herb Trimpe was partial to big pop-art sound fx last time but didn't grab any. This time around, I made sure to. Comin' atcha!

"SSSA-KLUD!" is dedication. I can picture Herb at his drawing table, looking off into space, perhaps chewing on the top of his pencil, in-between saying various versions of this aloud.

I know, you're probably thinking this is all a bit excessive.
And I agree.
That is to say, my screencapping them all like this is excessive, not the existence of all these sound fx.

Okay, I'll stop now. I love this kind of stuff, though. A few years back I went to an Art Institute of Chicago retrospective of Roy Liechtenstein. If you're unfamiliar, have a gander at his stuff sometime. I would absolutely love to wander through a museum exhibit comprised of nothing but the above panels, blown up to display size. Herb Trimpe isn't on many people's short list for Greatest Comics Artists Ever, and I don't know if he'd be on mine, either, but if only for the above, he now has a special place in my comics-lovin' heart.

4. Wolverine

Of course, this stretch of the Hulk is best-known for one thing above all others: the introduction of the Wolverine.

First mention of Wolverine - one for comics trivia night.
The story itself is a sequel to 162, which introduced Wendigo. (Byrne and Claremont did a nice little homage / sequel to Wolverine's first appearance in X-Men 140.)
Here he is at the end of 181. (Notice: no "bub.")
Not the greatest story, but as you can see, very collectible.
This issue casts a long shadow. (The facade of my local comics shop, Variety Comics.)
5. Remember When I Said I Hate the Leader?

I still do.
But I have discovered I also hate Betty Ross's father, General Ross. Talk about a one-note character. I have the same reaction to him that I always used to have to Lt. Gerard in The Fugitive, mainly "Don't you have anything else to do? How do you have leave from all your other duties? And how are you still the point man on this with your track record of failure year after year?" Even worse with General Ross, since his failures to apprehend / neutralize the Hulk are so astronomically expensive.

And this time around, I couldn't help thinking of The General everytime I saw him.
Though apparently the car insurance General outranks General Ross by two stars.
6. Bad Bruce Hair

I think that these shots of Bruce are meant to indicate he is in the process of turning into the Hulk, but... they just look ridiculous.

But that's a problem with Bruce Banner in general. The stories downshift very perceptibly whenever the Hulk switches to Banner. Like General Ross, he's a bit of a one-note character. It's sad when you're out-dynamic-ed by the Hulk.

7. Hulk Smash

I promised my wife I'd include at least one "Hulk Smash!" section in the next blog. Here it is. Not too many - a lot of overlap with the "Sound fx" section - but here are a few, starting with this smackdown of Tiger Shark from issue 160.

And a satisfying punch is delivered unto the very irritating Doc Sampson. (193)

8. Hulk and the Harpy

For me the most memorable storyline from this period stretches from issue 167 to 170. The stage is set many issues before, as Betty (now Betty Talbott, married to this dude below:)

slowly has a nervous breakdown after thinking her new husband has died. (Actually he's alive and is just hiding out with the KGB, but Betty doesn't know that.)

Unlike the good folks at supermegamonkeymind, this is probably the only time Betty ever interested me as a character. This isn't a very deep deconstruction of the shrill harpy stereotype, but it's at least a deconstruction / tongue-in-cheek portrayal of it all. I mean, Betty is exposed to the same gamma radiation which ruined her life with Bruce Banner, and she becomes... The Harpy? I don't think we're swimming into impenetrable esoteric waters, here.


Dear God, that visual is horrific. But it's likely deliberate. Wings and talons and green skin aside, she gains a pregnant paunch she otherwise does not have. Am I reading too much into this? The child she can never have with Bruce, or her new husband Glenn? Now transformed into violent, angry impulse? Maybe. If it was just a wink-wink sort of story about the doomed romance of Betty and Bruce, it'd be fun, but what really appeals to me about these issues is how the insanity unfolds: 

First, Modok figures that someday the Hulk might pose a threat to his plans, so (he proactively reasons) he'd better brainwash someone close to him to come to his lair so he can employ the Gamma Ray Transformer.

After beating the Hulk (!) the Harpy flies off - and gets lost. She and the Hulk crash-land on the Eight Miles High Sky-Island of the Bird-People, protected by the Bi-Beast. (It was a simpler time.)
Which makes the Bi-Beast happy. Modok (r) less so.
The Hulk reverts to Banner, and the Bi-Beast puts him to work on the vast machines of the island that he and the Bird-People no longer understand. Modok arrives just in time for the island to blow up, and Betty (now cured of her Harpy persona) and Bruce tumble through the sky, eventually landing (thanks to Bruce's transforming into the Hulk before impact) on another island of monsters.

This last issue is an interesting wrap-up to all of the above, as Hulk continually tries to make Betty happy, and Betty continually pushes him away / snaps at him. And along the lines of aborted romance/ the child they cannot have, there's this interesting observation of Betty's in the first panel:

And speaking of pretty:

9. How Hulk Thinks

10. Hulk Weather Report

11. Some Randoms

Yaaaaaaaaarg. (168)
(177) Man, that "Say what you mean, Lizardus, or I swear -" amuses me.
(158.) This fight between man-porcupine and man-lizard can be NO FARCE! (Incidentally, is that a "666" on the shield?)
That's the view right across the street from where your humble narrator types these words.

12. Two More Covers
And last but not least:

13. Nuff Said.

See you next month for 1976 - 1977. And pssst! Don't forget your Marvel Value Stamps, True Believer:


  1. "BLOGG!" -- Nice.

    The Gremlin is hideous. I wish I had something more to say about it than that, but I don't, other than to say he makes Oompa Loompas look like Jennifer Lawrence.

    I like to imagine what sort of campaigning/electoral process might have led to Man Beast being elected President. THOSE are some fun debates...

    Never heard of Zzzax before this, but I already love him.

    Regarding the sound effects: I wonder if he had a list of them somewhere so as not to reuse them, or if he just sort of played it loose every time. Because really, if you repeat yourself on that, it's perfectly fine. But I can also imagine being really obsessive about it and keeping notes so as to not do so.

    I knew (but had forgotten) that Wolverine was introduced in "The Hulk." I had no idea he was known as Weapon X right off the bat. Cool! Weird to think that one day there was no Wolverine, and the next day there was.

    That panel of Hulk swinging Tiger Shark (I think that's who it is) by the head is priceless.

    The panel of Betty freaking out is freaking ME out. I have seen madness, and this is its face.

    "Hulk-inued"?!? Awful.

    That is demonstrably a 666 on the shield. Weird. I feel the strangest urge to kill...

    What in the (pardon the pun) devil are Marvel Value Stamps? I seem to have totally missed out on those.

    1. I need to go back to the first Counter-Earth story and refamiliarize myself with the backstory of President Man-Beast.

      Yeah, that is kind of sudden with Wolverine. Marvel's most popular character in future eras just sort of stepped out from behind a tree and took on the Hulk. "Here I am, now, bub."

      The Bullpen Bulletins used to have Marvel Value Stamps in the corner. Did people clip them and turn them in for anything? I'm not sure. Any readers out there one-time members of FOOM (Friends Of Ol' Marvel) or any of Stan Lee's various fan club enterprises who can shed light on this, please do.

      I hope one day someone finds and makes available Herb Trimpe's notepad of sound fx with columns for used, un-used, and discarded.

  2. It does look like a fun run of the book.

    That pic of Wendigo two-fist-punching the Hulk off the side of a mountain is my favorite. Two-fist-punching is the comic book equivalent of Star Trek's judo chop to the neck; apparently unstoppable, but worthless in the real world.

    General Ross really was aggravating. Basically the Hulkverse version of J. Jonah Jameson. Those two are, in my opinion, the worst Marvel antagonists of that era. One note, as you say, and that note is shrill, grating, and interminable as an Emergency Alert System test alarm at 2 o'clock in the morning.

    I've mentioned it before elsewhere, but the later egos that Marvel loved to lavish attention on in its early years did begin to show their wear as early as the first half of the '70s. Seeing an issue of Hulk or Thor with a lot of Banner or Blake, respectively, would cause me to give those issues an instant pass. The writers had long since run out of worthwhile stories for them, and this was exacerbated by the increasingly unpleasant personalities of guys like Banner. I think Banner only works as a character in the context of a movie with an actor as talented as Rufalo playing him.

  3. "Alter egos," not "later egos," is what I meant above.

  4. I meant to mention Ruffalo. All of the on-screen Banners have been more appealing to me than the comic book version. But I enjoyed his more than any. It made his turning into the Hulk a real pay-off rather than just an inevitability.

    It does seem like the two-fisted punch would dilute the blow rather than enhance it. Perhaps it only works for the super-strengthed. Or maybe it's like the sideways-point of a gun, where it just looks cool even if it hamstrings effectiveness.

    I'm with you on Donald Blake, as well. When I started reading Thor, he was gone; ditto for Bruce Banner, actually, when I started reading Hulk. (The Mr. Fixit years.) But when I went back and started reading the older stuff, I found my attention always wandering when the story lingered too long on either of them.

    1. As much as I like Ed Norton, I was excited at the news of Ruffalo being cast. Something about him just clicked with me. I can't place my finger on exactly that was so. It didn't hurt that he had shown the ability to play a spectrum of different roles, all of which had a certain intensity. He was able to somehow inject just a hint of the kind of brooding loner Banner would have to be into an otherwise likable character in 13 Going On 30 (no kidding), but was also still watchable as a scumbag (In The Cut).

    2. "why that was so" - man, I cannot type tonight...

    3. I haven't seen 13 Going on 30, but it gives me a chuckle to see it cited. Not in a snarky way - I now need to check it out with that in mind.

      I'm still thinking about the two fisted punch. You'd have to strike your opponent with both fists at the same time, otherwise it'd be just a glancing blow. Are heroes in the Hulk and Wendigo class of strength so precise with their fisticuffs? Perhaps their swings are so devastating that it doesn't matter, but now I want to see the primary authority on the subject.

  5. I have to admit, I have never been a big Hulk fan. I don't know what it is about him but I just don't think he's all that. A friend of mine just loves loves the hulk. Ruffalo is great as the Hulk though. The new Avenger movie made me actually enjoy seeing the Hulk on the screen so I can't wait to see what more Marvel has in store for the Hulk.

    1. Hopefully something terrific. I love Ruffalo as the character, so I'm cautiously optimistic.