Here we are for the penultimate post in this series. Where did the time go?
I don't know if it is accurate to say the American public was gripped in a state of Hulkmania in the last two years of the 70s, though I very much want to, but it is true that there was more Hulk product than ever. A magazine, a series, a super-group, and a hit television series with an animated show in the works. People were Hulk smashing all over the place.
Let's start things off with -
THE TV SHOW
Back Issue #70 has a nice write-up of the TV series by Glenn Greenberg, from which the below is excerpted:
"(The Incredible Hulk) launched on March 10, 1978, and would run for five seasons. (...) True, the Hulk of the TV series was not the character as portrayed in the comic books. The show was an adaptation in every sense of the word. The premise, the status quo, the character's strength level and abilities, and even the name of his alter ego were changed. (...) Executive Producer Kenneth Johnson - "
|Left, with Bill Bixby, right.|
" - definitely not an admirer of comic books, wanted to distance the show from its source material as much as possible. Thus nuclear physicist Dr. Robert Bruce Banner became research scientist Dr. David Bruce Banner. Bruce was single; David was recently widowed, his wife Laura having been killed in a car accident that David survived. Bruce became the Hulk after getting caught in the detonation of his own invention, the gamma bomb (...) while with David, it happened he accidentally overdosed on gamma radiation while trying to determine the connection between the presence of gamma and amazing displays of strength from otherwise normal human beings."
|Also: the Hulk didn't speak, and he was drastically de-powered. (Indeed, when they decided to kill the character, he died from falling out of an airplane.)|
So, basically, the TV Hulk is an entirely different character, with different enough powers to be an entirely different kind of superhero, grafted onto The Fugitive. The TV Hulk has its defenders; I am not one of them. I never saw it as a kid, so I have no childhood nostalgia for it. Many friends admire it, and I've come to appreciate aspects of it through them. Both Lou Ferrigno and Bill Bixby are perfectly fine in the role. But for my money - it just ain't the Hulk.
But it was an unqualified success, to be sure, and without it, it's entirely possible the Hulk might have slowly become a second-tier Marvel character.
|Some merchandising from the late 70s.|
Although it says "written by Stan Lee," the strip was actually written by first Larry Leiber and then Paul Kupperberg until its cancellation in 1982. I've never read any of these, but it looks like fun.
|Issues 55 - 78|
|Patsy Walker's previous life in Millie the Model comes into play.|
|Somewhat boiler-plate, but let's recall this for next time around, when Patsy is (spoiler alert) possessed by Satan.|
Meanwhile, the Red Guardian continues to hang around:
and the Valkyrie brings the gang back to Asgard in a fun multi-parter.
Omega the Unknown - the Steve Gerber-written cult series from earlier in the 70s - left several plotlines unresolved when it was cancelled. Defenders tidies up the loose ends -
|by killing 2/3ds of its cast.|
What else? Some fun guest stars as always.
|The Devil Slayer. A character re-purposed from the short-lived Atlas comic:|
|Also written by David Anthony Kraft.|
|How much you want to bet these folks from issue 60 are actually David Kraft and the Defenders editors/ bullpen?|
Let's move on to:
THE RAMPAGING HULK / HULK MAGAZINE
You know, I love the idea of the Hulk magazine. Painted color covers, expanded page count, editorials, interviews, characters without their own titles getting their own shots as the b-stories:
|Such as Moon Knight, who would get his own title with the same creative team. (Moench and Sienkiewicz.)|
The Bereet story from last time around wraps up in very surreal fashion:
|This is one of the odder things I've seen on the comics page, I have to say.|
|Hulk is unimpressed.|
There's a treasure trove of pin-ups and two-page spreads, though - here are a few examples:
|Reminds me of Swamp Thing, actually.|
And here's a moment of Hulk Zen:
THE INCREDIBLE HULK
becomes wearying. There's only so many times you can see him do and say the same things. In context of all 1970s comics, it's not so bad, but the content of Hulk's reiterations - "Hulk is the strongest one there is!" "Hulk... NOT FRIENDS?!" "Shut up!" etc. - don't lend themselves well to overuse.
A couple of moments come up in this last stretch of The Incredible Hulk that made me appreciate the things I very much did enjoy, such as his bender-like crash periods, usually in odd places:
|Issue 239. (The proportions are way off here, but hey.)|
Placed against any other Marvel superhero title of the 70s, Incredible Hulk acquits itself well. Out of that decade? It drops rank considerably. But that's nothing against it, and certainly nothing against Stern's last few years on the book. (He left in early 1980.)
As for the Hulk's supporting cast:
|The General's sidelined for most of it.|
|Betty barely appears. (And she's unrecognizable.)|
|Jim is revealed to be the nephew of Sam Wilson.|
Not really. Doc Savage puts him under, and they travel into Hulk/ Banner's psyche to try and work out where the Hulk's anger management issues. Predictably with little success - Socrates in particular seems to really piss the Hulk off.
The Hulk has a point. How can he know himself? That's the whole problem. Is this some kind of Zen Koan? HULK HATE KOANS!
The Machine Man appears, and I'll mention it not only because I always liked this late-Kirby creation but because I plan on covering the 80s mini-series sooner or later -
|shameless plug in the Mighty Marvel Tradition!|
Did I mention Sal Buscema fatigue? The man was some kind of insane workhorse. Every comic I pick up between 75 and 90 I seem to find this guy sooner or later. He is the Michelle Forbes of Marvel artists. No disrespect to his work, but because of this, I've become over-familiar with his bag of tricks - all effective, like the straight impact lines radiating from the action, or his stock facial expressions and action poses, etc. - and I need a break. The next 50 comics I look at must not include any Sal Buscema.
Well, except for the last post in this series, Defenders 90 - 101, if there's any in there. I don't think there is, but disclaimer just in case. Hope to see you then for a Hulk in the 70s coda.