We continue our look at Bronze Age Hulk with Part 2 of this forty issue run. There are some similarities to the first twenty issues. The Hulk fights the Rhino/Abomination combo once again, and we have return trips to Counter-Earth and Canada, plus a lot more. Let’s get back to it!
We jump six issues up the run to issue #168. This issue is the second part of a Modok/Aim/Betty Talbot story. Last issue Betty Talbot has seemingly lost her new husband Glen Talbot in a Russian prison camp explosion, and has subsequently had second nervous breakdown. She blames the Hulk for all of her problems and the evil Modok see’s her as pawn to destroy the Hulk. He bombards her with gamma radiation and has changed the now Hulk hating Betty Talbot into monster called a Harpy.
Our old buddy Hulk has been tracking Betty down for ages and now he’s found her. Careful what you wish for! This Harpy is one ugly and powerful creature. The gamma rays in Betty’s hour glass figure have all run to her bottom and she now possesses legs like tree trunks and has huge claws to match. She can also fly and gives the Hulk a real tussle, defeating him when he refuses to kill her when he has a chance. Modok has plans for the Hulk next issue as this story continues…
Outside of Betty Talbot being turned into a vicious Harpy this issue is mostly known for nudity panels of Betty Talbot, which by today’s standards would not rate a mention.
We find The Hulk is imprisoned in a military compound by Colonel Armbruster. The same prison he just freed the same military from last issue Hulk #171 see Undervalued Spotlight #13 for more details. The Hulk has a new cell mate – The Juggernaut (Cain Marko). We are treated to a Juggernaut origin story along with a detailed history of his recent whereabouts. The two decide to join forces to break out (what a team-up!) and once they are out, rout the impoundment. The Juggernaut takes a little too much pleasure in beating the military personnel for the Hulk’s liking and a fight between to two evenly matched combatants ensues. It is a good fight with the Hulk eventually spinning the Juggernauts helmet off as he is tossed in to a mountain side. Before the Juggernaut can re-join the fight however, three X-Men arrive, and they are the wrong ones for a helmetless Juggernaut. Professor X, Marvel Girl, and Cyclops who telepathically take out the Juggernaut in short order.
This is another one those “lost years” appearances by X-Men (just like Hulk #150 cough! cough!) in the time between X-Men # 66 and their revival in X-Men #94. Their next appearance will be in Captain America #172-175 and join his battle with the Secret Empire. The Hulk moves on to another old X-Men acquaintance the Cobalt Man next issue.
The Hulk has been battling with the now deceased Cobalt Man the past two issues, and following an explosion in space is hurtling towards the Inhumans and the hidden land. The Inhumans see this and send their Space Ark on an intercept course. The Ark and Hulk crash into the side of a mountain and the Hulk sleeps and emerges from the wreckage as Bruce Banner. The Inhumans explain to Banner that the Space Ark is being built to travel to Counter Earth and invite him to join them. While Bruce Banner is walking about in the hidden land streets when he is confronted by other Inhumans. These Inhumans bully him for being human. This is a big mistake as Banner turns into the Hulk and goes on a rampage. Only the super sonic voice of Black Bolt (Stop Bruce! or something to that effect) can take him down. Unconscious the Inhumans put the Hulk in the Space Ark and ship him into space. It turns out he is on his way to Counter-Earth and the start of a new adventure next issue…
The Inhumans have met and battled the Hulk before in Incredible Hulk Annual #1
This is the third issue in a three-part story that features Warlock and his battle with the powerful Man Beast. The events take place following the cancellation of the series Warlock #1-8. In issue #177 the Man-Beast has defeated Warlock and then kills him in a gruesome public execution. Warlock’s body then cocoons itself and remains under the watchful eye of “the Recorder”. The Man-Beast see’s no opposition in to becoming the unquestioned ruler of Counter -Earth. He has however forgotten the Hulk who is furious at seeing the death of his friend Warlock and begins a battle with Man-Beast. I often underestimate just how powerful the Man-Beast really is. I think it is because he just looks like a wolf. His telepathic powers and strength put him the power league of Thor, Hulk, and Warlock. As the battle rages Warlocks cocoon begins to glow and eventually Warlock re-emerges alive, reborn, and most importantly at full power. He takes out Man-Beast and reverts him to a plain old wolf. He leaves counter-earth to itself. And the Hulk see’s another friend fly away…
A very brief synopsis for this excellent three-part story, and is a must for Hulk and Warlock fan’s alike.
The Hulk bounds across the border from New York state in to the hills of Quebec. The Canadian government remembers the Hulk from his previous stay in Canada and wastes no time in issuing a counter-measure, “Mobilize Weapon X”.
Meanwhile in a nearby cave we are re-acquainted with two people we met in Hulk #162. Marie Cartier whose brother Paul was afflicted with the Wendigo curse for consuming human flesh. And George Baptiste who was Paul’s best friend. Marie has become obsessed with freeing her brother from the curse and has dabbled in witchcraft and a potion to free Paul. The only problem is the curse requires a new host and Marie doesn’t care if it is an innocent or not just as long as Paul is freed. The Hulk will suit her needs just fine, and against George’s protest she plans a trap for him. Luring the Hulk into the cave was easy, keeping him there another matter as her potions are not strong enough to hold him. Just as the Hulk intends to leave, the other weak minded monster arrives – The Wendigo. A real barn burner of a battle ensues across the landscape and the issue is about end when Weapon X – The Wolverine arrives setting up a three-way donnybrook for next issue.
It is sometimes easy to forget this is the first appearance of Wolverine in a comic story. It was treated this way in Overstreet for a few years before cameo, brief, and full appearances made the scene.
The Wolverine jumps right in to the thick of the battle, leaping at the Hulk trying to tear off his hide with his admantium claws. Try as he might (and he really tries) Wolverine can’t break through the Hulk’s skin. He switches targets and has much more success with the Wendigo, striking him hard and wounding him. The Hulk then joins Wolverine in taking down the Wendigo, and Wolverine finishes him off with a claw to the throat. Wolverine then turns on the Hulk and their battle resumes, but it is short-lived as Marie and George throw a knock out gas at them. Very well prepared campers these two. While asleep the Hulk turns back into Bruce Banner and Marie decides to use him to transplant the curse of the Wendigo. George is having none of it and leaves. Before Marie can complete the spell Wolverine and the revived Banner (changes immediately to the Incredible Hulk) wake up.
While the Hulk and Wolverine re-new their battle George Baptiste works Marie’s spell on the injured Wendigo and cough’s up his own life to save his best friend Paul and for the girl he professes to love -Marie. Paul is saved and George disappears in to the Wendigo and bounds off in to the woods.
In issue #182 the military intervene breaking up the Hulk /Wolverine fight. Wolverine leaves upset he wasn’t allowed to finish the battle himself.
It would be easy to make a case that issue #181 of the Hulk is not the most important book of the bronze age, or the most expensive (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #1) yet. I would say I couldn’t make a good argument to say Wolverine is not the most popular character to come out of the bronze age and this is the most popular book of the era. I am so glad that Herb Trimpe got to draw this book and receive the accolades and immortality that come with it.
So ends our very brief glimpse at this run of bronze age Hulk. The twenty issues that precede this run are also loaded with goodies too and I can heartily recommend them as well.
The 45th Overstreet Price guide values for the twenty issues covered today are listed below. Overstreet prices for issues #180 and 181 are still quite a bit lighter than what I see on the market right now. Incredible Hulk #181 has already broken through about a half a dozen price ceilings I had placed on it. There seems to be no end to the demand for it, and to a lesser degree issue #180.
I had mentioned in the first post I would have a little bit more on the recently deceased artist Herb Trimpe. I was not an Herb Trimpe fan when he initially took over the Hulk, but did grow to appreciate his work through this bronze age period. It surprised me to find out years later he was very critical of his own early Hulk work as well.
A few years ago I picked up Marvel Masterworks (#115) Incredible Hulk #111-121. In it was an introduction by Herb Trimpe. In the intro he goes through, book by book, all of his artistic flaws and how he wishes he could go back in time and correct them.
He then goes on to describe how comic fans changed his thinking on this matter. I’ll let Herb tell the story in is own words from the Marvel Masterworks #115 (2008) introduction.
A couple of years ago, my wife encouraged me to accept invitations to comic book shows, reasoning that I had worked in the business so long, I owed it to myself to reconnect and to own that which I had chosen to do for lo those many years. I did so, and what finally sunk into my thick skull, was that hundreds, if not thousands, of comic book fans loved the stories I drew. And worse than that, they loved the style that I had grown to dislike (I won’t use the word hate). Many a dear comic-book folk described emotionally to me how meaningful these stories had been to them. I’m sure many artists and writers in this crazy business have heard the same sentiments, but when you experience it for yourself, it is mind-blowing. One fellow described to me how a particular issue I had drawn had saved his life! How does a guy who worked to make deadlines and get paychecks respond to that? I was flabbergasted, and I continue to be flabbergasted by the many thanks I have received for the work that I have done.
As a result, I no longer care to redo what has already been done. And, I had to ask myself a question: Who benefited the most? These True Believers have sent my kids to college, put food in our mouths, a roof over our heads, and encouraged me to appreciate my own work. I ask you. Who has the greatest debt of gratitude?
I take this opportunity to bow deeply and give heartfelt thanks to all those dedicated fans that have made it all possible. Herb Trimpe.
Dennis De Pues also did a beautiful tribute to Herb Trimpe earlier in the year in Tales from the Comicdenn April 20th and I encourage you look that up if you haven’t already done so.
Finally, a new year is upon us, and I would like to wish everyone the very best in 2016!