It looks like we are heading for green Christmas this year, so in this months Arcs & Runs we will get into the spirit and feature Old Green skin himself the Incredible Hulk.
The Hulk is a mainstay of the Marvel universe and there are many different time periods and eras from which you can collect. His first solo title issues #1-6 (thick wallet/loaded credit card required), Tales to Astonish #58 – #101, or his second series which ran much longer: Incredible Hulk #102 through issue #474 plus annuals. The Hulk is also a founding member of two super groups: The Avengers and The Defenders. Today the Hulk remains as popular as ever, still bouncing around in the pages of Marvel comics.
One of my favourite runs on the Hulk is a forty issue run from the bronze age issues #143 thru #182, which we will look at over the next couple of weeks in two parts. This was a peak period in terms of Hulk stories. The Hulk always worked best for me when he was a guest star in his own comic. The story itself revolves around the actual guest star in the book, and then the Hulk comes bouncing into the story often inadvertently changing well laid plans, smashing bad guys, changing peoples lives, and then hopping away unaware of what he has done. This group of books is packed with guest stars from around the Marvel universe, while keeping the core group of Hulk support characters close by. Alter ego Bruce Banner, love interest Betty Ross, her father General Thunderbolt Ross, and Major Glen Talbot are always weaving a thread through the story.
The artwork here is primarily done by Herb Trimpe who was in the middle of an eight year run on the title. Mr. Trimpe recently passed away and I have an additional piece about him in the second part of this post. John Severin, Dan Adkins, Dick Ayers, Sam Trapini, and Frank Giacoia are along to help out Herb with pencil and inking chores.
The writing is primarily done by Roy Thomas and Archie Goodwin. Steve Englehart, Steve Gerber, Gary Friedrich, Len Wein, and Gerry Conway also contribute.
Old Greenskin has waited long enough – let’s get to some of the stories in this run.
Incredible Hulk #144
The Monster and the Madman
Our first stop is a continuation of a story that began last issue featuring the 1st meeting of Doctor Doom and The Hulk. It is hard to believe that it took so long for these two to meet. Doctor Doom has a penchant for finding powerful unwitting allies (i.e. the Sub-Mariner) to do a lot of his dirty work for him. This time he is using The Hulks alter-ego Bruce Banner to design a gamma bomb for him. Last issue Doom destroyed a Hulk robot of his own making and kidnapped Banner. The people that know Bruce Banner and the Hulk are one and the same (besides Doctor Doom) Betty Ross, Glenn Talbot, General Thunderbolt Ross, and Doc Samson think Bruce Banner is dead. Doom plans to use the bomb as a threat against the countries that surround Latveria. In short, the plan goes wrong and the bomb is detonated early (by Doom’s gal pal Valerie) and causes no damage. The Hulk who was carrying the bomb is now enraged and attacks Doom and his castle. Doom is saved from the Hulk’s savage attack by Valerie who pleads with the Hulk to stop. The ever foggy mind of the Hulk responds to her pleas and he bounces away, with Doom defiantly challenging him to come back and finish the fight as the issue comes to a close. One other note on this issue – an absolutely gorgeous cover by Herb Trimpe, one of his very best.
Incredible Hulk #150
Cry Hulk Cry Havok
We move up the run six issues to bi-centennial issue #150. These were the days before the marketing dept. knew a bi-centennial issue was something to be celebrated. A more uninspired 150th issue cover may never be found. The Hulk is fighting a gang of bikers whose dialogue sounds like something from a James Cagney gangster movie. And I had the gall to submit this book as an undervalued spotlight pick a few years ago to poor old Walt. It of course went in to Walt’s blue box recycler.
The book itself is a hidden little gem. The green haired girl on the front cover is not Jarella as Hulk thinks but Lorna Dane (aka Polaris) of the X-Men. She has been sent on a mission by Professor X to find Alex Summers (aka Havok also of the X-Men)) and ask him to return to the team. Havok has been hiding out in the desert convinced his uncontrolled powers make him a menace to himself and those around him after he hurts Iceman in a spat over Lorna Dane’s affections. Lorna tries to convince Alex but it is no dice. Enter the Hulk who has been looking for this green haired girl since their encounter with the bikers. He swoops up Lorna and bounds away. Alex has no choice but to go after them, he suits up and is in pursuit. When he catches up to them he realizes an all out brawl could injure Lorna. He makes a good choice and attacks the Hulk’s weakest point- his muddled brain. Havok focuses a minute solar power beam at the Hulk’s head. It hurts and eventually knocks out the Hulk. Havok rescues Lorna and with his new-found confidence decides to rejoin the X-Men. While asleep the Hulk reverts to Bruce Banner and is found by Betty and Talbot. Bruce utters the word “Jarella” in his sleep and Betty wonders who she is… this guy gets into trouble even when he’s asleep!!
I still like this book and it is a hidden gem if you’re an X fan. Too well hidden! No mention of the X-Men appearance in this book in Overstreet. A Havok /Hulk battle cover would have generated much more interest, maybe even an Undervalued Spotlight ^-^!
Incredible Hulk #154
Hell is a very small Hulk
The Hulk is seeking out Doctor Henry Pym and his shrinking formulation with hopes of finding the micro verse and his lost love Jarella. He finds Doctor Pym’s lab and unknown to him an old nemesis the Chameleon. Disguised as Pym he gives the Hulk an old unstable shrinking formulation which the Hulk drinks and he shrinks to a fist sized Hulk! The Chameleon plans to take the shrunken Hulk to Hydra who have plans for him. The real Doctor Pym finally shows up and he turns in to Ant-Man. Ant-Man quickly assesses the situation and is on his way to Hydra. At Hydra the pint-sized Hulk still retains his Hulk sized strength and is causing all kinds of havoc when they decide release a group of plague rats to destroy the Hulk. Things are looking bleak for the Hulk when Ant-Man finally arrives. Together they defeat the Hydra menace and capture the Chameleon. Unfortunately, the Hulk/Bruce Banner continues to shrink as result of the unstable shrinking formulation and Banner disappears to parts unknown as this issue comes to a close.
Great having Ant-Man back and seeing two founding members of the Avengers in action!
Incredible Hulk #159
Two Years before the Abomination
We move up five issues to issue #159 and another cool Herb Trimpe cover this time featuring one of the Hulk’s long time foes the Abomination. The Abomination along with the Leader & Rhino, were regulars in Hulk stories in this group of bronze age books.
This book is basically a battle issue with General Ross wanting to kill Bruce Banner/Hulk for the sake of his recently married daughter Betty and Major Glen Talbot. They are off to Canada on their honeymoon. Bruce Banner/Hulk are returning from outer space. General Ross has the Abomination locked in a cell and he has just awakened from a two-year coma courtesy of the Hulk. Ross makes him a deal to set him free but he must kill the Hulk. The Abomination happily agrees to the terms.
A solid battle ensues with the Abomination throwing the low gut punch at the end by telling the Hulk, Betty has gotten married and is off to Niagara Falls on her honeymoon. The Hulk finishes off the Abomination and sets out for Niagara Falls to find Betty and finds Tiger-Shark next issue instead.
Incredible Hulk #161
Beyond the border lurks…Death
We move up two issues and into the wilds of Canada. The Hulk is still looking for honeymooning Betty Ross and Glenn Talbot after unsuccessfully missing them in Niagara Falls (last issue). We switch gears and find Hank McCoy (aka The Beast formerly of the X-Men) and his girlfriend Vera Cantor traveling the backroads to answer a distress call from an acquaintance of Vera’s. This journey began at the end of Amazing Adventures #16 which was the series where the new “furry” Beast was born. When they arrive at a remote cabin Cal Rankin formerly the Mimic of the X-Men answers the door. He is got a big problem and needs help. His mimicking power – absorption abilities are out of control and he is sucking the life out of everything. He fears it could be a world threatening problem. Vera and Hank get to work.
Meanwhile the Hulk is getting dizzy spells and is weakening. He “follows” the source of the spells to the Mimic’s cabin and falls/ busts inside. He messes up the cabin and Hank breaks away and becomes the Beast. They begin to fight and are strangely evenly matched. The Hulk has lost that much power. Cal Rankin ends the fight by absorbing the Hulk’s gamma radiation, killing himself with radiation poison. The Hulk starts to regain strength and leaves. The Beast quickly changes back to Hank McCoy and finds Vera and tells her the tragic news as this issue comes to an end.
Incredible Hulk #162
Spawn of the flesh-eater
The Hulk is still in Canada after the death of Cal Rankin, and still searching for Betty. He comes across a distressed man named Paul Cartier. He needs help finding his friend and asks for the Hulk’s help and is worried about a Wendigo. The Hulk finds a badly injured man whose name is George Baptiste and is attacked by a group of hunters and young woman named Marie Cartier who it turns out is Paul Cartier sister. When the group figures out that the Hulk is not the problem and he has saved George we hear the “rest of the story”.
Paul Cartier, George Baptiste, and Henri Cluzot were out hunting when they were attacked by a pack of wolves. The three were injured and starving. Henri Cluzot passed away and Paul Cartier in an act of cannibalism/survival ate the dead man’s flesh, and is the recipient of the Wendigo curse.
Marie asks the Hulk to track down the Wendigo and see if he can save him from the curse before it completely takes over his body. The Hulk does find the Wendigo albeit a bit too late as the mind and body of Paul Cartier is absorbed into the Wendigo (a creepy sight). It turns out the Wendigo is also very powerful and beats the Hulk around a bit before taking off into the woods. The Hulk laments that not even his power could save Paul Cartier from his fate as this issue comes to and end.
The Hulk gets a return match with the Wendigo and powerful little guy named Weapon X in a year and half. We’ll cover that next post. The Hulk meanwhile continues his Canadian vacation in the pages of the Amazing Spider-Man issues #119-120.
I have always felt this run of twenty books was for the most part very undervalued and tough to find in strict 8.5 grade and up. Most of the run is only valued at $32 for 9.2 grade so not too many of them get slabbed for auction. Dealers I have checked don’t see many higher grade collections of these books. Try and find these in a comic dealer’s bin – difficult. Try and find them priced at guide – practically impossible. The Hulk collectors that I have known tend to hang on to them as well.
45th Overstreet Price guide values are as follows.
We’ll be back to two weeks with the second part of this post which will include “thee” return trip to the Great White North by the Incredible Hulk.
Here is hoping everyone has a very Merry Christmas and that Santa fills a hole or two in your “want list”.