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Category Archives: Conspectus

A broad look back at comics and characters, and where they fit in comic book history.

X-Men: Genesis

Longbox Graveyard #160

X-Men: Apocalypse arrives in theaters this week, and while reviews have been mixed, there’s no denying that the X-Men have become a major movie franchise, with a half-dozen films so far, and plenty more on the way. It’s hard to believe these many movies began with a single comic series published by Marvel a half-century ago!

Uncanny X-Men #1

I recently re-read the first several issues of X-Men, and it was fascinating to see where and how this modern franchise was born. In celebration of the X-Men’s pending Apocalypse, I thought it would be fun to look at the team’s Genesis, in terms of the major mutant tropes that emerged in the earliest days of the X-Men!

Now, I have a confession to make. Despite my love of all things Marvel, I’ve never been a huge X-Men fan, and I’ve considered the earliest run of the book among the lesser works of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. It had been several years since I read this book, and I went into my re-read expecting unsophisticated stories and a lot of growing pains as the X-Men formula gradually took shape.

What surprised me was how much of the modern X-Men storytelling DNA was baked into this series right from the start. And the most magical moment of all was when the most important element of the X-Men ethos flowered into full life in issue #5.

But that’s getting ahead of myself …

The concept of mutant student/heroes was on display right from the start. From the first page of issue #1, class was in session!

X-Men #1, Stan Lee & Jack Kirby

And “class,” for the most part, meant the Danger Room … though it wasn’t called by that name quite yet.

X-Men #1, Stan Lee & Jack Kirby

Some of the X-Men’s personalities were also on early display. Scott Summers was already a humorless hall monitor. The Beast, conversely, was initially a rough-and-tumble thuggish type … but more about him in a moment.

X-Men #1, Stan Lee & Jack Kirby

The X-Men were united in their admiration of the school’s newest pupil — Jean Grey. Maybe not quite united — Bobby Drake, the Iceman, was vocal in his disinterest. I’m certain Stan Lee and Jack Kirby didn’t mean for this to be more than an adolescent male expressing that girls are icky … but given that Bobby has come out as gay in recent Marvel continuity, this makes for an interesting footnote.

X-Men #1, Stan Lee & Jack Kirby

Most important, this first issue laid the groundwork for the core element of the X-Men mythos — that mutants are different than humans, and feared by them.

X-Men #1, Stan Lee & Jack Kirby

And mutants are feared with good reason! That’s right, there are evil mutants, too … And right on cue, we get a gloriously deranged Magneto, ranting about Homo Superior.

X-Men #1, Stan Lee & Jack Kirby

Our heroes put Magneto to flight, which earns them the appreciation of the Army. While hinted at earlier, that critical element of the X-Men — that society hates all mutants, good or evil, just for being mutants — hasn’t quite coalesced yet.

X-Men #1, Stan Lee & Jack Kirby

Issue #2 further wedded the X-Men with the mainstream. Cyclops and Iceman received the kind of welcome normally reserved for the likes of the Fantastic Four …

X-Men #2, Stan Lee & Jack Kirby

And Professor X was working directly with the F.B.I. to capture the Vanisher, communicating via some high-tech telepathic gizmo. (It might be easier to use the phone next time, Chuck!)

X-Men #2, Stan Lee & Jack Kirby

But there was one bit of X-Men lore that got well and truly locked in this issue — the Danger Room got its name!

X-Men #2, Stan Lee & Jack Kirby

Issue #3 saw the X-Men’s mission of reaching out to the world’s mutants start to come into focus, though the way Professor X was shown to do it was kind of creepy.

X-Men #3, Stan Lee & Jack Kirby

The Mutant-Of-The-Month was the Blob. It was amusing that Professor X had no “Plan B” if someone had the temerity of turning down an invitation to the X-Men. Someone might take a dim view of risking his neck in the Danger Room and getting bossed around by Scott Summers? Inconceivable!

X-Men #3, Stan Lee & Jack Kirby

The Blob clearly wasn’t X-Men material. That he used his newfound status to try to take over a circus speaks volumes … and also serves to underscore the emerging good-mutants-versus-bad-mutants theme taking root in the book.

X-Men #3, Stan Lee & Jack Kirby

This issue also saw the Beast reinterpreted as educated and sophisticated. In Son of Origins, Stan Lee wrote this change was because the original, rough-hewn Beast seemed too much like The Thing, from the Fantastic Four. And so the Beast started using big words and reading an advanced calculus book with his feet!

X-Men #3, Stan Lee & Jack Kirby

Issue #3 also introduced a pervy subplot where Professor X secretly pined for the teenage Jean Grey … but we will just pretend this never happened …

X-Men #3, Stan Lee & Jack Kirby

Issue #4 featured the return of Magneto, now in command of the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants! Chief among Magneto’s crew were Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch — pretty much the odd-mutants-out in Magneto’s Brotherhood, and destined to to respond to the better angels of their natures and become heroes after an issue or two. But they did provide the perfect audience for Magneto to blast off again about the secret mutant war that was becoming the heart of the book.

X-Men #4, Stan Lee & Jack Kirby

That plot line continued into Issue #5, where there was a subtle change that really defined what made the X-Men special …

X-Men #5, Stan Lee & Jack Kirby

Did you catch it?

“Normal humans fear and distrust anyone with super-mutant powers! … If he’s a fellow mutant, we’ve got to help him! … We’ve got to help anyone who’s in trouble! That’s our oath!”

The friendly men-on-the-street and allied authority figures of the first few issues have given way to an ugly mob that turns against mutants because they are different … while the X-Men emerge as heroes who look out for their own kind, but also defend anyone who is in trouble, even the people who hate them.

With these two panels, the X-Men are well and truly born. The idea that our heroes were mutants, and that they were students in a school, did help to set the book apart right from the start — but these were external elements, and over time they would have been little more than gimmicks. By providing the X-Men with the internal dynamic of being hated by the outside world while still pledging to serve the common good — well, that’s a concept that could (and did!) sustain these heroes for decades to come.

Suddenly, X-Men was more than a superhero fist opera. It was a battle for hearts and minds! And the stakes couldn’t be higher, because that battle was fought inside the team itself — like in issue #8, where Beast stormed off the team after being set-upon by a bigoted mob.

X-Men #8, Stan Lee & Jack Kirby

“I think Magneto and his evil mutants are right!”

That’s an argument we’ve been having in X-Men to this day.

This is interesting stuff! Our four-color world is suddenly cast in shades of grey. And while it would still be a decade before the X-Men as we know them today really came together …

Giant-Size X-Men #1

… you can still trace the genesis of this beloved Marvel super-team to those first, at-times-awkward issues by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. Was there anything those two guys couldn’t do?

And has there ever been a longer-gestating comic book hit than the X-Men? The book was ten years in the wilderness before it turned into a phenomenon with that new team, above — ten years where the series flirted with cancellation, and was even a reprint book for a time. The reintroduction of the X-Men under Len Wein and Dave Cockrum (and Chris Claremont, who took the ball and ran with it) was pitch-perfect, using the core ideas and history of series as a jumping-off point, and introducing a colorful and (mostly) new cast of characters that connected with the audience in ways the originals never quite managed.

Given Marvel’s nature — and the necessity of keeping those trademarks fresh — I expect the X-Men would have continued to get times at bat even if the 1974 series had fizzled, but that would have been no guarantee of success. How many times has Marvel tried (and failed) to make us fall in love with the Inhumans? Deathlok, Blade, Ghost Rider … every couple years, these characters get a chance to seize the spotlight, but they’ve never pulled it off, certainly not to the degree the X-Men have enjoyed. In terms of unlikely success, I expect only the Guardians of the Galaxy rank higher in Marvel’s oeuvre, and while the Guardians used a clever comics reboot as a springboard for their success, that property has really been more of a movie phenomenon than a comic book success.

Anyway, it just goes to show that sometimes it take awhile to get it right … and that you can’t rush success. The idea and the moment have to meet, and even then, you need a lot of luck. But hope springs eternal, and one of the pleasures of being a comics fan is watching a tertiary book like X-Men or the Guardians turn into a runaway success. It’s the kind of thing that inspires collectors to hang on to even their most obscure comic books — you never know when some lame old first issue is going to turn into solid gold.

(And personally, I’m keeping my fingers crossed for the Invaders, Son of Satan, and the Legion of Monsters!)

NEXT MONTH: #161 The Superman Novels of Elliot S! Maggin

 

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The Core of the Four

Longbox Graveyard #150

These are tough times for the World’s Greatest Comic Magazine. The Fantastic Four are conspicuous by their absence from Marvel’s next big reboot, and their new movie is supposed to stink (putting it in good company with the ones that have come before). While the series has enjoyed signature runs under creators like John Byrne and Jonathan Hickman, you could argue that the Fantastic Four went into decline when Jack Kirby left the book with issue #102 in 1970 (if not earlier).

The Fantastic Four

Classic heroes. Great villains. Galaxy-spanning adventures of lasting importance. A sprawling supporting cast that’s better than the headliners of many other books. And yet, today the Fantastic Four feels like a second-tier property (and maybe that’s giving them too much credit). How can Reed, Ben, Johnny, and Sue regain their mojo?

I’m far from an expert on this series, but on the eve of their bound-to-be-disappointing third (fourth?) film outing, I thought I’d look at key aspects of the Fantastic Four — the things that make them special, and the things I think need to be front-and-center in any interpretation of this property. I’m certain I’ll miss a few things (and overstate others), so be sure to give me your impressions, additions, and push-backs in the comments section, below.

But without further apology … here’s what I regard as the Core of the Four!

Canonical Characters

There is a special magic in the partnering of Mr. Fantastic, the Invisible Woman, the Human Torch, and the Thing. They’re primal elementals … brains, heart, charisma, and brawn … husband, wife, brother, and best friend.

Fantastic Four Pinup

From time to time a member will leave the group, but the Fantastic Four just don’t feel like the Fantastic Four without their four founding members front-and-center. The team has had its share of membership changes and roster shake-ups, but while I like She-Hulk as much as the the next guy, for me the Fantastic Four has to center on the original four canonical characters. The book can and should have a robust supporting cast — but Ben, Reed, Johnny, and Susan have got to hold the center stage. Without these guys, you don’t have the Fantastic Four.

Not Just A World — A Whole Universe

The Fantastic Four shouldn’t feel like a part of the Marvel Universe — they ARE the Marvel Universe. Actually, they’re bigger than the Marvel Universe! Anchored by their Baxter Building HQ, the Fantastic Four enjoy the same New York City playground as most of Marvel’s other characters … but they also have the limitless reaches of outer space, strange alternate dimensions, and hidden enclaves like Attilan, Latveria, Atlantis, and Wakanda as their domain.

Fantastic Four #47

One of the great charms of this series is that it is as at home on Yancy Street as Ego the Living Planet, and everyplace in between. From month to month, a reader shouldn’t be able to guess where an adventure is going to start, or where it is going to lead. This series should have the broadest canvas in comics.

Fun

The Fantastic Four can tackle serious threats — you don’t get much more serious than Galactus trying to eat the planet! — but this is a sunlit series long on adventure and … well … fun. It is a rational world where science can solve anything (and cause a few problems along the way); it’s a trivial world where the Fantastic Four are celebrities at the heart of the world’s biggest reality show; it’s a childish world where the Thing and the Torch wreck their headquarters over some silly prank; it’s a flexible world where characters like Doctor Doom and the Impossible Man can share the same stage.

Fantastic Fun

At the core, the Fantastic Four is an unapologetic Silver Age adventure story, a kitchen sink of space gods, bank robbers, killer robots, villainous landlords, mad science, and romantic melodrama. There is angst, disappointment, and heartbreak along the way, but the Fantastic Four isn’t grim, miserable, or violent — it is the story of four optimistic souls who love each other and love having superpowers (even Ben Grimm, who over time has evolved from a wretched man trapped inside a monster into a wise old brawler who is — most of the time — comfortable in his own skin). The Fantastic Four should have fun on their adventures, and their adventures should be fun to read.

It’s not such a dirty word. Say it with me, now — FUN!

The Beating Heart of the Marvel Universe

The Fantastic Four are Marvel’s First Family — they can and should be at the center of everything that happens in the Marvel Universe. Over the decades, the X-Men and (more recently) the Avengers have grown into Marvel’s go-to teams when disaster threatens, but really, it is the Fantastic Four that you want when it is time to get things done. They’re the team with the unimpeachable reputation, with connections around the globe (and around the universe!), with the cutting-edge tech, and the unmatchable reserve of experience and talent for tackling any problem.

Kirby

They can be diplomats, they can be scientists, they can be explorers, and they can be a wrecking crew with equal aplomb. They’re privately funded and committed to the public good in ways that less organic super teams cannot match. The biggest events of the Marvel Universe — from dimensional rifts to alien invasions to the wedding receptions of super-spouses — really only feel big if they happen to or with the Fantastic Four. That the Fantastic Four have been pushed to the margins of the Marvel Universe is a tragedy for the title, and an even greater loss for Marvel, as it denies the larger part of the heritage that makes Marvel great. Get this book back on the schedule! Free the Fantastic Four!

That’s your core — big adventures with intimate characters. A legacy of heroism and adventure. A sense of destiny and duty. Unbreakable family bonds. Fun! Give me those things, or you’re not giving me the Fantastic Four!

Fantastic Four Go Home!

It might seem that I’m advocating for a strictly Silver Age Fantastic Four — and those hundred-odd Silver Age issues by Stan and Jack are still tops in my book — but this needn’t be the case. Sure, I’d love to see a 1960s-era Fantastic Four movie with a Mad Men visual sensibility, but there are some core elements of the original series (like the Cold War competition with “the Reds,” or the sexist portrayal of Sue Storm as a weak and superfluous member of the group) that are best forgotten.

poor Sue

The wildest excesses of the Silver Age can and should likewise be tempered for contemporary audiences. But the soul and spirit of that era should proudly remain at the heart of the Fantastic Four. This is a great property … a great series with a great heritage. All that really remains is for the Fantastic Four (and Marvel!) to recognize that greatness — and embrace it. Depict the Fantastic Four with confidence and swagger and prove they aren’t a relic of a bygone age, and that their greatest adventures are yet to come.

I’m ready to join them! How about you? Give me your own reboot ideas in the comments section, below!

Fantastic Valentine

NEXT MONTH: #151 Fantastic Four Annuals #1-3

Gamma Goes Grey: The Rampaging Hulk!

Longbox Graveyard #144

Once again, Paul has allowed me, your old pal, Dean Compton, to venture into the Bronze Age with you guys!  It’s funny, but I have noticed that whenever I get out of my 90’s comics bubble, (which all of you can read more about at The Unspoken Decade) and come here to chronicle some Bronze Age favorites, I only deal in the very bright (as my prior articles on SHAZAM! and All-Star Squadron prove) or the very seedy (Punisher, this article) elements of the age.  Just like Billy Joel, I don’t know why I go to extremes, but unlike Billy Joel, I allow characters like Hulk to take me to extremes.  Also unlike Billy Joel, I cannot play the piano.

Another thing Billy Joel and I do not have in common is the fact that he was a living, breathing being when The Rampaging Hulk debuted in 1977, while the world would have to wait with bated breath for two more years for me to emerge.  That’s just another reason for me to be jealous of Billy Joel.  I mean, he had a great career, he married Christie Brinkley, and he also had the chance to buy something as cool as The Rampaging Hulk right off the shelf.

The Rampaging Hulk Magazine #1 - Page 1

If your pulse doesn’t feel pounded after this first issue, you deserve your money back.

There’s no proof that Billy Joel frequented 7-11 after 7-11 while on tour, pushing back magazine after magazine until they were dog-eared so that he might find these Hulk comic books, but there really isn’t any proof that he didn’t either, and I prefer to think that we live in a world where the Piano Man demanded his tour bus stop at newsstands as he tried to find these.  I also prefer to think that his tour bus is shaped like a giant piano, so my thoughts are most likely not worth much.  Besides, isn’t that a funny image to have in your head now?

The images in The Rampaging Hulk usually are not so funny.  They tend to be somewhat visceral, as black and white does Bruce Banner’s green alter ego very well!  Of course, it does not hurt that we get some great art by several masters.  The first few issues are done by Walt Simonson in what i think may be his most underrated work ever, which is nothing short of a war crime in my book.

Before I show you any of that though, let’s discuss the magazine…I hear you whining,  Ok, one picture from Simonson, but then it is right back to the background behind The Rampaging Hulk!

The Rampaging Hulk Magazine #1 - Page 6

It isn’t just how beautiful the pictures look; it’s how magnificent of a storyteller that Walt Simonson is, and apparently always was.

Now that your appetite for Walt Simonson has been momentarily sated, let’s chat a bit about the background of this magazine.  It started in January of 1977, which is a good year and a half before Hulk debuted on TV. With issue #10 of the magazine’s run, the magazine will become full color and start to focus more on adventures like the ones TV Hulk would have, and it would also start to have lots of interviews with the cast and crew of the show. After those changes, I find myself disenchanted with the magazine.  I know this is probably blasphemous, but I have never cared for the Lou Ferrigno/Bill Bixby Hulk TV show.  Even as a youngster, I thought them to be cheesy and silly.  Later, when I saw the made-for-TV movies with Daredevil and Thor, I liked them more due to my penchant for crossovers, but I still hated the changes that were made to Thor and Daredevil.

That having been said, I wonder why this was launched when it was.  Was there an outcry for more Hulk material in 1976 and 1977?  Was this just added in anticipation of the TV show?  If it was added for the TV show, they did it in a rather odd way, as the first none issues deal with filling in gaps in Hulk’s history.

That’s right.  This title is set YEARS earlier than when it is released.  In fact, it is designed to fill in gaps between the end of Hulk’s original series (which only lasted six issues, believe it or not) and when he started appearing regularly in Tales to Astonish,so in many ways, this is one of the first “retcon” type of title.  Of course, it apparently caused more harm than good, and so later it was determined that these stories were all fake, told by one of the characters located therein. I find it sad that they could not work any of these into continuity (for whatever that is worth) because these issues are very fun and very solid.  Doug Moench writes most of them (Jim Starlin writes a GREAT issue) and while I do not think it stacks against his Master of Kung Fu or Moon Knight work, I still like it a lot, and it is probably unfair to make the comparison.  It is sort of like comparing albums by The Beatles.  I mean, Rubber Soul isn’t as good as Revolver, but they are both amazing albums by amazing creators.

One big complaint that I have about the magazine is that it did not really take advantage of its medium.  When I did my Punisher article here at LBG, I noted that the black and white magazines put out by Warren, Marvel, Skywald, and others during the 70’s had a dangerous vibe to them.  Many of them were a little more violent and offered a little more sexuality than color comic books (regulated by the code) could.  I was not interested in the Cinemax adventures of The Hulk, but I would have liked to have seen this medium used more effectively, even if the storylines were a little more mature with some social commentary and whatnot.  This magazine cost a buck in 1977, which means that the people who could afford it not only wanted more for their money, but they also were almost certainly an audience of an older age, one who would have expected some meatier stuff than what they got.  Jim Starlin’s issue has some excellent death/outer space imagery (IMAGINE THAT) that fits into the grindhouse/nigh-seedy feel of 1970’s black and white magazines, but the rest of the series sort of falls flat.

That doesn’t make it a bad read though, and in fact, I highly recommend it just for the art of Walk Simonson, George Perez, Jim Starlin, Kieth Giffen, and more!  In fact, there’s so much incredible imagery that it is going to be beyond difficult to keep this article to a manageable level; some of you probably already find it too wordy, so here’s some more Simonson!!!

The Rampaging Hulk Magazine #1 - Page 12

It’s the most awesome drawing of a staircase you have ever seen.

 I also want to give props to Alfredo Alcala for his great inking job; he makes Simonson come alive in a way I think many others could not.  Alcala is a favorite of many pros I know, and this really makes one see why.

The basic story is that Hulk is thwarting a secret invasion of Krylorians.  He does this working alongside his pal and the mascot of the Marvel Universe, Rick Jones.  Of course, we all are probably aware of how intertwined Bruce Banner and Rick Jones are due to Rick basically being the catalyst for the chain of events that formed Hulk, but in case you didn’t know, Walt Simonson and Doug Moench break it down in a really cool manner.

The second part of the origin story is above; Breaking all the rules!

The second part of the origin story is what I gave you when you were clamoring for Simonson; Breaking all the rules!

We see very little of the traditional Hulk supporting cast.  After issue #1, there’s no Better Ross, Thunderbolt Ross, or Glenn Talbot.  Due to flying saucers being spotted over London, Hulk and Rick Jones head for Italy.  What I especially enjoy though, is how jingoistic Thunderbolt Ross is.  I mean, there’s certainly no surprise that a general in the U.S. Army is very blindly patriotic, but few would convey it in as humorous a fashion as good ‘ol Thunderbolt.

The Rampaging Hulk Magazine #1 - Page 14

He calls the wine of Italians cheap while smoking a 15-cent cigar.

I have no idea what a milksop is, but I am working that into my everyday insult collection.  Instead of hurling expletives at the drivers in Atlanta, I will shoot a milksop or two at them.  My road rage is becoming more refined, and I feel like that makes me a better person.  It doesn’t, but at least it makes me feel like it.

That’s really the last we see of the usual gang of Hulk Hangers-On! (Hello Stan Lee alliteration)  Instead, Hulk and Rock head for Europe, where they meet the Krylorian who is on our side, Bereet!

That name may sound familiar, because she was the alien Starlord forgot he had aboard in the incredible Guardians of the Galaxy movie.  She is a neat character, and due to her gentle nature, status as a techno-artist, and neat tricks like a spatial distorter and a banshee mask that doubles as a supersonic ship!

The Rampaging Hulk Magazine #1 - Page 28

I feel like if I could just find that crown and put it on then I would become Space Emperor.

Once this trio joins forces, they gallant all across Europe, thwarting Krylorian plan after Krlylorian plan.  Their adventures also lead them to meet The Uncanny Original X-Men!  I do not know if Walt Simonson ever got to do the original X-Men elsewhere (other than a stint on X-Factor, which only sort of counts in my eyes), but he does them justice here.  His Danger Room sequence packs in more excitement than many other artists rendition of the X-Men in action against actual foes!

The Rampaging Hulk Magazine #2 - Page 7

You say that Cyclops, yet it looks like you are just playing a giant video game.

The Danger Room sometimes seems like a false danger, in that they are holograms and the like.  I know that these holograms can be deadly, but there’s something much more viscerally satisfying about watching these young mutants dodge spiked balls and knives on poles.  The danger comes to life, as it does when Simonson draws the Hulk completely unleashed!

The Rampaging Hulk Magazine #2 - Page 2

If this were the 90’s, I could make a “Talk to the Hand” joke. As it is, I will just let it go.

Moments like the X-Men’s arrival propel this title, but I think the best overall issue is the one Jim Starlin wrote and drew.  Jim Starlin has so much talent; I wonder if he could lend me some.  We often discuss Starlin and his greatness, and I think nearly everyone would agree that he is indeed one of the all-time greats, but I think we often overlook his ability to do good Hulk stories.  One of my favorite Hulk moments of all time happened in Infinity Gauntlet, where he and Wolvering are chatting on the roof of Avengers Mansion.  The dialogue is perfect, and the if the characterization where anymore spot on, Gordon Ramsay would be here to tell you all about it,

Jim Starlin also draws a tremendous Hulk, as evidenced by his bittersweet standalone story in The Rampaging Hulk.

The Rampaging Hulk Magazine #4 - Page 1 The Rampaging Hulk Magazine #4 - Page 3 The Rampaging Hulk Magazine #4 - Page 23

That’s some of my favorite Starlin work, and if that double-page splash doesn’t convince you of Starlin’s greatness, then I guess you only have about 439783498734983 other great things he did to convince you.  Something about the black and white of this magazine makes Starlin’s work sinister at the edges; that’s perfect for this book and the story he tells here, which takes Hulk away from the main tale of beating up Krylorians left and right.  Starlin does not ignore the main story though, as he bookends his tale of outer space and magic with how Hulk got there and how Hulk got home in one of those bittersweet tales that Jim Starlin is really good at doing.

The other two big highlights of the series are Hulk meeting people from the rest of the Marvel Universe before he “actually” would have met them.  His meeting with Namor, the Sub-Mariner is a 2-parter, and it is one of the highlights of the book to me.  Namor is a favorite of mine, and I love the line of nobility and savagery that he manages to walk!  Or is that swim?  OR EVEN FLY?  The possibilities remain endless!!!

A Hulk vs. Namor fight almost always delivers.  Namor’s arrogance and prodigious strength of his own almost never allow him to admit defeat in the face of a foe, even one as superior in strength as the Incredible Hulk, while Hulk, well, HUlk just wants to smash, of course.

I am unsure when Namor got all He-Man/Conan, but that is what he decided is necessary to beat Hulk on this cover.

The Rampaging Hulk Magazine #6 - Page 1

The Hulk in the corner box looks like he is trying to use Kung Fu on us. Wrong black and white mag, Hulk!

One thing is for sure, though; I have no problem believing that indeed, is the axe of Namor.  Look at how ornate it is.  Also, did they build a replica of the domed cities of Atlantis on his shield?  That seems pointless, seeing as how while it may look beautiful, that part of the shield is just gonna get crushed, unless you are fighting Hulk, in which case it will get SMASHED.

I especially like the post fight sequence where Namor sees off the Hulk and the Hulk’s pals.

The Rampaging Hulk Magazine #6 - Page 40

Namor has a friend-crush on Hulk!

Also, Namor obviously lays down his smooth game on Bereet, as they become smitten with each other.  I am glad Namor is not real, lest he would steal every single lady living on the surface…and some of the married ones too!  Just ask poor Reed Richards!  (By the way, I think there is no contest.  As much as I love Namor, Sue and Reed belong together.  Butt out Atlantean!!!!)

Also, isn’t it funny how Namor is talking up how green Hulk is?  I mean, we all know he is green and all, but it tickles my funny bone to see Namor refer to him as green when the comic book is black and white.  It shouldn’t, but hey, it’s a little pleasure, and if life isn’t about little pleasures, what do we have?  Maybe a Hulk vs. Avengers story?

The last two issues before the magazine went color featured Hulk taking on/teaming up with the original Avengers…BEFORE THEY WERE AVENGERS!  I find it a smidge surreal to see, but it gets pulled off fairly well, and if you say you aren’t intrigued by this cover featuring the funeral of crystal-encased Hulk, you’re guilty of perjury in the court of comic books, son!

The Rampaging Hulk Magazine #9 - Page 1

Thor is too cool to actually hold Hulk up, which is why I think Iron Man has that look of horror on his face; he is unsure how much longer he can support the weight of the Hulk. I see Wasp and Ant-Man back there, but no way they are supporting that weight very well. Quit being a dick and put your hammer in your other hand, Thor!

Sal Buscema does a great job on this issue, as we wrap up the retcon portion of The Rampaging Hulk (which would be renamed “HULK” with the following issue) with a bang.  The story starts in #8, and it is a really good example of the Marvel “when heroes meet” formula, in that when heroes meet in the Marvel Universe, they fight.

A lot.

One of those fights that I think we all love, is Hulk vs. Thor.  Thor, the noble warrior, the scion of Asgard, and the sort of arrogant prick, takes on Hulk, who is savage, unrelenting, and uncaring.  I think that on the surface, we are all required to cheer for Thor, but deep down, many of us hope Thor gets put in his damn place.  It’s sort of like watching a car chase on Cops.  I mean, we know that the people speeding away did something wrong and are causing problems, but man, those cops act so full of themselves and righteous that I’ll be damned if we don’t start cheering for the bad guys to get away about 3 minutes into the chase.

Unless you are me, then you are cheering for the bad guys the whole time (unless they murdered someone or are putting too many other drivers/people in danger).  But I am of the 90’s folks, when things were extreme and we loved “Stone Cold” Steve Austin for being the bad guy!  To the kids reading, I have two things to say:  Mine is not the example to follow, and also, go read an actual comic book!

For the rest of you, here’s Thor and Hulk punching on one another.

The Rampaging Hulk Magazine #9 - Page 7

Hulk has some drawbacks, but man, is he loyal to his pals.

The Rampaging Hulk Magazine #9 - Page 8

If this happened today, that cop would have already tased Rick Jones.

The Rampaging Hulk Magazine #9 - Page 30 The Rampaging Hulk Magazine #9 - Page 31

So we get to see “The Avengers” team up and stave off a threat to the planet before they even existed!  I find great comfort in the fact that Hulk treats them about the same before, during, and after his tenure as an Avenger.  I like the world to be a simple place…at least sometimes.

The editor of the book provided an epitaph of sorts for The Rampaging Hulk era of this magazine:

Another of them?  The B & W mags must have been dropping like flies!

Another of them? The B & W mags must have been dropping like flies!

It is very true that some of the greatest artists stepped in to try their hand at Hulk.  I have already mentioned several of them, but I would be remiss if I did not show you some of what George Perez did.  Perez is, in my opinion, the best artist in comic book history not named Jack Kirby.  Controversial?  Perhaps, but no one makes the page live for me like him.

He never did a regular feature on The Rampaging Hulk, but he did do a pin-up gallery featuring the history of a few of Hulk’s associates and enemies:

The Rampaging Hulk Magazine #8 - Page 37 The Rampaging Hulk Magazine #8 - Page 39 The Rampaging Hulk Magazine #8 - Page 41

One thing I found fascinating about this gallery (and there are a couple more Perez Pin-Ups in the book) is that one can see the vast impact different inkers can have on the same penciller.  That’s something that can be hard to notice for the artistically disinclined such as myself.  Here though, it’s as blatant as a bank robbery in broad daylight where the perpetrator is dressed like the Hamburglar and is carrying big sacks with “$” on them.  The Stranger looks mighty different than the Silver Surfer.  Kieth Giffen gets to do his own gallery in issue #4, and he channels his best Jack Kirby!

The Rampaging Hulk Magazine #4 - Page 33 The Rampaging Hulk Magazine #4 - Page 35

I love Giffen’s work and how he has the ability to take on so many different styles.  Look at this next to his stuff from the 90’s, like Trencher, and one would be astonished to find out it was the same guy working on both.

The only other thing to really mention is the back-ups, but I won’t spend too much time on them.  For those picking up the magazine, like say, Billy Joel, they’d get treated to some sweet back-ups featuring Bloodstone, Man-Thing, and Shanna, the She-Devil, among others.

The back-ups are one of the most enticing elements to the black and white magazine boom of the 70’s.  I have heard many folks talk to me about Bloodstone.  I am not a huge fan, but just even just skimming through it made me realize that I will be back into these soon to learn more about this guy.  The Man-Thing stuff interested me a great deal, as Steve Gerber can really write that sort of character just so much better than anyone else.  Of course, it still could never live up to this pin-up:

The Rampaging Hulk Magazine #7 - Page 2

Woe to the lumberjacks to who have to cut down spiky trees for a living.

All in all, I’d say the series is solid.  I’d say it is must-read for Hulk fans, and a I would say the Simonson and Starlin issues (#1-4) are must read for any fans.  The rest is good, but one would not be missing out on something spectacular if one were not to grab them.  The series is a fun read, and the arch does definitively conclude in issue #9, so if you have the completionist bug and get #1, you will find it enticing enough to grab all 9.  I also think that these have been re-printed in an Essentials volume, which would be one of the rare Essentials that would not lose anything by now being in black and white.

I want to thank Paul again for letting me write about these Bronze Age gems!  I highly encourage you to check out all the cool stuff here if you haven’t, and when you are out of cool stuff here, come check out The Unspoken Decade!  JNCO Jeans are coming back, so why not check out some 90’s comic book action as well?  You’ll find it at The Unspoken Decade!  Let Paul and I know what you think below, and I am looking forward to my next article here at The Longbox Graveyard!  Hell, I am looking forward to Paul’s too!

NEXT MONTH: #145 Here Comes Daredevil!

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