Tuesday, March 25, 2014

This Man This Monster Tuesday

Because there hasn´t been a lot of real comic content in my last posts - which were just some public announcements and me bitching that I don´t get to do new posts - I thought it appropriate to center on one of my favorite comic characters / series of all times : the Incredible Hulk.


I have been planning to do a new post about the strongest there is for various reasons and there did begin to pile up more and more Hulk stuff.

Every time I´m on the internet - even if I´m not writing a new post or doing the research for one - I´m very conscious about good, quality picture material because on one side that´s always hard to come by and you don´t always find the stuff when you need it ( quite the opposite is true in most cases ). And of course there´s also the fact that you never know what you might need, especially with my kind of writing style where I start with Dreadstar and end with a lot of stuff about Marvel´s graphic novels back when that actually meant special artists on special projects and higher production values. Now naturally I can´t use all the material I find right away and therefore it gets dumped into certain folders to be used at a later date. But I don´t always do as many posts as I want to do - as is apparent by my total lack of posting last week - and I also don´t get to post when I want to. So the posts get postponed ( no pun intended ).

And the folders fill up. To add another wrinkle on it, since my old computer self destructed and I had to buy the new laptop my old picture archive is gone. Which in turn not only means that more often than not I find that I don´t have a certain picture I thought I have, but also that I don´t have the slightest idea which pictures I already posted and which I didn´t. Okay, that might not seem so tragic - especially the second part - but I don´t want to post the same pictures again and again. Because that looks just boring. Now when I started this blog I prided myself that I never used the same picture twice but I have had to restart my picture archive a few times since then so I´m pretty sure there must be a lot of pictures I used twice. Now mind you, the exception is - at least for me - if I use the original cover of a comic and the german or spanish version has the same cover. While that is per se the same cover it may be important to post that particular version so I´m making an exception in that case.


Aside from that I´m really trying to keep the look of the blog interesting and not reuse the same pictures ad nauseum although that can´t be helped in some cases. I hope you can give me some leniency on this.

YE OLDE BLOGGE LAYOUT - SAME AS IT NEVER WAS

Speaking about the look of the blog : you may have noticed that this weekend the blog looked quite different, in fact all kinds of different with over a dozen different background pictures that just kept changing. Well, the truth is that since winter is now almost over ( all of March has been exceptionally warm here in Germany but now it has been getting colder and colder ) I wanted to try out a different background image that´s not so cold and frosty which says : " Yay, it´s spring / summer ! " and peps up the blog a little. I have had the current background image for quite some time now so I thought I could improve the blog a bit. Yes, I´m always trying to be harder, better, faster, stronger ( cue Daft Punk music ).

So I tried out a few but I just couldn´t find the right one. My main reason for the layout I chose when I picked my current one is that I want my readers to have a good time reading what I write here, enjoy the pictures and all the other stuff I put up like links or videos. What I don´t want is to distract them from the main posts by flashy gadgets, moving parts or attention grabbing background pictures. The main focus is the new post. Which is one of the reasons I have gone back to my old look. There were some background pictures with lots of books or robots or such but they didn´t feel right. I wanted to go with something simple like sand or water or grass in the background but either I didn´t find the right one or they were diverting my attention. The last one I picked was simply a blue sky but after trying it out for two days it started to really annoy me so here we are back in white stuck with the old look for the foreseeable future.


YOU KNOW THIS MEANS WAR - WORLD WAR HULK, THAT IS 

But let´s get back to Hulk : ( I know, whew, finally ! ) another reason for me wanting to do another post on The Incredible Hulk is that it has been a really long time since I did my last hulkcentric post on this blog.

Because it´s been a really long time since I did read my last Hulk comic.

Yes, you must be tired of hearing me bitch about the current state of comics and Marvel comics in particular but the last few incarnations of the book - with all that Banner trying to kill Hulk or whatever that nonsense was - and now with the Hulk as an agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. just doesn´t grab my attention. I bought one issue of the former because Carlos Pacheco did the art ( he´s always worth spending money )


and an issue of the latter was in the last DAREDEVIL book I got ( one of the few good Marvel titles left I´m still reading ) but none of them had a story that was interesting enough to buy consecutive / preceeding issues.

There is one trade / hardcover of INDESTRUCTIBLE HULK by Mark Waid that interests me because it has art by comic icon Walter Simonson in it that also guest stars Thor that´s really scratching my itch right now. But I still have to pay for the latest DVD I ordered from amazon ( The Sally Lockhardt Mysteries with Billie Piper and Matt Smith, talk about a remedy for Doctor Who deprivation ) and my last order for my brother´s birthday in April which hasn´t arrived yet so I will have to wait a bit with getting new comics from amazon. There´s also the fact that Erlangen is coming up so I might go easy on acquiring new comics since there are always dealers where you can get them at quite a bargain price. I hope the guy from last time is there again who had all the hardcovers at ten bucks.

JOURNEY TO THE PLANET OF THE HULKS AND BACK AGAIN

Well, right now the only lengthy run on Hulk that would interest me to buy in hardcover - or better yet as big, oversized omnibus hardcovers - is the Jeph Loeb / Greg Pak run when Ed McGuiness was doing the art.


You can argue about the quality of the writing of the restarted Hulk book in it´s initial stages if you want but there was some solid art on it, at least solid enough for me to buy the book again on a regular basis.

I haven´t read all of Greg Pak´s PLANET HULK. I got one of those HULK MARVEL MONSTER books by Panini as a birthday present some years ago ( longtime readers might remember the post ) which contained the first part but while there was some good stuff in it there also were some really cheesy and outright ridiculous things there like the Silver Surfer using his surfboard ( cue Beyonce music ) as a giant sword which didn´t motivate me to look for the rest of it. However, all that followed after that like WORLD WAR HULK and the new Hulk series really got my comic geek juices flowing. Man, just the gorgeous John Romita Jr art on WORLD WAR HULK and then later on during the FALL OF THE HULKS was so incredible. Add to that the brilliant pencils of Paul Pelletier, the hot babes of Frank Cho and Ed McGuiness´pep and you got a quartet of excellent artists.

All of it was so exciting I even did a special post after the first issue of the new Hulk series by Jeph Loeb and Ed McGuiness speculating about the identity of the Red Hulk. Okay, I didn´t really predict it, but General Thunderbolt Ross WAS one of my main suspects and they did kind of cheat with the LMDs so there you go. Storywise the first issues were just the new Red Hulk going against the toughest guys of the Marvel universe but the Hulk book has often been at his best when it was just the Hulk going up against the monster of the week, or rather the monster of the month as this was a monthly publication.  I mean, who could ever forget the Hulk´s titanic battles against such formidable opponents like the Wendigo ( which had the first appearance of Wolverine in it ), Jack of Hearts, the Quintronic Man, Constrictor, one eyed Captain Barracuda or Bi - Beast ?


I HAVE TWO HEADS AND I MUST SCREAM

Now that´s a chunk of Hulk lore I would most definitely like to see collected in a big, fat omnibus hardcover. Even if I don´t need it.

You see, I´m not entirely sure but I think I already mentioned in one or two posts, that the Hulk issues by Sal Buscema and Ernie Chan with the Hulk fighting Jack of Hearts and the Bi - Beast are some of the issues I buy over and over again. It is one of my theories about comics and comic reading that we tend to buy the same comics again and again - IF they are really good. And they really don´t come much better than this part of the series. So I got the german version of it when it appeared as a back up in DIE SPINNE with some pages missing, I got the Condor Taschenbuch which had all of the pages but almost none of the text, I got the spanish issues from COMICS FORUM which were single issues and in color, I got the spanish issues from Panini´s BIBLIOTEKA MARVEL line which were in black and white and contained all the issues with Ernie Chan and I even got two french BDs, the first one with special glossy cover that had the issues with Jack of Heart and Bi - Beast ( or Bi Bete like he is called in french ) and the second one with regular paper that had the issues with Robinson Crusoe ( ? ) and Captain Barracuda. And I would buy it again.

It´s one of my all time favorite Hulk epoch´s and it would be really nice to have it all in one collection you could put up on your shelf porn. I really don´t know why Marvel hasn´t come out with a collection of it yet. Even if it didn´t contain all of the material it would be worth it and for me the rendition of the Hulk in these issues is just the classic one. I mean, for me Sal Buscema has always been the definite Hulk artist bar none, but when you add the Airwolf inks of Ernie Chan it just becomes epic.


Okay, so which INCREDIBLE HULK issues would be a must for a successful collection ( at least in my opinion ) of the Sal Buscema / Ernie Chan run ?

You just have to start with issues 214, 215 and 216 which contain the fight against Jack of Hearts and the confrontation with Bi - Beast. Then you can build up from there but that has got to be the foundation. Sal Buscema´s rendition of Jack of Hearts is just so awesome ( the man doesn´t shrink on any details on the costume and it has a lot of that )


and the issues with Bi - Beast exemplify what Hulk has always stood for when I was starting to read comics : big monsters which the Hulk can fight, mad science gone wrong and those huge sets like the flying S.H.I.E.L.D. carrier. Another given is issue 217, one of my all time favorite issues and probably one of the best " done in one " like EVER.

It takes place right after Hulk´s titanic tussle against Bi - Beast which ended with both of them dropping off the Helicarrier ( Ouch ! ) and , yes, big spoiler for a comic that´s more than 30 years old, gimme some slack !

THE TIME HULK HOOKED UP WITH CIRCUS FREAKS AND A MERMAID

This is rather a strange issue, but also one of the most captivating ones. After the Hulk is washed ashore some unknown beach he encounters a group of former circus performers who happen to travel with a mermaid.


What can I say, man, this was 1977 and this was just the way we rolled back then. You had a rough battle with a two - headed monster and woke up the next morning with a bunch of weird people. Don´t judge, man.

So the motley crew consists of the usual circus stereotypes : the thin man, the fat lady, the dog - faced boy and the midget which makes the story interesting as the Hulk is not really an outcast among them. Much rather he embodies another circus stereotype ( Can you guess which one ? ) and so he is accepted by the group without reservations, getting almost seamlessly incorporated as the strong guy. That´s a nice contrast to most Hulk stories where he plays the part of the ugly monster that is feared and haunted by all people it encounters. Here the Hulk finds acceptance with others because - like him - they don´t fit into the norms of our strictly regulated society which is a nice social commentary in itself.

I don´t want to go into too much detail ( I will have to leave that for another post on this incredible run that is sure to follow one of these days since it seems I can´t shut up about these issues ) but the mermaid is also a part of the group and the reason for their following fight against the Circus of Crime, their former employers. After Jarella ( more about her in a future post ) Meriam is the Hulk´s second big love interest and while she only appears in this issue she leaves a lasting impression - as do all of the protagonists of this issue. It is just so well crafted from start to finish and has one of the most poetic and heart wrenching endings.


So with this issue included we have four issues which is not enough for a good hardcover. It would be enough for the guys who are currently in control of Marvel - or rather Disney - who throw together any old four issues and pad it with a lot of filler just to sell another hardcover.

But since we are the ones wasting our time coming up with this list ( me a bit more than you are since writing this post takes longer than reading it ) let´s do it right. Personally I would want to include issues 219 and 220 in which the Hulk is stranded on a tropical island - after an encounter with the pirate crew of Captain Barracuda - where he meets Robinson Crusoe.


Yep - again - those were the 70s. It´s a nice two parter that examines the fine line between beast, monster and man ( or monkey man in this case ) with great art by Sal Buscema and Ernie Chan. You can see the splash page of issue 219 called NO MAN IS AN ISLAND further above in this post.

Okay, I said that I would want to include issues 219 and 220 and you may have noticed that I didn´t mention issue 218. That´s because the issue is drawn entirely by Ernie Chan and while he´s a capable artist on his own I like the HULK issues where he is inking Sal Buscema better. Another reason why I would exclude this issue ( unless it´s a really big omnibus hardcover in which case I would throw in everything from issue 210 to 221 ) is that it´s just one big fight of Doc Samson versus the Rhino without an appearance by the Hulk. A fill in issue without importance.

What I would much rather include are issues 210 and 211 which are the first ones of the Sal Buscema / Ernie Chan collaboration which strangely enough features the first appearance of the revamped Doctor Druid. And of course issues 213 and 212 which contains one of the best splash pages.


Not that the other splash pages are anything to sneeze at but I especially like the intricate linework on the wall with the Hulk poster in this one.

So with these two issues included we have eight issues, 212 to 217 and 219 to 220, which would make for a really good hardcover. We have the Avengers villain the Constrictor, future Avengers member Jack of Hearts, the Qunitronic Man, a beast with two heads, good circus freaks vs evil circus freaks, a mermaid, monkey men and even pirates in it, arr ! Not to mention General Thunderbolt Ross, Clay Quartermain, Betty Ross with a new hairdo, Hulk sidekick Jim Wilson and magician The Great Kropotkin.

If we include issues 210 and 211 we even have the first appearance of the man who would be known later on as the destroyer of the Avengers ( long before Brian Michael Bendis did it ) Doctor Druid. He was formerly known as Doctor Droom, a precursor of Doctor Strange whose name was changed because it sounded too much like Doctor Doom. That´s quite a varied collection of characters that has something for every taste I would think.

So why is it I can´t buy something like that from Marvel right NOW ?

I have my own theories about that but because elaborations on my part of that train of thought would sound too negative I leave you to your own conclusions and the continuation of my Hulk ramblings for another day. It is once again time to wrap up this post and call it a day. Originally there was another DEJA VUE part I wanted to add to this post but I think it´s already long enough as it is, so I´ll keep that for my next Hulk post.


Before I put a bow on this post I have to credit where credit is due which means mentioning the guys or websites that helped make this post :

SOULMANIA COMICS GROUP by Simon Williams ( no kidding, s - word ! ) is where I found the splash page of Incredible Hulk 219, thanks for that.

Also kudos to Pete Albano ( sounds like a wrestler name ) from COMIC RECOMMENDED for his post about Hulk issues 212, 214 and 217 . There are a lot of nice pictures as well as a longer overview of the issues if you don´t mind possible spoilers. A really informative read and I´m sure it will be an invaluable source of info when I continue the Hulk posts.

And speaking of pictures and spoilers, more of both can be found at SUPER MEGA MONKEY´S MARVEL COMICS CHRONOLOGY where they have separate posts for issue 212 and 213 , 214 to 217 and 219 to 221 .

Also - last but not least - website HULK 365 provides " one panel of one issue of The Incredible Hulk every day for a year " which include some pictures that may or may not have been used in making this post or any future ones. Thanks to you and all of the above as the saying goes.


Now as always I wanted to add a video to this post that has something to do with the topics I discussed which was quite difficult because on one side you get lots of hits if you look for " Hulk " on YouTube on the other side none of them about the issues 210 to 221 with art by Sal Buscema.

I did find THIS VIDEO about Bi - Beast but because the first part is about an Herb Trimpe issue and only the second part about Sal Buscema I´m only including the link. Instead I´m posting two other videos from two german tv series I found rather by accident the other day. The first one is from UNTERWEGS MIT ODYSSEUS ( Along the way with Ulysses ) a series that aired around 1978 and which I watched voraciously. The series was part live movie and part animated with the live part covering the journey of a crew along Ulysses´ route while the animated part filled in the viewers about the legend part of Ulysses. It´s a cult series for germans from my generation that sadly isn´t available on DVD and it´s where I got most of my knowledge of greek mythology. You can find the intro here and here is the clip with the outro or finale ( what ever you call the end of an episode ) with some great music. Which is another thing that was so great about the series. By the way, the narrator in the series was Hans Clarin who´s better known to german audiences as the voice of Pumuckl.



The second clip is from another tv series by the same production company called ABENTEUER MIT HERAKLES ( Adventures with Hercules ) and the title is pretty much self explanatory. I wanted to include it because you see much more animated stuff in it. I´m getting all nostalgic seeing this.



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