Posted by: Mark | February 14, 2015

My Favorite Hulk Stories: Part Two

Continuing from yesterday’s post:

 

5.  Hulk Annual 8 (1979) Roger Stern and John Byrne – For years I thought this was the first appearance of Sasquatch but after fact checking, it turns out he had showed up before in X-Men 120.

Whatever the case, I loved this story as a kid. Walter Langkowski aka Sasquatch was the gamma-irradiated version of a high school bully (the Abomination being a killer; the Leader, a genius; Patchwork, a psycho; Doc Sampson and the Hulk, super-sized former nerds; and the Harpy, a girl [created back when that was considered the equivalent of the other demographics].

In the story, after tracking down Bruce Banner, Sasquatch slapped him around, trying to force him to change into the Hulk. Anyone in the Marvel Universe would know that forcing Banner into Hulk mode was about as smart as drinking drain cleaner but Sasquatch wanted to fight him for kicks. Bruce sensibly refused to fight and did his best to resist transforming but Sasquatch physically assaulted him, nearly resulting in manslaughter.

This depiction of Sasquatch worked well for me–you’d figure somewhere there’d have to be a jerk superhero. Later writers made a clumsy retcon to make it that Langkowski was a close college friend of Bruce Banner. That didn’t explain why they didn’t recognize each other in Annual 8 or why Sasquatch abused Banner in human form so brutally that both he and a bystander thought Bruce was dead.

But a big reason I liked this issue was that it was a direct continuation of the next item on the list.

4.  Hulk 235-7 (1979) Roger Stern – Back in the day, comic stories rarely lasted more than a single issue. Two issue stories were a big deal but the Hulk’s fight with Machine Man was drawn out over three.

Looking back, most of the Hulk’s stories took place in the desert, small towns, jungles, or space, areas that could stand a good pounding. This story line happened in the fictional Central City, California, the original home of the Fantastic Four (Central City in the DC Universe originally was in Ohio, but changed to Illinois, and Missouri).

During the course of the fight, the Hulk literally ripped Machine Man apart (he got better) and leveled the entire city. Despite leaving nothing larger than a mailbox standing, no one was seriously injured. Scott McCloud parodied this scenario in his book Destroy! where a superfight reduces another city to rubble but at the end we learn “luckily no one was hurt!”

 

In 237, Machine Man managed what few characters in the Marvel Universe could do, hypnotizing the Hulk and shooting him into the stratosphere. He landed in somewhere in Canada in Hulk Annual 8 for his fight with Sasquatch.

Assuming Central City is centrally located in California, Machine Man sent the Hulk hurling at least 900 miles through the air. No wonder Bruce wasn’t quick to transform the next day.

3.  Future Imperfect (1994) Peter David – The Hulk is time-napped into the future to fight the villain, the Maestro who has conquered what was left of the world. Unfortunately the Maestro is the Hulk’s future self and is significantly stronger and smarter than his younger self.

What makes this story stand out is that, while the Internet wasn’t mainstream at the time, the old Prodigy on-line service went crazy about Future Imperfect. Today on-line nerd rage is everywhere but this was my first experience with it and it made the book special to me.

2.  Hulk 365 (1990) Peter David – In the “Countdown” story arc, the gray Hulk has been poisoned by an unknown expert on gamma radiation. He seeks out Reed Richards of the Fantastic Four for help but winds up in a fight (the Doctor Doom incident 15 issues ago has not been forgotten). The highlight of the issue was in a conversation with the now-human Ben Grimm; the two do as much damage to each other as the Hulk and Thing ever did.

A good mix of action, mystery, and characterization. Pretty much the opposite of anything with the Red Hulk.

1.  Hulk 250 (1980) Bill Mantlo – For decades the Silver Surfer was trapped on Earth, unable to gather enough strength to break free of the barrier created by Galactus (if you don’t understand that sentence, you’re more normal than me). Surfer theorized that if he became absorbed enough gamma radiation, he would turn into Silver Hulkster and smash through. He found Bruce Banner, cured him with a handwave, and had Bruce create a Hulk-on Hulk-off machine to give him even greater strength. It worked but in order to save Bruce’s life, Surfer returned to Earth, trapping himself and, to completely return to status quo, irradiated Bruce so that he’ll Hulk out again.

In terms of stories, it wasn’t exactly Watchmen but it was the perfect comic book timing for me. In one of the scenes at the North Pole, the Surfer was surrounded by penguins. In the corner of the panel, an editorial note explained that while penguins don’t’ really live at the North Pole, Sal Buscema drew them so cute that the editors kept them in.

I kept buying Hulk comics for the next couple of years. After issue 254 which introduced the Ufoes, the evil version of the Fantastic Four, and 255 which featured a fight with Thor, the Hulk fled the U.S. Starting in Israel for the first appearance of Sabra, then Egypt for the introduction of the Arabian Knight, and the Soviet Union for the Soviet Super Soldiers.

I’m sure if I went back and reread these stories, they wouldn’t be as good as I remember them but in my memory,  they’re the greatest comics of all times.

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