Pretty Green

For the landmark 50th post on the ‘optikon, we continue to celebrate the Mystery Men of May with not a tribute to Liam Gallagher’s clothing label or the Jam song which inspired it, but  Ol’ Jade-Jaws himself, the star of Avengers Assemble. Let’s look at some of the artists who made him great.

The short-lived first run of the Lee/Kirby Hulk shows a character in search of a concept. Part Mr. Hyde, part Frankenstein’s Monster, the Hulk is,  at times, the robotic servant of Rick Jones, a Commie smashing superhero and 50s B-movie menace. Steve Ditko gave the strip direction as Banner became a globe-trotting fugitive and a pawn in the espionage games of his diametric opposite, The Leader.

With the (temporary) death of the Leader and Banner’s identity revealed, the Hulk acquired a new nemesis in this Gil Kane epic. The space-born Stranger, once a collector of Earth’s mutants, returns as a futuristic Old Testament god and a Soviet agent is transformed into the hideous Abomination.

Marie Severin brought a child-like sensitivity to the depiction of the Hulk, pitted here against an alien warrior. This was one of the earliest issues of the Hulk’s own mag I ever owned, a couple of years after it was printed and probably part of a ship’s ballast.

I think Alan Cumming would have loved that tiara

I dipped in and out of Greenskin’s adventures in the Silver Age. This was one storyline I read first in Mighty World of Marvel, a Lovecraftian tale which wrote out the blue-skinned, late- Sixties incarnation of  Dr. Strange. Herb Trimpe’s Hulk was the dominant model as the Bronze Age began.

The Captain Omen storyline above was reprinted in one of the legendary British Marvel annuals of 1974. I’ll be looking at other Marvel UK annuals over on Some Fantastic Place in the next few days. This story, with its blend of pathos and horror, remains in the memory.

I followed the Hulk’s  increasingly bizarre exploits  with fawns and elves in the Bronze Age  Defenders. By the end of the 70s, the Incredible Hulk was a tv star, played with a strange dignity by the wordless Lou Ferrigno, while his alter ego- Bill Bixby- combined intensity and sympathy. The series, probably alongside Batman, has gone on to be one of  the most enduring and iconic portrayals of a super-hero comic character on television.

On the back of that success, The Hulk, rather late in the day, starred in his own b/w  Marvel magazine in which Walt Simonson and Jim Starlin pencilled ” continuity implant” stories featuring Silver Age characters (and the alien artist Bereet).

As the Bronze Age closed, Bill Mantlo and Sal Buscema produced a colourful run of tales that introduced some new(ish) international heroes and this quartet: an evil mirror image of the FF.

John Byrne swapped his cult hit Alpha Flight for a typically short run on The Hulk just departing for DC in the mid-80s. He returned a mindless Hulk to Earth from the Crossroads of Infinity, revamped Doc Samson and unleashed a new group of Hulkbusters.

That was the last time I bought a US Hulk comic. I’m afraid I didn’t follow Peter David’s lengthy and significant era on the title-through the Pantheon and Joe Fixit. I  did like the Heroes Reborn take on the Hulk, tying his origin to that of Iron Man.

Hulk  not into Grunge! Rrrrargh!!

In recent years,  Jade-Jaws starred in two movies: the artsy Ang Lee version with its mutant, er, poodles and the more visceral 2008 version. I understand that Mark Ruffalo has signed up for a series of Hulk movies, rather putting the lie to the 1969 novelty Garage record ” Nobody Loves the Hulk”  (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n2OI7sogwqY)

Coming soon: More Mystery Men of May

All images copyright of Marvel

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