Every Man’s Darkest Dream

Today’s post spotlights Marvel’s fifth 100-page Collectors Special: The Hulk on the Rampage. Like the first Treasury, The Spectacular Spider-Man, this was not a comic that I bought in the Bronze Age.  I only added it to my collection last year.

Like Spider-Man and Captain America,  I only got about five US copies of the Incredible Hulk  in my first comic-reading years ( i.e. between 1968-1971). I read twice that many issues of The Avengers and three times as many Fantastic Four comics, by way of contrast. Ole Jade-Jaws obviously just never struck a chord with me.

The cartoony Romita cover is an explosion of  rich reds and blue-greens, like a kid’s colouring book. Inside is a pseudo-scholarly introduction by neo-scripter and creator of Swamp Thing,  Len Wein.

The Origin of the Hulk: this capsule retelling of Dr. Banner’s accident from Hulk #3 is a moody piece rich with Cold war paranoia. However, an entire Kirby reprint from the Hulk’s early career would have been preferable- maybe the Ringmaster story?

The Titan and the Torment: A Bill Everett story over Kirby layouts, it begins with the accidental death of a science-villain called Zaxon and segues into a brief fight with Hercules. This conflict appears to happen during Herc’s train ride (reprinted in the Thor Treasury) but it’s pretty forgettable stuff. Again, I would have preferred a Ditko story here but the continued-serial nature of that era probably vetoed that idea.

Let There Be Battle: a Marie Severin story guest-starring the Sub-Mariner. The Puppet Master, who looked like an eerie living doll in his first appearances, resembles a bloated Lex Luthor here and wears a ludicrous Renaissance-era outfit with a stylised P on his chest.  Again, a forgettable throwaway. Ms. Severin draws a commanding Namor however.

Project: Greenskin: a cutaway illustration of Hulkbuster Base. Nerdy boys would like this.

Pulse-Pounding Pin-up: Herb Trimpe produces a dream-like double-page spread of Banner’s friends and foes including obscurities like Xeron the Star-Slayer, the Glob (a swamp-monster who prefigured the Man-Thing ) and the Inheritor (who was a mutated cockroach).

Many Foes Has the Hulk: Oddly, given that the next two reprints refer to it,  the Sandman story that saw Betty Ross transmuted into glass is not included. However, this entry is a cinematic story that sees Trimpe at his peak. It also features cameos by five foes- including Namor again. The Hulk’s cerebral arch-enemy the Leader has swirly little Ls on his collar and belt. Aww!  Sweet! Tricky Dicky Nixon also appears.

His Name is- Samson!:  Betty Ross is cured in the next reprint, which  sees Roy Thomas’ style moving away from melodrama and allusion towards a more self-consciously literary tone. There’s also a touch of camp and satire with the introduction of Doc Samson, a parody of Doc Savage. The self-aware and ironic tone is leavened by the tragedy of the Hulk’s quest for Jarella- but again, since we haven’t seen the sword-and sorcery world she inhabits in this edition, the significance is lost on the casual reader. Trimpe and John Severin mesh together appealingly to create a gritty photo-realism however.

Cry: Monster!: Probably my favourite tale in the collection. Wein, Starlin and Sinnott team up to produce a ghost-town slugfest between the Hulk and the Thing. It’s a rare chance to see Starlin pencil a story that doesn’t feature Thanos. It also revisits the origin of the FF although the panels are printed out-of-order. Arch-nostalgist Len Wein revived an obscure Marvel villain here- as he had done with the Justice League’s Felix Faust, Amazo and the Key. However, for those of us who’d read the legendary Marvel Annual of 1972, Kurrgo the Master of Planet X wasn’t quite so obscure.

Although this is the Hulk’s Treasury, a few words about the Thing here: this story was reprinted from Marvel Feature. However, Marvel Two -in- One was one of the most inspired team-up books in the Bronze Age. Unlike Spidey, Ben Grimm can travel to literally anywhere in time and space , thanks to Doomsy’s time machine platform, a Skrull saucer or what-have-you.

Greenskin’s Artist Roster: the many pencillers of the hulk are represented with mini-portraits (including my favourite Hulk-artist, Gil Kane). Only their initials are printed, however, which is irritating.

Jade-Jaws’ Greatest Covers: unlike the 100=page Super-Spectaculars in their heyday, we only get b/w cover reprints

All in all, the weakest Treasury so far. Not one I have any great nostalgia for and not really a great showcase for the Hulk either.

One thing I did recall while writing this post was that, around the time of the Hulk tv show ( possibly Xmas 78)  my brother got one of the Mego Hulk dolls- with an obligatory kimono.

It was interesting to see that the Hulk’s propensity for childish tantrums of epic destruction made him the break-out star of Avengers Assemble this year, after two lacklustre movies.

Coming soon: The Hoary Hosts of Hoggoth!

All images are presumed copyright of their respective owners.

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