Saturday, 23 October 2010

Incredible Hulk #193. Doc Samson's back.

Incredible Hulk #193, Doc Samson, Herb Trimpe(Cover from November 1975.)

"The Doctor's Name Is Samson!"

Written by Len Wein.
Drawn by Herb Trimpe and Joe Staton.
Lettering by John Costanza.
Colours by Glynis Wein.

It was hard not to feel disappointed when Doc Samson was first written out of The Incredible Hulk. If ever there was a character whose potential'd been left untapped, it had to be the muscle-bound psychiatrist, a hero almost as strong as the Hulk but with a fully-functioning brain. Therefore I suppose it's ironic that the departure of my favourite Hulk artist coincides with the return of one of my favourite supporting characters.

Thunderbolt Ross has brought the psychiatrist in to try and retrieve Glenn Talbot's erased mind. To do it Samson needs two things; Gamma radiation and Bruce Banner. Why he needs either isn't exactly clear but of course no sooner have we been introduced to his mighty Gammatron than it goes wrong. It springs a leak and, hey presto, its creator's got his muscles back, his green hair back and is itching for another scrap with the Hulk. Unfortunately, having sent Samson flying with one punch, the Hulk departs before Samson can get back to the battle site, leaving him to crawl from a hole in the ground, vowing vengeance.

Maybe it's me but Samson seems more macho and gung ho than before. OK, he wasn't exactly short of confidence on his first appearance but this time he seems to have taken the self-belief up a notch. Maybe his mind is affected by the radiation after all. He also seems to have got more action-packed, his fight with the Hulk being much more mobile than it was on their first meeting, as the pair leap around, fling things about and end up slugging it out atop the World Trade Centre.

Joe Staton's inks are strong in more ways than one, giving the tale a drastically different look to that which we were used to for years. In some ways he's a great inker for Trimpe, lending Trimpe's work a visual depth and dynamism it might otherwise lack. In other ways he almost obliterates Trimpe's own style, leaving just hints of it showing through - however much Staton's modified the penciller's work, the Hulk's teeth for instance are still pure Trimpe. Regardless, there's no denying the result looks pleasing, even if Staton's inks were arguably better suited to Sal Buscema who succeeded Trimpe on the strip.

I suppose it would've been nice if Trimpe had gone out with a multi-part epic, featuring all the things he did best; tanks, planes, spaceships, monsters and giant robots. Instead he goes out with a tale whose main function is to set up future events. In that sense it's a little disappointing but, even if it's a mixture of prepping future events and rerunning past ones, it's entertaining enough and moves the strip towards the more action-packed style to come.

And that's it, the end of Herb Trimpe's run, and the end of the blog. Budd's pointed out to me there's one more Herb Trimpe issue, from around a year later, that I wasn't aware of. Sadly I don't yet have a copy of that. So, until I get my hands on it, the blog's done and dusted. I'd like to thank the people who've stuck with it to the end, no matter how gruelling it might have been for you. And, for anyone new, I might as well give a plug to my other blogs Spider-Man Reviewed and Maria McKee's Life Is Sweet, the latter of which has pretty pictures even if you don't want to read the text. Will I be back with another blog? Who can know? Right now, after reviewing over 90 issues of the Hulk, I need a break and, when my feeble mind's recovered, I'll see if there's the fuel in the tank to to tackle something else.

Thursday, 21 October 2010

Incredible Hulk #192. The Loch Fear Monster

(Cover from October 1975.)

"The Lurker Beneath Loch Fear!"

Written by Len Wein.
Drawn by Herb Trimpe and Joe Staton.
Lettering by Ray Holloway.
Colours by Glynis Wein.

I think we've all at some point wondered just what'd happen if the Incredible Hulk met the Loch Ness Monster.

Well, OK, I never have but Len Wein clearly had, as at last we get that titanic tussle. Of course, as we all know, the Loch Ness Monster has very good lawyers, and so names have had to be changed. Thus it is that the Loch Ness Monster becomes the Loch Fear Monster and the Incredible Hulk becomes... ...well, the Incredible Hulk.

Sent back to Earth by the Shaper, the green grappler finds himself in a version of Scotland that only exists in comic books, where everyone talks like Groundskeeper Willie and hangs around in castles. It seems that local fisherman Angus Mactavish is on a mission to kill the dreaded Loch Fear Monster but evil laird of the manor Black Jaimie Macawber (who's white) is out to stop him, fearing the deed would destroy a local economy that relies on the tourism the monster brings in. Needless to say the Hulk can't stand for such appalling behaviour as protecting the local tourist industry and is soon slugging it out with the chaotic kelpie while Mactavish tries to stick an explosive harpoon in it.

It has to be said there are two obvious problems with this tale. The first is its stereotypical portrayal of the Scots. The second is it has its ethics in a twist, as the man we're meant to see as the bad guy is clearly the good guy and the man we're meant to see as the good guy is a raving lunatic. Black Jaimie wants to keep the monster alive in order to save the village and its inhabitants from poverty, while Angus Mactavish wants to kill it because...

Well that's the problem. He doesn't seem to have any reason at all to kill the thing. Is it a threat to him? It doesn't appear to be. Has it killed anyone? If it has it's never mentioned. Because of this, it's hard to see why Len Wein seems to think we should be on his side. At least Captain Cybor, way back in issue #137, had some sort of reason for wanting to kill Klaatu, however demented.

There's also the problem that, for a modern reader, it's hard to read the tale without being reminded of the Simpsons episode where Groundskeeper Willie and Monty Burns try to capture the Loch Ness Monster. Obviously Len Wein can't be held responsible for that - The Simpsons wasn't even a gleam in Matt Groening's eye when this tale was written - but the ludicrous stereotyping of the characters and the OTT melodrama of its climax make it a difficult tale to take seriously. It should also be pointed out that loch monsters are a protected species under Scottish law, so Messrs Mactavish and Banner should be thoroughly ashamed of themselves.

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Incredible Hulk #191.Toad Men, the Shaper & Glorian

(Cover from September 1975.)

"Triumph Of The Toad!"

Written by Len Wein.
Drawn by Herb Trimpe and Joe Staton.
Lettering by John Costanza.
Colours by Glynis Wein.

Did Blondie singer Debbie Harry really know of what she sang when she said dreaming is free?

It'd appear not, as the Toad Men discover there's a high price to pay for trying to get yourself a handful of dreams. Having secured the Hulk and his friends, the Toad Men tell the Hulk that if he doesn't help them capture the Shaper so they can use his dream-weaving powers to conquer the cosmos, they'll kill Crackajack and Jarella.

So the Hulk takes a bomb to a meeting with the Shaper, and its detonation knocks them both out. But when the Hulk and Glorian go to the Toad Men's world to free the Shaper, the Toad Men react with their usual charm by killing Glorian.

The sight of his friend being killed so destabilises the Shaper that he loses control of his illusions, and the Hulk for the first time sees "Jarella" and "Crackajack" as the alien creatures they really are. The loss of his friends sets the Hulk off on a rampage that leaves the Toad World in ruins and the Toad King Torkon in a heap. The battle done, the Shaper sends the Hulk back to Earth while leaving the Toad Men to face their doom on their no-longer functional planet.

It's difficult to know what to make of this tale. It's certainly more imaginative than most but you can't ignore the fact that the Toad Men are inherently silly. Writer Len Wein certainly can't ignore it as he makes them ludicrous and nasty in evil measures, an inadequate race who get all their technology by stealing it from other, better races. It also has to be said that both the Shaper and Glorian come across as being so dim you're almost glad to see Glorian get shot, just to see the back of his inane brand of gentility.

So, a strange story overall that, in its mixing of the dramatic and ludicrous, reminds me of the kind of thing Steve Gerber might have done. In truth, if this was the first Hulk story I'd ever read, I've no doubt I'd be more than intrigued enough by its oddness to want to read more Hulk comics and, while I'm not sure I'd want to see more Hulk stories in this style, I suppose that means it must have done its job.