Friday, 13 August 2010

Incredible Hulk #141. Doc Samson makes his debut

Incredible Hulk #141, Doc Samson, first appearance and origin
(Cover from July 1971.)

“His Name Is… Doc Samson!”

Written by Roy Thomas.
Art by Herb Trimpe and John Severin.
Lettering by Artie Simek.

Something that strikes me, reading this tale, is that almost a decade in we still know next to nothing about Bruce Banner. We simply haven’t seen enough of him to know how his mind works or what kind of man he is. He’s the protagonist of a comic book and a scientific genius and therefore we assume that, like the early Reed Richards, he’s noble, wise and mature.

But last issue we saw him happy to be dictator of a land he barely knew and, this issue, when confronted with what he thinks is a love rival, instead of doing what anyone in the slightest bit well-balanced would, which is talking to the object of his affections, he instead refuses to have anything to do with her and sneaks into a laboratory to turn himself into the Hulk. What he expects to gain from such an action is anyone’s guess but that combined with his dictatorial tendencies of the last issue and his history of getting over-excited at the drop of a hat, suggest the man we know so little about might actually not be quite right in the head.

If I was into blatant links between paragraphs, I might say he needs a psychiatrist, but there’s one at hand, and he’s the root of it all.

Dr Leonard Samson’s come up with a device to drain the Hulk of his energy, thus curing Bruce Banner of his affliction while using that energy to cure Betty Ross of the vitrification that’s afflicted her for the last few issues. How a psychiatrist came up with such a scheme - which is as far out of his field as a sheep would be on Jupiter - is anyone’s guess but blow me down if the plan doesn’t work.

Showing he’s just like the rest of us, Samson then uses the remainder of the Hulk’s energy to turn himself into a super-hero. Possibly not so like the rest of us, he then takes a shine to Betty Ross. Cue jealous strangeness from Bruce Banner and the return of the Hulk.

Whatever Bruce Banner’s mental state, it’s another classic as we get to meet a new, though unsuccessful, super-hero whilst the distancing of Bruce Banner from Betty Ross - which began with the introduction of Jarella - continues.

The story’s only failing is did Roy Thomas really have to christen Doc Samson “Dr Samson” before he got his powers - especially as his hair grows long in the process of gaining them? I’ve heard of nominative determinism but some coincidences stretch credulity to a breaking point that even Bruce Banner’s trousers couldn’t endure.

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