I've been a fan of Marvel's monsters for as long as I've been reading comics. This discussion will be divided into two "phases." Phase One will be "The Monster Age" and will focus on monsters which will cross over into Phase Two, "The Marvel Age," particularly those who have a connection with the Incredible Hulk. I'll start with...
This was almost my first issue of Defenders. I was already a fan of The Incredible Hulk, and I remember very well flipping through this issue on the spinner rack at Droste Drug Store. The splash page (of the Hulk wandering a hillside and picking flowers) is a prime example of what I said recently about Jack Abel improving the pencils of any artist’s work he inks, in this case, Sal Buscema’s. (We will see this collaboration again before we are finished with this discussion.) I ultimately gave it a pass that day, though, because I was working on collecting backissues of Hulk and wanted to complete that series first. As it happened, my actual first issue of Defenders was Giant-Size #1, which takes place immediately after #12. Featuring, as it did, reprints of Jack Kirby, Bill Everett and Steve Ditko (with a framing sequence by Jim Starlin), it was a great introduction to the “non-team.”
“The Titan Strikes Back!” ("Again" on the cover) was written by Len Wein. As it opens, trees and rocks in the forest begin to “attack” Hulk, who makes mental contact with “dumb magician.” Dr. strange traces the Hulk’s mental energy to the small town of Plucketville. Amos Moses, the mayor, leads Strange and Valkyrie into a trap. After they have been secured, he reveals that he is in reality Xemnu, who has abandoned his physical form to possess Mayor Moses. He has directed the townsfolk to build a rocketship with which to repopulate his home planet. Dr. Strange mentally frees the Hulk, the Hulk and Xemnu fight, Hulk wins by throwing Xemnu’s ship at him.
I seem to remember Googam as being an irritating little loudmouth in some group or team of monsters, who was always talking about how big and tough his dad was and they'd better respect him. Maybe that was another monster, or it was Goom himself.
Yeah, that's Fin Fang Four. (See page four of this discussion.)
By Len Wein & Herb Trimpe. After a brief skirmish with a military convoy in Oklahoma, a spaceship begins to follow the Hulk. Shortly after sunrise, Hulk contemplates his own shadow and concludes that it is his only friend. In a beautifully designed page, the Hulk turns away from the cliff wall and begins walking into the foreground. We cannot see the Hulk’s arms, but the arms of his shadow are raised above its head and the Hulk rails. Then the angle shifts and we are able to see that the shadow has detached itself from the wall and is about to attack Hulk.
The shadow creature is Warlord Kaa from Strange Tales #79 (above) or more recently, Where Monsters Dwell #31. They fight for 11 hours. As the Sun begins to set, they have made their way to an oil refinery. The lights come on and Kaa finds himself trapped in his shadow form as it is dispersed by the light.
ALSO: Readers of this discussion may be interested to know that Journey Into Mystery #62 (the first appearance of Xemnu the Titan) was released this week as a $1 “True Believer” edition.
NEXT WEEK: More Xemnu!
HULK ANNUAL #5 (1976):
First of all, George Olshevsky’s index (as well as MMW ordering) places this story between issues #98 and #199 (apparently simply because that’s when it was released). Don’t you believe it! Hulk Annual #5 takes place in Colorado. The end of #198 and the beginning of #199 finds Hulk in Citrusville, Florida. No, it fits best between #193 and #194, a natural break in the arc. #194 shows Hulk with hoboes in the “great American hearland,” and #195 opens with him riding a frieght train through the state of Lforida, where he will stay through #199. [the placement of Hulk Annual #1 is similarly problematical, but that’s a topic for another time.]
The story is by Len Wein, Sal Buscema and Jack Abel (the same team from Defenders #12, above), plus Chris Claremont scripting. It opens with a skirmish with soldiers from nearby Fort Carson, as a myterious figure observes from afar. This being duplicates five alien monsters and sets them against the Hulk one by one. Each succeeding chapter begins with a full page panel of the Hulk encountering, in turn: “Smoke Thing” (Diablo, from Tales of Suspense #9), “Mud-Face” (Taboo, from Strange Tales #75), “talking tree” (Groot, from Tales to Astonish #13), “Flying thing” (Goom, from Tales of Suspense #15), “Crackle-voice” (Blip, from Tales to Astonish #15) and finally, the instigator of these attacks, “White Thing” (Xemnu, from Journey into Mystery #62 and #66.
[Incidentally, the Hulk initially misidentifies Blip as Zzzax, but a footnote explains, “Hulk’s wrong, of course,” and goes on to cite Zzzax’s previous appearances in Hulk #166 and #183.]
At the time this annual initially appeared, I was familiar with nly two of the monsters: Goom and Blip. I would encounter Xemnu (from Defenders #12) next, but I wouldn’t read his first appearances (or those of the other three) until I was picking up inexpensive reading copies of the monster reprint titles in the 1990s. the monsters in this story or technically duplicates, but for all intents and purposes, they behave like the real things.
The fights drain Hulk’s energy, but the device Xemnu is using to do so draws the attention of the soldiers (from the opening skirmish), led by Col. “Hard-Butt” Harrison. His attack smashes a dam, and only the Hulk surfaces in the aftermath.
HULK #244 (1980):
By Steven Grant and Carmine Infantino. Bruce Banner finds himself in Los Angeles. Dr. Vault is soliciting handbills. Colossus has disappeared. At Delazny Studios, Bob & Diane O’Bryan return from a six-month honeymoon. “One year ago” (Marvel Time), Bob forced himself to walk, at Diane’s urging, through sheer force of will. Starlords is off the air. (It was cancelled by low ratings because of the Hulk TV show.) Grauman’s is recognizing Grant Marshal for his work in the movie Bloodlust.
Outside, rambunctious teenagers in a speeding car trigger Banner’s change, and the Hulk crashes Marshall’s ceremony. Bob transfers his mind to the colossus, still stored in Vault’s underground laboratory. The Hulk sets his footprint… in solid cement! Vault hears the news report and uses a device he has perfected to displace Bob’s mind from the statue. (Vault was holding the device at the ready, he just had to wait for the Colossus to resurface before he could use it.) Hulk literally tears the staue limb from limb, then he crushes the pieces to dust. Vault controls even the dust. Eventually the strain takes its toll and vault pays the ultimate price.
I thought this story was pretty stupid when I was 16, but now I feel it brings closure. (Having an actual ending is better than leaving the characters in limbo, even if the ending does leave something to be desired.) You’d think that would be the last of this discussion, but it’s not. I said I was going to begin and end both Phases I and II with Colossus (and I will), but if I was smart, I’d end it here. I've got a few more appearances I want to cover, though.
WONDERMAN ANNUAL #2 (1993):
NOTE: Each of Marvel’s 1993 annuals introduced a new character and included a trading card. None of them made much of an impact except, arguably, Genis-Vell, the son of Captain Marvel.
Bob O’Bryan, who always wore slacks, a sleeveless sweater and a tie, is re-imagined here as a typical ‘90s slacker, complete with a t-shirt, jeans and a ball cap he wears backwards. Simon Willams has been cast in a Colossus movie, but this time “Colossus” is a 100 foot tall robot built and controlled by Bob O’Briyan. A rival special effects man overrides control and causes the robot to go on a rampage. Diane Cummings is on the next soundstage over performing with Michael Keaton (apparently) in the movie “Rat-Man.” Bob is unable to override the jamming signal with his cybernetic helmet, so Wonderman is forced to destroy the robot. That would be a bad note to go out on, but I’ve got one more story left.