by Gideon Marcus
With just three weeks to go before I attend the comics-themed science fiction convention in the Los Angeles area known as “Wonder Con,” I think it’s high time for an update on what’s going on in the world of Marvel Comics. As I related earlier, Marvel (formerly Atlas) seems bent on rebuilding a stable of superheroes to complement their line-up of Westerns and Model mags.
Last year saw the introduction of the Fantastic Four, which is now up to issue #4. More on them later. This month, the new superbeing is The Incredible Hulk. I hesitate to use the word “hero” since The Hulk doesn’t seem to be a good character, at least, not yet.
Dr. Bruce Banner is a brilliant physicist, in charge of development of the “G Bomb.” This device doesn’t seem to do much expect shoot out a burst of gamma rays. In the Marvel universe, this appears to cause unpredictable (but non-deadly) instant mutations.
As the countdown for the first test approaches, a young man drives out onto the test grounds. Banner, a man of conscience, races out to help him. The doctor’s treacherous assistant, a Soviet spy, activates the bomb anyway, and Banner takes the full brunt of the blast.
This turns Banner, at least temporarily, into a Mr. Hyde-type character. He is possessed of incredible strength and an implacable desire to destroy. The Hulk (so named by a terrified soldier) still retains some human intellect, but he does not know that he was originally a human scientist.
It turns out that Banner’s transformation is tied to the day/night cycle. As the sun dawns, The Hulk reverts to his original form. For at least twelve hours a day (more, at the poles!) Banner is himself.
Of course, no supercreature exists in a vacuum. There is a fundamental corollary of Newton’s 3rd Law in the comics universe. The Hulk’s nemesis is a deformed Communist supergenius: The Gargoyle!
There’s not much of a fight here. Gargoyle incapacitates The Hulk and his sidekick (the rescued youth)
But in the flight back to Russia, the gray beast becomes Banner again. The scientist uses his terrific brain to revert the Gargoyle, who was created with radiation, too, to human form. This robs him of his superpowers, but lets him die… a man!
I leave it as an exercise for the reader whether it is better to be ugly and gifted or comely and unremarkable.
Inside this issue of The Hulk, there was an ad for two other Marvel mags. They just happen to ones I’m already inclined to pick up, so I’ll give you a peek in them, too:
“The Magazine that Respects your Intelligence” and “The one that doesn’t!”
Marvel goes in for anthology mags. Amazing Adult Fantasy is essentially watered-down The Twilight Zone.
For instance, the self-aware vignette about the fellow who gets taken to Mars and ends up in a zoo (like that The Twilight Zone episode with Roddy McDowell, q.v.).
Or jokey bit about how Stan and Steve come up with ideas…
Or the one about the Castro lookalike who is killed by the plague after shooting down the American plane that was coming to (not) Cuba with the cure…
Or the title piece about the fellow who breaks the time barrier and comes back to a frozen Earth…
You decide whether or not these stories respect your intelligence.
Over in Fantastic Four, The Torch has a tiff and leaves the group. Collateral damage ensues:
That’s just the B plot. The A plot introduces a new supervillain, though he doesn’t seem all bad. It is Namor, the Sub-Mariner, who first appeared back in a Marvel predecessor mag back in 1939! He has lost his memories and is residing in a skid-row rehabilitation house. But the Forceful Four coax his memories back, and the Lord of Liquid vows revenge for humanity’s ravaging of the seas.
But first, he takes a detour down Lovers’ Lane…
Honestly, I think she’s better off than with Reed, destroyer of motorcycles, diminisher of women.
Can Namor be defeated? Do we even want him to be? You’ll just have to read the magazine and find out! It’s probably worth your time just for all the beefcake (fishcake?) this issue features…
See you in the funny papers!