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Previously

This is the second post in my continuing insane effort to try to read EVERY MARVEL COMIC EVER PUBLISHED. You can see previous posts using the tag "complete-marvel-run". We are tackling the older/longer series first, and going in "MCU Order".

(These posts of course, are often just excuses to post a bunch of comic screenshots/excerpts)

Incredible Hulk (1962-1969) - 379 issues

After Iron Man, the next big character (literally) in MCU order was the Hulk. But when I loaded up the oldest Incredible Hulk series on Marvel Unlimited, I was surprised to find that it started with numbers #1 to #6, but then skipped to #102 right after that. I initially thought they had just been unable to upload the missing numbers, but it turns out the numbering was a quirk of that era; #106 onwards was actually carrying over the numbering from the previous series Tales to Astonish, maybe I'll get to it someday!

Note: The listing on Wikipedia lists these two separately as v1 and v2. Some sources list these two volumes together as Incredible Hulk v1, and Marvel Unlimited itself lists them both under Incredible Hulk (1962). To avoid confusion, we will follow the Marvel Unlimited nomenclature moving forward

I had a friend who collected the Hulk issues in the 90s, but I don't recall ever reading them back then. I have read some of the more modern series (more on that later), so I am familiar with the more popular supporting cast and villains - Betty Ross, Thunderbolt Ross, Rick Jones, Doc Samson, Abomination, The Leader, etc. But other than the famous names, the Hulk lore from before the 2000s is largely new to me.

I also chose to write this post while rewatching the Ed Norton Incredible Hulk film in the background, so maybe a short review for that in this post as well.

The Many Faces of the Hulk

One thing that stood out to me in the earliest issues was that the Hulk didn't start with the transformation triggered by anger. Instead, the transformation occurs with the day/night cycle, with the Hulk appearing at night and Banner coming back during the day. The trigger changed a few times; at one point Banner had to make a gamma machine to trigger the transformations. Somehow Banner was even able to keep his identity secret during the first 6 issues! After the jump in numbering, he was already publicly-known to be the Hulk and was on the run.

The first hundred or so issues after the jump involve Banner/Hulk on the run, wanting to "be left alone" as the Hulk always says, while being pursued by the army or various villains who want to take advantage of him. Whenever Banner got the chance he would try to find a cure for his condition, always ending in failure. A lot of his early encounters usually went along the lines of his opponent saying "This [new weapon/ability] will surely defeat him, he can't possibly be that strong!" and then Hulk beats them anyway.

Starting from #245 (1980), writer Bill Mantlo started a five-year run which started a deeper exploration of Banner's psyche and background, revealing he had suffered child abuse from an abusive father.

In 1987, Peter David took over the writing duties and would go on to write the book for more than 10 years; I believe he holds the record for most number of Hulk issues written. He further expanded on Banner's background and introduced the idea of Dissociative Identity Disorder affecting Banner. Early in his run, Peter David created a new third persona: the so-called "Mr Fixit" with the original gray color who shows up in Las Vegas as a mob enforcer following the supposed death of Banner/Hulk. Later, Doc Samson managed to combine all three personas into a single unified persona: a "Smart Hulk" (similar to the current MCU incarnation). This change would last until the Onslaught event in 1996, when Banner became separated from the Hulk. David's run (and v2 itself) only lasted a couple more years after that.

Supporting Cast

Notable supporting cast that were new to me: Jim Wilson, one of the angry Hulk's few friends, Marlo, who we first met when Hulk was "Mr Fixit" in Vegas, but later ends up marrying Rick Jones, and most importantly Jarella, Hulk's love from a microscopic world. Another early supporting character was Glen Talbot, who eventually becomes Betty's first husband and is later killed; IDK if he is currently alive in the comics, but in live-action he appeared in the non-MCU Agents of Shield.

During Peter David's run, he also introduced a secretive group called The Pantheon; superhumans who go around doing good deeds. The unified Smart Hulk joins and later leads this group.

Several times during this volume, Hulk also meets up with his fellow members of The Defenders such as Dr Strange (who the savage Hulk calls "Magician").

Villains

Hulk's major classic villains are the Leader (who we are finally going to see in the upcoming Captain America 4 film!) and the Abomination, who he encounters in the Ed Norton film.

One thing that surprised me was to see Hulk regularly going up against villains traditionally associated with other Marvel franchises, such as the Absorbing Man and Rhino. Modern-day Hulk has basically no upper limit to his strength. The Absorbing Man might be a Hulk-level bruiser, but the Rhino is basically a guy in a suit; if you tried to pit him against him, it would be no contest!

Notable First Appearances

The most famous character to come out of the Hulk v2 is of course Wolverine. He made his first appearance in one panel at the end of Incredible Hulk #180, and his full encounter with the Hulk happened in the next issue, #181. They would encounter each other two more times in this volume, in #340 and #454 during Peter David's run.

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Incredible Hulk #181, Nov 1974, first full appearance of Wolverine
Incredible Hulk #181, Nov 1974, first full appearance of Wolverine
Wolverine has to be the scrawniest character to ever survive going toe-to-toe vs the Hulk
Wolverine has to be the scrawniest character to ever survive going toe-to-toe vs the Hulk
Incredible Hulk #340, Feb 1998, second encounter
Incredible Hulk #340, Feb 1998, second encounter

Another Marvel character who is soon-to-be MCU relevant makes her first appearance in this volume as well: the Israeli Mossad agent Sabra makes her first full appearance in Incredible Hulk #256. The same issue gives its take on the mideast conflict, always a hotbed of controversy. The announcement of Sabra appearing in the next Captain America 4 has already been met with criticism; we'll see how well the adaptation is received.

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Incredible Hulk #256, Feb 1981, first appearance of Sabra
Incredible Hulk #256, Feb 1981, first appearance of Sabra
Incredible Hulk #256, Feb 1981, Banner befriends a Palestinian boy
Incredible Hulk #256, Feb 1981, Banner befriends a Palestinian boy
Incredible Hulk #256, Feb 1981, Banner runs into terrorists
Incredible Hulk #256, Feb 1981, Banner runs into terrorists
Incredible Hulk #256, Feb 1981, tragedy
Incredible Hulk #256, Feb 1981, tragedy

Historical and Cultural References

It always amuses me whenever these older comics reference historical events. For example, US president Nixon made a few appearances during this volume:

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Incredible Hulk #139, May 1971, Nixon authorizes an alliance with the Leader
Incredible Hulk #139, May 1971, Nixon authorizes an alliance with the Leader
Incredible Hulk #146, Dec 1971, Jim Wilson discovers android doubles of Nixon and Agnew
Incredible Hulk #146, Dec 1971, Jim Wilson discovers android doubles of Nixon and Agnew

Another real-life figure to make an appearance was someone who would eventually become a king:

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Incredible Hulk #409, Sep 1993, then-Prince of Wales Charles was held hostage by a baddie
Incredible Hulk #409, Sep 1993, then-Prince of Wales Charles was held hostage by a baddie

(Such appearances of real-world figures are apparently what fandom refers to as Topical References)

Highlighted below are some other cultural references, most of which are specific to their time; they became a lot more common during Peter David's run.

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Incredible Hulk #140, Jun 1971: Reference to Shazam, a character who was not licensed to DC until 1972
Incredible Hulk #140, Jun 1971: Reference to Shazam, a character who was not licensed to DC until 1972
Incredible Hulk #355, May 1989: Background characters debate the casting of Keaton, presumably as the lead in the Batman film released the same year
Incredible Hulk #355, May 1989: Background characters debate the casting of Keaton, presumably as the lead in the Batman film released the same year
Incredible Hulk #381, May 1991: Rick Jones puns on the name of actor James Spader. Unsure which Spader movie is being referred to.
Incredible Hulk #381, May 1991: Rick Jones puns on the name of actor James Spader. Unsure which Spader movie is being referred to.
Incredible Hulk #399, Nov 1992: The "Bogus" movie mentioned by Strange is of course "Bill and Ted's Bogus Journey", released 1991
Incredible Hulk #399, Nov 1992: The "Bogus" movie mentioned by Strange is of course "Bill and Ted's Bogus Journey", released 1991
Incredible Hulk #410, Oct 1993: The prison warden in this issue looks suspiciously like Mr. Bean
Incredible Hulk #410, Oct 1993: The prison warden in this issue looks suspiciously like Mr. Bean
Incredible Hulk #418, Jun 1994: A brush... from Death?
Incredible Hulk #418, Jun 1994: A brush... from Death?

Weirdness

Incredible Hulk #296, Jun 1984 was weird on Marvel Unlimited; the cover was copy-pasted from one of the interior panels, and the interior was quite short, with several paragraphs at the start and the beginning narrating events instead of showing them in panels as usual.

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hulk296_cover.jpg
hulk296_cover.jpg
hulk296_narrative.jpg
hulk296_narrative.jpg

I later figured out that this issue featured a crossover with Rom: The Space Knight and it looks like the MU version had been modified to scrub references to the character since presumably Marvel no longer had the license to publish his stories. Which is still weird because I believe Rom himself appeared again later on in the issue where Rick and Marlo got married. That was a cameo though; perhaps this issue in particular was scrubbed because a large chunk of it referenced Rom and his enemies.

Late during Peter David's run, there are 3 separate issues where a pair of Japanese-speaking tourists appear as background characters. Well, in the 3rd issue they are speaking German (I think), but they certainly look like the same characters! I couldn't find any references as to who these two are supposed to be, maybe friends of Peter David?

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Incredible Hulk #406, Jun 1993: The tourists first appear in Reno
Incredible Hulk #406, Jun 1993: The tourists first appear in Reno
Incredible Hulk #407, Jul 1993: Suddenly they are in Scotland!
Incredible Hulk #407, Jul 1993: Suddenly they are in Scotland!
Incredible Hulk #409, Sep 1993: Last appearance in London, now speaking German. The placement of that theater sign is top-notch.
Incredible Hulk #409, Sep 1993: Last appearance in London, now speaking German. The placement of that theater sign is top-notch.

Some more random weirdness:

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Incredible Hulk 150, Apr 1972: X-Man Havok makes a guest appearance and finds strange new uses for his powers which I've never seen him use outside this issue.
Incredible Hulk 150, Apr 1972: X-Man Havok makes a guest appearance and finds strange new uses for his powers which I've never seen him use outside this issue.
Incredible Hulk 150, Apr 1972: Hulk would later meet Havok again in #392 during a crossover with X-Factor, another Peter David book.
Incredible Hulk 150, Apr 1972: Hulk would later meet Havok again in #392 during a crossover with X-Factor, another Peter David book.
Incredible Hulk #412, Dec 1993: A rare She-Hulk appearance, and it makes Betty break the 4th wall and reference the sliding timescale
Incredible Hulk #412, Dec 1993: A rare She-Hulk appearance, and it makes Betty break the 4th wall and reference the sliding timescale
Incredible Hulk #435, Nov 1995: Hulk does blackface to pass as normal. Not cool Peter David!
Incredible Hulk #435, Nov 1995: Hulk does blackface to pass as normal. Not cool Peter David!

End of the Run

Apparently Peter David left the book near the end of this volume because the higher-ups wanted to bring back the Savage Hulk. Too bad, but he did come back a bit later to write a bit more Hulk.

This volume of Incredible Hulk was much more interesting to me than the Iron Man volume from the last post. Tony Stark had a bunch of problems, but they pale in comparison to Banner's woes.

New Mutants (1983-1991) - 100 issues

In addition to tackling the longer volumes, I decided to do a smaller volume alongside them, as a sort of palette cleanser so that I'm not reading the same thing every time. For this instance I chose the first X-Men spinoff title New Mutants. Every issue here is completely new to me - and in fact while reading this, I realized I hadn't actually read all of Uncanny X-Men, since this series ties in so closely with the original book. (Looks like I haven't read Uncanny from when the book was relaunched in 1981 to right before the linewide revamp leading to the Blue/Gold team split in around 1991 since that's when I started reading X-Men. Woo, more to read!)

Anyway, New Mutants. My knowledge with these characters before the 2000s came only from the Marvel trading cards and random appearances in other books. Pleasantly surprised to find this volume focusing not so much on their education at Xavier's school but instead combining teen drama with various hijinks that see them going to such places as Limbo, outer space, Asgard, etc. The New Mutants are depicted as a headstrong bunch of youths who are as likely to defy their teachers than not.

The team's field leader was originally Karma, but she never stayed with the team very long (I assume she got written off twice because her powerset is a bit OP!) and for most of the book leadership duties were split between Dani Moonstar and Sam Guthrie (cannonball).

Over half of this volume was written by X-Men scribe Chris Claremont, and it shows in the strong character development for the ensemble cast both individually and as a team. At first they are mentored by Charles Xavier himself but later when he has to spend an extended amount of time in Shi'ar space, headmaster duties are passed on to supposedly-reformed X-Men villain Magneto, whom the students respect even less than Charles.

Many of the issues in the early days were drawn by artist Bill Sienkiewicz, who had a very abstract, avant garde style, a rarity in those days I think. I'm not super fond of his art style, but I will admit there were many panels where I was amazed at how expressive his work was and it made me want to try that style a bit as well.

Writer Louise Simonson took over the book from Claremont, and the series notably took a more-action focused bent, and there were more changes to the ensemble cast. These characters went through a lot of problems in their short careers so far! Towards the end of the run, they break away from Magneto and fall under the mentorship of a new character introduced by writer Simonson and artist Rob Liefeld - the mysterious cyborg Cable! Rob Liefeld, an artist often criticized for poor anatomy, came onto the book near the end of the run and brought it back from the brink of low sales but reportedly he clashed often with Simonson's ideas for the series.

Towards the end of the series was the X-Tinction Agenda crossover between New Mutants, X-Men, and X-Factor (those were all the X-books at the time). I normally don't dip into the other books for the crossovers, but I liked the X-Men, so I decided to follow this one, and the X-Men issues were penciled by Jim Lee, another rising star artist. The difference between Jim Lee and Liefeld drawing the same characters was like night and day, Jim Lee's proportions and anatomy and overall style were just so much better!

Simonson left the book after this crossover, with Fabian Nicieza taking over the last few stories. They took this opportunity to greatly revamp the cast, with I believe Cannonball being the only original New Mutant still on board by the end of the book. They introduced and brought in more combat-focused characters like Domino, Feral and Warpath. This more militant version of the team would be relaunched as the new spinoff book X-Force after New Mutants ended.

I took only one screenshot from this run. Here's Sunspot being very sexist in New Mutants #67:

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Older Reads

To help catalog the complete Marvel run, I've decided to start including some notes on some other series I've read before I started this series. (These reviews will be back-dated in the index to an estimate of when I read them!)

Hulk: Future Imperfect (1992) - 2 issues

This was a miniseries written by Peter David that took place during his run while the Smart Hulk was in control. And I believe it is the earliest Hulk story I ever read - my friend who collected Hulk back in the 90s recommended it to me and since it's a time travel story I enjoyed it a lot.

The book sees Hulk travel to a post-apocalyptic future ruled by a fearsome warlord called the Maestro, who Hulk later discovers is actually a future version of himself who has defeated all other superheroes to reign over the world.

Edit: Forgot to mention this book was drawn by the legendary George Perez:

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future_imperfect.png
future_imperfect.png

Immortal Hulk (2018-2021) - 50 issues

This run by Al Ewing ended last year. It explored Banner's relationship with his father (Brian Banner), the Leader (Sam Sterns), among his constituent personalities, and explored the Hulk's relationship with the greater cosmology of the universe, with the finale taking place in the Below-Place, a layer of reality akin to Hell. This was an excellent run, albeit one might also find it very disturbing; it was very macabre and had a strong horror focus, and the art included a lot of body horror depictions. I did a quick review of the final issue before writing these notes and found that there were references to earlier characters from the 1962 volume; maybe I would have appreciated Immortal Hulk a bit more if I had read it after the 1962 volume.

Other Comics

Some other runs I completed during this period (not comprehensive): Symbiote Spider-Man Crossroads (2021) - 5 issues, Sabretooth (2022) - 5 issues.

The Symbiote Spider-Man run was a bit interesting since it was also written by Peter David and the Savage Hulk made an appearance here as well, during the time Dr. Strange had banished him to the crossroads. He kept having to explain who he was:

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Symbiote Spider-Man Crossroads #5, Jan 2022: Apologies for Greg Land
Symbiote Spider-Man Crossroads #5, Jan 2022: Apologies for Greg Land
Symbiote Spider-Man Crossroads #5, Jan 2022: I'm surprised Hulk knows who Beast is, they never met during the Hulk run
Symbiote Spider-Man Crossroads #5, Jan 2022: I'm surprised Hulk knows who Beast is, they never met during the Hulk run

And as usual, a lot of individual issues for ongoing runs.

Summary: 541 issues

This post ended up with so many words! We covered 541 issues over around 6 weeks of reading, which is a decent pace, considering I still read other stuff too. I am not sure if I will make it to the end of this complete run, but I do enjoy doing these posts (and collecting old-timey comic screenshots), though it's a bit exhausting!

What's Next

Next in MCU order is of course Captain America, so we are going to be fighting Nazis for a while. It's another very long series, around 355 issues to cover. The secondary series will probably be X-Factor (1986); I've read most of the second half starting from Peter David introducing the government-sponsored team, but never read the first half, and it will provide some nice continuity after New Mutants (I'm not yet ready for more Liefeld, so X-Force will be for later). See you in about 6 weeks!

Fri, Oct. 14, 2022, 9 a.m. / / blog / #comics #complete-marvel-run / Syndicated: mastodon twitter / 👍 1 / 💬 1 / 2690 words

Last modified at: Oct. 15, 2022, 4:51 p.m. Source file

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Referenced by

Media this post references:

comics Incredible Hulk (1962) Oct 14 2022 -
comics New Mutants (1983has) Oct 14 2022 -
comics Hulk: Future Imperfect (1992) Dec 31 1992 -
comics Immortal Hulk (2018) Oct 31 2021 -
comics Symbiote Spider-Man: Crossroads (2021) Oct 14 2022 -
comics Sabretooth (2022) Oct 14 2022 -

Comments

switchfollows said...

@roytang The Japanese tourists cameoing in late Hulk comic during PAD's run are fans he met. I think he mentions it in a But I Digress column, or his blog, but he did clarify that they were people he had met, because people thought they looked stereotypical, almost caricatures.

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