Essential Rampaging Hulk Vol. 2

rampaginghulk2First Published: March 2010

Contents: Hulk! #16 (August 1979) to #27 (June 1981)

Key Creator Credits: Doug Moench, Ron Wilson, Gene Colan, J.M. DeMatteis, and others

Story Continues From: Essential Rampaging Hulk Vol. 1

Overview: This may be a short review this week, so my apologies in advance. But I’m finding it a challenge to create an overview for this collection. As we saw in the second half of the previous volume, the Hulk! magazine featured longer length stories that were not necessarily tied into continuity with the monthly comic.

Perhaps borrowing an approach from the 1970s TV series, a lot of the stories feature Banner coming into a random town, getting caught up in some evil plot, and then letting the Hulk take over and smash everything to pieces. We get a few stories that are inspired by real events. For example, in Hulk! #20, the Hulk is needed to stop a nuclear meltdown a la Three Mile Island. A lot of the stories deal with issues of that time (drug use, land rights, which still remain relevant 35 years later.

For me, the highlight of this book was the final story in the collection, and not because it was the last. Written by J.M. DeMatteis with art by Gene Colan, we have the Hulk wandering into Las Vegas. The down-on-his-luck Banner is befriended by a chorus dancer and a past-his-prime lounge singer, but they all end up getting on the bad side of the casino bosses. That very well could have been a story made for the television show, but it was better produced in comic book form.

What makes this Essential?: I hate it when I come to this conclusion, but I can’t say that this book is essential. The stories are average – nothing that stands out or gets revisited later. There is some great art from Gene Colan and Ron Wilson, but I don’t know that it’s enough to warrant buying the book. Outside of one or two mentions to Betty Ross or General Thunderbolt, you really don’t know that this is part of the Marvel Universe. These stories could be told with any character that transforms into a monster of some kind. For the Hulk completist, I could justify picking this up versus undergoing the hunt to track down the original magazines. For the average fan, I don’t know that the return would justify the investment (time and money).

If you like this volume, try: the Peter David run on The Incredible Hulk. David has been linked with the Hulk since 1987, when he started a 11-year run on the title. Over that time, he told stories featuring the various versions of the Hulk – mindless brute or Banner-controlled, as well as green or gray. David was one of the first writers to turn Rick Jones into a Hulk, hinting at the role he would one day play as A-Bomb. For me, my favorite Hulk run came in the late 1980s with Mr. Fixit. At this time, Hulk was in his gray form with moderate intelligence. He could only come out at night, harkening back to the original story elements of the Hulk from Lee & Kirby. Mr. Fixit set himself up as a heavyweight enforcer in Las Vegas, a city known for living large in every way possible. David’s run has been collected in a series of Hulk Visionaries volumes. If you want to read the Mr. Fixit story, you are going to need to pick up Volumes 2-4 of that line.

Essential Marvel Horror Vol. 2

Essential Marvel Horror Vol. 2

First Published: November 2008

Contents: Supernatural Thrillers #5 (August 1973), and #7 (June 1974) to #15 (October 1975); Brother Voodoo introduction from Tales of the Zombie #2 (October 1973), #6 (July 1974), and #10 (March 1975); Strange Tales #169 (September 1973) to #174 (June 1974), #176 (October 1974) and #177 (December 1974); Marvel Team-Up #24 (August 1974); Haunt of Horror #2 (July 1974) to #5 (January 1975); Monsters Unleashed #11 (April 1975); Marvel Two-In-One #11 (September 1975), #18 (August 1976), and #33 (November 1977); Marvel Chillers #1 (October 1975) and #2 (December 1975); Dead of Night #11 (August 1975); and Marvel Spotlight #26 (February 1976)

Key Creator Credits: Steve Gerber, Tony Isabella, Len Wein, Doug Moench, Mike Friedrich, Bill Mantlo, John Warner, Scott Edelman, Val Mayerik, Gene Colan, Tony Dezuniga, Sonny Trinidad, Billy Graham, and others

Key First Appearances: Living Mummy, Elementals (Hellfire, Hydron, Magnum, Zephyr), Asp, Jericho Drumm/Brother Voodoo, Daniel Drumm, Damballah, Black Talon, Gabriel/Devil-Hunter, Modred the Mystic, Chthon, Scarecrow (Straw Man)

Story Continues From: Essential Marvel Horror Vol. 1

Overview: Welcome back to more marvelous debuts of characters from the horror-themed titles of the 1970s. This volume features the first appearances of six characters of varying degrees of success.

  • First up is the Living Mummy. Awakened after 3,000 years, the Living Mummy finds himself adapting to the world of 1973, whether in the streets of New York City or in the deserts of Egypt.
  • Next up is Brother Voodoo, perhaps the most successful of the characters featured in this collection. Jericho Drumm returns to his home in Haiti. Caught up in a spiritual war, Drumm learns the secrets of the Loa and becomes Brother Voodoo. With the spirit of his deceased brother Daniel living in him, Brother Voodoo challenges zombies, ghosts, vampires, and villains.
  • Gabriel, Devil Hunter comes to us from the pages of the horror magazines. With one good eye, the former priest conducts exorcisms to draw out the demons inhabiting innocent souls.
  • Golem hearkens back to Jewish folklore, as a clay figure comes to life, powered by love. The Marvel Comics’ Golem has very few appearances. (If you are interested in reading a great story about a Golem, check out Michael Chabon’s The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, which won a Pulitzer Prize in 2001.)
  • Modred the Mystic comes to us from King Arthur’s court. Modred was to become an apprentice to Merlin, but that tended to be red-shirt situation, if you catch my drift. He embarks on a path to explore the Darkhold, which casts him into suspended animation until he is revived in the 1970s.
  • Finally, the Scarecrow jumps out of a portrait to battle demons. (When he appeared later, he was renamed as Straw Man, to differentiate himself from the Silver Age villain known as Scarecrow.) I really want to write more about him, but there is not a lot to work with here.

What makes this Essential?: This is a book that can go either way — it’s a must-own book or it’s a do not own book. It’s all dependent on your personal tastes. I found that the Living Mummy and the Brother Voodoo stories worked the best, as we were given multiple issues to really dive into the characters. The other four characters each get 3-5 issues, which in most cases is not enough to really get a solid or favorable position on the character.

Personally, I might have preferred seeing more established Marvel Universe characters in this volume. For example, Greer Nelson debuted in the pages of The Cat in 1972. In 1974, she became Tigra in Giant-Size Creatures #1, followed up by a run in Marvel Chillers. She would later have stints in Fantastic Four and The Avengers (see the later Essential volumes of those titles), and has remained a fairly active character in the Marvel Universe since her introduction. This would have been a perfect showcase (pardon the use) for a female character, in a volume that is very male-centric to begin with. 

If any of the six featured characters interest you, then pick it up. If these characters do not interest you, stay far away from this book.

Footnotes: Marvel Two-in-One #11 and #18 were also reprinted in Essential Marvel Two-in-One Vol. 1.

Marvel Two-in-One #33 was also reprinted in Essential Marvel Two-in-One Vol. 2 and Essential Spider-Woman Vol. 1.

Marvel Team-Up #24 was also reprinted in Essential Marvel Team-Up Vol. 1.

If you like this volume, try: the 1980s Elementals series from Comico. The idea of characters with powers representing the basic elements is nothing new in comics. The argument could be made that the Fantastic Four is the best representation of this concept. In the Living Mummy stories in this collection, we see an actual team of adversaries called the Elementals. Over at DC Comics, a team of Elementals was introduced (but never used again) in the pages of Super Friends – see Showcase Presents Super Friends Vol. 1. But the greatest use of the concept came in 1984 at Comico, when Elementals #1 hit the comic book racks. The four characters that would comprise the Elementals (Vortex, Morningstar, Fathom, and Monolith) actually made their debut in the Justice Machine Annual #1 from 1983.  The basic set-up for Elementals is that the four element spirits find physical hosts (who have each recently died in that element) to help bring balance back to the universe due to the actions of the evil sorcerer Lord Saker. The book was written and drawn by Bill Willingham, many years before he became the grand storyteller of the Fables series. This is a really great series that sadly is not easily available today. Comico went through ownership changes and bankruptcy courts, and these characters have remained in limbo since the late 1990s. Comico released a trade paperback in 1988 collecting the initial story arc, but again, that is more than 25 years ago and its no longer in print. You might have to go to eBay or a really good back issue dealer to find these comics, but it’s well worth the hunt.

Essential Rampaging Hulk Vol. 1

Essential Rampaging Hulk Vol. 1

First Published: May 2008

Contents: The Rampaging Hulk #1 (January 1977) to #9 (June 1978); Hulk! #10 (August 1978) to #15 (June 1979); and part of a story from Incredible Hulk #269 (March 1982)

Key Creator Credits: Doug Moench, Walt Simonson, Keith Pollard, Ron Wilson, and others

Key First Appearances: Bereet, Krylorians

Story Continues In: Essential Rampaging Hulk Vol. 2

Overview: Throughout the 1970s, Marvel Comics had been releasing black & white magazines through their parent company, Curtis Magazines. Most magazines featured more adult topics than what could be printed in a comic (and approved by the Comics Code Authority). The magazines tended to feature characters that were not currently featured in the Marvel Comics, although there were some exceptions along the way. In 1976, Marvel changed that up with the launch of the Rampaging Hulk magazine.

The magazine can be broken up into two eras, as clearly defined by the title change of the magazine. When the magazine launched, the stories were set in the 1960s, picking up on the Hulk’s adventures following the cancellation of his title in Incredible Hulk #6. The Hulk and Rick Jones are on the run from the Army, and travel to Europe to escape their pursuers. There they encounter the alien Bereet, who is also being pursued by her race, the Krylorians. While they claim that Bereet is an escaped fugitive, the Krylorians actually intend to take over the Earth.

During the course of these adventures, the Hulk, Rick Jones, and Bereet encounter numerous familiar faces from the Silver Age of Marvel Comics. The original X-Men and the Sub-Mariner cross paths with the rampaging Hulk. To stop the final phase of the Krylorians invasion, our heroes return to the New York City, where the Hulk encounters Iron Man, Thor, Ant Man, and the Wasp well before they team up to form the Avengers. The Krylorians realize that their plans are useless, and flee the Earth.

Beginning with issue #10, the magazine goes in a new direction. The title changes to the Hulk!, and the stories are now told in “Marvelcolor”. The stories now take place in current Marvel time, and take an approach similar to the popular Incredible Hulk TV show of this same time. Bruce Banner is on the road in search of a cure for his condition. Each issue, Banner stumbles into some odd job (miner, circus carny, etc.) and some incident occurs that leads to his change into the Hulk.

A Bobby Ewing Shower situation!: In Incredible Hulk #269 (March 1982), it was revealed that the stories in Rampaging Hulk #1-9 were not “in continuity” but rather a fictionalized film created by the artist Bereet to entertain her fellow Krylorians. Bereet then traveled to Earth, where she became a companion of sorts for the Hulk during the time that he maintained his intelligence while he was the Hulk. She appeared in stories throughout 1982 and 1983, before disappearing into the character limbo.

What makes this Essential?: While I wouldn’t say that any of these stories are truly essential, I found myself pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed this volume. Sure, most of these stories fall outside of any continuity, but sometimes those make for better stories. The writing, done almost all by Doug Moench, is good for the era and the intended audience. The art is great, but there are times when the pages look awkward due to the smaller size of the Essential page compared to that of the original magazine. If you are a fan of the Hulk or interested in the Marvel magazines, then give this a look.

Footnotes: The Hulk & Moon Knight stories from Hulk! #15 are also reprinted in Essential Moon Knight Vol. 1.

If you like this volume, try: watching (or re-watching for my older readers) the Bill Bixby/Lou Ferrigno Incredible Hulk series from the 1970s. The series is available on DVD, and can be found on both Netflix and Hulu Plus. As familiar as we (the comic book readers) are with the Hulk and his origins, for many people this television series was their introduction to the green-skinned giant. Dr. David Bruce Banner is exposed to a deadly dose of gamma radiation, which leads to a startling transformation when he becomes emotional. Hounded by a news reporter chasing a story, David Banner goes on the run around the country in search of a cure to his green issues. The success of this show helped inspire the change of direction with the Hulk! magazine. Any Hulk fan should watch this. If I find out that you haven’t watched this, I will be so angry. To quote an often used line from the show, “Don’t make me angry. You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry.”

Essential Godzilla Vol. 1

Essential Godzilla Vol. 1

First Published: March 2006

Contents: Godzilla #1 (August 1977) to #24 (July 1979)

Key Creator Credits: Doug Moench, Herb Trimpe, Jim Mooney, Tom Sutton, and others

Key First Appearances: Godzilla, Tamara Haskioka, Yuriko Takiguchi, Rob Takiguchi, Doctor Demonicus, Red Ronin

Overview:  Making his way from coast to coast is Godzilla, King of the Monsters. Breaking free from an iceberg, Godzilla comes to shore in California. Battling the Champions of Los Angeles, Godzilla makes quick work of the heroes and starts a cross country trek.

Following in the wake of the monster is the Godzilla Squad, a team organized by S.H.I.E.L.D. to capture and contain the monster. Dum Dum Dugan and Gabe Jones represent S.H.I.E.L.D., who want to put the monster down; and Rob Takiguchi and Tamara Haskioka are working to preserve the monster.

Along the way to New York City, Godzilla encounters a batch of Pym Particles which reduces the monster down to eight inches in height. However, the particles slowly start to wear off in the Museum of Natural History, as the Fantastic Four try to stop him. Reed Richards has the idea to use Dr. Doom’s time machine to send Godzilla back in time, where he ends up battling the Devil Dinosaur.

Eventually, Godzilla returns to the present time and faces off against the Avengers in a final battle. Godzilla finally trudges off into the Atlantic Ocean as the series ends.

What makes this Essential?: To me, a volume like this is very Essential. The reader gets the complete series in one volume. The creative team remained the same across the entire run of the series, which strengthened the storyline. In this corporate age of comics that we find ourselves in, it’s highly unlikely that Marvel will ever own the rights to publish a Godzilla comic again, much less include it in the actual Marvel Universe. With all of the various cameos of Marvel characters, this is a fun volume. Track it down if you do not already own it.

Footnotes: For a period of time in the late 1970s, Marvel had rights to both Godzilla and Shogun Warriors, both Toho properties. During this time, Moench and Trimpe created the Red Ronin, a Shogun Warrior-type mecha that has remained part of the Marvel Universe despite the loss of the two properties.

If you like this volume, try: the new Godzilla movie that is opening this weekend. It looks really good, and I can’t wait to see it. Or go find some of the classic Godzilla movies to watch. Some movies are better than others, much like some comics are better than others. There is bound to be a Godzilla movie that suits you best.