Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Really? Purple Pants ALL OF THE TIME?

The Incredible Hulk #212 (June 1977)
"Crushed by the Constrictor!"
Len Wein-Sal Buscema/Ernie Chan

Doug: Back to the Bronze Age lot for a double dose of Hulk done-in-ones. Yep, tune back in one week from today when we'll actually bring you the succeeding issue. I only got three Hulks in the eBay victory, and this next week will polish those off. So, without further ado...

Doug: We open with Jim Wilson on the streets of New York City. While pondering a huge wanted poster of the Hulk, a thug emerges from the shadows. As the attack commences, Wilson at first thinks it's a mugging. But we soon find out that there's a hit on Wilson's life, and this tough with the blackjack is the assassin. But Jim's no slouch and evades the initial onslaught. Clinging to an oh-so-conveniently-passing-by box truck, Jim makes his way far away. The thug, fearful now what will happen to him since he's failed, begins to run. However, a long silver cord snaps out and begins to reel our hood in -- by his neck. As he begs for mercy, the "boss" steps into view -- it's a super-baddie (or so the snake-themed longjohns would lead us to believe) calling himself the Constrictor. And he wants Jim Wilson real bad.

Doug: Scene shift then to a boarding house where we spy on Bruce Banner, frustrated because he's bored but looking nonetheless fetching in purple twill pants. Next to him sits a magician's top hat; I can only wonder. Suddenly in walks his landlady, April Sommers. Now I was never a Hulk reader, so I'm totally tabula rasa on this development in Banner's love life. Oops -- apparently she's not a love interest. The scene plays like something right out of the Hulk TV show, with Banner only just now -- after months of living in the apartment -- revealing his last name. Even then, he refuses to tell her anything more about his past. I had to laugh at this mag written over a generation before the Internet -- Banner gives his real name, and April doesn't even react. You just know nowadays she'd run back to her own apartment and Google the fool!

Doug: We next check in on one Betty Ross Talbot, on the lam from Gamma Base. Apparently last issue she'd run away to "find herself". She's evidently on the West coast somewhere, as we're told she's several thousand miles away from NYC. Betty basically reinvents herself in this several-panel vignette -- and runs up quite a hefty credit card bill! All the while she laments the influence, and indeed pressure, of the men in her life -- most notable her father, General "Thunderbolt" Ross. And hey, is it just me or are Sal's women evoking the voluptuous figures usually associated with his brother John?

Doug: Cut back to Jim Wilson, who's landed at a pay phone (this is so cool! Man, I miss these days!). Jim tries to 411 Bruce Banner, but no dice. So he asks for "Bruce Roberts", reaching for any alias Banner might have used. Luck is on his side, and he's patched through. Of course Banner is home, and they make arrangements to meet. But as they agree on a site, there's a commotion, and Jim's end of the line goes dead. Banner rushes out of the boarding house -- and you just know that pulse is starting to race...

Doug: Scene shift again, to the sea, where a SHIELD tanker has hauled a gamma-irradiated cylinder from the ocean floor. The scientist on board, a hipster named Sidney E. Levine, radios Col. Nick Fury who tells him to contact Gamma Base. More on that later, I'll assume.

Doug: Back to Jim Wilson, we're dropped in actually a few seconds before his conversation with Banner ended. We find out that the noise was one of the Constrictor's coils smashing the phone booth. Jim is stunned, and a second lash nearly cuts him. But as the phone booth has basically dissolved, Wilson makes tracks. But he's not match for our villain, who catches up to Jim outside of an abandoned building. As Jim emerges he's snared and dragged to a waiting car. At about that same time, Banner is on the scene. Stepping out of a cab, Banner sees the busted up phone booth and then the getaway car. Banner calls out, but the car bears down on him. And you know what's coming next -- Hulk time!

Doug: The Constrictor gets out of the car (using his snake-like speed) just as it hits the Hulk. This Constrictor fellow must be a bit dim, as he says he's "heard of" the Hulk -- must live on Planet X or something. Anyway, as Hulk is about to end this four pages early he hears noise coming from inside the smashed vehicle. Stooping low to peer inside, he sees Jim. Hulk tears the roof off the car and frees Jim -- Jim in turn fills the Hulk in on this little contract thing. The book ends with a few pages of smash 'em up action as the Hulk makes relatively short work of the Constrictor. There's a little luck involved, as the assassin meets his end by whipping his coils into an electrical box on a lamp post -- bad feedback, for sure. But all's well that ends well, and a monster and his "little buddy" are reunited, to walk off together into the sunset.

Doug: Again, as a very casual reader of the Hulk, I got what I would have expected from this story. The villain could have been whupped by Daredevil, so I wasn't kept in any real suspense as to the outcome. Sal's pencils were wonderfully reliable as usual and Ernie Chan was a welcome sight -- not overpowering Sal, but enhancing him along the way. Len Wein seemed to have everyone's voice down pretty well. So aside from the almost-constant scene changing, this was a fun little use of 20 minutes. And as I said above, the anchors to the late 1970's can't be beat!


Anonymous said...

Ref. the purple pants, well, yes, but you’d miss ‘em if they went. I mean let’s face it, if your body quintupled in size, you’d bust out of everything, right? As a kid I always wondered how the Hulk’s eyes didn’t water (assuming that everything increased in proportion). I’m sure somewhere I actually saw Banner burst out of shorts only to be wearing long purple trousers as Hulk. They just didn’t care, did they?

You’re right about Betty, she’s transformed from plain Betty into....well, a Betty, I guess and she does look more John than Sal, whose women tended to the slimmer frame...however, the hair looks quite Gil Kane to me (I loved the way Gil Kane drew women’s hair).

You’re right about Ernie Chan’s artwork inside the comic, which doesn’t overwhelm Sal at all, but I think his inks over Buckler’s cover obliterate Buckler completely and, in this case it’s a good thing. The cover art looks way better than the interior art.

Side note: I always assumed that the reason Ernie Chan was called Ernie Chua for years and then suddenly changed his name to Ernie Chan was because he was under contract to a rival (like Adam Austin, etc) but it was actually because they spelt his name wrongly on his immigration papers. (Shame they didn't spell it T-O-M-P-A-L-M-E-R).

(Sorry, that was harsh wasn't it?)


William said...

Looks like a fun little read. I need to pick up some more old issues of the Hulk myself. It's one of the books that I didn't buy a lot when I was a kid, so there are quite a few of them I've never read at all. Perusing, a bunch of those older issues look pretty cool. Lots of great match-ups between 'ol Jade Jaws and guys like The Rhino, Abomination, Submariner, Sandman, Absorbing Man, Doc Samson, etc.

Which brings us to this particular issue. I've always really liked Constrictor as a villain. (In fact, I'm very much looking forward to his Marvel Legends figure that is supposed to be coming soon). But it always perplexed me when writers would choose to put the Hulk up against an opponent who was clearly no match for him. Like you said, makes for a pretty predictable outcome. I suppose it adds a little variety to mix though. I mean the Hulkster can't face a world-beater every other day, can he? It would seem reasonable that once in while he'd run across someone who wasn't prepared for his kind of power, and they'd just get their clock cleaned.

And Doug, I miss those times as well. The world seemed much easier to comprehend back then.

Matthew Bradley said...

Quite agree on Ernie's inks. What a difference from the disservice done to Sal B.'s pencils by those muddy Vinnie Colletta inks we were lamenting in his mid-'70s run on THE DEFENDERS. Not a good match.

dbutler16 said...

I've never been a big Hulk fan, but this does looked like a fun read, and I can sort of get into the "Bruce on the run" thing, for a while, anyway. I love the 70's vibe in this comic. The art is good, and I love the look on the Hulk's page as he's holding Jim after having rescued him from the car. It's such a look of utter confusion at Jim's "cooked goose" comment.
Also, apparently, some time before Ang Lee's Hulk movie came out, there was a big hubbub amongst Hulk fan's because it was reported that the Hulk wouldn't be wearing purple pants in the movie, so they made sure that the Hulk did indeed wear purple pants in the movie after all.

david_b said...


Great comments, regarding your ideas on 'underwhelming villains' against the Hulk, I had the similar thought a few months back with earlier Ironman covers.. Here you had in huge letters 'Invincible Iron Man', and it seemed you had these baddies that didn't seem all that powerful having ol' Tony on his knees. It's probably the Bullpen's way of keeping the Type-B villains in circulation between Type-A storylines.

As for the inking, it looks really superb. I've been picking up a lot of Hulks lately for the beautiful covers, and this is no exception.

J.A. Morris said...

I didn't buy this off the racks, but it was one of the first back issues I ever bought at a convention (around 1980 or '81)
In fairness to the Constrictor, weren't his coils made of adamantium at this time? That would make him a slight pay grade above a Daredevil foe.
Since Doug brought up the purple pants, was there ever an explanation about how the Hulk briefly switched from the pants to the "Speedo" seen in Avengers #2? Yes, I think about this stuff!

I do remember a few issues such as Hulk #118 (featuring a fight with Namor in Atlantis) where he wears a pair of bluejeans.

You'd think after so many years of Hulking up, Banner would've asked Reed Richards to make him an unstable molecule wardrobe!

Garett said...

Good pencil/inks team! Haven't seen this before. Nice Splash page--almost Aparo vibe happening.

Inkstained Wretch said...

Just one thought: Sal Buscema never disappoints, does he?

Fred W. Hill said...

Regarding the Hulk's purple pants, I'd just say that as he got dumber he developed the magic power so that no matter what Bruce was wearing when he hulked out, his pants would turn purple, expand to fit his waist but rip into shreds at the bottom. Maybe Dr. Strange bestowed this power on him in an early, undocumented meeting as a means to keep ol' Greenskin from turning red with embarassment at being overexposed.
Anyhow, I was collecting the Hulk regulary during this period and while most of the stories weren't particularly great, they were entertaining nevertheless and I really loved Ernie Chan's inks on Sal Buscema's pencils; great combo.

johnlindwall said...

I bought this issue off the racks as a 12-year old, and loved it. I like the constrictor's look a lot - simple but menacing IMO.

I agree with the above poster who calls out an Aparo vibe on the splash page -- nice call!

Edo Bosnar said...

Although this issue came out early in my comics-reading career before I had started to read Hulk regularly, I do remember having this issue. Probably bought it because of the cover. Don't remember much of the story, but I vividly recall a lot of those pages you posted here. Great art.
By the way, I think I really started seriously thinking about Hulk's pants not ripping off completely when the Hulk TV show started - it was the late '70s, and Banner was often wearing bell-bottoms, and it occurred to me that the bottoms of those trousers would be the only thing left on him once he grew 3-4 times his original size, rather than the other way around...

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