Incredible Hulk #162 (April 1973)
"Spawn of the Flesh Eater!"
Steve Englehart-Herb Trimpe/Sal Trapani
Doug: Welcome to October, BAB readers! Usually it's all manner of ghosts, goblins, demons -- you name it. This year, however, we decided to check in on some of our favorite heroes and their encounters with monsters and ghouls. But I can't help but wonder if Kang the Conqueror must have gotten hold of the controls at the BAB, because we are definitely doing some temporal jumping around here. Issue #162 of the Incredible Hulk surely comes before issue #181, but we already did that one a week ago. This should be fun to see a character in his first appearance right after we got to see him in his third appearance. Let's check out the wild 'n' wooly Wendigo!
Karen: I guess I'm to blame, for selecting this story as part of our "Heroes and Horrors" month here at BAB. But I think it fits the bill, and hopefully it's a minor transgression.
Doug: Blame? Who's to blame -- I'm on a Hulk high, friends!
Doug: We open in a Canadian military briefing room, where General "Thunderbolt" Ross has arrived to brief our neighbors to the north on a guest taking up temporary residence within their borders -- the Incredible Hulk! Ross argues with an emissary of Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau about the effectiveness of the Hulkbusters -- he's asked if they're so great, then why hasn't the Hulk been brought down? Ross assures him that a) there are some things civilians don't understand, and b) the Hulk has had more than his fair share of luck. The Canadian relents, and assures Ross that Trudeau will be asked to grant clearance for the Hulkbusters to stay on Canadian soil and remove the Hulk. We then cut to our star, alone and wandering through the thick forests. Hulk gives us a little recap of the last issue and complains to himself that he's lost in the denseness of the trees, and his mind is going in circles.
Karen: I know I've said before that I'm lukewarm about Trimpe's art, except when he was inked by John Severin. But I thought Sal Trapani did a very nice job here. He brought a crispness to the work that made it pop just a little bit. As for old Jade-Jaws, he's still hung up on Betty. I'd forgotten how long that was a theme in his book. I suppose Jarella had already died at this point, so it was OK to go back to his old flame??
Doug: I recently commented over at Rip Jagger's Dojo on his review of the Hulk tpb "Heart of the Atom" and told him that I recently purchased that book. Maybe in February we'll look in on that Hulk/Jarella love story here at the BAB? Seriously, I'm into these Hulk comics and admittedly surprised that I am!
Doug: The Jade Giant is frustrated, and in his frustration exerts a little force on the mountain, shattering a share of it. But he's startled to hear a voice claiming to be from a Paul Cartier and requesting urgent help. Hulk looks around and strains to find the source of the voice when he's suddenly attacked by some of the locals (man, was I thinking Deliverance in this scene or what?) open fire on him. Of course the bullets bounce off the Hulk, he gives the usual "Everywhere Hulk goes it's always the same -- why won't men leave Hulk alone?" speech, but then something totally unexpected happens: a young woman approaches the green behemoth, shakes her fist at him, and says she is not afraid. Then she thoroughly confounds our guy by calling him the Wendigo and saying he ate Paul... well, at the least he killed him. Paul, you see, is her brother. The Hulk, and I was a little surprised at his processing prowess given the amount of stimuli he was under in these panels, says he heard Paul's voice. Hulk says that he doesn't even know what a Wendigo is, assures the girl that he is not him, and then saunters off to find this Paul. Hmmm..... pretty nice set-up by Mr. Englehart.
Karen: This scene lays out all the qualities of the Hulk of my childhood, the definitive Hulk for me. Rampaging one second, and good guy the next. Despite his limited intelligence, he always had a strong moral compass, in the sense of he knew what was right and what was wrong, what was fair and what was unfair. He also had a soft spot for the weak and defenseless. I completely bought this scene and so had no problems with him helping the girl.
Doug: I was eternally disappointed that the TV Hulk did not speak. While I thought the show was well done, I just never understood why he didn't speak.
Doug: We cut to a couple of skiers, and quickly learn that it is Glenn and Betty Ross Talbot on their honeymoon. Glenn thinks to himself that he's come far away to get Betty away from any Hulk goings-on, but that while he knows the Hulk is in Canada he prays Betty does not find out. Glenn's a little paranoid about Betty falling back toward Bruce Banner, and that wouldn't be good on a new marriage. But at least for the time being, things appear to be rosy. We then jump back across many miles to find the Hulk out on his search mission. He's walking along, minding his Hulk-business, when he steps down from a ledge and right onto the side of the Wendigo! We remarked last week in our review of Hulk #181 that the Wendigo was supposed to be larger than the Hulk. Well, Happy Herb Trimpe gets it right in this first panel -- if the Hulk is 7 feet tall, then the Wendigo is closer to 9'! The Wendigo delivers a jaw-rattling left cross that the Hulk almost laughingly shakes off. But right when it's go-time, a man emerges from beneath the ledge. Hulk calls out "Paul!", but the man does not identify himself. He asks for the Hulk's help, telling him that the Wendigo is a flesh-eater and has been toying with him until its hunger sets in. But the man's cry is cut off as the Wendigo backhands him, hard.
Karen: I'm wondering how Talbot thinks he can keep news of the Hulk away from Betty? Won't she hear about any sort of major fight between the Hulk and the Hulkbusters on the news? I'm sure the amount of destruction such an engagement would cause would hit the national (if not global) news services. Oh well, maybe I am over-thinking it. Getting back to the Hulk -I absolutely loved the way Trimpe drew Hulk about to step on the Wendigo! That whole shot of the Wendigo, all curled up, was creepy enough, but when you realize that he's got Georges trapped underneath him...brrrr! Freaky. And Georges's comment about Wendy being a flesh-eater....This book came out at the same time I was really into reading about Bigfoot too, so the Wendigo was right up my alley. Although the idea of a Bigfoot-like creature eating people scared the Hell out of me!
Doug: Do you remember when they had book fairs in grade school? I bought one in the 2nd grade on "real" monsters like Bigfoot, the Yeti, the Loch Ness Monster, etc. You don't have to tell me what having the Hell scared out of you is all about!
Doug: You want two giants beating the snot out of each other? Our creators give us just that, over three pages of slamming, throwing, and slugging. The Hulk ends up at the bottom of a gorge, with the Wendigo at the top holding the man aloft. Greenskin maneuvers into position to catch him, and indeed guesses right about "Paul's" trajectory. About a half an hour later, the Hulk has his unconscious man in a small village. He presents the fellow to Marie Cartier, but is alarmed when she says that it's not her brother! Instead, this is his friend, Georges Baptiste. After Georges has been revived, he tells a story, of he, Paul, and another friend hunting when they were beset by a pack of wolves. Taking shelter in a nearby cave, the third man later died from wounds sustained in the wolf attack. Without supplies, Paul and Georges were in dire straits. But on the fourth day, Georges awoke to find Paul... eating. One of the hunters assembled in the house told Marie that Paul, after eating human flesh, was now beset with the curse of the Wendigo. The Hulk, realizing what had happened, went outside. He'd pledged to help Marie and had not. He'd make that right.
Karen: That fight scene is classic. Hulk is quite the trash-talker! I love how he goes on about how he's fought bigger enemies than Wendigo, but he's always won. If you think about it, Hulk does have a pretty good track record. And there's a great shot where Hulk lays a punch to Wendigo's jaw and the way Trimpe draws it, it looks like the white beast's head is flying off! It's so dramatic. When we hear the story of what happened to Georges and Paul, it's a shocker. Cannibalism was certainly not something I had encountered in a comic before, even handled as subtly as this. Reading it now, it made me wonder if Englehart was at all influenced to write the story by the events of the Andean plane crash in late 1972 with the Uruguayan rugby team that had to resort to eating parts of the dead in order to stay alive (a film titled "Alive" was made in 1993). It seems like that would have been in the news. Of course, he might have just been doing some research and have just come across the legend of Wendigo serendipitously.
Doug: We switch back to the forest, where the Wendigo is punching right through huge tree trunks. The Hulk, bounding about looking for the big white ugly, lands. Now it's game on! The Wendigo is chasing a group of loggers when Jade Jaws blasts out of the sky. Rising from the initial hit, the Wendigo stops and points at the Hulk. The Hulk then again hears a cry for help from Paul; he's confused, though, as the sound does not emanate from the beast's mouth. Well, Hulk knows no other way to help Paul than to defeat the Wendigo and drag his hide back to Marie and the other humans. As the two brutes engage each other, the Wendigo begins to howl out its name. Hulk is further puzzled (he gets that way...) as he hears Paul in his noggin again. Paul urges the Hulk to defeat the Wendigo. And then Steve Englehart just writes a great line: "Hulk sees now! Wendigo has Paul trapped inside him! Wendigo makes Paul do things Paul doesn't want to do! It hurts Paul -- and that makes Hulk mad!" All this, followed by the text box: *How ironic -- since the incredible one has never understood that his own situation has many of the same characteristics!* Great stuff.
Karen: Hulk's recognition of Paul/Wendigo's condition makes you shake your head. It's kind of heart-breaking. A nice touch by Englehart.
Doug: The Wendigo manages to get the Hulk entangled in a heavy chain. The woods beast then hoists a huge truck and crane over his head and hurls it at the Hulk... who bursts his bounds and annihilates the truck in one fell swoop. Then the major butt-kicking, clock-cleaning, you name it commences. Hulk just beats the Wendigo, and beats him again. As the Hulk's green fingers close about the giant's throat, Paul's voice is heard again, but trailing. He tells the Hulk that it's too late, that the curse has finally taken full hold. Paul fades away, and the Wendigo bursts up from the ground. The Hulk reels, and then rights himself to see the Wendigo run off into the forest. It's a somber Hulk, who knows that he failed those to whom he'd made a promise.
Karen: There's a compelling sequence of panels there, as Paul begins to fade out, and Trimpe focuses in on his eye. I thought that was well-done.
Doug: This was a really good story! I've said before that I'm certainly no Hulkophile; in fact, I'd wager that the Hulk stories we've written up for this blog are more than the number of Hulk comics I'd read at any time prior. But this one was very well-written, and Trimpe did a fine job. Aside from the fact that this tale has two monsters slugging it out, how does it qualify for our annual October Halloween reviews? Jeez -- cannibalism, possessed hunters, curses... I mean -- that's a pretty good list! I'm glad we read this one.
Karen: I'm glad you liked it. I did too. I hadn't re-read it in a very long time -maybe 25 years or more? - and I had forgotten most of it, so it was a true pleasure to rediscover it. It was a surprisingly sad story - our hero, Hulk, fails to save anyone at the end. That's 70s downerism for you! But it really was sharp and exciting. And this felt like the Hulk to me. Nuff said!