Monday, October 7, 2013

Heroes and Horrors: Incredible Hulk 162


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!

18 comments:

Anthony said...

Actually Jarella didn't die until Incredible Hulk 205. She was a victim of the Hulk's battle with an old Thor foe the Crypto-Man.

Edo Bosnar said...

I definitely agree with Karen about Trapani's inks on Trimpe's pencils here: it looks really nice; I would say he adds more than just crispness, there also seems to be an added texture, if that makes sense.

And having grown up in Oregon, I have to say (as I probably have before) that I remember the Bigfoot/Sasquatch craze of the '70s quite well. Back then I was convinced he existed, and possibly hung out in the forest across the road from our house.

MattComix said...

Having the cannibalism aspect to the story is shocking but can you imagine if this story were being handled today? They wouldn't have handled that with nearly the subtlety or the class. Guaranteed there would just have to be a large panel showing Paul eating flesh from the body totally on camera and with full-on gore. Here, the idea conveyed in dialog is more than enough.

..and if it were a modern DC book the cannibalism aspect would have been turned into the whole damn story 100% Didio approved.

david_b said...

Great review, nice Hulk characterzation done.

Never been a big Hulkster myself (outside of the Defenders appearances), but I KNOW EXACTLY how you feel Doug. I was on a big Pym kick collecting vintage TOA (still pickin' up later Hulk/Subby Silver issues..), then Steranko and Smith Silver issues, lately it's been Silver/Bronze pre-Miller DD all this last year.

One my first issues was Hulk 114, my Dad bought hot off the stands in '69 with Trimpe/Adkins interiors, just splendid art, so I collected a half-dozen before and after that particular issue years later.

You all know my love affair with spectacular Silver Age covers (both DC and Marvel) so I HAD to finally grab that spectacular Steranko/Marie Severin Kingsize Hulk #1. FEW covers really reflect Hulks primal rage like that one, majestically depicted.

themiddlespaces said...

Doug, I am only allowing you three more instances saying some variation of "I am not a big Hulk-o-phile, but. . ." before I insist you just call yourself a "Hulk-o-phile." ;)

Doug said...

I have to tell you, Osvaldo -- I'm becoming a convert to these early Bronze Age tales. We've reviewed some Hulks from a bit later and I wasn't as warm to them (despite Sal Buscema's art). There's a certain charm to these older stories, and the art really fits them!

Doug

Steve Does Comics said...

I love it. I do genuinely believe there wasn't a bad Hulk story from this time period. And there were a whole bunch (the 1st Glob, 2nd Valkyrie, Captain Omen, Mogol, 1st Doc Samson, Draxon the Dictator, Captain Axis, Umbu, Xeron, Island of Giant Monsters, etc) that were out-and-out classics.

Teresa said...

I'm right there with you, Ed. I am born and raised in Oregon. I was a little kid during the Bigfoot craze. We had thick woods behind our house. We thought that every Bigfoot re-enactment or grainy film footage looked exactly like our back yard woods. The possibility of Bigfoot scared me. Logically, my brother and I assumed every night time *crash* in the woods was Bigfoot.
The Six Million Dollar Man did NOT help alleviate that fear.

Humanbelly said...

Oh, you guys’re KILLIN’ me-!
Incredibly busy, high-pressure day at work (successfully navigated, happy to say), and that’s the day you’re gonna review Hulk #162?? Let me just prop my creaky, aching body up on a couple of pillows on the couch, here, and see if I can string together a few coherent thoughts, eh?

First of all—a big shout-out to Steve (who does comics) for making the exact statement that I had intended to make in my previous long Hulk post, but decided against, as I’d already talked for so long. Starting with issue #109 through about #192 or so, there just weren’t many bad issues at all. Sure, there were issues with flaws, and different aspects of the storytelling and art could go up and down, but I think Trimpe’s unique visual storytelling style quietly brought out the best in a lot of Marvel’s writers. I second every story Steve mentioned (and may be the only other person alive who knows of and cherishes the Draxon the Dictator/Golem two-parter), and would add Shanghaied in Space (#111); the entire original Jarella mini-saga (sporadically from issues 140 to 156); reluctant battle w/ the Rhino & the Abomination (#171). Herb started to run out of steam around the mid 180’s, but could still tell a solid visual story.

This story was a grabber for my pal Bryan & I right in the midst of an already-great run. This was a cool (and gruesome) take on the Bigfoot/Sasquatch craze that was in full flail at the time (kids in my little southwestern Michigan town had also, of course, convinced themselves that there was one haunting some of our local woods), but it was exotic enough to not seem hackneyed or corny. And again w/ Herb. . . while he’s not technically the best artist, I absolutely love his art on this book. On the rare occasions when another artist filled in for him, the book simply lost all its heart and warmth—it didn’t seem like the “real” Hulk. And I have to say that, while the Trimpe/Severin team is seen as the artistic A-Team for the title, I’ve come around to understanding the criticism that it tended to look ‘way too much like “Severin” w/ far too little “Trimpe”. Sal Trapani has grown on me immensely over the years, as he was able to clean up and improve some of Herb’s weaknesses, and yet keep it clearly looking like Herb’s pencils. . . bringing out his best. IIRC, Sal was the inker for most of the Jarella tales that were told on her little K’ai homeworld, and the two of them created a wonderful, lush little gem of a fantasy planet.

Ah, but I continue to digress. So. . . I love the art. And I echo what has already been said about Englehart’s story & script. There seems to be a sense of freedom that this book gave to its writers. . . SO many stories are off-beat. . . so many are surprisingly introspective. . . so many of them do seem to want to get a larger message across, and to do it in a poignant manner. Some of it would now come across as a bit contrived, perhaps, or self-aware, but at the time, for us, it provided deeper food for thought than our goobery 11 or 12 year old brains usually tried to digest.

And right there was the first moment of true horror I remembered reading in a comic book: “I awoke to find that Paul. . . Paul was. . . eating. . . “ Good lord. My pal and I would read these out loud to each other, and I remember gasping, and we BOTH had goosebumps. I think we went back and read that page to each other about five times, just to keep refreshing that shivering thrill. This is the moment that I referred to in my earlier post. Just a guy recounting his story, and the only visual is the horrified reaction of one of the listeners. And it was enough to remain cemented in memory ever since. Geeze, that’s great stuff.

HB

Fred W. Hill said...

Alas, I missed this particular issue but I remember reading comments about it in Greenskins Grab Bag in subsequent issues, referencing that line, "Paul was eating ...." Man, at the time I really wanted that issue! I might yet get it, or at least one of the Essential collections with it.
BTW, I happened to live in Utah when this issue came out (my family was there from 1972 through 1974, when we moved to San Francisco. Anyhow, during one of the summer Navy Recruitment Office campouts, my brother Terry, 10 at the time, and another kid came running into camp yelling that they'd seen a bigfoot -- making a big impression on the younger kids, like our 5 year old brother Donnie. A couple of months ago, at one of our rare family gatherings, that topic came up and Terry finally admitted that it was a joke, purposely meant to scare the tykes! None of us older kids or the adults took them seriously, though we thought maybe they'd seen a bear standing up.
Back to this issue, it strikes me that this is one of the few times that anyone brought any elements of true horror in a Silver or Bronze Age Hulk tale, which is a bit odd when you consider that the Hulk is essentially a monster, albeit one capable of tenderness as well as havoc depending on his mood or his perception of events. Even given the subtle handling of the cannibalism aspect of the story by Englehart & Trimpe, I suspect this tale would not have gotten past the code (or Stan's cautious editing) just 5 years previously. A planet-eating demi-god was ok but not someone in either human or monster guise eating another human! And Paul's fate, and thinking about what he had already done and would continue to do, is the stuff of pure horror, making this yet another marker of the darker tone of the Bronze Age.

Humanbelly said...

About a year before this issue, Fred, was "When Monsters Meet"-- issue #151, by Archie Goodwin-- and I think it could be considered a pre-curser to the darker tone you refer to. It's certainly a horror story, also, in that the protagonist mutates into a sprawling, caustic, cancerous slime creature. It's one of the few times I can remember in the early bronze (late silver?) that an incidental character who didn't deserve it is callously killed. And it really does read as a horror tale rather than a superhero one. (Another one my buddy and I squirmed at, in fact. . . "Senator. . . your hand. . . ")

HB

Anonymous said...

Wen-Di-Go!

Now this is a great Hulk story! As I noted in an earlier post, the best Hulk stories always played up the tragic nature of ol' Greenskin. Englehart shines here because he gives us a tale of two monsters, both more alike than each would care to admit. Hulk's realization of Paul Cartier trapped inside the Wendigo monster and the irony of that realization really makes this a gem. Yes, I also loved how the cannibalism aspect was handled here. Trimpe really uses artistic subtlety to convey the horror of cannibalism, not by explicitly showing Paul eating flesh, but simply by showing the shocked expression on a man's face. That expression says it all. Great stuff.

The Wendigo and Hulk share many parallels, not only both being monsters, but both of them have a human persona trapped inside of them; in the Wendigo's case, it's all the more tragic because the human persona gradually fades into nothingness, leaving just the mindless Wendigo.

And to think I first saw the Hulk vs Wendigo clash in one of those ubiquitous Hostess Twinkies ads (drawn by John Romita Sr if I recall correctly)!



- Mike 'gonna eat some flesh now- relax, it's only ham!' from Trinidad & Tobago.

Edo Bosnar said...

Teresa - yes, I think pretty much every kid growing up in the Pacific Northwest (and Northern California for that matter) back in the '70s has similar memories of Bigfoot-mania. And yes, that 6 Million Dollar Man episode scared the daylights out of me when I first saw it.

Humanbelly said...

*tsk*
"antogonist" in my earlier reply, not "protagonist". Goodness.

David_b, I meant to say that you picked another particularly good run of the book, there, on either side of #114. I would think issue #118, in fact, would be a particular favorite of yours (vs. Subby; fantastic cover).

HB

HB

david_b said...

Yes, HB, I've collected all those covers. The awesome use of those dark greens and purples are beautiful to behold..

Ish's 104, 121 and 123 spring to my mind as my personal favs.

"C'mon, you proud Hulk-o-philes, come out of the closet and UNITE..!!"

Karen said...

I'm glad everyone has enjoyed the recent Hulk reviews, and since Doug and I enjoyed doing them, I think you'll see more of old Greenskin in the future, but probably not til 2014, as we do have the rest of this year scheduled out.

In the meantime, since a number of you had some fond (?) memories of Bigfoot, I've scheduled a post in a couple weeks to discuss all things Sasquatchian! Be ready!

Fred W. Hill said...

Ah, HB, I hadn't even heard of that particular story before but definitely sounds like another one worth checking out. I've looked up more details on it and it appears Goodwin & Englehart were on the same horror vibe, just different variations. And Goodwin's was not too long after the CCA loosened its restrictions a bit.

NINE9INCHE STUD said...

before this story,i never heard of the Wendigo.It was my introduction to them.I loved this story-still do.I like the way the Hulk sought out the voice,not knowing it was the person inside the Wendigo,losing his humanity.I was,dissappointed to find the legend of the Wendigo wasn't like the Marvel version.

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