Saturday, 10 April 2010

The Rampaging Hulk #9.

Rampaging Hulk #9, The Avengers, Earl Norem
Rampaging Hulk #9. "To Avenge the Earth!"
Just like Agatha Christie, the Hulk once went missing.

Unlike Agatha Christie, he was gone for more than a week.

And, unlike Agatha Christie, he didn't go on to write a string of successful crime novels

Horses for courses.

He was gone for about eighteen months between the cancellation of issue #6 of the Incredible Hulk and issue #60 of Tales to Astonish. Was he on the booze? Was he living it up in Las Vegas? Was he the secret fifth member of the Beatles? When the Rampaging Hulk was launched in the late 1970s, we finally found out.

He'd been fighting aliens.

He'd not been fighting good aliens. He'd been fighting the Krylorians, a bunch of UFOnauts who made the Toad Men look like the Celestials. Why the decision was made to make them the recurring villains of an entire series was anyone's guess but it seemed like Marvel were out to make things difficult for themselves from the start when it came to the Hulk's very own black and white mag-format.

But one of the strengths of Marvel's black and white titles was their use of painted covers and here we get a prime example as Earl Norem gives us the original Avengers carrying the Hulk in what appears to be a huge block of ice through a sun-baked desert that, judging by the Northern Lights in the sky, is at the North Pole. I don't have a clue what's supposed to be going on here and it seems to have only a tenuous relation to what happens inside but it's still a great image.

Sadly, once inside it all starts to go a bit wrong.

Rampaging Hulk #9, Sal Buscema, the Kryloreans
Yes. A Krylorian. What an idiot.
The story's drawn by Sal Buscema. And it's well drawn by Sal Buscema. He's got his best story-telling head on and does it all with considerable style. The only problem is I always felt the black and white mags worked best when the art was a wild departure from what we were used to in the colour monthlies.

Who can forget Alfredo Alcala's inking over John Buscema's pencils in the Savage Sword of Conan? Sal Buscema's art, while excellent on this tale, is too similar to what we'd get in a monthly Hulk comic of the late 1970s to justify this mag's existence as a separate entity from those tales.

The story is that a Krylorian's been impersonating the Hulk, and now the heroes who'd later become the Avengers have come together to fight the real Hulk. It's fun to see the Avengers before they became the Avengers - especially seeing Ant Man bringing down the Hulk in a way you know just wouldn't work - but, it's still got that problem; the Krylorians are so lame they drag the story down whenever they appear.

Rampaging Hulk #9, Shanna the She-Devil
But if the main story's a bit of lightweight fluff, the back-up strip's positively disastrous. Like the early Hulk, Shanna the She-Devil had her own comic. Like the Hulk's, it folded. Like the Hulk, now she was back.

Is it a happy return?

No.

It stinks. It's a terrible and frankly repellent story where Shanna strips down to a costume that seems to have been bought from wherever it is Vampirella gets her outfits, writhes around on the floor with a python, writhes around chained to an altar then gets her snake to eat the bad guy while she gloats, like a psycho, at his death.

There are times, when you watch something like Life on Mars and wonder if the world really was as different a place back in the 1970s as they claim it was. And then you read something like this and realise that, yes, it was.

The thing's beautifully drawn by Tony DeZuniga but it's positively unpleasant to read and it's a shame that a strip that was launched as part of a wave of  new heroines meant to attract girls into reading comics ended up as a piece of pure sexploitation virtually guaranteed to make sure that any girl who read the thing would never dare open a comic again.

4 comments:

Marc said...

Really interesting. I haven't read Marvel's B&W magazines from the '70s, so I've always wondered if there was enough difference in content to justify Marvel publishing them. It sounds like that wasn't the case with this one, but I'm guessing some of the others made good use of the different format?

Steve W. said...

I'd say the early "Savage Sword of Conan" ones make the best use of the format. As I mentioned above, they're worth checking out if only for Alfredo Alcala's inking of John Buscema's pencils. Apparently Buscema hated Alcala's inks because you can barely see anything of Buscema's own style through them but the simple truth is the end product is luscious. They also have various articles and features that you wouldn't have got in the monthly "Conan the Barbarian" comics - not to mention the oil painted covers of Boris Vallejo.

tharg said...

I dimly seem to remember this as "Rampage" and it was a monthly title.

I do remember the artwork was of a very high quality though.

As for other B&W mags - "Savage Sword of Conan" is probably my favourite publication of all so more blogs on this please ;-)

Steve W. said...

Yep. "Rampage" was Marvel UK's equivalent to "The Rampaging Hulk" and, as well as the Hulk stories, it also featured the X-Men and The Defenders.

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