Those of an observant nature will know that Christmas was an exciting time for me.
When I say, "Observant," I mean, "Fixated," and, "Prone to stalking," as only such people would know I spent the Festive Season braving the wilds of Devon.
American visitors to this blog will of course not know the dread reputation Devon has amongst the God-fearing folk of England. What savage terrors I encountered there as I was forced to battle manfully with various wild animals for supremacy.
Needless to say, I was triumphant, managed to get the blanket off the cats on more than one occasion, avoided tripping over a dog and lived to tell the tale.
But who else could have managed such a feat?
Only one man could.
And that man is Ka-Zar: king of the Savage Land.
And so it was that, as I roamed, bare-chested, the fields of Devon, people would often say to me, "Steve, having someone of your fame in our little county's quite an honour but when did you first encounter the loin-clothed loiterer on whom you've clearly based your survival skills?"
And the truth is it was in Mighty World of Marvel #61.
Hulk #109 features one of my fave Hulk tales, as the green skinned stirrer lands in the Savage Land and proceeds to make a nuisance of himself before saving the world from a machine that can make it rain a lot.
First of all, of course, he has to fight Ka-Zar.
Frankly, against such opposition, Ka-Zar's totally outclassed.
When I first read the tale, knowing nothing of the character, it didn't strike me just how outclassed he really is but he and Zabu are soon dispatched by the Hulk and left to the tender mercies of the Swamp Men who're in the mood to set light to them.
Frankly that's the least of their worries because it seems some naughty aliens have planted a doomsday machine in the Savage Land and it's in full swing.
What can even the Hulk do to stop such carnage?
It turns out he can't do anything but Bruce Banner can and Bruce battles to sort things out, as a giant robot stomps the land.
It's not hard to see just what the appeal of the tale is. The mixture of the Hulk, prehistoric creatures, jungles, aliens, Tarzan clones and giant robots is a heady and evocative mix. Not only did the tale introduce me to Ka-Zar and Zabu but it introduced me to the Savage Land itself - and Umbu the giant four-armed alien statue with a killer tuning fork.
Herb Trimpe had been drawing the strip for a few issues when this tale started but, for me, this was the tale where he really arrived, his partnership with John Severin hitting its stride to take the title to heights it had rarely even aspired to before but rarely fell from from that moment on.
Within mere weeks, the Hulk would be in outer space battling a giant mouth in space, Betty Ross would be made of glass, the Leader would be back and the strip would exert a grip on me that, even all this time later, those tales still hold. It's not often you can view an individual issue as pivotal in a strip's history but I reckon The Incredible Hulk #109 is more than worthy of that description.
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