Sunday 20 May 2012

Incredible Hulk #5 - Tyrannus.

Incredible Hulk #5, the Hulk crashes through a wall, on his way to a confrontation with Tyrannus
As I prowl the storm drains of Sheffield, people often say to me, "Steve, I always find you to be a winning combination of Alexander the Great and John Hurt's Caligula. Is that an effect that comes naturally to you, or have you had to work at it?"

I always reply, "Much as I'd like to claim it's all spontaneous, I do have a role model."

That role model is Tyrannus, malevolent master of an underworld kingdom I first encountered in The Mighty World of Marvel's reprint of Incredible Hulk #5.

I knew at once that Tyrannus was my kind of villain, possessed as he was of far more style than the Mole Man could ever hope to match.

What happens in his first appearance is that, like all good underground villains, he wants to invade the surface world.

Sadly, he's scared the surface world'll fight back.

So, posing as an archaeologist, he kidnaps Betty Ross, on the grounds that we'll never dare resist invasion if there's the danger she might get hurt.

Yes, that's how wars work. One side won't bother to defend itself if its attacker has a hostage - especially one no one's ever heard of. With tactical chops like that, all of a sudden I'm starting to see why Tyrannus always loses to the Mole Man.

Needless to say, the Hulk's determined to put a stop to all this subterranean subterfuge.

But it's a different Hulk than the one we're used to. There's none of that, "Why does pretty deer not like Hulk?" nonsense. It's more a case of, "Clam up, Bambi, or you'll get a slap." Still floundering around to try and work out how to make the strip work, Stan Lee's clearly decided to make the Hulk more like the Fantastic Four's early Thing. So we get him running around in swimming trunks, talking in slang and being noticeably anti-social. And, even though he's no Reed Richards, in his exchanges with Rick Jones and Betty Ross, it quickly becomes clear that he's somehow the brains of the trio.

I've always had a soft spot for this story. For all his stupidity, Tyrannus is my kind of villain, and I do like the stroppy Hulk. I also like the way he does a Samson and brings the pillars of Tyrannus' kingdom crashing down on him. I remember copying that scene with my pencil and paper on more than one occasion as a child.

One thing that does strike me is there's a scene where Rick Jones, for once in the tale, shows some gumption and rescues Betty from her cell by putting on a guard's armour and releasing her, a scene that bears a remarkable resemblance to the one in Star Wars where Luke Skywalker does the same to rescue his snog-buddy/sister Princess Leia.

But that could never be, could it? George Lucas borrowing from Marvel Comics?


Boston Bill said...

I got a paperback of the first 6 Hulk issues in my early teens. I really preferred the 'Hulk will smash' version, and his villains were preferably fellow brutes.

But something about this story worked. It helped that Stan and Jack stretched it out to issue length (issues 3 & 4 had two stories each). I guess they threw in so many ideas, it entertained, even if it didn't quite work.

I counted this as the 3rd incarnation of the Hulk. There was the evil nocturnal one; the robot like one who obeyed Rick Jones (so long as Rick stayed awake); and the Thing-alike. It wasn't until Ditko took over that he became the Greenskin I loved so!

Anonymous said...

I remember this story from when it was reprinted in Marvel Collector's Item Classics #6. That same issue reprinted Tales of Suspense #43, in which Iron Man fought Kala, Queen of the Underworld. Marvel had so many "invasion from the underground kingdom" plots that they could reprint two with different villains in the same issue without including the Mole Man. The early "thug Hulk" had Banner's IQ, but not his manners. Odd to see the Hulk as the brains of the outfit, but then, Rick and Betty didn't exactly set the bar very high.

Kid said...

I first read this tale in an issue of Smash! Read it again in MCIC, then in MWOM, and again in the 1973 Marvel Annual. Still think it's one of the best.