Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Radical Chic

If nothing else, "They Shoot Hulks, Don't They?", Roy Thomas's adaptation of the title of the 1935 novel "They Shoot Horses, Don't They?", will make you curious to read Horace McCoy's tale of a group of desperate dance contestants/Hollywood wannabes (or even to see the later 1969 film). (It sounds fascinating.) But as for the Hulk tale, you may end up scratching your head if you attempt to make some connection between the two. There's no real similarity between Gloria Beatty, the woman who's shot by her husband because of his likening of her to a lame horse, and any character in Thomas's story, nor does the odd collection of dance contestants resemble the pretentious group of Thomas's wealthy socialites.

That said (and it's an important point to get out of the way, right off the bat), the Hulk story is a rather fun read--and, as it notes, a sort of bookend to a similar tale of the Sub-Mariner taking over "Prison Island" in the waters off New York City (another Thomas story) and the overblown response of public opinion and intervention which pour forth as a result. In the Hulk's case, that media hornet's nest is stirred up when he seeks nothing more than a secluded spot to rest, albeit a very visible secluded spot:

Naturally, the area is cordoned off, tension mounts, and even "Thunderbolt" Ross buzzes the statue and tries to get the Hulk to leave. But all the security in place has reckoned without the Parringtons, who see in the Hulk's plight an opportunity to elevate their social status in a good faith but misguided effort to help this less fortunate creature:

The Parringtons understandably make little to no progress in relating their wishes to the Hulk. But their daughter, Samantha, has better luck:

And so the Parringtons take the next step with the Hulk, which to them makes perfect sense: holding a cocktail party/fundraiser, with the cream of society in attendance.

I don't think the Hulk is impressed.
(Which, to this crowd, is probably worse than the threat of being smashed.)

We have to swallow a little disbelief here, obviously. It would be easier to picture, say, Joe Fixit at such a party (in fact, working such a party with his characteristic arrogant style), rather than a loose cannon like the Hulk who tends to get angrily claustrophobic when surrounded by humans whom he generally mistrusts. Still, thanks to Thomas and artist Herb Trimpe, such a situation has its humorous element:

But Mr. and Mrs. Parrington have made a mistake in taking over this "project" from their daughter and excluding her, particularly when she's made it all possible. Not only does Samantha subsequently manipulate the publicity the Parringtons have so carefully cultivated, but her efforts draw the attention of the Enchantress, who's looking to take vengeance on the Avengers from an earlier defeat and decides to start with the Hulk:

Once again using the essence of the Valkyrie, this time going beyond a mere disguise, the Enchantress harnesses the bitterness of "Samantha" and sends the warrior woman to the attack:

Naturally, we're all wondering how the Valkyrie, strong as she is, has any hope of subduing the Hulk, since other Asgardians of arguably stronger stature (notably Thor and the Executioner) haven't fared well in that respect. Surely the Enchantress would take that into consideration before hatching this plan. The method which Thomas comes up with is, shall we say, questionable:

In fact, Sid Harrington, the letter writer who had such strong comments about this story's title, also chimes in on this development (if you'll pardon the borderline sexism):

"Of course, since the Hulk is immune to everything else, missiles, bombs, lasers, bullets and popcorn included, why shouldn't some girl with a spear be able to knock him out by touching him?"

Marvel's response didn't exactly put the matter to rest:

"The Hulk should be invulnerable to pressure points? If so, then why can many a big strapping male in real life be knocked out in the same way by a 90-pound, knowledgeable female?"

Er, maybe because those big strapping males you're speaking of aren't invulnerable to missiles, bombs, lasers, and bullets like the Hulk, fellas.

With the Hulk now at her mercy, the Valkyrie, at the Enchantress' direction, takes him to the top of the Empire State Building, and hurls him to his death. We would in time see the Hulk impact from greater heights with little to no harm to himself--but, with this story taking place fairly early in the Hulk's run, the Valkyrie's act is something of a cause for concern. Yet, he does indeed survive, and the time limit for the spell of the Enchantress expires--leaving not only the Valkyrie as Samantha again, but the Hulk as Bruce Banner. And with space running out, the story comes to an abrupt end, on a somewhat confusing note (perhaps for readers as well as these two):

"You--with the hair on your head..." No, I don't know where that came from, either.

All in all, a harmless Hulk story, falling outside the norm and not needing the usual tragic or ironic ending for either the Hulk or Banner, or even needing to adhere to continuity to any great degree. It's admittedly a little unusual for either the Valkyrie or the Enchantress to be involved; the Valkyrie seems ill-matched against the Hulk (though it could be said that the Enchantress is simply working with the tools she has at hand), while the Enchantress has little to no reason to go after the Hulk to settle a debt against the Avengers, since the brute has been off their radar for some time and probably doesn't even come to mind as one of their members in a formal sense. Perhaps she was simply indignant at the thought of receiving less publicity than author Tom Wolfe did in this issue, whatever his credentials in popular culture.

Yet it should ultimately fall to the Hulk to summarize the pretentiousness taking place in this story:

Incredible Hulk #142

Script: Roy Thomas
Pencils: Herb Trimpe
Inks: John Severin
Letterer: Artie Simek


B Smith said...

Well, it was virtually Roy's last issue as writer - perhaps he decided "Ah, what the hell" and decided to really indulge himself - I don't think the title relates in any way the book and film, he probably just liked the sound of it.

Dirk Zorn said...

Is it just me, or is Reggie the spitting image of Elliott Gould in that top panel pf page 15?

eddie willers said...

I can see the resemblance to Gould, but its Leonard Bernstein.