Thursday, November 1, 2012

Stop The World, I Want To Get Off

Back in the Hulk's early days in the Tales To Astonish book (or, rather, in half of the book--sharing the other half with the Sub-Mariner), the Army was hounding him on a regular basis after he'd battled the Abomination at a military base and then escaped. Things were made worse for the Hulk by the fact that his dual identity as Bruce Banner was now known by everyone, which meant that a manhunt for the Hulk also included a hunt for Banner.

When things reached a fever pitch, the Hulk wondered aloud about being able to leave Earth and find refuge in the stars. Of course, since the character had only half a book to tell a story, it would be at that moment that the Hulk spotted a UFO. Being the Hulk, with the Hulk's primitive reasoning faculties, he decided to seize the opportunity to escape his persecution on Earth and acted on what seemed a sensible decision: he leaped into the sky to try and hitch a ride.

To his shock, his ride rebuffed him and sent him crashing back to the ground. And when he shook off the dust, and angrily vowed to retaliate, this is what he found he'd snagged:

This would be the first meeting between the Hulk and the Silver Surfer. But if you take a look at the issue's cover, you'll get a sense that there's much more to the issue than the battle royale you're gearing up to read:

As far as its ties to the story are concerned, what's going on in the cover illustration is related to a scene where the Surfer is rescuing the Hulk from a confrontation with the police, who are using flame throwers to form a roof of fire to try to prevent the Hulk's escape. But as I see it, it also represents the theme of the story--the Hulk's wish for the Surfer to transport him to the stars. It's an excellent representation drawn by the story's artist, Marie Severin, who later went on to be the Hulk's regular artist when the Hulk got his own book with Incredible Hulk #102 (a strange issue number to begin a series with, yes--but if you're curious, this separate post has a more in-depth exploration of the Hulk's odd publication history). Severin had an excellent run as an artist, drawing both the Hulk and the Sub-Mariner (as well as many other characters) during her tenure at Marvel. She has an interesting take on the Surfer here, drawing him much as artist John Buscema portrayed him in the first few issues of the first Silver Surfer series--tall and broad-shouldered, deviating from the very average-sized figure portrayed by Jack Kirby.

In this initial confrontation, the Hulk's anger with the Surfer isn't exactly going to win him any sympathy points in terms of his desire to leave Earth. For in his current state of mind, the Hulk is more likely to try to force the Surfer to comply with his demands. That proves to be a mistake. The Surfer has yet to have his encounter with the Sonic Shark, and this meeting with the Hulk still finds him at the peak of his power:

(No, I don't know what makes a force field "sky-born," either. Looks to me like it came from his arm.)

Yet, even after explaining his forced exile on Earth, the Surfer finds his words have fallen on deaf ears, as the Hulk continues to take a "do what I want OR ELSE" approach:

It's after this exchange that the Surfer knocks the Hulk on his ass and decides to just leave the scene. But from his vantage point above, when he sees how the Hulk is being hounded by the authorities, he takes pity on the brute and pulls him from danger. The Hulk, misunderstanding the gesture, thinks the Surfer has changed his mind and will now take him into space. But when the Surfer again explains he's unable to do so, the Hulk calls him a liar and decides that the board is all he really needs:

It doesn't take long for the Surfer to reclaim his board and, his patience now exceeded, he puts the Hulk down for the count. But once that's done, he takes the opportunity to use his power to probe the Hulk's mind and learn more about his origin. And afterward, he reaches a decision:

In a much later issue of Incredible Hulk (#250), we see this scenario carried out successfully (albeit not permanently). Yet here, fate proves to be a more powerful force than even the Surfer can challenge:

The Surfer, of course, has finally had enough of the Hulk's brutality and idiocy, and flies off--as usual, swearing to have nothing more to do with humans. (Yeah, good luck with that.) As for the Hulk, he gets his ride into space after all, thanks to the High Evolutionary. But he would unfortunately find no respite there from the conflict that would define his existence.


Super-Duper ToyBox said...

the Illuminati chucked Hulk out of the galaxy too :D I love the artwork here

Comicsfan said...

Yes, Severin turns in some very good work on this story. I'm not a huge fan of her artwork, but she made a nice impact at Marvel.

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