Friday, June 27, 2014

To Rise A Hero!

When Marvel plucked Doc Samson out of obscurity and gave him back his fighting togs, the good doctor couldn't have been more pleased at another chance to go up against the incredible Hulk, in the still-mistaken belief that he was the monster's match. But after a roundhouse left to the jaw ended their rematch and sent Samson crashing into a crater, that delusion, like Samson, took one heck of a beating. You can guess what kind of mood he was in upon his return to what would soon be rechristened "Gamma Base":

If you're thinking that Samson has perhaps done an about-face since that fight, in terms of his motivation to seek out the Hulk, you could be right. Maybe all it took was a second thrashing from the Hulk to get this guy to take a different direction in his life as "Doc Samson." His goal this time around was originally to bring the Hulk back to base in order to have Bruce Banner there to assist in a procedure that would lead to the recovery of Glenn Talbot; yet, just as in their first battle, Samson's ego took over, choosing instead to regard his encounter with the Hulk as another opportunity to prove himself. And the proof, as they say, was in the pudding--or, in this case, the crater.

And so, now, with Talbot still needing his help, Samson seems ready to focus on the greater good, and apply his abilities as less of a one-man show. Though there's one other factor in play for him--his feelings for Talbot's wife, the erstwhile Betty Ross:

So even if Samson still has some things to learn about keeping his eye on the ball, we'll see in this next fight with the Hulk that, while Samson's ego still remains intact, he's at least able to keep it in check. Nor does he really need to be a one-man army, when he's brought one with him:

If you wince at Samson's super-hero name like I do, it's hard to regard Samson in the same awe that his covers usually do, when he's hampered by a handle like "Doc Samson." I honestly don't know what Roy Thomas was thinking when he gave this character such a name--its first half virtually cancels out the dramatic impact of its second. Perhaps he didn't simply want to go with "Samson," since there was already a Hercules--adding a "Samson" to the Marvel mix would have been a little too obvious. But what does "Doc Samson" inspire in you when it's announced? Wouldn't it be the same odd mix if we called him Plumber Samson? Dentist Samson? When you need a hero out of the phone book, would your finger pause on someone named, for instance, "Doc Savage" as a possible choice? Of course not--you'd go "What th...?" and move on.

But what's done is done, and our boy is Doc Samson for good. Fortunately, even if there's no one else around to herald him, he's more than happy to do it himself:

This time, Samson is all teamwork. Mainly, he's getting the Hulk in position for SHIELD's offensive:

Of course, as much as I like the cockiness of Clay Quartermain, he's no Nick Fury--and when it comes to the Hulk, SHIELD ordnance isn't going to win the day on its own. And so, when the Hulk is on the verge of escaping, Samson realizes that this is also Talbot's last chance leaping away, and once more enters the fray to contain the Hulk in order to give Quartermain the chance he needs.

Samson drops like a safe, which only again makes crystal clear the fact that he falls a little short when it comes to matching the Hulk. But it also makes something else clear. The old Samson might well have insisted on slugging it out with the Hulk and telling Quartermain's men to stay clear; instead, he thinks of the mission, and makes sure that Quartermain follows through, even though he's in the line of fire with the Hulk. It's a welcome turning point for the character.

As for the Hulk, he's not going to be on his feet long enough to loudly declare his victory over Samson like the last time. Though obviously he wants to:

Would it make him feel better to know that his defeat might mean saving a life? Probably not. But the other knows it--and he'll be the only one of these two awakening to discover he's finally become the hero he wanted to be.

Incredible Hulk #199

Script: Len Wein
Pencils: Sal Buscema
Inks: Joe Staton
Letterer: Irv Watanabe


Murray said...

I think you may be on your own with your objections to "Doc Samson" as a name. Starting with your own reference to Doc Savage, you've got quite a list of "Docs" and "Doctors" to go thru. Strange, Doom, Druid...well, I don't need to list them for a fan of your caliber. If you'll note, in each case that is their real name. What is odd is that these chaps didn't bother for a second to come up with a superhero handle. They're all just lucky their names weren't "Liebowitz" or "Jones". Those wouldn't sound too dramatic while leaping into a fight.

To me, the name hits the right note immediately. In looking thru this rather startling phone book of yours, I'd stop at "Doc Samson" rather than "Hercules" or "The Thing" because it indicates both muscle and brains at one stroke.

I wish they hadn't killed the character. I liked his guest appearances, as a rule.

Comicsfan said...

Murray, that's a fair point about our good Doctors not bothering with a "super-hero" name; on the other hand, it gives the illusion that they made a conscious choice to use their "real" name for dramatic emphasis, when in actuality their "hero names" were well-chosen for them by their comics creators. It's not that they didn't bother--it's just that they didn't need to bother. I also must add that these gentlemen never gave the slightest thought to shortening "Doctor" to "Doc"; in fact, if you'll take a look at Fantastic Four #100, page 4, panels 5-6, you'll see one of them state his position on the matter in no uncertain terms.

Murray said...

That panel is a good one.

And if Doom thinks that chiding will do anything but have Ben Grimm use "Doc" even more often, he's not as bright as he wants us to think.

There was a long stretch of time when a citizen of Marvel Earth (616) had to be very name-conscious. Wary and fearful or eager and excited, as to individual quirk. Anyone with a noun/verb for a last name (Samson, Doom, Storm, Grimm, Fury, etc) or a name that alliterates (Peter Parker, Reed Richards, Bruce Banner, etc) never knew if an Origin awaited them around the next corner...