Kobra #1: Kirby’s DC leftovers, but great pulpy fun!

Behold!

Bronze age

Kobra # 1, March 1976 (remember the cover date of comics is about three months ahead of the actual publication date, blah blah blah…)

“Fangs of the Kobra” written by Martin Pasko and Jack Kirby, art by Kirby and Pablo Marcus. Editor: Gerry Conway, Inkers: D. Bruce Berry and Pablo Marcos, Colorist: Carl Gafford, Letterer: Ben Oda

Cover by: Ernie Chua (Chan)

Synopsis: (why type it all out when someone else has done it for me?)

(the following paragraph courtesy of ReadComicsOnline):

Deep beneath the streets of Manhattan, assassin-for-hire, Horst Buchner, along with two associates, are ushered through secret tunnels, to keep a prearranged rendezvous with Kobra. At the first sign of insult, Buchner’s men draw on Kobra. Put off by Kobra’s arrogance, Buchner declines his offer of employment, deciding, instead, to rob Kobra of several intriguing artifacts. Still held at gunpoint, Kobra leads Buchner and his gunsels into another chamber, one that holds Kobra’s most unique artifact, the Ovoid. Within the confines of the still shimmering meteoroid, Kobra reveals an enormous alien robot, he calls the Servitor. At Kobra’s command, the Servitor steps forward, then murders Horst and his associates, pummeling them to death with its giant metal fists. Sensing that his brother, Jason Burr, is soon to learn of Kobra’s existence, and whereabouts, Kobra sends the Servitor up to the streets, on a mission to slay Burr. The Servitor leaves a swath of destruction in its path, as it makes its way to Columbia university. Despite opposition from New York’s finest, the Servitor moves inexorably to the student union building. Inside, Lieutenant Perez is interviewing Jason Burr. Just as Perez is about to reveal to Burr the existence and identity of his brother, the Servitor crashes through the wall. Lifting Burr up in one of its gargantuan hands, the Servitor, at Kobra’s command, begins crushing him. Suddenly, Kobra, too, feels the crushing force of the Servitor’s grip compressing his own chest. Realizing that he and Burr share a sympathetic bond, Kobra orders the Servitor to release him. The countermand causes the Servitor to self-destruct…

Jason meets Lt. Perez who tells Jason the secret origin of Kobra …

(from Wikipedia): (Kobra) “… was born part of a set of Siamese twins, but was stolen at birth by the Cult of the Kobra god, since a prophecy claimed he would lead them to rule the world. Under their teaching, he became a dangerous warrior and a sadistic criminal mastermind. He led the cult into using advanced technology to menace the world.  … However, unknown to the cult, he had a psychic link to his twin brother, Jason, who knew nothing of Kobra. As a result, one felt what the other felt, including pain. Because of this, his brother was recruited by an international agency to help them combat Kobra.”

Perez convinces Jason to injure himself (holding his hand over a candle flame. Kobra cannot stand the pain any further and confronts Jason for the first time). Perez and his men try to capture Kobra, who slithers through their trap. The police shoot at the terrorist. “No guns!” shouts Jason to no avail. Were they trying to kill Kobra? IF they do, he will be collateral damage! Kobra escapes unharmed …

***

(from Wikipedia):

(Kobra was) “… created by Jack Kirby for a proposed DC Comics series called King Kobra, the first issue of which was both written and drawn by Kirby (the letter column discussed Infantino and Kirby wanting to do a take on the Corsican Brothers). This first issue then sat in DC inventory for over a year, during which time Kirby left the publisher to return to Marvel Comics.  Eventually the concept was handed over to writer Martin Pasko with orders to make a series out of it. Pasko was unimpressed with King Kobra, feeling it to be a throwaway idea churned out by Kirby as he was preparing to leave DC, and tried to make the best of the assignment by whiting out all of Kirby’s original dialogue, rescripting the issue, and having Pablo Marcos redraw some of the art (and re-)titled simply Kobra. … Pasko later reflected, “I wrote all of Kobra with my tongue firmly planted in my cheek—it was a preposterous exercise dumped in my lap, and it helped pay the rent on a very nice place in the Village.”

Dumped? Even the letter column introducing the comic said the title was “thrown” into Conway’s Corner. It seemed no in at DC gave much of a damn about the comic.

Pasko was correct about this preposterous exercise, but THIS pre-teen loved every issue of it! I still have every issue of the original run. The comic is great fun straight from the pulps – not a caped crime-fighter in sight! It was akin to Dr. Yen Sin or the Mysterious Wu Fang.  DC did something it did not do often – it took a chance! An unknown villain in the lead and an unknown cast! Very shortly it would launch another villain-led comic: the beloved Secret Society of Super-Villains, firmly entrenched in the DC’s superhero world.

Kirby’s art by the mid-1970s was an acquired taste: exaggerated physiologies, gaping mouths, fingers the size of Snickers bars, women whose eyes were set below the center horizontal line of their faces, etc. Marcos did his best redrawing Jason and Perez, but the redo was glaring and obvious. I would have loved cringing at Kirby’s original dialogue, but Pasko did a fine rewrite with what he had (I kept expecting one of the Cobra Cult to say, in Kirby’s typical expositional shorthanded way, “We must obey!”).

Not an auspicious beginning to only the second DC title to headline a villain (The Joker was first by less than a year). Villains starring in comics was a rarity (and was to remain so for the next several years – nowadays it is somewhat common): the Golden Age had its Yellow Claw and the Sub-Mariner (who was more of an anti-hero than an outright villain). The Silver Age, with its Comics Code, was more cautious about villain-led features. Even the House of Ideas itself – Marvel in the Silver Age – only gave Doctor Doom the lead in an anthology without giving him his own title.

The comic got better in later issues … much better …

***

 About the author: Michael Curry is the author of the Brave & Bold: From Silent Knight to Dark Knight, The Day John F Kennedy Met the Beatles and the award-winning Abby’s Road, the Long and Winding Road to Adoption and How Facebook, Aquaman and Theodore Roosevelt Helped.  Check his website for more releases! Thanks for reading!

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Adventure Comics #425: a new, less super direction…

Behold!

Bronze age

Adventure Comics #425. January 1973.

Joe Orlando: editor. Mike Kaluta: cover artist.

***

“The Wings of Jealous Gods”

Writer: Lynn Marron; Penciler/Inker/Letterer: Alex Toth

Rodeo showman Chad L. Hammond is in the Himalayas, where he hears rumors of “hawkhorses”. His guides say they are a myth, but he wants to hunt them anyway! In a snow-less grassy valley, he captures a foal and kills its winged mother. His guides accuse him of killing a sacred god and desert him.

While descending with the foal, he is attacked by pegusi, but managed to take the foal (now named “Cloud”) to the US and enters her into the racing circuit until its wings sprout. It wins, often, making Hammond a rich man.

Cloud’s wings begin to grow much to Hammond’s ire – he can’t race it if it has wings! He orders the wings removed. Cloud’s handler (who came with Hammond from the Himalayas) tries to stop Hammond but is killed for his concern over the sacred animal. Hammond sets the barn on fire – hiding the evidence of his murder.

After Cloud’s wings sprouted, Hammond rides the skies – only to be held hostage as Cloud joins the white Pegasus. They make it back to the sacred mountain and drop Hammond into a nest of hungry, sharp-toothed foals!

***

“Prior Warning” Writer: unknown. Penciler/Inker/Letterer: Frank Redondo

Aliens come to earth claiming to be peaceful. They think they are tricking the earthlings and actually plan to attack. But earth attacks them first and drive them off! The aliens have no idea what made the earthlings know they were, in fact, aggressors. Maybe the fact they dressed like Nazis and their leader is a dead ringer for Hitler!

***

“Sword of the Dead” Writer/ Penciler/Inker/Letterer: Gil Kane

Evlig, the renegade knight, slaughters a woman and her children, not knowing it was the family of John the Gaunt, retired champion of the kingdom. John comes out of retirement to hunt down the killer and both fight to the death … and beyond!

***

“Captain Fear”

Writer: Robert Kanigher; Penciler/Inker/Letterer: Alex Nino

A native Carib tribe in Haiti are attacked by Spaniards in search of slaves. Fero, the son of the chief, and others are captured and put to work in the mines. They revolt and escape in a Spanish ship; only to have the ship destroyed in a storm.

Rescued by other pirates, Fero fights for the command of the ship and kills the Asian captain. He renames himself Captain Fear – for that is what he will put in the hearts of every white devil he will meet! This he vows to the cheers of his bloodthirsty crew!

***

In a short letter column Joe Orlando explains the change in the magazine’s format from Supergirl to high adventure: fantasy, science fiction, mystery and/or horror!

***

Until its first cancellation in 1982, Adventure Comics was the oldest continually running comic book on the stands (back when there were stands…). Its first issue was called New Comics dated December 1935 by someone calling themselves National Allied Publications. It changed its title with issue #12 (January 1937) to New Adventure Comics. The “New” was removed in November 1938 and remained that way until its cancellation (although during the Spectre’s run in the early 1970s it was called Weird Adventure Comics, to cash in on the horror trend: Weird Mystery, Weird War, Weird Western, etc.

With its change to New Adventure Comics, it changed formats from humorous stories to action/adventure tales – some stories were written and drawn by future-Superman creators Joe Shuster and Jerry Seigel.

At the dawn of the superhero age Adventure dove right in with the debut of the Sandman with issue #40, Hourman (#48, March 1940), Starman (#61, April, 1941) and Simon & Kirby’s Manhunter (#73, April 1942).

When More Fun Comics changed formats to humor stories, its characters moved to Adventure, including Superboy, as of issue #103 (April 1946).

Issue #247 (April 1958) the Legion of Superheroes debuted. They eventually shared billing with Superboy during their classic run.

They were replaced by a solo Supergirl lead as of issue #381 (June 1969). She starred in the comic until #424 (October 1972). The letter column of her last issue explains she will get her own book but says the editors do not yet know the next issue’s new format. It only says to be back for a “new line-up of fantastic features!”

With #425 Adventure went back 35 years to focus on … well … adventures! Why? A search of the internet does not say specifically, but I can guess. At this point both DC and Marvel were making good money with their non-superhero lines – horror comics weren’t outselling Superman, but by gum the sales figures weren’t bad! With the Legion safely ensconced in Superboy and the Maid of Steel getting her own magazine, maybe it was time to add another non-superhero anthology … perhaps a repository for some not-quite-horror-themed tales …

(For more on Adventure Comics history AFTER issue #425, click here … or watch this blog for future issues!)

***

Captain Fear is the only feature of this short-lived era of Adventure with any legs. He had back-up stories in later issues of Adventure and in the Unknown Soldier.  He is given pages in Who’s Who and the History of the DC Universe.

***

About the author: Michael Curry is the author of the Brave & Bold: From Silent Knight to Dark Knight, The Day John F Kennedy Met the Beatles and the award-winning Abby’s Road, the Long and Winding Road to Adoption and How Facebook, Aquaman and Theodore Roosevelt Helped.  Check his website for more releases! Thanks for reading!

 

 

 

Marvel Novel Series #7: Dr. Strange – Nightmare!

#7: Dr. Strange, Master of the Mystic Arts: Nightmare by William Rotsler

The author is a four-time Hugo Award winner for his art and the author of many Star Trek novels as well as the author of the novelizations of the movies Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger and Futureworld. He died in 1997. He wrote Marvel Novel #6 And Call my Killer … Modok.

Cover by Bob Larkin, released June 1, 1979; the book is 188 pages long, although the story begins at page 9. Illustrations of Dr. Strange begin each chapter, as was done with #1: The Amazing Spider-Man: Mayhem in Manhattan and #2: The Incredible Hulk: Stalker from the Stars; but as with the two prior books, there is no credit as to who drew them. It may be easy to guess, but I would rather not!

The book is “packaged and edited by Len Wein and Marv Wolfman.”  Len Wein is the co-creator of DC’s Swamp Thing and Marvel’s Wolverine as well as joining him with Nightcrawler, Storm and Colossus as the All-New X-Men. Marv Wolfman is known for his excellent run on Tomb of Dracula. Within a few years of this novel he would write for one of the best comics ever created – Night Force – and co-create the New Teen Titans

For the first time, the paperback contains four pages of ads for other Pocket Books – including a selection of occult books, their Space 1999 series and books by science fiction authors John Jakes, Larry Pournelle, Theodore Sturgeon, AE Van Vogt, Jack Vance, Kate Wilhelm and Jack Williamson.

Gratmens: who knows? As silly as Strange’s incantations are, each name could be a hidden friend or comic book professional. The king of the Hittites or the ancient god-mage of the Nubians could have been an anagram for anyone. Page 81’s Alantripi, an Atlantean Sage seems an obvious gratmen – but a quick internet search reveals nothing…

Some of his common phrases are here: the Hoary Hosts of Hoggarth, the Crimson Bands of Cyttorak, the Vapors of Valtorr, and the Yawning Yowls of Jagermeister. Well, I made up that last one. I once joked about Dr. Strange’s Amulet of Amaretto and have never forgotten it. It’s a fun game! Try it! Make one up of your own!

 

This is my favorite book of the series. I love them all, really. Not a stinker in the bunch.  Granted these are not the collected works of Hemingway, but they are all fun superhero fare.

Maybe that’s why I like this one so much; like its protagonist, it is not necessarily a superhero story: it is mystical and magical! There are references to the Necronomicon and the Dreamlands.

The story itself is very Lovecraftian: At least three people in the world are having disturbing nightmares. One is a televangelist, the other an up-and-coming boxer and the third (that the readers know of) is a hitman/assassin.  The evangelist’s wife is concerned: the minister is on the brink of “stardom” and he has not been the same since the nightmares started.

Dr. Strange senses something is indeed wrong and injects himself into the minister’s dreams. There he runs into his old adversary Nightmare, who is planning his most nefarious plan yet to conquer the waking world!

 

Oddly, I was never a huge fan of Dr. Strange’s comic book. I read them and liked them, but they were always read AFTER more standard superhero books. I did not much like magic and mysticism in comics … still don’t: it was never a good fit. In other books, most notably the Defenders, Dr. Strange was limited to blasting the bad guys with energy bolts from his hands – far removed from the incantations in this novel.

Just as odd: superheroes in prose was, to me, nothing more than light reading.  Fun, sure! But as I said; this isn’t exactly Hemingway.

It makes sense that I would enjoy a novel about a supernatural character rather than a super-heroic one.

It is also the easiest book to re-do without the Marvel characters. This could have easily been re-written with a descendent of Randolph Carter or a new creation.  Can you imagine the massive rewrite that And Call my Killer … Modok would have to go through to wipe out Marvel’s presence?

Rotsler did a fine job here. Only a tiny fraction of the cringe-worthy dialogue from his prior Iron Man book (“Me, Modok, he tried to trick!”) is present in Nightmare.

Dr. Strange’s multi-chapter hunt for Clea in the many-doored dreamscape is inspiring.

I read this just before the Dr. Strange movie came out. I couldn’t WAIT and was not disappointed!  You won’t be either.

 

Original Material Copyright 2017 Michael Curry

 

Characters mentioned are copyright their respective holders. Thanks to Marvel Comics and Pocket Books for the use of their images. Cover image was taken by the author.

I also thank the original creators of all characters mentioned, whether or not they have been properly compensated or credited.

 

Iron Man: and Call my Killer … Modok! Marvel Novel series #6

#6: Iron Man: and Call my Killer … Modok! by William Rotsler.

The author is a four-time Hugo Award winner for his art and the author of many Star Trek novels as well as the author of the novelizations of the movies Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger and Futureworld. He died in 1997.

By now the cover artist signs his work: Bob Larkin, cover artist for many Marvel magazines.

The book is “packaged and edited by Len Wein and Marv Wolfman.”  Len Wein is the co-creator of DC’s Swamp Thing and Marvel’s Wolverine as well as joining him with Nightcrawler, Storm and Colossus as the All-New X-Men. Marv Wolfman is known for his excellent run on Tomb of Dracula. Within a few years of this novel he would write for one of the best comics ever created – Night Force – and co-create the New Teen Titans

Released May 1, 1979; the book is 189 pages long, although the story begins at page 9.

Gratman: Evanier Electronics is mentioned as a business. Mark Evanier? He had no connection to Iron Man and at the time of this paperback, he worked mainly with DC Comics. However, the next book, #7’s Dr. Strange, Master of the Mystic Arts: Nightmare is dedicated to him, so it is likely.

***

AIM (Advanced Idea Mechanics, a science-based terrorist group) attacks Tony Stark during a college lecture. Stark, as Iron Man, fights them off successfully but still sustains some harm to his already-damaged heart. Cue origin recap.

One of the sergeants in charge of the failed kidnapping faced AIM’s mysterious leader (we comic book fans – and those who remember the title of the book – have a pretty solid idea who the leader is). The kidnapping having failed, the leader thinks up another cunning plan – he shall create an army of Iron Man suits!

He activates two of his sleeper agents in Stark International to create a diversion to successfully steal the Iron Man armor blueprints.

Modok tries to sell the blueprints to the highest bidder, but Stark outmaneuvers Modok by auctioning off the Iron Man suit directly. At auction, it is bought by an Arabic businessman. Modok kidnaps the businessman and his suit.

Surprise! The suit is really Iron Man himself! He is defeated by Modok and unmasked as Tony Stark.  Stark is then forced to create a new Iron Man suit for Modok’s #1 henchman.

Meanwhile, Happy and Nick Fury & Shield find Modok’s hiding place and attack. Iron Man and the henchman in the new suit duke it out. Ol’ Shellhead then sets his sights squarely on Modok!

***

The author does an excellent job of juggling the superhero action and the “civilian” moments of Tony Stark, Happy Hogan, Pepper Potts and employees of Stark International – we even read moments with the AIM sleepers and soldiers. It makes the novel more … grown up.

It would have made a nice juxtaposition to show Stark creating the original Iron Man suit in Viet Nam with the new suit he was creating for Modok. It would have put the origin flashback near the end of the book, which may have been a drawback being too close to the big finish.

Speaking of that, twenty pages is spent recapping Iron Man’s origins in the jungles of Viet Nam. It is excellently done! The author tells us how Tony met and hired Happy Hogan in a later 15-page flashback. Modok’s origin takes about five pages. More than 20% of the novel is flashback.

Interestingly, I tried to listen to Tony Stark/Iron Man speak in Robert Downey Jr’s voice but could not. Despite his (deservedly) owning the role in the recent spate of movies, and being able to hear his voice in the recent comic books and animated TV shows (where such an imitation is likely done intentionally), I can’t hear Downey speak these lines. Only when he is Modok’s captive and Stark’s dialogue is more smart-alecky and defiant does the current version of Iron Man seep through.

And the author does a wonderful job, despite the sometimes comic-booky dialogue. It does not happen often, but when it does, it is jarring; especially considering how wonderfully the rest of the dialogue is written.

Examples: “Iron Man swears it!” and (I am not kidding you) “I, Modok, knew at once how he hoped to trick me. Me, Modok, he tried to trick!”

Yoda-speak this reads like does…

 

Original Material Copyright 2016 Michael Curry

 

Characters mentioned are copyright their respective holders. Thanks to Marvel Comics and Pocket Books for the use of their images. Cover image was taken by the author.

I also thank the original creators of all characters mentioned, whether or not they have been properly compensated or credited.

 

Captain America: Holocaust for Hire!!

#4: Captain America: Holocaust for Hire by Joseph Silva.

Released April 1, 1979

The book is 191 pages long, although the story begins at page 9.

Joseph Silva is a pseudonym for Ron Goulart. From Wikipedia: “Ron Goulart (born January 13, 1933) is an American popular culture historian and mystery, fantasy and science fiction author. … (of) … many novelizations and other routine work under various pseudonyms: Kenneth Robeson (pen name), Con Steffanson (pen name), Chad Calhoun, R.T. Edwards, Ian R. Jamieson, Josephine Kains, Jillian Kearny, Howard Lee, Zeke Masters, Frank S. Shawn, and … Joseph Silva.”  He also wrote (as Silva) #2 Stalker from the Stars.

The cover artist is Dave Cockrum, a comic book artist known for his legendary stints on Legion of Super-heroes and X-Men.

The book is “packaged and edited by Len Wein and Marv Wolfman.”  Len Wein is the co-creator of DC’s Swamp Thing and Marvel’s Wolverine as well as joining him with Nightcrawler, Storm and Colossus as the All-New X-Men. Marv Wolfman is known for his excellent run on Tomb of Dracula. Within a few years of this novel he would write for one of the best comics ever created – Night Force – and co-create the New Teen Titans

Gratmens: character Jake Sheridan mentions “great teams” and includes Rodgers & Hart, Laurel & Hardy and Simon & Kirby. Joe Simon and Jack Kirby created Captain America.

 

An African city is destroyed by an earthquake. We learn that it MAY have been a sonic device created by Dr. Gregory Crandall, a sonic scientist who has disappeared. We meet Dr. Crandall and his daughter being held hostage in a wintry villa.

Captain America, meanwhile, batters his way through New York’s underworld to find the doctor.

Also meanwhile, a Nazi (no spoilers, it is obvious with his mentions of a Fourth Reich and a Master Race), who we met in Chapter 1, was responsible for the African earthquake, as well as others throughout the world; makes a deal with a Texas millionaire.

Captain America reports to Nick Fury and Shield before heading to the chalet in which Dr. Crandall may be kept. They suspect the involvement of Cap’s old enemy – the Red Skull

Cap, Fury and Shield fight off the Skull’s forces in the chalet before the villain can escape with Dr. Crandall in tow. Some detective work leads our heroes on separate paths to Skull Island in the Pacific, but not before Nick Fury and the two reporters also investigating the story are kidnapped!

Can Captain America make it to Skull Island and rescue all the hostages before the Red Skull can use his sonic machine to destroy the world?

 

By page 45 we flash back to World War II and a ten-page origin story for Captain America.  A little further along we learn the origin of the Red Skull. More pages are spent on the Skull’s story than Cap’s. Perhaps the average reader would not know about how the Red Skull became the Red Skull and survived after WWII. True, it showed the depth of evil within the Skull, but was not integral to the plot (compared to Doctor Doom’s thorough origin story in book #5 Fantastic Four Doomsday).

Nor is there much made of how Captain America still exists in the present day (he was frozen in ice near the end of WWII) and is only mentioned in a few lines. Perhaps the writer thought that was not as important or that most readers would KNOW that fact, but NOT know his origins.

Caroline’s escape from the chalet was VERY well-paced and exciting! Kudos to Silva!

Cap never takes off his mask – we never see anything about Steve Rogers and his private life. This echoes the comics at the time, too…

This book is the most pulpy of the Marvel Novel Series published to date. Perhaps it is the involvement of neo-Nazis wanting to conquer the world and our masked hero with no real civilian identity. Regardless, it was a fun read!

But something nagged me while reading the novel: a scientist was captured, our hero befriends the daughter of the scientist and, with the help of original characters and his frenemy from the comic book series (in this case, Nick Fury), confront and win over the mad dictator before he can use the scientist’s invention to rule (or if not rule, destroy) the world!  Sound familiar? It was also the plot to Novel #3: The Incredible Hulk: Cry of the Beast!

Red Skull discussing New York City:  “To crush them all beneath brick and stone and concrete, to send their steel and glass towers crashing down on them … “.  Well, reading THAT was uncomfortable…

 

Original Material Copyright 2016 Michael Curry

 

Characters mentioned are copyright their respective holders. Thanks to Marvel Comics and Pocket Books for the use of their images. Cover image was taken by the author.

I also thank the original creators of all characters mentioned, whether or not they have been properly compensated or credited.

The Incredible Hulk: Stalker from the Stars – Marvel Novel Series #2

The Incredible Hulk: Stalker from the Stars by Len Wein with Marv Wolfman and Joseph Silva. Released January 1, 1978. Really? So says Amazon; if so this paperback was published before Spider-Man’s Mayhem in Manhattan, which has always been listed as #1. …

Len Wein is known for co-creating DC’s Swamp Thing and Marvel’s Wolverine and joining him with Nightcrawler, Storm and Colossus as the All-New X-Men. Marv Wolfman is known for his excellent run on Tomb of Dracula. Within a few years of this novel he would write for one of the best comics ever created – Night Force – and co-create the New Teen Titans.

Joseph Silva is a pseudonym for Ron Goulart. From Wikipedia: “Ron Goulart (born January 13, 1933) is an American popular culture historian and mystery, fantasy and science fiction author. … (of) … many novelizations and other routine work under various pseudonyms: Kenneth Robeson (pen name), Con Steffanson (pen name), Chad Calhoun, R.T. Edwards, Ian R. Jamieson, Josephine Kains, Jillian Kearny, Howard Lee, Zeke Masters, Frank S. Shawn, and … Joseph Silva.”

No mention as to who does the interior art (pictures of the Hulk at the beginning of each chapter) – it is from various Marvel comics, house ads, etc. The internet says the cover is by Bob Larkin.

The book is 174 pages long, although the story begins at page 9.

For the first few pages there is a brief introduction by Stan Lee. He hypes the popularity of the Hulk TV show and explains the characters Rick Jones and Thunderbolt Ross. Both characters are integral to the comic book but neither of whom appear on the television show.

I never liked Thunderbolt Ross: in this novel, as in the comics, Ross is so two-dimensional he makes J Jonah Jameson look like Hamlet. A little goes a long way. WARNING: playing a drinking game where you take a shot every time Ross says “halfwit” may lead to alcohol poisoning.  It is to Thunderbolt Ross was “dolt” and “clod” were to (Tomb of) Dracula. It’s not so bad, but if the book is read in one sitting (and that is easy to do – in a good way, like a great old pulp magazine) its use is frequent.

Gratmens: Buscemas café and Leiber garage are place-names in the book, named for Sal Buscema who drew the Hulk for ten years (it could be for his brother John, who drew the Hulk for only a few issues, but my money is on Sal) and Larry Leiber, Stan Lee’s younger brother who at that time was penciling the Hulk newspaper strip.

The origin of how Bruce Banner became the Hulk is given its own chapter early in the novel. Compare that to the two-page origin of Book #1 starring Spider-Man. This makes some sense – Hulk’s origins are less-known to the general public and varied greatly from the Bill Bixby/Lou Ferrigno-starring television show.

 

Rick Jones wanders into the town of Crater Falls looking for Dr. Rudolph Stein, a contemporary of Bruce Banner who is also known for his research into gamma radiation.  Rick learns Dr. Stein is missing – he wanders the woods and finds the crater from which the town founded its name.

While searching the woods Rick finds a murder victim bathed in green gamma radiation (the identity of the body is a SPOILER and won’t be revealed here). He calls the local sheriff but the body disappears before anyone else can see it.

Also, at night the entire citizenship of Crater Falls walk zombie-like from the town into the woods. Rick’s attempts to find out what is going on is rewarded with a thump on the head (at first) and then by his disappearing – just like Dr. Stein!

Meanwhile, Bruce Banner is hunted by General Thunderbolt Ross – who finally manages to capture the Hulk!

Banner escapes Gamma Base when he hears of Rick’s troubles. Rick’s phone went dead during a conversation with Ross and Rick has not been seen nor heard since. Banner goes to Crater Falls, meets the same citizens Rick did, learns of Stein’s disappearance and investigates.

As the title suggests, our green goliath comes in contact with an alien menace that can control the minds of puny humans.

The Hulk and his friends must find a way to stop the evil alien Sh-mballah while also fighting off the hypnotized citizens of Crater Falls!

 

By the time this paperback came out the Incredible Hulk TV show was in full vigor. The book was an obvious attempt to cash in on the success of the show. That’s not a criticism.

The story leans more toward the comic books – the regular comic book cast is present and the Hulk fights off super baddies with onomatopoetic names (“Whence Comes Vrloom!”).  It’s no spoiler to say Hulk fights off a Cthulhu-esque alien.

And by the way, an alien buried beneath a small town who mentally manipulates the citizenry pre-dates Stephen King’s Tommyknockers by nine years. To be fair, though, that science fiction trope has been around for decades.

Should I ever meet Len Wein or Marv Wolfman I would ask them about how they collaborated – did they each do a different section (“You do Rick Jones and Crater Falls and I’ll do the Hulk/Gamma Base stuff”) or did they Lennon-McCartney with their typewriters back-to-back telling each other their ideas?

A great read – very comic booky. Even moreso than the previous Spider-Man novel which was in itself an excellent read. A comic book in prose, which is the whole idea of the series, isn’t it? This story even has sound effects!  Chuff! Karash! Kaslam!

 

Original Material Copyright 2016 Michael Curry

 

Characters mentioned are copyright their respective holders. Thanks to Marvel Comics and Pocket Books for the use of their images. Cover image was taken by the author.

I also thank the original creators of all characters mentioned, whether or not they have been properly compensated or credited.

Constantine returns!! (to CW Seed)

Excellent news:

Read my original review of the Constantine.

Read the original article reprinted below: http://comicbook.com/2017/01/08/constantine-picked-up-by-the-cw/

The CW has just announced it has picked up Constantine as an animated series for CW Seed during its Television Critics Association panel.

The show will feature Matt Ryan, who starred as the title character in the fan favorite but short-lived NBC show.

Fans can expect the episodes to be 10 minute in length similar to the Vixen series that ran on CW Seed. Right now, episode count is expected to be either five or six. The show, like Vixen, will exist in the Arrow-verse which consists of Arrow, Flash, Legends Of Tomorrow & Supergirl.

While fans were expecting another live-action cameo from the character, they will be more than pleased with this. Back at New York Comic Con, Ryan told our own Russ Burlingame that while he was at the time doing the voice for Constantine in Justice League Dark, he’s learned “not to rule anything out.” He said that in terms of an Arrow return, he’s open to it because: “I love the character.”

Both Constantine and Arrow, like all of DC Comics-inspired TV series, are produced by Warner Bros. TV.

 

Article written by James Viscardi- 01/08/2017.