Murdermoon! Marvel Novel Series #11 – Spider-Man and the Hulk!

Last but not least! Marvel Novel Series #11 concludes with a Marvel Team-Up, featuring their biggest (at the time … and today!): The Amazing Spider-Man and the Incredible Hulk: Murdermoon by Paul Kupperberg

Paul Kupperberg is the creator of Arion Lord of Atlantis and Checkmate. He is the author of the “Death of Archie” storyline.

The book is 208 pages long, but begins on page 9 – making it the longest novel in the series. There are Spider-Man and Hulk illustrations at the beginning of each chapter (with no credit for the artists). Maybe they learned their lesson from the prior Avenger book: the illustrations match the star of the specific chapter – Spider-Man for the Spidey chapters and Hulk for old Greenskin’s chapters.

There is no blurb for the “next” novel on the back. Did they know this was the last one?

Cover is signed by Bob Larkin, known for his painted covers of 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.

 

Spider-Man thwarts a quartet of thieves in a government office. One felon gets away with plans and other documents of NASA’s next unmanned space launch. Spidey later learns more plans were stolen from the Johnson Space Center. He discovers through underworld contacts that the thieves were hired by an outfit near Niagara Falls.

After rampaging through Nevada as the Hulk, Banner awakes in a small town in Kansas where he finds work, a place to live, and new friends. An article in the local paper says a cure for gamma radiation may have been found in Chicago. Banner goes to Chicago and is incapacitated by the doctors who planted the article as a trap. They take him to their lair near Niagara Falls.

The scientists plant a device in Hulk’s ear to control him. When Spider-Man busts into the lab, they order the Hulk to attack!

The evil scientists launch their satellite that will hack into all other satellites in orbit, giving the scientists control over all the information in the globe! Can our heroes stop it in time?

 

J Jonah Jameson is not quite on the leash he was with Crime Campaign, but still within tolerable levels. Another nice bit of continuity is the mention of Cindy Sayers from Spidey’s (and Kupperberg’s) prior book!

This is a true team-up! It is not a Spider-Man story with the Hulk as a guest star or visa-versa. Each hero is given his own chapter – with the Hulk travelling the highways and byways of the good ole’ USA: Nevada to Kansas to Chicago to upstate New York … just to get him under Spider-Man’s radar.  But it reflects Hulk’s wandering and his interaction with us ordinary mortals so vital to the TV series. One nice bit shows us how Banner can afford his constant change of wardrobe!

Fun story and a great conclusion to the Marvel Novel Series.

 

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.

Marvel Novel Series #9: a Marvel Superheroes anthology

#9: Stan Lee Presents: the Marvel Superheroes edited by Len Wein and Marv Wolfman

This is the most unique paperback of the series for several reasons:

  1. It is the only anthology of the series.
  2. It contains the only story that was originally in a comic book before being novelized (the Hulk tale)
  3. It contains the only story that was later adapted to a comic book (the Avengers tale)
  4. It ties with #10 for the longest book (208 pages, but is second in actual text pages)
  5. It is the only book of the series with a story written by a woman.
  6. (more personally) it was the only book I owned of the series at the time they were originally published. It was also the first time I read about the X-Men (I would flip over to the cover while reading to guess which character was which), Daredevil, Man-Thing and Ultron.

It says something about the quality of this book that I still remember most of it 37 years later: Tony Stark‘s techno-fear (he shivers and the temperature in the lab is automatically raised – what if Ulton is in control?), the Wasp’s disgust at the shade of green in Moondragon’s costume, the other Avengers calling Vision “Vizh” – as a kid I was fascinated at this use of phonetic dialogue, etc. (I already had some stories under my belt), Man-Thing smothering the Hulk, Nightcrawler, when told to teleport into an unknown cylinder asking, “What if it is solid?”.

 

The book was published on August 1, 1979 and contains 208 pages; the first story beginning on page 9.

Delineation pages divide the stories – a blank page, a title page with an illustration of the protagonists (or some of them in the case of the Avengers and X-Men) and another blank page before the new story begins. This only leaves 188 pages of actual text, making it actually the second-longest book of the series.

The cover art is by the late Dave Cockrum, co-creator (at least) of Nightcrawler, Colossus and Storm. His work with the Legion of Superheroes and the X-Men has achieved cult status.

Co-edited and compiled by Len Wein and Marv Wolfman. 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.  Len Wein is introduced in the section reviewing his Hulk story …

***

The Avengers, “This Evil Undying” by James Shooter.

Speaking of the Legion of Superheroes … “Big” Jim Shooter began writing professional stories of the Legion beginning at age 14. He created Karate Kid, Princess Projectra, the Fatal Five and the Parasite (the Superman foe). He was Marvel’s editor-in-chief for nine years beginning in 1978 during the publication of this book series.

Through a post-hypnotic suggestion during their last battle, Iron Man revives Ultron. Ultron was last destroyed by the Scarlet Witch’s hex powers.

Iron Man, suspecting he might be manipulated, left a tracer for the other Avengers to find him in case he is controlled again. Good thinking. Iron Man WAS controlled and kidnapped the Witch, taking her to Ultron’s new lair.

The remaining Avengers – Captain America, Thor, Vision and Hawkeye – gave chase. The Wasp also joins in the fight- following Iron Man and the Scarlet Witch in her own way.

The final battle with Ultron is joined!

An excellent and fun story – one of the best of this series! It was adapted in comic book form in Avengers 201-202.

But the story wasn’t perfect- Hawkeye’s juvenile dialogue was grating even when I read it in 1979 – and I was the perfect age at which this story was aimed. Given more pages, his character could have been fleshed out. The “I am the weakest member which explains my sophomoric bravado” shtick (used a lot during the “Cap’s Kooky Quartet” days of the Avengers) was only touched on. He redeemed himself, of course, and showed him to be as heroic as any of the other more powerful Avengers, but by then I was sick of the shtick…

Captain America barked some commands and threw his Mighty Shield, but little else. The book focused on the members of the Avengers who hadn’t gotten their own novel yet … with one exception …

I wish there would have been more Thor!

Talk about hands-on management: Editor-in-Chief Jim Shooter could still kick out a wonderful and readable tale! This could have easily been made into a full-length story with more action added (going after Ultron’s mechanical robotic “army” – two, count ‘em – with more time spent on Hawkeye, Cap and Thor). Why wasn’t it?

***

Daredevil, “Blind Justice” by Kyle Christopher.

Christopher is the pen name for Martin Pasko, an Emmy-award winning writer known by us Bronze Age fans as a writer of Superman family of stories and the Swamp Thing revival. His origin reboot of Dr. Fate is still considered canon.  He also wrote Bronze Age Wonder Woman and the World’s Greatest Superheroes comic strip.

Comic book scribe Mark Waid (Kingdom Come, Flash) lists this story as one of “the five most underrated Daredevil stories you must read” (http://13thdimension.com/the-five-most-underrated-daredevil-stories-you-must-read-by-mark-waid/) and with good reason!

A man and woman are put in witness protection after finking on the local mafia. They are treated so improperly by the government they come out of hiding and hire Nelson and Murdock to sue. The mob, headed by the Owl, go after the couple (and Foggy) with lethal force. Daredevil discovers a mob informant within their circle of office staff and friends (that’s as close as I can get without spoiling). Daredevil’s origin is also recapped.

The story is secondary compared to the parts detailing Daredevil’s abilities. His ability to “see” even though blind is superbly explained throughout the short story. He can read emotions by hearing pulse rates and heart beats; he determines body language by sensing air currents. He can read newsprint due to the shape of the ink on the paper. Describing these details in prose is handled better than when tried in comic book form – at least when Pasko is writing it.

***

The X-Men, “Children of the Atom” by Mary Jo Duffy.

This would have been among Duffy’s first work in the industry. Her first Marvel stories were in 1979: the start of her long run on Power Man/Iron Fist, an excellent story of Obi-Wan Kenobi and the Old Republic in Star Wars #26 (a personal favorite) and issues of Defenders and Marvel Two-in-One.

She gives us an excellent story that serves as a great primer for the X-Men. Considering the complex weave of the franchise over the past few decades, it is tempting to call the story simplistic, but it is not. It is a wonderful short story.

For ten pages we are introduced to Salem Center and Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters, Professor X and six of his students: Cyclops, Nightcrawler, Wolverine, Banshee, Storm and Colossus.

American and Soviet missiles are straying from their projected paths during an international test. Professor X deduces they are affected by a magnetic anomaly barely traceable at the Arctic Circle.

Who could be behind it? (I know! I know! Ooo! Ooo! Mr. Kotter!)

The X-Men go to the magnetic anomaly and find the stronghold of the supervillain of the piece … a mutant named …

No, not the Toad!

***

The Incredible Hulk, “Museum Piece” by Len Wein.

Len Wein is the co-creator of Marvel’s Wolverine as well as being the one who joined him with Nightcrawler, Storm and Colossus as the All-New X-Men he also co-created DC’s Swamp Thing. Here he writes of the Hulk meeting Marvel’s version of the muck-encrusted mockery of a man. In a literary sense, Len Wein shows us his Man-Thing.

This is the only story in the Marvel Novel Series what was a comic book first – a prose story adapted from Incredible Hulk #s 197-198 (also written by Len Wein).

The Hulk battles local Florida police and ends up carried by a helicopter to the everglades. After battling alligators and snakes, the Hulk finally rests and changes back to Banner. Bruce finds a small, mute, grey-colored man and befriends him just as they are attacked by pirates. Yes, pirates.

Turning into the Hulk, he dispatches the pirates quickly but then confronts their master – the Collector! The Collector turns the grey man into the Golem and orders it to attack Hulk.

The Collector also has Man-Thing in his sway, and orders Man-Thing to attack Hulk, too.

Hulk and his two friends are locked in a pod and kept docile by ankle-bracelets. Turning back into Banner, he easily slips through the ankle-bracelets; Golem and Man-Thing then slip through their bracelets easily due to their powers.

Hulk befriends Scheherazade and eventually confronts the Collector and his minions: alien warriors, soldiers from history, etc. Man-Thing and the Golem join in.

It’s a Monster Mash and an incredibly fun story! It was a good comic book, too!

 

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.

Incredible Hulk: Cry of the Beast! Marvel Novel Series #3

The Incredible Hulk: Cry of the Beast by Richard S Meyers. Released March 1, 1979, the first of the Pocket Book Marvel Novel series with a number: 3.

The author is a writer of fiction and non-fiction (including a story for Detective Comics’ 60th anniversary). He has also written for television programs from the New Twilight zone to Columbo to Murder She Wrote. He has written for Playboy, TV Guide and Entertainment Weekly. He was inducted into the World Martial Arts Hall of Fame.

The book is 191 pages long, although the story starts on page 11); there is no introduction.

 

While wandering the streets of New York City, Bruce Banner witnesses a mugging. No, not a mugging, a kidnapping. Foremost radiation specialist Dr. Maxwell Wittenborn was being kidnapped. This was the man Bruce came to New York to see!

Bruce tries to stop the mugging/kidnapping and is assaulted by the thugs. All Hulk breaks loose.

The person in charge of the kidnapping, who we later learn is named the General, gives the Hulk his card.  The next morning, Bruce finds the card and goes to the address.

It was a trap! Bruce and Dr. Wittenborn’s two adult children, Tony and Roseanne, are themselves kidnapped and taken to the General’s headquarters in Africa.

After a long sea voyage, Banner and Roseanne escape into the jungle where they fight off pygmy natives, African beasts and the General’s soldiers.

Finally captured by the General, Roseanne is kept prisoner as an … incentive for her father to keep working. Bruce is kept with other prisoners and made a guinea pig for the General’s gamma radiation experiments which, if they work, will help him destroy America!

 

The Incredible Hulk television show was going great guns by the time this paperback was published. Hence two novels in as many years (as well as a “video novel” – scenes from the TV show with word balloons – and a paperback of older Hulk comics).

This novel leans more to the television show than the comic book (compared to the previous comic-book leaning “Stalker from the Stars”). None of the comic book regulars are present – Betty Ross or her father, Rick Jones, etc.  Banner (still called Bruce here, but David on television) was a wanderer and become involved in a crime, albeit a larger one than usually explored in the TV show.

The CBS series never dealt much with world conquerors. But even so this novel deals more with the characters than the action – Bruce’s relationship with Roseanne, the Hulk’s relationship with Roseanne, even the parallel story of the agent assigned to infiltrate the General’s operation.

Probably because of this, we get no origin recap – this is because the way Bruce Banner became the Hulk on the television show is different from the comic book version. The writer did not want to alienate either audience and stuck to vague statements by Banner regarding “bringing out my inner demon”-sort of thing.

When released, this was the kind of novel that would attract readers who were NOT necessarily into comic books. Kind of like the audience of the television show…

A good beginning for a third book in a series!

 

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.