During this period of time, my brother Ken developed a fascination with the Incredible Hulk and so began buying comic books featuring the green goliath. Like his other forays into the world of four colors, this one also proved fleeting, and these books all eventually wound up with me. For myself, I found it difficult to get excited by the Hulk during this era. The stories were all good, but the set-up–a guy who turns into a powerful monster when he’s upset, and who is on the run from pretty much everybody–wasn’t appealing to me. That all said, this wasn’t a bad era to start reading the book at all.
EDITED TO ADD: This is the issue of the book that would have been on the racks when the first INCREDIBLE HULK television movie aired on CBS, which is almost certainly what motivated my brother’s interest in the character.
Writer/Editor Len Wein was in the process of transitioning the series over to a young Roger Stern. The Hulk was Len’s favorite Marvel character, and his era is underrated in general as he brought a sense of quiet pathos to the brute. Stern was an adherent of Stan Lee’s and used his command of Marvel continuity to situate the Hulk firmly in the Marvel Universe while also taking the first steps towards psychoanalyzing the character–a move that would become the dominant approach over the next decade. And the solid storytelling of Sal Buscema was backed up by the European inking style of Ernie Chan, which gave the strip an appealing sense of texture and mood. It was an appealing combination–their Hulk looked solid.
This issue opens with the Hulk raging, having lost another friend in the previous issue, and still upset about the death of his beloved Jarella. Ultimately, the Hulk calms down and reverts to Bruce banner, who finds himself alone and unclad in a foreign land. He swipes some clothes and then manages to sign onto a steamer ship as crewman in order to get back to the States. But for unknown reasons, the ship is targeted by Cap’n Barracude, a pirate captain so capable that he can see through a periscope with his patch-eye, as he does on the page above. Having located his prey, Barracuda orders his submarine to fire torpedoes.
With the ship crippled, Barracuda’s pirates board it, cleaving their way through the crew looking for some manner of device they think is on board. But this causes the always-reticent Banner to lose control of his excitement level, triggering his transformation into the Hulk. The pirates are no match for the gamma-powered behemoth, but they get a stroke of good fortune when a damaged mast cracks off and falls, knocking the Hulk into the ocean.
At this point the issue pauses for a moment for publisher Stan Lee to extol the virtues of the Bullpen’s latest Marvel, the upcoming magazine PIZZAZZ. I was a semi-regular follower of Dynamite magazine (as was everybody in my school, since it was offered through the monthly Scholastic book club) and so I was very interested in PIZZAZZ. How could it be bad/ Stan himself guaranteed its quality! I would be frustrated for awhile in that the earliest issues were released regionally only, and not in my region, but eventually I would wind up buying it regularly at the same time I picked up my weekly comics.
The water-logged Hulk washes up on a nearby island, where his trail is followed by a shadowy pursuer whose identity is concealed, though e seems to recognize the giant footprints the Hulk is leaving all around. Eventually, this turns out to be, believe it or not, Robinson Crusoe–or at least somebody who seems to be him. Editor Len Wein helpfully points readers towards the MARVEL CLASSICS COMICS adaptation of the Crusoe novel as the character’s previous appearance, playing along with his own gag. Crusoe seems to think that the Hulk is his man Friday, and the Hulk is just happy to find a friend, as he always is.
Crusoe takes “Friday” back to the fort he’s built to inhabit, telling the Hulk that now the two of them can guard his treasure, which turns out to be a super-sophisticated machine, no doubt the same one that Barracuda and his men were searching for. Crusoe turns it on and it begins to emit strange lights, which attract the attention of the island’s other inhabitants, a tribe of wild Beast-Men, who are there primarily to give the Hulk something else to punch in this issue. And punch them he does once they are driven into a frenzy and attack the fort.
It’s a short battle, as while the Beast-Men have the numbers, there isn’t much they can do against the overwhelmingly more powerful hulk, who flings them miles away as he gets his hands on them. But then a shot rings out, and Crusoe and the Hulk turn to see that Cap’n Barracuda and his men have found them. The Cap’n threatens to have his guys shoot down Crusoe if the Hulk doesn’t stand down–and that’s where this story is To Be Continued!