Continuing on with the review of books that I acquired in trade with my grade school friend Donald Sims, that’s how I laid hands on this issue of MARVEL SUPER-HEROES. I’ve mentioned this fact before, but just to reiterate: Don and I were friends for a few years, from the start of 5th Grade to the beginning of Junior High School in 7th. Consequently, there really isn’t any way to track exactly when all of these books came into my possession. So I’m guesstimating as best I can. Not that anybody other than me is going to care–but I like to be as precise as possible.
As with every issue of MARVEL SUPER-HEROES, this one reprinted an entire TALES TO ASTONISH issue from a number of years before, so you got both a Hulk story and a Sub-Mariner tale. The Subby story opened the book, and it was a rare collaboration between editor Stan Lee and Namor’s creator Bill Everett. And to be perfectly honest, I found it dull. The artwork was very nice, but somehow a bit stiff and old fashioned seeming. And I never truly got into any of Stan’s king heroes when they were headliners–the Black Panther, Black Bolt, Namor–they all seemed to be facing the same sorts of situations over and over again, and I didn’t really care about any of it. The fate of Atlantis made no difference to me. I have a lot of fondness for Everett’s scrappy, ordinary Joe Sub-Mariner, but here the Lee influence is all over things and so he’s the Regal Sub-Mariner–and a lot less interesting.
But this style of Sub-Mariner adventures lasted for a long time, so somebody must have been enjoying them. In this outing, Namor’s recurring foe Attuma has stumbled upon an unbeatable Servo-Robot that had fallen into the ocean from a passing starship, and found a way to bring it under his control. Being Attuma, he wastes no time using the technologically-superior automaton to launch an attack against Atlantis–an attack that all of the Sub-Mariner’s defenses are unable to bring to a halt. Subby tries to tackle the thing himself, but even with the assistance of a colossal whale, he isn’t able to put a dent into it.
But while he is fighting a delaying action, Namor has bid the Lady Dorma to send a signal skyward–and in response to this summons, eventually the creators of the Servo-Robot arrive to take custody of it again. They grab the unstoppable juggernaut up in a huge grabber dome and then pull it up out of the sea–and Atlantis is saved. At this point, Attuma seizes upon the better part of valor and gets the hell out of Dodge, and the adventure comes to an end. This was a variation on a basic story formula that Stan had used going back to the mystery stories done before the Marvel super hero strips had begun: the alien menace who turns out to be a child or a criminal or an out of control piece of technology, and whose parents or owners or jailers come to take back into possession once they are alerted to what is taking place. Stan did a bunch of versions of this basic plot over the years.
The second story in the issue is the one that stuck with me more, primarily thanks to the artwork of Gil Kane. When this story was originally done, Kane had just come off of a long tenure at DC, where the editorial house style required him to draw stories in a sedate and inoffensive manner (the DC Editorial staff had been pretty badly spooked by the advent of the Comics Code and so they didn’t really want to do anything too exciting, for fear of bringing the government down upon their head.) Kane was looking to cut loose more, to be more action-oriented in his storytelling–and the Marvel method, where he would get to control the pacing of the story and where Kirby-style action wasn’t just permitted, it was encouraged, was just what he was looking for at this moment in time.
Kane also got to ink his own work at this time at Marvel, something that DC was reluctant to let him do. And that’s somewhat understandable–for much of his life, Kane would ink his work not with brush or dip pen, but rather markers. This sometimes gave his work a dead line quality. But it certainly made it distinctive, and when he was in the zone, the end result could be very pleasing, as it is here. Kane developed his own interpretation of the Hulk over the three or four stories he did–his Hulk had an enormous protruding brow and a tuft of hair atop his beady-eyed head. As stylizations went, I liked it. And I must not have been the only one–as it turned out, this installment of the Hulk series was the chapter that fit in-between a story that was reprinted in the 1979 INCREDIBLE HULK trade paperback from Simon & Schuster and the two-part Abomination story that was collected in BRING ON THE BAD GUYS. So I lucked out in that I could eventually read the entire sequence front to back.
There really isn’t a whole lot of plot to this adventure, though. The alien Stranger is looking to raze the Earth so that he can build a better society out of the rubble, and he chooses the Hulk as his instrument of destruction. Capturing Bruce Banner, he intends to compel the mindless Hulk to go on a devastating rampage, one that will topple human civilization and set the stage for the Stranger’s brave new world. By the end of ten pages, after a lot of exposition and some fighting, the Stranger succeeds in his goal, and he lets a mesmerized Hulk out loose in the world to being his destructive rampage! To Be HULKinued!