BHOC: MARVEL SUPER-HEROES #73

There was a bit of a stigma attached to Marvel’s regular reprint titles among at least the comic book readers in my community in the 1970s–despite the fact that we all bought and read them. That’s because we wanted to experience the stories. But the prevailing wisdom at the time was that these reprints were “worthless” because they were never going to increase in value the way that new comic books sometimes did. By this logic, it was a better “investment” to buy any new comic before you laid down coin for a crummy reprint that would only allow you to read it. This, mind you, despite the fact that pretty much nobody in my circle was selling their comics nor had any plans to. But the fact that old comics could become valuable was a powerful motivator in terms of making this frowned-upon hobby palatable to those not so enamored of it. Any adult could understand investing for a long-term profit, and we were always ready to point to recurring newspaper stories detailing how a particular old comic book had sold for hundreds or thousands of dollars. In this way, we justified our addiction.

But for me, while they were certainly less valuable trading stock, the appeal of these reprint books was always in being able to read the older stories. I was particularly a fan of the stories of the 1960s–despite not having grown up with them and having no particular nostalgia for them, I found that the comic books of that period really connected with me. In part I’m sure this was all predicated by a steady diet of reprints when I first began reading comics, but also I think my tastes, at least at this moment, were more in tune with the manner in which comics had been produced a decade earlier. The 1970s books had their appeal, but they were also more likely to be sloppy, badly inked, badly printed, verbose, caption-laden and self-important. In other words, they sometimes felt like homework rather than entertainment. The cleaner and simpler style of years gone by, whether it was Carmine Infantino’s expansive cityscapes in FLASH and ADAM STRANGE or Stan Lee and Jack Kirby’s combination of action and wit in FANTASTIC FOUR and the like held a great appeal for me.

And so, as this latest issue of MARVEL SUPER-HEROES featuring the Hulk arrived at my local 7-11, I dutifully picked it up. The story it reprinted was less than a decade old, and it represented a passing of the torch. Writer/editor Stan Lee had been steadily reducing the number of regular scripting assignments he still maintained, and this was the point where INCREDIBLE HULK met his axe. He handed it over, as he had for many other series before, to his right-hand man Roy Thomas. Roy came on board in the midst of a continued story–I’m not certain whether he supplied the plot that artist Herb Trimpe drew from or whether that was Stan’s last gasp on the series. either way, Roy was a deft, established hand by this time, and he didn’t miss a beat.

Last time out, Maximus the Mad and his band of Evil Inhumans had used a gizmo secreted in a colossal statue to take over the fictitious South American nation of Costa Salvador. The Hulk had stumbled in as was his way, and he laid waste to the humanoid. With it destroyed, the military was able to move into the area unmolested, including those forces under the directives of General Thunderbolt Ross, the Hulk’s dogged pursuer. Faced with overwhelming numbers, Maximus proposed a truce to the Hulk, a team-up wherein they would join forces to face down the military’s attack. The clouded mind of the Hulk, seeing no other easy way out, agrees to work with Maximus, and as this issue opens up, he leaps into the fray, doing catastrophic damage to the Army’s war machines (though without any overt loss of life–one of those gimmes about the character that you simply had to accept, in the same manner that Cobra pilots would bail out safely when their planes were shot down by G.I.Joe.)

With the threat momentarily kiboshed, Maximus reveals his true, barely-concealed colors. When the Hulk objects to Maximus’ intention to kill the surviving soldiers, including Ross and his daughter Betty, the mad Inhuman turns on him again. He does so by unleashing the prototype to the enormous robot with which he mesmerized Costa Salvador in the first place. Now, you wouldn’t think this would be all that much of a problem for the Hulk, given that he’d already clobbered the perfected robot, but the thing still gives him a run for his money. Action was definitely the heart of the appeal of this series, especially with a protagonist who didn’t have the patience for any extended soliloquys or metaphysical musings. So it was action, action, action all the way. (This particular reprint issue had pages printed out of order, an occasional happenstance in these titles, which made the location of Ross and Betty a little bit difficult to parse.)

The other appeal of the series was its frequent displays of absolutely ridiculous, nigh-unbelievable feats of strength. Artist Herb Trimpe was a meat-and-potatoes storyteller with a style that wasn’t especially flashy and that occasionally verged on becoming stiff. But he was excellent at crafting images of the Hulk doing something that seemed utterly absurd on the face of it, and making it appear plausible. So here, Maximus calls for the Hulk to give up and die, and in response, the Green Goliath musters up all of his power and throws pretty much the entire surrounding countryside at the attacking robot, declaring that he can’t give up because he doesn’t know how. It’s a bananas moment, but somehow Trimpe sells it here and makes it thrilling. Roy’s text build-up doesn’t hurt matters either.

At this point, pretty much everybody recognizes that the story is over, and so they all head for their cars. Maximus’ is a huge missile in which he and his barely-seen-this-issue Evil Inhumans make their escape. Ross and his men fail to shoot the thing down–nor do they have any better luck when the Hulk decides to follow suit and leap away from the conflict. And an added-in Next Issue caption (added in because the actual next issue in the original run had recently been reprinted already in the Treasury Edition linked to below, and so MARVEL SUPER-HEROES was going to skip over it) promising the Fantastic Four. You can bet that I took notice of this.

2 thoughts on “BHOC: MARVEL SUPER-HEROES #73

  1. My gripe with the reprint books was that once I figured out they were reprints, I also figured out that they were often missing pages. I think that was because I got to compare a reprint with the original — probably a copy owned by my friend David Nickles — and I noticed there were scenes in his that weren’t in mine.

    That, and I wanted the letter columns.

    Later, when Marvel was reprinting the original X-Men and Silver Surfer issues by splitting them up into two issues with new splashes, I bought those — I’d read the comics but didn’t have copies of all of them myself, so this was a way to get them without paying through the nose.

    But I really didn’t want any version that eliminated pages.

    Liked by 1 person

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