The Incredible Hulk & The Amazing Spider-Man: The Gamma Gambit

For no discernable reason that I can figure out, there’s been a sudden burst of interest in this obscure Marvel item from 1979–people are amazed that such a thing exists, and want to know more. Well, rest assured, those of us who were around in 1979 for its release were just as befuddled by it as you are. But we can lay out what we know about it here. This is the original comic book story that was printed as a roll of novelty toilet paper.

The first thing that you’ve got to understand is that, in 1979, while they had made certain strides into becoming a part of the larger popular culture, the Marvel super heroes were still largely unknown by the public at large. Marvel was still very much a shlock publishing house at this time, and willing to license just about anything that anybody wanted to manufacture if it would bring in a few dollars. And so, when the Oh Dawn! novelty goods company came knocking after they’d lost a lawsuit after putting out an unlicensed Gucci-branded toilet paper roll, the folks in charge of Marvel were happy to take the money and run.

An all-new original 6-page story was commissioned to be featured on this roll of actual usable toilet paper. It’s credited only to Jim Salicrup and Michael Higgins on the item itself, but those in the know indicate that Marie Severin produced most of the art. At six pages, it’s a very basic story, but it still works narratively–as a novelty item, nobody was especially worried with this being great literature. It was intended, after all, to wipe behinds. The story is repeated time and again as you work your way deeper and deeper into the roll.

Somewhat surprisingly given its notoriety, the story has never been reprinted anywhere since 1979. This most likely comes down to there not being any good source materials to reproduce from–the printed samples are as muddy as you’d expect a comic book printed on toilet paper to look.

While Spider-Man is the headliner on the insides, the box gives top billing to the Hulk. This was during the time when the INCREDIBLE HULK television show was a big hit on CBS, whereas the SPIDER-MAN TV series struggled. So there was a sudden and sharp uptick in Hulk licensing at this time.

5 thoughts on “The Incredible Hulk & The Amazing Spider-Man: The Gamma Gambit

  1. Of all the man-monsters on Earth, he may be the most misunderstood of all.

    I think it’d be worth printing it somewhere even shot from the toilet paper. Sure, it’s bad repro, but it captures the spirit of the original.

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  2. This story obviously took place in the Marvel (1970’s) TV Universe, since the Hulk’s other identity is not known. And while it’s hard to say from the crappy art, Banner seems to me to be drawn looking like Bill Bixby. Note then Spidey’s conclusion doesn’t follow. Even if Banner is willing to risk his life for a stranger, that doesn’t mean the Hulk is similarly heroic (plenty of people become much more of a menace even from the effects of ordinary steroids).

    Also, this has to be 70’s TV Spidey, since comics Spidey should have enough spider-sense/reaction time/speed to get out of the way from any blast. It’s not even much of a secret identity peril, since he can justify the speed as the result of an adrenaline rush. The story can work anyway since Banner doesn’t know that, and can still rush into the blast. But that particular story beat seemed off, as ordinarily Spider-Man is nigh-impossible to hit with a ray or bullet.

    The general concept of, let’s call it, “convenient bathroom reading”, seems quite reasonable to me. It’s probably too expensive to manufacture rolls with many different images on them. But if someone ever did figure out a way to make them economically, I think there’d be a big market.

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  3. Glad you dug the scans. I made them last week when I got curious about the thing and placed an eBay order. Not for the whole roll, mind you. The guy was selling the whole thing six sheets at a time, and there’s a limit to how much more my apartment (and storage unit) can hold, regardless of how weird it felt to be buying toilet paper by the sheet.

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