This issue of MARVEL SUPER-HEROES featuring the Incredible Hulk was another book that I got in a 3-Bag purchased at one of the department stores or toy stores that my family visited on one of our shopping expeditions. While the Hulk wasn’t my favorite Marvel character, I enjoyed his escapades well enough–in particular when scripted by Stan Lee, as this issue was. Stan’s copy may have sometimes been by rote, but he honed a style that was very appealing to a kid–always energetic, always a bit funny, always engaging. The writing in general in the 1970s had grown more florid and purple, more self-important as new voices entered the field and pushed things in different directions. This work was often aimed at a somewhat older audience, and didn’t hold the same appeal for me at that time. But Stan always put the ball into the strike zone, no matter what he was scripting.
There was also the artwork of Herb Trimpe, here inked ny Dan Adkins. Trimpe’s art was something of an acquired taste, and only grew more stiff and stylized as he headed into the 1980s. But this reprint from years earlier showcases a Trimpe who hasn’t entirely crystalized yet, and whose work has a bit more life to it. The drawing and draftsmanship wasn’t always perfect, but what Marvel valued most during this period was the ability to tell a story in an exciting manner, and Trimpe was able to do that with great reliability. Herb was especially comfortable drawing the Hulk, and he stayed on the book for close to 100 issues before eventually relinquishing it. While today other artists have eclipsed him in this regard (depending on your age, Sal Buscema or Dale Keown or others), for a long time, Trimpe’s work defined the look of the character.
Plot wasn’t a huge part of these Hulk stories at the time. It was really all about setting tings up so that the Hulk could engage in some tremendous knock-down fight with a monster, alien or super-villain. There was the requisite amount of tragedy in Bruce Banner’s curse–forced to lose himself whenever he became angry or outraged. And the Hulk himself wasn’t quite such an innocent, nor quite so simple-minded as he’d become later on in the 1970s. There was an edge to him, however blunted. But INCREDIBLE HULK was the Marvel book that most immediately rewarded casual impulse-buying reading. Consequently, throughout the 1970s, it was extremely popular.
This issue picks up from last month, with Bruce Banner finding himself on a rocket capsule headed back to Earth following the Hulk’s battle with the Galaxy Master. However, while teh Hulk’s powerful form can withstand the pressures of unaided space flight, Banner discovers that his more vulnerable form is taking a certain-to-be-lethal pounding. In order to survive, he opens an aperture to the craft’s engines, which run on Gamma Radiation, thus triggering his transformation once again. The ship crashes to Earth, and the Hulk is fine–but waiting for him there, coincidentally (there’s one line earlier on about trying to link up with Blastaar again, his partner in his previous appearance) is the Sandman, one of the most recurring villains in the Marvel canon. This is the version of the character that had been retooled by Jack Kirby in Fantastic Four and given a high-tech new costume. But he was the same dopey thug as before, and he decides that, having come across the Hulk, the Green Goliath is going to serve him. It would have been smarter to have walked away.
So this leads into an obligatory and perfunctory fight sequence that allows both characters to show off their unique powers and battle prowess. But just as suddenly, it’s over, as the Sandman suggests (as the hulk’s enemies so often do) an alliance. Sandy is interested in breaking into Thunderbolt Ross’s Missile Base to steal a spaceship, and he convinces the Hulk to attack the base as well. Or, actually, instead, as the Sandman hangs back and uses the carnage caused by the Hulk’s rampage to enable him to sneak onto teh grounds stealthily. By this time, you would think the Hulk would have learned his lesson, but he’s got such a grudge against Thunderbolt Ross and his hounding Army troops that it’s a simple matter to set him against them again.
But it doesn’t take too long for the Hulk to begin to slow down and question why he’s doing what he’s doing. The turning point comes, of course, when, wile attempting to make his getaway with the rocket in tow, the Sandman comes close to running down Betty Ross, whom the Hulk has a soft spot for. This puts teh Sandman back onto the Hulk’s personal enemies list, and so a second catastrophic battle breaks out between them. The Sandman employs a few of the additional gimmicks that his new costume allows him to do–but this is a guy who’s been routinely taken down by Spider-Man, he doesn’t really have much of a chance against the Hulk.
Eventually, the Hulk does the obvious thing and uses his enormous strength to create a sonic shock wave that scatters Sandman’s sandy particles for miles, preventing him from reconstituting himself. Ross and his guys realize that the Hulk saved their missile from being stolen, but the Hulk leaps away before any reconciliation can be reached. And in the final panel, the recovered Sandman vows revenge–this last panel sure looks like an add-on to me, as though after the story was drawn, Lee decided to keep the Sandman around for another issue and had Trimpe change his original final image. And the Sandman did come back in the next issue–but I didn’t get to read that one for more than a decade, so we won’t be covering it here.
3 thoughts on “BHOC: MARVEL SUPER-HEROES #67”
Did the Hulk slip up and say “Betty Brant” instead of “Ross” when he decides against attacking the base, or was there more of a Spider-Man connection?
That’s a mistake that Stan made a couple of times.
Rhino and Sandman weren’t Spider-Man villains anymore when I started reading comics and I wish they had stayed that way. Sandman especially developed a great frenemy relationship with Ben Grimm that to me has been tragically ignored. ‘Course, Ben himself hasn’t been the linchpin of the MU he was once so that could be why. Thank God Dan Slott is writing him that way at least in one comic!