Graytness

Marvel Visionaries, Peter David: The Incredible Hulk Vol. 1
Writer: Peter David
Artist: Todd McFarlane

August 11, 2006

By Avi Green

Back in the late 1980s, The Incredible Hulk risked cancellation because few at Marvel at the time had any interest in writing it. Al Milgrom was one of the last to work on writing the green goliath’s adventures before they got around to looking to see if there was anyone who could continue. Bob Harras found that role in Peter David, who’d just begun his career as an editor at Marvel at the time, pairing him with Todd McFarlane, who was just coming off of his role as the artist of Infinity Inc.

David, whom Harras said could take the book in almost any direction he wanted, decided to start out with a story arc that was a harkback to the green goliath’s beginnings, and the originally intended color, gray, before the printing error encountered at the time turned the Hulk green instead. It’s also worth noting that, when David first began writing, Rick Jones had been turned into a Hulk himself, following an accident in which Bruce Banner had been trying to cure himself of his own alter ego. But, with Rick now a Hulk himself, Bruce, not thinking very carefully about the consequences and against the wishes of his wife Betty Banner, whom he’d married just the year before, thought he should turn himself back into the Hulk again, using some of the equipment he stored in the cave near the science base where he’d first been turned into the jade giant, and whaddaya know, the Hulk side of Bruce overpowered him, and took over again.

During this story arc of the gray Hulk, David also re-explored the intial setup, in which Bruce only turned into the Hulk at nighttime (and Rick Jones, during his own brief stint, also only seemed to turn into one at night too), before an extra burst of energy from the sun during a short trip in orbit (read the original stories to understand that part) made it possible to change into the green goliath at any given moment. Rick’s own stint lasted briefly, as not only was he cured of being a Hulk himself, but the gamma radiation energy he’d been infected with served to restore power to Samuel Sterns, the Leader, who’d lost much of his power at the time, and was hoping to find a way to regain it, which he got with assistance from the Hulk himself in one of his more arrogant moods. He emerged (and escaped) from this scene more powerful – and meaner – than ever, returning to his criminal activities to plot more sinister schemes.

During this time, David came up with a few new villains and adversaries, such as Mercy, an insane alien woman who was trying to “cure” Bruce of his problems, and Half-life, a gamma-irradiated English teacher, designed in part as a tongue-in-cheek concept, who was pursuing the Hulk because he held him responsible for his own irradiation and half-dead state from gamma rays in an entirely different occurance. Bruce of course ended up having a rift with Betty, who at one point ran off with an old boyfriend of hers before trying to reconcile with Bruce later. And, there was the conspiracy thriller story here, in which, due in part to what Half-life told the Hulk about his fate, that the Hulk soon discovered corruption in S.H.I.E.L.D, with a couple of agents who’d formed the Hulkbusters team at the time plotting to murder Bruce Banner to get him out of the way of interfering with secret chemical experiments that could create even more Hulks, and Hulk of Bruce Banner, to say the least, would rather that there be just one. So, with the help of one S.H.I.E.L.D agent who’d initially gone along with the evil plot before defecting, Bruce and Rick set off to investigate and to set things right again.

One of the best parts here for me was when the Hulk kicked the crap out of a corrupt, wife-beating police chief in New Mexico, much to the pleasure of the townsfolk who’d been betrayed and insulted by this jerk in uniform. And the tongue-in-cheek parts worked out surprisingly well here too. The story also gives some good attention to X-Factor, whose series David was also writing at the time, including the lovely Jean Grey.

And looking at McFarlane’s early work as an artist, I must say that it was actually pretty good for artwork done at the time, before he’d bolted to co-form Image and his career degenerated into hack work. If he’d come back and do artwork like he did back then, I’d say that maybe he’d have a good chance of making a real comeback.

This is a very good compilation of what served as a takeoff for David as a writer, and is very recommended for reading.

Copyright 2006 Avi Green. All rights reserved.

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