Friday, June 13, 2008

Do Not Forsake Me! (Marvel)
Incredible Hulk #205 When: November 1976
Why: Len Wein How: Sal Buscema & Joe Staton

The Story So Far...
Dr. Jasper Whyte was a budding evil genius with aspirations of domination, who chose to turn his micro-engineering skills to the design of various sinister technologies! Among his designs, the Crypto-Man; a lumbering automaton capable of harnessing various energy sources to clash with the likes of the mighty Thor!

When Dr. Whyte realised the ramifications of his attempts to take New York City randsom, he was redeemed by willfully sacrificing himself to prevent Crypto-Man fullfilling his programming to destroy a power plant that would have threatened the life of his critically ill mother.

Though destroyed by it's master; the Crypto-Man robot was later discovered by a mysterious evil genius seeking similar goals of domination. The unknown scientist succeeds in reanimating the beast, using remote controls, and a conventional power source, to instruct the mechanical monster to commit bank robberies. When the Crypto-Man comes across Bruce Banner and the alien queen, Jarella, the scientist seeks to siphon what he hopes is Hulk-level strength from the green-skinned woman, a folly that inspires the appearance of the real thing!

Tale of the Tape...
ARTWORK: Sal Buscema & Joe StatonARTWORK: John Romita JrStrength: Draw 6 (Invincible)
Intelligence: Draw 1 (Idiot)
Speed: Draw 3 (Athlete)
Stamina: Draw 6 (Generator)
Agility: Draw 2 (Average)
Fighting Ability: Hulk 6 (Warrior)
Energy Power: Draw 1 (None)

- Created by Dr. Jasper Whyte; the robotic automaton called Crypto-Man is little more than a pawn in the machinations of evil scientists and brilliant madmen. Original designs benefitted from siphoning the powers of Thor to enhance the Crypto-Man's strength, but a later rebuild by an unknown scientist relied upon conventional means of powering the robot. This energy proved sufficient to sponsor a head-on clash with a full-strength Hulk, who eventually destroyed the robot once more after becoming enraged.

- Dr. Robert Bruce Banner, a slight and insignificant scientist, lives slavishly dedicated to the pursuit of knowledge, as funded by the United States military.
Though Banner justifies his goals as means for peace, he becomes one of America's leading weapons designers after inventing a gamma radiation bomb.

During preperations for a test launch in the desert, Dr. Banner spots a reckless youth on the testing ground, and in a moment of magnificence, knowingly throws himself on a bullet that would grant a far crueller fate than death.
Bitterly aware of the Communist conspiracy of his fellow scientist, Banner struggles to usher he and the boy to safety while his colleague continues to countdown the launch.

After succumbing to an ordinarily lethal doses of gamma radiation, Dr. Banner soon finds himself undergoing a horrific transformation. Originally by night, but soon triggered by rage or unease, Banner discovers the superhumanly strong alter-ego within himself, dubbed simply - the Hulk! As the Hulk, Banner's brilliance is reduced to a childlike lumbering, while his slight frame conversely comes to possess size, strength, and durability never before imagined.

Hulk has no specific known weaknesses, but is fiercely protective of the few who earn his favour. Though generally good hearted, Hulk is prone to wild rages and varied personalities, including the calculating persona adopted during his time on the planet Sakaar, where he adopts a military savvy.

The Math: Hulk Ranking: Hulk (#6)

What Went Down...
Having torn through a bank vault, the lumbering Crypto-Man stalks onto the streets where he happens upon a casually passing Bruce Banner and Jarella! Mistaking the green-skinned Queen for a super powered she-Hulk -- Crypto-Man seeks to siphon her powers just as the first version stole the powers of Thor!

Concern gives rise to the green-eyed monster within, transforming the nurturing hands of the lithe Dr. Banner, into hulking green fists of fury!

A stiff left topples the lumbering robot, startling the unseen scientist who controls the robot from a hidden remote station. He maneuvers the mechanoid to wrench a streetlight from the sidewalk, using it as a jaust to stun the charging Hulk, before closing in with a devestating uppercut!

While police do their best to protect innocent bystanders; the Crypto-Man hoists a nearby car above his head, menacing the recovered Hulk. Hulk proves nimble enough to duck the incoming projectile, but the evasive tactic is not without it's cost. The stray car demolishes the corner of a building, rending it's structural integrity naught. Seeing a child in the path of the crumbling wall, Queen Jarella leaps into action to save the small boy, but in doing so, puts herself in the path of the crumbling rock!

The scenario jars the Hulk's short attentions, earning the Crypto-Man an uncompromising knock-out blow that clears Hulk's path to his fallen mistress. Only the alien monarch's green hand can be seen, poking out from the rubble.
The Crypto-Man proves unsympathetic to the Hulk's emotional quarrel, taking the opportunity of the distraction to attack the Hulk from behind!

The powerful blow has little effect as the Hulk's grief quickly gives way to rage!
Crypto-Man suffers the brunt of a charging spear tackle, from which the Hulk tosses the hapless robot into a nearby building. With his master desperately toiling at the controls, Crypto-Man rises unfetted to use a piece of the broken wall as a weapon against the Hulk!

Hulk shrugs off the assault, smashing the bricks and mortar to get to the metallic hide of his opponent! Challenging the cowardice of the robot's master, Hulk unleashes his gamma-irradiated fists with extreme prejudice! The clubbing one-two rocks the robot into a sparking stop, leaving the machine a sitting duck for the finishing blow, a right hook that knocks his block off!

Hulk is strongest one there is!

The Hammer...
Let the record show that the Hulk, not surprisingly, put the Crypto-Man out of commission in his second and final appearance, in 1976. Making the Crypto-Man robot, for all intents and pursposes, a two-time loser. One can't help but get the feeling this ancient old robot might have some life left in him one day, though.

For many readers of the Infinite Wars I'm sure this site functions on a very simple level: the summary and depiction of combative situations in superhero comics. On that level it's a fairly simple hook for a blog that doesn't manage to tackle the everyday goings on in the world of the mainstream superheroes.

As much as the site can probably stand on that simple premise, I do very much value the discussion reserved for this closing section. It's here that recent stumbling blocks have really slowed production on the Infinite Wars, because, for some reason, I find myself even less inspired and/or insightful than usual.

After a little soul searching I resigned myself to the prospect of replacing contrived analysis and pseudo-essays with straight-seaking honesty; hence the paragraphs you've read so far. Of course, no sooner than I agree to forego the search for greater meaning, do I suddenly realise the significance of this comic.

Top 25 Mecha-Menaces
#1 Iron Man (Marvel)
#2 Dr. Doom (Marvel)
#3 Tara (Marvel)
#4 Human Torch (Marvel)
#5 Death's Head (Marvel)
#6 Ultron (Marvel)
#7 Warlock (Marvel)
#8 Machine Man (Marvel)
#9 Sadler's Cyborg (Capcom)
#10 Vision (Marvel)
#11 Equus (DC)
#12 Robot (DC)
#13 Death's Head II (Marvel)
#14 tri-Sentinel (Marvel)
#15 Nimrod (Marvel)
#16 Amazo (DC)
#17 OGRE (DC)
#18 Titanium Man (Marvel)
#19 Dragon Man (Marvel)
#20 SUper Adaptoid (Marvel)
#21 Ahab (Marvel)
#22 Mister Atom (DC)
#23 Crypto-Man (Marvel)
#24 Metallo (DC)
#25 Jocasta (Marvel)
Crypto-Man is far from a significant character in the comics landscape. This fairly non-descript automaton stands out so very little in superhero science fiction, which probably explains the mere two appearances. Of course, that in itself is a fairly impressive feat! Crypto-Man has all the hallmarks of an early recurring villain, yet, somehow, this managed to be his last outing as a villain, despite having menaced Thor previously.

Strangely enough; it was whilst watching the renovation of a Georgian store/home that it occurred to me spotlighting an issue like this one, some thirty-plus years after it's creation, is not at all a dissimilar undertaking.

In peeling back the many layers of wallpaper and detailing that had been installed in this home, the scenario become far more archaelogical than an ordinary exercise in DIY. Something I feel a comic like this represents, because it is so rare for a character like Crypto-Man to go unused for so long.

The seemingly insignificant suddenly becomes a doorway to the past, and a definitive footnote for an era.
One begins to wonder if the endless recycling of villains in the modern era might not be something to regret. As much as the occasional revamp might create a new definition of a character, does this endless cycle of repetition breed anything but weakness? It's fair to say the landmarks of time are evident in the details of stories as much as the characters appearing in them, but when I look at a character like Crypto-Man, I see an unmistakable trinket of time.

As much as this decade will be remembered for it's highlights, lowlights, and favourtism for the writer, is this a post-nineties creative boom, or recession?
Has our desire to be taken seriously led us astray from some of the things that have made characters like Hulk a joy to read in the past? Have we cheated ourselves the variety of many bullets shot?

Say what you will about the giant-sized guns, flowing hairstyles, bulky jackets, and cybernetic implants. Looking back, we can quite easily spot a forgotten relic of the nineties, and as embarassed as we may pretend to be, perhaps it was the last decade of identity for our medium.

The Fight: 6 The Issue: 4

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