Friday, June 06, 2008

The Titan and the Torment! (Marvel)
Tales to Astonish #79 When: May 1966
Why: Stan Lee How: Bill Everett & Jack Kirby

The Story So Far...
When a young man carelessly parks his jeep on a military testing range, he seals the fate of the noble Dr. Bruce Banner, destined become a lumbering green Hulk!

Banner dedicates his life to the struggle of reversing his condition, but complications continuously arise as his rampaging, childlike alter-ego encounters those that would seek to destroy, mainpulate, or channel the powers of the incredible Hulk!

When a Dr. Zaxon is hired to replaced Banner at missile command, the villainous scientist's true motivations are revealed to be that of harnessing the gamma irradiated powers of the Hulk for himself! Irrepressible; the Hulk escapes the bondage of the evil doctor, and in doing so, raises the ire of Major Glenn Talbot's military forces, who pursue him into the path of an on-coming train that just happens to ferry a demigod on the path to a career as a Hollywood star...

Tale of the Tape...
ARTWORK: Jim CheungARTWORK: John Romita JrStrength: Draw 6 (Invincible)
Intelligence: Hercules 2 (Average)
Speed: Draw 3 (Athlete)
Stamina: Hulk 6 (Generator)
Agility: Draw 2 (Average)
Fighting Ability: Draw 6 (Warrior)
Energy Power: Draw 1 (None)

- Hercules is the demigod spawn of king of a the Olympian gods, Zeus, and Alcmena; the mortal daughter of the king of Mycenae.

Despite a conspiracy perpetrated by Hera and Luciana to prevent the birth; Hercules was born after seven days of labor, to rule those around him, by the decree of Zeus. The mammoth child would indeed traverse many perils to grow into a mighty leader of men, whose strength became the stuff of legends.

So far did the tale of Hercules travel, that he would gain the attentions of Nordic counterparts, who would seek to employ his power to unstick the might of the god of thunder, Thor! Despite many showdowns; Thor and Hercules would become godly allies, and members of Earth's mightiest mortal protectors - the Avengers!
Hercules' return to the mortal realm would also include tenures with the Champions, Heroes for Hire, and the Defenders, continuing his presence as a sometimes unruly force for the good of mankind.

- 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: Draw Ranking: Hulk (#6)

What Went Down...
The Hollywood find of the century is Hercules!
When an industrious press agent discovers the perfect man to play Hercules on the screen (Hercules himself!) they hop on a train to tinsel town, unaware that fate was about to bring the Olympian titan into the path of the incredible Hulk!

Fleeing fighter planes the Hulk finds a retaliatory weapon in zig zagging desert railtracks just begging to be ripped up and thrown! Just as Hulk reduces the bars to scrap metal, the train closes in on that very area!

Hercules cuts a commanding figure as he emerges from the crowd of startled passengers, intent to meet the interruption head-on. Startled by the green visage before him, Hercules is taken by surprise, as Hulk greets the opportunity to grapple with an opponent large enough to withstand his might!

Like a cornered lion; the Hulk launches Hercules into surrounding terrain with a counter-attacking toss! Hercules turns the projection to his advantage, but Hulk easily halts the Olympian's boulder-wielding charge, with a blow that shatters both the sediment, and warrior!

Hercules introduces Hulk to his immortal durability, taking his licks to retaliate with a charging headbutt that leaves Hulk floating for a devestating left hook!
Taking the momentum, Hercules snatches his burly foe by the ankle, looking to launch him like an Olympic hammer, but the green goliath has other ideas! With surprising agility Hulk manages to swing out of the predicament, striking Hercules in the jaw with a Polish hammer!

Hercules gives pause to the impressive power of his mortal opponent, musing on his understanding of Thor's passion for the modern world of the Marvel Universe. Such thoughts are dwindling, with further battle yet to be waged.
Herc wallops Hulk but fails to curb his efforts to lock the demigod in a bearhug!

Though grimacing under the impressive pressure, Hercules scoffs Hulk's attempts to close out the battle with the crushing hold. Insulted by Hulk's choice of finisher, the son of Zeus explodes in a vengeful barrage! With a toss, Herc vaults Hulk over his shoulder into a piledriving slam into a nearby desert cliff.

Hercules rips open the crater made by Hulk's impact, to stuff the green goliath between the two halves of Earth, which he brings colliding together with the might of a god! Thus, Herc claims another triumph in his unfolding saga, but...

... Hulk emerges from his makeshift tomb with the hunk of earth above his head! Much to Hercules' chagrin, the unstoppable Hulk flings the mountainous boulder in his direction, unwilling to accept defeat!

Hercules performs the amazing feat of catching the giant rock, but just as he does, man-made missiles hurtle from the sky! A barrage of US artillery shells rain down upon the Hulk, diverting his attentions back toward the true enemy.
Frustrated by his military stalkers; the Hulk uses his powerful limbs to leap away, disappearing into the distant landscape of the barren desert. So he leaves Hercules to ponder the power of a nemesis he will surely meet again.

The Hammer...
There's no arguing; this is one of the biggest super heavyweight showdowns you'll find in comics, and run though the Hulk did, minimal conclusions can be drawn from this fight. With a solid showing from both heroes this one ends in an inconclusive draw!

This, of course, marks the first entry in what is intended to be a month's celebration of the theatrical realse of Incredible Hulk! The movie officially hits cinemas worldwide June 13 and stars Edward Norton in the title role, with; William Hurt, Liv Tyler, Tim Roth, and Lou Ferrigno as the voice of the Hulk. Fans of the '96 Marvel Studios animated series will tell you that actually isn't as silly as it sounds.

It's maybe a little odd that we indulge the Hulk film given that I'm not particularly keen to see it. Contributing to the reduced presence of cinema-goers, I'm really more of a DVD-phile in general, these days, but a strong contingent of nostalgia for the 1970's TV series has me especially turned off.

Also working against the release is the fact that I can't help but shake the feeling this new feature; intent on distancing itself from the previous flop; is exactly the kind of Hulk action movie I was glad I didn't get the first time. Despite it's problems, I was a definite fan of the much maligned Ang Lee psycho-drama [Hulk], and would have very much liked to have seen where the Academy award winning director could have gone next.

If you're an Infinite Wars regular reader, you've probably already reconciled my paradox.
As illustrated by this very entry - if not the entire site - I'm more than happy with a bit of mindless fisticuffs when it comes to my four-colour fiction.
I gladly acknowledge World War Hulk, Countdown, and Mortal Kombat as among the highlights of Season 2008, but that's all put down to context...

When it comes to distilling the Hulk story to it's greatest conceptual high; an implied duty of a feature film adaptation; I expect more.
In fact, it's the regularly attacked psychological underpinning of the first Hulk feature that resonates especially well with my expectations. Expectations that, I feel, recall many of the Hulk's finest moments in the comics. Moments that dwell as much on the psychological and philosophical aspects of the character, as they do the fantasy of his physical charisma.

Top 25 Super Heavyweights
#1 Iron Man (Marvel)
#2 Superman (DC)
#3 Hulk (Marvel)
#4 Thing (Marvel)
#5 Black Adam (DC)
#6 Sub-Mariner (Marvel)
#7 Thor (Marvel)
#8 Silver Surfer (Marvel)
#9 Martian Manhunter (DC)
#10 Wonder Woman (DC)
#11 War Machine (Marvel)
#12 Colossus (Marvel)
#13 She-Thing (Marvel)
#14 Powergirl (DC)
#15 Bizarro (DC)
#16 The Destroyer (Marvel)
#17 Mephisto (Marvel)
#18 Drax (Marvel)
#19 Orion (DC)
#20 Mallen (Marvel)
#21 Crimson Dynamo (Marvel)
#22 Ultron (Marvel)
#23 Captain Atom (DC)
#24 Maul (Wildstorm)
#25 Despero (DC)
I fully expect to gain something from watching the Norton vehicle. While I'm not particularly in love with the actor, I believe he'll turn in a competent enough performance that, with any luck, will channel Bill Bixby to a minimum.

Meanwhile, I'm sure there'll be ample opportunities for further musings and uninformed comparisons in the weeks to come, as we glance through various inconsequential moments in the Hulk's history.
As much as I'd like to provide some sort of material to support my ideals about what's fairly expected of a Hulk film, that really isn't conducive to the Infinite Wars mission statement of boxing and biffery.

In this, an Olympic year, I fully expect to see more from Hercules, who, I think, has been one of Marvel's most valuable players since inheriting the Incredible Hulk title [as the aptly named, Incredible Hercules].

For a very long time I had forgotten what it was that made Hercules an enjoyable character. I mean, sure, I'm a fan of the classic mythology, and even bought into the glam adventures of the not-forgotten Kevin Sorbo series, but when it came to the Marvel superhero, it was all a bit eh.

As a bumbling muscleman with various incarnations of the Avengers; I think Hercules' greatest struggle was with his own irrelevance. When it comes to mythology in the Marvel universe, Herc has always been dwarfed by the significance of the Norse characters spinning out of his comics precursor, Thor.

I suppose it's refreshing to see the character involved in something more than dunder-headed posturing, but it is nice to go back to these early appearances, where the thrill of the fight was justification enough for a guest-starring role. In some respects I think it's the loss of majesty that's been the price for a modern era transitioning from visually-driven stories, to more densely written comics.

The middle ground seems to have been lost, stripping the characters of a certain degree of weight that once came from infrequent rotation. In this respect I can almost appreciate what recent stories in Amazing Spider-man have been trying to do, even if I feel they've fallen far short of the target with their new additions.

Incredible Hercules has done well to continue on from the five-issue epic of Hulk's gauntlet-match assault on the Marvel Universe, introducing his own lined-up list of adversaries, most notably including clashes with age-old rival, Ares.
At the end of the day comics benefit greatly from story, but as an on-going medium full of inherently interesting characters there's a license of conflict that allows an approach not dissimilar from professional wrestling organization - a subject to be tackled at another date!

The Fight: 5.5 The Story: 4

Not quite convinced the Hulk is the strongest one there is? If you want the before and after of this story, you'll find this, as well as forty-plus "Tales to Astonish" Hulk shorts, and a whole mess of other early materials, in the Hulk Omnibus! Or, if you're looking for a smaller slice, why not check out the "Versus the Marvel Universe" trade, which includes many classic Hulk fights, but not the Hercules battle featured today. Need to know where to get all these great reads? By using Amazon purchase links provided you help invest in future entries in the Infinite Wars -- so get spending, puny human!


Mike Mikulovsky said...


Mike Mikulovsky said...