I read a lot of comic books as a kid. This series of posts is about the comics I read, and, occasionally, the comics that I should have read.
In this history of mass culture, there have been few things more blissfully, beautifully wacked-out than the Marvel Comics of the nineteen-seventies. Reeling from their ascendancy over the prior decade and emboldened by the burgeoning reputation as favored reading material among the counter-culture rabble-rousers on college campuses (just a few week’s after the issue examined below, the green goliath of this mag made an appearance on the cover of Rolling Stone), the creators at the accurately named House of Ideas let their muses roam far and wide and whatever lunacy developed was worth transcribing and delivering to the true believers in their monthly doses of mighty Marvel magic.
This was rarely more true than those moments when the writers tackled the hot-button concerns of the day, as evidenced by the story which found the incredible Hulk tangling with women’s lib in a titanic tale that they had to call, “They Shoot Hulks, Don’t They?”
How’d we lose the term “male chauvinist pig”? We should work on bringing that back. Certainly there are still plenty of them around.
Anyway, the issue begin with ‘Ol Greenskin, weary from battle, climbing up to the top of the Statue of Liberty to take a well-earned snooze. This naturally raises the ire of the military who pull out all their weaponry to dislodge him from his perch. It also gets a little airplay in Marvel’s Manhattan, a media market that undoubtedly always had superhero-specializing reporters standing by, capturing the attention of some members of the upper class, who were just debating over which cause they should embrace with their next charity gala. They decide to raise some dollars for the benefit of the Hulk, much to the chagrin of their feminist daughter.
She sort of resembles a spectral trout in her first panel there, but that situation improves, thankfully. Her harsh appraisal of Norman Mailer receives no cushioning, however.
The swells convince the Hulk that having a party thrown in his honor might be a nice change of pace from the blazing jet fighters and bruising behemoths that comprise his usual social circle. So he rubs giant shoulders with the elite of New York City in a high rise apartment, leading to what may now be by favorite informational footnote in the history of Marvel Comics.
The presence of Tom Wolfe is amusing enough, but his status as some odd semi-regular, popping up in random places like a hipper J. Jonah Jameson is weirdly wonderful. The black power hipster chatting him up in another guy that I wish had made the rounds of various titles, maybe leaning into panel every once in a while to ask “Is dis a system?”
The party rambles on, giving Hulk a rare opportunity to do some comedic shtick.
In fact, there’s so much party that the comic gets around to its action sequences almost as an afterthought. Samantha, the women’s libber daughter, has bypassed the party to go out and join a protest march. Asgardian magic-slinger the Enchantress looks down from her heavenly roost and decides to transform the young woman into Valkyrie, the sword-wielding, metal-brassiered embodiment of womanly power. Duly changed, she heads straight back to the party to do battle with the Hulk.
Hulk demures, insisting he can’t strike a woman. Valkyrie, with no such reservations about mis-colored freaks, quickly bests him, knocking him unconscious in the process. She totes him over to the Empire State Building, throwing him off the top of it as a warning to all other male chauvinist pigs in the world. She immediately has pangs of guilt and swoops down to find Hulk unharmed amidst some sidewalk rubble and newly willing to make some exceptions to his “no hitting girls” rule. Almost immediately, the staff that preserves the transformation is knocked away, causing Valkyrie to revert back to the slender socialite. For unclear reasons, Hulk, who’d already been calm enough to sleep on a giant statue and chill out at a party, is suddenly calm enough to change back to Dr. Bruce Banner at precisely the same moment. He wanders away in his tattered purple pants. The end.
It’s grand and loopy and unabashedly fun in a way that marks it unmistakably as of its era. Really, would you want to read a Hulk comic described any other way?
Fantastic Four by Stan Lee and John Buscema
Contest of Champions by Bill Mantlo and John Romita, Jr.
Daredevil by Frank Miller
Marvel Fanfare by Chris Claremont, Dave Cockrum and Paul Smith
Marvel Two-in-One by Tom DeFalco and Ron Wilson
Fantaco’s “Chronicles” series
Fantastic Four #200 by Marv Wolfman and Keith Pollard