You know something that’s a tad shocking to me? In the years that I’ve been sharing the deeply weird Marvel stories that I come across with you, I haven’t ever discussed an issue of the Incredible Hulk. The Hulk himself has popped up a handful of times, on teams, but I’ve never talked about an issue of his own personal comic. Which, kind of makes sense. Because, as I’ve said before, I’ve been working chronologically through several old Marvel series, picking out the craziest and most fun stories that I can. And, this often works pretty well, depending on the book. Unfortunately, it hasn’t done much for me for the Hulk. His book, especially during the late sixties and early seventies, is pretty unremarkable. Usually just the Hulk beating up some new monster of the week, which makes it pretty dull. Occasionally things would reach points of near brilliance, giving me stories that would be perfect to regale you with. Hell, there was a story that came incredibly close to becoming the plot of the movie Armageddon, but with the Hulk being sent to destroy an asteroid. But, at the last moment it swerved into a a boring story involving the Absorbing Man. It’s frustrating. So, you can imagine my joy when I came across a story that remains completely bonkers from beginning to end. And, as a weird added bonus, it features a surprise cameo from the recently deceased Tom Wolfe. That was unintended, and frankly led me down a bizarre rabbit hole that I’ll talk about a little later. For now, let’s just talk about a story where the Hulk is brought to a party where a bunch of rich liberals give him money.
The story begins with the Hulk plummeting down into the bay outside the Statue of Liberty, after the previous issue’s story involving him battling with Doc Samson. The Hulk washes up onto the shore of Liberty Island, and becomes oddly interested in the Statue. And, as usual, Hulk start internally complaining about the fact that he hates humanity, and just wants to find some solitude. And, for whatever reason, he decides that the Statue will make a perfect hiding place, and starts climbing up it. he nestles himself into the nook between the Statue and the tablet, and promptly starts to fall asleep, hoping to find himself in a more tolerant world when he wakes up. Unfortunately, when the next morning rolls around, that turns out not to be the case.
Yeah, it turns out finding the Hulk in densely populated areas is kind of a big deal, so when they notice him sleeping against the breast of the Statue of Liberty like a baby, it becomes a bit of a news story. And, that news spreads all around New York, and into the hands of Reginald and Malicia Parrington, a group of rich socialites who in a constant struggle against their fellow layabouts to find the next radical chic society event. In case you’re unfamiliar with the term, radical chic was coined by Tom Wolfe and revolved around rich liberals deciding to gain social points for taking on radical causes for charity purposes. Specifically, the term came about when a group of rich intellectuals started hosting parties for the Black Panthers, mainly just to be associated with them. And the Parrington’s are following in that tradition, looking for the next cause that they can champion. They just need it to be bigger and more extreme than their friends, so that they can be the envy of their country club.
And, as you can guess, when they see the news about the Hulk, they get an idea. They decide that they should reach out to the Hulk, and plan a dinner party that will get him the resources he needs to…do what he does, I suppose. And, since they know exactly where the Hulk is, they leave the house with their daughter Samantha and start driving out to Liberty Island. And, when they get there, they find that things have gotten pretty intense. As usual, General Ross and Major Talbot are there trying to capture the Hulk, and the whole island has been quarantined. But, the Parringtons just hop in their yacht, race right past the police barricades, and even physically assault the police officer guarding the island, figuring that their goal was more important. They end up reaching the crown of the Statue, where the Hulk is hiding out, and have a talk with him. He’s pretty against the idea of these puny humans talking to him, but Samantha is eventually able to convince him that he should come with them, and that he’ll be safe.
The Hulk then happily climbs out of his little nest in the Statue of Liberty, and descends the Statue with the Parrington’s. The quartet then hop back into the yacht that brought them there, and they speed away, while General Ross and Major Talbot just watch on in bafflement from their helicopter, having no idea what in the world they just saw. Because no matter what, until he turned in a giant red rage monster himself, General Ross always just had to watch the Hulk slip through his fingers, completely ineffectual. He’s not a great character. Until he became a Hulk with a mustache. That stuff was great.
Anyway, by the time the Parrington’s get back home with the Hulk, they find that word has already spread around town, and that a mass of people are waiting outside their brownstone. They schmooze with the crowd, including several members of the press, and Reginald starts acting as if the whole thing was his idea, and his doing, completely ignoring the importance that Samantha had on convincing the Hulk to come home with them. Which really pisses off Samantha, since she already had to miss a women’s lib meeting for this whole plot, and now her importance is being belittled. But, she also realizes that causing a scene may piss the Hulk off, and cause him to go on a rampage. So, she stuffs down her rage, and goes along with the party, which gets into full swing shortly thereafter.
I wasn’t lying. This issue really has an inexplicable Tom Wolfe cameo. And, as you can tell from the editor note, this wasn’t the first time the folks at Marvel stuck him into one of their books. But, that Dr. Strange cameo is even more inconsequential and random than this one, but I’ll talk about this all later. For now, we can focus on the fact that the Incredible Hulk is having to make awkward party chitchat with a bunch of rich weirdos. He has no idea what these humans want with him, nor what’s expected of him. So, he just kind of mills about until something interrupts the party.
See, Samantha is very irritated at her mother and father for taking all of her credit, but she also can tell that the Hulk trusts her and may flip out if she causes a big scene. So, instead, she does something very strange. She calls up the women’s lib friends of hers, and they all arrive to start picketing the Parrington home, while shouting that it’s more important to give women rights than Hulks. Which, fair. And, as if this issue wasn’t weird enough, things are about to get pushed into the truly insane, because all of Samantha’s fury has drawn the attention of someone with a grudge against the Hulk. Amora, the Asgardian Enchantress is watching all of this play out from Asgard, and decides that Samantha could be used to get vengeance on the Hulk, after his many slights against her when he was with the Avengers. So, Amora sends a bolt of magic down to Midgard, and strikes Samantha in the head, causing a transformation to occur. And, if you’ve read a certain other story that I’ve highlighted on this site before, you’ll know where this is headed.
That’s right, it’s the star of Thor: Ragnarok, Valkyrie! Now, as we discussed earlier this month, during this era of Marvel Comics the Asgardians had strange requirements when visiting Midgard, and seemed to need mortal hosts, such as Thor empowering the form of Dr. Donald Blake. And, as we’ve seen before, the character of Valkyrie was originally created as a weapon used by Amora. Last time she convinced the female Avengers to band together and kill their male counterparts, and now Valkyrie has inhabited the form of a sullen teenager. And, now she has a mission. To destroy the Hulk.
And, the Hulk may appreciate that, because he’s absolutely miserable at the party. The snobby socialites are just eating canapes and bragging about how much money they have, while the Hulk is just lumbering around and struggling to find enough food to actually eat. And, to make matters worse, the evening finally reaches its culmination. The Parrington’s call everyone around, and present Hulk with the fruits of their efforts. $750 in cold hard cash! Which frankly baffles the Hulk. He came here under the pretense that these people would be able to help him find solitude, and instead they’ve just given him money.
Yeah, this wasn’t a particularly great idea. Luckily, things get a little more familiar to the Hulk around this time, because Valkyrie comes crashing through the window, ready to fight him to the death. And if there’s one thing that the Hulk knows how to do, it’s fight people. So, Hulk and Valkyrie begin scrapping in the Parrington’s house, destroying quite a bit of it while Valkyrie rants about the evils of men, and the Hulk has no idea what she’s talking about. But, even though Hulk doesn’t know what they’re fighting about, he does his best to hold his own against the Asgardian’s strength.
Eventually though things finally spill out onto the street, after ripping a hole in the side of the Parrington’s home, and they continue fighting in the streets. And, when they’re in the streets Valkyrie is able to put a nerve pinch on Hulk, causing him to drop unconscious. She then decides that she needs to do something extra special to dispose of the Hulk. She figures that the Hulk is the perfect representation of masculinity, so she needs to kill him in an extraordinary fashion. And, to do this, she decides to drag Hulk up to the top of the Empire State Building and huck him off like King Kong. She gets the Hulk to the top of the building, and easily throws him off.
But, when this happens she ends up immediately feeling regret. The influence of Samantha, who legitimately pitied the Hulk, breaks through the power of Amora’s enchantment, and she ends up hurdling herself off the building, following Hulk down to the ground. And, luckily, when she gets down there she finds that the Hulk is fine. Well, he’s angry, but he’s fine. However, right as he attempts to vent some of that anger, they’re both struck by a bolt of magical energy. Samantha finds herself back in her own body, and the shock was enough to knock Bruce Banner back into the driver’s seat. Both of them are baffled by what they’re doing there, with very little memory of what has happened, and they both go on their separate ways.
This issue is an absolute delight. As I said, the Hulk hasn’t been one of my favorite characters, and most of his stories tend to feel incredibly similar to one another. They’re just carbon copy monster stories. But this issue is something different. And I love it. The idea to put the Hulk in the shoes of the Black Panthers, awkwardly standing around while a bunch of rich New Yorkers schmooze and try to score society points off of them, is a truly hilarious idea. And it worked surprisingly well! It does feel a little odd that they tossed Valkyrie into the story, but I love the character so much, I don’t really mind it. Valkyrie’s history can be a little confusing, what with her inhabiting multiple bodies over the years, but I believe that Samantha Parrington is the body that Valkyrie inhabited during the Defenders, which is when I knew her the most. I probably prefer the idea of her just being an Asgardian like Thor, without the weird mortal stuff, but the idea of her being stuck in the body of a teenager who is pissed off at the world is a solid idea, and it works well with the Hulk’s uncomfortability and rage in this issue.
And, on top of all of that, we have the wonderfully odd element of Tom Wolfe, which actually threw me down a bit of a rabbit hole. Like you saw earlier, this wasn’t Wolfe’s first appearance in a Marvel comic. But, oddly enough, it doesn’t seem like he was aware of it. He first appeared in Doctor Strange, basically just running into the Sorcerer on the street, and that was one because Wolfe mentioned Strange in his book The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test. And, since Wolfe didn’t complain that they used his name and likeness without his permission, they just decided to toss him into another book, and make it even more involved. I can’t seem to find if Wolfe cared about this issue, or the fact that it’s structure is loosely based on one of his works, but the whole thing is just fascinatingly weird to me, and one of my favorite aspects of this era of comics when they were just throwing things at the wall to see what stuck.
Incredible Hulk 142 was written by Roy Thomas, penciled by Herb Trimpe, inked by John Severin, and lettered by Art Simek, 1972.
Categories: Marvel Madness