We Live In Better Times

I was accused on social media the other day of being a millennial or at least of having the millennial mentality. Putting aside the fact that I am 54 years old, far from being in that generation, that attitude is broad brush painting people born after the previous millennium ended at the close of the year 2000. (The years 1999 and 2000 were so annoying to this pedant as people kept getting the beginning of the new century/millennium wrong. They started January 1, 2001. Get it straight!) It’s a cultural constant, I think, that each generation believes the following generations just don’t get it. When talking about those younger folks, the diatribes are often prefaced by “In my day…” or “My generation…” Just ask my son. Hey, I didn’t say I was immune.

Case in point…

66777712_10157516432842299_4913259522232942592_n

Yeah, well…

I watched that show when it first aired and… We needed CGI back then, too.

I responded in that way on Facebook and then came the accusation. They accused me of needing high tech to be edgy and cool. They were probably thinking that I lacked the imagination to fill in the gaps that the limited technology left in the old days.

Actually, the show itself attempted to make up for the lack of technology by making the Hulk mute, less intelligent, and much, much, much, much weaker.

The show I’m talking about, of course, is The Incredible Hulk (1978-1982). It starred Bill Bixby who played Dr. David Bruce Banner, a physician and scientist who was searching for a way to enhance human abilities. He had been unable to save his wife after a car accident due to his lack of physical strength, so he obsessed with enhancing his own abilities. So much so, he used himself as a test subject. Boy, didn’t Jekyll and Hyde teach us anything?

Well, the experiment did give him super strength, but it also inflicted a werewolf-like condition on him. Whenever Banner was subjected to extreme stress or anger he would become a large, green monster with super strength and a bad attitude. The creature was dubbed the Hulk. Banner, believed to have been killed by the monster, then drifted across the country meeting people whom he would help out of tough situations. And there was a dogged reporter on the trail of the Hulk to add to his troubles.

hqdefault
“…You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry. Say, you wouldn’t have a spare belt, would you?”

Right off the bat the superhero show alienated me, a young Marvel Comics fan and budding pedant, by getting the name of the lead character wrong. In the comic books, since 1962, the scientist’s name is Robert Bruce Banner. There was never any David in there. And he was called Bruce by his friends.

2DmEM
Wrong! His first name isn’t David!

I put a great big black mark against the show the moment someone called him David and not Bruce. How could they get something so basic wrong? There are explanations, but I won’t get into them here. It was just the wrong name and I was not happy about it. The show started off in the hole as far as I was concerned.

In the comics, Bruce was bombarded by gamma rays when he was exposed to a nuclear test blast. A dumbass kid wandered too close to the test area and Bruce dashed out of the bunker to get the trespasser to safety. In the process, being unable to get into the ditch in time, Dr. Banner was bathed in deadly gamma radiation.

1_InzGQsrwpD9T452GQgKLeg
Dr. Banner is probably thinking, “In my day, kids didn’t go hanging out in nuclear test ranges!”

He survived, but was now forever cursed to hulk out whenever under stress.

The TV show changed how David (argh) was exposed. It wasn’t accidental. It was from a machine bombarding him with gamma rays in his experiment to enhance human abilities. I’m guessing it was one of those technical limitations, due to not having CGI, that necessitated the change.

The comic book Hulk could talk. He could think. Sure, he wasn’t brilliant and he wasn’t much of a orator, but being able to do more than just roar, growl, smash through drywall, and knock over empty barrels made for a more interesting character. It opened up the possibilities for more compelling storylines than a drifting doctor who seems to always find people who need his help. And eventually the helpful hand from a growling, roaring, marginally super-strong, green brute to put the beat down on some bad guys.

“Thanks, Hulk! We were thinking of enlarging that doorway anyway.”

And now a short break from the blog for a brief aside:

By the way, the basic plot of The Incredible Hulk is essentially the same as TV’s The Fugitive (1963-1967) and Kung Fu (1972-1975). Both series’ lead characters were also drifters encountering people who needed their help. In The Fugitive, Dr. Kimble would break out his doctoring skills. In Kung Fu, Caine would bust out his martial arts moves. And each of the three lead characters in these shows was searching for something while they drifted from town to town. Kimble was looking for the one-armed man, Caine was searching for his family, and David (gahhh) was trying to find a cure for his hulking out.

Brief aside over, now back to the blog.

The show used all the techniques used extensively in The Six Million Dollar Man (1974-1978). There was the use of slow motion to make the action appear more impressive. Real speed might look silly. There were the foam rubber rocks that were easy to lift and throw, but were a little too bouncy. There would also be shots of the Hulk throwing bad guys 20 yards through the air. And there was the filming of a stunt person jumping backwards off a building and then running the film in reverse to make it appear the monster was jumping onto the building.

These were ways of dealing with the limited technology. And some of the techniques were admittedly pretty clever, but this just wasn’t the Hulk in my eyes. I mean no disrespect to Lou Ferrigno. He was certainly an impressive physical specimen. And he did the best he could with what he was asked to do. It’s just that his Hulk wasn’t nearly strong enough. In the comic books, the Hulk could travel miles through the air in a single leap. He could topple entire buildings. And the madder he got, the stronger he got. But, the TV Hulk, although able to throw a grown man great distances, seemed to struggle lifting a woman who was hanging from a cliff to safety.

Weeeelllll, they’re close, but these costumes just don’t work.

There were other attempts in the 1970s to bring live action super-heroes to television: The very short-lived The Amazing Spider-Man (1977-1979), a made-for-TV movie featuring Captain America (1979), and DC Comic’s Wonder Woman (1975-1979). Spider-Man’s and Captain America’s costumes were fairly accurate to the comics, but looked silly on TV. Wonder Woman’s costume worked much better, but that was probably due to Lynda Carter being in it.

Um. Yeah, that works.

Compare those shows with the super-hero movies we’ve been getting since the advent of CGI. Sure, they aren’t all perfect. Some of the DC Comics movies have been down right lousy. But Marvel Comics movies, for the most part, have been thrilling to this old comic book fan. Visually stunning with the characters being true to their comic book versions. The Marvel Universe films may not be exactly what I had in mind as a kid wishing for an Avengers movie, but they are virtually spot on when compared to those 70s shows.

Maybe that is the millennial mentality, but I don’t think so. Those shows were way too limited. Limited by technology. Limited creatively. Let’s face it, despite their best efforts,  the shows were lame. How many times can we see David (ugh) drift along helping strangers and hulking out? And that wig was horrible! Surely, they could have done better even with 1970s wig technology.

Hulk Of Guilt Models Murder
Hey! That’s Jeremy Brett, my favorite Sherlock Holmes actor, in the background!

No, my generation didn’t have CGI, but it would have been awesome if it did.

Packing Peanuts!

Feel free to comment and share.

Images used under Fair Use.

Warehouse Find is the official blog of NostalgiaZone.com, where you can find books, games, toys, cards, and a huge selection of Golden, Silver, Bronze, and Modern Age comic books. Jim also has a podcast called Dimland Radio. He’d love it if you checked it out. It’s available on iTunes.

This Month’s Great Cover Has A Lantern Jaw

53272

Just look at that!

In the January, 1993 issue of Superman (#75), our hero from the planet Kryton had died defeating what seemed to be an unstoppable foe: Doomsday. In the months that followed, as Superman lay “dead,” four characters stepped in to fill his sizable shoes. They were Eradicator, Superboy, Cyborg Superman, and Steel. Eventually, the real Superman rose from the dead (hardly anyone stays dead in comic books for very long) to take up the task of once again fighting for Truth, Justice, and the American Way.

This month’s great cover is from Superman: The Man Of Steel #25 (September, 1993). It was drawn by Jon Bogdanove and inked by Dennis Janke. Bogdanove had started working for Marvel Comics in 1986, then he hopped on over to DC Comics in 1991 and became part of the team that created the Man Of Steel title in an expansion of the titles featuring our hero from another world. Then, in the wake of Superman’s death, the team created a new hero named Steel to take over the title.

1993 was part of th23188at awful time period when comic book art began to drown in unnecessary linework. Lines! Lines! Lines! Marvel and Image Comics led the way in this era in which some artists forgot to leave room for color, adding more and more lines, while some inkers also abandoned the use of varying line weight to show the shape of things. Look at the cover of The Incredible Hulk #341 (March, 1988), drawn and inked by Todd MacFarlane, one of the artists who issued in this flood of undisciplined linework. Now, imagine there’s no color, it’s a black and white line drawing. Without the color it would be difficult to tell just what the hell is going on. So many unnecessary lines, which all have more or less the same weight to them.

Compare MacFarlane’s cover to this month’s great cover. Bogdanove and Janke use plenty of lines for shading, but the lines are disciplined. They are loose in their execution, but they are placed right where they are needed. There are thick and thin lines. They make sense. You can tell exactly what is going on. And they leave room for color, which was masterfully provided by Janke.

I love a good close-up and Bogdanove and Janke nailed this one. This, my friends, is how you draw an angry, determined, about-to-kick-your-butt Superman!

Packing Peanuts!

Feel free to comment and share.

Images used under Fair Use.

Warehouse Find is the official blog of NostalgiaZone.com, where you can find books, games, toys, cards, and a huge selection of Golden, Silver, Bronze, and Modern Age comic books.

Correction (12-5-18): I had the scope of the Superman: Man Of Steel title wrong. When the series started in 1991 it featured Superman. I had originally indicated the series was created to fill the void of the missing hero. The correction has been made.

Herb Trimpe, The Hulk, And Another Great Cover

23014
September 1973

It really was an excellent pairing of artist and character, when Herb Trimpe drew the Hulk. During his run as artist on Marvel Comics’ The Incredible Hulk, Trimpe was at the peak of his powers. It’s difficult to define that certain magic that comes from the perfect pairing of artist and character, but when it happens it’s awesome.

Jack Kirby and the Fantastic Four; John Buscema and the Silver Surfer; Neal Adams and Batman; John Byrne and the X-Men; are just a few of explosive combinations. (Yes, yes. Each artist produced brilliant art on other titles, but those are the best examples that come to my mind.) And, we can add Herb and Hulk to the list of great combos, because they certainly rocked together.

So, I return to the Trimpe/Hulk pairing once again (I first featured a great cover with that pairing in June, 2016). This month’s great cover, drawn and inked by Trimpe, is from issue number 167 (September, 1973) and it’s a doozy!

There’s the “Dutch Angle” applied to add drama and tension. There is speed involved in the crushing stomp the big baddie is trying to drop on our hero. I mean, look! Those are sparks jumping from Hulk’s right hand, aren’t they?

I’m not sure how impressive of a villain Modok normally is, being mainly a giant head, but, with the addition of that over-sized robot body, he looks pretty damn formidable. Obviously, the Hulk is struggling mightily with a bad guy who declares he isn’t afraid of our great, big, green hero. (But, I’m guessing the Hulk triumphs in the end.)

This is such a great, eye-catching cover. It gives Gil Kane a run for his money and his covers were consistently fabulous. There was just something about Herb Trimpe and the Hulk.

Incredible!

Packing Peanuts!

Feel free to comment and share.

Images used under Fair Use.

A great cover by Herb Trimpe

23020

Herb Trimpe provided the pencils and inks on this fantastic cover dated March, 1974. I may have never ranked Trimpe among my favorite comic book illustrators, but his run on The Incredible Hulk was outstanding. I think it is his best work. His very Jack Kirby influenced style fit so well with this series.

And I think he was really cookin’ on this cover.

To start with, the tension built by the sharp angle of the seriously challenged ship sets the tone for this cover. The angle gives this shot so much movement and action, it doesn’t feel static at all.

The sailors are in deep trouble and the big blue guy and the green behemoth couldn’t care less. They have a beef to settle. Their Roman knuckles battle may be burning our hero’s hand, but he will not let go. Cobalt Man is just going to have to kill the Hulk to loosen that epic grip.

A particularly dramatic touch is the sailor who has gone overboard and is being overwhelmed by the waves. He even has water getting into his gaping mouth. That was some pretty intense stuff for my ten year-old eyes.

This is the kind of tension and excitement that certain artists over there in the DC Comics world just couldn’t muster. cough cough Curt Swan cough cough!

OK, to be fair, DC had plenty of excellent artists working on their covers and stories. I will feature them in the future. It’s just that I’m a Marvel kind of guy and I think their comic books (covers and stories and characters) were just consistently more interesting and exciting to me.

Until Frank Miller.

Anyway, this cover caught my eye when I was a kid and still catches it today.

Packing Peanuts!

Feel free to comment and share.

An artist’s vision isn’t always honored…

Time for my monthly look at another bit of comic book cover awesomeness.

Originally, I had planned to have a look at one of Jim Steranko‘s Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. covers, but when I was looking through Steranko’s work on the Google a different cover caught my eye. (Don’t worry, other Steranko covers are sure to show up in this series.) And then, as I looked into it a little deeper, I found out about an interesting bit of editing of the artist’s vision.

Editing shouldn’t come as a surprise. In commercial art compromises are made all the time. Film directors may not make their film as they had seen it in their minds because of budget constraints, insufficient technology, or studio interference. In comic books, editors might change what an artist had drawn because of story needs, character consistency, or maybe they just didn’t like a particular pose.

As great as Jim Steranko’s work was, it wasn’t immune to the whims of the editor.

Here’s the cover that caught my eye…

22939

It’s the cover of the Incredible Hulk King-Size Special #1 from October 1968 and it’s excellent! It’s simple in its design and all the more powerful owing to that simplicity. I love the pose, the straining of every muscle, the veins bulging on his arms, the flames in the background, the crumbling letters, and the coloring. Awesome awesomeness!

However, editor Stan Lee had a problem with how the Hulk’s face was drawn.  I’m not sure why he didn’t have Steranko redraw the face, but I was told once by a local artist that editors will often make changes without informing the artist. Lee had Marie Severin, the artist of the book’s story, redraw the face and hers was cut and pasted in place.

I found out about the change from an article by Allan Harvey on the Gorilla Daze blog. Somehow Harvey found the original Steranko version (below). The original face, I think, was far more effective in showing the strain the Hulk was under. Severin’s face may have looked more like the Hulk we all know, but Steranko’s was much more expressive. More dramatic. Severin’s face looks more like just another day at the office for our green, muscle-bound hero, but in Steranko’s version, we can see he’s being pushed to his limit.

hulkannual1steranko

It is still one fantastic cover!

Packing Peanuts!

Feel free to comment and share.

Herb Trimpe

Years ago on my blog at dimland.com, I had done a comic book review series I modestly titled “Comic Books that have Changed My Life.” I had planned to revisit that series and expand on it for my blog here, so, with the passing of comic book artist Herb Trimpe, I figured this was as good a time as any to get started.

This was the third installment of my series, in which I mainly address the art of those important (to me) comic books. I’m a cartoonist who has been very influenced by comic book artists of the ’60s, ’70s, and ’80s. The issue I will examine this time is The Incredible Hulk #168 (October 1973), which was part of Trimpe’s best work. His style may not have been my favorite, but his abilities were an excellent fit for his run in the Hulk series.

Hulk 168

This was back in the day when the page layout was still the basic six-panels a page with full gutters (that’s what the spaces between panels are called). Trimpe’s work in this issue has a soft feel thanks to Jack Abel’s inking. And one can certainly see the influence that Jack Kirby had on his work. That’s hardly unusual, because Kirby influenced just about every comic book artist.

As comic book stories go, I always seemed to prefer the first part of a multi-issue story. I think it’s because the set up for the initial defeat of our hero is more compelling. In this issue, Betty Ross Talbot is transformed by Modok into the Harpy in order to defeat the Hulk; which she, by the end of the issue, does just that. (He gets better in the next issue, don’t worry.)

Issue #168 contains three splash pages! (That’s what they call a full page panel) The first isn’t anything very special. It sets up what’s going on. The Hulk is trying to get into the hospital where an ailing Betty is being treated. Note the flowers in the foreground. They are placed in the scene to set up that the Hulk picks flowers for Betty. How sweet.

Hulk splash 1

The second splash page is the transformation scene of Betty into Harpy. It’s spectacular! Very dramatic. There’s a lot of Jack Kirby in that panel. The black dots are a classic Kirby element. Also, note the shadow of Harpy’s right arm. That’s a great touch. I’m not sure how many other artists would bother to draw in that shadow.

Hulk splash 2

Third is the final page. It was pretty common to do a splash page for the end of the first part of a multi-issue story. It’s meant to wow the reader with its dramatic effect and make sure they don’t miss the next part. Well, this one delivers. It looks as though our hero has had it. (Harpy was only able to get the better of the Hulk by playing the “I’m Betty” card, getting the big dummy to drop his guard.)

Hulk splash 3

There’s some other fun stuff in this issue. Especially, a very dated, but still funny (maybe because it’s so dated) argument between the Hulk’s friend, Jim Wilson, and Jim’s girlfriend, Talia.

I’m also quite fond of a panel depicting the Hulk jumping through the wall of the hospital. It’s very simple and straight forward. Blam!

Hulk through wall

On Monday April 13, 2015, Herb Trimpe died at age 75. The artist is gone, but the art remains.

Jim ‘Dr. Dim’ Fitzsimons