Saturday, 4 July 2015

My First Superhero

Another article I wrote for online magazine Journey Planet, for their superhero issue - #21 - in April 2015.

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Appearing here with Sword Girl and Bird Nose
I guess that must have been Hulk. OK, the Hulk if you want to be all formal. I suppose he counts as a superhero, since he had his own weekly Marvel comic (black and white UK reprint The Mighty World of Marvel) at the time, but then so did Dracula and Planet of the Apes. In the comics I first read, Hulk stories consisted mainly of him getting shot at by the US Army, causing innocent bystanders to flee in terror and battling equally muscle-bound monsters like Rhino, Abomination, Zzzax (I had to check the spelling) and the excellently-hatted Xemnu the Titan. Hulk didn’t go much for crime-fighting or making the world a better place.

No good reason for using this - I just love the cover

If Hulk did occasionally save the world, it was more as a by-product of him accidentally pulverizing a bad-guy’s doomsday weapon in the middle of their fight, rather than by any conscious intention to do good. This was the era of the ‘Hulk-Smash’ incarnation - a childlike titan who just wanted to be left alone, but yet was continually hunted and hounded (a term used almost every issue) by those that would seek to capture him, revenge themselves on him or simply prove that they could beat him. That latter motivation was inevitably doomed, because, as was often roared by the jade giant himself, ‘HULK IS THE STRONGEST ONE THERE IS!’. Right on, Hulk baby, as his 70s sidekick Jim Wilson might say.

Just leave him alone!
Hulk was a great character for a young reader like me. He wasn’t that complicated - a childlike loner with Unearthly Strength (‘increases to Shift X when he rages’) and not too much back story (in the days before Joe Fixit and Skaar and Doc Green). And he was easier for me to draw than, say, Spider-Man, whose webbed costume always proved to be a challenge. With Hulk, as long as you had a green and a purple crayon, you couldn’t really fail, although in one very early drawing I did of him he appeared to have the face of the late Norman Wisdom.

The best thing about Hulk was his own special Hulk-speak, which consisted of referring to himself only in the third person (a classic comic device; see also Dr Doom) and giving everyone else their own unique Hulk nickname. Thus Spider-Man was ‘BUG MAN’ or more often ‘PUNY BUG MAN’, the Thing was of course ‘ROCK MAN’ and so on. For years I thought that the superhero Valkyrie was called ‘SWORD GIRL’*.


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