Monday, April 8, 2013

Hulkamania! (Issue #66)

March 1970

And, here we are! The last issue of the first run of X-Men, before the series is cancelled and all the artists and writers are sent off to the gulag and their houses burned and their children sold to the richest land holder. Probably.

Do they go out with a bang or a whimper? Did they know this was coming, or did they find out the next morning, when they came to the office, ready to work on issue #67, only to find pink slips and a picture of a hobo clown with a crude arrow labeled "you, now" and then, in smaller writing, "because you're fired and you're like this hobo" because the message, after a second look by the one who left it was deemed too unclear and that's what you get when you fire the writers: Unclear messaging.

Judging from the cover, they wanted this issues to be a "bang" no matter if they knew it or not. Look: The Hulk! Singing Las Vegas! Nothing says "big" like The Hulk! Nothing says "bang" like Vegas (Hey! Not that way! This is a family blog!) And nothing says "big bang" like [a Big Bang Theory joke here] (I don't watch that show.)


Having used his mind-powers (the literal kind, like those that can move objects - not the figurative ones your grade-school teachers always told you you had) to turn back an invading force of angry aliens [see last ish. -Ed] Professor Eccs has collapsed. The question on everyone's lips: Is he going to die AGAIN?! (Even though, technically, he didn't really die the first time....)

Morissette-ian Irony, or the real kind?
It's like rain. On a rainy day...

Since the X-Men have no idea how to cure the old fool, they decide to ask someone who might have a clue: Professor X himself! Wheeling up a mind-probe (that they just so happen to have on-hand), all they get from the unconscious Prof's mind is a mumbled "The Hulk".

Having "failed" (even though he was MOST emphatic about finding The Hulk) at mind-probing him, they ask Jean to use her powers to mind probe him again. Repetition makes things more interesting to read! Repetition makes things more interesting to read! But, delving into his mind-grapes, Jean only picks up images of ... The Hulk. I think it can be assumed, at this point, that the Prof wants you to find The Hulk. (Or that he's a huge Mark Ruffalo fan ... or Edward Norton fan ... or Bill Bixby fan ... or Lou Ferrigno fan. OK, I'm tapped out.)

Meanwhile OR WWF WRESTLING HULKAMANIAC! (that's the last one, I swear), tensions heat up in the love triangle of Iceman, Havok, and Lorna (who still hasn't picked a super hero name! Seriously?!)

His career as an insult comic would be brief and terrible.

Flying to Las Vegas [lit trans: The Vegan] to intercept The Hulk (who they know is there because of a handy broadcast on the TV that mentioned he was in Vegas) the X-Men fight the guest star and - for once in seven years and 66 issues - do NOT lose! In fact they beat The Hulk pretty easily (thanks to a mind-blast from Jean Grey) and he turns back into Dr. Bruce Banner. When asked if he knows anything about Charles Xavier, Dr. Banner is all, "Yeah! We worked on gamma ray stuff, back in the day! He and I were O.G.! And the 'G' stands for 'Gamma!'" To their credit, the X-Men don't pants this dweeb, because they need his help.

But before he can lead the X-Men to the gamma ray device they need, the army shows up to enforce the very strict law of "What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas" and tries to arrest everyone. Banner "hulks up" and leaps away (making a "thoom" noise) and while the army men are watching him fade into the distance, the X-Men sneak off back to their airplane. Seriously.

Scouring the desert for the hulk, they easily spot him using a clever plot device called "luck".

This panel is filled with terrible writing.
"Thoomed"? Not a word!

Even worse than writing in a shovel-full of luck and onomatapoeia? While they are re-fighting The Hulk, the entrance to one of Dr. Banner's secret labs is uncovered! What luck! Oh! AND it's the very secret lab which houses the device the X-Men need to save Professor X!

How to write comics: The marvel way!

While the others keep the Bulk occupied, Angel flies into the lab/cavern and finds the device they need. Once he nabs it, off they all go, back to the mansion:

So it WASN'T terrible writing all along! ... OR WAS IT!
This will go down in history as an unsolved mystery to rival Bigfoot, the Loch Ness monster, and the Crystal Skull.
(Though, the mystery about the Crystal Skull is how it was ever greenlit as a sequel to "Raiders", not anything about the crystal skulls themselves.)

Hurrying this along, they activate the device and...

Yes, Beast, dead people are know for OPENING THEIR EYES!
(And he's the SMART one!)

He lives! They did it! And all is right with the world!


Then, hidden among the letters from fans, is this:


To sum up: They're dropping the hammer. This is how kids found out that their beloved book was dying?! Think of the poor kiddies who were crushed! Further: Think of the kids who never read the letters column, unaware that their book was dead, checking newsstands week after week for years, until they grew old and died of sadness. Though, maybe kids of the 70s weren't the delicate, overly-emotional blubbering blobs we are today, where everything we love has to be defended and fought for, upon its cancellation, with an online campaign, hashtag, and Kickstarter. MAYBE, they used to just let things go?!

This is getting way too close to real social commentary, so ...


Well, that wraps this original series up. Overall, this was fun. Sure, there were many, many, many times that I wish I had stayed in school and made something more of myself, but I wonder if that had anything to do with the comics themselves. If you were to ask me if anyone should follow in my footsteps, I'd probably say, "those footprints are where I carried you" then smile, knowingly, and then run away. But, seriously, I'm glad I did this, if only to show all the haters that I CAN finish something that

For your own record, and to show what kind of lag-time I have on reading / blogging, the day I read this issue was May 4th, 2012 ... and the day I wrote this blog post was April 8, 2013!

Further, it took me almost exactly ONE YEAR to read and blog this entire series. To think of what I could have done in that time...