Posted - November 7, 2010 | Updated September 26, 2011 | August 27, 2015
The Incredible Hulk
Incredible Hulk 212 : Crushed by the Constrictor
First Appearance of the Constrictor!
This issue written by Len Wein with art by Sal Buscema and Ernie Chan.
By way of presenting the incredible detail of the art of Buscema and Chan, I'm lifting one of the panels.
This quality is pretty much consistent throughout the issue and is a big part of why I'm recommending it.
This 1977 issue is also the first appearance of the Constrictor.
The Constrictor's battle suit is both bulletproof and has electrical insulation. The cables can be used as whips and are capable of applying a crushing force. In the suit's chest is an electrical generator that feeds the cables. Impressive, but this is a Hulk mag, so the Constrictor will be going up against the strongest member of the Marvel U. Normally, I'd consider him easy pickings for the Hulk but those cables are made of adamantium, the strongest metal; not even the Hulk can break it. Let's look in on the fight.
This is a very smart move for the Constrictor - going after Hulk's eyes. The jade giant is temporarily confused.
The fight goes on for a respectable while but in the end the Hulk's strength is just too much for the Constrictor
What finally does the Constrictor in is an electrical shock when he accidentally taps into the city's power line. It's more than enough to kill a man but the Constrictor's suit is electrically insulated so it just knocks him out. The Constrictor is not a top-tier Marvel villain but he isn't a one issue wonder either. Later on he'll tackle the likes of Iron Man. More recently he'll find himself a member of Norman Osborn's team in the Dark Reign and Siege sagas. This isn't bad for a first outing.
Another thing I like about this issue is how the Hulk is drawn - massive and powerful.
Here's a priceless panel showing that you simply can't run over the Hulk.
It's not over for how good Incredible Hulk 212 is. Outside of the capes the rendition of the women is drop-dead fantastic . . .
Here's April Sommers, Bruce Banner's landlady
And here's Betty Rose in a series of well-planned panels.
Ending the issue with flourish is the Hulk walking around New York to clear his head.
Incredible Hulk 214 : The Jack of Hearts is Wild
Jack Of Hearts Is Sure Of One Thing : He Can Take Down The Hulk!
This issue written by Len Wein and drawn by Sal Buscema
This issue is recommended because of the fantastic fight scene between the Incredible Hulk and Jack of Hearts.
Once upon a time, Jack of Hearts was the newest hero in Marvel's stable and Marvel was promoting this guy heavily.
Much like DC's Barry Allen, Jack came upon his powers as a result of a chemical accident. He got bathed in a substance called Zero Fluid. It made him stronger, tougher, able to heal twice as fast and allowed him to generate a strange kind of energy. It also blackened half of his body.
Jack is young. Underneath that advanced chain mail armor is a teenager. Being new at the hero game, he wants to prove himself. He decides to do it by defeating that menace to society - the incredible Hulk. Jack is young and stupid.
The Hulk is on his way out of the city to find some peace when Jack of Hearts pounces on him.
While the Hulk is grounded, Jack of Hearts swoops down.
Jack is able to fly by directing the zero energy downwards through his hands.
What follows next is a well-placed punch.
The Hulk is seven feet tall and a thousand pounds. Jack of Hearts can lift a maximum of 600 pounds. This is obviously a lucky punch.
Next follows a series of fight panels but Jack of Hearts finally unleashes his energy blast.
Now this is more like it, Jacks zero energy is sort of like Cyclop's optic blast - it is pure force rather than heat. Jack can regulate the strength of the blast with the maximum force being equivalent to 20 pounds of TNT per second. This is his best chance against the Hulk.
I hope you've enjoyed Jack's powers and prowess, because that's it for Jack of Hearts. The Hulk is now angry and we all know what happens when the Hulk gets angry.
The downfall begins with a very ill-conceived head butt.
This allows the Hulk to get one punch in.
Do you know how many punches the Hulk has to get in before his opponent calls it quits? One. Jack of Hearts stages a getaway.
I did say the Hulk was mad right?
Back on the ground another foiled escape plan for the Jack of Hearts.
Now for this next series of panels try not to think of poor Jack and look at the awesome artwork! The layouts are just fantastic.
Well that's it, the Hulk goes on his merry way and Jack of Hearts miraculously survives this encounter. Hehehe.
Incredible Hulk 217 : The Circus of Lost Souls
Hulk Finds Friends! Ringmaster Hurt Hulk's Friends! Hulk Smash!!!
This issue was created in 1977 when all Marvel comics had small captions like this that gave a compact history of the character.
Reading this caption brings me back to grade school when most of the comics I read had captions like these. Marvel even expanded on the introduction by beginning their books with an entire page showing character history and previous events but they never caught the spirit of the originals. In just three lines it manages to get the reader excited for the book. I wonder who did these for Marvel? Could it be Stan Lee himself? Wouldn't put it past him, he always tended to infect the reader with his enthusiasm.
Here's the first full body shot of the Hulk lying face down in a beach.
Now, the art was done by two people: Sal Buscema and Ernie Chan. Sal is the younger brother of John Buscema. During this period Marvel had what it called a 'house style' - a way of drawing which they considered the Marvel way of drawing. They even released a book showing the house style called 'How To Draw Comics The Marvel Way'. The artist in that book was John Buscema, Sal's older brother. There is a difference to Sal's art - John's was more flowing and Sal's more hesitant, less smooth. But you can still see a lot of the older artist on the younger one's work. Of course the difference could also be Ernie Chan who did the inks.He is also a student of John Buscema - so again, very strong Marvel house style roots. I remember Ernie's art most of all in full pin-up pages from 'The Savage Sword of Conan' magazines ( I will surely feature them in the future; those mags are awesome). Anyway, Ernie has a signature cross-hatching inking style that adds a bit of grizzliness or shadow effect around the edges of the figures. The Hulk's back shown above shows this to full effect.
This one panel says it all in terms of the setting.
Notice the jungle all around a lonely and gaudy circus wagon? This story is like that - out of the way. It isn't a major event in the Hulk's history and that's a good thing. Sometimes the continuity can wear you down. This story is a one-shot that is done so effectively that it showcases what makes the Hulk such an enduring character.
This group of circus entertainers will only last the length of our tale, but Len Wein is such an effective writer that you actually begin to care for them all in the space of one issue.
It's the classic group of circus freak stereotypes - the thin man, the fat lady, the dog-faced boy and the midget (I'm very sorry for the degrading names but this is how the old time circus hawkers described them) . Outsiders. Just like the Hulk. Wein is able to convey an immediate rapport here between these rejects and the Hulk, Marvel's own reject together with the X-Men.
Here is Meriam, she becomes the foil for the Hulk's affection in our tale - the Beauty to the Hulk's Beast so-to-speak. It's a formulaic but brilliant addition by Wein that adds another dimension for the tale. The character of Meriam seems to evoke a heightened sense of drama every time we see her in the story. Like the others, we see her only in this one issue.
What would the comicbook be without the Hulk's show of incredible strength? Take a look at the way Buscema renders him breaking out of the wagon. Note how the figure 'breaks out' of the panel to emphasize physical strength.
And here is a delightful difference from the norm The usual reaction of the people around the Hulk is fear and panic. But not this time . . .
This divergence is one of the aspects to the story that makes it so delightful. Here the Hulk knows acceptance.
And, as this panel below shows, friendship is a precious commodity to him.
Part of why I cherish this issue and all those made around this time is because the Hulk will change. John Byrne will come out with a heavy-browed Hulk with a blocky physique like the Thing. Peter David will make the Hulk intelligent changing his image drastically. I like the Hulk this way, a simpleton with a powerhouse body.
This massive green Hulk with immense forearms is still my favorite rendition.
A good story must have some tension in it and the Ringmaster provides that. He's a brilliant choice for a villain because he has the power of hypnotism - something that the Hulk's physical strength cannot defend against.
This provides the necessary 'Uh-oh, how is the Hulk going to beat hypnotism?' question from the reader which prevents this story from being a cakewalk for the Hulk. I mean, the Ringmaster brings his Circus of Crime but you know that the Hulk can mop the place with the entire lot.
Here's a shot of the Circus of Crime
Now, if the Hulk were to take this gang on, it would be a too easy and a boring issue, but Wein is better then that. He let's Hulk's new friends take care of some of the Circus of Crime members and the whole thing is an extremely entertaining read.
Stilts vs. Princess Python's pet
Blossom vs. Cannonball
Rex vs. Princess Python
and Major Minor vs. the Clown
The ending includes this beautiful panel of the Hulk returning the stricken Meriam to here true home - the sea.
There was a time when I got so excited about the Wolverine series and picked up an issue. I don't remember the issue number anymore, but it was one of those issues in between story arcs that the editor obviously didn't care for, since the story was crap and the only thing worst was the art (yes, I was dumb enough to buy a comic without browsing it first). Anyway, that turned me off Wolverine for years.
Hulk no. 217 is like that. It's a filler issue in between story arcs. It doesn't touch upon mainstream Hulk history, nothing really happens to the Hulk and he confronts no notable villains (the Rhino appears next issue). But that's were the comparison ends.
Unlike the Wolverine issue, the people who put this together really cared for it. Kudos to the editor, who also happens to be the writer Len Wein and the art team of Sal Buscema and Ernie Chan supported by Glynis Wein, the colorist and John Constanza, the letterer.
The first indication of quality is that the story comes together to impart a certain mood. The background rendering evokes a faraway, tropical place; you just know that the air is warm and you can almost hear the sound of insects in the jungle night. I also notice the proliferation of close-in panel compositions lending the tale a sort of coziness. This evokes a campfire story attractiveness to this tale.
This mood lends itself to the main theme which is the loneliness of the Hulk matched with the loneliness of the circus performers he meets. You can feel the joy of their friendship and the dire threat of Ringmaster and his minions to break this friendship. And this is were the fun begins because the Hulk is on the side of the good guys and you just know that when threatened, the Hulk will smash!
This is a great example of the kind of comic that has made me into a life-long comicbook fan. Pick it up, you won't regret it.