May 29, 2017

The 40 Years of Comics Project - Day 824: Incredible Hulk #183, January 1975

https://www.comics.org/issue/28156/

My oldest actual Hulk comic gets us properly rolling through the week. I say "actual" because there's a wonderful subset of Marvel... titles (e.g. Marvel Spectacular) that reprint older comics. I have them arranged and catalogued within the particular titles that they reprint, but some slip through the cracks and I'm pretty sure the Hulk reprint ones have thus far. So we'll start in 1975.

It's a pretty good place to start, really. Len Wein is a fantastic writer. I recently gave a paper (and I'm hoping to post the paper at Sequart) talking about one of his Hulk comics as a way of thinking through the genre of the Gothic, a popular type of fiction that was big from about the end of the 17th century to the end of the 19th. It gets subsumed into Horror in the 20th century, but my reading of a Hulk comic and a Supergirl comic from the 70s seems to show that the Gothic is alive and well, and distinct from the Horror genre, at least in superhero comics. I'm going to look into it a bit more. The long and short of the Hulk section is that Wein is fantastically well-known for co-creating Swamp Thing, one of the most Gothic characters to emerge from comics, so it's interesting to see the same kind of treatment being laid on a character that is as outcast as Swampie, but is still a huge part of the mainstream Marvel U.

Today's story sees the return of ZZZAX, a living electronic creature that absorbs humans for sustenance. Weird and ridiculous, but once the creature actually kills someone in this issue, the ridiculous fades into the background, and we begin to have some understanding about the importance of having a creature like the Hulk about to deal with these things from beyond. There's something of the Cosmicism of Lovecraft in such an idea. ZZZAX doesn't care much about humans aside from them being food, and Hulk just wants to be away from them. It's only the minute traces of Banner within him that prompt his rescuing of a couple of scientists from the energy creature. I've argued elsewhere that one of the contemporary responses to Lovecraft's cosmicism is creating meaning through emotional relationships, and this comic articulates this very well. The uncaring universe, as represented by ZZZAX, is defeated by human beings and a creature that embodies emotion. The uncaring cosmos is literally defeated by the embodiment of our emotions. Further, Hulk chooses to help the scientists because one of them helped him - rather than rage motivating the Hulk, it's affection, or the rage born of an affection scorned.

I honest did not think I was going to enjoy these Hulk comics as much as I am.

To be continued.

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