And now for something completely different…
Every once in a while a bunch of us here in comic book related blogland team up in true super-hero style and all play off of a theme. Awhile back someone suggested the concept of Read This Too! where we bloggers would pick out a comic we wouldn’t normally discuss for one reason or another and give it some love. The original concept centered around picking out a current title we were reading and write about that. The problem is that I am not reading any current titles beyond the ones I review for on the Superman Homepage and/or discuss on the Spider-Man Crawlspace podcast. After mulling it over for a bit I decided that instead of bowing out that I would discuss one of my favorite comic book runs ever that didn’t involve Superman.
What run would that be?
Peter David’s 12 year stint with a character that shares the number two spot in my Top Five Favorite Super-Heroes Of All Time list.
I’m talking about Peter David’s run on…the Incredible Hulk!
In looking at the previously mentioned Top Five List I realized that I first encountered five of the six on the list when I was a wee lad and in all five cases I first saw them on television, not in the comics. The Incredible Hulk is one of these heroes. The live action television series starring Bill Bixby and Lou Ferrigno was one of my favorites and continues to be one of my favorites. I love that show about as much as I love the 1966 and 1982 animated series featuring the Jade Giant. I watched all of those series just about every time they would come on in syndication or on Saturday mornings. I wouldn’t actually read an issue of the Hulk until the early eighties when my Mom bought me a copy of Incredible Hulk #293, which was an odd time to come into the series because this was during the time period where Bruce had full control over the transformations. Later I would get issues 315 (written and drawn by John Byrne and I had no idea at the time that Mr. Byrne would be directly responsible for me getting into a certain Man of Steel) and 324 (the return of the gray Hulk) and I loved both issues, but I wasn’t really collecting comics in a serious way at the time. It wouldn’t be until Peter David was writing the character that I would get into the comic book Hulk and even then it wouldn’t be a comic that sucked me in.
In the fall of 1995 I was in a pretty dark place. I won’t get into all of the specifics here because it would eat up too much time but it was bad. I was depressed on several levels and dealing with feelings of grief and abandonment and loneliness that the 19 year old me wasn’t prepared for at all. One day I was at Waldenbooks (Anyone remember how cool Waldenbooks used to be?) and the cover of an Incredible Hulk novel titled What Savage Beast, written by Peter David caught my eye. I took it home to my attic apartment, sat back and started reading it.
That was the moment that I became a fan of not only Peter David’s Hulk but Peter David’s writing in general.
The novel was epic and even though I had no frame of reference to the version of the Hulk Peter David was writing I immediately got it. I read the book in a day and then re-read it several times. I just loved the story and the fact that part of the book took place very close to where I lived at the time made that connection between me and the story that much more powerful. Outside of the Superman books I had never felt an affinity for a character like that before and in true “me” fashion the thought of checking out the comics didn’t really occur to me until about a year or so later.
Flash forward about a year and I’m no longer living in Pennsylvania. I’ve moved to Georgia and after staying with my Dad for a few months my sister and I found a place of our own. A friend of mine named Ryan loaned me a collection of Peter David’s But I Digress columns and that was what sparked me to check out his Incredible Hulk run. I began reading the new issues and started my long, hard search for David’s entire run on the book.
Here’s the thing about me and comics; I am as much into the reading as I am into the collecting. The thrill of the hunt is very exciting and back in the late nineties that thrill bordered on addiction. I was lucky because I came into some money around the time I started The Search and between the extra cash and a few sales at various comic shops the bulk of the issues were easy to find and reasonably priced. Some cost a good bit of bank. Incredible Hulk #340 was a hefty chunk of change because Todd McFarlane still had a lot of back issue clout in 1996. Most of the McFarlane issues were on the expensive side come to think of it but they weren’t hard to find. Slowly the collection came together until I had every issue I needed except for one.
Incredible Hulk #440.
I could not find that book to save my life. I had seen copies of it when it first came out but when I wanted to buy one it disappeared from the comics shops on the south side of Atlanta. The search went on for months and finally in the fall of 1997 I started reading my run because I just couldn’t wait anymore.
Holy crap it was awesome.
Peter David’s writing style has certain hallmarks. One, he’ll follow a certain path just long enough to get you used to it and then pull the rug right out from under you. Two, he makes the characters believable enough that you feel you know them. Three, he’ll make you laugh and then immediately sucker punch you with a huge dramatic moment. Four, he has a great sense of action. All of these came together perfectly over the course of his run on the Hulk. It wasn’t perfect all of the time. Some points in the run kind of drag but more often than not I couldn’t wait to get to the next issue. I hit the end of the McFarlane run right around Thanksgiving of ’97 and from there the book kept getting better and better until it hit the Pantheon storyline and that is flat out my favorite part of the run. Between Dale Keown and Gary Frank doing the art and the idea of all of the versions of the Hulk morphed into one giant, green body I was just hooked. I didn’t want it to end.
Eventually I made my way through David’s run until I was fast approaching issue 440 and I still couldn’t find it. I was getting nervous. What was I going to do if I got there and didn’t have the book? Stop reading and wait? Keep reading and hope I don’t notice? Burn all of my comics in a huge bonfire? Ok, the third option was never going to happen but a “hard” decision was going to have to be made and I didn’t like either option. Right before I got to the issue I happened to attend a one day comic show and one of the dealers had a dollar box. I searched through it and suddenly there it was.
Incredible Hulk #440.
For a dollar.
Cue the score to Die Hard when the safe opens up and Hans Gruber sees the fruition of all of the plans he had made.
It. Was. Awesome.
Eventually I caught up to the current issues and read the Hulk on a monthly basis. This was right around the time of Heroes Return and I was digging where Peter was taking the book. Then the announcement came. Peter David was leaving the Hulk. From what I understand the powers that be at Marvel wanted to return the Hulk back to his more mindless roots and use him to fight other heroes and Peter had no truck with that. So he walked away but not before killing off a major character and giving us some insight into where he was going to take the characters. I was sad. It was like having a good friend move away soon after meeting them. I read the Hulk that followed David’s run for a bit before losing interest. It just wasn’t the same. An era had come to an end and I moved on, checking back in on the Hulk every once in a while but never finding that same thrill and connection that Peter David’s run had.. That’s the way of things really and in the end I still have all of the issues and now five of the six or seven Visionaries trades that Marvel has released.
And I can read them any time I want to.
That’s it for Read This Too! I hope you enjoyed this slight diversion from the normal Superman talk. Below is a list of other blogs that are participating in this event so make sure you check them out today. If their post isn’t live yet check back later in the day.
- It’s a Dan’s World
- Doom Patrol
- Red Tornado’s Path
- Girls Gone Geek
- Speed Force
- K-Squared Ramblings
- Indigo Tribe
- Being Carter Hall
- Mail It To Team-Up
- Aquaman Shrine
- Once Upon a Geek
- Firestorm Fan
- Siskoid’s Blog of Geekery
Tomorrow: From Crisis to Crisis episode number 68. Jeff and I kick off 1991 and the Triangle Numbering System.
More to follow…