20 March 2010

Boy, It's Vintage! An Accurate HULK For Boys Town

Marvel Comics wasn't always about superheroes. After World War II especially, Marvel's comics were synonymous with monster comics - and the Incredible Hulk created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby in 1962 is a product of that early era.  An amalgam of Jekyll and Hyde and the Frankenstein Monster, even the first issue of The Incredible Hulk asks, "Is He Man or Monster or...Is He Both?"  Point of fact, dear dabbler, that nowhere on that cover does it say,"Or Is He ... Super Hero? Can He Be a Super Hero? Please, please?"

The Incredible Hulk series didn't catch on, and was canceled with its sixth issue.  Shortly after, Lee found a use for his Hulk in the pages of Marvel's first - and then only - superhero title,  Fantastic Four #12.  Ever since, Marvel and the incredible number of writers its had tackle Hulk have endeavored to somehow make the character - and  more importantly, the idea behind the character - fit neatly inside the box of the company's expanding Universe.

But the schizophrenic, nuclear-spawned monster with a powerful metaphor at its core rarely has fit well, for the simple fact that the Green Goliath is not a superhero.  Bruce Banner, the scientist with a secret inside, may be heroic in his efforts to suppress his angry side,  but the same could have been said for Jeffrey Dahmer on a good day.  Despite that unfortunate comparison, the Hulk remains a rich and useful character -- just not in the pages of the  character's current two monthly series. In the greater Marvel Universe of today, the Hulk's been reduced to a plot device, a means of mass destruction and a reason for Wolverine to headline yet another limited series. In Hulk, writer Jeph Loeb has literally exploited the character's schizophrenic nature; Hulk is red one month, blue the next, though we suppose Loeb's just keeping us on our toes until he hits us with chartreuse Hulk just before his  ridiculous run is over.

We ran the risk just now of turning our beloved comicsblog into a comics-rant, but only to illustrate a point, dear dabbler: there is a Hulk within us all. Robert Louis Stevenson knew this, Stan Lee knew this, we (and you) know this, and, we're happy to mention,  he creator of the Hulk Boys Town advertisement at the top of tonight's blog knew this, too. The ad ran inside Marvel's New Warriors #33  back in March of 1993, and it's one of the best uses of the Hulk that we've seen in comics in a long time, before and since.

If you've heard of Boys Town, you'll also understand, then, why we think this the Hulk makes a terrific spokesperson. Boys Town, founded in Nebraska in 1921 by Father Edward J Flanagan, provides an integrated continuum of care to at-risk youth, and its National Hotline has served as a life line for kids nationwide who need help. It's done so for over twenty years, which means that good ol' Hulk was one of the Hotline's first mascots, and maybe even its only comic book mascot at that. 

We think its great that in all the years since, the Boys Town National Hotline is still going strong and remains as true and dedicated to its mission as it was when it was created. Hulk, you may be think you're "the strongest there is," but  we've got news for you: nope. Image [via]

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