There’s only space for two different titles this week, because there’s SO! MUCH! ACTION! in the pages of the Hulk and Spider-Man! We’re talking DOCTOR DOOM! SPACE GODS! SCIENCE VAMPIRES! TOO MANY LIMBS! BAD DRUG TRIPS! AWKWARD CONVERSATIONS WITH YOUR GIRLFRIEND! Strap in, True Believers—it’s a wild ride!
INCREDIBLE HULK #143-145 (Sept. 1971 – Nov. 1971):
Bruce Banner has spent the time since his fight with Valkyrie hiding in the alleys of NYC and trying to avoid the police. Just when the dragnet is about to close around him, though, a car pulls up and tells him to get in. It turns out the car belongs to… [DUN DUN DUN] DOCTOR DOOM! who takes him to the Latverian Embassy.
The military assembles outside and gently threatens Doom in an attempt to get him to surrender Banner. Instead, Doom sends out the Hulk, who starts smashing tanks left and right! The military has no choice but to BLOW HIM UP!
Everyone feels bad about this, but Doc Samson’s feelings on the matter are EXTRA WEIRD.
Dude. You stole the Hulk’s powers in order to steal his girlfriend. Like, that’s your origin story—your canon origin story. Holy crap.
Anyway, the Hulk wasn’t really dead, because obviously. Duh. It was just a robot. But with that ruse in place, Doom is free to tranquilize Banner and send him back to Latveria, where the master plan can truly begin: a brainwashed Hulk will become his dutiful slave, smashing Latveria’s unspecified neighbouring nations and allowing Doom to stand supreme!
(This is actually a pretty legit joke.)
Brainwashed, Banner toils in Doom’s lab, working to construct a gamma bomb. For, you see, Doom’s Ultimate Plan® is to strap a gamma bomb onto the Hulk’s back and have him hop over the border, at which point he’ll detonate it. The “clever” bit is that if the Hulk is carrying the bomb, it will seem as if the Hulk has escaped and just decided to attack a neighbouring country for NO REASON, thereby clearing Doom of instigating an act of aggression. Because that seems plausible, riiiiiight?
But the plan goes awry when it’s discovered that Valeria (the woman that Doom abducted and who he’s trying to impress) tampered with Banner’s brainwashing, forcing the Hulk to deviate from his instructions and detonating the gamma bomb in an unpopulated area. Doom is incensed and intends to try Valeria for treason, but before that can happen the Hulk rockets back:
The Hulk and Doctor Doom fight, trashing Doom’s castle, and in the end Doom is defeated, leading to this bizarre exchange:
Like, if the Hulk knows he’s beaten you, he doesn’t have to actually DO IT. Because that’s the Hulk’s M.O. and not “HULK SMASH!” Regardless, having decided Doom is a wimp, the Hulk bounces off into the sunset.
But if you thought that story had some specious logic in it, you haven’t read the next issue: “GODSPAWN.” Apparently Roy Thomas came up with the basic story and Len Wein wrote the script, because a story this bonkers needs TWO scribes!
SO. The issue opens with the Egyptian gods landing in a spaceship on Earth millions of millennia ago. They leave a ‘seed’ on the mudball and fly away again.
Back in the present, the Hulk bounds across Europe and lands in the ocean, where a Russian warship decides it will be the greatest victory for the Motherland if they destroy the Hulk. The Hulk takes issue with this plan and DESTROYS THE WARSHIP.
FYI, this does not trigger an international incident.
The Hulk swims to shore and ends up in a desert where men in chariots are attempting to abduct a woman. The Hulk smashes the chariots and ruins what turns out to be a film shoot. Overhearing that the Hulk just wants “to stay a while—and rest,” the director of the film comes up with an idea:
You’re going to make him the star… of your historical epic?
Meanwhile, somewhere “deep in America’s heartland,” General Thunderbolt Ross has just received the go-ahead for Project Greenskin!
That’s right—an entire military base dedicated solely to “capturing and imprisoning the Hulk… even killing him if we have to.” Okay, but, if killing him is on the table as an option, I’d wait until he turns back into Banner and get a sniper to put him down. It’d be cheaper than constructing and outfitting an entire base. Also, can we talk about the mixed messaging of constructing the base to look like a peace sign? That’s some straight-up 1984 messaging right there.
Back on the movie set, they’ve dressed the Hulk up in a not-historically-accurate Egyptian costume, but the Hulk—not used to the “hurry up and wait” philosophy of working on film sets—gets tired and reverts back into Banner. Banner goes for a walk to try to get some solitude but is instead abducted by a group of Egyptian gods pretending to be statues. They take him to their spaceship and scan his mind where they are treated to a three-page recap of his origin before telling him theirs.
“I get it,” you think. “These alien gods have kidnapped the Hulk to participate in their games.” No, they haven’t. “Well, why have they kidnapped him then?” THAT NEVER ACTUALLY BECOMES CLEAR.
Three of the gods leave Banner alone in a room with the one remaining god who is busy monitoring the game with the Cerebro-Destruct-Mechanism and not paying attention to the unrestrained human. This seems like a good plan.
Banner watches the first gladiator rise from the desert sands…
…and then watches in horror as the second gladiator stirs!
So, just to be clear—the comic is positing that the Sphinx is a living being grown from a space-god seed countless millennia ago and not, in fact, a monument constructed during the reign of the Pharaoh Khafre 4,500 years ago. Okay.
Anyhoo, Banner wills it back to being a statue before the other gods barge back in, enraged. Banner Hulks out and the gods teleport him back down to the desert where the Colossus mistakes the Hulk for his foe. The Hulk is happy to oblige and tears the giant’s limbs off before smashing a crevasse in the ground and throwing the pieces in.
Then he wanders off into the sunrise. As he does.
AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #100-102 (Sept. 1971 – Nov. 1971):
When you’re Spider-Man, a lot of your days feel the same: you round up some petty criminals, suspend them from a streetlight with your webbing, beat up Doc Ock, take some pictures, go home and do it all again the next day. A hundred issues into his own series, Spidey is starting to feel some ennui. Kicking the asses of random thugs just doesn’t give him the thrill it used to. The thing is, though, he knows what he wants out of life—Gwen—but she still thinks Spider-Man is responsible for her father’s death and so he feels he had to give up being Spider-Man to be with her.
For the past several years, Petey’s apparently been working on an antidote to make himself normal again, and so, his resolve steeled, HE TAKES IT AND GETS SUPER HIGH.
While high, Pete has a fever dream wherein he sees all the people whose lives Spider-Man has hurt, followed by a parade of his foes with whom he has some… really weird conversations.
The floating, glowing head of Captain Stacy tells Peter that his powers are his blessing and his curse and when Peter wakes up from his bad trip he discovers he has six arms. Just say no, kids.
“I drank the potion… even though it was untried… it was untested… because I wanted it to change me…”
When he gets past the initial shock of growing two new sets of limbs, he begins to really think about his situation. “I never expected the potion to backfire, so I never bothered developing an antidote.” GOOD SCIENCING, SPIDEY.
After a few minutes of self-pity, the phone rings. It’s Gwen calling to give Peter a weirdly prudish and apparently feminist (?) proposition, after which the conversation escalates SUPER-FAST and they maybe break up?
Next up is Robbie, calling to offer Pete an assignment for the paper, “if you’re still our part-time staff photog, that is.” Wait, what? He just got that job in the last issue! Pete tells Robbie he has to turn it down because he’s “skipping town for a while—heading off a case of mono” and then gets a clever idea.
He calls Curt Connors (a.k.a. The Lizard) in Florida and asks him for a place to stay. Connors, having been helped by Spider-Man multiple times in the past, agrees and tells Peter about his beach house in Southampton, which is apparently outfitted with a full lab in the basement. Petey heads out and arrives at a boarded-up nightmare shack.
Meanwhile, on a boat offshore, the crew discusses the fact that their captain died in the night. They blame the man they pulled out of the ocean and head below to exact some mob vengeance. The creepy dude escapes and hides out until after dark at which point the creature known as Morbius (in his first appearance!) changes into a black & red jumpsuit and kills the entire crew.
Morbius jumps off the ship and washes up on the beach, seeking refuge in the belfry of the beach house (nb. it is not explained why the beach house has a belfry).
Down in the basement, Spidey is working hard to come up with an antidote to his antidote. He’s convinced it should work if the liquid turns blue. Spidey? Are you making a … pregnancy test? Anyway, Morbius wakes up and needs to feed and Spidey’s the only one around, so they tussle, but just when it looks like Spidey is beat, Curt Connors shows up and the anxiety turns him into the Lizard. Oh no—right, Spidey?
THREE WAY MONSTER FIGHT!!! Eventually, the Lizard is electrocuted into unconsciousness and Morbius attempts to feed on him but Spidey interrupts him and Morbius flies away in search of easier prey. The Lizard wakes up, seemingly half-cured by the vampire’s bite, trapped between Lizard and Connor form. Lizard and Spidey surmise it must be an enzyme in Morbius’ bite that neutralized the mutation (sure, sounds scientific) and they head out after him to get a sample of the enzyme in his mouth/blood to mix with a serum that will hopefully cure both of them.
Morbius, on the other hand, breaks into a basement and has a nap, dreaming his origin story.
Once upon a time, there was a Nobel Prize winning scientist named Michael Morbius who lived in an unspecified region of Europe and experimented in an unspecified field. Morbius was dying of an unspecified illness and attempted to cure himself by heading out to sea for an unspecified reason. The unspecified cure involved electricity and bats and when it was all over he had an aversion to the sun, a taste for blood, and could fly (because his bones are hollow?). He accidentally killed his best friend and, fearing he’d kill his girlfriend who he also brought on the boat for some unspecified reason, jumped overboard, trying to kill himself. However, under the water he decided he wanted to live and got rescued by a passing ship.
(As an aside, the reason for Morbius’ fairly absurd origin is this: while Marvel had pushed back against the Comics Code’s drug prohibitions, the Code as a whole was still in effect and supernatural monsters were still a no-no. That said, there were no restrictions on SCIENTIFIC monsters and so Morbius the Ridiculous Science Vampire was born. We now return you to the story already in progress…)
Back on dry land, Spidey is swinging around the city with the Lizard hanging around his waist looking for Morbius, and Gwen Stacy has a brief moment of clarity in her apartment:
YES, GWEN. OBVIOUSLY.
Eventually, Spidey and the Lizard randomly bump into Morbius (because Manhattan is apparently three blocks square). They subdue him, extract some blood, mix it in with serum, and the Lizard injects it in himself, reverting back to Curt Connors. But before Spidey can do likewise, Morbius steals the vial and flies away, leading to another multi-page chase which ends when Morbius flies into a bridge, lands in the water and seemingly drowns. Spidey manages to get off a single shot with his webbing.
Spidey, a dude just DIED in front of you. Have a little decorum.
Anyway, he injects himself with the serum and his extra arms go away and then he and Connors stand around and wonder if Morbius didn’t really want to die all along, which sounds like a pretty gross justification to excuse their actions, but hey—THE END!
AD OF THE WEEK: One stop shopping for all your Iron Cross, Confederate flag, and peace sign needs.
NEXT TIME: Marvel tries to give us a progressive American Indian hero with Red Wolf! They try but, uhhh, fall short of the mark.