The Hulk gets bonked by his own shadow (really) (also, the first reader feedback for that “Wolverine” character) – The Incredible Hulk #184
No Leprechauns for St. Patrick’s Day this year here on the blog, no four-leaf clovers or towering pints of foamy warm Guinness. Instead to celebrate the great Irish holiday we have the greenest hero of all, greener even than the Green Lanterns and Green Arrows of the world, guys that have the color sewn into their very names. Yes, today it’s the Incredible Hulk, the Green Goliath himself (well, at least when he’s green and not grey). Hulk like St. Patrick’s Day. Day when Hulk feel like he fits in. Day when puny humans don’t point and laugh at green skin.
And yes, as the cover promises, the Hulk gets bonked by his own shadow in this issue, a fate appropriate for a holiday known for goofy drunkenness. So get liquored up and read on!This Len Wein/Herb Trimpe masterpiece finds the Hulk in his usual state: besieged by soldiers while he just wants to be left alone. In this case he’s awakened while slumbering in the back of a convoy truck, and the scared out of their wits grunts immediately open fire. Which gives our childlike hero a lot of chances to deploy his simple syntax as he soliloquizes over the world’s cruelty. It’s only when he hops off and gets a chance to breathe, though, that the pathos reaches epic proportions. Yes, the Hulk’s shadow is his only friend:
I mean, really. How pathetic is that? [Types the man sitting alone in his condo watching TV and typing out a blog post that upwards of dozens shall read.]
Hulk follows up with more talk about why his shadow is his pal, which builds up to this inevitable heel turn by said shadow:
You have to feel for the big guy, you know? This is like Shawn Michaels superkicking Marty Jannetty and putting him through a plate glass window. (Peter Parker should be thankful that the Black Widow’s shadow merely hijacked his book and didn’t zap him with the Widow’s Bite.)
This all begs the question of just why Hulk’s shadow has come alive and BUH-THOOMed him on the skull. Another gamma ray side effect? Fiendish plot by the Leader? The answer is actually rather neat, a callback to more old-timey Marvel. It’s revealed that the shadow is the Warlord Kaa (did Stephen King pilfer his “Ka” trope from this?), introduced back in Strange Tales #79 in a Stan Lee/Jack Kirby story. (The asterisked editorial reference in the comic here actually cites the contemporaneous Where Monsters Dwell, which had recently reprinted the classic ST plot, in a little cross-promotion plug.) Kaa is the leader of a race of shadows bent on invasion and conquest, aliens from — of course — a planet orbiting the Sun opposite the Earth (it must be crowded over there).
A race of shadows is a cool idea, creepy and insidious and ridiculous all the things that make the best of pulpy science-fiction enjoyable. Sadly, Kaa’s cabal’s edge is undermined by the fact that they can be subdued by bearhugs from mere mortals, something made clear in this flashback:
Shameful indeed. (Also, there’s a bit of the Hate-Monger in these guys. Or vice versa.)
This bearhug Kryptonite might be one hell of an Achilles heel when going up against the Strongest One There Is, but it’s not Hulk’s gamma-irradiated musculature that does the trick, but just what you’d expect to be a shadow’s primary weakness. You want to know what the denouement is? Then track d0wn this comic. It’s kind of worth it.
More significant in a broader sense to Marvel, the letters column — “Green Skin’s Grab-Bag” — in this comic has reader reaction to issue #181, known to all as the first senses-shattering appearance of Wolverine. Granted, this wasn’t the stubbly, cigar-chomping, cantankerous Logan that we’ve all come to know and love, but the guy who said things like “donnybrook,” but still, it’s interesting to see some in-time reader reaction. This is so even if it’s slanted — comics letters columns weren’t known for publishing unrelenting negativity, after all. Both pages’ worth are presented below — I especially like reader Doug Stewart’s suggestion that Wolverine be part of the X-Men revival. You don’t say…:
There you have it: a green, goofy story for a green, goofy holiday. With a little historical ephemera thrown in to leaven the loaf. You’re welcome, and happy St. Pat’s.