Sunday, June 1, 2008

Giant-Size Superstars #1 and the wildest Thing vs Hulk match ever!

In February 1974, Marvel decided to start their own series of deluxe comic books with Giant-Size Super-Stars #1, featuring the Fantastic Four.

Giant Size Super Stars Marvel ad

As a kid growing up, I can't possibly describe the thrill and excitement this concept of a "Giant-Size" Marvel book being published.  Perhaps it felt like a special 2-hour TV movie instead a regular episode.  During the same period of time, the NBC Mystery Movie featured rotating characters such as Columbo, McCloud, McMillian and Wife, Banacek, etc.  I think I equated the Giant-Size specials with those, and I just had the damndest feeling like Something Big Was Gonna Happen.  It had to live up to this expectation, because it cost 35 cents and regular comics were only 20 cents!

Giant Size Super Stars 1

What better way to start than by having "The Wildest Thing vs. Hulk Battle of All" by Gerry Conway and Rich Buckler!  The cover had a dynamic picture of Ben Grimm clobbering the Hulk while Johnny Blaze cheered him on from the sidelines.  The Hulk is on the ropes. But how could this be?  Everyone knows the Hulk is stronger.  And why was Reed Richards reaching out to stop Ben?

Giant Size Super Stars: Hulk splash page

The story begins in a big way as we see the Hulk being chased by the police on the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway.  If Rich Buckler didn't grab me from the cover, he sure as hell did on this fantastic splash page.  Everything seemed bigger in scope already!  "Hulk wants peace...and Hulk wants it now!"  If I get any kind of classic dialog like that in a Hulk movie, I'd be happy.  The Hulk reaches New York City and stays hidden long enough (this was when the Hulk was only 7 feet tall, not that gargantuan creature he is today) to calm down and revert to back to Bruce Banner.  Banner decides to seek refuge in the Baxter Building and gets some sympathy from Ben Grimm.

Giant Size Super Stars: Thing becomes Hulk

Ben starts talking about the various cures that Reed Richards has attempted, the latest being a device called the Psi-Amplifier. Banner decides to use this device to cure both himself and Ben Grimm at the same time. Something goes snafu (as usual) and a mind-swap occurs between the Thing and the Hulk.

Giant Size Super Stars: Thing vs Hulk Subway

Rich Buckler draws this Thing-Hulk fight with Mighty Marvel Kirbyesque Magic.  It sure didn't hurt to have Joltin' Joe Sinnott on the inks.

Giant-Size Fantastic Four 1 splash by Rich Buckler and Joe Sinnott

The fight between them rages from skyscrapers to the subway to Madison Square Garden. Throw in the Amazonian babe called Thundra (always looking for a sperm donation from Mr. Grimm) and you've got a comedy of errors.

Besides the main feature, the remaining pages featured pinups, which had already been used in various Fantastic Four annuals.  It seemed like a great value for a that point we didn't have Official Marvel Indexes or Guides or anything like that.

Rich Buckler original art splash page to Giant-Size Superstars 1

Update #1: The original art to the opening splash page by Rich Buckler and Joe Sinnott featuring the Rampaging Hulk!

Rich Buckler original art splash for Giant-Size Superstars 1

Update #2: The original art to the splash page with The Thing cloberring the Hulk in Madison Square Garden!

This was the first and only issue of Giant-Size Superstars.  With the second issue, Marvel gave up the rotating wheel concept and the title became Giant-Size Fantastic Four.  Nuff said.