Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Thing Tuesdays: Jim Starlin's Hulk and Thing, Funnier than Lewis and Martin!

In celebration of Hulk week, let's look at some classic Thing-Hulk encounters.  Jim Starlin has produced three classic stories featuring our favorite Marvel monsters, featuring plenty of no-holds barred brawling, but also lots of humor.  The Thing becomes the straight man (Dean Martin) to the Hulk's lovable lummox (Jerry Lewis) in each of these stories.


Marvel Fanfare #11 was published in 1973 and was the launching pad for what became Marvel Two-In-One.  It proved that the Thing was popular enough to star in his own series, albeit a team-up series with a different guest star each month.  Written by Len Wein, drawn by Jim Starlin, and inked by Joe Sinnott, this is probably my favorite Hulk-Thing story of all time.


The Leader and a more obscure villain called Kurrgo (Master of Planet X) are bored and decide to play a game.  A game where the Hulk and the Thing must fight each other!  One of them boosts Ben Grimm's strength artificially to make him more of a match for the Green Goliath.


In order to induce the Thing to fight, the Leader has planted a nuclear bomb in a western town.  Try as he might, Ben Grimm just can't reason with the Hulk!  You have to give a lot of credit to Len Wein here, this dialogue just cracks me up every time I read it.

Marvel Fanfare 11 by Art Adams

Marvel Feature #11 is a favorite of many fans, including Art Adams.  You can see his cover recreation of Marvel Feature #11 here.  According to Back Issue magazine, Seinfeld writer David Mandel owns this piece.  He is a very lucky guy with great taste!


Jim Starlin's next Thing-Hulk story appeared in Marvel Fanfare #20-21.  Marvel Fanfare was a great comic series edited by Al Milgrom (who inked this story, see the "Gemini" signature on the cover), featuring stories by great artists like Michael Golden, Craig Russell, George Perez, etc.  These stories were usually slated for other magazines, but were eventually routed to Fanfare because of scheduling problems or cancellations.  This particular story reads like a Marvel Two-In-One two parter, with Dr. Strange in issue 20 and the Hulk in 21.


Dr. Strange is battling the evil wizard Xandu, who is using magic to control the population of New York.  As the Hulk was a close ally of Dr. Strange's (through the Defenders), it doesn't take much for Xandu to pit the Green Goliath against Ben Grimm.  The Hulk keeps calling the Thing "Rockman" which does not set well with Ben Grimm.  This fight takes place all over New York City, and the funniest scene is when the Thing gets in a cab to get away from the Hulk.


Starlin returned to the super-powered comedy duo in 1987, in the Marvel Graphic Novel titled "The Big Change".  But this time, Starlin did not draw the story.  His pal and collaborator, Berni Wrightson, took on the job, penciling, inking, and coloring the 64 page tale.  It was a remarkable achievement, as we got to see Wrightson's full take on Marvel superheroes without anyone else ruining his detailed artwork.


Aliens whisk both the Thing and the Hulk to another planet for a job that requires lots of muscle. There's a Maguffin in this story: if they complete their assigned task, the Thing and Hulk will receive two wishes.  Ben Grimm is thinking wish #1 must be for both monsters to become human again.  The second wish could be something beneficial for humanity.  The Hulk doesn't see things the same way.


The second act of the story is an intergalactic romp as they find and locate a giant mutated monster that has attributes of both the Thing and the Hulk.  As you can imagine, Ben Grimm and his pal are not too pleased.


At the conclusion of the story, the Thing and the Hulk receive their two wishes.  It's funny that I mentioned David Mandel, as what happens next reminds me of a Seinfeld episode.  The one where Kramer sues the Starbucks-type company and screws up his lawyer by settling for lifetime free coffee instead of millions of dollars.  It's very similar here...while the Thing carefully contemplates what he should ask for, the Hulk blurts out two wishes, one of which involves a lot of hamburgers!

I've enjoyed many of Jim Starlin's stories over the years and these are some of my favorites.  I think Jeph Loeb would be capable of writing a funny story with these two characters...let's hope we'll see one from him and Ed McGuinness or Art Adams.  Nuff said.

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