Walter Simonson hooked me as a fan for life after I read Manhunter in those terrific super-giant 100 page Detective Comics back in the 1970s. I followed him wherever he went afterwards. He did a Doctor Fate special, a few issues of a Metal Men revival, and later some Star Wars stories at Marvel.
I was primed for Simonson to draw a major Marvel character. Finally in 1977, I saw this ad for a new black and white magazine titled The Rampaging Hulk. Simonson drew this fantastic pinup featuring the Hulk in action. It was just plain cool. The Hulk’s face really looks monstrous, a throwback to his early days, instead of the friendly jade jawed giant that was appearing in other Marvel titles. I love Simonson’s lines that add shadow and depth to his drawings, and I really relished the opportunity to see a full Simonson story printed in black and white.
I dared to hope that Simonson would draw the Rampaging Hulk’s lead feature. And indeed, he would, but when I bought the first issue and flipped to the splash page, it looked like this.
It is Simonson…inked by Alfredo Alcala. I couldn’t fathom why the editor of this magazine (John Warner) picked Alcala as the inker. If I had been the editor, I would have tried to snap up Terry Austin or Bob Wiacek for the job. Had they not been available, I could think of a half dozen other inkers. Alcala’s ink washes totally dominated Simonson’s work on this series—pretty much eradicating the artist’s original style. You can still see elements of Simonson underneath: The Hulk’s flat Frankenstein style head, the pose of his body coming at the reader, and the spaceships flying in formation in the background.
I’ve never been a big Alcala fan anyway. I always cringed whenever he worked on Tales of the Zombie and other Marvel magazines.
I remember thinking this was all a mistake made to meet a rushed deadline, and that by issue 2, Marvel would find a better inker. Nope, there was Alcala in the second issue and the third one as well. Simonson moved on after issue 3 and Keith Pollard took over.
To be fair, we can’t know how tight Simonson’s original pencils were to begin with. I think I recall reading somewhere that he drew layouts. I will always look back at this as a tragically missed opportunity. Nuff said.