Saturday, October 10, 2009

Walter Simonson's Rampaging Hulk

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.

Rampaging Hulk ad by Simonson

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.

Rampaging Hulk 1 splash page by Simonson and Alcala

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.

Rampaging Hulk panel by Simonson Alcala

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.

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