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Friday, November 17, 2006 

Incredible Hulk #218: spotlight on a supporting cast member

Here's a little bit of something I could do here every now and then. To write about some of the back issues I've got of various series in my wonderful little collection. The primary purpose of this blog was to shred the mainstream press' coverage of comics, but of course it's also possible to write about some of the books I've got in my collection too. In this case, it's The Incredible Hulk #218, which I thought to bring up because it spotlights a supporting character, that being Doc Samson. It's also one of those "because you demanded it" moments in Marvel history, something they're unlikely do today, if at all. My collection of Hulk issues isn't that big, but this, interestingly enough, is the oldest back issue I've got, and gives what may be comicdom's first psychiatrist superhero a chance to prove himself as a crimefighter.

Anyway, Leonard Samson is strolling through a suburban valley in New Mexico to ponder his own personal problems as a psychiatrist, scientist, and friend of Bruce Banner's and Betty Ross too, at the time when the Hulk was written with an all but low IQ and a caveman dialect, and Betty had up until then been married to Glenn Talbot. Samson is reading a newspaper that mistakes the Hulk for dead following a battle of his with the Bi-Beast on a S.H.I.E.L.D helicarrier (and to prove that he's not, the ol' jade giant turns up on one of the pages later, annoyed at a pair of fishermen who accidentally got a fishline tangled on his head. Not too annoyed, since, as they flee, they leave him some lunch). He doesn't have time to fully contemplate that, however, as he discovers a train bridge has had one of its trestles damaged, and to make matters worse, there's a train fast approaching.
With his ability to take wide-ranging leaps just like the Hulk, Samson is able to quickly reach the top of the cliff where the bridge is built, and braces himself against it to support the weight of the train until it's safely over it. He's successful at that, but the damage was still enough so that the bridge crashes afterwards. Samson then joins the grateful train staff and passengers to keep an eye on the train as heads for its next destination, since, as he suspects, someone had deliberately tried to sabotage the bridge and the train. Unbeknownst to Samson but beknownst to us, the Rhino is the guilty party, and he's not going to give up so easily. He's on a mercenary job, and as he says, "the guy I'm workin' for don't take kindly ta failure..."
He races after the train again, and this time he succeeds in knocking it over and stealing a package from the train. Samson tries to stop him but is unsuccessful. However, as a professional doctor, he decides to help all the passengers out of the wreckage before he goes after the Rhino again. When he does, he tracks him to an abandoned mining village where the Rhino is celebrating over beer, and the showdown begins.

It's no easy feat, as Samson learns, but, with a little work, he's soon able to pound Rhino a good one. However, the Rhino manages to retreat a bit, and falls into the well where he tossed the beer bottle he was drinking from.

Samson's won, but still walks away feeling unsatisfied, because, while he may have managed to overpower the Rhino, he didn't succeed in capturing him and finding out who the boss was for whom the mercenary villain stole the package from the train (it was probably dealt with in a later issue, I figure).

Overall, it's a pretty good issue in which writers Len Wein and Roger Stern were able to spotlight Doc Samson in his own starring story, and in which he could prove himself against one of the baddies the Hulk is more accustomed to fighting. The weak point that the Rhino's got is that, while his skin may be thick, it's also very thin, just like some real rhinocerouses can be, and if a superhero can exploit that weak point, it may give them some leverage, as Spider-Man figured out when he first fought him in Amazing Spider-Man #41 in 1966.

I'll try and pull out some more stuff from my collection over time whenever I can. It should be fun.

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About me

  • I'm Avi Green
  • From Jerusalem, Israel
  • I was born in Pennsylvania in 1974, and moved to Israel in 1983. I also enjoyed reading a lot of comics when I was young, the first being Fantastic Four. I maintain a strong belief in the public's right to knowledge and accuracy in facts. I like to think of myself as a conservative-style version of Clark Kent. I don't expect to be perfect at the job, but I do my best.
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