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Sunday, January 13, 2013 

What the shafting of Betty Banner led to

Peter David, who's been recovering recently from a stroke he suffered in Florida, wrote an essay now published on Entertainment Weekly for the 50th anniversary of the Hulk, where he tells the history of how he got to take over the series, boosting it back from the risk of cancellation and writing it for at least 11 years. He tells how because of his divorce at the time, that was why he killed off Betty Banner, but what happened afterwards?
[...] With the death of Betty, this prompted Marvel to have a Brilliant Idea. Mourning the loss of his wife, the Hulk would now go dead silent, stop talking to anyone, and run around the Marvel universe smashing everything in sight.

When I was told the new plan, I objected. I told them it was out of character with the psychologically complex giant I’d created over the years. I said I wouldn’t write that. And the editorial higher-ups (none of whom still work for the company) said that I shouldn’t hesitate to avoid having the door hit me on the way out.

And that was that. After twelve years, I was gone. Marvel then brought on a series of writers to produce the exact stories that Marvel wanted for the Hulk and, as I predicted, sales tanked. It wasn’t until Marvel brought on British writer Paul Jenkins (who basically started writing the same types of stories that I’d been doing) that sales turned around.

[...] If I’d known that I’d be leaving the book the issue afterward, I’d never have killed off Betty (although since then she was brought back to life and is now the red She-Hulk, so that made a lot of difference.)
Well I think it's a shame he had to do that in the first place, and base her survival solely on his own personal issues. Just because Thunderbolt Ross and Marlo Chandler went to the next world and back doesn't mean he had to send Betty there too (Ross's temporary offing may have been John Byrne's idea, while Marlo's was David's). The editors' big bright idea to undo almost everything he'd done with Bruce Banner's mind shouldn't be too surprising. That's pretty much become the norm today, as many writer who'd penned successful runs with plausible characterization on mainstream comics had the work completely undone, and sometimes not even sold in trade archives. Yes, David's run on the Hulk was, but Chuck Dixon's runs on the Punisher and Robin have been largely left to gather dust and to date have never been archived beyond a trickle for anyone who finds paperbacks more accommodating to have a look at. And the publishers don't even want to make money on them!

And I don't think sales ever recovered, as modern sales suggest, when it often sells well below 100,000. It's mostly Joe Quesada's fault, of course, and Axel Alonso's by extension.

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Yup. For all the good stories Peter David has done, I still wonder if the Shooter-era thinking at Marvel (and DC, to be fair), was still better.

Sure, characters were running in place, but writers were CARETAKERS for the characters, making sure to leave them in the same condition thy found them in.

Admittedly, there have been some great stories and new characters that have come along since that mindset has been abandoned, but I wonder if it offsets the truly terrible stories that have also been done?

Thanks for posting!

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