Issue(s): Hulk #173, Hulk #174
The story is that the Hulk wanders onto Ralph Roberts' boat. Roberts' plan is to expose himself to a hydrogen bomb test...
...which he (correctly) believes will give him powers...
...and allow him to don a new suit of Cobalt Man armor, which is bigger and bulkier than his original Iron Man clone.
The secret is that Roberts is dying of radiation poisoning, and wants to use his death to signal to the world that nuclear power is dangerous, which he'll do by blowing up Sidney, Australia.
Exposure to radiation during the first fight with the Cobalt Man causes the Hulk to revert to Bruce Banner...
...but Cobalt Man's brother Ted Roberts convinces the still unstable Betty Talbot to slip Banner some caffeine pills and then push him off a building so he'll turn back into the Hulk.
The rematch fight ends with the Cobalt Man exploding harmlessly in the upper atmosphere.
And his death fails to convince Richard Nixon of anything.
Ted Roberts was a love interest for Jean Grey and also knew the X-Men's secret identities back in Roy Thomas' X-Men run, but none of that is relevant to this story and this is his last appearance for a long time. Cobalt Man, on the other hand, will return again despite his seeming death.
The wordiness of comics from this era is exemplified by this opening splash, where Bruce Banner nicely provides the necessary expository recap, but it's then repeated again in a dialogue box just because.
Quality Rating: C-
Chronological Placement Considerations: The Hulk is plummeting back from space at the end of this issue, and shouldn't appear anywhere before his arrival at the Inhuman's Great Refuge at the start of next issue. At Walter's suggestion in the comments i started tracking Richard Nixon as Secret Empire Agent Number One. But i did it without realizing that i've got Captain America #175, which is where Nixon's plot is revealed, before this issue, and there are a lot of dependencies for both books and i don't intend to reshuffle them all. So take this appearance as a "temporal reference" as we do for most presidents. Or... did Nixon actually fake his suicide in front of Cap and then remain president? Perhaps the Secret Empire is in control of the world right now and we don't even know it...! Update: Actually, Dan has saved the day with an explanation in the Comments, and i've removed Secret Empire Agent Number One as a Character Appearing in this issue.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (2): showBetty Ross, Cobalt Man, Colonel Jack Armbruster, General 'Thunderbolt' Ross, Hulk, Ted Roberts
You should do a Richard Nixon Chronology Project, Fnord, tracking his appearances in the MU with an eye to the eventual quasi-reveal of his leadership of the Secret Empire. Are there any post-Cap 175 appearances by Nixon? I'm not sure when that issue came out in relation to his real-life resignation.
Posted by: Walter Lawson | April 7, 2013 11:13 PM
Nixon resigned in August of 1974. Cap 175 had a cover date of July 1974. There are no post-Cap 175 appearances for Nixon.
Posted by: Michael | April 7, 2013 11:27 PM
I don't normally track real world people appearances due to sliding timescale issues and just because they are usually incidental to the story. The MCP is much better about tracking those appearances so i do recommend using them for this type of thing. But with Walter's comment i realized that for Nixon we have the potential to track him like Hitler (Hate-Monger) and Stalin (Coldsteel).
I know that the Secret Empire reveal was deliberately left a little ambiguous, so it might be unfair to do this and i'm not trying to say anything about the "real" Richard Nixon (i'm certainly not putting him in the same category as Hitler or Stalin), but we'll track the Marvel Universe version as Secret Empire Agent Number One.
We'll see if this revives the petition for Comrade K.
Posted by: fnord12 | April 8, 2013 11:11 AM
As far as Nixon, I believe the OHOTMU mentioned, without naming him, that the "high ranking official" was replaced by an actor after his death. This would mean that on Earth-616, Watergate was actually invented as a means to explain the resignation of Nixon. Or Watergate actually happened, but they'd been doing a better job of covering it up but when they needed a reason for fake Nixon to resign, they allowed the story to slip out. Then again, if there aren't any stories actually referencing it, Watergate may not have happened at all and "fake Nixon" simply resigned citing health reasons or something (we know he still left office since they switched to depictions of Ford as president).
In any case, if this chronology is correct, then this may be an appearance of "fake Nixon" and not the one who headed the Secret Empire.
Posted by: Dan H. | October 18, 2014 5:49 PM
That's perfect, thanks Dan. I've updated the Considerations and removed Secret Empire Agent Number One as a Character Appearing.
I do hope everyone recognizes this is all just tongue in cheek and i wouldn't make any actual placement decisions based on Nixon cameos.
Posted by: fnord12 | October 18, 2014 6:54 PM
You're welcome, and by the way I checked my copy of the original OHOTMU and it does indeed state that "the government has covered up his guilt and suicide with the help of a double" (not "an actor" as I'd thought). This info comes from the Secret Empire entry in the appendix (issue #10).
Posted by: Dan H. | October 19, 2014 5:40 AM
Hey fnord, submitted for your consideration:
Roy Thomas (of course) introduced another potential explanation for one or the other of these Nixons. In his 3-D Man series from 1977, he had the titular hero facing off against a Skrull agent called "Zirkbu." In the final issue of 3-D Man's series (Marvel Premiere #15-17), Zirkbu impersonates the Vice President, one Richard Milhous Nixon. At the end of the story (which of course takes place in the 1950s), Zirkbu is thwarted and assumes that he'll "never again have use for the features of the man I was today! At least... probably never.")
That is how the 3-D Man's series ends, with Zirkbu on the loose. Knowing how Roy Thomas' mind works, with his constant need to answer continuity quirks, I suspect he was setting up Zirkbu as a potential candidate for "Secret Empire Agent Number One." That of course would have meant Cap's entire crisis and tenure as Nomad was built on a false premise, but I don't know if Thomas would have let that stop him. Maybe it's something he was planning to do or maybe it's something he just wanted to set up and leave it to the readers to interpret for themselves. Reading that issue and knowing Roy's approach, I can't believe he wasn't insinuating an eventual payoff for that statement.
There are a couple problems with this idea, of course: don't Skrulls revert to their original form when killed? If so, obviously Cap would have seen that Number One wasn't really Nixon. Also, at what point would Thomas have figured on the real Nixon being found and revealed? It seems like it would have had to wait until after the entire Nomad saga was over and even after that I believe Cap thought back to the "Number One" revelation multiple times in a way that wouldn't work if he knew it had actually been a Skrull agent.
There's also the fact that OHOMTMU subsequently made it sound official that Number One was who he appeared to be and not an impersonator. Who knows, maybe they had Zirkbu in custody by then and actually made a deal with him to impersonate Nixon long enough to resign. It's even possible that THAT was Thomas' intention, even though this was years before OHOTMU mentioned the "double" who was used to cover up the "Number One" business (although that wouldn't account for his appearance here).
Anyway, just another wrinkle I thought you might enjoy if you haven't read those issues.
Posted by: Dan H. | November 12, 2014 11:57 AM
Thanks Dan. I actually did call out the end line from Marvel Premiere #37 but i never would have made the connection to "Secret Empire Agent Number One". Someone needs to bring back Zirkbu and show us what he's been up to.
Posted by: fnord12 | November 12, 2014 12:23 PM
Ah, here I was thinking that 3-D Man wasn't covered by your project since it took place in the past. Should have known better.
On further review, I am now thinking that Roy would have been leaning more toward Zirkbu being "replacement Nixon" and Number One would have been the real deal. For all the crap he gets, deserved and otherwise, I think overturning that Number One revelation would have been too much, whereas his need to fill continuity gaps would have drawn him to address the subsequent question of "well, who was the Richard Nixon that resigned, then?"
Posted by: Dan H. | November 12, 2014 12:35 PM
No tag for Kissinger?
Posted by: Vin the Comics Guy | September 10, 2016 11:14 PM
I've noted a few times on this site, including in the comments section on this very page, that i don't tag real historical figures.
Posted by: fnord12 | September 12, 2016 1:50 PM
Kissinger hates tag; he much prefers dominoes.
Posted by: Omar Karindu | September 12, 2016 6:34 PM
Comments are now closed.
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