Characters Appearing: Hulk, Human Torch, Mr. Fantastic, Wizard
Incredible Hulk & the Human Torch: From the Marvel Vault #1
Issue(s): Incredible Hulk & the Human Torch: From the Marvel Vault #1
The most interesting thing about Karl Kesel's intro page is his comparison between Ditko and original writer Jack Harris' methods and the expectations for comics circa 2011 when Karl Kesel inked and re-scripted it:
Working on the story itself was always fun, and at times challenging. Ditko usually drew seven or more panels on each of these pages, so by today's standards this would be a 40+ page story. This probably has something to do with Jack C. Harris' storyline - which is very dense - and Ditko's natural sense of pacing, which often leans towards more panels and smaller moments. The original dialogue was fine for mid-80s, but needed to be stripped down and simplified for tdoay's audience. I also decided to have Johnny Storm narrate the story - mostly because I like Johnny and really miss him now that he's gone. [The Human Torch was "dead" at the time Kesel wrote this.]
I'd love to see the original script by Jack Harris. Comics in the 80s and earlier were certainly overly verbose, but we'll see that what Kesel ends with is pretty wordy too. One thing i do miss about comics from this era is the supposed "denseness" of the story, or to put it another way one thing i don't like about more modern comics is the decompression. The plot in this issue really isn't dense: Mr. Fantastic sends the Human Torch to a research center to pick something up, and it turns out that the Wizard is building a death-ray there, and the Hulk manages to stumble into the plot as well because Bruce Banner was hoping something at the center would help him find a cure. That's not a complex plot. But there's room for an intro and power demonstration scene at the beginning...
...a character moment...
...and similar moments for the Hulk...
... as well as a little subplot about a husband and wife scientist team (the husband is really protecting the wife from the Wizard).
And then of course the entire plot with the Human Torch and the Hulk dealing with the Wizard's plot. So basically it feels like a complete story, all in one issue.
The dense pages allow for little moments like this, to follow up on the one about Johnny from above.
There's at least one minor art mistake - don't know if it was Ditko's or Kesel's - where the wife scientist's shoes suddenly change.
I mean, you want to be wearing sensible shoes when confronting the Hulk, but that's a quick change.
There are also a lot of those inlaid panels like you see in the top row of the second scan above. Not sure if that was something Ditko would have done. Here's another one. I've cropped this one loosely on purpose so you can see how the panels below are arranged as well. I could be wrong but it seems like a modern thing; looking at some of Ditko's other Marvel work circa 1980-81, i don't see that. His layouts normally are pretty square and traditional.
The above panel also shows a common thing where modern writers doing continuity inserts can't help slip in modern references. In 2011 YouTube would have been about 6 years old, so even with the sliding timescale that's a tight fit. Surely we aren't supposed to think that this was taking place in present day continuity?
Anyway, i generally like Karl Kesel's writing, and his script here has some funny bits...
...and we get a fun fight.
The plot requires the Human Torch to goad the Hulk into destroying the Wizard's device, so when it's over the Hulk isn't exactly feeling friendly.
Now, before i get too nostalgic, there's a lot about comics from this era that aren't great. Even with Kesel updating things, the dialogue here is overdone and there still is a lot of it. And the plot is very very basic (but, i mean, it was for Marvel Team-Up). And Ditko's art, in 198x, was definitely looking dated. The layouting and storytelling are nice and clear, but the faces and poses could be a lot better. The main thing i wanted to emphasize is how the denser storytelling - 7+ panels per page, no splash page (aside from a conceptual opening splash) - allows for a complete story to be told here. What you do with that story is another thing entirely.
One last thing: another potential complication in the Skrull Cow situation, although this one can of course be ignored.
Quality Rating: C
Chronological Placement Considerations: The MCP place this between Hulk #254-255 and Fantastic Four #227-228, squarely in the 1980-1981 era.
Continuity Insert? Y
My Reprint: N/A
It's been stated in a number of fanzines that Ditko doesn't like to go back to his Marvel characters of the 1960s, but here he has no trouble going back to the Hulk(he certainly didn't create him, but he did draw him for a while back then).
Posted by: Mark Drummond | February 27, 2015 3:51 PM
Y'know, looking at it now, Ditko's post Silver Age art isn't really as bad as you'd think. Not great, but not terrible, either. I don't think so, anyway.
Posted by: MegaSpiderMan | March 5, 2015 4:50 PM
It appears that this story was originally plotted by Jack C. Harris and penciled by Steve Ditko back in 1981...
Posted by: Ben Herman | March 6, 2016 4:02 PM
'Not enough panels' is my #1 gripe about modern comics. I'd take much more story per issue over detailed background art any day. But then I also prefer the wordiness of the '70s/'80s issues to the quippy dialogue of today. And narration boxes are way overused - thought bubbles are surely more realistic (ie you really do think things while you're doing stuff, but you don't narrate what's happening).
Posted by: Dave77 | May 22, 2016 1:26 PM
No mistaking that it's post-prime Ditko art here, with some cliches/shortcuts he'd got used to using, but still intriguing to see how it looks gussied up with modern comics production techniques.
Posted by: Jonathan, son of Kevin | July 17, 2018 10:28 AM
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