Wednesday, May 1, 2019

THE LAST SPIDER-MAN DAILY NEWSPAPER STRIP


THE LAST SPIDER-MAN 
DAILY NEWSPAPER STRIP




BY
"RASCALLY" ROY THOMAS
AND
ALEX SAVIUK
 (Edited by John "THE MEGO STRETCH HULK" Cimino)


The "Rascally" one has his say...

Sometime in the first few months of 2000, I dropped Stan Lee a line saying I'd love to do some work for Stan Lee Media, Stan's well-publicized and multi-staffed dot-com company, if he could ever use me.  He replied that, while he'd like to work with me again, I would've had to be around L.A. to work for SLM, but that, by coincidence, he really needed a writer to work with him on the SPIDER-MAN comic strip... to plot out and do the first-draft script of the seven-days-a-week King Features strip.  I said that sounded fine to me (even though I'd never really been wild about writing Spidey compared to the F.F., Avengers, Conan, etc.).  He replied with a chuckle that maybe I should wait till I heard his offer, because the money was so minuscule... just $300 a week.  I laughed, and told him that he had no idea how little money it cost me to live on my 40-acre place in the middle of South Carolina.  The mortgage and both our vehicles were paid off, so Dann and I had no expenses except what we spent month-to-month.  So a deal was quickly struck, and I went to work, with my first strip (a Monday, of course) appearing on July 17, 2000.  




As it turned out, although I never got a raise in 18 1/2 years I basically ghost-wrote the strip (though, until recent years, with his often hands-on editing), it was a great gig.  I spent maybe two days a month writing four weeks' worth of strips, and another day 2 or 3 times a year doing outlines for upcoming storylines.

After Stan cut back his activities a few years ago, following installation of his pacemaker, etc., I worked primarily with his longtime assistant, Michael Kelly, with some indirect verbal input from Stan, and in some ways I liked that even better, since Stan and I were only about 80% on the same page as to what made a good comic strip. Despite his well-known (and correct) views on how important the writing was to the success of Marvel Comics from 1961 on, he would often talk about how it was the artwork that sold the strip.  I didn't think that reflected the realities of the situation, particularly after John Romita left the strip a few years after it began, and as the printing of the strips grew smaller and smaller.  Stan's brother Larry Lieber was a good journeyman penciler (and Alex Saviuk considerably better), but the artists didn't really have the scope, especially in the dailies, to do the kind of artwork that was going to excite readers the way, say, Milt Caniff once had in Terry and
the Pirates.  The sight of Spidey or Dr. Octopus in a strip might draw people in, but the writing had to bring people back, day after day, since Spidey and Peter and MJ and Doc Ock would always look basically the same, squeezed into small panels--with no "full-page spreads" like in the comicbooks.  And yes, I wrote a bit more text and dialogue than he did... but that was partly because, otherwise, I wasn't sure people could really follow the  strip from day to day... or at least, no new readers would be brought in if it was hard to start reading the strip at any given point.  




Mostly, though, Stan and I got along fine.  For the most part, he liked what I submitted, accepted most (not all) of my ideas for stories... and until a few years ago often "suggested" (or insisted upon) alterations in them.  For some years, he would rewrite a panel or balloon here and there, or even more... while other dailies or Sundays would sail through without a single word change.

The major change I tried to effect, after the first "Spider-Man" movie, was to go back to a time when MJ and Peter weren't married.  Stan agreed, and seemed halfway enthusiastic about the change at first, and we did one whole storyline (involving Electro) that way.  But then Stan changed his mind, and I saw at once that I wouldn't be able to change it back.  So I wrote a "Dallas"-type scene in which Peter woke up (after going to sleep in Aunt May's apartment as a single young man) to find himself married (again) to Mary Jane... and that's the way we kept it from then on.  Actually, I was increasingly happy with that, as an alternative to the bouncing around of the comicbooks, in which MJ and Peter totally forgot each other and their marriage, and who-knows-what occurred.  Left increasingly to my own devices, and building on MJ's modeling career in the comicbooks, I gradually took her from working in a computer store to becoming a Broadway star and movie actress, playing a super-heroine called "Marvella" (before the female Captain Marvel was a big deal, or maybe even was around at all)...but I kept her and Peter, somewhat incongruously, in their relatively small Manhattan apartment (except when they were in L.A., of course)... although they occasionally shopped around for something bigger.




In recent years, I had taken increasingly to using guest stars:  Wolverine, Iron Man, Thor, Black Widow, Ant-Man, Namor, Iron Fist and Luke Cage.  We never bothered to try to follow the current Marvel continuity, which Stan didn't want to do... the more so, I suppose, as from time to time it was given increasingly to violent wrenches and re-starts, such as when MJ and Peter were abruptly uncoupled.  If there were eventually several Spider-Man universes in the comics (with different Spider-Men, a Spider-Girl, whatever), well, our comic strip universe was yet another one... just about the only one, in recent years, in which Peter and MJ were a married couple, continuing the original direction of decades of the comicbooks.  We were all kind of proud of that.





When the strip died (i.e., was killed), the Mammon Theatre where MJ's hit play was running was shuttered by damage (in a Spidey-related fight, of course), and "Marvella II" had flopped, so the two of them took off to Australia for a vacation, and I wrote a couple of weeks of a continuity (along with a full outline approved by Michael Kelly) involving the villain the Kangaroo.  Then Marvel decided to kill the strip and not print the final couple of weeks, and I declined to rewrite the last published strip or twoto turn it into a "goodbye" strip.  My feeling was that I had accepted the snuffing of the strip, and didn't takeit personally... it was just a business move (although when I was told the strip was being killed I wasn't told—perhaps because those who informed me didn't know--that Marvel was planning to either revive the strip with a new team or to start a new strip that might not be a Spidey strip per se, but more the equivalent of DC's latter-day successor to its Superman strip, The World's Greatest Heroes, which had featured the whole panoply of DC heroes).  I felt that I had written what I had written for the strip, and they were welcome to do whatever they wanted to with the script (as long as I was paid for what I had done, naturally), but I preferred never to touch it again.  When I'm done with something, I'm done with something.

Alex Saviuk, bless him, graciously reworked the final strip to show the two of us in it, and to add a "'Nuff Said!" headline on the Daily Bugle.  He was perhaps a better sport about things than I was... and I admire him for that, since he had spent well over two decades penciling the Sunday Spider-Man and then had only recently been promoted to seven-days-a-week penciler... only to see the strip almost immediately canceled so that he was out of a regular gig.  I hope he finds one.  He deserves it.




Naturally, I was sorry to see the strip end (the more so because it signaled the finale of the only long-lasting adventure strip launched in the past half century), just at the time when I could finally have begun to receive on-strip credit for the work I did... although of course I did have that for two years on the Conan the Barbarian comic strip at the end of the 1970s.  But at least, once Stan wrote vaguely, maybe a decade ago, in his introduction to the hardcover volume Marvel Visionaries: Roy Thomas, that I "help[ed]" him with the Spidey strip, everybody with half a brain knew what I was contributing to the strip anyway.  That didn't bother Stan, and it didn't bother me. The strip was Stan's, and I was happy to co-write or write it under his name... although I wouldn't have been willing to go on writing it anonymously once he had passed on, had that alternative been suggested to me.

Working with Stan and Michael Kelly (as well as with Larry, Alex, and the ever-amiable Joe Sinnott--with Joe spelled occasionally by Jim Amash or Terry Austin) on the Spider-Man strip was an enjoyable experience, and I'm grateful to Stan for offering me that "pittance" back in 2000.  The strip became the last of our many collaborations of one sort or other, which began when, in early July of 1965, I inherited a Modeling with Millie story that he had previously talked over (I suppose) with penciler Stan Goldberg.  




Take it away Alex...

The LAST SPIDER-MAN Daily newspaper strip! It’s been a fabulous time for me being part of such an iconic character for so long. I’ve drawn Spider-Man in comics and newspapers for 32 years in a row and unless I get another crack at him NEXT year that run will come to an end. But I am digressing a bit; I’m here to talk about the newspaper strip which for me OFFICIALLY started in the spring of 1977 probably around April-May. I say OFFICIALLY because back in 1980, John Romita, Sr. who was still drawing the entire strip at that time called me and asked if I had the time to ghost lay out some Sunday strips for him since he was incredibly busy with everything else he had on his plate for Marvel. John lived (and still lives, I believe) in the town next to mine on Long Island when I was there and I actually met him about 10 years earlier since I was in high school with his sons. (that’s right, I went to high school with JR, Jr.— he IS four years younger than me to the day and when I was a senior he was a freshman and today looks 20 years younger than me!) I was in a club in school with the older son Victor who over time found out I was interested in drawing comics and came to me one day and said “… my father draws comics — would you like to meet him?” Of course I knew that but I would never impose. We met soon after that. What happened after that is another story!




BACK TO THE STRIP: I did at least 4 Sunday layouts for John on vellum tracing paper and he took it to the next level and beyond yet saving him a ton of time. I was really happy and excited just to be called to assist him, first of all, and then get the privilege and honor of working with one of my comic book artist “heroes." IDW just recently published that volume of reprints and it was fun to see our collaborations again.

FORWARD to 1997: Ralph Macchio at Marvel calls me up and asks if I would be interested in penciling the Spider-Man Sunday strip since fill-in penciler, old time artist Fred Kida wanted to leave. Of course I agreed — I would get to work directly with Stan Lee and Joe Sinnott! I put a package together of my Web Of Spider-Man and Spider-Man Adventures books and sent them to Stan. His assistant Mike Kelly called a few days later and said Stan liked the work but wanted to see how I would handle a “horizontal” strip in a six panel grid format. I admit, I was a bit surprised by that request since with my 20 years of experience at that time I figured I showed what I can do in just the comic books. But I went ahead and penciled a six panel episode of an encounter with Spider-Man saving J Jonah Jameson from a few muggers with the end panel having an ungrateful JJJ waving his fist at Spidey as he swung away from the scene. I sent that in and a few days after returning home from running errands I found a message from Stan Lee on my answering machine. “Hi, Alex… this is Stan Lee. I LOVE your work and I’d love to work with you. It doesn’t pay that much but think of the GLORY!” Actually the page rate was as much as I was making at the time so I couldn’t complain. No raise in 22 years (but from what I understand things haven't changed that much for mainstream freelancers even today.) I got my first script a few days later and in May 1977 I penciled a Sunday in the middle of a Kingpin storyline which was inked by Joe Sinnott , lettered by Stan Sakai and was published in August 1977. Sundays were always drawn 3 months ahead of publication. What a rush to see those preview Xeroxes and then the colored version in the newspaper (which I had to hunt down! There were no papers in Florida where I lived carrying the strip but the local Barnes & Noble sold out of town newspapers so I managed to find one that published the Sundays).




FORWARD to Feb 2003: Got a call asking me if I could ink a week of Dailies drawn by Larry Lieber because inker John Tartaglione needed to go to the hospital for a procedure. John ended up being OK after that week but I had a blast inking Larry’s pencils since I really never inked anybody else other my own pencils for my Web Of Spider-Man covers. Sadly that November, I got a call that John Tartaglione had passed away at 82 because he lost the fight with his particular illness. At the same time I was asked if I would be able to take over the inking of the Dailies. Affirmative….

FORWARD to July 2018: Larry Lieber wants to retire at 87 after 25+ years (maybe 30+?) and I inherit the penciling duties! Pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. I thought the Stan Lee would live forever especially since a few years ago when he got his pacemaker. He said he was the next Tony Stark and felt stronger than ever. Unfortunately and sadly as we all know, that didn't happen and Marvel decided the strip shouldn’t go on without STAN LEE at the helm. But I am forever in Stan Lee’s debt for having me join him, Joe Sinnott, Roy Thomas and letterers Stan Sakai, Kenny Lopez, and Janice Chiang for all these years in bringing our friendly neighborhood Spider-Man to our readers each and every day for these months and years! It’s been a joy, an honor and privilege which I will never forget!


The final published Sunday strip of Spider-man (3/17/19)




The final published strip of Spider-man (3/23/19)
Can you spot Roy and Alex?

John Cimino, Roy Thomas and Alex Saviuk in 2018.


THE END?


MEDIA LINKS TO THIS ARTICLE

SYFY WIRE
 https://www.syfy.com/syfywire/roy-thomas-on-amazing-spider-man-comic-strip 

 BLEEDING COOL
https://www.bleedingcool.com/2019/03/23/last-spider-man-newspaper-strip-writer-roy-thomas/ 


LINKS TO OTHER "MEGO STRETCH HULK" AND
 "RASCALLY ROY" HERO ENVY ARTICLES...

THE ROY THOMAS SPIDER-MAN COSTUME

THE UNCANNY BUT TRUE CREATION OF THE WOLVERINE
http://hero-envy.blogspot.com/2018/04/the-uncanny-but-true-creation-of.html

DAYS OF GRIMLOCK, ELVIS PRESLEY AND ROY THOMAS 

THE "OFFICIAL" MARVEL COMICS ROY THOMAS APPRECIATION PRINT
http://hero-envy.blogspot.com/2018/05/the-official-marvel-comics-roy-thomas.html 

THE SECRET ORIGIN OF THE JIM STARLIN THANOS BUST
http://hero-envy.blogspot.com/2018/09/the-secret-origin-of-jim-starlin-thanos.html 

MY MARVEL CAMEO
https://hero-envy.blogspot.com/2018/11/my-marvel-cameo.html 



Friday, March 1, 2019

SEE THAT'S ME BARBARA FRIEDLANDER!


“SEE THAT'S ME BARBARA FRIEDLANDER!”



BY
Barbara Bloomfield
(Edited by John "THE MEGO STRETCH HULK" Cimino)  


Swing With Scooter

Ask me how I got started writing an article for this blog and I'll tell you it’s because I happened to Google myself on the internet. And so, there I was, that is, there I was under the name of Barbara Friedlander, a name I had two last names ago. So, to the world of DC Comics during 1963-1970ish, I was the Mother and Creator of the comic Swing with Scooter (not exactly the Mother of Dragons, but just as daunting) and I wrote and edited romance comics along with Jack Miller. I knew most of the editorial staff, the bullpen, and the talented freelance writers and artists. 




Let’s not forget the then President of DC (called National Periodical Publications at the time), Mr. Jacob S. "Jack" Leibowitz, the Vice President, Mr. Harry Donenfeld, and the folks in the accounting and clerical department, which is where I started. I consider myself a relic of that time. When I was nineteen I began as a fish out of water taking subscriptions and any odd job, Mr. Aurthur Gutowitz, the head of clerical, handed me. He hired me, but he often said, “Barbara, you don’t belong here. You should be married.” He echoed my Mother’s sentiments, and so there I was in the mindset of most young women of the time; get married and have kids. At nineteen, you want to find yourself, but you don’t always know where to look.

So, here I am many years later and I go ahead to find myself again, this time it's with Google. It gives me an update on just who I was back then, and it dawns on me, that the stuff I discover is amazing! I then tell my kids about my life in comics and they say, “How come we didn’t know about this?” It was very exciting to rediscover my past life so naturally, I went back on the net and started buying back some of the issues I wrote and edited. I tell my kids, “See that’s me Barbara Friedlander!” The next thing I did was go to Heritage Auctions. I had bought antiques from them in the past when I was an antique dealer and I remembered they had a comic book division. As luck would have it, I got to speak with comic aficionado, Joe Mannarino.

Joe knows all about comic books; he evaluates them and the original artwork and like all the smarties in the field, he knows everything past and present. We reminisce and I'm reminded of all the DC folks walking the halls of the Grolier Building, where DC was once located in NYC. He puts me in touch with Richard Arndt, who is heavy into comic lore and loves the darker side of the field. He knows many of the writers and artists I worked with, and more info starts flooding back to me; BINGO! Richard soon interviews me for Alter Ego, Roy Thomas’ holy grail comic history magazine which is a who’s who in the comic book world.




Roy had met me years ago in passing at DC. He even remembered me! Now I am stoked, and so I put together a kind of “Look Book” and email it to a few people who I think might find it a missing link to DC history. Along the way, the Look Book goes to Jacque Nodell, creator of Sequential Crush, an online blog dedicated to all things romance. We click and do an interview about the silver age DC romance titles, which of course are my special baby...Snap! 

I get invited to TERRIFICON in 2018, where I meet Roy Thomas again and do a Romance Comic panel with Paul Kupperberg. He had met me, quite by a fluke, years back, at an Antique Show, and he knew my name from comic book history. I was flattered but the importance of the meeting eluded me at the time. Paul, as I learned, was an editor at DC and has written romance and action stuff. He was kind and totally into comics, too. I began to notice that people are so involved in this special field and are interested in moving it forward and preserving the genre. This time my kids are there with me and I'm blown away by the sincerity of all the comic fans. My kids are astounded and wonder, “Why did you give this up?” Naturally, I have no good answer. These serendipitous turn of events lead Roy Thomas to introduce me to his manager -- John Cimino! So, I fasten my seat belt and come along for the ride because he likes driving fast. 




 We are not, and never have been, one trick ponies

More than anything, I want the readers to know what the DC mindset was back then, hell, it was the mindset of the time. So, Baby Boomers gave me my title and then there was a thing called the Korean Conflict. We were busy keeping America safe, fighting bad guys around every corner, this was what the comic books were made for -- good guys versus bad guys. DC had SUPERHEROES, and with very, very few exceptions, men wrote and drew those heroes. Lois Lane and Diana Prince may have hit home for a few females who took typing and had a smart nose for a good story. As you might have guessed, most of their actual talents were, ordering coffee, working switch boards, taking dictation and adding numbers.

Back then, high schools and secretarial schools offered typing classes, and later dictation, for those who wanted to be secretaries or bookkeepers. I don’t recall any guys in those classes, most took shop, forget about home economics. So, as a female, you were destined to be a Betty the homemaker, Marilyn Monroe Sex Goddess, or file clerk extraordinaire. Being a stinky typist, and out of the running for sex goddess, I was on the hunt for me. One thing I've learned over the years, we can fry eggs and fly to the moon, but if we’re lucky we can make our own choice. We are not, and never have been, one trick ponies. 



 DC was run like a "mom and pop" shop

There was one huge computer, it resided on the other end of the DC building. It handled all the subscriptions, and at the time, including the distribution of Playboy, and other publications. It was a very huge thingy and was so sensitive to dust, heat and bad input, let’s face it, it was a relic, but it was DC’s step into the future. Meanwhile, while the 20th century was forging ahead on the distribution, DC itself was run like a "mom and pop" shop. Printing operations and all the operation kudos with pats on the back never happened. Creators and artists were expected to hatch ideas and plot twists without exception or big Daddy would raise hell and make you feel like kryptonite kicked you in the butt. 

Most comic book groupies have heard the sad tale of Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster ownership battles with DC over Superman. It ain’t pretty and it doesn’t have a happy ending. I’ve heard what I consider the “real” version of the story, and although I knew most of the people involved, you create something fresh and original, you damn well better protect it. Intellectual property is the right to claim and reap the momentary benefits that you “gave your heart and soul” to, and if you are considering a career, don’t sign your genius away. Sheer luck had propelled the Donenfelds and Liebowitz’ company into what every red blooded kid needed at the time -- red, white and blue good guys. By using capes and muscles, and a group for talent they often took for granted. They had let two, down on their luck guys, Siegel and Schuster, print what they thought was another piece of junk so that their unused printers would get a workout. For $130 bucks gold was printed in Action Comics #1. One day, I'll tell the full story in detail. 

The other comic book horror story was concerning Batman. Bob Kane was the artist and I met him numerous times. I also met Bill Finger, but even though he was the main creator and writer, he was treated like dirt by editor Mort Weisinger and a few others. Mort was not known for kindness; I think he was envious of talented people (he was a mega bad guy) and got a kick out of creating conflicts where there were none. But DC had its fair share of good editors and a few of them liked working for sales. I knew this because I worked in that division. And I knew comic books are sold by their covers and without distribution you’re dead in the water and that’s why the pressure was always on. 

You may have heard that DC stood for “Detective Comics”, I think, knowing the nature of the men behind the scene, “Donenfeld Comics” was a more accurate name. The company was a small, down on their luck (due to the Depression), lack of business, little "mom and pop" operation. This also meant they employed relatives, and guess what happened next? Skip ahead a few years and some of those lucky ducks made it to the big time at DC. 


 

Enter me

Enter me, still taking subscriptions, and as you may have guessed, mostly for the action comics. Many of a terrific adventure story knows no bounds, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that prisons and youth facilities were among our biggest fans. To no one’s surprise, they sent cash for their books and I’m sure they were never disappointed. I have never fully understood why comic books got such a bad rap. The writers were well educated and well read, and the language they employed kept the reader fully engaged. The art became more and more sophisticated and if these two factors continued to go unnoticed by mainstream educators, it’s hard for me to understand exactly why.

I was a Betty and Veronica, Archie, and Katy Keene fan, and I had never read a romance comic until I was at DC, then BINGO I was hooked. Why? Simple. I was a fan of Bette Davis, Joan Crawford, Barbara Stanwick, Greta Garbo, and Lana Turner. All the glamour girls who loved and lost and learned the road to true love was one of life’s great lessons. Yes, I was hooked and I also saw the need for continuing dramas, soap operas. Who, in their right minds didn’t get so involved in all the plot twists? These cliff hangers were made for readers who wanted more from their glamorous heroines. The characters I created were career girls, reporters, and models. Some were mysterious with hidden pasts and deep dark secrets. I wanted them to be more than just pretty faces; they had to do more then go bananas over unapproachable guys with tally sheets for feelings and abs for brains. In those early days, these were just ideas that percolated in the back of my mind.

 


No one stands so tall as when he stoops to stuff

I worked with another young woman, named Jane. We were "IT" when it came to deluxe grunt work, coffee runs, filing, but then Jane had to take sick leave. This coincided with Mr. Donenfeld‘s inspiration to send out a multiple page mailer to all our comic book subscribers. This included old subscribers, and lists of lists, from well, you’d have to ask Irwin Donenfeld (Harry's son) about that. Oh, and all the pages had to be sorted, folded, stamped, and have addresses adhered. Remember the "mom and pop" mentality that existed? This was before Kinney National Services and then Time Warner expanded National Periodicals into a bigger, more professional company.

Let me just say that there were close to eight or nine hundred envelopes and papers to be stuffed and NO accountant, personal secretary, or mail boy were asked to help. I mean they had important jobs to do, so Irwin asked the Editors, you know, the men in charge of the actual books? NUTS! Why hire temporary help when you could get a bunch of “Gold Bricks” that were just sitting around reading comic books to help out with the hump work? I got together with all the editors and production department to take care of this insane task. I organized the piles of papers and we created an assembly of stuffers and folders and then I made up a motto of sorts, because this was too crazy not to give it a name, “No one stands so tall as when he stoops to stuff.”

And that is how I got to know the creative staff at DC. 

True Dat!!




If  you have questions for Barbara, please contact her at:
jewelryandsuchbyblb@gmail.com

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

THE TOP 5 GREATEST FEATS OF STRENGTH OF THE INCREDIBLE HULK



 THE STRONGEST ONE THERE IS!


THE TOP 5 
GREATEST FEATS OF STRENGTH OF 
THE INCREDIBLE HULK

By
Jason Tait
(edited by John THE MEGO STRETCH HULK Cimino)

When I first discovered John Cimino, it was an old video where he and his friends were sitting in a basement discussing Superman versus the Hulk. Powerless to resist the bait, I clicked. Unbeknownst to me, I unleashed a tornado of comic knowledge, hurricane-force winds of passion, and undying loyalty to the modern myths and legends that have forged generations of creativity. It was like my childhood had spawned a loud—very loud—personification of my imagination…in "supa-dupa" form! It was like looking in a mirror…only the reflection was better looking…more muscular…more charismatic…and…okay, it wasn’t like a mirror, at all. It was better. Bigger. More colorful. And I’ve been hooked, ever since. From his manic childhood quest to find the perfect Elastic Hulk to his friendship with living legend Roy Thomas, I’m always astonished at the adventures of John—half man, half amazement. I would like to thank John for giving me the flattering opportunity to write and contribute to “Hero Envy” The Blog Adventures. BOOM!!


You could say I spent Christmas morning in 1979 with John Cimino (aka the Mego Stretch Hulk) and I didn't even know it!?!

What better time than the dawn of a new year to delve into everyone’s favorite green goliath and his top five greatest feats of strength! Strength: it’s the great equalizer in a child’s mind, it’s the elusive trait in an adult’s. No one ever prays for weakness; no one ever wishes they were less strong. It’s a trait that has been both admired and feared. How apropos, then, that Marvel’s strongest has also been admired and feared throughout his existence. But, unlike most superhero stories, the story of the Hulk and Bruce Banner has never been about how powerful he is or how he has risen above when pushed to his limits, no, instead it is about the fact that there is no limit to his power, leaving the reader to wonder if Banner can restrain his own rage from destroying everything he loves. While most superpowers are glorified wish fulfillment, Banner’s is a curse, acquired through an act of selfless sacrifice and heroism. This really sets the Hulk apart from most superheroes and makes him unique in a genre filled with variety.




According to the official Marvel web site, right now, as of this writing, they state this about the Hulk: “His physical strength is potentially limitless, given it grows exponentially as his emotional distress grows.” Notice it didn’t say his strength grows in direct proportion to his emotional distress; no, it grows exponentially. The first ever published, in-continuity, canon description of the Hulk’s strength being “limitless” was in 1962. When this hit the stands, no one was outraged. The letters column wasn’t being bombarded by fans gnashing their teeth at the preposterousness of someone so strong.




But it seems like when fans do have a problem with it is when it’s actually shown and not just said. For example, the Hulk beats someone’s favorite hero, now it’s terrible writing. Hulk beats a villain faster or with more ease than someone’s favorite hero did, suddenly it’s lazy storytelling. The Hulk does something that a reader feels he shouldn’t be able to, and suddenly it’s “plot-induced stupidity.” 

The Hulk’s madder/stronger dynamic has been referenced more than Batman’s cape…but no one would ever say that Batman doesn’t have a cape. Marvel has repeated the Hulk’s limitless strength dynamic ad nauseam for well over 50 years but do a Google search and you’ll inevitably find some guy on a random message board saying that it’s not true or that it doesn’t “make sense."



 
Believing that a man could get bombarded with so much lethal radiation that it causes him to gain 900 pounds, turn green, and then turn back to human again is no problem at all…but saying that he gets stronger when he gets madder—and there’s no limit to his anger—is suddenly far-fetched, juvenile, and silly?

If you subtract every single time the Hulk has ever called himself the strongest, there still is no character in the history of comics that has been cited as the strongest (by narration, other characters, and creators) more than the Hulk. And yet, ironically enough, no other character has been cited as *not* being the strongest (by angry fans on the internet) more than the Hulk. 

The bottom line is, Marvel has made it abundantly clear that the Hulk has no limit to his strength, so whether some like that or not, or agree with it or not, they just have to just accept it (and in case you couldn’t tell, not only do I accept it, I love it, revel in it, lather up in it, and generally sprinkle my day with reminders about it).




Another aspect of the argument is the obligatory, “If the Hulk has limitless strength, why didn’t he beat (insert favorite hero name here)?” It’s been established in the comic that Banner is so afraid of the Hulk hurting innocents that he is constantly reining him in. When the Hulk fights a hero, Banner knows that despite any disagreements, they’re on the same side; his opponent is not innately evil or wanting to kill. This explains why the Hulk and Thor locked up for an hour in Defenders #10 (1973), yet when the Abomination had his strength doubled and was going from planet to planet killing entire populations (including women and children…you know, like that thing Thanos does), it made the Hulk so angry that he beat down the Abomination in a mere few panels (The Incredible Hulk #270 [1982]). This was a character that almost killed the Hulk at one point…who now had his strength doubled…but the killing of innocents caused the Hulk’s strength to escalate exponentially in an instant and he beat the Abomination so badly that years later, he was still terrified at the thought of ever fighting the Hulk again.






There’s another aspect of the argument, something to the effect of, “What’s the point of making a character so strong that he can’t be beaten?” To agree with this would be to agree that the only thing one needs to defeat another is superior strength. But as we’ve seen many times in comics (and the real world) superior strength does not guarantee victory. Some say a character that powerful loses any hope of drama in storytelling, but to me, it would be much more fun (and a creative challenge) as a writer to put a character that strong into situations where his strength was meaningless. One example was when Jim Wilson (the Hulk’s one-time sidekick) was dying of AIDS (The Incredible Hulk #420 [1994]). Despite the Hulk’s immeasurable power, he was helpless to do anything to save his friend. It was quite an emotional tale and one where those big muscles gained him nothing. Here is a superhero with the power to save people…who wants to do the right thing…but yet is powerless to save who he wants to. It's the tragedy of the incredible Hulk. 

Getting back to his physical strength, the Hulk is used more than any other character to show a benchmark of strength. He’s the gold standard by which all other strongmen and women are judged. There are numerous entries in handbooks and character biographies that mention “Hulk-like strength” and use examples of said character fighting the Hulk as evidence of their power. The very fact that there are myriad message boards littered with posts trying to prove that he isn’t the strongest may be the greatest indicator that he, indeed, is. There is a big difference between, “haven't found a limit,” “no known limit,” and "limitless". Many characters haven't found a limit to their strength, power, etc., simply because they haven't engaged in formal, limit-finding tests.




But those characters aren't described as having "limitless strength". The Hulk's limitless strength has been referenced in-continuity every year since his creation. As world renowned comic historian Peter Sanderson said, "The Hulk is the standard of physical strength for the greatest comic characters." And now, without further ado, here are the top five feats of strength of the ever incredible Hulk: 



5. The Hulk Saves His Allies from an Entire Mountain Range Being Dropped on Them 

Marvel Super Heroes Secret Wars #4 (1984)




Many consider this the Hulk’s greatest feat of strength ever, but it just barely makes it into the top five. During Marvel’s first major limited-series superhero crossover, Secret Wars, the appropriately named Molecule Man (who has the power to control, you guessed it, molecules) levitates a mountain range “which would dwarf the Andes” and hurtles it at the good guys. The shock of the mountain range landing could be felt on the other side of the planet they were on. While most of the heroes were hurt or knocked out from a recent battle, the responsibility (and the mountain range) fell upon the Hulk to prevent the miles of rock from killing his crony. The classic cover says it all: “Beneath one hundred and fifty billion tons, stands the Hulk--and he’s not happy.” Iron Man estimated that there were two miles of rock above them. Hawkeye stated that they couldn’t dig out of it in a month. 

This is probably the most oft-cited strength feat of the Hulk and perhaps one of the most controversial. While the Hulk does state that he is bracing the weight, critics like to pull real-world physics into the argument and state that the Hulk simply couldn’t support the entire mountain range, as it would collapse under its own weight. This kind of argument is actually self-defeating, because if we bring physics into the equation, then the feat is actually far more impressive than even what the cover stated. A mountain range which dwarfed the Andes was dropped on them from miles above. The Hulk didn’t just brace the weight…he caught it, multiplied by the mass plus speed equals force of its decent from the sky. 




Once you bring actual physics into the picture, the amount of weight that the Hulk prevented from hitting the ground far outweighs the 150 billion tons that was advertised on the cover. A gargantuan object like that would create an astronomical amount of force while traveling at that velocity. The Hulk didn’t just brace that weight; using only his body, he stopped miles of rock from crushing everyone else. If you bring real-world physics into the argument, then you have no choice but to calculate the speed/force equation that reveals that the Hulk didn’t just catch the weight of the mountain (150 billion tons), but the weight of the mountain multiplied thousands of times.




I’ll gladly be the first to admit that the Hulk didn’t catch the full force, weight, and momentum of the entire mountain range. But there were two miles of mountain above their heads (which even calculating a fraction of the range would still far outweigh the stated 150 billion tons). And this wasn’t a loose mound of rock and dirt; Thor was standing on top of the mountain range, hitting it to try and rescue the heroes. It was dense enough to cause Thor’s “mightiest blows” to sound like a slight tapping to the heroes below.




The people that want to discredit this feat by using real-world physics end up making it even more impressive than originally thought. Add to this that the Hulk incarnation that performed this feat is the fan-named “Banner-Hulk” (while in Hulk form, Banner had control), which is universally considered one of, if not the weakest incarnations of the Hulk, and you’ve got yourself one giddy, cackling writer sitting at the keyboard. 



4. The Hulk knocks out Pre-Crisis Superman 

Marvel Treasury Edition #28: Superman and Spider-Man (1981)







To truly appreciate how such an event could be ranked ahead of the senses-shattering Secret Wars mountain feat above, one must understand the magnitude of Pre-Crisis Superman’s abilities. Ask most diehard comic fans about Pre-Crisis Superman and the responses usually include variations of “ridiculously overpowered,” “no way to hurt him without Kryptonite,” and “thank God they de-powered him over the years.” There are three strength feats that Superman fans have cited most when trying to best any of the Hulk’s strength feats. The first is Superman bench pressing 5.972 sextillion metric tons from Superman #13 (2012). In the second example, he’s pushing against the equivalent of 200 quintillion tons in All-Star Superman #1 (2006). The third example shows him towing 13 planets on a chain from Superboy #140 (1967). All three are impressive, mind-boggling feats, to be sure (these feats will be referenced later in the list, so bring a pencil, just in case there’s a quiz). Anyway, after first meeting in Superman vs. The Amazing Spider-Man: The Battle of the Century (1976) the duo met again, years later, and they brought the Hulk and Wonder Woman with them (undoubtedly due to the popularity their respective TV shows garnered). Inevitably, the Hulk and Superman get into a fight and the Hulk K.O.’s the Man of Steel. Without using Kryptonite. Wow! Who else can actually lay claim to knocking out Pre-Crisis Superman?




However, for years, I really disliked this issue. The knockout was very underplayed in the issue and the rest of the fight looked like a low-end showing for the Hulk. I couldn’t understand why Marvel would allow their top strong guy to have such a poor performance against their distinguished competition! But after years of ignoring the book, I finally went back and, under careful analysis, realized that this was one of the Hulk’s better showings. Here’s why: If you look at panel 1, Superman is looking at the Hulk, and talking to him. Also, you’ll notice that the artist, legendary Big John Buscema, specifically drew “motion lines” around the Hulk’s hand to show that the Hulk is, indeed, moving (these details will be important later). 

Panel 2 shows the Hulk talking to Superman and punching him. Now, all of the Superman apologists like to say that the Hulk sucker-punched Superman. This is THE "go-to" argument for Superman fans (and, strangely enough, Thor fans when talking about The Incredible Hulk Annual 2001 and other fights). Superman was looking at the Hulk and talking to him before the Hulk punched him. Superman was suckered? This is obviously not the case, as we saw Superman looking at the very hand that punched him...before the Hulk even clenched it into a fist. Shouldn't Superman's Super-Hearing allowed him to hear the rubble give way as the Hulk reared back for a punch? And what about his Super-Reflexes and Super-Speed? This is a guy that has tied Flash in a footrace. The Flash. The freaking Flash. Can’t Superman let him have anything? Anyway, Pre-Crisis Superman got clocked by the Hulk. Faster than a speeding bullet, indeed. 

Moving right along to panels 3 & 4: why would anyone that could fly, "slam brutally into the concrete of a bustling pier" as his "limp body plunges to Earth" unless they were knocked out? And it wasn't the force of the punch that knocked him into the pier; the Hulk punched him straight up. Miles away, he came down and slammed into the pier, full of innocent civilians. If Supes was anything other than unconscious at the time, he would've moved, braced, recovered, not risked property damage, human casualties, etc. The fact that he didn't, clearly indicates that he was knocked out. 

Superman wasn't seen again until two pages later. Let that sink in…two pages later. And it was two pages of the Hulk wreaking havoc, by the way, not two pages of “while at the same time” exponential action shots like Lois Lane shopping for Batman-themed pajamas or something.



So, to recap: 

A. Superman was trying to protect innocent people from the Hulk's rampage. In other words, he was trying to stop the Hulk. 
B. Hulk punched him. It took two PANELS for Superman's “limp body" to travel from where the Hulk punched him, to where he landed. 
C. It took two PAGES for Superman to get back to the Hulk. 

This can only mean: 

A. Superman can't fly back to the fight faster than the Hulk can punch him away from the fight, or 
B. Superman suddenly stopped caring about the innocent people he was originally trying to save and took his sweet time coming back to the fight, or 
C. Superman took so long walking back because he was scared of the Hulk, or 
D. Superman was knocked out.

Superman finally recovers and comes back. Take note of the brilliant wording chosen for the end of the fight. The key words here are “but” and "and". The narration says of Superman, “He does not budge. But the Hulk grows ever more furious, his strength growing geometrically with each passing second--and the outcome of the strange duel is in doubt.” So, the Hulk's blows have no effect, at first. To the reader, the Hulk is getting owned; the end of the fight looks obvious. Then, the narration says the outcome is in doubt (by the way, so much for those fans that say the Hulk needs sufficient time to "ramp up", since his strength was growing geometrically by the second). Superman fans will also point to the text as proof that Superman is stronger than the Hulk. The text in question says the Hulk can shatter mountains and Superman can move (not shatter) planets. How are you supposed to move a planet if you can't fly? Add to that, Superman’s cool telekinetic power that assists him when moving large objects, and you've got one cool little power that Ol' Purple Pants doesn't have. So, Superman fans that use this argument aren’t proving that Superman is stronger than the Hulk, they’re proving that he’s a better flyer than him. The Hulk can't fly...and when he can, people get mad and call it "bad writing" (i.e. a weaker base-strength grey Hulk smashing an asteroid twice the size of planet Earth in Marvel Comics Presents #52 [1990]).




Furthermore, other than the clear knockout, Superman fans point out that the Hulk’s blows later were having no effect on the Man of Steel. This is neither proof of superior strength nor assured victory. For example, in The Incredible Hulk #283 (1983), the Hulk breaks free of a plastithene trap. The Leader’s plastithene humanoids has taken direct hits from Thor wielding Mjolnir, unharmed. Would anyone even consider for a second that those humanoids are stronger than Thor? No way. And Thor later defeated said humanoids, so one panel of a character hitting another unharmed does not constitute greater strength or guaranteed victory. This argument can also be countered by the expertise of master draughtsman John Buscema. Remember those “motion lines” he drew around the Hulk’s hand while Supes was pontificating about something goody-two-shoesy? Well, he also drew them around Superman’s head and body after Superman said he couldn’t be moved, and in the same panels that talked about the Hulk’s escalating strength forcing the outcome of the duel to now be in doubt. *insert school-girl giggling here* 


*Check out the complete "Hulk vs Superman" rivalry here:
http://hero-envy.blogspot.com/2013/04/hulk-vs-superman.html



3. The Hulk overpowers Thor who was enhanced to be ten times stronger than normal 

The Incredible Hulk #440 (1996) 




Who’s stronger than Thor? How about Thor when he’s boosted ten times his normal strength! In this issue, the military come to Thor in an attempt to get him to end “the menace of the Hulk” once and for all. The issue explicitly states that Thor has entered into the "Warrior Madness", which amplifies Thor's strength 10 times his usual strength level. Before entering Warrior Madness, Thor says that he will not hold back, that he will end the Hulk’s menace, and that it will be their last fight ever. During the fight, Thor tells the Hulk that he is going to kill him. The Hulk holds Thor down using only one arm. The Hulk ends the fight at the exact time he wants to; he sees a nuclear bomb coming toward them and punches Thor to safety. Also worth noting: the Hulk in this issue was unable to get overly angry--if he got too mad, he reverted back to Banner.





So, to recap, a Hulk that was unable to reach levels of strength that he was accustomed to reaching, defeated (via battlefield removal) and overpowered a Thor that was ten times stronger than he had ever been in any previous fight with him…a Thor that admitted he was not holding back and was trying to kill the Hulk.



"Trying" being the operative word, here. 

This, as they say, is the proverbial mic drop. 


* Check out the complete "Hulk vs Thor" rivalry here: 



2. The Hulk overcomes the weight of a star 

Infinity #6 (2013) 



In speaking of the Hulk, an intergalactic Mary Sue named Thanos gave the order, "Kill this beast for me...make it suffer." So, Proxima Midnight (a member of the glorified Thanos Boy Band “The Black Order”) conjured the weight of a star onto the Hulk. She did this from behind the Hulk, while he was running, taking him completely by surprise. But this did not crush the Hulk or even cause him to fall flat on the ground. Instead, he was supporting all of that weight on his hands and knees (meaning he overcame the weight by preventing it from laying him flat). And then he raised himself up. Even if he wasn't standing completely up straight (which he may have been, but it is hard to tell with absolute certainty from the art), he was still overcoming the weight of a star, going from his hands and knees (horizontal) to just his knees (vertical). And not just any star, but a supernova. Our sun is not even close to having the mass of a supernova. In order for a star to go supernova it has to have a mass greater than at least 8 solar masses. 

The mass of our sun is approximately: 2,327,400,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 tons. Now multiply that by *at the very least* 8 and you have the minimum amount of weight that the Hulk overcame. 

Yeah, you’re going to need to get that pencil, now.




This is far greater than the aforementioned Superman feat of 5.972 sextillion metric tons. It’s also more than Superman’s 200 quintillion ton accomplishment. Actually, it's undoubtedly even greater than the infamous Pre-Crisis Superboy towing planets feat. There are 13 planets visible in the Superboy panel versus a mass that is 8 times greater than our sun. Keep in mind, it would take approximately 1.3 million Earths to fill up our sun (for those of you not good at math, 1.3 million > 13). And the Hulk overcame the weight of something at least 8 times greater than our sun. And what does that say about his durability, too? Remember, the Superboy feat was a flight feat aided by strength. The Hulk didn't have the luxury of relying on a second power to help him out; he had to do it with raw strength alone. 

Now, put your pencil down and grab a pillow and place it on the ground, because your jaw is about to hit it. If you combine all three of those titanic Superman feats and add them together into one colossal weight, the Hulk feat dwarfs it. 

And (drum roll, please), the Hulk did all of that...and he wasn't even *that* angry. No one killed Betty or Rick Jones (insert other battle board minutiae here). He didn't "go World Breaker". And he did it immediately upon getting the weight dropped on him. In other words, there was no "significant time to ramp up" required. He was taken by surprise—he didn’t see the threat coming. He didn’t have time to make himself angry by punching himself in the face or by thinking about drivers that don’t wave after you let them into your lane. He simply did what he always does—be the strongest. 

And that's not even his greatest feat of strength! 

And now, a pause, as I take the rest of the day off and spend it rolling around on the ground hugging myself. 



1. The Hulk finally stops holding back 

The Incredible Hulks #634-635 (2011) 




Bruce Banner’s greatest fear is that he would lose control of the Hulk and that his unleashed fury and power would destroy the world and everything he holds dear. In writer Greg Pak’s storyline Planet Hulk (2006-2007), readers got to see a Hulk angrier than ever. It was a justified, righteous anger, but it was still, at times, frightening and never without consequence. In its follow up, World War Hulk (2007), we see a Hulk returning to Earth to face those responsible for events that came from his banishing to outer space and led to the death of his loved ones. At the end of World War Hulk, readers got a tiny glimpse of an incarnation of the Hulk simply known as The Worldbreaker. Overcome with emotion, the Hulk begins to walk forward, and one single footstep (not a stomp, mind you, just the beginning movement of walking away) almost snaps the Eastern Seaboard of North America into the ocean. The Hulk immediately stops himself, knowing his greatest fear is not only a real, palpable possibility, but also mere steps away from coming to fruition. In Pak’s magnum opus, The Incredible Hulks #630-635 (2011), each issue features the Hulk stronger than the issue before. Fans gave witness to the Hulk facing familiar foes who were once peers, but were now elevated magnitudes more powerful than they once were…and a Hulk dispatching them with relative ease. But the pièce de résistance came in Pak’s final two issues where it is revealed that during Planet Hulk, World War Hulk, indeed, even the prior issues in the story arc, the Hulk was holding back

So. Um, take all those feats above…and put them into the context that they were performed with restraint.

The Hulk, wishing no harm to others, is mystically transported away from Earth and into the Dark Dimension, a place in which no innocent beings reside. The Hulk, at last, could stop worrying about collateral damage and harming others and forego restraint. But he wasn’t there alone; notice there were no innocent beings there. Also present were Hulk enemies Armageddon, the Bi-Beast and the Wendigo, who were both augmented exponentially beyond their normal operating levels, and a mystically-enhanced Fin Fang Foom, who was called the most powerful creature on Earth at the time (which included the aforementioned trio above). Add to that gruesome foursome an entire army of Mindless Ones that was so powerful that the combined power of Dormmamu and Umar could not defeat, so they simply constructed a mystical barrier to contain them. 

Also present is Red She-Hulk, whose power has been mystically augmented to match the Hulk’s, meaning that the Hulk may fight her with no fear of harming her at all. The Hulk starts fighting the Red She-Hulk and the radiant force of Worldbreaker's blows against someone else—a collision—literally vaporizes all of the abovementioned baddies…and the entire planet they’re standing on. 

You still got that pillow? 

So, the entire army of Mindless Ones, Armageddon, Bi-Beast, Wendigo, and Fin Fang Foom, and the planet they were on were destroyed instantly—flash-fried—because the Hulk punched someone else. He didn’t punch them or the planet directly; he jumped up above the landscape and the force of his colliding blow with someone else broke the world.




It's the physically strongest we've ever seen a character be. Sure, characters have broken worlds before, but no one has ever done it by punching someone else. That distinction, and that level of strength, belongs to the Hulk and the Hulk alone. What having unlimited rage and strength means, though, is that he can become even stronger than that. And, in fact, we see him do just that merely a few pages later. Thinking this is surely the zenith of the power level shown in this story, the reader is proved wrong as we see the Hulk increase exponentially beyond what was just shown and grow hundreds of feet tall, while seething with gamma energy. There was no telling how powerful he was at this level, but it served to prove that no matter how powerful the Hulk gets, he can potentially keep getting even more powerful. This is because there is literally no limit to the scope of his rage & power. It's a level that takes him past any & every conventional superhero by exponential leaps and bounds into abstract realms of strength that have never been seen on a comic page before or since.




Alas, like all good things, we’ve come to the end of our incredible list. But don’t make the mistake that others have. Some fans can read the last item on the list and cite it as the cap or limit to the Hulk’s strength. But even a feat as astounding as that one is simply the farthest we’ve seen the Hulk’s strength go down an infinite road.

Until next time...




Agree? Disagree? Let's hear it fanboys!



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Top 50 Greatest Marvel Slugfests of All Time (1961-1999)
Top 10 Most Evil Villains in Comics

Top 10 Superhero Capes of All Time
Doctor Who: The Top 5 Greatest Doctors Ever
The Top 20 Greatest Stretch Figures of All Time




Jason Tait has been a fan of comic books as long as he can remember. His special talents include drawing, playing guitar, and the ability to break his left hand with almost any object. Mr. Tait has a preoccupation with the Incredible Hulk that some might call borderline psychosis, but he likes to think of it as cute and endearing. While he does possess one of the largest Hulk collections on Earth, he insists that he has, indeed, kissed a girl before.