comic books that changed my life #3

Back in January 2006, I started what I intended to be a blog series on some of my favorite comic books. I did two. For some reason, I got off track. So, let’s get back on the rails.

My series deals mainly with the art. I’m a cartoonist and comic books were a HUGE influence on me. I will talk about story when it’s important, too.

The third comic book that had an impact on me is ‘The Incredible Hulk’ number 168 (October 1973). I was still dabbling in comic book collecting. I hadn’t discovered storylines quite yet. I was more interested in the art. If the cover caught my eye, I would be more likely to buy the issue. And I liked this cover.

The artist was Herb Trimpe. I don’t think he was ever considered one of the all-time greats, but he was capable and his style was well-suited for the Hulk. In this issue he did some fine work. He did some of his best work during this stint on the Hulk series. Not earth-shattering, but good stuff.

This was back in the day when the page layout was still the basic six-panels a page with full gutters (that’s what the spaces between panels are called). Trimpe’s work in this issue has a soft feel thanks to Jack Abel’s inking. And one can certainly see the influence that Jack Kirby had on Trimpe’s work. That's hardly unusual, because Kirby influenced just about every comic book artist.

Story-wise, I always seemed to prefer the first part of a two-issue story. I think it’s because the set up for the initial defeat of our hero is more compelling. In this issue, Betty Ross Talbot is transformed by Modok into the Harpy in order to defeat the Hulk; which, as the Harpy, she seems to do just that. He gets better in the next issue, don’t worry.

I’m not sure how unusual or common this was, but issue #168 contains three splash pages! (That’s what they call a full page panel) The first isn’t anything very special. It sets up what’s going on. The Hulk is trying to get into the hospital where an ailing Betty is being treated. Note the flowers in the foreground. They are placed in the scene to set up that the Hulk picks flowers for Betty. How sweet.

The second splash page is the transformation scene of Betty into Harpy. It’s spectacular! Very dramatic. There’s a lot of Jack Kirby in that panel. Note the shadow of Harpy's right arm. That's a great touch.

Third is the final page. It was pretty common to do a splash page for the end of the first part of a multi-part story. It’s meant to wow the reader and make sure they don’t miss the next part. Well, this one delivers. It looks as though our hero has had it. (Harpy was only able to get the better of the Hulk by playing the “I’m Betty” card.)

There’s some other fun stuff in this issue. Especially, a very dated, but still funny (maybe because it’s so dated) argument between the Hulk’s friend, Jim Wilson, and Jim’s girlfriend, Talia.

I’m also quite fond of a panel depicting the Hulk jumping through the wall of the hospital. It’s very simple and straight forward. Blam! Hulk jumping through the wall.

I guess I have a particular fondness for the comic books from this era. I’ll try to continue with more of this series, because I have more in mind. And, as Marvel Comics liked to put it, you demanded it!

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