In 1985, my family went to Canada for a family holiday. The first trip abroad we’d had. One of the highlights of the trip for me was access to comics I couldn’t usually get. American Marvel, DC, and other comics. I discovered Archie Comics on this trip.
Marvel Super Heroes Secret Wars had just begun to be published by Marvel UK, and I was eagerly reading that series. One of the comics I got in Canada was Secret Wars II #3 – a jump into the future which blew my mind.
Another Secret Wars related comic I got was Incredible Hulk #312. The Secret Wars II tie-in element was a few pages tacked on at the end of what was actually a very powerful story. A retelling of Bruce Banner’s life with the conceit that the Hulk was part of his character from the moment he was born.
The story by Bill Mantlo and Mike Mignola showed that Bruce’s father was possibly irradiated over the years as he worked with dangerous materials. Bruce had suffered mental and physical abuse throughout his childhood, and so when the gamma bomb from The Incredible Hulk #1 went off, it released the Hulk creature which had always been inside him.
It was heady stuff for The Hulk comic, I read it a thousand times and it became a real favourite.
Many years later in 2003, around the time of the Ang Lee Hulk movie, I read an interview with Barry Windsor-Smith in Comic Book Artist #1, where he said the idea of that story had been his. He’d pitched it to Jim Shooter, but for various reasons depending on who you speak to, they’d gone ahead with a Mantlo/Mignola version. Windsor-Smith let the readers know he’d continued working on the comic in the eighteen years since, and completed pages from it were shown in the magazine.
It was shocking to see that one of my favourite Hulk comics had this background, but exciting to think a more expanded, purer version of the story was on the way.
I used to write letters in to Comics International magazine, and in #163, I sent in the following to them:
Fast forward another eighteen years. As a regular guest of Tony Esmond’s Never Iron Anything podcast, I am called upon to choose different comics to discuss in depth with him. I decided Hulk #312 would be a good choice, as I had seen that Fantagraphics were going to publish the apparently completed “Monsters”. This would be a timely conversation! Have listen here.
Today, my copy of Monsters arrived and I am keen to read it. In fact, I am a bit trepidatious to read it. What if it’s crap? We’ll see…