Today’s Super Comic — The Incredible Hulk #140 (1971)

A recurring theme in the early Hulk comics was home. The Hulk (and Bruce Banner, too, of course) was constantly in search of a place to belong, but he kept finding he didn’t belong wherever he happened to be. He’d almost find happiness on occasion, as either Hulk or Banner, and then it would be snatched away somehow or another. So he kept moving on in a never-ending odyssey—the hero’s journey home, even though he hadn’t exactly figured out what “home” was.

Perhaps the best iteration of this early format was in Incredible Hulk #140, in a story conceived by the great Harlan Ellison and scripted by one of the era’s the prolific Marvel writers, Roy Thomas.

The Hulk is stranded in a subatomic world, where he inadvertently saves a kingdom of green-skinned people, immediately earning their adoration. Bruce Banner’s brain takes over Hulk’s body, and he becomes engaged to the queen of this world. He’s respected and admired, and he has much to offer. He’s not a monster here.

So you know it’s all going to get ripped away from him.

The ending has a perfectly tragic touch. As the Hulk reverts to his usual brainless self, he’s vaguely aware of the happiness he had, and he bounds off in search of that place—unaware that it’s within a mote of dust clinging to his clothes.

Story: Harlan Ellison

Scripter: Roy Thomas

Penciler: Herb Trimpe

Inker: Sam Grainger

Publisher: Marvel Comics

How to Read It: back issues; Marvel Unlimited; Comixology; included in Hulk: Heart of the Atom (TPB)

Appropriate For: ages 9 and up

Today’s Super Comic — Daredevil #208 (1984)

daredevil_vol_1_208When a guest writer substitutes for an issue, it can often feel like filler. But never when the guest writer is Harlan Ellison. If you see Ellison’s name on a comic, pay attention.

Ellison co-wrote Daredevil #208 with Arthur Byron Cover. The issue doesn’t advance any subplots or provide any new insight into Daredevil’s character—those are usually jobs for the regular creative teams—but it does showcase Daredevil’s skills and resourcefulness by subjecting him to a night of hell.

He’s lured into a mansion that used to be an elegant home, but the owner, consumed by thoughts of vengeance, has rigged it into a giant death trap specifically for Daredevil. DD endures a seemingly endless parade of dangerous obstacles as he seeks an exit, when all he really wanted to do that evening was get a good night’s sleep before his early morning court date.

The story could just as well have starred Batman or Green Arrow, but it’s not really a story about a costumed vigilante. It’s a story about the high cost of revenge, with the altered mansion serving as an excellent metaphor.

This is a textbook example of how to do a fill-in issue.

Writers: Harlan Ellison and Arthur Byron Cover

Penciler: David Mazzucchelli

Inker: Danny Bulanadi

Cover: David Mazzucchelli and Bob Wiacek

Publisher: Marvel Comics

How to Read It: back issues

Appropriate For: ages 10 and up