Created in 1974, Wolverine is one of only a handful of superheroes who were born after the Silver Age but still have iconic status. He is Marvel’s cash cow character, appearing in just about any book they can cram him in. With different looks and different attitudes over the years, he’s come quite a long way from his beginnings as a Canadian super soldier.
Archive for the Superhero Makeovers Category
As the Question, Renee Montoya isn’t a character who has seen a lot of costume changes, but she has gone through a lot of other developments over her time in comics. To date, she has spent more time as a police officer than a superhero, beginning as a supporting character and working her way up. This long development has also left her as one of the more interesting characters in DC Comics.
In case the first three parts of this rant didn’t make it clear enough, the Hulk has changed a lot – arguably more than any other comic book hero. He’s been a tough one to fit into the Marvel Universe. Conceived as a cross between the Frankenstein monster, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and a cautionary tale about nuclear warfare, he has never quite fit in with other superheroes, save for his run with the team known as the Defenders – a group whose whole hook is that its members don’t really fit together on a traditional superhero team. Whenever the Hulk did get some stability, some external factor shook that up, be it Bill Mantlo getting exhausted with the character and passing it over to John Byrne, who is all too quick to change characters so he can make his own mark on them, or editorial getting in the way of a long-term story planned by Peter David. As we head into the 2000s, we’re in for more of the same, with a lot of changes in a short period of time for the Incredible Hulk. Fortunately, at the end of it, we get a brief renaissance for the character that is just now starting to come to an end.
When we last left Bruce Banner, he had been cured of being the Hulk. Yeah…that never actually holds. Banner has actually been cured of the Hulk many times over, but it didn’t get mentioned here because it’s always at most a one- or two-issue fix. This time around is no exception.
With John Byrne come and gone, Al Milgrom would be the next guy in line to start something he couldn’t finish. He left before the story arc he began with Banner’s apparent cure was even finished. That was a symptom of a bigger problem for the Hulk in the 80s: nobody wanted to write the character. Driven into a funk by attempts to cash in on the TV show in a medium that lacked the acting and soundtrack that made the TV show huge, the character had become stagnant. That’s what forced Bill Mantlo to introduce a Banner-controlled Hulk and then a completely mindless Hulk – he had started to run out of ideas for the classic savage Hulk. But since his departure, and since Byrne’s plans to recreate the Hulk his way had been stopped short, the character was basically seen as a dead end. It got bad enough that the book was eventually handed over to some marketing guy named Peter David. And what did Peter David do with the book? Started a twelve-year long stint that turned the Hulk into one of Marvel’s hottest franchises, of course.
Well, if your liver has recovered from part one, we can continue our drinking game/history lesson on the Hulk.
As of 1964, the Hulk was a popular character without a home. Moreover, he had obviously gone through some changes off-panel. When last readers saw him in his own series, his transformations through the use of Bruce Banner’s gamma gun were becoming more unstable. His appearances in Fantastic Four and Avengers gave no indication that he was still using the gamma gun to transform, yet at the same time he was wandering about during the day, suggesting that his day/night transformation cycle was still a thing of the past. When he popped up in Amazing Spider-Man, he was hiding out in a cave, not Banner’s secret lab where he had been during his own series. The truth of the matter was that the Hulk was still being written by Stan Lee, and Lee still didn’t know what he wanted to do with the character – in fact, you could make a pretty good argument that Stan never did figure out how to handle the Hulk. But one thing was for sure: with the character’s popularity still strong, the Hulk needed a book of his own.
Is he man or monster or…is he both?
I’ve been putting this off for a while. Don’t get me wrong – I love the Hulk. He’s my favorite comic book character, and quite possibly my favorite literary character ever. If I ever got the chance, I’d put up with all the bullshit politics, editorial mandates, and fan whining in the comic book industry just to get a shot at writing this character. But actually documenting the number of changes he’s gone through…well, let’s just say that we’re definitely in for a multi-part rant here.
Who is Roy Harper? Well, he’s been lots of different things. He began as Speedy, the Green Arrow’s sidekick. He’s also been the Red Arrow and Arsenal. He’s been a drug addict, a single father, and an amputee. He’s one of the first comic book characters to really be involved in some heavy topical issues, but bad creative decisions have turned him into a parody of those very same issues. Looking at Roy Harper’s history is like watching a train wreck, then watching the sole survivor emerge from the blazing inferno, take six steps forward, then get hit by a speeding car. So let’s dive in, shall we?