The Hulk and Harlan

The Incredible Hulk #140

Continuing with our breathless coverage of The Incredible Hulk’s rapidly approaching 50th anniversary, here’s a nearly-forgotten gem from 1971. Comic books had not exactly broken through into the wider adult market at that point in time, so it was unusual to find an established writer willing to openly pen a story for a pulpy medium aimed at your average 12-year-old boy with a spare 15 cents rattling around in his pocket.

And yet, right there on the lower right-hand cover of The Incredible Hulk #140 is the blurb “Harlan Ellison Strikes Again!” Yes, the mighty Harlan was not afraid that his reputation might be soiled by working in the lowly comics field. Who knows what his reasoning was in taking on this job (beyond the obvious paycheck), but in hindsight it looks shrewd, introducing an entire young generation to his name and work. It was certainly my first exposure to him.

So what did Harlan concoct for the jolly green giant? (Spoiler alert!) In brief, the Hulk gets shrunk down by a bad guy to a microscopic world, where he finds a previously unknown race of green-skinned people.  He finds acceptance and love before having it all ripped from him when he is returned to his normal size. Much smashing ensues.

All of which, now that I think of it, sounds amazingly like the plot for the “World War Hulk” storyline from a few years back. Ol’ Harlan really was ahead of his time.

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