I like the gray hulk better. :( The Incredible Hulk Cartoon:
Lou Ferrigno eat your heart out.

Matt - 6.04.02 /// Previous ArticleX-ENext Article

The three of you out there who didn't see Spider-Man might not have heard about the new Incredible Hulk live action film coming out somewhere between next year and 2092. The teaser trailer shown before Spidey didn't give us too much information, just enough for the world to know that, someday, they'll be a Hulk gracing the big screen who isn't a bald professional wrestler. I've never been too into Hulk - but then again, I was never the biggest Spider-Man fan by any stretch, and I thought that flick was aces. I doubt Bruce Banner's hideously lime alter ego has the mass appeal of Peter Parker, but it's a safe bet that The Incredible Hulk will rock box offices and debut with a full line of Hulk-themed grape-flavored fruit snacks to boot.

But that won't happen for a long while yet, so I figured this might be a good time to give Hulk Fans a little Hulk Action and hope it's enough Hulk Coverage to tide you over till he's all CGI'ed to the max and full of unprecedented wit on the big screen. Today we take a look at the early 80s Incredible Hulk animated series - a cartoon from the Marvel era where they remained true to the characters almost to a fault, more or less word-by-word transcribing stories from the comics in toon format. Narrated by Stan Lee himself, the show had a small but memorable run -- it didn't turn any kids into raving Hulk lunatics, but with hindsight, we can appreciate it for being a simple and entertaining if unspectacular show that put sound and motion to the big green monster everyone knew from comic books.

I'm a big fan of the Marvel shows from this era because they typically all share an innocence you really can't find nowadays. They made these shows without the slightest hint of marketing flair - none of this crap was put together for the hard sell, it was in the days before cartoon television ratings were a big deal, and the competition was a whole lot lighter. This might sound like my nice way of saying the shows were boring, but I'm not yanking your chain -- sometimes it's a load of fun watching shows from a time where the focal purpose wasn't maintaining an aura of 'cool.'

Episode Review of Tomb of the Unknown Hulk, 1982:

Things kick off with Bruce Banner and Betty Ross hard at work on their little radioactive crafts projects. Granted, I don't know much about comics and will probably inspire a good amount of fanboy hate mail because of it, but I've gotta say that Betty Ross is just the worst love interest of a superhero ever, bar none. I mean we get so used to their tits being the size of redwoods and their hair as long as floor lamps - you look at this girl and she's just screaming for a makeover. Seriously, you take the lipstick off that chick and it's impossible to tell the difference between her and Banner. The plus side is that she knows a lot about top secret chemicals and stuff so she's far more handy than Mary Jane if there's ever a bomb threat. Then again, in explosion scares, all guys really care about is getting that one last lay in, so maybe Mary Jane is more effective after all. Christ it took me one paragraph to totally frig the respectability this review.

Anyway, they're working on some sort of new explosive element that could be big trouble if it fell into the wrong hands. I question the good sense of putting such materials in the hands of a guy who sporadically turns into a giant slime-green freak with an IQ lower than a broomstick, but if I went around questioning every oversight like that, I may as well slap big question marks over my shirts and prance around as the Riddler. It doesn't matter much either way - the Hulk isn't today's villain. Today's villain isn't bad by matter of circumstance - he's pure evil 100%....

Doctor Octopus! Betcha weren't expecting that. I know I wasn't - I always thought he was strictly Spidey territory. I guess that's why there's all those volumes of Marvel Universe Handbooks available - you never know when learning every last nuance of the Marvel characters will keep you from getting taken by surprise. This is actually the first episode of the series, the pilot if you will, so Doc Ock isn't exactly the first choice I'd come up with. Who did the Hulk usually fight, anyway? I know there was that Abomination guy, and who was the other one, Wendigo? Or was he Wolverine's bitch? Christ I hate the comic book world. For the duration of the review I'm going to pretend everyone's named John, so if I make any blanket comments about their past friendships or rivalries, technically I'll always be close to correct.

The quick sum up on Doctor Octopus - weird guy who cackles a lot and has a really terrible accent waddles around town wearing cool sunglasses and four tremendous, ultra-powerful metal tentacles. His outfit's pretty tacky but I guess it doesn't matter since all eyes are drawn to the extra arms. We're not completely sure of his plans at this point, but Vegas odds has him going after the highly explosive chemical compound we saw a bit earlier. I mean it's not like he's here to form camaraderie with the Hulk because they're both based in the green spectrum of colors.

Elsewhere, Bruce warns trusted friend Rick Jones that he's getting pretty nauseous and might morph into a monster at any moment.

The only comic I read with Rick Jones in it was The Death of Captain Marvel, a pretty great little novel that featured one of Marvel's top space cadets losing his life to cancer and having to kiss a cloaked skeleton chick just so he could spite Thanos one last time. Jones was worth a lot more in the comic than he is here - a simple cowboy goathead who sticks around Bruce to insure that he doesn't do anything rash in Hulk form.

So, when Bruce starts feeling the transformation coming on, he willingly allows Rick to lock him in a special chamber with sleeping gas so he can't do anyone any harm. It must suck to have to go through this on a regular basis. I'd say the real life equivalent would be forcing a friend to lock you in your basement if you were really gassy. Only it's much worse for Bruce since he ruins a shirt every time he goes through this. You'd think he'd learn to take off the lab coat before transforming by now, but he's a sucker for dramatic visuals and the whole morphing biz looks a lot neater when he rips a shirt in the process. Eventually, he returns to normal, and just before things appear to be cooling off, he notes that something bad has happened: now he's turning into the Hulk for no apparent reason. Usually it only happens when he gets stressed watching football games. Now it's just happening randomly, like a weird radioactive hiccup. Life's a bitch.

Meanwhile, the good doctor infiltrates the military base using a raygun that, I think, turns anyone it hits either into his slave or an immovable statue. It's tough to tell - some of the scenes feature guys getting knocked out by the ray, while others portray the good guys following Doc Ock around like good little puppy dogs, doing his bidding. I dunno, maybe the gun has different settings? It was a plot point I missed, partly because it went by so quickly but mostly because I just wasn't interested enough to pay close attention. It's hard to pick up on these things when you're looking at an ashtray converted from a bowl of sweet and sour sauce. I really disgust myself sometimes.

By the way, I'm sure it's completely unintentional, but every nameless army man on this show either looks like Clint Howard or Herb from WKRP. Just thought I'd mention it.

General Thunderbolt Ross inspects some of the damage and feels Banner has some explaining to do. This being the pilot and all, I'm not sure how much I'm supposed to read into that. Do they know he turns into the Hulk? And if so, why do they keep him on the payroll and in the lab with all their super-expensive equipment? Military masochists, that's what they are. I vaguely remember watching this show from time to time as a child, and this whole military-after-the-Hulk thing was a recurring theme. They never actually catch him though - usually they line up a few tanks and end up running when Hulk throws a few 500-ton boulders at 'em.

Betty maintains that Bruce would do no such thing, which either means that she doesn't know he turns into a monster, or she's covering for her boyfriend since she can't get nookie if they throw him in prison. In either situation I commend Betty for keeping the faith and rolling with the punches - lord knows it must get difficult dating with a guy who occasionally might eat you.

Bruce turns into the Hulk again, and now the army's after him. In today's super special Idiot Move of the Decade, they try to halt his unstoppable rage by throwing a net over him. This is a guy who can punch through a nuclear warhead and pisses liquid that burns through sheet metal...I don't think nets would be my first assault choice. Of course, they do little to stop the Hulk, and as he's chasing all those no-good military men off, he nails some pretty awesome lines. 'Leave Hulk Alone,' 'You Make Hulk Mad,' and 'I Raise Da Roof' top the charts in my humble opinion. It's lines like that that have Hollywood's best scrambling and rewriting scripts to give them more panache.

Rick finds him and persuades the creature to calm down, citing that the last thing either of them need on their consciences are dead guys who don't even mean anything to the overall plot. Rick argues that if the Hulk's going to kill someone, it may as well be someone noteworthy enough to get him a mention in Wizard. So, they decide to take on Doctor Octopus, who's been running rampant back at the base, tentacles flailing, screaming something about a hideous plot that will change the world forever. My guess? Phony reusable condoms. He's going to overpopulate us to death.

Of course, this does beg the question: what chance does Doc Ock really have against the Hulk? He's nowhere near as powerful, fast, or raging. He's not really green, just wears the clothes. Hulk's far more audible because he's not trying to fake any accents, and on top of all this, he goes around barefoot, so you know he's hardcore. The only advantage Doctor Octopus holds over the Hulk is his aircraft - a penis-shaped plane with giant tentacles. You have no idea how close I was to mistyping 'testicles'. And my spellchecker wouldn't have caught it, it would've lived on in infamy forever. Stupid phallic vehicles.

Doc Ock captures the rest of Bruce's friends, and I'm pretty sure we're getting a bastardized version of the villain, since I'm relatively certain he wasn't a total giggling idiot in the comics. And even if he was, there's no way they took it to this degree. I'm telling you, the guy laughs at everything. It's like he's the prototype for Phoebe Cates in Drop Dead Fred, and some childhood imaginary friend has come back to life to secretly tell him jokes, making him laugh and look asinine at every twist and turn. I have read a little bit about Doc Ock, mostly from comic encyclopedias and stuff, and the impression I got was that he was mad, but not stupid mad. Stupid mad was usually reserved for people that fought the Power Pack - Hulk could use more impressive adversaries.

If only Speedball would make a heel turn.

Rick talks to Bruce, who's once again locked in his special cave because he can't learn to control himself when he turns into Godzilla, and they both agree that the impending Octopus Threat must be dealt with promptly. All talk no action with these guys. They've been planning the battle for twenty minutes and they still can't get past the drawing board. It's not like they need any intensively complex plan or anything - just sic the Hulk on Doc Ock, have him kick the shit out of him, and everyone goes home happy. Hell even the army people might start trusting Hulk a little bit more if he saves them from tentacular peril. What this guy needs is an agent.

Allow me to introduce you to another of the recurring secondary characters. I don't remember his name, so we'll call him The Great Chili Pepper. The Great Chili Pepper owns a local restaurant, and is friends with all of the show's good guys, so he's a hero character by default. Somehow he becomes entangled into today's story and his mission is to render some of the Doctor's unwilling hired hands useless. It's a lame subplot that I wouldn't even mention if he didn't go about handling it in the stupidest way ever:

Apparently, throwing mounds of pepper into a fan will cause every bad guy on the premises to sneeze so much they become totally helpless and easy to tie up. If you think that's odd - he incapacitates the other villains by loading their food with curry. They all get stomach aches and can no longer battle. I'm not making this up. I couldn't if I tried. You'd think the poor schmos would taste the difference a bit before scarfing down entire bowls of semi-poisoned food, but in the Marvel Universe, there's three absolute truths: heroes can lift cars, villains like shitty sunglasses, and curry is totally flavorless.

Doctor Octopus watches his plans go to shit on the video monitor, and fret because the Hulk is now looking for him. There's not much to add there, so instead, a short story on how I got into comics to begin with: those stupid Marvel trading cards. The first series ones, I believe from 1989. I bought 'em on a whim at a local deli because I had extra change and didn't want cupcakes. I never would've bought another pack, or ultimately any comics whatsoever, if I didn't get one particular card: the Magneto hologram. Something about that stupid hologram shouted to me to buy more and more and more, and before I had any idea what I was doing, I'd amassed hundreds of comic books and more useless trading cards than anyone who thought Desert Storm wax packs would eventually become valuable.

The comics broadened my geek horizons quite a bit, so you might say that, without that Magneto hologram card, they might not have ever been an x-entertainment. Scary thought. With a slight twist of fate, I could've been spending my days working a real job and actually making enough money to eat food that doesn't require plastic covers being pulled off.

Finally, Hulk catches up to the good doctor. Thanks to the help of the always inexplicable villain narrative, we learn right off the bat that the Hulk's too strong to be contained by Doc Ock's steel tentacles. Instead, he ties them into a pretzel knot, proving that paying your weekly dues to the Cub Scouts can prove worthwhile in time.

The fun ain't over yet, though. While the Hulk has defeated Doctor Octopus, he hasn't taken care of the bigger threat. See, Doc sent this rocket up into the sky filled with a chemical that will turn the entire human race into disfigured mutants. Perhaps I should've mentioned this earlier? My bad. I really need sleep and I'm starting to see in doubles - I can't tell if that's Doctor Octopus or Doctor Crab With Two Heads at this point. Getting back to the story - the Hulk must stop Doc Ock's chemical-filled rocket before it has the chance to create a whole race of Hulk-like creatures. He'll lose his unconformity if he doesn't act quick.

Amazing Scene Alert: The rocket, now higher than the clouds, appears to be out of reach. Not so. Hulk simply jumps straight up into the air for what has to be around 45,000 feet, headbutts the side of the ship, causing it to explode. Of course, if a ship full of deadly chemicals explodes, there's usually some ramifications to be dealt with. But much like the curry being flavorless, this is where the Marvel Universe differs from our own. Hulk shows no sign of wear and tear after falling 45,000 feet to the ground. This is acceptable, because his stupid Marvel Universe trading card listed his durability on level '10.' I really, really hate those cards.

The day is saved - Doc Ock is held in a temporary prison until better security can pick him up, and everyone's satisfied that the knot in his tentacles will be enough to keep him at bay. Works for me. Bruce apologizes to Rick for accidentally roughing him up earlier, but Rick promises to remain with Bruce, however unsafe he may be, because it's actually his fault he's the Hulk in the first place. I guess they explain that in the later 'origins' episode. So, Rick Jones is somehow responsible for Brucey being Hulky? For shame, Rick. Tip your head Rick. You careless toad. Tip your ten gallon hat. Tip it I say.

Overall: Like I said at the top - these earlier Marvel shows were really basic, but totally harmless, and usually at least somewhat entertaining. Personally, I'll take the Hulk cartoon over X-Men: Evolution any day of the week. Something about Nightcrawler hopping into a Ferrari like a kid from 90210 doesn't really sit right with me. I'd rather deal with Doc Ock's incessant giggling and Betty's haircut than fratboy mutants with blue tails.

Click here to download the cartoon's theme song! Enjoy.

- Matt
Instant Messager: xecharchar

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