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Monday, August 29, 2005

Dollar Comic Review: The Incredible Hulk vs. Quasimodo

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"The Incredible Hulk vs. Quasimodo"
March, 1983
Writer: Bill Mantlo
Pencils and Cover: Sal Buscema and Steve Mitchell

The Cover: I mentioned this comic to Kevin the other day when we were talking about his weekly "Genius Covers Sunday" feature, but I actually hadn't read it until today. And brother, it's every bit as awesome as it looks. I mean, just look at it. It's got the Incredible Hulk fighting a character from a classic of European literature. A character, incidentally, whose name is trademarked by Marvel, so everyone out there writing Victor Hugo fan-fiction better watch your ass. It's so dynamic that I can't even figure out what the perspective is supposed to be. Or, for that matter, why the Hulk has Spider Jerusalem's tattoos on his chest.

The Plot:
All-out action in the mighty Marvel manner. Bruce Banner--clad in a purple suit and tie, no less--and Betty Ross take a romantic trip to Paris, complicated slightly by the fact that Bruce flips over a car every time he gets a flat, and Betty's on a secret mission for her father that involves a midnight rendezvous with the French Minister of Finance. I got the feeling that this "secret mission" was Thunderbolt Ross's way of discouraging Betty's choice of boyfriends, but that's not made clear.

Anyway, after Banner swings by an old friend's to pick up a secret untested formula that may cure him of being the Hulk, Betty's immediately kidnapped by Quasimodo, who wants all the gold in France to help him forget he's monstrously unattractive. That makes Banner angry, blah blah blah, and fifteen pages of hard punchin' monster-on-monster action later, everything works out okay, so be sure to watch The Incredible Hulk and Spider-Man and his Amazing Friends on NBC!

See, because it's actually a tie-in to the Hulk cartoon, not the comic, which is revealed in a truly bizarre one-page gag strip featuring a green, purple-pantsed Al Milgrom bemoaning his male pattern baldness. That, gentle reader, is worth the dollar alone.

The Highlights:
  • Right on page one, when Betty thinks she sees someone moving around the top of Notre Dame Cathedral, Bruce immediately dismisses her, telling her that she's been reading too much and that he's going to be late for his important lecture on Science. Hush now, Betty. The men are talking.
  • Betty's secret mission for her father involves delivering a key that unlocks the gold reserves of France. So of course, she wears it out in the open on a necklace. Risky, I know, but it really brings out her eyes. Strike two, Betty.
  • When ol' Quas kidnaps Betty, we find out that he's actually the great-grandson of the original Hunchback of Notre Dame, which only begs the question of just who humps the humpback? (NOTE: This joke blatantly stolen from Mark Hale).
  • I'll level with you: I've never read The Hunchback of Notre Dame. But I have read about the Hulk, so the fact that Quasimodo pretty much stands there trading punches with and being thrown through walls by the Jade Giant for fifteen pages makes me think that it might be one of the most action-packed novels ever.
  • After she escapes from Quasimodo's not-evil-just-misunderstood clutches, Betty manages to keep her appointment with the Minister of Finance, and it's revealed that France keeps all of her gold stored under false floorboards in a Metro car. Which, okay, I'm no expert, but I think I'd prefer a nice big fort over Han Solo's crafty spice-smuggling tricks if the economy of my country was at stake.
  • When he's confronted by Quasimodo in the sewers, Banner makes the selfless decision to give the formula that might just cure him to the Hunchback. A couple things, though: One, it's not really that selfless, considering that they make a big deal about the formula being untested and possibly killing whoever takes it. Second, considering that he's the grandson of the original Hunchback, that would mean that the deformities are genetic and really shouldn't be cured by a potion designed to stop a man from turning into a gamma radiation-powered monster whenever he gets mad. But, you know, Science.
  • Also, it's never clearly explained why Banner doesn't just go back to his French buddy and get more Magic Science Formula, but I suspect it has a lot to do with the fact that it ends up turning Quasimodo into Jericho from the Teen Titans.

Defining Moment:
Unlike most of the comics I review, the Defining Moment in this one doesn't happen at the climax of the story, but rather starts on page one and continues through the whole book. The very first caption on Page 1 starts with "Hi, Gang! This is Stan Lee!"

The narration from this point continues to be a grin-and-wink "check this out!" from Stan the Man, despite the fact that the actual story is written by Bill Mantlo, of ROM: Spaceknight fame. So we can only assume that the narration through the whole thing is, for some unfathomable reason, Mantlo-As-Stan, adding yet another layer to the onion-peel of surrealism that is The Incredible Hulk vs. Quasimodo.


Blogger Kevin Church said...

I must have this comic.

8/30/2005 10:11 AM

Anonymous dr. kunka said...

Bought this comic when it came out, but I can't for the life of me figure out why. I must have been naively enticed by the future financial returns on my investment in a guaranteed "Collector's Item!" And even after reading your synopsis and review, I still have no memory of reading this comic.

But, if I remember correctly, the "Stan as narrator" conceit was created to reflect the cartoon, which was also narrated by Stan. I also think that this comic was a direct adaptation of an episode of the series.

Man, when comics were 60 cents, I'd buy just about anything.

8/30/2005 11:31 AM

Blogger Paul said...

I read Hunchback of Notre Dame...

The Classics Comic version of Hunchback of Notre Dame... of course.

It was pretty action packed, actually. What with Hunchy's habit of throwing people off of Notre Dame cathedral.

it had a pretty miserable ending though... but then, I recall what some film reviewer said about the Disney cartoon version, "Why make a Disney cartoon out of a dark, disturbing Victor Hugo novel?"

11/22/2007 7:11 AM

Blogger tammy bolton said...

i have this book and would like to know what its worth

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i have this book and some more others but have know clue what thay are worth would like to know

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