Wednesday, March 8, 2017

A Green Behemoth and a Crystal Girlfriend, Part 3

Gee whiz, graduate school and medical school in a Comic Book Universe must be HARD! No one is every an expert or specialist in a single field. If you are a scientist, you are pretty much a multi-disciplinarian in everything.

Reed Richards, for instance, is the top man in pretty much every branch of science known to man. Hank Pym is an entomologist, but based on all the other stuff he's invented and personally built, he's also an expert in robotics, computer programming, engineering and inter-dimensional physics.

Nobody is really a specialist. A scientist in the Marvel Universe might claim to be a specialist, but when he was in school, he simply majored in SCIENCE!

We meet Doctor Leonard Samson in Hulk #141 (July 1971). He's been called in to cure Betty Ross, who has spent the previous four issues as a fragile crystal statue. Doc Samson is a psychiatrist, which means he did pre-med, medical school proper and a residency in his chosen specialty. But this proves my point about how hard schools in his universe must be--he's also clearly an expert in physics and engineering to pull of his plan to cure both Banner and Betty.

First, there's the matter of capturing Hulk. This is pure psychiatric manipulation at work, using an image of Betty to calm Hulk down enough to get him to turn back into Banner.

Then he jumps to other disciplines and builds a machine that drains Hulk of gamma radiation (leaving Banner cured) and using some of that radiation to cure Betty as well.

THEN--because being a psychiatrist/physicist/engineer isn't enough, he uses the excess radiation to turn himself into a superhero.

THEN--he proves himself to be a tad bit inept as a psychiatrist by wooing Betty and making Bruce jealous. Bruce, who is not thinking clearly because of an endless slew of horrible things that keep happening to him, uses Samson's machine to turn himself back into Hulk. This gives Samson a chance to earn superhero cred, but he's no match for an angry Hulk.

I think I've been sounding critical of the story, but I'm not. The scientists we meet in comic book stories are generally the cream of the crop and making them multi-disciplinary experts opens up a lot of storytelling potential. Like the previous issue involving Hulk and Jarella, I do think this story might have worked a little better if it had been a two-parter. All the character moments, such as Bruce deciding to turn himself back into the Hulk so soon after being cured or Betty's apparent decision to dump Bruce of Samson (that happens on the last page) are very abrupt.

But, also like the previous issue, the story still works, hitting powerful emotional notes while still telling a strong story. It's not quite the classic the Jarella story is, but its still a great yarn.

That's it for now. Next week, we go into deep space to explore a not-quite-abandoned derelict ship.

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