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Bill Mantlo (writer) Tributes
TRIBUTE TO BILL MANTLO
Miguel Colomo wrote "El Hulk de Mantlo" (Mantlo's Hulk) as a tribute to writer Bill Mantlo. Miguel decided to share it with all of the Hulk fans, and sent it my way. I translated it to English and published it in The Incredible Hulk Library. Let me say that Mantlo is one of my favorite Hulk writers, and I also enjoyed his work in ROM. From Miguel and I, enjoy.



The Hulk character

The Savage Hulk (art by Sal Buscema) Not long ago and for more than a decade, Hulk had an exceptional writer called Peter David. This writer stated that the savage Hulk left little to take advantage from, and, thus during his many years in the book, he barely used the Hulk created by Stan Lee. Instead, he mainly used other "Hulks", smarter, gray or green, goones and doctors.

I think that Peter David disagreed with the image held by many comic fans who dislike the Hulk. A dumb, green monster, strong and agressive, who showed up in the comic books those fans collected. Usually, those issues were fillers which basically showed only lots of punches and fights. In those comics, Hulk was the excuse to make the main character flourish. Patetic examples of that Hulk can be found in the Ultimate Spiderman or Ultimate Avengers (Ultimates) books. I also hate that Hulk. But inside the walls of his own comic book, we find a different Hulk. A Hulk who is usually sad, lonely but against his will, segregated, and hated, with a good heart, who uses, most of the time, a solid logic. Those stories are about a monster, but are very human. They usually speak about peace, friendship and the lack of comprehension between people.

The savage Hulk has much to take advantage from. It's been demonstrated by many authors along his 40 plus years of age, including the current and spectacular Bruce Jones, joined by artists like John Romita Jr. Many of those writers told (or are telling) stories as good or even better than those of David. One of those writers was Bill Mantlo. Bill Mantlo wrote 5 years of marvelous Hulk stories. He did it without resigning one bit (even when Banner controled the monster) to the character's escense. I will try to summarize Bill Mantlo's run, mentioning some of his epic stories.

Epic Stories

TIH2 245 Mantlo started his run on the green giant in The Incredible Hulk #245 with a very touching story: Hulk goes to Gamma base to resuce Jarella's corpse to take her to her world and bury her. Hulk fights Glenn Talbot and no other than Captain Marvel. Finally, Captain Marvel helps Hulk get to Jarella's world. When he returns to Earth, thanks to the wizards from Jarella's world, Hulk finds the Silver Surfer (TIH #250). The Silver Surfer absorbs the Hulk's power and uses it to break Galactus barrier around the planet, which kept him prisoner. But Hulk has turned into Banner and the Silver Surfer decides to save him by returning his power. The Surfer continues to be a prisoner of Earth and Banner of his curse.

After fighting Thor, the 3D Man, and travel the Middle East (where a kid who shared his food, dies during a terrorist attack, triggered by a nonsense plea between two cultures), Japan and the old URSS, Mantlo tells two short stories with a fantasy theme (TIH 262) which are the perfect example of what a great writer can do in a few pages. In the first story, a mysterious woman whose touch turns things to crystal, tries using her power against Banner when he's turning into the Hulk. In the second story, Banner tries saving a kid who runs from his parents, saying they are not really his parents. The kid is in fact an alien monster who can take on any form, and forgets about his true self due to the pills administered by the adoptive parents. At the end of the comic, Hulk tells the parents that the kid is a monster. The father asks the Hulk how can he say that of anyone. Hulk looks at himself and leaps away saying "And puny human is right... Hulk is nothing but a monster!".

Another unique issue is "... And They Called The Wind Pariah!" (TIH 268), where Hulk fights a ghost from the far west. In several one-or-two issue sagas, which were all good and some left a moral, Hulk confronts Glorian and the Shaper of Worlds, the Absorbing Man, Landslide and Avalanche, the Corruptor and the Night Flyer, the Texas Rangers, the High Evolutionary or the U-Foes (Vector, Vapor, Ironclad, and X-Ray, characters created by Mantlo who represent an evil Fantastic Four group and became constant Hulk enemies). In these issues, Rick Jones uses a Gamma ray device to turn Hulk into Banner (the same device used in the first issues of the Hulk). Those Gamma doses, plus the Gamma radiation received when fighting the Abomination and the Manster of the Galaxy, and the method used by Uncle Pyko (one of the inhabitants from the Halph World of the Rocket Raccoon book, also written by Mantlo, which resulted in the curious crossover of TIH 271) to return the Hulk to Earth, will produce a deep change in Banner.

TIH2 272 The Hulk Banner arrives in Earth, specifically in Canada, transported by the Gamma beam and, for his surprise, he's able to remember everyting what happened while being Hulk (TIH 272). Besides, being attacked by the Wendigo does not trigger the metamorphosis. Lost in some snow valley, finally cured from his curse of being the Hulk but lurked by the Wendigo, death seemed like the only possible way out... But Bruce Banner refuses to quit and wishes to turn into the Hulk. The transformation occurs by will, but in the process, somehow, Banner is able to control the Hulk's form. Although this has happened to him before, this time it will last. After a couple of annoyances, Banner finally understands the power he wields in his big hands. He returns to the US and is pardoned by the President of the US of all that was committed by his alter ego. All the superheroes congratulate and chear him, and receives from Alicia Masters a gift: an Adamantium statue of the Hulk.

In the next issues, Banner fights the Leader with the help of the Avengers, written then by Roger Stern who wrote Hulk before Mantlo (and is another great Hulk writer). Stern and Mantlo were finely tuned.

TIH2 288 Another important saga was that of MODOK and Abomination. MODOK liberates the Abomination and uses him to attack the Hulk. But the Abomination was beatten so hard on their last encounter, that he was traumatized. MODOK tortures the Abomination until he accepts to face the Hulk. But Abomination discovers that the Hulk was no longer savage. He places his worries appart, and gets the advantage in the battle. At that moment, Banner realizes that his assistant and lover, doctor Kate Waynesboro, is in fact a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent, assigned to check he did not turn into the Savage Hulk. That ignites his fury, and throws the Hulk's might onto the Abomination. When he wants to know what is happening, the Abomination is crying, begging the Hulk to stop hurting him. Banner regains control of himself and realizes that he may be loosing control over the Savage Hulk. "Maybe S.H.I.E.L.D.'s right to post a guide over me?" This doubt will be the first crack of his collapse.

Mantlo delights us with another special issue: "Assassin" (TIH #293). A poor devil whose town and life were destroyed by the Hulk, disagrees with the Hulk's pardon and decides to do justice with his own hands. He waits for Banner in the airport and tries to shoot him. Banner turns into the Hulk to save his life. Banner talks to the guy, who reveals his motives. Banner releases the man of all charges and builds with his hands (actually, the Hulk's) the town that was destroyed by the green monster.

The First "Hulk Dog"

Before Ang Lee's movie debut, there were many rumors about the Hulk dogs in it. So-called fans complained irritated because "there was nothing like it in the comic". False. Two writers included Hulk dogs in the comic: the first one was Mantlo and the second and most recent one was Paul Jenkins.

When Banner controls the Hulk's form, he returns to research once more. In this occasion, he studies the healing effects of the Gamma rays (yes, as in the movie). His first patient is a dog, who belongs to a married couple and their two sons. The animal suffers from a bone desease and Banner uses Gamma rays to cure him completely.

Sometime later, the father returns carrying his dead dog in his arms. He tells Banner how the dog became aggresive and stronger, until he bit one of his sons. He locked the dog in the basement. But that night, the dog barked louder and louder, until he broke the chain that was holding him and crashed the basement's door. The father had no choice but to shoot and kill the dog.

It is a chilling story. To make it even more dramatic, Max Hammer, a gangster, received the same treatment from Banner. Taking advantage of Banner's absense (sent to fight the Secret Wars), decided to treat other people too. Banner watches as Max Hammer turns into a savage being while saying: "I wanted to experiment with Gamma rays to help a better future for mankind... But all I've succeeded in doing is making my fellow man as monstrous as myself!"

Hulk Takes Control Of Banner

TIH2 300 Banner slowly looses control over the savage Hulk and we soon discover the one responsible for that: Nightmare, the ruler of the world of dreams. Nightmare wanted to use the Savage Hulk against his hated enemy, Doctor Strange. But Doctor Strange is able to reach Banner, hidden from his Sanctum Santorium, to reveal him what has happened. Banner decides to sacrifice his humanity before having to share his life again with the Savage Hulk, and to prevent Nightmare from controlling the green giant. Banner throws his fury against Nightmare. Curiously, the battle's finale is shown on Web of Spider-Man #7, written then by Peter David.

Issue 300 is almost a joke of #279. In this issue, Hulk fights against all the heroes who try stopping him. He even fights against the Adamantium statue which represented his heroicism, and uses it as weapon against the heroes. Nobody is able to stop him. Doctor Strange decides to send him where he could not inflict harm and nothing could harm him: the Crossroads. Hulk's stay in that dimension is totally different from anything ever done in a superhero book. With a true "The Twilight Zone" style (famous TV series in the US of self-contained 20 minute episodes of fantastic stories), Mantlo tells very human stories about a truly savage Hulk. He tells us about nonsense destruction (TIH #301), friendship (TIH #304 and Annual 13), tirany and loss of innocence (TIH #302 and 303), treason (TIH #308), survival (TIH #309) and the limits of science (TIH 311). In the Crossroads, Hulk will first be accompanied by the Puffball Collectible: a character or series of characters with a great undertone (it intrigues me that nobody has reflourished it). Later, he will be joined by the Triad, three characters developed by the ill mind of Banner: Glow (symbolizing love), Guardian (representing a guardian angel), and Goblin (symbolizing hatred, pain and evil).

Mantlo's Gray Hulk

When I was writing this article, I was surprised by a small, big detail: Mantlo refers, for the first time in 25 years, about the Hulk's original skin color: gray. Yes, it was not Byrne... In TIH #302, Hulk tries escaping from the Crossroads by leaping to the void. During his fall, the special features of the dimension produced a disstortion in space and time. Mantlo writes, "... So that he preceives himself reliving aspects of a past - his past- of which he no longer has any memory". During those moments from the past, one can see the original gray Hulk which looks like Frankenstein. It was a brief reference, but one way or another, it had big repercussions. Maybe Byrne saw that panel, maybe not, but the fact is that the panel is there, for the first time in 25 years, the original gray Hulk.

Brian Banner

TIH2 312 ... Monster. That was the title of TIH #312. A crossover with Secret Wars II in which Mantlo presents the father of Robert Bruce Banner, Brian, as a scientist affected by his experiments. He accepts to have a son because of his wife's constant pleads. As soon as his son is born, Brian knows he will be a Monster because of the experiments.

This issue will be his last gift to us before leaving the Hulk book. He also presented Brian Banner as a violent person who mistreats his wife and son. This aspect will have vital repercussions in the comic, used by Peter David as the core to develop the character. Peter David recognized, in several occassions, Mantlo's work and that his stories developed many of the themes and characters left by Mantlo. Mistreat during childhood is one of the main causes of multiple personality disorder and Banner's multiple personality is the base for David's Hulk.

The value of the #312 issue did not stop there; it influenced Ang Lee's movie, which starts by retelling that issue. The curse passed at the gene level from father to son, the toys used by the kid, Brian Banner's wife trying to defend her son from his husband, the rung cradle, even the Gamma bomb blast from within the Banner's residence. If we add to this the Hulk dogs and the Gamma ray research about cellular regeneration, we may say, without fear of error, that that film's theme is based, mainly, in Mantlo's work on the Hulk.

So Long

TIH2 313 In TIH #313, Byrne and Mantlo played magic: in Alpha Flight, Walter Langowski was looking for a body because his own had been destroyed. So they send an interndimensional probe to look for a mindless body. The probe finds the Hulk's body and thus, he's returned to Earth. But Walter Langwoski's soul stayed trapped in the Crossroads. After fighting Alpha Flight, Hulk returns to his birth place, Gamma base. Alpha Flight stays in Canada, recovering from his injuries and losses. It is when Mantlo takes on the job of writing Alpha Flight, and Byrne, the Hulk comic. Mantlo will stay in Alpha Flight for a long time, digging deep in Wolverine's past (stating that it was Heather McNeil Hudson, wife of the original Alpha Flight leader, who found Wolverine after what happened to Weapon-X and her husban, Guardian, responsible or at least, aware of, Logan's surgery and adamantium implants). She will rescue Walter Langoski from the Crossroads and give him a new body... But of a woman, creating the first transexual character for Marvel. Mantlo was also joined by a young artist named Jim Lee. :)

The latest news about Bill Mantlo were submitted in a post at rec.arts.comics.marvel.universe by writer Tony Isabella: Mantlo had retired from comics to work as a lawyer (his profession before working in the comics). But in 1992, he was hit by a car and became disabled, not physically but mentally ("close-head, traumatic brain injury"). His brother, Michael Mantlo, thanked Tony Isabella for his interest and gave the address below for all those who want to concact Bill. Michael thinks that any interest in him or his work, may help him improve his health:

The Mantlo Family
1995 Miller Place
Merrick, NY 11566

Bill Mantlo: Prolific Author

Bill Mantlo, lawyer, was one of the most prolific writers in the 80s, writing for almost the entire Marvel universe. He wrote for the following comics: Alpha Flight, Amazing Adventures, Amazing Spider-Man, Astonishing Tales, The Avengers, Battlestar Galactica, Captain America, Captain Marvel, Cloak & Dagger, Daredevil, Deadly Hands of Kung-Fu, The Defenders, Fantastic Four, Ghost Rider, Hero for Hire, Heroes For Hope Starring the X-Men, Howard the Duck, The Human Fly, The Incredible Hulk, Invasion, Iron Man, Jack of Hearts, Journey Into Mystery/Thor, The Mighty Thor, Ka-Zar, Marvel Age, Marvel Chillers, Marvel Fanfare, Marvel Premiere, Marvel Spotlight, Marvel Super Hero Contest of Champions, Marvel Tales (Marvel Tales Starring Spider-man), Marvel Team-Up, Marvel Treasury Edition, Marvel Two-In-One, Micronauts, Rawhide Kid, Rocket Raccoon, ROM, Sectaurs, Spectacular Spider-Man (Peter Parker the Spectacular Spider-Man), Spider-Man and Daredevil, Strange Tales (2nd series), Super-Villain Team-Up, Swords of the Swashbucklers, Tales of Suspense (Captain America/Captain America and the Falcon/Steve Rogers: Captain America), Team America, Transformers, The Vision and The Scarlet Witch (the entire miniseries), Web of Spider-Man, Werewolf by Night, What If..., X-Men, and X-men and the Micronauts.

That is more than 500 comics. Not bad for being with Marvel only 15 years, right?


Written by Miguel Colomo






En español
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