I hadn’t intended to write about Kazuo Koike and Yoshihiro Morifuji’s Hulk this early, but fortune favors the bold, I suppose. A few minutes after my second Lone Wolf and Cub post went live, I noticed a comment caught in my spam trap. I’m glad I stopped to read it, because it’s a gem. It originally ran in Weekly Bokura Magazine beginning in 1970, and I’m reasonably sure that this is the first time Americans have really gotten a chance to see it.
Garret sent over the link to a full scan of Hulk and thanked me for visiting his site. And, wow! It’s really interesting to see. I bothered a few Japanese-speaking friends until they agreed to help me figure out a few of details. The katakana for the title reads “Haruku.” Later in the volume, the logo treatment changes so that it reads “Haruku: Monsutaa Komiku.” “Hulk: Monster Comic.”
From what I and my lovely assistants managed to figure out of the story, it stars Dr. Araki, survivor of Hiroshima. Both of his parents died in the blast, and he’s come to Nevada to work on the gamma bomb. General Ross, Major Talbot, and Igor retain their names, but Rick Jones has been turned into Ricky Tenda. He’s got a Japanese mom and an American dad. Betty Ross is now Mitsuko, though Dr. Araki calls her Mitchan.
The story seems to be the usual. An honorable and kind scientist helps create something terrible, and that terrible thing blows up in his face when he rescues a young ne’er do well. A Russian spy refuses to halt the explosion, and the scientist turns into the Hulk, a beast who knows only pain and anger.
Actually, that last bit may not be true. I’m not exactly sure what makes Dr. Araki turn into the Hulk. There’s a bit where Ricky beats the daylights out of him with a broom to keep him from turning, and it works. If it was anger that makes him transform, I’d think that that would just make the whole situation worse, but who knows!
The art’s really neat. There’s a solid Tezuka influence in the work, particularly noticeable women, children, and mouths. There are a few chapter breaks which make me think that Morifuji just got a chance to go wild with a paintbrush. The shading seems very ink-washy at times, too, though there is also a lot of traditional crosshatching and inking to show blacks.
The fight scenes are all speed lines and movement. They’re very easy to follow, and the big panels give Morifuji plenty of room to do some interesting things. Hulk’s transformations are great, too, as we get to see each in-between stage. One of my favorite sequences is when Mitsuko realizes that Araki is Hulk, thanks to a spectacularly ill-timed bout of sleep-talking by Ricky. The scream (?) behind Betty, her facial expression, and the fact that she is almost definitely explaining what she just realized in her word balloons totally works. All it’s missing is a Hitchcock Zoom.
The English sound effects are also fascinating. I don’t know if I’ve ever read an untranslated manga that used them before, so it was quite a surprise to see a “BOOOM!” or “THWOOMF!” on the page. The plethora of two page spreads are also surprising. While they aren’t full page spreads, telling a story using both facing pages, rather than just one, is something else that struck me as interesting.
The fashion in the book is pretty neat. There are a metric ton of overcoats, blazers, and trenchcoats. The non-coat-based fashion is a little old fashioned, but wouldn’t be too out of place today. Ricky is pretty modern looking, and Mitsuko, barring a sweatervest over a dress with long sleeves about halfway through the book, does pretty well, too.
I think I’d enjoy reading this in English. Dr. Araki being a child of Hiroshima must lead to an interesting conflict, since he’s in the business of making bombs now. There’s a pretty amazing marriage sequence, too. As is, I think we’re going to have to settle for these rips. Judging by the page numbers, it was never collected, which may make hard copies extremely hard to come by. It’s almost 40 years old at this point, and the magazine which published it has been out of business since 1971.
I’ve taken the liberty of downloading the images that Garret so helpfully linked me to, adding a couple of pages for context, and uploading it again. You can get it from sharebee (popups), megaupload, badongo, and a fistful of other places if you click that sharebee link. If you dig it, sling the link around. I thought about doing some color-correcting, but I’d rather let it stand as-is rather than muck it up somehow. A few of the pages are overly blue, but the quality stays up throughout. Even just as a historical piece, it’s pretty fascinating.
4thletter! is clearly your #1 source for Hulk-related manga, be it Incredible or Hogan. Next week, I’ll review the 2nd volume of Lone Wolf & Cub.
Update! It appears that the English sound effects are in because some of the panels are swipes from Herb Trimpe, according to this post on ComicBoards.com! How crazy is that?