Way, way, way back in the late 70s when I was about 7 or 8, I had what my ailing memory informs me was an INCREDIBLE HULK annual. Over here in the UK, Annuals were about A4 sized, hardback, and usually released in the run-up to Christmas. British kids’ comics like THE BEANO and THE DANDY were staples for years, and as I got older, I’d get the 2000AD annual and even an ACTION annual which was the first time I read about Hook Jaw. But at some point, I had that INCREDIBLE HULK annual which contained a selection of stories.
I’m pretty sure there was one involving the Fantastic Four, possibly transporting the Hulk by plane; definitely one with the Hulk who ended up fighting some huge pink-skinned creature with yellow, fly-like eyes. The Hulk thought he was protecting the nearby mining town from the pink guy but it turned out the pink guy was welcomed in the town and was one of them, leaving the Hulk alone and rejected. (If anyone knows what that story is, let me know)
And there was a story that stuck with me for years, possibly influencing my love of horror stories.
I mention this now as I was trawling through the internet on the weekend, looking for covers to mash-up when one caught my eye. This one:
Seeing that cover brought the story back to my mind – not the details like plot or dialogue, but rather a handful of images. Searching on the net allowed me to find scans of the comics (not something I usually do – I’d much rather pay for what I read) and take me back 40 odd years to my childhood.
I knew nothing about Man-Thing, nor any of the other characters, not even Daredevil, and certainly not Gladiator, but I loved the idea of flesh burning through fear! This hulking, dead eyed monstrosity and the buzz-saw wielding masked man were cool as hell to my mind.
That image of Gladiator’s blade covered in muck . . . his realisation that Man-Thing wasn’t alive in any real sense . . . that has stuck in my head for over 40 years!
This battle between Daredevil and the Death-Stalker – particularly the last panel with his frozen hand – was again seared into my impressionable mind. There was nothing under that hat, for God’s sake! Nothing!
And how casually Death-Stalker defeats Daredevil, rendering him unconscious with just a touch.
There’s a ton of other stuff happening in that story, including an appearance by the Black Widow, but it was that initial fight that stuck with me; plus, the reprint in the annual only featured DAREDEVIL #114 which ends on a cliff hanger with Foggy Nelson held captive by Death-Stalker – I’ve had no idea how that story ends for the last 40 years! Now at least I can find DAREDEVIL #115 and finish the tale.
At the time, I had no real understanding of what Marvel or DC were – I just loved that story. If I hadn’t found some JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA and GREEN LANTERN comics a few years later, it’s possible I could have ended up a Marvel fan rather than a DC one.