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"The Incredibe Hulk" (1966): Hulk Crash?

While all the other characters in the 1966 The Marvel Superheroes Show have found their way onto DVD here in region 2 over the past few years, The Incredible Hulk segment has always been overlooked. Many assume this is because a single episode was released as a bonus feature on a poor DVD that Disney released to capitalise on the equally poor Hulk film in 2003. But once again, Liberation has come to save the day by releasing all the segments, consisting of 13 full episodes, onto DVD.

Most of you reading this will probably be aware that the show is little more than the original comic books with voiceovers and limited animation added in. This is without question the cheapest animation money can buy. Fans of old-school comic book will undoubtedly find it a treat, but it’ll likely be far too cheesy for modern audiences.

CoverI’d previously managed to see only a single episode of the show before I received this set, and I didn’t think much of it at all. I had grown up on the brilliant Spider-Man cartoon of the same area and was expecting something similar, which I unfortunately didn’t get. I found the show to be even cheaper than the ’67 Spider-Man, a feat I previously believed impossible. Having now made my way through the series, I still do not find it as enjoyable as the aforementioned Spider-Man, or even the Captain America or Iron Man segments from The Marvel Superheroes Show. The reason is simple: This simply doesn’t feel like The Hulk to me.

I’ve been on a Hulk high in recent weeks thanks to the release of the amazing The Incredible Hulk live-action film and some of his more recent video games and his actual comic book stories. Hulk is one of the few properties that they’ve not completely ruined. Recent arcs such as Planet Hulk and World War Hulk have proven to actually be good while (gasp!) keeping him in character! There’s something I find fascinating about Dr. Banner and his angry alter ego: one a brilliant scientist simply searching for a cure and a return to a normal life and the other a creature who just wants to be left alone. The difficulty with duality really strikes a chord with me.

Which is why this series doesn’t quite work for me, as Banner doesn’t seem to ever search for his cure. He simply turns into the Hulk whenever he gets angry. Or whenever the sun sets. The show used different comics so the story never quite knows what triggers his transformation. It’s the same with the character models—each episode looks completely different, as one episode will feature Jack Kirby’s artwork, another will feature Steve Dikto, etc. There’s not a lot here for me personally, though I’m sure fans of these original comics, and hardcore Kirby fans in particular, will find something here. There’s also no shortage of classic villains; The Leader, The Chameleon and General Ross all make appearances, but the majority of antagonists are spies. Stereotypical, borderline-racist spies. And I thought The Mandarin was bad in Iron Man!

The animation, as previously mentioned, is poor and limited. Most of the story is told via a narrator, who has a habit of simply stating what is happening on the screen. The casting isn’t especially memorable either, unlike Iron Man, which had John Vernon in the starring role. (Ironically enough, Vernon also steals the casting spotlight in this one as Major Talbot).

CoverI don’t dislike the show, but I appreciate the later stories more than the original (much like Batman in some respects.) I am glad that it was released just so I could have the opportunity to see it, but I don’t believe it’s a set I’ll come back to watch over and over again.

It gets a pretty decent release for a show of its age. There’s no miraculous restoration like the one the Spider-Man cartoon from the same era received back in 2004, but no one would have expected that, and especially not for the price Liberation is selling it for. Audio is clear too; I’ve no real complaints.

As with their previous X-Men and Hulk releases, this one comes with a small feature that explains the restoration work for the DVD. Of more interest is the included booklet, which offers a brief synopsis of each episode and goes into the actual detail of which comic book it’s based on, complete with writer and artist credits—a very nice touch.

While the set certainly isn’t for everyone, I don’t regret picking it up and I doubt fans of the show would either. The rest of you? Simply wait for the 1980′s show. That’s what you call incredible!

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