Saturday, July 6, 2013

Doc Samson!

Herb Trimpe
One of my favorite Marvel heroes, right from the get-go, was the often overlooked powerhouse Doc Samson. Doctor Leonard Samson first shows up in the pages of The Incredible Hulk as a psychiatrist who is there to rescue the then-hapless Betty Ross, but then he works with the Hulk directly and uses some of Jadejaw's radiation on himself, granting him a muscular frame, massive strength, and some really offbeat long green hair.  Created by Roy Thomas and Herb Trimpe, Doc was a powerhouse.

Herb Trimpe and John Severin
Doc seemed to be what all us fanboys might've dreamed of becoming, as powerful as the Hulk, but with self-control. With his smashing red shirt blazoned with a lightning bolt and his ginchy yellow boots, here was a guy who seemed ripe to become a major superhero in the Marvel Universe.

C.C. Beck
His throwback costume, which I've always liked, was apparently intentionally based on Captain Tootsie, a popular candy sales icon created by C.C.Beck, and one of Roy's favorites.

Over the years Doc Samson would show periodically in the pages of the Hulk, but rarely other places. 

Gil Kane and John Romita
Rich Buckler and John Romita
Ernie Chan
Herb Trimpe and Bob Layton
He did show up for an issue of Marvel Team-Up alongside our friendly neighborhood web-spinner.

Al Milgrom
But like many classic things at Marvel, John Byrne screwed with the concept by giving Doc a new costume, which was amazingly bland for being red. Maybe now he'd live up to his potential.

Al Milgrom
Todd McFarlane and Tom Morgan

He didn't.

Gary Frank and Cam Smith
He continued to show up in the Hulk from time to time, still trying after all these years to repair Bruce Banner's situtation.

Ken Lashley
Marvel gave him his own four-issue mini-series back in the 90's, but frankly like much of the stuff in that time, it looks simply dreadful.

Daniel Acuna
I'm happy to see that in more recent times, Doc Samson has returned to a variation on his classic look, a big improvement over the red spectacle he sported before.

I don't know what has become of Doc Samson at Marvel. Haven't read a new issue from them in several years now, but I know I'll always have a soft spot in my heart for that clunky green-haired medico.

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8 comments:

  1. I've got Hulk #141 myself, and remember reading it back in the early or mid''70s. As you suggest, Doc seemed to work best in the Hulk's title, perhaps because he was 'birthed' there and fitted in so well. (Or 'fit in' as you Americans say.)

    Perhaps it was the lightning bolt, but when I started to read your post, Doc's costume put me in mind of Fawcett's Captain Marvel. Then I find out it was based on Captain Tootsie - created by C.C. Beck, no less. No wonder I saw a resemblance.

    Am I mistaking the Doc for Wyatt Wingfoot in thinking that he had something going on with the She-Hulk at one time?

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    1. She guest-starred in his limited series, but I don't know what if any relationship they had. Seems like the writers loved to suggest Jessica was frisky with just about any hunky male she met, so maybe.

      The lightning bolt for sure and those odd little seam lines in the boots also put me in mind of Captain Marvel.

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  2. Samson always had the unfortunate distinction of being tagged as the "calm Hulk"--i.e., created when the Hulk was in a mostly docile state, immediately after his change from Banner. (I think one of the Avengers even made such a reference, when Samson was insisting he be the one to tackle the Hulk when everyone was out to end his threat.) So once the Hulk cleaned Samson's clock that first time, I think readers couldn't help but shrug at subsequent match-ups. The Hulk probably said it best, after that fight: "He is no match for Hulk--no match at all." It was really the last time I expected to see Samson, at least as far as being a credible opponent for the Hulk.

    Out of curiosity, how did that Di Filippo/Fiorentino limited series pan out?

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    1. Never read it, though the first cover is pretty handsome. I like Acuna's work by and large.

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  3. Alas, according to Wikipedia, recent stories have not been kind to Doc: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Doc_Samson

    I was first introduced to Doc in one of Marvel's Treasury Editions. I don't recall which story I read, but I do remember thinking that John Severin's inks looked amazing on Herb Trimpe's pencils. I really liked him too. Maybe I got that subliminal C.C.Beck influence in his costume, but I thought he seemed pretty cool. In a way, he was a bit like The Prowler in Spider-Man's magazine, in that he was a heroic supporting character in the main hero's book that didn't move too far from the main hero's shadow. I think the Prowler had a miniseries in the 90's too.

    Anyway, cool article. By the way, Doc had a miniseries written by current Spider-Man scripter, Dan Slott. That might be worth checking out. ;)

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    1. I adore Trimpe inks on Trimpe pencils. I wish he'd been able to do more of that, as it really caused his work to shine. After that I'd give the inking nod to Sam Grainger who brought out the energy of Trimpe's pencils to great effect. As wonderful as John Severin was and as handsome as the result was, I found his inks caused Trimpe's work to loose some power.

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  4. If Doc is on the sidelines and Ross and Betty are both Hulks themselves, who chases after the Hulk these days? I don't think the comic would be the same without that element.



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    1. Who knows? It's been a long long time since I read a Hulk comic that made much sense to me. Whatever charm the character had has slithered away for this comic book fan.

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