So Sayeth the Odinson: A Look at Comics History: Part 4 of 10 – Hulk and Doctor Strange

Greetings from the Odinson,

A Look at Comics History: Part 4 of 10 – Hulk and Doctor Strange

Not every team-up goes over as smoothly as peanut butter and chocolate.

The Odinson is taking a look back at Comics History.  More specifically, I will be looking at interactions and relationships between characters that do not necessarily have much in common but when they do interact, it’s always noteworthy. 

I’ve written down the names of ten different odd couples on Post-its, threw them in my winged helmet, and each week I will pull one at random. 

This week, Marvel’s Jade Giant and the Master of the Mystic Arts.  

The Incredible Hulk is a walking talking juggernaut of rage with the strength of the Atomic Age coursing through his irradiated veins.  Doctor Strange is the Marvel U’s premiere magic-user, its Sorcerer Supreme.  What could possibly be odder than a mash-up of science and fantasy? 

One is a monster that is constantly hunted and hounded by friends and foes alike, and the other is a clandestine champion that operates on the fringes of reality.  Together, they have one of the oddest and long running friendships in Comics History. 

Their First Strange Encounter – The very first time these mighty Marvel legends ever met can be found in the strange 3-part crossover event that occurred throughout three separate titles – Doctor Strange #183, Sub-Mariner #22, and Incredible Hulk #126.  Not only did this event happen in 1969-1970, nearly 20 years before the crossover event would become a comic book cliché, but this 3-part supernatural thriller would also plant the seeds for what would eventually become the Defenders

The Hulk is the kind of guy that can count his friends on one hand.  For whatever reason, even if the Hulk refers to him as the “Dumb Magician,” Hulk and Stephen Strange have always found a way to work together.  They do share a strange bond as it is established pretty early on that the Hulk is one of the very few beings alive that can actually see Doctor Strange when he is in his ghostly astral form.

Dedicated Defenders – Save for perhaps Valkyrie, who joined the team in Defenders #4, Doctor Strange and the Hulk have served as members of Marvel’s premiere non-team longer than anybody else.  Having been a part of nearly every incarnation of the Defenders, the Jade Giant and the Sorcerer Supreme have stood together against such powerful foes as Xemnu, the Squadron Sinister, Magneto’s Brotherhood of Evil Mutants, and the Grandmaster.  They battled Earth’s Mightiest Heroes to a standstill during the Avengers/Defenders War.  And, they have even stormed the gates of Asgard, home of the Norse gods!

Incredible Encounters – In Incredible Hulk Annual #6, Hulk and Strange unite to investigate the strange cocoon that birthed Adam Warlock as it begins to bring another being of power into the world.  Strange, along with the Defenders, are among the many heroes that hail the Hulk as a hero in Incredible Hulk #279.  And, in Incredible Hulk #450, Doctor Strange and the Hulk have a surreal adventure in an alternate dimension which does not bode well for the Hulk’s future. 

Surgical Interventions – Sometimes Doctor Strange and the Hulk’s allies, the Defenders, take it upon themselves to wrangle in their ill-tempered friend, such as in the case of Incredible Hulk #207 when the Defenders arrive to calm their friend down before he can hurt anyone.  They take a few lumps for their troubles.  In Doctor Strange #70-71, when the Hulk’s body gets taken over by a madman, it falls on the shoulders of his old pal, the “Dumb Magician,” to pull his Gamma-charged bacon out of the fire.     

During one of the Hulk’s most incredible character arcs, Bruce Banner actually takes control of the Hulk’s unparalleled might, as chronicled in Pardoned.  However, after his harrowing experiences during Secret Wars, and a scary encounter with the demon Nightmare, Banner loses control over the Hulk, as chronicled in Regression

This all comes to a head in Incredible Hulk #300, when the Hulk completely goes berserk and rages out of control.  Not even the combined might of the Avengers, Human Torch, Power Man and Iron Fist, and SHIELD seem able to stop the monster’s madness. Enter: Doctor Strange.

The Master of the Mystic Arts is the only one with the power to stop his out of control friend, but because the Hulk is a friend, and he does not want to harm him.  Strange uses a spell to exile the Hulk to the Crossroads, a mystical realm with countless pathways that lead to many different worlds, but none of them lead home. 

This would not be the last time Doctor Strange passes judgement on his friend.    

Am I My Brother’s Keeper? – Along with Iron Man, Mister Fantastic, Prince Namor, Professor X, and Black Bolt, Doctor Strange formed the Illuminati, a clandestine cabal of elite Marvel heroes that took it upon themselves to solve the world’s problems.  One problem they set out to solve was the Hulk.  When it came time, the Sub-Mariner abstained from the voting, refusing to turn on a friend.  Surprisingly, Doctor Strange voted with the rest, and the Illuminati decided to exile the Jade Giant to deep space.   

This ill-fated decision led to the harrowing events of Planet Hulk, which in turn, led to the devastating consequences of World War Hulk.  Upon the Hulk’s, some would say inevitable, return to Earth, he set out to take revenge upon those that had wronged him.  Among those perpetrators is Stephen Strange, someone the Hulk thought was a trusted friend.  In World War Hulk #4, these two former teammates engage in a brutal battle that ends with the Sorcerer Supreme having his hands smashed and disfigured.   

Defenders Reassemble – In Incredible Hulk #370-371, the original Defenders – Doctor Strange, Hulk, and Namor – must once again unite to stop an interdimensional monster from invading Earth.  This is soon followed by the full blown Return of the Defenders, a storyline that ran throughout all the heroes’ Annuals in the summer of 1992.

In Indefensible, the original Defenders begrudgingly assemble to take on the Dread Dormammu and his sinister sister, Umar, in the Dark Dimension.  In Hulk No More, Marvel’s premiere non-team face off against their evil counter parts – The Offenders!  And, in Best Defense, the Hulk uses his unique ability to see ghosts to help solve the mystery of the death of Doctor Strange on their way to one of the most cosmic Defenders adventures yet. 

The Hulk and Doctor Strange have had a long, tumultuous, and, yes, incredibly strange friendship.  They have argued, fought, and saved each other’s lives more times than they can probably remember.  They are probably as close as a man of magic and a man of science can possibly be.     

Be sure to tune in next week as the Odinson picks another pair of random names from my winged helmet and explores their shared Comic Book History. 

This is Odinson bidding thee farewell     

NOTE: Be sure to check out my new book – Autumn Dawn: A Glen Haven Tale.  Available in Paperback, on Kindle, and Audiobook.

About Odinson

I am a lifelong comics fan and pop culture enthusiast. Comic books, novels, games, television, movies, I love it all. From fantasy to science fiction, drama to comedy, as long as the writing and execution are interesting, I love it, and I want to talk about it.

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