I didn’t start reading Incredible Hulk until 1990. I honestly can’t tell you why, as the character always seemed to spark curiosity. There was always something magnetic about the character, I suppose I just got swallowed in Spidey, Supes, X-Men and Batman books, primarily.
Once I did give the big green beast a try, I only looked back to track down vintage issues. One that’s always stood out to me was Incredible Hulk #162, the debut appearance of the awesome Wendigo.
The story was titled Spawn on the Flesh-Eater, and opens with a dose of reality for readers: people hate what they fear, and they fear Hulk. Men ambush him, unleashing gunfire. “Can’t Hulk ever have peace? He only wants to find friend-“ The Hulk, as big and intimidating as he may be, is a sad soul, sympathetic on a near immeasurable level. It’s hard not to feel for the character… unless you’re a frightened military man or a rogue trigger happy local.
Interestingly enough, it’s an attack by rural folk that inadvertently leaves the Hulk looking for a missing man named Paul, believed to have been taken by the Wendigo. Needless to say, it isn’t long before the Hulk meets Wendigo for the first time.
To Hulk’s surprise, the Wendigo is nearly unshakable, a beast of equal if not superior strength and ability to the Hulk. Eventually, after a back and forth battle Wendigo makes a getaway, but not before hurling Paul from a cliff. Hulk catches the falling man, and proves successful in saving the day.
But there’s an insanely clever twist to the story, as writer Steve Englehart really flexes his mental muscle. It wasn’t Paul the Hulk saved, it was his friend. Paul, as it turns out, had devoured a man while stranded in the wilderness. A curse set in, and Paul transformed into the very Wendigo that Hulk just battled.
It’s a brilliant spin on things, and even today, a reminder that I missed out on some stellar books having avoided this specific title until 1990.
Wanna talk killer Hulk tales? Talk about he first appearance of Wendigo, talk about issue #162.