Armagideon Time

Save versus nightmare fuel

January 31st, 2012

It might seem odd to base an funnybook character around a semi-transparent hoax, physician but that’s precisely what Marvel Comics did back in 2000 when they introduced the…

Excuse me, nurse sir, more about are you being helped? Because I’ve got this thing I’m trying to write about this one unloved superhero and I…

What’s that? A little stuffed bull sent you? Why didn’t you say so in the first place!

Doctor Leonard Samson made his less-than-astonishing debut in the pages of Incredible Hulk #141 (July 1971). A headshrinker by vocation, Samson was tapped by General “Thunderbolt” Ross to find a cure for his daughter Betty, who’d been transformed into an inanimate crystal statue. (Hey, these things happen, all right?)

While Betty’s unfortunate condition might not have seemed like the sort of thing one seeks a psychologist’s help to resolve, Samson — by virtue of being a member of the multidiscipinary-as-needed fraternity of Comic Book Scientists — managed to whip up a suitably improbable solution which utilized the Hulk’s vast reserves of gamma ray energy.

Not only did Samson’s cure restore the lovely Miss Ross to her proper fleshy form, but the act of siphoning the Hulk’s source of power also freed Bruce Banner from the curse of his monstrous alter ego. After solving two seemingly intractable problems in one fell swoop, Samson could have prided himself on a job well done and returned to a lucrative life of listening to neurotics complain about their emotionally distant parents.

The bookish Samson, however, was not without his own set of demons. Having witnessed how gamma rays unleashed the power of Banner’s suppressed subsconscious and possessing a quantity of leftover Hulk extract in his coverto-siphon machine, Samson turned the device upon himself in hope of releasing his inner extrovert.

So long, button-downed bespectacled bookworm…

…and hello, lime-locked lothario lummox, ladies.

In keeping with comics’ long and shameless tradition of serendipitous naming and ham-fisted literalism, Samson’s prodigious strength and immense resilience were pegged to the length of his emerald mane. However, this Biblically-inspired facet of the character was quietly dropped where is was determined that even the dynamic art duo of Herb Trimpe and John Severin couldn’t sell the image of a two-fisted crimebuster with a pageboy hairdo.

Donning a (quite spiffy, if generic) off-the-rack suit of primary-colored fighting togs, Samson gleefully embraced his new role as a square-jawed paragon of justice. He also found the time to make time with Betty Ross, prompting a jealous Bruce Banner to re-irradiate himself in order to unleash his particular brand of green-eyed monster on Samson’s womanizing ass.

The good adequate Doctor soon settled into a comfortable role as a recurring ally-slash-adversary to the Jade Giant and supporting backbencher within the Marvel Universe at large. It might not have been a glamorous role, but it was a respectable one which suited the character’s less-than-unique abilities.

This briefly changed during the mid-1980s when Samson was briefly shoved into the foreground during John Byrne’s brief run on the Hulk’s solo title. Samson returned from a state of semi-retirement to oversee the chemical separation of Bruce Banner from the Hulk, with the hopes that the leftover mindless embodiment of the stricken scientist’s rage could be molded into a productive member of society.

It went about as well as one would assume, and the guilt-stricken Samson attempted to atone for his completely avoidable mistake by adopting a tougher, gritter persona…

…providing one defined “tougher” and “grittier” in terms of red pleather fetishwear and a scalp-tightening ponytail.

And again, Samson’s efforts at Hulk-busting badassery were about as effective as the psychologist’s other endeavors in the superheroic realm.

Since that embarrassing stab at greater relevance, Samson has fallen back — with slight variations of his original Bronze Age costume — into the minor supporting character pool with all the infrequent guest appearances and straight-to-the-quarter-bin miniseries such a role entails.

Unable to inspire either dedicated affection or outright contempt (even during his “Dark Samson” phase), the green-haired-shrink-who-failed-to-think is a “oh, yeah, that guy” class of Nobody’s Favorites.

You think you know about manticores, illness buster?

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Think again.

And shed bitter tears for your lost innocence.

(from the 1st ed. Monster Manual and a 1951 LIFE feature on imaginary beasts)

3 Responses to “Save versus nightmare fuel”

  1. Rottgutt

    How exactly does the LIFE manticore keep his (it’s?) mustache trimmed and waxed and hair combed (and (Brylcreemed I guess as it’s 1951)? Not like he/it has opposable thumbs…

    And for that matter, if you were a manticore concerned about one’s manticorey appearance, wouldn’t you also comb your mane?

    So many monster grooming questions are raised here.

  2. Jack Fear

    But where does Tarkus fit into all of this?

  3. John "Ratty" Arbuckle

    Sheesh. See a dentist, Manticore.

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