Mister Newson, I undewstand that it was your waw office of Newson and Muwdock that dwew up the Hulk's Amnesty Petition?
--Barbara Walters

The Incredible Hulk has proved one of Marvel Comics' most enduring characters, having appeared in comics, cartoons, a live-action tv show, and big-budget movies. His alter-ego, Robert Bruce Banner has had to deal with the most serious case of Multiple Personality Disorder in four-color history. For most of his career, he's been the big, dumb Hulk, fond of saying "Hulk Smash!" and "Puny humans!" But he's also been the amoral Gray Hulk, the animalistic Savage Hulk, and the Banner-controlled integrated Hulk. This last character appeared throughout the 1990s, but made his first appearances in the 1980s, in a story arc which included one of the most bizarre and plotless pieces of self-promotion in the history of the Marvel Universe: January 1983's The Incredible Hulk #279.

The cover features a smiling Hulk, borne aloft by Thor and Iron Man, surrounded by a throng of cheering superheroes, saying, "so this is what acceptance feels like!" Well, comic-books always have appealed to the wish-fulfilment fantasies of nerds.

The story begins with a parade. Rick Jones drives the waving Hulk in a customized car down, perhaps, Broadway, while superheroes and ticker-tape fly overhead and mere mortals cheer below. Granted, the green-skinned goliath has, in the previous issue, saved the world and gained a presidential pardon from Ronald Reagan. Still, in Marvel's reality the most noble of heroes often get treated like menaces. Why the lack of reserve over a guy who has been levelling city blocks and punching out U.S. Army tanks since 1962?

The rest of the issue piles guest-star upon guest-star at a ceremony welcoming the Hulk as a true heroTM. New York mayor Ed Koch presents the Key to the City. Dan Rather and Barbara Walters report to the home audience. And every single Marvel character appears, honoring, speechifying, and hawking their own titles. Seriously, everyone appears. The major heroes. The Hulk's supporting cast. Dr. Strange, eschewing his mage's suit for a kicky black turtleneck and brown jacket. The Inhumans. The X-Men. S.H.I.E.L.D. Fantastic Four mailman Willy Lumpkin. J.Jonah Jameson.The Watcher (once again breaking his oath-- though the crowd can't see him, and so everyone gets really confused during his presentation). The assembled citizens of Asgard. A delegation from Atlantis, who emerge from the pollution of the East River.

And then we get Marvel's second string, the international superheroes. This is perhaps the most amusing bit in a very dry comic.

Granted, the Black Panther of Wakanda has a history with Marvel, and both Canada's Alpha Flight and England's Captain Britain had their own titles in 1983. But most readers will be unfamiliar with these other losers, mostly infrequent guest-stereotypes who exist to demonstrate that New York isn't the only place in the Marvel Universe which suffers from an infestation of metahumans with dubious sartorial ways. A rundown:

The Middle East's Arabian Knight: "May Allah guide thee, Green One!"
Japan's Sunfire: "This is a new beginning, warrior!"
Ireland's Shamrock: "'Tis easy being green!"
South America's Denfensor: "Vaya con Dios, Hulk!"
Israel's Sabra: "Does my costume really need two honkin' big Star of David emblems to establish that I'm Jewish?" (okay, she doesn't really say this)
The Soviet Union's Vanguard, Darstar, and Major Ursus
West Germany's Blitzkrieg.

Three panels feature an idiotically-dressed female from the planet Krylor and two show us the Leader, a super-villain. Their ruminations provide the only reminder that these pages form part of a story-arc. Seriously, this represents one of the most static comics Marvel ever printed, a protracted advertisement for their other titles. The events move more slowly than the first half-hour of the 2003 Hulk movie. Hulk Yawn! It does, however, have a reasonably high cheap laughs quotient, and it works as a guide to the Marvel Universe, circa 1983.

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