A Review by Finn Clark 25/8/04
The Incredible Hulk Presents was a kiddie comic that lasted for twelve short weeks in late 1989, not unlike a Marvel UK attempt at recreating TV Comic. Most of its strips were reprinted from elsewhere, but it had enough money for five original black-and-white pages a week... and lo! we had new Doctor Who. However in one of the odder marketing decisions I've seen, The Incredible Hulk Presents was never publicised in DWM. The original plan was for the Hulk Presents strips to be reprinted in DWM, thus saving a few pennies, though in the end only one story (Hunger from the Ends of Time!) got this treatment. DWM's editor wasn't happy about being forced to run material over which he had no editorial control.
Personally I only found out about the Hulk Presents strips long after the magazine was dead and buried. If I and others like me had known to buy it at the time, might the magazine have lasted a little longer? I'd like to think so, since these silly little stories have become my all-time favourite Sylvester McCoy comic strips.
On first glance, they resemble appallingly crayoned five-page monstrosities written for children, by children. In a few cases, that's not entirely unfair. However these are probably the most successful adaptations of Doctor Who for a kiddie audience, easily outdoing TV Comic for deftness and wit. Some of these stories are laugh-out-loud hilarious, a million times funnier than anything DWM was producing at the time. They're short, but they generally manage to tell a complete and entertaining story in their allotted page count. Someone wanting to study the comic strip medium could do worse than reading these tales. A few are mere timewasters, but some of 'em are magnificent.
The first one was Once in a Lifetime (Hulk Presents 1) and it's awesome. John Freeman's script is genuinely funny and I have a lot of time for Geoff Senior's art. It's not crude; it's stylised. His wacky aliens remind me of Roger Langridge's work, while his lines are clean and energetic. The more I see of Geoff Senior, the more I like. You could hardly accuse him of realism, but personally when I look at his pages I see an artist at work.
Hunger from the Ends of Time! (Hulk Presents 2-3) is written by Dan Abnett, unfortunately, but John Ridgway's art is what makes it good. It's a straight sci-fi story with a whimsical twist. You could do a lot worse.
War World! (Hulk Presents 4) kicks off a weak run of stories. I quite like John Freeman's script and Art Wetherell's draftsmanship is actually decent, but the crude inking makes everything look ugly. As a result the story suffers. Had it been drawn by John Ridgway, we'd have thought this was fantastic.
Technical Hitch! (Hulk Presents 5) is the worst of these stories. The inks make Art Wetherell's pencils look as bad as last week, while Dan Abnett's script is a waste of your time.
A Switch in Time! (Hulk Presents 6) is random plotless absurdity, but strangely diverting nonetheless. If nothing else, it gets brownie points for bringing back John Freeman and Geoff Senior. I LOVE GEOFF'S ALIENS!
The Sentinel! (Hulk Presents 7) is a strange little story, giving us an alternative explanation of life on Earth and possibly also the creation of the Time Lords! It feels inconsequential, but it's also rather entertaining. Andy Wildman's art is a hoot and John Tomlinson's script has a few good lines. "A couple more IQ points and they'd be a deciduous forest!"
Who's That Girl! (Hulk Presents 8-9) is a classic. Simple as that. Simon Furman is worshipped as a god by Transformers fans, but most of his comics writing that I've seen sucks dead donkeys. His DWM strips were terrible. Death's Head was overrated. His run on the US Robocop book killed it as far as I was concerned. However this story justifies Simon Furman's place in Doctor Who, taking a hoary old saw (a female Doctor story) and turning it into a delicious romp that never fails to have me laughing out loud. Episode two isn't quite up there with episode one, but who cares? This is pure joy in ten black and white pages. John Marshall and Stephen Baskerville give us some nice, juicy art too.
The Enlightenment of Ly-Chee the Wise (Hulk Presents 10) is another charming little comedy that I could read over and over. Simon Jowett's script is surprisingly subtle, while again Andy Wildman's art is lovely to look at. He can't draw Sylvester McCoy to save his life, but oddly it doesn't matter.
Slimmer! (Hulk Presents 11) is a lot of fun, especially the Gromungus. Interestingly it's unique among these five-page stories (I'm not counting the two-parters) in being a traditional Doctor Who story of the Doctor beating a bad guy. His method for doing so is imaginative and I'd say these five pages tell a stronger story than many longer tales. (Apart from anything else, it's funny!) Mike Collins & Tim Robins wrote the script, while Geoff Senior did the art! Go, Geoff, go!
Nineveh! (The Incredible Hulk Presents 12) was the last of these and it's also atypical. In many ways it's like Cat's Cradle: Time's Crucible, but done right. Cam Smith draws the worst McCoy likeness I've ever seen, which is saying something, but he loads plenty of atmosphere into this spooky little tale of an undead TARDIS-eating revenant latching on to the Doctor. John Tomlinson wrote the script and in an odd way I think it's my favourite of his Doctor Who stories.
There ended The Incredible Hulk Presents... but a further Hulk Presents story exists: Doctor Conkerer! by Mike Collins and Ian Rimmer. Deprived of its natural home, this snippet ended up in DWM 162. It's another amiable piece that gives you an impression of the difference in tone between the Hulk Presents tales and the regular DWM comic strip. It even appeared in the Mark of Mandragora graphic novel, coming between Train-Flight (DWM 159-161) and Andrew Cartmel's Fellow Travellers (DWM 164-166), the story that introduced the Doctor's house at Allen Road. Those are good stories, but personally I get more enjoyment from Doctor Conkerer!.
The non-Who reprint strips in Hulk Presents are also fun. Best of all is the eponymous Hulk, letting rip with his fear and anger in classic Jack Kirby style. I'm a huge fan of the Hulk's and these are some of his most stirring stories. Indiana Jones is mostly an adaptation of The Last Crusade but still worth your time. Even Action Force is actually readable for a while, though it degenerates from issue seven onwards. Overall this is a magazine I'm proud to own.
If you want to check out the Hulk Presents Doctor Who stories, exactly half of them have been reprinted elsewhere. Unfortunately they're the weaker half. Once in a Lifetime appeared in DWCC 21, Hunger from the Ends of Time! in DWM 157-158, War World! and Technical Hitch! in DWCC 24 and finally A Switch in Time! in DWCC 25. I adore Once in a Lifetime, but thereafter it wasn't until Who's That Girl! or so that the Hulk Presents stories hit their stride. Also most of the DWCC-reprinted stories look better in colour, which is something I don't often say about black-and-white art. [It's been my experience that the better the art, the more it tends to suffer when colourised.]
Overall, these stories are an unjustly overlooked bit of Doctor Who comics history. Many comic strips struggle not to be pointless with thirty or forty pages to play with, but The Incredible Hulk Presents did it repeatedly with five. Its stories may be light-hearted kiddie fare, but I'm not being camp or post-ironic when I say that there's some genuinely impressive work buried away in here.