Marvel Comics’ January solicitations bring with them some of the best news we’ve heard in a long time: the long-awaited return of Marvel Comics Presents! The fondly-remembered anthology series, which ran from 1988 to 1995, was published bi-weekly and featured four stories, some serialized and some one-shots, from a mixture of current Marvel creators, brand new creators, and older veterans, and at its best, Marvel Comics Presents allowed Marvel to take some chances on stories a little more offbeat than those featured in their regular titles.
In previous installments, we’ve seen Namor get political about pollution, Spider-Man take a fall for animal rights, Marvel mock a beloved Republican president, and Union Jack resist Margeret Thatcher’s England. Despite popular but incorrect theories that comics are more political today than they’ve ever been, looking at these overtly political morality tales from three decades ago might have you wondering if Marvel ever told a non-political story.
Well, that’s what we’ve got for you today in this tale out of Marvel Comics Presents #45. The Main Event was written by Peter David, with art by Herb Trimpe, colors by Mike Rockwitz, and letters by Diana Albers. Was this a spiritual prequel to Aubrey Sitterson and Chris Moreno’s The Comic Book Story of Pro Wrestling? We’ll let you decide.
Ah, 1990, the tail end of Hulkamania’s 1980s peak and, if we’re being honest, a little late in the game for The Incredible Hulk to take issue with Hulk Hogan’s nickname. It’s additionally a little late because Marvel had already settled the matter on the legal battlefield back in 1985. But nevertheless, nothing is final in pro wrestling until it’s settled in the squared circle, which is why Hulk decided to call “Hulk” out.
And when our Hulk finally came face to face with his impersonator, he wasn’t impressed at all.
Clearly, Marvel wanted to make it clear through their booking exactly which Hulk is the bigger draw. As a bonus, the story served as a warning to anyone else who wants to rip off Marvel’s ideas.
So yes, Marvel inserted a lot of politics to their stories, even back when we were too young to notice it. But that isn’t the only similarity between the Marvel Comics of yesteryear and the Marvel of today. Just like Marvel’s recent attempts to make people forget about the Fantastic Four or accept the Inhumans in place of the X-Men, 1990 Marvel wasn’t afraid to wage its corporate intellectual property rights wars in the pages of its comics.