The Incredible Hulk Board Game (1978)

Incredible Hulk board game and box cover

The late 70s was a high point for the popularity of the Incredible Hulk, driven by the successful TV show. At that time, a lot of Hulk merchandise was made, including this 1978 board game that also featured the Fantastic Four. This is a simple, easy-to-play game designed for young children, but it can be made tactically interesting with a couple of rule variants.

Hulk board game setup

The game consists of the board, a spinner, Hulk cards, Bruce Banner cards, and tokens for the Hulk and the Fantastic Four. Each player is a member of the Fantastic Four, with the goal being to collect all four Banner cards to complete the face, stopping the rampaging Hulk.

Bruce Banner Face cards

On each spin, you first move the Hulk the designated number of spaces and then your piece. No one can move past the Hulk. You collect Banner cards by landing on a “DRAW” space, but must give up a card if another player or the Hulk lands on you (unless you have a “Safety” card). If the spinner lands on the Hulk, you draw a Hulk card and do what it says.

Hulk spinner and box interior

Playing the game straight is fairly fast, and can be entertaining with three or four players. This game gets low reviews by most board game afficionados, however, because it’s perceived as involving no strategy and being based mostly on luck.

There are in fact two aspects of this game that can make for interesting gameplay. First is the unique feature that you must move both the Hulk and your own piece. Strategic movement can minimize your chances of being landed on and having to give up a card. Second is the fact that you get to choose which pile to discard on top if the Hulk lands on you.

Land on another player and they have to give you a Banner card

The second aspect can be exploited if you stipulate that all players must display their Banner cards face up. This is counterintuitive, since it would seem that actually takes away some strategy. For one thing, everyone will know who has a safety card. In fact, this does not dumb down the game but makes it more interesting, especially if you also allow a player to choose which card he gives to a player who landed on him. This can lead to a much more prolonged, competitive game, where you discard cards you know to be useless to other players on piles they are targeting.

Showing Banner cards face up leads to strategic choices of where to discard

The element of randomness can be further diminished by replacing the spinner with a die, so the Hulk cards are never used. I find, however, that with the above rule variants, the actions on Hulk cards are more tactically interesting.

Giving players more choices in movement can help make this part of the game more tactical, but too many choices will make it too easy to land on a player. I advise treating the spaces linked by the orange double arrow as adjacent, but not those linked by the red X.

Treat spaces linked by orange arrows as adjacent, but not those linked by red X.

A weakness of the game is it becomes significantly less interesting with only two players. For games with only two (or even three) players, it may be useful to make the lower right section of the board (the spaces marked with X) off limits, distributing the Banner cards only among three draw piles. This raises the probability of landing on a player high enough so that movement tactics become important.

For two player games, do not use lower right portion of board.

While even these variants aren’t going to make the game into some kind of cerebral strategy contest, The Incredible Hulk board game can be fun and enjoyable for adults, while still accessible to young children. I find that this game, even without variants, is significantly more sophisticated in its mechanics than simple roll-and-move games, and the designers put a lot of thought into making the game balanced and interesting, with diverse actions, though perhaps the design is too dependent on four-player play.

I encourage people to acquire this game, which has a great look and classic character designs of the Bronze Age Hulk and Fantastic Four. You can playtest it with others, or if you use face-up cards, can try it solitaire using all four players. Let me know in the comments if you come up with any other useful variants.

Starriors: Forgotten Robots from the 80s

In 1984, the heyday of Transformers and Gobots, Tomy put forward a robot toy line like no other: the Starriors! Instead of rehashing the transformation gimmick, they used elegant mechanical designs and modular parts to make robots that were easy for play and affordable.


The most memorable thing about the Starriors is their post-apocalyptic backstory: “In the far flung future: Earth is devastated by deadly solar flares. Realizing his danger, Man creates the STARRIORS…” Man goes into “suspended animation” under an Armored Battlestation, leaving behind the Protectors to prepare the Earth for his return and the Destructors to fight off aliens. “Millennia pass. The STARRIORS develop their own civilization and much of their original programming is lost. Finally most remember man only as a legend.”


This is fairly sophisticated material for a kids’ toy line. The Protectors are facing the deep questions of who made them and why they were made, without being sure if their creator really exists or if it’s a good idea to discover him. A nice touch is that their “brain molds” are in Man’s image. So they go off into the “Forbidden Zone” (a la Planet of the Apes) searching for the Armored Battlestation in order to reawaken man. Meanwhile, the Destructor leader, Slaughter Steelgrave, knows that man exists but considers him much too dangerous to be awakened, so he leads the Destructors in pursuit of the rebels, without telling his followers the Protectors’ real mission.

Minicomics insert showing original series Starriors

The original series of toys had several basic types. The main class was the humanoid Wastors, which all have windup mechanisms for some rotating or vibrating weapon, such as a chest-mounted blade. The variety of movement types and color schemes gives each character a unique feel, yet they all have interchangeable heads, arms, and legs, which can be repositioned as shown. There are a total of 12 Wastors, 6 of the original series (shown in the mini-comic insert) and 6 newer ones: Ripsaw, Flashfist, Twinblade (Protectors); Clawgut, Slice and Bolar (Destructors). Clawgut (pincers) and Slice (spinning axes) are shown with my Destructors, while Ripsaw (spinning blade shield) is among my Protectors.

The Rammors feature pull-back-and-race spring-loaded rear wheels, popular in 80s toy cars. This made them more playable, faster vehicles than Transformers or Gobots. All 4 Rammors (shown in my collection above) have interchangeable weaponry, wing-shaped spoilers, claws and hands.

Other Starrior types include the Trashors, with spring-loaded claws, and two vehicle-animal transforming robots, which zip faster than Rammors with the pull of a rip cord. The Strazor (named Runabout) converts from a dinosaur (sauropod) to a motorcycle, while the Starrunner (Speedtrap) converts from an ostrich-like ornithosaur to a jet hovercraft.

Two rare vehicles (which can be mounted by Wastors) are the Triceratops-like Stalker (named Twinhorn), and the Pteranodon-shaped Vultor (named Windstorm). These belong to the later series of the Starriors line.

Transfer ring used in minicomic 4Lastly are the Transfer Rings, which can be worn on a kid’s finger or (more awkwardly) on a Wastor’s arm. According to the mini-comics, these are supposed to allow mind transfer from one Starrior to another of the same body type.

These lightweight plastic toys have held up surprisingly well 30 years later. In my collection, about half of the Wastor wind-up mechanisms still work. The Rammors’ pull-back racing mechanism still works, but some have cracked rubber tires. Ironically, the “unlucky” Backfire works the best, zipping 20 feet!

The most impressive Starrior is the Cosmittor, consisting of Deadeye and Cricket. This is a great design, not only because of Deadeye’s tyrannosuaur appearance and ability to shoot inch-wide disks, but because of its elegant remote control (Cricket) that works by single-button clicking and needs no batteries. (Deadeye requires 2 C’s.) Repeated clicks of the button offers full mobility: the first click fires disks (“Demolishors”); the second click makes Deadeye rotate; the third click makes him go forward; and the fourth click stops him. So you can aim accurately by choosing direction, then distance, then firing. The demolishors come out fast and fly across the room, though they don’t have enough force to knock over a Wastor.

My Cosmittor hadn’t been used in about 25 years, so I opened up Cricket and made sure the components made good contact. Then I put 2 fresh C batteries in Deadeye and… nothing. Oh well, too much to hope for. Later that night, I came home and heard a strange but familiar sound. Deadeye, amazingly, after some time to absorb the battery charge, still lives!

Starriors' Deadeye lives! by retro-geek

The minicomics that came with Starriors did a nice job of giving characterizations of everyone, such as Deadeye’s sense of honor, Crank’s nurturing concern for the Earth, and Gouge’s ruthlessness. The stories provide creative ideas for play beyond simple fighting and destruction. The original four Tomy minicomics are shown below. Two more came with the later series (No. 5 “The Wall” and No. 6 “Bolar!”).

Original Starriors minicomics: Deadeye, The Forest, Honor, The Trap

Marvel published a 4-issue mini-series which gave a complete story arc, with multiple character deaths culminating in the discovery of man! The Marvel stories blurred the lines of loyalty, making Auntie Tank and Sawtooth sympathize with the Protectors, while Motormouth sided with the Destructors. This story, while entertaining, was hardly conducive to toy play, since nothing was left to the imagination, a third of the characters die, and the open-ended quest is completed.

Marvel Starriors miniseries

Armored Battlestation attacks!Still, the Marvel miniseries did a good job of showing how the Armored Battlestation would work to defend itself, even portraying the little scorpion robot as a character. The neatest feature of the Battlestation playset was the ability to launch the giant cobra ram, which shot forward on wheels with the press of a lever. My Battlestation is in storage, so it’s not pictured, but Mr. Hook’s Zoids Site has photos showing all its features: snake’s mouth opening to reveal laser cannons; door that opens in battle ram’s belly (so you could release a Rammor from within; various laser turrets and the scorpion guardian (called Stinger in the Marvel comic).

One weird thing in the final Marvel comic is that man turns out to be almost as tall as Starriors. It should be that man is about the same size as the “brain mold,” so that the Wastors are towering giants, and the Rammors are the size of tanks. Originally, the Starriors toys were intended to represent piloted vehicles, much like Tomy’s “Zoids” line of animal-shaped wind-up robots (including dinosaurs) from which they were spun off. They have decals that say “Danger,” “Beware of Blast,” and in some cases, “Rescue” arrows near the cockpit. The minicomics storyline made them much more interesting than if they had been mere piloted vehicles.Man awakened

When collecting Starriors, beware of knockoffs and other releases mistaken for them. A common one is a much larger, batter-powered Strazor. Another is the UK line called RATS (Robot Anti Terror Squad) which uses the same molds as second-series Wastors, but with different color schemes or weapons. These are collectible in their own right, but should not be confused with the Starriors line. Another Starriors product to look for are the two Book and Record sets by Peter Pan Records.

It is not too difficult to get a complete set of Starriors, though the vehicles go for $70 each. Fortunately, they’re durable enough to entrust to a new generation of kids ages 8 and up.

Great Philadelphia Comic Con 2016

The Great Philadelphia Comic Con is a rising force in the mid-Atlantic convention scene, as proved by the impressive show assembled April 22-24. The program was packed with over two dozen panels and as many celebrity guests, including Robin Lord Taylor and James Frain from Gotham, and a rare appearance by Amy Jo Johnson, the original Pink Power Ranger. Other guests included Denise Crosby, Garrett Wang, and Robert McNeil from Star Trek, Caroll Spinney (aka Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch), and Ray Park, best known as Darth Maul!Fun at the Philly Comic Con

For those planning to make the trip next time to the Expo Center in Oaks, PA (“Upper Providence” on GPS), here’s a sample of what to expect. There are dozens of vendors and artists, including some big names like the legendary Neal Adams, offering a variety of merchandise and chatting with fans. It’s good to shop around first, since several vendors offer similar items at different prices. I found heavily discounted trade paperbacks, clearance rate Bronze Age comics, and reasonably priced rarities.  Not all vendors are comics-related; there’s also TV and movie memorabilia, and even training weapons for cosplay and role-playing.

The autograph and photo op areas were extremely fan-friendly, allowing more time spent with the celebs than most of the bigger cons. Prices for add-ons and concessions were moderate, and customer service at registration was really accommodating. There was a strong turnout by some excellent cosplayers, and a full panel schedule complemented by gaming and speed dating areas, so there was always something different to do.

The Unauthorized TarzanBeing a completist, I was able to fill some gaps in my Bronze Age Marvel collections, especially Doctor Strange (featured in the last post) and the Incredible Hulk (the Crossroads storyline and John Byrne’s run). Since I don’t collect for monetary value, but because I actually enjoy reading comics, it’s worthwhile to buy trade paperbacks to follow complete storylines cheaply. Some trades have material no longer available in other formats, such as The Unauthorized Tarzan shown. I also opened my wallet for some pricier items, including some very early Mad paperbacks to add to my substantial collection.Early Mad Paperbacks

The panel guests brought great energy. This was especially noticeable among the Power Rangers Time Force cast, who were enthused to be together again and reminisce about the show. Erin Cahill, who played Jen Scotts, remarked how honored she was o be the first female leader in the Power Rangers franchise.

The same high energy was taken into a physical dimension with Ray Park, aka Darth Maul (Star Wars) and Snake Eyes (GI Joe). A martial artist first and an actor second, Park could hardly stay in his chair, constantly bouncing up to show some moves. His base discipline is shaolin kung fu, though he admires Jackie Chan and Bruce Lee, and includes jeet kune do among his other disciplines. Both the Darth Maul and Snake Eyes parts were offered to him unexpectedly. In the case of Star Wars, he accepted without even knowing who he’d play, as he was just happy to be in the prequel, hardly expecting to be the face of its marketing. Ewan McGregor and Liam Neeson were great to work with in fight scenes, and he was allowed to create much of his own fight choreography, trying to bring as much realism as possible. One of his moves was actually thought up as a joke, bringing in some ballet and other dance disciplines.

The actors trained with aluminum poles for light saber scenes, since this has good weight balance, which begs the question: how practical are light sabers anyway?

Ray Park on whether a light saber would be… by retro-geek

A comic con wouldn’t be complete without a cosplay contest. The contestants excelled both in realism and creativity. Here are just a few:

Cosplay contestants

Hilariously, the Batman kept dragging dead Superman around everywhere.

Cosplay contestants

The Hawkgirl’s jet pack, a nice retro look from DC Comics Bombshells, was a really elaborate design. She was among the winners (as part of a female duo). Here are the rest of your winners:

Cosplay contest winners

It was a great way to close out the convention. Be sure to check the official convention website for the full list of this year’s guests, and watch for updates for next year’s event.

Dr Strange in the 80s

The 1980s were a golden age for Doctor Strange, who appeared in multiple titles with excellent writing and fantastic surrealist art. In fact, the sheer abundance of appearances in this period can make a collector’s task a little daunting, so here we’ll provide some order to the material, touching on some major story arcs so you’ll know which issues are important to own, and get a feel for the type of storytelling from this period.

Doctor Strange, Vol.2, 71-76

Marvel Premiere #10A former surgeon who lost the skill of his hands in a car accident, Stephen Strange discovered spiritual enlightenment and extraordinary magical power, enabling him to ward off Lovecraftian monsters and roam across bizarre dimensions, either mentally with the all-seeing Eye of Agamotto, or floating physically with his Cloak of Levitation. The quaint diction of his rhyming spells and the crazy surrealist visuals of Steve Ditko and his successors were a striking departure in mood from the sci-fi in most comics since the sixties. This was a return to pulp horror, where anything could happen. In Marvel Premiere No. 8-10 (1973), Dr. Strange took over the mantle of Sorcerer Supreme from his mentor the Ancient One. He was thenceforth responsible for defending Earth’s dimension, not from physical threats, but from unseen horrors of the mind and spirit.Surrealist art

The much-maligned 1978 TV movie actually gets some important aspects of Dr. Strange right. In fact, it did too good a job of portraying the occult and diabolical, so that it was denounced by some citizens’ groups. (In fairness, there’s a part where Asmodeus is summoned!) A nice touch was making Stephen Strange a psychologist rather than a surgeon, since Doctor Strange excels in psychological realism, blurring the line between mind and spirit. More than a few writers have hinted that his mystical battles are really of the mind.

Doctor Strange entered the 80s with his own bimonthly title and as the leader of the secret team known as the Defenders, who usually included the Incredible Hulk, Valkyrie, and Nighthawk, though there was no telling who Doc would summon. The Defenders deserve a separate discussion, but Doctor Strange fans should definitely take a look at Defenders Vol. 1, No. 90-125. These can be acquired cheaply in the Marvel Essential paperbacks of The Defenders, Vol. 4-6.

The Doctor Strange solo title (Vol. 2) runs from No. 39 in February 1980 and culminates in two major story arcs in No. 70-74 (1985) and No. 75-81 (1986-87). These are important background for the late 80s titles.Doctor Strange, Vol.2, 68

Having cured the Black Knight of madness (No. 68), Dr. Strange finds that he is being attacked for no apparent reason by Umar, sister of Dormammu, who succeeded the latter as ruler of the Dark Dimension. Dr. Strange’s disciple Clea had returned to her native dimension to organize a rebellion against Umar’s rule, and the queen supposed Strange was involved.

Doctor Strange, Vol.2, 71 introWhen Dr. Strange decides to sneak into the Dark Dimension and assist the rebels, we are treated to a great story that reveals the origin of Dormammu’s rise to power and shows fantastic mindscapes of the Dark Dimension. To leave or enter their hideout, the rebels have to traverse the mystic prison of the ever-warring Mindless Ones. Clea uses her knowledge of Earth pop culture for secret passwords, from “Yo Adrian” to “The Pepsi Generation.” This being the 80s, it’s no spoiler to say that the good guys win, but in the process we learn something unsettling about Clea.

Mindless Ones

UrthonaThis theme of the hero having to lose something in order to prevail will be repeated, to greater extremes, in later Doctor Strange stories. In the final story arc of his title (No. 75-81), Doctor Strange must destroy all of his mystic talismans and scrolls in order to save his friends and the world from Urthona, a would-be usurping Sorcerer Supreme from a distant galaxy. Worse, he is forced to kill a human host and to use black magic.

This sets the tone for a darker, more conflicted Dr. Strange in Strange Tales Vol. 2 (19 monthly issues, 1987-88, shared with Cloak and Dagger). What saves this series from being nihilistic is that Dr. Strange never delights in using black magic, though he finds himself forced by circumstances to compromise his prized purity in order to protect his world. He resists this necessity and tries to forestall it, even making his friends forget him. Ultimately, he must make an alliance with the Ancient One’s old enemy in order to face and defeat an even greater threat (but not before losing an eye in No. 10).

Dr. Strange Sorcerer Supreme No. 5Some semblance of normalcy is restored in the subsequent monthly series, titled: “Dr. Strange: Sorcerer Supreme” (1988-96) A more athletic Stephen Strange returns to his white-magic ways with the help of his friends and restored talismans. Serious havoc is wrought, however, by his old rival Baron Mordo in “The Faust Gambit” (No. 5-8, 1989) and “The Dark Wars” (No. 21-24, 1990). The latter miniseries has a feature on “Legends and Lore of the Dark Dimension.” Vishanti in Demon's DebtLater, we get a glimpse of the oft-invoked, seldom seen Vishanti (“Demon’s Debt,” No. 48, 1992) The Vishanti were first identified in the 80s (Doctor Strange, Vol. 2, No. 49) as omnipresent Oshtur, all-seeing Agamotto, and Hoggoth, he of the “hoary hosts.” Earlier mentions in spells implied the Vishanti were distinct from these beings.

The 80s Doctor Strange is also responsible for sending an out-of-control Hulk to the interdimensional Crossroads, setting up one of the strangest, most creative Incredible Hulk storylines. But that’s for another time.

Three Stooges Con 2016

Three Stooges Con Program The first major Three Stooges convention in about 17 years took place this past month, with celebrity guests (including Adam West!) and Stooge family members, rooms full of memorabilia for display and sale, and non-stop screening of Stooge films, including some rarities. Attendees from across the country agreed it was well worth the trip to Trevose, PA. If you couldn’t make it this time, here are the highlights of my visit, from Stooges trivia to collectibles tips. Would I meet Adam West? Find out below!

The families of the Stooges were on hand to share their memories, answer questions and meet with fans up close. Moe’s daughter Joan, now 89, has faithfully attended even the smaller annual gatherings in Fort Washington. The families provided great tidbits about the boys, some of which are not already in published sources. The first stop for Stooges history is Moe’s autobiography (my 1977 first ed. shown). Joan and others have also released books. Moe Howard autobiography

The boys looked like ordinary, well-dressed men in their regular lives, and were not recognizable unless you were up close. They sometimes took advantage of this to play pranks. When eating out, Moe would place an incomprehensible order using his famous double-talk to confuse the waitress. She would turn to Larry, saying, “Maybe we’d better start with you,” and he’d answer, “I’ll have the same.”

Larry’s grandson remembers once Moe, Larry and Shemp decided to put up wallpaper themselves. They laid out the paper, and Larry started to apply the glue, and brushed right over Moe’s hand. Moe paused, reached out and whacked Larry with his brush, and before you knew it, they were doing a full fight scene for one seven-year-old audience member. When they settled down and saw the mess, Moe deadpanned, “I know a contractor.”

Emil Sitka’s son Saxon recalled that, in the scene in “The Tooth Will Out” where Emil comes bursting out of Vesuvius Ravioli yelling at the Stooges, he originally started yelling, “You bastards!” and other epithets. When they cut, the director asked incredulously, “What was THAT?” All the curses were audible on film, so the take was unusable and had to be shot again, this time with scripted, family-friendly exclamations.

Shemp’s daughter in law Geri Greenbaum, married to his son Mort for 20 years, was proud that Mort started the first self-service gas station. Girls in t-shirts and shorts would come out on roller skates. If a customer chose to pump his own gas, they’d hand him the pump, skate back to the office and bring back change.

Interestingly, none of the Stooges really had idols that they looked up to, though there were certainly some contemporaries that they admired (Chaplin, Laurel, Gleason). They were too busy working on their craft to indulge in that sort of thinking. They were setting standards instead of following examples.

First issue of Three Stooges comic
Dell Four Color 1170 Some pre-press copies of the first issue of a new Three Stooges comic were available. One of the writers, S.A. Check, was on hand to sign copies. They explained this will be an ongoing, bimonthly series (not a limited edition or one-off), so the second issue will be in June. There are five different covers for the first issue, and there will be multiple covers for future issues as well. The first issue has two new stories and a reprint of “Midway Madness” from Dell Four Color #1170 (1961). The parody ads are also a nice touch.

Adam West, who appeared in the Stooges’ final feature film, “Outlaws is Coming” (1965), though I think he’s also known for something else, was signing photos and memorabilia. I tried to be cool about it, but that wasn’t happening.

Adam West at Three Stooges Con April 2016

Oh, right, now I remember who he is. If you haven’t already, check out the delightfully surreal “Return to the Batcave” DVD from 2003. By the way, Adam West is tremendously funny in real life, and really delights in interacting with the fans. You can see some of his bizarre self-deprecating deadpan in “Return,” which is a reunion special done right.

There are mixed opinions about “Outlaws is Coming.” Many see it as a clever Western spoof, but some may find the humor a bit telegraphed. Keep in mind the 1960s feature films were aimed at child audiences. The Elvis and Beatles references are either clever or strained attempts at staying up-to-date, depending on your point of view. Johnny Ginger, one of two surviving “Outlaws” from the film, was also on hand to chat and sign autographs.

Naturally, Stooge shorts were being screened constantly. I especially enjoyed the rarely shown Shemp solo films. These help you appreciate that much of what we think of as “Stooge humor” was actually a broader genre, and they were just the “best of breed.” Some of the Shemp shorts are online, including the hilarious “Mr. Noisy.” Shemp actually beat the other Stooges to film, appearing in a couple of Fatty Arbuckle films.

Pauley book on Stooges filming locations Jim Pauley gave a great talk about his investigation into the Hollywood filming locations of the Columbia shorts. The research was impressive, and can’t be replicated by Google Map searches. For example, a checkerboard sidewalk where Curly stood is now a school, fenced in and tarred over, but they got pics while there was still access. They also found the steep staircase where the boys slid down blocks of ice past a cul-de-sac in a quiet residential neighborhood. You can find details in the handsomely printed book, with high quality paper and photography. This is one of those books well worth having in hard copy.

Without scooping the book, I can share the location of the famous beer barrel scene in “Three Little Beers,” since this was previously known. This was on Echo Park Ave., but different side streets seem to have been used for different shots. The shots with the policeman at the intersection and the final pile-up of barrels with (real-life) onlookers were definitely filmed at Echo Park and Delta St. The building with distinctive double-windows and fire escape still stands today. This is not a cross-shaped intersection, however, so the scenes showing the barrels rolling down the cross intersection must have been shot elsewhere, likely Echo Park and Scott Ave.

Three Little Beers filming locations on Echo Park Ave

Also check out the new Papercutz graphic novels for kids. The stories follow the continuity of the 2012 movie, if “continuity” is even a meaningful concept for the Stooges.