Friday, January 18, 2008

What's a sampasumb?

Here's the thing. When I was a kid, I was really into the whole comic book/superhero thing. Had the box of comics under the bed, those little Mego superhero dolls, and when I thought I was alone I'd imagine tossing cars (and bad guys) around with my superhuman strength.

Huh. Actually, I still have the comics and Mego dolls. Very little tossing of cars and bad guys going on these days, though.

Anyway. In 1978, which put me about 11 (not quite to the "I'm too old/cool for comics" phase), Pocket Books came out with a bunch of novels featuring Marvel Comics characters. The series was called (....wait for it....) the "Marvel Novel Series", and there were 11 books in the set:
  1. Mayhem in Manhattan (Spider-Man)
  2. Stalker from the Stars (the Incredible Hulk)
  3. Cry of the Beast ( the Hulk)
  4. Holocaust for Hire (Captain America)
  5. Doomsday (the Fantastic Four)
  6. And Call My Killer . . . Modok! (Iron Man)
  7. Nightmare (Doctor Strange)
  8. Crime Campaign (Spider-Man)
  9. The Marvel Super-Heroes (an anthology of four short stories, featuring the Avengers, Daredevil, the Hulk, and the X-Men)
  10. The Man Who Stole Tomorrow (the Avengers)
  11. Murdermoon (Spider-Man and the Hulk)
Being a resourceful kid, I managed to get my hands on most of the books as they came out, and read 'em like there was no tomorrow. (Hey, one of the books was The Man Who Stole Tomorrow. Get it?) Anyway, to my 11 year old brain, the books were high art. I really wolfed 'em down.

Well.

Having re-read most of the books as an adult, I'm here to say they were not fine literature. Truth be told, they were pretty bad. See, these were a bunch of comic book writers trying their hands as full-fledged novelists. Bit of a stretch from a 32 page picture book to 200+ pages of settings, plot and theme. I'm not saying any of these guys didn't go on to write a best seller later - maybe they did. But these books were not them.

So. All that said and done, Cry of the Beast was the very best of the lot, hands down. (That the Hulk happened to be my favorite character, was just green icing on the cake.)


Ah, the Hulk.... I still remember that tagline from the top of each comic issue's first page:
Caught in the heart of a nuclear explosion, victim of gamma radiation gone wild, Doctor Robert Bruce Banner now finds himself transformed in times of stress into seven feet, one thousand pounds of unfettered fury - the most powerful creature to ever walk the earth - The Incredible Hulk!
Great stuff.

Which brings us to my long overdue point. In Cry of the Beast, the word "Sampasumb" is mumbled by Bruce Banner as he's slowly returning to consciousness, having just "Hulked out" and kicked a bunch of bad guys' butts.

And I always liked the sound of it.

So, as your special treat for reading through all of the above - here's the sampasumb excerpt in it's entirety:
"Bruce...Bruce, please wake up."
Banner felt like tiny sheets of flypaper were stuck onto his eyes. With an effort, he tore them open.
"Oh, thank heavens. Are you all right?" the voice asked.
His body felt like a sack of dirty socks and his head felt like the wicker hamper they'd been thrown in.
"Sampasumb," he replied with lips of lead.
What's not to love?

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