Armagideon Time

It might seem odd to base an funnybook character around a semi-transparent hoax, buy but that’s precisely what Marvel Comics did back in 2000 when they introduced the…

Excuse me, link sir, are you being helped? Because I’ve got this thing I’m trying to write about this one unloved superhero and I…

What’s that? A little stuffed bull sent you? Why didn’t you say so in the first place!

Doctor Leonard Samson made his less-than-astonishing debut in the pages of Incredible Hulk #141 (July 1971). A headshrinker by vocation, Samson was tapped by General “Thunderbolt” Ross to find a cure for his daughter Betty, who’d been transformed into an inanimate crystal statue. (Hey, these things happen, all right?)

While Betty’s unfortunate condition might not have seemed like the sort of thing one seeks a psychologist’s help to resolve, Samson — by virtue of being a member of the multidiscipinary-as-needed fraternity of Comic Book Scientists — managed to whip up a suitably improbable solution which utilized the Hulk’s vast reserves of gamma ray energy.

Not only did Samson’s cure restore the lovely Miss Ross to her proper fleshy form, but the act of siphoning the Hulk’s source of power also freed Bruce Banner from the curse of his monstrous alter ego. After solving two seemingly intractable problems in one fell swoop, Samson could have prided himself on a job well done and returned to a lucrative life of listening to neurotics complain about their emotionally distant parents.

The bookish Samson, however, was not without his own set of demons. Having witnessed how gamma rays unleashed the power of Banner’s suppressed subsconscious and possessing a quantity of leftover Hulk extract in his coverto-siphon machine, Samson turned the device upon himself in hope of releasing his inner extrovert.

So long, button-downed bespectacled bookworm…

…and hello, lime-locked lothario lummox, ladies.

In keeping with comics’ long and shameless tradition of serendipitous naming and ham-fisted literalism, Samson’s prodigious strength and immense resilience were pegged to the length of his emerald mane. However, this Biblically-inspired facet of the character was quietly dropped where is was determined that even the dynamic art duo of Herb Trimpe and John Severin couldn’t sell the image of a two-fisted crimebuster with a pageboy hairdo.

Donning a (quite spiffy, if generic) off-the-rack suit of primary-colored fighting togs, Samson gleefully embraced his new role as a square-jawed paragon of justice. He also found the time to make time with Betty Ross, prompting a jealous Bruce Banner to re-irradiate himself in order to unleash his particular brand of green-eyed monster on Samson’s womanizing ass.

The good adequate Doctor soon settled into a comfortable role as a recurring ally-slash-adversary to the Jade Giant and supporting backbencher within the Marvel Universe at large. It might not have been a glamorous role, but it was a respectable one which suited the character’s less-than-unique abilities.

This briefly changed during the mid-1980s when Samson was briefly shoved into the foreground during John Byrne’s brief run on the Hulk’s solo title. Samson returned from a state of semi-retirement to oversee the chemical separation of Bruce Banner from the Hulk, with the hopes that the leftover mindless embodiment of the stricken scientist’s rage could be molded into a productive member of society.

It went about as well as one would assume, and the guilt-stricken Samson attempted to atone for his completely avoidable mistake by adopting a tougher, gritter persona…

…providing one defined “tougher” and “grittier” in terms of red pleather fetishwear and a scalp-tightening ponytail.

And again, Samson’s efforts at Hulk-busting badassery were about as effective as the psychologist’s other endeavors in the superheroic realm.

Since that embarrassing stab at greater relevance, Samson has fallen back — with slight variations of his original Bronze Age costume — into the minor supporting character pool with all the infrequent guest appearances and straight-to-the-quarter-bin miniseries such a role entails.

Unable to inspire either dedicated affection or outright contempt (even during his “Dark Samson” phase), the green-haired-shrink-who-failed-to-think is a “oh, yeah, that guy” class of Nobody’s Favorites.

Related posts:

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  2. Nobody’s Favorites: Color me unimpressed
  3. Nobody’s Favorites: Slaughterhouse jive

19 Responses to “Nobody’s Favorites: Switched prescriptions”

  1. Jacob T. Levy

    Maybe nobody’s *favorite* strictly speaking, but I have “dedicated affection” for him–a valuable utility player, an entertaining supporting cast member who opened up great storytelling possibilities for both PAD’s Hulk and Slott’s She-Hulk. Indeed I think he’s necessary. Hulk is a force of physical destruction, and Banner is, well, a physicist. But they coexist in a psychologically complicated fashion. Banner wouldn’t self-shrink; it’s an alien mindset to his own kind of science. So having a character around who can say “this is complicated and mental, not straightforward and physical” is very useful.

    Sure, as a superheroic lead he’s pointless. But as a supporting character, he’s a terrific creation.

  2. Bully

    Hooray! Thanks, Andrew! I feel just like I picked up a comic book that says “Because YOU demanded it!” on the cover, and it turns out it actually was something I demanded! (Like, say, a good comic.)

  3. Professor Matthew

    I also have a “fondness” for Doc Samson. Much like other supporting characters, he has a niche that he fills well. His appearance during Peter David’s run on X Factor still still resonates with me (especially for doing the best job of explaining Quicksilver that anyone ever will ever achieve). But some folks have certainly done a better job utilizing his actual skill set better than others. And his “updated” look by Byrne was painful.

  4. Prankster

    Yeah, I remember this guy from Slott’s run on She-Hulk as well. The idea of a superhero psychiatrist, especially in the context of the various Hulks, is a neat one.

  5. Jacob T. Levy

    Oh, yes– that PAD X-Factor issue alone ought to exempt him from “Nobody’s Favorites!”

  6. Ragnell

    Oh please, any psychiatrist could’ve worked in that PAD X-Factor story. What made it worth reading were the teammembers, not the cipher-shrink they spoke to. It does not exempt him.

  7. Professor Matthew

    I quite understand why most will feel vitriol for him. And he is far from my favorite. But I like him when he’s written well. And as a social scientist, I like a character that has intelligence that translates into “understanding human behavior.” Yes, almost any psychiatrist could have worked in that issue. But Samson was the one that was used and it was a great issue. So I associate him with it.

  8. bitterandrew

    The weird thing about Samson’s day job is that it didn’t initially figure into his relationship with the Hulk.

    It seems like it should have — and has been retconned into it after the fact — but Roy Thomas did very little with the obvious “creature of rage/curious psychologist” aspect of the pairing. Samson was introduced as a generic comic book scientist who just so happened to by a psychologist, and it was left as that.

  9. CJ Lowery

    Oh hey, it’s the guy from the Incredible Hulk PS2 game that provided a flimsy excuse for how Hulk was completing GTA-style missions!

    I didn’t know the green hair was actually an essential part of his characterization. I just genuinely thought video game designers stopped paying attention to pop culture around the same time the Hackers: Official Motion Picture Soundtrack came out.

  10. Tales to Enrage

    Doc Sampson clearly qualifies for this series, but for me it’s on a more affectionate level. I’ve never seen him and gone “Oh God, NOT HIM.” It’s more “Oh, Doc Sampson. All right, I suppose his presence makes sense here,” or “Huh, why is Doc Sampson here?” It’s possible someone could really turn him around and make him a compelling character (doubtful, but after Nova I can’t put it past any character), but he works well as a supporting cast member for the Hulk.

  11. LurkerWithout

    Isn’t he a giant evil monster now or something?

  12. Jason Langlois

    I’m mildly concerned by how many of your Nobody’s Favorites are my favorites. This might explain why my collection of ’70s and ’80s comics is pretty much worthless.

  13. Jeff R.

    I liked Doc Samson during the part of PADs Hulk run where he actually had a reason to exist (the integration and the follow-up therapy during the Pantheon storyline.) And I certainly didn’t despise his solo issue (the Crazy Eight execution story thing).

    Not caring so much for the Loeb version, though.

  14. Monzo

    That third image looks like something Basil Wolverton would’ve done.

  15. Jaq

    Doc Samson will be forever cool for me for one reason: in the first issue of the Byrne run, he knocked the Hulk out with one punch (after a mildly contrived set up, to be fair.) One of my favorite splash pages ever.

    And you know what? In the 80s, his redesign was an IMPROVEMENT. Sure it looks silly now, but what from the 80s doesn’t?

  16. Aaron Poehler

    Mm, thinking something SEEMED like an improvement in the 80s isn’t the same thing as actually being an improvement. That 80s look is in no way an improvement.

  17. bitterandrew

    I really like Samson’s original costume, but I’m a sucker for that classic superhero style.

  18. Teresa

    I want an Old School throwdown between Doc Samson and Jay Garrick Flash. Remember when two heroes having the same costume or name was enough for a fight? Followed by a team up!

    I miss those days…

  19. HoorayforGooba!

    I dig Doc Samson, though he’s certainly not my favourite. His appearance in Warren Ellis’s Thunderbolts is pretty excellent.

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