cover to Incredible Hulk #178

The Incredible Hulk #178, August 1974

I first remember reading this story in a British Marvel title (probably The Mighty World of Marvel — as that was the home of ol’ jade jaws at the time) in the mid-1970s. The tale told is the last part of of the story of Adam Warlock — the original version, prior to Jim Starlin getting his hands on the one-time “Him” and propelling the character into the cosmic stratosphere. Warlock’s own title had been cancelled after a mere eight issues, and Hulk #177 – 178 saw Roy Thomas, Gerry Conway and Tony Isabella take him to the grave, with the aid of long-time Hulk penciller Herb Trimpe. But not for long.

Having died on a cross-like structure (actually an ankh — this was the 70s remember!) at the end of issue #177, questioning why his “father”, the High Evolutionary, had abandoned him, Warlock was reborn during #178 only to leave Earth behind to find his place in the heavens. So, you know, if you thought the only thing the Easter story lacked was a couple of super-heroes, look no further. In case there was still any lingering doubt as to what was going on here, #177 features a recreation of the Last Supper.

Warlock and the Last Supper

Mind you, none of this really came as any great surprise: Warlock always had quasi-religious overtones. Created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby “Him” was originally an artificial human born from a cocoon (a virgin birth in all but name), but was later rechristened and evolved to higher being status by the High Evolutionary and set up as the Messiah-like protector of Counter-Earth. The very first splash page image of Warlock was Gil Kane’s take on the Crucifixion (Marvel Premiere #1). Apparently, Roy Thomas, the main architect of the re-imagined Adam Warlock, was a fan of the Andrew Lloyd-Webber musical Jesus Christ Superstar. It was a bold — if not entirely successful — attempt to do something a little bit different in comics.

Adam Warlock crucified

All this is available in an excellent Marvel Masterworks volume, and is highly recommended.

Images ©2011 Marvel Characters Inc