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REVIEW:
MARVEL LEGENDS - INCREDIBLE HULK - DOC SAMSON
By Thomas Wheeler


Sometimes it seems that certain characters have trouble breaking out of the segment of the comics universe in which they are largely relegated. Most characters in the Marvel Universe may share that common universe, but for whatever reason, certain individuals seem restricted to their little corner of it, even when it doesn't seem to make a lot of sense that they do so. Certainly this is true of certain members of the Incredible Hulk's supporting case.

Take the Leader, for example. Despite a name that is at once simplistic and more than a little presumptuously arrogant, here we have an individual who, as a result of his exposure to gamma radiation, gained a super-genius intellect and has an affinity for working with a wide range of sciences, including radiation, genetics, cybernetics -- why hasn't this guy ever given Doctor Doom a run for his money? Why hasn't he caused such a ruckus that it's taken the combined forces of the Avengers, the X-Men, and the Fantastic Four to bring him down? He certainly seems capable of it.

Or take Doc Samson. Here's a fellow who's got super-strength, managed to go toe-to-toe with the Hulk more than once, is considerably intelligent, certainly more even-tempered than the jade giant, and is a highly trained and respected psycho-therapist. Given some of the loose nuts that have turned up on the Avengers team over the years, you'd think they'd love to have this guy around. He can kick Ultron's butt and then try to keep some of the flakier Avengers from killing each other during their downtime. But no. Although in more recent times, post Civil War, Samson has been working with the Initiative Program, he's still best known as a supporting character to the Incredible Hulk. His breakouts from that particular corner of the Marvel Universe have been few and far between. There's just no justice.

However, there's a little more justice in the action figure world, as Doc Samson is one of the entries in the Incredible Hulk branch of the MARVEL LEGENDS line. This assortment of figures features a couple of versions of the Hulk, as well as various characters from the Hulk's long history, including Wendigo, Skaar, Absorbing Man, and others. The "Build-A-Figure" in this series is a massive edition of a long-lived dragon in the Marvel Universe by the name of Fin Fang Foom. Don't laugh -- anytime this guy has shown up he's been more trouble than Godzilla.

I thought it somewhat curious that there would be a special Hulk-based assortment of Marvel Legends figures, but the more I thought about it, the more it made sense. The toys based on the recent Incredible Hulk movie really aren't to scale with the more widespread Marvel Legends line, or even the Iron Man line, which in itself is fairly compatible in some respects. The Hulk figures are a good bit smaller. I think the reasons for this were twofold. For one thing, making Marvel Legends scale figures of someone as massive as the Hulk would have been too expensive for the movie line, but would work for a Marvel Legends line. Secondly -- using newsculpt 3-3/4" G.I. Joe figures to make Hulkbuster Squad soldiers was too obvious to pass up...

And so, within the Hulk-based Marvel Legends assortment, we have DOC SAMSON. He's a pretty obvious figure, too. He's wearing his classic costume, and, well -- there are those that feel the outfit almost borders on the comical. It's as if Samson was trying too hard to look the part of a super-hero once he gained his powers. As if the long green hair wasn't enough, you've got that red shirt, blue pants, and yellow boots. I'll get more into the costume in a bit, but let's just say it made him fairly easy to spot in the store display.

For now, let's consider the background of the character: Doc Samson first appeared in the Incredible Hulk #141, dated July 1971, and was created by Roy Thomas and Herb Trimpe. Since then he has also appeared as a supporting character in several different Marvel Comics titles, including She-Hulk, Uncanny X-Men, and Amazing Spider-Man. In 1996 Doc Samson starred in his first self-titled mini-series written by Dan Slott. In 2006, Samson starred in his second mini-series written by Paul Di Filippo and penciled by Fabrizio Fiorentino -- so he's managed to get around a bit.

Leonard Samson was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma. He became a college professor and psychiatrist. After Robert Bruce Banner was temporarily cured of being the Hulk by siphoning off the gamma radiation that caused his transformations, Samson, who had been working with Banner/Hulk in his job as a psychiatrist, exposed himself to some of the siphoned radiation, granting him a superhumanly strong and muscular physique and causing his hair to turn green and to grow long, reminiscent of his biblical namesake. Initially, Samson's physical strength depends upon the length of his hair, though his gamma mutation eventually stablized making the length of his hair no longer a factor. Shortly afterward, his flirting with Betty Ross caused a jealous Banner to re-expose himself to radiation, becoming the Hulk once more to battle Samson. Feeling guilty about his role in his patient's return to being the Hulk, Samson would spend much time working with Banner over the years.

Samson lost his powers for a time, but he eventually regained his powers in a gamma ray explosion, and joined the Gamma Base staff. His subsequent adventures included: Alongside S.H.I.E.L.D., he battled the Hulk. He shrank and projected the Hulk into Glenn Talbot's brain to cure Talbot of amnesia. Samson then battled the Rhino.

Samson was later captured by the Leader. He teamed with the Hulk against the Leader's humanoids. He attempted a psychoanalysis of the Hulk through his dreams, and diagnosed him with Multiple Personality Disorder. Samson next encountered Angel and the Master Mold. He encountered Moonstone, and battled the Hulk. Samson then quit Gamma Base, and became General Ross's psychiatrist.

Samson later encountered Woodgod and the Changelings, and he teamed with Spider-Man against the Rhino and AIM. He next defeated Unus in combat. With the Thing and other heroes, he was abducted by the Champion to challenge him in combat.

He remained most prevalent in the Hulk's world, however. Samson, determined again to cure the Hulk, defeated him in battle by calming him. He succeeded in separating Bruce Banner and the Hulk physically into two separate individuals, which was ultimately a temporary solution.

Samson attempted to remerge Banner and the Hulk, but an accident resulted in Banner's transformation into the grey Hulk.

To "cure" his MPD, Samson eventually hypnotized Banner with the Ringmaster's help and successfully began the process of integrating the Banner, grey Hulk, and green Hulk personalities into a new Hulk. This ended up beyond his control, however, leading to a somewhat unstable merger which eventually fragmented once more into a third personality, albeit a more benign one than the previous Hulks.

In addition to the Hulk, his most prominent patient, Samson has also spent time in a professional capacity with the second X-Factor, the Molecule Man, She-Hulk, and The Punisher among others. One of his most peculiar cases was in curing the superhero Captain Ultra (one of the worst fashion plates in all of superhero-dom) of his fear of fire. I'm assuming this occurred in Marvel Comics Presents #50, as a back-up story.

As to his powers and abilities, Doc Samson possesses superhuman physical abilities as a result of exposure to high levels of gamma radiation. Though his exposure is considerably less than that of the Hulk or the Abomination, he still possesses most of the same powers as they have.

The gamma radiation mutated Samson's physique by adding considerable muscle and bone mass to his body, granting him high levels of superhuman strength. Samson's hair is a bright shade of green due to his exposure to gamma radiation. Initially, his strength was dependent upon the length of his hair and the longer it was, the more powerful he was though his mutation has since stablized making his hair length irrelevant. Unlike the Hulk, however, Samson's strength doesn't increase due to adrenaline surges while angry. Samson is ultimately far less powerful than the Hulk. Also like the Hulk and Abomination, Samson's leg muscles are highly developed and powerful. He is able to leap great distances both vertically and horizontally, though not nearly as far as the Hulk or Abomination.

Aside from granting him more muscle mass, Samson's bodily tissues are fortified and are considerably harder than those of an ordinary human, granting him a high level of resistance to physical injury. Samson can withstand falls from great heights, extremes of temperature, high-caliber bullets, and tremendous impact forces like being repeatedly struck by the Hulk without sustaining injury. Due to his highly advanced musculature, his muscles produce considerably less fatigue toxins during physical activity than the musculature of a normal human, granting him superhuman stamina. He's demonstrated sufficient stamina to a battle a mindless incarnation of the Hulk for more than six hours.

Like others who have gamma induced powers, Doc Samson is immune to terrestrial diseases. Unlike the Hulk, Abomination, or even the She-Hulk, Samson hasn't demonstrated any accelerated healing powers.

Samson is said to be one of the most renowned psychiatrists on Earth. He is often called on to counsel various superhumans, such as the members of X-Factor. He has a M.D. in psychiatry, and is a skilled theoretical technician and inventor of various medical devices.

Samson is a good hand to hand combatant that, coupled with his physical attributes, have allowed him to hold his own against the Hulk for extended periods of time. He has also briefly engaged the combined forces of Iron Man, Wonder Man, Sub-Mariner, and Hercules, though those heroes had been fatigued after battling the mindless Hulk. He sometimes uses psychology as a tool to get through a more powerful opponent's guard.

Unlike the Hulk, Doc Samson does not suffer from multiple personality disorder, and so retains his genius intellect. He has conducted research on gamma beings like himself and has come to the conclusion that gamma mutation is largely determined by the subject's deepest sense of self. Hence, his form is based on a subconscious desire for superhuman power like the Biblical Samson.

As to the figure itself, Hasbro's done a really nice job here. Doc Samson stands about 7" in height, making him quite a bit larger than average for a Marvel Legends figure, but then, he's supposed to be a pretty big guy Samson has a muscular build, but not a disproportionate one like the Hulk.

The costume is Doc Samson's traditional costume and -- well -- okay, maybe it looked pretty cool in 1971. It's not exactly something I'd call trendy. Samson is wearing a red short-sleeved shirt, tight-fitting, with a squarish collar and a little yellow lightning bolt running horizontally across the front. He has dark blue trousers with red stripes on the sides (and to Hasbro's credit they managed to incorporate the leg articulation joint mechanism very effectively into the red stripes), yellow boots with cuffs, and a fairly wide yellow belt with a large buckle.

Not exactly something that's going to get him into the Superhero Fashion Hall of Fame. Then again, it's hard to miss, and it's not like someone as big as Samson, with shoulder length green hair, is going to be easily concealed to begin with. The man wants to dress like this, I'm not going to argue with him. Find out the hard way it's his one touchy point and set him off. Don't think so.

In fairness, Doc Samson has had at least one other costume over the years, invented by John Byrne, but how much of an improvement a high-collared red leather uniform and tying his hair back in a ponytail was is probably pretty debatable. The last time I saw Doc Samson it was in the pages of Thunderbolts and he was wearing a suit -- presumably from the "Big and Tall" section of "Men's Wearhouse". Classy, but probably not much good in a fight.

This figure pretty much represents Doc Samson as he is best known, and honestly, if it had been any other version of the character, I doubt I would've bought him.

The headsculpt is nicely done, giving the figure a rather determined expression, and the shoulder-length green hair (they even gave him green eyebrows and green eyes) is nicely sculpted and of a good color, which can't have been all that easy. Sometimes transitioning a color from a comic book to an action figure is a little tricky. The hair is semi-flexible, and doesn't much impede the head articulation.

Doc Samson is very well articulated, although perhaps not quite to full Marvel Legends levels in some respects. If anything, the overall articulation design reminds me of a Super-Articulated Star Wars figure, or a 25th-Style G.I. Joe figure -- just a lot bigger. Doc Samson is poseable at the head, arms, elbows, wrists, mid-torso, legs, knees, and ankles.

There's a swivel at the elbow joint which is pretty much the counterpart to an upper-arm swivel. The mid-torso articulation is very reminiscent of a Star Wars or G.I. Joe figure in its design, which is quite different from many Marvel Legends figures. The lack of waist articulation is also notable. The knees are double-jointed, but the figure does suffer a little bit for back of an upper-leg swivel point. Still, that would have to be the only articulation complaint I have.

It's been my increasing observation that the more a figure is articulated, the more it looks like a toy and the less it looks like a good representation of the character it is designed after, especially if that character comes from another source, such as a comic book or a movie. I don't know if that makes sense. I'm all in favor of articulating an action figure as much as possible within reason, and there are certainly action figures out there that I think could do with more articulation than they get (certain Star Wars especially). But when you start trying to put upwards of thirty points into a figure that's maybe 4" in height, you're going to come up against the limitations of how plastic can be molded, and some of those articulation joints are going to be pretty blatant, and might not even work too well.

Doc Samson, lack of upper-leg swivel notwithstanding, is a pretty good example of how to properly articulate an action figure. He has a good level of articulation. Some of the points are decently concealed by the figure design (not always easy in the super-hero world). He moves well and he looks cool, which is really the ideal combination, in my opinion.

Doc Samson doesn't come with any accessories -- not that he really needs any -- apart from the section of Fin Fang Foom, whom I'm not going to get into here, since I don't plan to construct him. The pictures I've seen look interesting though. I'm not putting down the character or the toy.

So what's my final word here? Okay, so charitably speaking, Doc Samson is pretty much a "B-list" character in the Marvel Universe, who despite occasional breakouts, has pretty much been relegated to the Hulk's big green corner of Marveldom. He's still a reasonably interesting character, and he's definitely a cool action figure. The HULK MARVEL LEGENDS DOC SAMSON definitely has my enthusiastic recommendation!