Doc in battle against his most characteristic foe. Artists: Herb Trimpe and Bob Layton.


Original medium: Comic books
Published by: Marvel Comics
First Appeared: 1971
Creators: Roy Thomas (writer) and Herb Trimpe (artist)
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Parallelling the earlier characters Dr. Thirteen and Doc Strange, the Marvel Comics character Doc Samson actually did earn the title "doctor" and actually did have that as a name, even if the combination did sound like the superhero monicker that it was. Doc's name was Dr. Leonard Samson. Not his birth name, according to a later retcon — he was originally named after his father, Dr. Leo (short for Leonard) Skivorsky, but changed it to distance himself from Dad and his philandering ways. Young Leo also …

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… resisted, at least at first, a proclivity to follow in his father's footsteps and become a psychiatrist. But he eventually succumbed, earning his honorific.

Doc Samson wasn't originally a superhero type. In fact, he was kind of scrawny when he approached General T.E. "Thunderbolt" (no relation) Ross about a possible technique for extracting gamma radiation (which was afflicting the life of Ross's daughter) from a human body. The technique could also be, and was, applied, to Ross's nemesis, The Hulk. It worked, but in the process, Doc himself was filled with gamma rays.

This happened in The Incredible Hulk #141 (July, 1971). It was written by Roy Thomas (Morbius the Living Vampire, All-Star Squadron) and drawn by Herb Trimpe (The Phantom Eagle, Captain Britain). During the course of the story, Doc got superheroized.

In the Marvel Universe, when gamma rays are involved in a character's superheroization, the color green is usually involved. Aside from The Hulk himself, a villain called The Leader, who got super-intelligent from gamma radiation, was green. Besides bulking him up, the rays turned Doc Samson's hair green, and made it grow almost half a meter. It also made him like his Biblical namesake, who lost his super-strength when his hair was cut.

He was back to normal before long, but the permanence of such de-transformation in comic books always depends on the character's commercial possibilities. This one turned out to be fairly popular, so his sojourn into normalcy was brief. But he eventually shed the hair-cutting limitation.

Doc continued as a supporting character (and occasional antagonist) to The Hulk, and also hit the guest star circuit. He met S.H.I.E.L.D., Spider-Man, She-Hulk, Hercules and many more. He turned down a chance to join The Avengers as head of a proposed midwest branch. In his professional capacity, he helped cure Captain Ultra, a peripheral member of Marvel's superhero community, of intense fear of fire. A funny animal version of him once met Peter Porker, The Spectacular Spider-Ham.

He's had two mini-series, a four-issue one in 1996 and five issues in 2006. He made a couple of appearances in the 1990s Hulk animated series, voiced by Shadoe Stevens (who has few other voice credits). In 21st century Avengers animation, he was voiced by Cam Clarke (Freddy the Ferret in Back at the Barnyard, a couple of voices in the 2009 Curious George movie). He turned up in pre-superhero form in the 2008 Incredible Hulk movie, no-doubt a portent of future sequel appearances. There, he was played by Ty Burrell (Captain Marvel in The Super Hero Squad Show)

Back in comic books, Doc Samson is currently dead. But at Marvel, that's not always a permanent condition.


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Text ©2010 Donald D. Markstein. Art © Marvel Comics.