Doc Samson: Needless Character Analysis
Doc Samson came about as our Needless Character Analysis due to his first appearance showing up one of my Facebook groups. Immediately, a few of my favorite appearances of the character came to mind. Before I get into that, let’s look a little of the history of Marvel‘s resident psychiatrist.
Dr. Leonard Samson was working in his role as a psychiatrist with Bruce Banner. After Banner had been temporarily cured of being the Hulk by draining off Gamma radiation, Samson exposed himself to some of the radiation. This gave Samson superhuman strength and caused his hair to grow long and turn green. Samson’s flirting with Betty Ross prompted a jealous Banner to reabsorb the radiation to once again become the Hulk and battle Samson. This would cause Samson guilt over the years.
After losing his powers in his initial encounter with the Hulk, Samson regained them in an explosion and would both battle the Hulk and assist him against some of his foes, including the Leader and Moonstone. He also would find that he preferred the life of a hero to one simply of a psychiatrist, but he would continue his career as a psychiatrist, even accepting a position at Northwestern University and turning down leadership of mid-western branch of the Avengers.
Doc Samson would play a pivotal role in physically separating the Hulk from Bruce Banner, but after preventing S.H.I.E.L.D. from executing the Hulk, Samson sees the danger of a Hulk not tempered by Bruce Banner’s mind. He recaptures the Hulk and attempts to re-merge Banner and the Hulk, but inadvertently transforms the Hulk into a more intelligent, grey Hulk that would escape and spend some time operating under the alias of “Joe Fixit.”
After the Hulk is recaptured, Doc Samson works to merge the fractured psyche of Bruce Banner’s multiple personalities, integrating Banner, the Hulk and the grey Hulk. What he produces is a fourth Hulk, which possesses much of Banner’s intellect and is much more stable. Samson would continue his psychiatric practice and treat the second X-Factor, the Molecule Man, She-Hulk, and the Punisher. Samson sided with Iron Man’s pro-registration forces in the super-hero Civil War. Samson also sided with the Illuminati in exiling the Hulk to space, for which he is target by the Hulk upon his return.
Following the return of several heroes from the Skrull Secret Invasion, Doc Samson assists them in acclimating, and is framed by Norman Osborn for attacking the President. Samson later develops a split personality disorder of his own, even falling under the control of MODOK. He apparently dies while trying to assist Banner in draining off excess Gamma energy from various other heroes that had been turned into Hulks. He temporarily returns to life with other dead heroes, but afterwards returned to the realm of the dead. A portion of his soul was unable to move on and became corrupted. The Red Hulk and the Legion of Monsters assisted him in passing on.
Some of Samson’s best stories are when he’s engaged in his role as a psychiatrist, specifically X-Factor #87. Two writers made an effort to turn Samson into an important character in the Hulk’s history. John Byrne redesigned Doc Samson and had him physically separate the Hulk and Banner. Peter David used Samson to create a new Hulk that was used for much of his run with the character. For suggestions on where to read more about the character, check out the recommended reading list below.
- Marvel Masterworks: The Incredible Hulk – Volume 7
- Essential Hulk – Volume 3
- Incredible Hulk Visionaries – John Byrne
- Incredible Hulk Visionaries – Peter David, Vol. 1
- Incredible Hulk Visionaries – Peter David, Vol. 6
- X-Factor Visionaries – Peter David, Vol. 4