I got a heck of a surprise for my birthday this year - a page of original art from the Hulk vs. Thing miniseries by artist Jae Lee. And not just any page, but one of my favorites of all time.
"Hulk and Thing: Hard Knocks" was a miniseries from 2004, written by then-Incredible Hulk writer Bruce Jones. As such, it picked up a few of the plot points that were running through the regular Hulk book at the time. I was thrilled that the Thing was getting a series, but also a little worried that, since it was pretty much just the Hulk comic with another name, the Thing would get knocked around a lot in the book in deference to the title character. The opposite actually happened, though, as the Thing spent a good bit of the book beating up the Hulk (and Bruce Banner), and it was even revealed that the Thing was the winner of the original matchup back in Fantastic Four #12.
In the series, the story keeps coming back to Ben Grimm and Bruce Banner in some out-of-the-way restaurant/bar. The Thing is in a bad mood and wants to commiserate with the Hulk, one of the only others out there who can understand what it's like to be a monster. The problem is, the Hulk shows up as Bruce Banner, and he's happy to stay that way. To force him to change into his green alter ego, the Thing slaps his around a few times...which is just really...well...I enjoyed seeing it a lot.
And now I own a page from the first time it happens. This particular page is from the first issue of the series. Jae Lee both pencils and inks this beauty. Lee draws a different Thing than most - his version keeps some of Grimm's human features, and his hide looks more scaly than the segmented rocks that most artists draw. But it's a good variation and one that stays true to the character's obsession with his disfigurement.
I never thought I'd own a page from this book, let alone THE page that makes this series so enjoyable, I guess in my own twisted fashion. This is a real beauty.