The late Harlan Ellison was one of the most famous and successful authors of the 20th Century, particularly in the fields of science fiction and fantasy writing (but he was also an accomplished horror and mystery writer). He won multiple awards from pretty much every organization designed to give out awards for fiction. Eight Hugos, four Nebula awards, a couple of Stoker Awards, a couple of Edgars, the guy was all over the place.
In short, Harlan Ellison has left behind one of the greatest legacies of short stories in his field. Ellison was a true writing legend.
In the late 1960s, he was probably right in the peak period of his illustrious career and so he was even more famous than usual and to the second generation of comic book writers just breaking into comic books in that time period (guys like Roy Thomas, Archie Goodwin, Denny O'Neil and Mike Freidrich), Ellison was pretty much like a rock star to them.
Denny O'Neil would often attend parties in New York City that Ellison would be at, along with most of these other writers, so there were plenty of opportunities for the writers to meet him. Still, it was a real trip for these guys to be rubbing elbows with a star like him. When Roy Thomas got Ellison to agree to come up with a plot for an Avengers/Incredible Hulk two-parter in 1970, it was as if, say, Bob Dylan agreed to show up at your house to write some songs with you.
Ellison's plot for the story was published in Marvel's fan magazine of the time, Marvelmania Magazine...
His plot synopsis for the story was also printed in a number of fanzines of the era. Here's a snippet of the plot synopsis...
Ellison's contributions to the comics were posted on the covers of the books, something that you would never see on a typical Marvel Comic book of the time (Stan Lee promoted himself and his artists a lot inside the story, but despite the fame that Lee and Kirby had at the time, they rarely promoted themselves on the covers of the comic books).
However, in Marvelmania Magazine, they explained that Roy Thomas (who took Ellison's plot and turned it into the story for the two issues, while adding his own parts to the book, too, to keep it consistent with the storylines of those two books, like working in sub-plots into the Avengers issue, including the first meeting of the Avengers and Captain America's then-new partner, the Falcon) was going to do an extra bit of tribute to Ellison in the comic, noting, “And Harlan Ellison – who did the basic plot of this issue and the current AVENGERS as well, as one gigantic story – is welcome to do another story for us anytime he wishes. We truly dig a lot on his s-f masterpieces. In fact, since this issue will be on sale on April 1 – April Fool’s Day – the Rascally One decided to toss in the names of over twenty Harlan Ellison stories (namely, the entire contents page of Paingod and Other Delusions and The Beast That Shouted Love At The Heart Of The World) as bits of dialogue and caption copy in the very mag you’re now holding in your happy little hands! Happy hunting, Harlanophiles!”
Most notably is the title of the story, which is an adaptation of one of Ellison's most famous story collections...
But Thomas managed to fit in tributes to many more Ellison stories from both of Ellison's notable short story collections at the time, The Beast That Shouted Love at the Heart of the World and Paingod and Other Delusions in the comic. Read on as we detail each one of the references in the comic!