Thursday, June 24, 2010

The Incredible Hulk # 3

Issue: The Incredible Hulk # 3
Writer: Stan Lee
Artist: Jack Kirby
Publication Date: September 1962
Brief Summary: 

It's just another night in the life of the Bruce Banner, as his friend Rick Jones locks him in an underground cavern while he transforms into the Hulk.  The Army rounds up Rick afterwards and brings him to General Ross, as Ross knows there’s a connection between Rick and the Hulk.  Ross tells Rick that his plan for the Hulk is to make him go all Slim Pickins and ride a rocket that they are testing to see if he can withstand the blast.  So, in the interests of the country, and in the hope of seeing the jolly green giant ride a missile, Rick frees the Hulk, and goads him to the missile.  The riding of said missile is less exciting than advertised, and Hulk returns to Bruce while he's actually located inside the missile.  The rocket is shot into space - it wasn’t a test at all!  That rascally Thunderbolt Ross...Bruce is bathed in more radiation, while Rick fiddles with the control panel to get the capsule containing Bruce to come crashing back to earth.  Rick goes to find the capsule, expecting Bruce because it’s the daytime, and gets a heaping helping of Hulk instead.  But, Rick discovers that he now has gained control over the Hulk.  Rick discovers the hard way that he only has control over Hulk while Rick remains awake.  Rick gets the Hulk back to his underground cavern.  Elsewhere, two F.B.I. men come across a town where everyone is motionless.  This is the result of a hypnotist called the Ringmaster, who hypnotizes towns as part of his traveling circus and then robs the people.  Back to Rick, he goes and visits his aunt to rest up, and then catches up with the Ringmaster’s traveling circus. When he feels himself getting hypnotized, he calls the Hulk to his rescue.  But, without future commands from the hypnotized Hulk, Ringmaster’s crew gets the best of him.  Ringmaster tries to add Hulk to his act, but…well…Hulk smash.  The government catches up to everyone, but Hulk bounds away with Rick.  Thunderbolt Ross is displeased.


This is the first issue where the matter of what makes the Hulk the Hulk is adjusted.  Now, it's no longer darkness that causes Bruce to turn.  Also, there's still a lot of questions about the nature of the relationship between Rick Jones and the Hulk.  With Hulk not even returning to human form at the end of this issue, in many ways, these early stories paint Rick Jones as the main character.  Despite this, we do not know much about Rick.  Here we meet a member of his family for the first time, and we know that he snuck into the test site of the Gamma bomb on a dare, but we don't have much of a sense of him.  It is clear that he blames himself for the disaster that caused Bruce to turn into the Hulk, but we haven't seen Bruce really lash out at Rick for it, even though the Hulk has. We don't see any of Thunderbolt Ross' daughter Betty in this issue.  Obviously, she'll be back, but her lack of presence was noticeable. We do see Ross maintaining a consistently negative outlook on the Hulk.  No one seems to want to study the creature, but rather just destroy it.  Finally, the Hulk series seems to differ from the Fan 4 in that there is an identifiable problem that has yet to be resolved, and that's how to keep Bruce Banner from turning into the Hulk.  With the Fan 4, there is conflict among team members, but there is no driving force for the group, other than to thwart evil and have adventures.  To some extent it might be to turn Ben Grimm back into a normal looking guy, but this "turn the monster back into a man" is far more prevalent in the Hulk's saga.  It has been the driving force of the story thus far, and will remain a key issue in future Hulk stories.  And yet, despite some of the damage the Hulk has caused, he's gotten Rick out of a bind or two, and also helped to thwart communism.  So, is the Hulk such a bad thing?

 Quick Thoughts:
  • There was an ad for an inflatable boa constrictor in this issue. I considered purchasing, but the company has probably been out of business for thirty years or so.
  • The Hulk is not a speedy character, but...
  • We get to see that powerful leaps are how the Hulk can get around.
  • Stan Lee has a lot of hypnosis in these early stories, with the Ringmaster the latest in a growing line of characters that have used it thus far, including Reed Richards and Miracle Man.
Favorite Panel:

What we have here is a simple case of the Hulk gut punching an elephant.  Or, at least that's how it looks.  The panel says that Hulk is merely pushing him, but that looks like a gut shot.  Add in a few men flying off of a see-saw, and you've got high comedy.

Next: Journey into Mystery # 84