Writer: Stan Lee
Artist: Jack Kirby
Publication Date: May 1962
A little excitement here as we add our second title to companion to Fantastic Four. The Incredible Hulk has a long way to go before becoming the recognizable outcast we know him as today, and yet many core elements of his mythos are put in play from issue one.
Bruce Banner is a super smart scientist who’s developed the powerful G-g-g-g-bomb! General Thunderbolt Ross, who’s a bit of a jerk, wants the formula for the G-bomb, but Banner won’t give it up. Ross has a cute daughter named Betty, so you take the good with the bad. Right before the testing of the G-bomb, some putz teenager named Rick Jones wanders into the test site, and Bruce rushes off to get the lad to safety. A commie jerk spy named Igor, eager to find Banner’s formula for the G-bomb, sets off the gamma test with Bruce in the test area in an attempt to murder Bruce and steal the formula. Bruce saves Rick Jones from being exposed to the gamma rays (maybe), but unfortunately he exposes himself, and becomes the Hulk, a huge gray behemoth! The Hulk runs from the government, with Rick trailing. The Hulk eventually turns back into mild mannered Bruce Banner, but does not know when he’ll transform again. Igor is captured, but gets a message off to his pal the Gargoyle, both a looker and a communist, that rare and special combo. Banner transforms back to the Hulk at nightfall, just in time for he and Rick to run into Betty and the Gargoyle, who subverts the Hulk to his will. The Gargoyle brings Hulk and Rick back to Russia to study the Hulk, but alas, Hulk turns back into Banner with the light of day. Betty gets left behind to complain to her father about how scary the Hulk is. Out in Soviet Russia, the Gargoyle reveals his true desire, to become human and stopping looking like a monster. Banner, being the smart guy he is, works that out for Gargoyle. Gargoyle lets Banner and Rick escape, and then when the reds come for him, preferring to look like a Lex Luthor ripoff as opposed to a California Raisin with a history of sex offense crimes (you gotta read it to really understand), Gargoyle blows himself up.
One of the big differences between the Hulk's origin and that of the Fantastic Four is that some of the key elements we associate with him (namely, his skin color, and his penchant to change forms as a reaction to his emotions) are not established in this issue. What we do get a lot of is the red scare. The Hulk's origin story focuses much more on the cold war than do the earliest stories of the Fantastic Four. Also, much of the Hulk's supporting cast is established here, including General Thunderbolt Ross, his daughter, and Rick Jones. I am going to harp on this I imagine through a number of these posts, but I am consistently blown away by how much of the Marvel mythos gets developed in these early years. A lot of the work done by subsequent writers is the work of refinement. I imagine it takes a very unique brand of creativity to work with well established characters and create new stories that hold reader interest. Comic book writers should get more credit.
- Stan Lee's scientists smoke pipes. First Reed Richards, now Bruce Banner.
- The Hulk has some creep in him in his early days, actually managing to sneak around at one point.
- The Hulk may not be eloquent in these issues, but he does form whole sentences...on occasion...
Favorite Panel: In one small little panel, the Hulk's legend begins. I like how simple this panel is, and yet it sets the pieces in place for a lot of the relationship between Rick and Bruce. This is one of those fateful moments in marvel history, where Bruce becomes the Hulk instead of Rick.
Next: Fantastic Four # 5.