Marvel 616 Review – The Incredible Hulk #6

The Incredible Hulk Issue 6 Photo Credit: Marvel

Marvel 616 has a great history of introducing amazing and powerful super villains. Spider-man has the best rogues gallery outside of Batman comics with memorable menaces like Dr. Octopus, Kraven the Hunter, and the Vulture. The Hulk on the other hand, one of the most powerful beings in all of Marvel, has hardly any enemies worth remembering. However, there are occasions when we can see some experimentation with villains right in Hulk’s pages.

In The Incredible Hulk issue 6 we see what can only be considered a first pass at what Magneto will be in the pages of the X-Men comics down the line. Make no mistake, this “Metal Master” is no where near as interesting as Magneto but it is a first crack at an enemy who can bend metal to his will.

The issue starts (as so many Hulk stories do) with a missile test. General Thunderbolt Ross is waiting on Bruce Banner so he can test his newest rocket. Banner is already 15 minutes late and Ross is none too happy about it. Betty Ross worries something might have happened while Rick Jones realizes Banner’s had enough time to change back from being the Hulk.

Betty worries Hulk has taken Banner. Rick wishes he could let her know his secret but he knows how upset that would make Bruce.

When we see Hulk, he wants to get into his secret lab to change back but there’s a whole infantry of troops doing practice maneuvers there. He’s aware if he’s seen, the secret location of his lab will be exposed. However, it seems it’s also becoming harder for Hulk to go back to being Banner at all. If he doesn’t change he might be stuck in the form of the green monster.

He’s saved from having to fight the troops when the emergency alert from the base sounds and the soldiers all scramble back. Hulk is then able to use the machine to turn himself back into Banner but before he does it he says, “I hate havin’ to become that weakling Banner all the time!” I find this interesting because Hulk has most of the brain function of Bruce Banner at this point (he can speak in full sentences and make logical decisions so he’s not just a rage machine) yet he clearly sees himself as two distinct people. This further establishes the multiple personalities Bruce Banner will come to have. While this is pretty much a direct comparison to The Strange Case ofDr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde right now, it becomes much more complicated in the future.

In addition, changing from one form to the other seems to become more painful for both of them as time goes on. Oddly, this time when Bruce changes he retains a bit of Hulk’s strength so they are sort of merging together a bit at this point.

After the change is complete and Bruce loses all the strength of the Hulk he checks in on the base through a video monitor and sees Ross and Betty in major distress. He sees the test rocket he invented completely melted. In the narration of the panel we see this it says, “Bewildered, the trembling viewer switches on the sound portion of his amazing set, and hears…” I point this out because it’s a reminder cameras were not common, and color cameras with sound were exceedingly rare at best, in the 1960’s. In other words, Marvel could sometimes be predictive about the future, much the same way Star Trek predicted automatic doors.

We get our first glimpse of the Metal Master, an imposing figure with yellow skin and a strange red outfit who hails from the planet Astra. Basically, Hulk fights two kinds of enemies in most of his books, either aliens or communists. Or sometimes aliens who sympathize with communists. Don’t hold your breath waiting for something better because it takes a while for Hulk to get past this.

Anyway, The Metal Master demonstrates some of his powers while telling everyone how most people on his planet are artists but he was deemed a criminal because he wanted to use his mental control over all metal to conquer. Ever since, this dude has been on the lookout for a planet with plenty of metal resources. He comes across Earth and the lightbulb goes off.

Despite having just destroyed a weapon and demonstrated his powers Ross just says, “Someone grab him! He’s nutty as a fruit cake!” You would have thought the military would have already opened fire on this guy but this is a kids comic and they needed Hulk to fight the guy. Plus, bullets wouldn’t be that effective considering there is metal in them.

The Metal Master melts some guns and helmets and then goes big time by melting a whole tank. One of the soldiers realizes this guy is, “the single most powerful force on Earth!” Of course that soldier must not have met Thor, or the Hulk if he thinks that.

Next, the villain traps Ross and company in a cage of his own making. He demands control of the base and subsequently of the planet within 24 hours. The Metal Master leaves using a steel plate as a flying platform (a move Magneto will definitely use in the future). They try to stop him with rockets but those are also made of metal so it doesn’t work.

Rick Jones realizes the only hope for humanity is the Hulk. Bruce is already changing when Rick gets to the secret lab. But for some reason, this time Bruce’s face doesn’t change. Luckily Banner made some plaster cast molds of Hulk’s face so he throws one on. (Don’t ask me how he got Hulk to sit still long enough to do that)

Hulk goes into action saying, “I can’t fly like a blasted Human Torch–but these muscles ain’t just for show!” He leaps into the air and lands right where the Metal Master is.

They have a pretty typical fight where the villain is throwing stuff at Hulk and Hulk is jut breaking it. That is until Metal Master offers to team up with the Hulk. Hulk considers it for a moment, realizing the human race has been hounding him forever and isn’t going to stop. He decides not to team up with Metal Master, not because he likes humans but because he figures the Hulk doesn’t need any help from anyone. While Hulk is ranting, Metal Master knocks him out.

A few minutes later a group of soldiers find Hulk and realize he has a mask on. They take it off to reveal… the same face as the mask. Banner’s secret is still safe. The soldiers manage to catch Hulk and put him in a special stone building made to hold the creature.

Betty is still worried about Bruce but Rick Jones realizes Hulk is the only chance against Metal Master. Rick goes to talk to the Hulk but the Hulk blames Rick for the soldiers taking off the mask. Hulk really starts to display some rage at both Rick and all of humanity here. This upsets Rick so much he asks about enlisting. Ross won’t let him though because he is only 16.

Meanwhile Metal Master goes on a rampage throughout the world destroying a bunch of metal stuff like oil rigs and bridges.

We check back in on Rick who is shown a ham radio by his friends. He then has the idea to form a club called The Teen Brigade who will keep in radio contact to help out the army, the police, and basically any good guys who could use a hand. I know it sounds cheesy but the formation of this group is actually important in the history of Marvel 616 and gives a bit more of a voice to the teenage audience.

Of course, Hulk busts out of his inescapable prison. Ross and Betty are talking and Betty realizes she cares pretty deeply from Bruce. They still haven’t found him so it’s upsetting her. Ross gets the news of Hulk escaping and Betty thinks Hulk has captured Banner.

Hulk goes back to the secret lab and changes back to Banner. This leaves him exceptionally weak this time but luckily Rick happens along. Bruce tells Rick he has a way to stop Metal Master but he needs help. Rick gets his teen brigade on the case.

While they gather supplies, Bruce recovers enough to turn back into the Hulk.

As this is happening Metal Master is stopping missiles and aircraft from all kinds of nations that are attacking him. When he destroys a group of airplanes he pulls a pretty odd move saying, “By merely melting the engine section of each plane, I permit the helpless pilots to bail out and float to safety!” Strange move for a guy trying to rule a planet but I guess he has a conscience? He says what he wants is for every living thing to serve him but I’m not buying that. The real reason is comics codes were fairly strict back then and you couldn’t actually show anyone in uniform (police, military, etc.) being killed or defeated. For that reason there were a lot of strange workarounds during what would likely be armed battle.

Hulk and Rick put together the device Banner cooked up while the rest of the Teen Brigade wait outside. The Brigade spots Metal Master heading to Washington. D.C. and the setup for the final battle begins as Hulk heads there. Hulk is armed with what looks like a huge gun. Metal Master tries to break it with his powers but nothing happens. The antagonizes the Metal Master and he gets closer to the Hulk.

Ross and Betty are still trying to find Bruce but obviously with no luck. Ross gets word of the showdown in D.C. and heads over there.

Hulk gets close enough to the villain to grab Metal Master and pretty much tells him he can get pounded by his fists or clean up everything he destroyed. Metal Master gets on his ship and heads off Earth.

Of course, the gun was just a decoy and not made of metal which is what tricked Metal Master. Hulk has moment where he actually gives credit to the Teen Brigade, proving Hulk doesn’t hate all humans. But the army moves in.

Hulk leaps off with Rick before anything can happen. The Teen Brigade tell Ross how Hulk saved humanity. That’s not likely to sway Ross but it’s some food for thought for him.

Hulk tries to use the machine to change back but he stays in Hulk form. He realizes the machine may have been used too much and now knows he is stuck in a form that will be relentlessly hunted by humans.

Betty is determined to find Bruce but still is having no luck. Hulk gets word he is getting a pardon because he saved the world. He’s unhappy because it’s not enough and he starts smashing stuff. And he suddenly changes back to Bruce Banner.

Bruce goes to see Betty but her father answers the door. Ross is enraged Hulk got a pardon and demands to know where Bruce has been. He says he felt under the weather so took a few days off in Bermuda. (Great excuse, definitely use that next time you miss a day of work)

Betty is overjoyed at seeing Bruce but Ross still thinks Bruce is a “milksop.” Betty knows there is some connection between Hulk and Bruce but he says he cares about her too much to tell her everything. Bruce hopes Hulk is gone for good but we all know that’s not the case.

After this issue Hulk loses his own title for a while and shares the pages of Tales to Astonish with Ant-Man for a while. But this is by no means the end of Hulk and his stories.

Next up in the reading order we’ll be introduced to a new hero, one who has his very own suit of iron, in Tales of Suspense #39!

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Marvel 616 Comic Book Review – The Incredible Hulk #5

The Incredible Hulk Issue 5 Photo Credit: Marvel

This issue of The Incredible Hulk starts off with a fun and interesting sci-fi adventure full of great feats by the Hulk and memorable situations and enemies. It ends with a dull story filled with unfortunate stereotypes that is just not an entertaining tale at all.

In the first story we see General “Thunderbolt” Ross showing Bruce Banner and Betty Ross footage of all the ways Hulk has defeated modern military weaponry. General Ross is smart enough to understand he can’t beat Hulk with brute force so he needs some brains behind his plans. That’s where Banner is supposed to come in. He swears he’ll do his best but needs Rick Jones to help. General Ross is not real keen on Rick but he can’t really tell Bruce what to do because apparently he’s only answerable to the president.

We soon switch to a scene of Betty struggling with the fact she loves Bruce but her father hates the man. We then get our first glimpse of the villain here, a man named Tyrannus. He’s got some sort of machine where he can see Betty and he can drink from the fountain of youth far underground. He was banished there by the wizard Merlin. This establishes further magic and lore that will be used in the 616 universe in pages to come.

Not only does Tyrannus have this fountain to drink from he has a legion of loyal minion creatures who seem to worship him. They are able to build machines and weapons for Tyrannus which he uses to trap Betty. He disguises himself as an archeologist but Bruce picks up on it pretty quick. Somehow Tyrannus takes Betty underground and basically Bruce has to become the Hulk to free her.

He has no real trouble getting down there but he’s instantly gassed and knocked out cold. This is still in a period where Hulk has Banner’s brain so he doesn’t just switch from Bruce to Hulk whenever he goes unconscious. Tyrannus uses Hulk as a slave and it’s here underground where we get the very first instance of “gladiator Hulk”. He’s basically dressed up like a Spartan warrior and forced to fight a robot. Hulk easily destroys it but he can’t stop Tyrannus because Betty is still captive. Rick jones sneaks away and frees her though and soon Tyrannus learns he’s messed with the wrong green dude. Throughout the story Hulk has a bit of a harder edge than in previous stories and he’s a little more hateful toward humanity, excepting Rick and Betty. Of course they all get away and live to fight another day.

And so we lead into the next story which starts out fine. General Ross fires an “Iceberg Rocket” which shoots out foam that freezes the Hulk. Unfortunately for Ross Hulk gives off intense body heat, which makes some sense if he’s pretty much gamma powered. That melts the ice and Hulk is free again. He goes back and turns back to Bruce Banner who admits, “Each time I become the Hulk, I grow more and more unwilling to return to my normal self!” As always, Bruce Banner’s truest enemy is himself.

Soon Bruce hears on the radio about a tiny asian village in the principality of Llhasa where a “General Fang” has come to take over. It’s here where the story takes a turn into unfortunate stereotypes of the time and we see some less than flattering imagery of people becoming helpless when an aggressive dictator wants to take over. Hulk hops on an airplane of all things to fly there. He’s discovered on the plane and he and Rick Jones have to jump out the emergency exit. We’ll just assume everyone else on the flight was fine.

As you might predict, Hulk comes and obliterates this army by doing things like blowing wind at them and um… dressing up like the abominable snowman. Yep, apparently General Fang’s forces are more afraid of the abominable snowman than they are of General Fang or the big green dude who literally blew them off their feet a few panels before. Turns out Fang has been winning all his battles by projecting a hologram of a dragon at the opposing forces. Hulk straight up tries to attack it and ends up trapped. Well, no trap holds Hulk for long so he goes back to fighting off this army single handed. He drops Fang off near some U.S. soldiers and that’s that.

It’s not a good Hulk story and it borders on the ridiculous but we haven’t seen the last of the big green guy and he’ll eventually get much better action happening.

Next up on the reading list we’ll be checking in on the Norse god of thunder, Thor, in Journey Into Mystery #88!

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Marvel 616 Comic Book Review – The Incredible Hulk #4

The Incredible Hulk Issue 4 Photo Credit: Marvel

Out of all of the early Marvel 616 comics the one that feels the most soap operatic to me is The Incredible Hulk. The comic has a consistent storyline with the same characters showing up every issue but more than that all of the characters in these pages have fates that seem to be intertwined. Bruce Banner is fated to save Rick Jones just as Rick Jones is fated to stay loyal to both Hulk and Bruce Banner. Meanwhile, Betty Ross is fated to love Bruce but fear the Hulk and she knows there must be some connection with Hulk, Bruce and Rick. And we can’t forget General “Thuderbolt” Ross who loves his daughter and wants to protect her from the Hulk, can’t stand Bruce but puts up with him for his brilliance and because his daughter loves him, and also knows there has to be something more to Rick Jones who just happened to be at the site of a major gamma bomb test. The dynamic of these people will be recycled, reused and looked at in a myriad of ways throughout the continuity of the 616 universe. A lot of times it is endlessly fascinating but there are times when it drags and can be dull. But to make a great Hulk story you need all of these pieces. I think that’s why there has never been a standout Hulk film. How can you show the complexity of Bruce Banner without his connection to Rick Jones? He’s like, the most Marvel character ever, and he has been in exactly zero Hulk movies. He may not be the best character Marvel has but he is downright necessary. This issue continues to cement that, especially in the first story in this issue.

As far as the fourth issue of The Incredible Hulk we get two stories. The first is fully focused on Hulk and Rick. There’s a small recap where Betty Ross thinks about Rick, Hulk, and Bruce but soon we move to the secret lab where Rick is still able to control the Hulk. A little while back, Rick was able to give Hulk mental commands. These come in handy when General Ross tries to track down Rick, possibly even suspecting Rick murdered Bruce. Rick allows Hulk to escape and then gets Hulk to come back and save him from Ross’ clutches. Bruce has a machine which can transform him from Hulk to Bruce and back again. Rick operates the machine but doesn’t quite do it right and Bruce ends up weakened. Bruce then adjusts the controls and gets the idea to have his own brain be inside the powerful form of the Hulk. This is the first time we see this done but it will be far from the last. Even while Bruce has his own thoughts inside Hulk, he gets a bit reckless and aggressive even towards Rick. Rick does lose his ability to control Hulk when this happens. Thus we start questioning where does Bruce stop and Hulk begin? It’s a question the best Hulk comics of all time will also attempt to answer. Of course, in the long run, Bruce goes back to being himself but he’s always been someone who is willing to go too far with science and the reader gets the impression he will not stay Bruce for long.

The second story is a bit of an oddball one. There is an alien named Mongu who comes to earth to challenge Hulk to a fight. A lot of the previous Hulk stories have been about either aliens or communists so this is nothing new. Of course, Bruce changes into the Hulk, but now he can control his own transformation with his machine and doesn’t need Rick to operate it. Hulk goes down to fight the alien to find out… it’s a communist in disguise. So yeah, the alien stories and the communist villains were getting stale so the Marvel solution here is to have communists disguise themselves as aliens. The Hulk straight up destroys these guys with hardly any trouble. In the end we do see Hulk transform back to Bruce and for the second time in the issue Bruce seems really exhausted after his transformation so it clearly signifies that the transformation takes something out of him.

I would say this issue is worth reading but the second story in it is really not that great, although, it’s still fun to see Hulk smash helicopters and whatnot so there is that.

Next on the reading list we’re going back for a visit with the first family of heroes in Fantastic Four #8!

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Marvel 616 Comic Book Review: The Incredible Hulk #3

The Incredible Hulk #3 Photo Credit: Marvel

For two issues we have seen how the Hulk can be a major threat to the population. He is a big, unstoppable, rage machine. On the other hand, mild mannered Bruce Banner is well aware of what he becomes and knows he needs to take precautions to keep the innocent safe. To this end, Bruce has built a nearly indestructible bunker under the sea to keep the monster in at night. But we all know, nearly indestructible is not actually indestructible.

Rick Jones is the only one Bruce trusts enough to make sure Hulk stays in all night and will be there to let Bruce out in the morning. One thing Bruce perhaps didn’t consider was how close to a military base his reinforced bunker was.

General Ross, who is going to be an antagonist of Bruce’s for the whole series, has sent his men to find Rick. It’s well known that Rick and Hulk have a connection and Rick is just the bait Ross needs.

Ross appeals to Rick by telling him Hulk is the only one who can test a rocket for the government. In the days this issue was written, comics writers were not allowed by the Comics Code Authority of America to write anything that might be considered “unpatriotic”. So of course, Rick brings the Hulk along. But not until after Hulk has smashed out of his unbreakable bunker and pounded his way through a group of tanks.

Hulk ends up in the rocket and is launched into space. This is not the first time he was launched into the stars but this does mark the first time he was tricked and sent there to get rid of him. What do you do with a big, unstoppable, rage machine who can break through a bunker made to withstand an atomic blast? Send him to space. This solution will be tried over and over in Marvel 616. It never works for long.

While the ship is in space it gets close enough to the sun that it’s like daylight which brings out Bruce Banner. Then he is immediately hit with rays of radiation. As a story device, this was so it did not have to be night for Hulk to come out. It also loosely ties in to the events of Fantastic Four #1 as these could be the very same rays Reed Richards and company collided with.

In addition, these rays psychically link Rick Jones and Hulk when Rick touches a control to bring the ship back. This is very convenient for the Ringmaster part of the issue later but does come off as fairly silly.

Once Hulk is back he smashes his way through the army and nearly kills Rick. Lucky for Rick he figures out the whole psychic link thing and is able to command the Hulk to go back to his bunker. Why the army isn’t waiting there, since earlier in the issue the said they had the area under surveillance, is beyond me.

The next part of the issue gives us the third telling of the origin of the Hulk. We get to see a tiny bit more of why Rick was there but it’s pretty much the same story from the first two issues. There was a bomb test, Rick was there, Bruce saved his life but the gamma rays created the Hulk.

We are next introduced to The Ringmaster. This is a character that actually shows up in a lot of Marvel 616 books but his first appearance was in this issue. He’s capable of hypnotizing large crowds to be immobile at which point he and his crew of circus performers simply rob the town of all its goods.

Hypnotism was like magic in the 60’s comics and pulp fiction stories. Basically it could make anyone do anything and it was an easy story device.

Well, the Ringmaster comes to the wrong town because this time Rick Jones is in the crowd and he can control a big, unstoppable, rage monster named the Hulk. It’s no match between these circus clowns (pun absolutely intended) and the Hulk. Still, it seems Ringmaster and his crew can hold up a little longer than the army does against the Hulk.

All in all, it’s a fairly standard Hulk issue but it does do a few important things. It shows that Ross is not going to stop hunting the Hulk and he is willing to use dirty tricks to do it. Rick is one of the few people Hulk might actually take orders from, even when not hypnotized. And, we get to see that the Hulk can’t quite fly, but he can leap so far, it’s pretty close to the same thing.

Next on the reading list, we’re going back to ol’ stretcho himself, Reed Richards to check in on the family in Fantastic Four #6.

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Marvel 616 Comic Book Review: The Incredible Hulk Issue #2

The Incredible Hulk Issue #2, Photo Credit: Marvel
The Incredible Hulk Issue #2, Photo Credit: Marvel

The second issue of The Incredible Hulk helps to expand out the Marvel 616 universe. For the first time, more than just superheroes become aware of aliens that might threaten Earth. To be clear, there were plenty of Marvel stories involving aliens before this issue. Still, as far as 616 goes, the public becomes aware of these invasions thanks to the rather forgettable enemy of the Toadmen. These aliens want to invade earth but first want to know how advanced humanity is scientifically. They capture the most brilliant scientific mind they can find who happens to be Dr. Bruce Banner. Now, I think there is an argument that perhaps they should have set their sights on Reed Richards, but this is Hulk’s book, so Bruce is the target.

The issue starts with establishing that the Hulk is known to the public and he is considered a menace. Townsfolk run and hide when they see him coming, they gasp in horror at his appearance. Speaking of his appearance, he is now green like we all think him to be. Hulk does some property damage as truckers plow into him and law enforcement attempts to capture him. They are not successful. The only person that might have a chance at quelling his rampage is Rick Jones. We are treated to a flashback to the previous issue which reminds us how Bruce Banner was changed by an accident involving a Gamma Bomb test. Rick managers to get Hulk away from the crowd and he changes back to Bruce Banner.

Bruce is smart enough to realize he needs to barricade himself every evening to keep the Hulk from going on a total rampage against humanity. He has found a cave with a huge underwater outcropping that he can barricade with a ten-foot thick solid concrete wall. He expects Rick to let him out every morning but more importantly, make sure the Hulk stays in at night. Before they can get set, the Toadmen teleport Bruce and Rick to their ship.

There they tell the pair that the Toadmen are masters of magnetism (a power that will be used to great effect in the pages of The X-Men) and unless Bruce tells them what they want to know they will destroy the earth. This does seem a little backward since they already have the power to threaten the earth. The Toadmen realize Rick is not necessary to their plans so they send him back home. Unfortunately for the Toadmen, they go to the dark side of the earth, and at this point in the series, Bruce changes to Hulk at night. He easily overpowers the aliens and on the tenth page gives us a hint of what horrors could be expected if Hulk’s rage is truly unleashed as he says, “With this flying dreadnaught under me, I can wipe out all mankind! Now the Hulk will be the hunter instead of the hunted.”

Back on earth, General Thunderbolt Ross is ready to shoot down the spaceship. Rick tries to warn the base Bruce is on board but he’s too late. Bruce Banner survives the crash and Ross assumes he is a traitor to the country. While Bruce is imprisoned the Toadmen decide to attack. The world is now aware there are intelligent species from space that have made contact with the earth. This moment is the reason that in 616 continuity, it’s unusual for people to be surprised aliens exist.

Soon Bruce changes back to the Hulk and breaks through the prison walls. Hulk declares Ross to be his enemy as he smashes through the army base. He makes it to Betty Ross’ house and the General is forced to attempt to save her. He wants to try tanks but Rick convinces Ross to let him try reasoning with the creature. Hulk is not having it and knocks Rick down. For the first time, he grabs Betty Ross and leaves the house. Betty tries to ask him why he is doing this and why he hates humans. Hulk’s answer is, “Look what men have done to me!” and goes on to declare, “…now the Hulk will fight back! On my own terms!” This sets up the pattern of the comic for years to come. Humans misunderstand and hound the Hulk until he has had enough and turns on them. He doesn’t harm anyone that we can see but he does do plenty of property damage.

A well-timed attack by the Toadmen allows Hulk to transform back to Bruce Banner at dawn without Betty seeing. He goes from green to gray to his normal human skin tone. Bruce acts quickly and uses one of his Gamma inventions, a ray gun, to stop the aliens. Again we see atomic energy as both blessing and curse here. Bruce defends the planet and even Thunderbolt Ross has to admit that this one time Bruce cleared his own name. He’s still suspicious of both Banner and Hulk though.

At the end of the issue, Hulk is imprisoned for the first time in the cave that Bruce will come back to over and over.

This issue is fairly typical of The Incredible Hulk. The villains are never able to truly outshine the star of this book. Hulk is such a force in and of himself that villains almost feel unnecessary here. The series will continue in this manner for years, although Hulk does get some key moments outside of his own book soon as well.

Next on the reading list is Amazing Adult Fantasy #14 (B Story). (This title will eventually be shortened to Amazing Fantasy).

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Marvel 616 Comic Book Review: The Incredible Hulk Issue #1

The Incredible Hulk Issue #1, Photo Credit: Marvel
The Incredible Hulk Issue #1, Photo Credit: Marvel

There are a few moments in the Marvel 616 universe that are pivotal moments. These moments change the world. One such moment is when four individuals attempted to explore space but flew threw cosmic rays and became four of the most fantastic people on the planet. Another is when a teenage science student attends a science lecture and is bitten by a radioactive spider. There is also an incident in which a young boy will save someone’s life by pushing a stranger out of the way of being hit by a car. This will make the young boy go blind but will also give him heightened senses that allow him to do the most death-defying daredevil stunts ever seen.

A key moment in 616 continuity that is constantly revisited is the moment when Bruce Banner tests a Gamma Bomb for the first time.

On May 1st, 1962, while the country is still worried about nuclear attacks from the Russians, Stan Lee and Jack Kirby unleash a man/monster upon the world who will go on to become one of the most popular Marvel characters of all time.

The issue establishes several essential characters who will not only feature in The Incredible Hulk but will become vital to the entire 616 universe. The events of the day are not in question but the moment Bruce becomes the Hulk will be revisited over and over. Context will be added, small details will be changed. But the basic premise will always remain. Bruce Banner was testing a new kind of bomb. Just before the test was about to happen, a teenager drives out to the testing field. Bruce races to the scene and saves Rick Jones’ life. This will alter the destiny of everyone seen in this first issue of the comic book.

General “Thunderbolt” Ross will dedicate his life to hunting down the Hulk. Betty Ross, Bruce’s love interest will wonder what the connection between Hulk and Bruce is. It’s almost as if she feels the change in the world as in one panel she says, “I feel as though we’re on the brink of some fantastic unimaginable adventure!” Rick Jones will feel he must repay Bruce by protecting Bruce and the Hulk at all costs. This will lead him to eventually connect with most of the Marvel 616 heroes at one point or another.

To this day, things from this first issue continue to be explored in Marvel 616. Hulk appears gray in this issue instead of his iconic green which leads to an epic story arc which will attempt to explain the different shades of color Hulk sometimes appears in. In one panel Lee writes the name given to Bruce Banner’s other self is, “A name which is destined to become–Immortal!” And now, there is a comic book with the title of, The Immortal Hulk, proving Lee to be correct.

What Stan Lee wanted to create with the Hulk was a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hide style character who would look like a man in human form but change to something akin to Frankenstein’s monster when he changed. For all of Lee’s boasting about The Hulk being a new character unlike anything we had ever seen before, he was truly just an amalgamation of Mr. Hyde and Frankenstein’s monster. At least, at the beginning. Somewhat more original was Lee’s take on the Dr. Jekyll side of the creation.

Bruce Banner was working for the good of the world. His G-bomb was going to be something that could defeat the Russians in the cold war and protect democracy. He was an intelligent scientist who had to coexist on an army base with a General who wanted results. Bruce had to be smart enough and tough enough to know who he could give information to and who he had to hide it from.

The only reason Hulk came into being is from Bruce’s altruism. Hulk is born out of a need to help someone else at a great cost. Much like the accident itself, which was no fault of Bruce’s, Hulk has been misunderstood in his pages since the beginning of the comic book.

In this first issue, Bruce, only changes form at night. This will evolve as the series goes on but Bruce does know he cannot allow Hulk to endanger anyone’s life when he changes.

There is an antagonist in this issue in the form of an Iron Curtain operative by the name of The Gargoyle. Like a good majority of Hulk’s enemies, Gargoyle seems insignificant in comparison to the epic rage and drama of the Hulk himself. The Russians are responsible for the test going wrong in the first place. This idea let Stan Lee tap into the fears of the country at the time. The Gargoyle is the leader of the ring of Russian spies responsible. For all his intelligence, The Gargoyle has been hideously deformed. Even his allies fear him. He quickly understands The Hulk could change the cold war in favor of the Soviet Union. He smuggles Rick Jones and Hulk out of the country and behind the Iron Curtain after shooting them with a special chemical to make them compliant. Little does The Gargoyle know that Hulk will change mid-flight back into Bruce Banner. Still, The Gargoyle is no dummy and he realizes he has in his clutches the leading atomic scientist from the U.S. of A,

What turns the issue and changes the story again is Bruce’s altruism. Despite Rick Jones’ protesting, Bruce offers to cure The Gargoyle. The procedure will make The Gargoyle into a normal man once again. It will be at the cost of his intellect but The Gargoyle is comfortable with that. The reason The Gargoyle is what he calls a freak is because of nuclear testing. The Gargoyle, like many of The Hulk’s enemies to come, is a reflection of The Hulk himself. Banner does help Gargoyle and in return, Gargoyle sends Bruce and Rick back to America on his ship.

This issue is memorable for a myriad of reasons. From Kirby’s kinetic artwork that has The Hulk performing amazing feats from crushing guns, single-handed to breaking through walls to the soulful nature of Betty Ross this issue masterfully sets up the corner of the Marvel 616 universe that has to do with atomic energy. Like the splitting of the atom itself, The Hulk is a force to be reckoned with. Used for good it can save humanity. Used for ill, it could be the death of the world.

In my mind, the question of the day readers must have had after this first issue is, “What will we do if the Hulk turns against us?”

It would have been a frightening thought for a kid living at the dawn of the atomic age during the cold war. Thankfully, for us readers, we can still read about the exploits of The Hulk and will continue to do so for decades to come.

There is one other thing I need to note here. With the introduction of Henry Pym in Tales to Astonish #29 and The Hulk’s triumphant yet troubled entrance, we now have 2 of the founding members of The Avengers solidly established in 616 continuity.

Next on the reading list is Tales to Astonish #32 (D Story).

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