Friday, 29 August 2008

Beauty And The Beast!

Incredible Hulk #5, January 1963
(Stan Lee and Jack Kirby)

And we're back, with a look at another one of the earliest appearances of the Green Goliath, the Jade-Jawed Giant, the one, the only, Incredible Hulk!

In this Lee / Kirby classic, the Hulk takes on the mighty Tyrannus, a warlord from beneath the ground, who rules an army of midget super-scientists. Here's Tyrannus' secret origin in three panels...

Snappy and consise, no? But what's all this about using Betty Ross as protection from the Great Satan? Ah well, y'see, Tyrannus has a crystal ball, which he's using to spy on the American army's top scientists, and he's spotted that Betty has the hots for gamma boffin Bruce Banner. By kidnapping Betty, Tyrannus hopes to persuade Banner to help him carry out his scheme to conquer the world. Bit of a shame Tyrannus wasn't able to use his scrying glass to keep a decent eye on Banner, because then he might have noticed Banner's habit of turning into a superstrong giant monster.

Anyway, Tyrannus turns up at army headquarters, passing himself of an archaeologist, and promptly cons Betty into letting him abduct her (naturally, this being sixties Marvel, this is so that Betty can make her dispassionate on-off boyfriend jealous). Banner and kid sidekick, Rick Jones, follow Betty and Tyrannus, who's busy threatening Betty's father, General Thadeus "Thunderbolt" Ross.

Wait a minute, though. I thought Tyrannus was planning to blackmail our hero, Bruce Banner, or is there another interpretation of this earlier panel?

Maybe it's more of a general "love makes my enemies weak" thing? Or maybe Stan's just making it up as he goes along. Anyway, ignoring Tyrannus' somewhat confusing motive, Bruce, upset at his girlfriend being snatched, changes into the Hulk, chases after Tyrannus, who promptly subdues the Big Green One, and lords it over his newest prisoner.

Ah, we're back to the "use Betty to threaten her boyfriend" ruse. Except that Tyrannus doesn't know the Hulk / Banner connection, so really this is Plan C, which involved hoping that the Hulk is a big enough softy to not let an innocent girl die. This comic makes my head hurt...

Fortunately, this is the 60s, and even monsters have a good heart, so the Hulk agrees to fight in Tyrannus' arena, against a big scary fire-breathing robot. This, as you might expect, makes the Hulk angry.

Things go badly for the robot at this point, but Tyrannus still has Betty, so puts the Hulk to work, building bridges and dams. Having gained an endless source of manpower, you'd think Tyrannus would be pleased, eh?

Think again.

And this is why some comics fan prefer modern comics featuring hero-killing bad guys who at least attempt to act rationally to the illogic of scenes like this one.

Anyway, fortunately, Rick Jones shows up, rescues everyone, and the Hulk brings down Tyrannus' little kingdom, dropping his underground castle down on the toda-wearing tyrant. He then spends the second half of this issue rescuing the Dalai Lama from some stereotyped Chinese tinpoint general. Which is about as good as it sounds.

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