Friday, 29 August 2008

The Coming Of The Hulk!

Incredible Hulk #1, May 1962
(Stan Lee and Jack Kirby)

And we're off, with the second of Marvel's superhero launches. Like the FF, this was an optimistic attempt at a new number #1 issue, without having tested the water first. Unlike the FF, this was to prove a bit of a miscalculation, lasting only six issues before vanishing into the ether. However, that's yet to come, and today we're here to look at the very first appearance of the Green, er, Grey Goliath.

Our tale begins out in the Arizona desert, where a team of scientists are working on a new type of explosive, the gamma bomb.

For anyone who might think that the whole Frankenstein influence was something that came along later, you'll note the name of Dr Banner's assistant, yeah?

Anyway, as Dr. Banner was saying, here comes General Thadeus "Thunderbolt" Ross, a well-rounded, three-dimensional military type.

And yes, folks, that's Ross's daughter, Miss Betty Ross, who, being a woman in a 60s comic, is naturally spellbound by the hero of the book. We'll be seeing more of Miss Ross over the years.

So, we're on course for the first test of the gamma bomb, and all's going well. But, wait! What's this?

You see Igor scratching his chin thoughtfully. That, in comics' terms, means he's a bad guy. In this case, he's a spy for the "reds", here to steal the formula for the gamma bomb. Anyway, Banner jumps into a jeep, and races out to the bomb site (apparently on a base full of soldiers, no-one else is available to perform last minute rescues), where he intercepts the misplaced teenager and hurls him into a safety trench.

Ouch, that's gotta hurt. Anyway, remarkably, Dr Banner survives the explosion. In fact, he appears entirely unaffected by all that pesty gamma radiation, which must come as a disappointment to the military types waiting for their latest WMD to be unveiled. Banner and his new pal, soon-to-become-perennial-teen-sidekick, Rick Jones, are kept locked up while the powers-that-be try to puzzle out where all that radiation went. But, as the sun sets, the geiger counter in Banner's cell suddenly springs into life...

The big gray monster which Banner has transformed into doesn't take kindly to being locked up, and promptly escapes, smashing down the wall of his cell and pegging it, with Teen-Sidekick Rick in tow. Naturally, the military pursue him, and even take the time to christen this mysterious creature.

So, the Hulk, then, goes to Banner's house, just in time to apprehend Igor in the process of stealing the gamma bomb formula. In the process, the Hulk sees a strangely familiar picture.

Does anyone else find it a might odd that Bruce Banner keeps a picture of himself in his house? Cheaper than a mirror, I suppose. After beating up Igor, the Hulk calms down a bit, just in time for the sun to come up and transform him back into Dr. Banner. The scientist is a bit alarmed at the prospect of spending the rest of his nights turning into a monster.

Big girl's blouse. Anyhoo, although safely locked up, Igor manages to send a message to his red masters, who send for their top agent, the Gargoyle!

Almost as ugly too, mate. The Gargoyle hops into a rocket and jets across the Atlantic, where he proceeds to abduct the Hulk (and his sidekick, naturally) and brings him home to Mother Russia. Of course, by the time they get behind the Iron Curtain, the sun has risen, and the Hulk has transformed back into Bruce Banner. Figuring out the Hulk / Banner connection, the Gargoyle has an epiphany.

Banner successfully reverses the condition which made the Gargoyle a monster. The Gargoyle sees the error of his ways, and helps Banner and Rick escape, before blowing himself and his commie masters up.

Well, you never know...

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