Issue(s): Hulk #1
...runs on the test site of his gamma bomb to prevent rebellious orphan Rick Jones from getting hurt, only to be betrayed by Igor (no last name given), who triggers the gamma explosion. Banner screams for hours...
and after finally coming to, he is locked in a room with Rick as the doctors wait to see the effects of the gamma radiation. When the sun goes down, Banner changes into a large grey Frankenstein-like monster, who swats Rick like an insect and then tears out of their prison.
Rick follows the creature to Banner's cabin, where they find Igor searching for Banner's lab notes (which were cleverly hidden under a CLEAR GLASS BEAKER!). The creature smacks Igor around, recoils in fear and disgust at a picture of Bruce Banner, and then turns back into Banner as the sun comes up.
Then the military police arrive and arrest Igor (they knew he was a commie spy). Igor uses a "sub-miniature transistor" hidden in his thumbnail to contact his bosses behind the iron curtain. The message is conveyed to the Gargoyle, a hideous deformed man with a giant brain.
The Gargoyle hears about the Hulk and decides to go to America, launching himself from a nuclear sub in a giant rocket (how this didn't start World War III is not revealed) which is quickly destroyed by what appears to be America's fully functional SDI program.
The top of the missile detatches, however, so the Gargoyle is fine.
Meanwhile, Banner has turned back into the Hulk and is looking for Betty, who immediately faints upon seeing him (Rick, much like Johnny Storm, isn't much for all this mushy girl stuff). General "Thunderbolt" Ross, finding his daughter distraught over her encounter with the Hulk (named by some of the US soldiers that were hunting him), vows to hunt down the creature.
After Rick and Hulk leave Betty, the Gargoyle attacks with a gun that makes everyone his slave. He brings the Hulk and Rick back to Russia. However, upon seeing the Hulk turn back into Bruce Banner, he begins to cry, because he also would like to be normal again, even if it means losing his giant brain. Bruce agrees to help him, and successfully cures him. In return the Gargoyle sends Bruce and Rick back to the US. He then betrays his comrades and destroys the complex, killing himself along with them. Bruce speculates that with the end of the Gargoyle, it may be the end of Red Tyranny as well.
This story is a lot like the amazing fantasies and journeys into mystery that occurred throughout the Monster Age. The difference here is that at the end of this story, the main character is still a monster, and there's going to be an ongoing series about him.
It's also slightly better written, although the art isn't nearly as good. Anyone looking for a story that resembles what most people think of as the Hulk will not find it here, but it's interesting to see how it all starts. The guilt, the anxiety, and the anguish that will become staples of the Hulk series are all here. The Hulk is a dangerous cretin, very similar to the Thing in the early FF but even meaner and stupider.
The scene with Banner getting hit by the radiation blast, screaming, and still screaming hours later is actually pretty effective.
There's a doozy of a panel where Betty goes on about how, unlike in her father's day, there are so many strange, almost supernatural forces all around, she feels as if she's on the brink of some fantastic unimaginable adventure (We can pretend she's talking about all the events from the Monster Age and all the events currently going on in the Fantastic Four, but really, what on Earth was she meant to be talking about?). Her father says "Honey, you just need a little fresh air!".
Quality Rating: C
Chronological Placement Considerations: Considering the comic the Human Torch was reading in FF#5, this issue is probably taking place concurrently with early issues of the FF.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: Marvel Milestones Edition: Incredible Hulk #1
Inbound References (60): show
when betty has her crazy moment, couldn't she be referring to things that happened in FF 1-5 like the miracle man bringing that statue to life and the submariner showing up?
Posted by: min | September 29, 2007 3:21 PM
wow i did not know that the grgoyle was the 1st villain of hulk they should put him in another hulk movie he whould be like a henchmen for the leader. :)
Posted by: thegargoylelizard137 | July 31, 2012 3:00 PM
The Hulk's real name was confirmed as Robert Bruce Banner as least as early as the first(test)issue of the Marvel-sanctioned fanzine Marvelmania(10/69).
Posted by: Mark Drummond | December 22, 2012 6:04 PM
That panel with Betty is great.
Maybe they knew they were creating the Marvel Universe; they knew what they were about to do. In any case, it serves as a perfect statement for a character like that to make in May, 1962. And she would be right.
Posted by: Paul | January 16, 2013 11:50 AM
The letters page in Hulk #4 stated that the grey Hulk was an outright coloring mistake.
Posted by: Mark Drummond | February 3, 2013 7:24 PM
"We can pretend she's talking about all the events from the Monster Age and all the events currently going on in the Fantastic Four, but really, what on Earth was she meant to be talking about?"
I'd assume she was meant to be talking about the typical 50's/early 60's zeitgeist concerning the inevitable wonders of the "Atomic Age" (which would have been around its most positive peak around this time) and the increasing optimism and wonder about the "Space Age" (which had essentially kicked off a few years earlier).
For older men (Stan was 40 and Kirby was 45 at this point), there'd definitely be an awareness of just how much technology had already changed the world post-WWII, and the idea that it would change even more (and always for the better!) in the near future was especially prevalent at the time (and it was an idea especially resonant for writers of sci-fi, fantasy, and "weird" stories). So I could see them basically alluding to the fact that, in a time with seemingly "magical" things like dishwashers, rocket launches, color TVs, satellites, the earliest laser beams, actual scientists predicting that someday everyone would have their VERY OWN PERSONAL COMPUTER(!), and a President promising to LAND MEN ON THE MOON(!!!), so many phenomenal and unexpected wonders seemed to be happening every day, what was one more thing? How was a man turned into a monster by radiation any more astonishing than the first successful organ transplants from deceased donors,
Sure, most of that sounds incredibly mundane to us now (though we'd still be pretty freaked out by radioactive monster men), but we're also a much more jaded, cynical culture than existed in the early 60's. We take a lot more for granted than people who were still astonished by the fact that you could launch human beings into Earth orbit and bring them back alive.
It's a stretch to assume that they were talking about the nascent dawning of the "Marvel Universe" at this point, if only because, apart from Spider-Man (who was seemingly supposed to be little more than a throw-away character at that point anyway) and Thor (both of whom would debut about three months later), most of the other major characters were still a year or so away (and likely not even conceived yet). And apart from Namor, there doesn't seem to be any overt connection between the various comics and characters until a year later, when Avengers debuts (one could argue that Johnny reading the issue of Hulk in FF was meant to imply that the Hulk was a fictional character in the FF's world).
That being said, it probably wasn't a deliberate reference to the "Monster Age" either, because that was never really meant to BE a thing until later writers retroactively made it part of the Marvel universe by mining the old Atlas and "Independent" comics for ideas.
Posted by: ParanoidObsessive | July 19, 2014 7:22 PM
I think Betty was making more of an informed comment about technological innovation, via Lee and Kirby. They were born into a world that didn't have refrigerators, washing machines, they got their entertainment from radio, and the download speed for porn was truly horrible.
Now, although Lee and Kirby were in their 40s, they were in the Space Age. Even better, they were in the Dawn of the Space Age, where a new and better rocket was being released as often as a new world-changing gadget was released when they were kids, and they were both more than capable of realizing how the world had changed, and how it would continue to change, and surprisingly accurate about some of the ways it did. To make a DC reference, a cell phone isn't much different from a Mother Box. It's small, portable, and can do everything from ordering a pizza to showing you a movie, just by touching the screen. And almost no one who has one is willing to "cut the cord."
I see Betty's comments made in that light, when cavalry or infantry could solve all the major problems. Didn't keep the lights on, or the plumbing, and the porn downloads still took ages, but she accurately describes a world that had been changing for decades and would continue to do so. And now the Hulk is the star of one of the biggest movies of all time.
Posted by: ChrisW | July 23, 2014 10:38 PM
The comment also sort of takes the 'positive' spin on that aspect that everything that is done through technology is going to be wonderful and there will be no problems and humanity can only go up. I sort of see it similar to the song "I.G.Y." by Donald Fagan, which was about this whole feeling that the Space Age was the path to a hopeful, good future and that there will be no problems as long as men of capabilities are able to solve all the problem that face us, unknowing of the horrors of the same technology and that the world is not as naive and innocent as one would want it to be. (but then again Fagan obviously wrote the song with a bit of irony since that album, "The Nightfly" was sort of just about the various sides of the 1950s/early 1960s and this song was how people just had this feeling of hope at the time that the worst was over with and that everything was going to be good and positive and helpful forever unknowing of what was to come)
Then again that panel lead to me actually submitting a great gag for "Atop the 4th Wall" about how gammafied Ross and Betty become themselves.
Posted by: Ataru320 | July 24, 2014 8:22 AM
Original Sin Iron Man vs. Hulk retcons the hulks origin
Posted by: doomsday | September 1, 2014 7:05 PM
I finally saw "The Amazing Colossal Man" yesterday (the MST3K version) and that felt very much a major influence on this movie (well among other atomic mutation movies; but this in particular) It was all there: a test of a new nuclear weapon, a military man running out to a nuclear blast to save someone (who may not have even been there in the movie), the man gaining a power that makes him become supremely powerful but a freak and slowly lose control of both his body and mind while having a traumatic past of sorts, the worrywart fiance (which at least here was more associated with the general making it way easier to depict)...yeah the Hulk doesn't become a rampaging simple monster until the mid-60s but somehow with the way this movie ended up, it was very much similar. I doubt having him become a random bald guy would have worked for Bruce Banner, though.
Posted by: Ataru320 | October 4, 2015 7:00 AM
A fun 'Jekyll & Hyde meets the Atomic Age' story but I think it's one of the weaker first appearances of any of the classic Marvel heroes. That Cold War stuff with Gargoyle is classic, though.
Posted by: Robert | January 23, 2016 11:49 PM
Ross started off a lot like JJJ in Spider-Man, almost no character to him. Ross started to become more reasonable around the time that one strong rubber android was fighting the Hulk. It was very 'I leave to you Ross if we should pardon the Hulk' and Ross was debating it before Boomerrang made the Hulk rampage.
It's a shame the Incredible Hulk took the Betty and Ross here when Ang Lee's Hulk had more nuanced versions.
Posted by: david banes | May 2, 2016 3:27 PM
Ross started to become crazier and more obsessed when Englehart started writing him. Really, it was due to changing attitudes toward the military as a result of the Vietnam War. In the early '60's, the military was still held in high esteem- most people in Stan's generation had served in the military and Eisenhower was the most popular man in America. The Vietnam War left people more cynical toward the military.
Posted by: Michael | May 2, 2016 9:17 PM
Betty is beautiful in that panel... also, she sounds quite crazy :)
Posted by: Piotr W | May 2, 2016 10:03 PM
I love Reinman's inks on Kirby, esp.the faces. Not only Betty here (and Jean and Wanda in the early X-Men issues), but look at that fourth panel above and that Brandoesque Hulk.
Posted by: Shar | May 3, 2016 1:49 PM
I like to think of Betty's "craziness" as just foreshadowing for the series premise. The Hulk is supposed to be Atomic Age Jekyll & Hyde. He's a concept where humanity meets science and horrible occurrences are oncoming. In early Stan and Jack books, women, like the Wasp, were "super sensitive to stimuli." Betty, not as bright as the Wasp, nevertheless senses the future here and it's not a good thing. She's completely correct, in a literal and metaphysical context. She's about to get frightened out of her wits, the title she's appearing in will be cancelled in 6 issues, plus when it returns, she will never know any happiness with either Banner or second choice Glenn Talbot, leading her to eventually go crazy. So much of the universe and premise building Stan and Jack did were in scenes like this. Yes, she seemed crazy, but no one sane would have stuck around for the soap opera torment to come.
Posted by: Brian C. Saunders | June 1, 2016 1:53 AM
I had the same thought as Piotr W, about Betty's loveliness in those panels above. A rather distinctive look, too. John Byrne would pick up on the round face and slender build during his '80s Hulk run.
In fact, when he reintroduces Betty in that run, doesn't Byrne adapt that very panel, with Betty in the foreground and a man reaching out from behind her? But a different character (a fly-by-night boyfriend) replaces Gen. Ross in that instance.
Posted by: ChrisZ | June 2, 2016 12:02 PM
This issue has some great art, though it´s a bit lacking in backgrounds. Love the panels of the Hulk crushing that gun, or the panels of shadow passing over Banner's face. I also really like the thuggish nature of the Hulk here. The story though... Stan should've done what he did with the introduction of Spider-Man: focus on the characters, the emotions and the moral. Keep the Commies out of it!
Posted by: Berend | December 1, 2016 3:42 PM
It just occurred to me that when producer Kenneth Johnson created the 70's Hulk TV show, he changed "Bruce Banner" to "David Banner" because he thought the alliteration was too comic-book-y, but his star had the very alliterative real name of Bill Bixby. That's irony, or something...
Posted by: Andrew | February 11, 2017 8:30 PM
The commonly heard story back then was that Bruce became David because "Bruce" was supposedly applied to gay men.
Posted by: Mark Drummond | February 12, 2017 1:23 PM
I remember. That rumor was persistent enough that they made fun of it in Mad magazine, pointing to Olympic gold medal winner Bruce Jenner as an icon of masculinity. In retrospect, maybe they should have gone with Bruce Lee. Of course, the calumny against the name "Bruce" started with Frederic Wertham and his contention that Batman was a (latent?) pedophile.
Posted by: Andrew | February 12, 2017 5:08 PM
Since we all know that guts who are perceived as particularly masculine can't possibly be homosexual (sarcasm... if that wasn't obvious), we should mention Bruce Willis and Bruce Campbell as (somewhat) more current. (But who's more current than Caitlyn Jenner, really?)
Let's also not forget Springsteen. And recalling that, I always thought that Rick Springfield song "They Call Me 'Bruce'" was complaining about being mistaken for "The Boss" (He wishes!) Maybe it was about being perceived as gay?
Posted by: Ubersicht | February 12, 2017 10:53 PM
I'm somewhat familiar with American gay history, and for reasons that are probably lost to time, back then the name Bruce was indeed associated with homosexuality, both in gay and straight circles. And I don't think it's because of Wertham or Batman? For example, the queer moviemaker Bruce laBruce chose his pseudonym because of that connotation.
Posted by: Tuomas | February 13, 2017 5:30 AM
I have my doubts that Wertham's book had that much of an impact on American culture as a whole that it could have begun the "Bruce=Gay" thing all by itself.
Posted by: Mark Drummond | February 13, 2017 10:52 AM
There is an interview with Kenneth Johnson in Back Issue #70 in which he unfortunately reveals a very contemptuous dismissal of the Marvel Comics source material. Johnson's whole attitude towards working on the TV show can basically be summed up by him stating that he succeeded in making an intelligent, quality television series in spite of the fact that it was based on a stupid, childish comic book, or words to that effect.
Posted by: Ben Herman | February 13, 2017 1:27 PM
I still think this origin story holds up reasonably well on re-read. But # 2-6, not so much.
I disagree, though, with the characterization of early Hulk as a 'dumb cretin'. Early Hulk is certainly savage and brutish, and even downright evil at times (an approach I'm glad they quickly got rid), but the 'dumb' Hulk really didn't materialize until Ditko's Tales to Astonish version imo.
Posted by: intp | September 21, 2017 3:51 PM
Mark Drummond: Banner refers to himself as Dr. Robert Bruce banner in TTA 59.
Posted by: Jay Phillips | September 25, 2017 9:30 PM
Brian Cronin covered this in a Comic Book Urban Legends Revealed column in 2005. After Stan Lee mistakenly referred to the Hulk's alter ego as Bob Banner throughout a Fantastic Four vs. the Hulk two-parter (FF #25-26), he decided to make the new name official in the FF #28 letters page: "There’s only one thing to do-we’re not going to take the cowardly way out. From now on his name is Robert Bruce Banner-so we can’t go wrong no matter WHAT we call him!”
Posted by: Haydn | October 14, 2017 1:53 AM
On the subjects of Banner's name and Kenneth Johnson (TV Hulk's Executive Producer/Writer/Director), I recently discovered this "Hulk documentary" on youtube, in which the high-mindedly literate Mr. Johnson speaks unpretentiously and at some length about his disdain for comic books. In particular, the subject of Banner's name comes up within the first minute or two of the docu-thing. Please let me partially quote him, in case the link gets broken:
"...I just don't connect to people in spandex and primary colors, and my wife Suzie had given me a book, and I was in the middle of reading it, and this is Victor Hugo's Les Miserables... so I had all of that sort of Victor Hugo story in my head, and I realized there was a way to take a little bit of Victor Hugo, a little bit of Robert Louis Stevenson, and this ludicrous thing called the Incredible Hulk, and turn it into a serious psychological adult drama. I wanted it to not be comic-booky in any way. One of the 1st things I did was change David Banner's name from Bruce Banner. Why? Because the Bruce Banner thing is like Lois Lane, Peter Parker, it's all alliterative, and it all harkens back to comic book roots, and I was trying to do everything I could to get the show away from comic book roots and that kind of feeling. The show had to live in the real world. I fought endlessly, and unfortunately lost the battle, about the color of the Hulk. I called Stan Lee..."
Posted by: Holt | October 14, 2017 7:32 AM
"... who was a wonderful guy, and I said, 'Stan, what is he? The envious Hulk? Why is he green? Is he the jealous Hulk?' You know? I said, 'When people are angry, they get red with rage, y'know, the color of rage is red. He would be flushed with anger. And also, P.S., of course, it's a human color. Green is not, so I was anxious to try to pull it that way,' and Stan said, 'Well, you know why we made him green was because he started out gray, but the printer couldn't make a good gray, and I thought he could make a pretty consistent green, so they said we could make green,' and I said, 'OK,' and I said, 'Gee, Stan, that's really organic.' You know? And I couldn't win that battle. So the Hulk unfortunately had to remain green..."
So it goes... on. What an obvious pity that Johnson, who was 19 going on 20 in 1962, couldn't have been the one to create the Hulk in the first place, so he could have been red, and a character who was rage-driven, right from the get-go. According to Wikipedia, Johnson also created the Bionic Woman TV show, and the TV adaptation of Alien Nation, both of which, like the Incredible Hulk, sprung entirely from his own brow, were non-derivative of anything else, and which own nothing at all to any previous work, except possibly Hugo and/or Stevenson.
If only *I* had created the Hulk, perhaps he would have remained... gray. More's the pity.
Posted by: Holt | October 14, 2017 8:08 AM
The unreal elements of superheroes help them catch our imaginations. At the same time, we respond to reality in fiction. We like a mix.
I think the positive associations of green also helped readers accept him as the good guy at a subliminal level.
Posted by: Luke Blanchard | October 14, 2017 9:06 AM
@ Holt -
The Bionic Woman, as a spin-off, is by definition, derivative.
Posted by: Erik Beck | October 14, 2017 9:07 AM
@ Erik Beck, I totally agree. In my admittedly pathetic efforts at simultaneously trying to be sarcastic, while at the same time, trying to not seem overly bitter about it, I usually fall flat on my face, especially in the absence of vocal delivery. The ability to do that effectively is probably beyond my capabilities. IMO Harlan Ellison has a similar problem. Sarcasm is really not my strongest forte, nor, IMO, Ellison's. I should probably try to quit doing it.
On a similar note, while I was transcribing that interview, it became increasingly apparent to me that it was likely to read differently than it sounded to me in the interview. What I took to be Johnson's mocking disregard for his source material is much easier to perceive by listening to it than by reading it.
Posted by: Holt | October 14, 2017 9:35 AM
Dick Briefer drew a "Frankenstein" feature for Prize in the 1940s that started as a horror feature and evolved into a comedic one. During the 1950s horror boom he did a new horror version.
It's my guess THE INCREDIBLE HULK was intended to fill the gap in the market Briefer's feature had occupied, and the Hulk was conceived as an Atom Age version of the monster. I think his alter ego was devised by combining him with the Wolf Man. His origin was apparently taken from THE AMAZING COLOSSAL MAN, as Ataru noted, and that had the effect of connecting him to the military.
Posted by: Luke Blanchard | October 14, 2017 9:46 AM
@ Holt - My bad. I thought you were being serious (and I think there are people who would make that comment seriously). You're right - sarcasm can be very hard to convey but re-reading your comment, it should have been more obvious to me.
Posted by: Erik Beck | October 14, 2017 11:53 AM
@ Erik - Really it's my own fault, and I shouldn't expect others to read what I write all that carefully. I'm starting to think disingenuity might be contagious to me; I do respect Kenneth Johnson's work, particularly on the Hulk TV show, but he was starting to get to me because of the way he kept referring to the Hulk character as if it was his own private creation in that video, right up to the end. In this instance maybe I can cop to blaming me on him ;) *rolls eyes*
In the future I'll make a better effort to stick with sincerity in my posts. I think I remember fnord suggesting we use something like [sarcasm on] and [sarcasm off] tags when we can't resist the temptation, and that's pretty good advice. I'll do my best to follow it from now on.
Posted by: Holt | October 14, 2017 12:33 PM
@Holt: I think Marvel was on to something about protecting their creations from Johnson as you think. Heck, one theory about why the She-Hulk was created was the fear that he was going to do a "Bionic Woman" treatment with the Hulk. Considering how even the big green original was sort of treated this way based on what you've said, I'm just happy Marvel was able to make Jen first to protect her from whatever he wanted to do with her.
Posted by: Ataru320 | October 15, 2017 8:18 AM
@ Ataru320, I like Bionic Woman over $6M Man, largely because my affinity for Lyndsay Wagner exceeds anything I ever felt for Lee Majors. It's partly because I'm a guy, I guess, but she's also a more compelling actor IMO. Plus, Majors' human arm should've ripped right out of its socket in every other episode, but I can imagine steel struts binding Wagner's metal arms and legs together under her skin. All of this is beside the point however.
I also like Walters, at least as far as Byrne presented her, but, like Samson and other greenies, she robs Banner of much of his original uniqueness. I feel that every subsequent writer (& plotter) has taken Banner further away from his original premise. An important idea that's been almost completely lost is that Banner's a noble hero of great valor in his own right. This is a guy who was willing to sacrifice his life for a stranger without hesitation, even while military men who presumably should've been more heroic remained cowering in a bunker during what everyone believed would be a certain-death radioactive-bomb explosion. Rick Jones stayed loyal to Banner not only because he felt indebted but also because he knew the extent of Banner's own personal and innate heroism. Ross & Talbot looked right past it but Jones didn't.
None of this is present in Johnson's Banner. Modern comics writers have it, but they've all but forgotten it. Banner's now presented as a psychologically damaged character, a valid premise but not the same premise.
Posted by: Holt | October 15, 2017 4:36 PM
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