Following on from the success of the Fantastic Four, Marvel decided to add to their pantheon of characters by introducing the Incredible Hulk in May, 1962. Let’s take a look at his comic debut.
The story begins at an army testing facility in the desert. We learn that a Dr Bruce Banner is about to test a gamma-bomb, but not all of the army personnel are in favour due to the apparent dangers. It becomes clear that Dr Banner has not informed his clients of all the details about the test, including the “secret of the gamma ray“. The test is delayed while Dr Banner makes some last-minute checks, much to the annoyance of the soldiers on sight, including one “Thunderbolt” Ross.
Ross’s daughter, Betty, comes to Bruce’s defence. It’s finally time for the test to go ahead. Bruce’s colleague, Igor, again asks him to reveal the secrets of the gamma ray. He explains that nobody has checked Bruce’s work, and if a mistake is made, many millions of people will suffer. Bruce retaliates by saying that he does not make errors.
The countdown begins, only for Bruce to notice that a teenager in a car has driven into the test area. Bruce tells Igor to delay the test while he speeds off to stop the teenager from being harmed. Unfortunately for Bruce, Igor decides against delaying the test…
Bruce manages to get to the teenager and warns him about the bomb. The teenager escapes but Bruce is still in the test area when the bomb explodes, enveloping him in gamma rays.
Hours later, Bruce is still screaming but appears to have survived the blast. We then learn that the teenager, Rick Jones, brought Bruce back to the army base. As darkness falls, both Bruce and Rick are still being kept on the base. Just then, Bruce begins to fell strange and starts to hear a ticking sound. Bruce then unbelievably changes before Rick’s eyes into a monster. The monster swats Rick away and then smashes his way out of the cell they were being kept in. He then destroys an army vehicle and strides off into the desert night.
The army immediately starts to search for the creature. The monster keeps on moving, closely followed by Rick. The monster is making his way back home. He walks into his cabin, only to find Igor there searching for Bruce’s gamma ray formula. Igor shoots the monster, but he doesn’t flinch. He crushes Igor’s gun in his bare hands and then throws Igor across the room. In doing so, he knocks a glass beaker over, and taped to the bottom of it is Bruce’s secret formula.
Rick manages to get the monster to stop attacking Igor by mentioning Bruce Banner. The monster then sees a picture of Bruce and Rick explains to him that before he became a monster, he was Bruce Banner. He slowly starts to remember as the sun starts to rise in the distant. And then, the monster transforms back into Bruce. At that point, the army, with General Ross and Betty in tow enter Bruce’s cabin looking for “The Hulk”.
Rick persuades the soldiers that Bruce is not the Hulk and they soon leave, leaving only Betty and Rick behind. Betty apologises for her father’s behaviour. Betty then leaves and Bruce explains to Rick that he thinks he will again turn into the Hulk when night falls.
The story switches to the cell that Igor is being held in, and we learn that he is a spy with some form of miniature communication device on his nail that allows him to send messages behind the “iron curtain“. The message is received by soldiers and passed on to The Gargoyle! He immediately gets into a sub and sets course for America. Upon nearing his destination, .the sub fires a man-carrying rocket, with the Gargoyle inside. The missile is soon destroyed, but not before the Gargoyle is able to land safely.
Meanwhile, Rick and Bruce are driving away when night descends and the change occurs. The car crashes and the Hulk sets out on foot to find Betty. Rick tries to stop him, all while they are both being watched from a distance by the Gargoyle. The Hulk finds Betty outside, contemplating, but his appearance causes her to faint. Just then, the Gargoyle makes his move. The Gargoyle has a gun with a special pellet inside. Upon being hit by the pellet, the victim will fall under the Gargoyle’s control. He fires the gun at the Hulk and Rick, but does not notice Betty on the ground.
The Gargoyle leads both the Hulk and Rick to a secret plane, and they fly back to Russia. However, by the time they land, it is daytime again and the Hulk has turned back into Bruce. The effects of the pellet have worn off but it doesn’t take long for the Gargoyle to work out that Bruce is the Hulk. The Gargoyle cannot understand why Bruce would want to be the Hulk, as he does not want to be the Gargoyle. Bruce explains that he can cure the Gargoyle, by using radiation. The treatment is successful and the Gargoyle transforms into a man.
The Gargoyle returns the favour by helping Bruce and Rick escape. As they fly off in the Gargoyle’s rocket, they see an explosion down below and know that it is the end of the Gargoyle.
There’s lots to talk about in this first issue. Firstly, the introduction of so many well-know characters: Bruce Banner, Rick Jones, General “thunderbolt” Ross, Betty Ross and of course, the Hulk.
What’s interesting is that there are many details about the Hulk which are either not consistently used, or are no longer considered part of the character. The first and most obvious are his colour. When he first appears on page 5, he appears blue or grey, rather than the traditional Hulk. And the fact that the change was controlled by the sun or moon was a surprise.
It’s also clear that the Hulk is intelligent, but does not necessarily appear to have access to all of Bruce’s memories. Many of these issues will be further developed in later issues.
Writer – Stan Lee
Artist – Jack Kirby
Cover date – May 1962
Cover price – 12c
At the time of publishing, the most expensive listing for Incredible Hulk 1 is a staggering $33,995 on eBay.
The next reviews in our chronological look at the Marvel superheroes will be:
Fantastic Four 5
The Incredible Hulk 2
Journey into Mystery 83
We will also be taking a detour to start our retrospective review of the 1977 Marvel Star Wars series.