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Wednesday, October 10, 2007
Golden Oldie: The Incredible Hulk # 3
Hey, see if this sounds familiar: The Hulk gets tricked into a missile and launched into outer space, while an authority figure looks on and exults, "We've done it! It worked! It's the end of the Hulk! He'll never return alive to menace Earth again!"
If you said, "Sure, that sounds like the start of the Planet Hulk storyline that eventually brought us to the current World War Hulk epic where ol' Greenskin returns to Earth in order to have his revenge on those who sent him away!" then you'd be right... and wrong! The scene in question is from The Incredible Hulk # 3, from a mind-numbing 45 years ago! That's right, September 1962's 3rd appearance of the Hulk used that very same mechanism as the springboard for its story, which involved a much shorter stay in space for its title character - approximately 3 pages - while also introducing a change in the ground rules for the book. Up until that point, which is to say for the first two issues of the series, there was a clear delineation point between Bruce Banner and his monstrous alter-ego, with the former presiding during daylight and the latter busting loose at night (perhaps inspired by Wolfman antics). Here, as a result of his trip into space and corresponding irradiation, the Hulk took over full-time, with no sign of scrawny Banner to be found except in flashbacks.
And speaking of flashbacks, I guess Stan Lee figured readers might've already forgotten how the Incredible One came to be all those (two) issues ago, since he provided a recap of that tale here in # 3! I would've called that the quickest retelling of an origin ever, except that I'm pretty sure Peter Parker recalled his own date with destiny in Amazing Spider-Man # 1, the immediate follow-up to Amazing Fantasy # 15! And we think kids have Attention Deficit Disorder today!
The Incredible Hulk # 3 was fun no matter how you slice it, though, as young sidekick Rick Jones ended up in command of the Hulk, once again thanks to the mysterious and inexplicable effects of that outer space radiation! You might expect that he'd have taken the man-monster and paid a visit to that annoying bully who always tormented him in 10th grade, but no, he simply locked the brute away while he went off to visit his Aunt Polly and take in a circus show!
Of course, it's never just a circus show in the Marvel Universe - even back then! - as the evil Ringmaster was hyp-mo-tizing everyone in town and then robbing them blind. It wasn't long before Rick, the Hulk, and two FBI agents who'd been following a trail of bizarre crimes around the countryside all converged on the Ringmaster's scheme, at which point hilarity - in the form of trained elephants, tent posts and humans shot out of cannons - ensued!
Though I've never been a big Jack Kirby fan, and probably never will be, I do have to admit that his rough, blocky style perfectly suited these early issues of The Incredible Hulk and Fantastic Four. Everyone in this comic looks like they were cut out of granite, and that's somehow appropriate with a giant green monster, a hellfire Army general, and a kid who you just know has spent most of his life running away from home. Unfortunately, there aren't many of the big, dynamic splash pages that I usually expect to find in a Kirby comic, and in fact many of the pages sport up to eight panels on them (no wonder it took me twice as long to read as one of its modern counterparts!)
I think my favourite shot of the whole package is the cover, with that squinty-eyed, square-browed Hulk pretending like "he can fly!!" when in fact it's pretty clearly stated inside that he's only jumping really high. I wonder how many kids got suckered into buying this gem back in '62 because they actually thought they were going to see somebody fly? OK, maybe not, considering how many DC characters were already doing that at the time. But still! How about a little truth in advertising, Marvel?!
I'll also shamefully admit that I initially misread the word "FLICKER" as it appeared in the comic, almost causing me to spit Dr Pepper all over it! (Slight exaggeration, for effect only. No actual Silver Age comics were harmed.) That experience did remind me, though, of that old comic book legend that maintained that writers were not to use the words "FLICK" or "CLINT" (or variations thereof) in any of their stories, for obvious reasons. I guess Stan didn't get that memo! Eventually, of course, the printing quality improved enough that they could start running that risk.
When it's all said and done, this was a great read, and every bit worth the much-more-than-12-cents I paid for it recently! Now I just have to get issues 1 and 2 and I'll have finally filled out my run of The Incredible Hulk after all these years!