“The Terror of the Toad Men!”
Cover Date: July 1962
Writer: Stan Lee
Penciller: Jack Kirby
Inker: Steve Ditko
Cover Artists: Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko
What’s Going On?
An alien race, the Toad Men, plans to conquer the Earth. Before they do that, though, they want to get some intelligence regarding how advanced Earthling technology is; to this end, they kidnap Bruce Banner because he is “the most brilliant scientific brain on Earth.”
Banner transforms into the Hulk in the spaceship and easily defeats the Toad Men. Before he can do anything else, the Army notices the UFO and shoots their ship down. The Toad Men on the ship escape unseen and signal their fleet to attack the Earth. Despite being accused of treason by General Ross (for…flying a UFO, I guess?), Banner figures out a way to defeat the Toad Men fleet and saves the day.
Is It Good?
Not really, but it is interesting from a historical perspective. The Hulk seems to be developing into an outright villain, while Banner is being given all the opportunities for heroism. This is definitely more Jekyll & Hyde than the “classic” version of the character, where the Hulk is at least somewhat sympathetic. I’m also not a fan of Hulk going into space, but that’s just a personal preference. With regards to the art, the most obvious change in this issue is the change from grey skin to green for the Hulk. Less obvious, but more impressive, is Steve Ditko’s detailed inking of Kirby’s pencils. I really like the combination of Kirby’s dynamic characters with Ditko’s details. The Hulk is far more expressive in this issue than ever before.
- After overcoming the Toad Men on the UFO, the Hulk’s first thought was to use the weapons on the ship to conquer Earth for himself! Luckily, General Ross’ men shot the ship down before the Hulk could act.
- General Ross continues to be rude to Banner, to the point of arresting him for treason.
- Bruce and Rick set up a secret bunker to contain the Hulk at night. Bruce will lock himself in at dusk, and Rick will free him in the morning.
- The Toad Men identify Bruce Banner as Earth’s greatest scientific mind. While Banner is usually on the shortlist of smartest humans, Reed Richards usually is credited as the smartest, so that is interesting.
- The Hulk uses a gun in this issue. I’m guessing that this will rarely happen going forward.
- The Hulk’s skin has changed from grey to green with no explanation.
- The Hulk’s purple pants make their debut
- This is the first (maybe only?) appearance of the Toad Men
Comics Are Goofy:
- I am not confident that magnetic fields work the way the Toad Men think they work.
- Banner transforms into the Hulk in space when they reach the “dark side of the Earth.” Night and day operate a little differently in space, so I’m intrigued by the arbitrary nature of Hulk’s transformation here.
- General Ross is worried about his daughter being alone in a house with the Hulk. Naturally concerned with her safety, he sends in…a tank?
- To defeat the Toad Men, Banner uses his gamma gun. Two things about that: 1) He made a gamma gun? Is that ever mentioned again? 2) Apparently, the gamma gun has unpredictable results when used against the Toad Men’s technology. So let’s use it on an invading fleet, sure. What’s the worst thing that could happen? Answer: the aliens could turn into Hulks.
- Banner’s gamma gun is fired once, and hits…a magnetic energy field that…um…repels every ship in the fleet into deep space…forever? Like, they will never regain control of their ships? Did Banner cripple a space empire with one shot?
Behind the Scenes:
- While there was no in-story explanation for the change in the Hulk’s skin tone, the Internet seems to widely accept the following: The original idea was to have the Hulk a distinctive color — anything but orange, because the Thing was already orange — and Stan Lee picked grey. Wikipedia states that this is because Lee did not want to tie Hulk to a particular ethnicity with the color, and that might be true; Stan has a tendency to change his own history in the retelling though, so who knows how accurate that is. Regardless, according to Brian Cronin’s Comic Book Legends Revealed, it appears that the low quality ink and paper stock Marvel was using led to some colors (like grey) being difficult to reproduce consistently; in the first issue, Hulk would appear darker, lighter, and even greenish from page to page. Since they couldn’t control the color easily, Marvel opted to change him to a color they could reproduce: green.