Incredible Hulk (Vol. 1) 1962 Year in Review

Image from The Jack Kirby Museum, taken from some unused 1962-era pages that Larry Lieber had kept after Kirby angrily trashed them.

How Many Issues?

Incredible Hulk #1-4 were released in 1962. It was published bimonthly.

Creative Team:

Writer: Stan Lee (#1-4)

Penciller: Jack Kirby (#1-4)

Inkers: Paul Reinman (#1), Steve Ditko (#2), Dick Ayers (#3-4)

Was It Good?

No, it really wasn’t, and I think the creators knew it. In only four issues, a lot of significant changes are tried, and I sense a bit of desperation in that. Is the Hulk smart or dumb? How is the transformation from Banner to Hulk and back triggered? What color is the Hulk’s skin? These are all things that change from issue to issue, and the stories — two involves sending the Hulk into space, and two involved Communists — don’t seem suited to the horror comic that Stan Lee kind of, sort of, wants to be making. The Hulk’s disdain of normal humans (in #1 & 2) is a very interesting idea, but we don’t ever get to a situation where Banner’s humanity and Hulk’s sinister plans are in conflict; by the next issue, Hulk is devoid of personality, so the point is moot. More than anything else, I think Stan Lee felt that the Hulk had some great potential, but he had no idea how to fulfill it.

Sub-Plots & Continuity:

It can be fun to track the minor story pints throughout a year’s worth of comics to see what ideas were developed and which were quietly dropped.

  • Bruce Banner transforms into the Hulk at nightfall, and the Hulk transforms back into Banner at dawn: No reason for this was ever given, and it was dropped in #3.
  • General Thunderbolt Ross is obsessed with hunting down and destroying the Hulk, for no particular reason: This is actually the only constant in the book so far.
  • The Hulk’s intelligence varies greatly: In the first issue (as the Grey Hulk), Hulk seems reasonably smart. In the second issue, he seems intelligent and sinister. In #3, Hulk is dumb to start with, and gets dumber. In #4, we get a much more intelligent (but reckless) Hulk.
  • Rick Jones has a lot of roles: Rick starts out as an idiot who accidentally helped create the Hulk, and learns of Banner’s secret identity. He then becomes Banner’s caretaker, the Hulk’s jailer, the Hulk’s master, the Hulk’s pilot (maybe? #4 is unhealthy who is doing the flying), and the man who betrays the Hulk. Again, this is all in four issues.
  • Rick Jones is apparently very forgettable: In #3, General Ross realizes that Rick has a connection to the Hulk, and uses Rick to lure the Hulk into a trap. In #4, Betty has to convince General Ross that Rick has a connection to the Hulk.
  • Despite limited interactions together, Betty Ross appears to be developing a crush on Bruce Banner. Banner, on the other hand, has his hands full with the Hulk.
  • Bruce Banner is identified by aliens as Earth’s greatest scientific mind. In later years, that sort of claim is usually specified (greatest expert in gamma radiation, for example), but in 1962, it is a general statement.

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