Cover Date: October 1964
Cover Artists: Jack Kirby, Sol Brodsky
“The Beasts of Berlin”
Plotters: Stan Lee, Dick Ayers
Scripter: Stan Lee
Penciller: Dick Ayers
Inker: Paul Reinman
“The Incredible Hulk!”
Plotters: Stan Lee, Steve Ditko
Scripter: Stan Lee
Penciller: Steve Ditko
Inker: George Roussos (credited as George Bell)
What’s Going On?
In the Giant-Man & Wasp story, Giant-Man breaks into East Berlin to battle some super-intelligent Communist apes.
In the Hulk story, the Hulk encounters a prototype weapon that is so tough that even he cannot harm it!
In “The Beasts of Berlin”:
- Ex-FBI agent Lee Kearns has captured by the Communists in East Berlin, and faces execution for espionage. When he sees the news, Giant-Man wants to take action.
- Janet wants to accompany Hank to East Berlin, but he won’t hear it. He takes this opportunity to tell Janet about how his first wife died, at the hand of the Reds.
- Giant-Man flies to Berlin and sneaks into East Berlin, and from there into the prison where Lee Kearns is being held.
- Kearns explains why he was spying behind the Iron Curtain: the Soviets have developed a ray that can make apes into intelligent (and presumably Communist) soldiers!
- And, sure enough, as Giant-Man tries to break Kearns out of prison, they encounter a gorilla guard!
- Not wanting to leave such a dangerous ray in the possession of the Reds, Giant-Man searches for and finds (and destroys) the device that raises the intelligence of the apes.
- Giant-Man then crashed through the Berlin Wall, bringing Kearns to safety.
In “The Incredible Hulk”:
- Bruce Banner is building an armor suit for the military, but his transformations into the Hulk have put him behind schedule, and the pressure to complete it is stressing him out.
- Forced to work late hours to complete the armor on time, Bruce hears someone sneaking in his lab, late at night. The stress of this situation triggers his transformation into the Hulk.
- The Hulk isn’t interested in the armor, or the spy in Banner’s lab. He leaves the base, and the spy dons the armor and heads to the testing range to try it out.
- The armor is strong, and it easily overpowers a tank as it leaves the army base.
- The spy may feel powerful in the armor, but he is now trapped inside it.
- The Hulk happens across the spy in the desert and, thinking that the armor was designed to destroy him, attacks. The armor is able to withstand the Hulk’s blows, though.
- The Hulk gets frustrated while attacking the armor, and the stress triggers his transformation back into Bruce Banner! He is able to escape before the transformation occurs.
- The army finds Banner alone in the desert. Luckily, someone also spots the armor being operated elsewhere in the desert at the same time; General Ross had assumed that Banner was inside the armor and on a rampage or something.
- The armor is able to withstand nuclear blasts
- the Hulk’s blows, so Bruce concludes that he will need to construct and even stronger armor to stop his newest creation. General Ross has no faith in Banner, and forbids it.
- …and that’s where the story ends. To be continued!
Is It Good?
Nope. The Giant-Man story was dumb and nauseatingly nationalistic in parts. I don’t understand why the Communists seem so focused on creating smart apes; didn’t the Red Ghost incident teach them anything? The Wasp’s willingness to be left out of the story felt strange, too — out of character, and it did no favors to the story.
Lee & Ditko’s Hulk story was not any better. I like the idea of a foe that the Hulk can’t overpower, but until the robot armor gets defined limitations, or the spy operating it develops a personality, it makes for a boring villain. I am intrigued by yet another change to what triggers Banner’s transformation into the Hulk, and I understand the need to figure out how and why the Hulk transforms back into Banner. But the idea of the Hulk getting angry and turning into Banner is at such odds with what has become a central concept for the character in modern times — the angrier Hulk gets, the stronger Hulk gets — that I am left confused as to how they thought that was ever a good idea. Ditko’s art wasn’t that good, either. Aside from a weird psychedelic panel toward the end, it looked very much in Marvel’s “house” style. Ditko does most of his detailed renderings while inking, which leaves the bulk of the details here (presumably) to George Roussos, whose inking tendencies lean toward a minimal addition of details. I like Ditko a lot, but this isn’t a great fit for his art.
- This is the first issue of Tales to Astonish with a Hulk feature. The Hulk will be a featured character until this title changes into Incredible Hulk with issue #102.
- We have a new cover corner box, featuring the Hulk!
- The last issue of Incredible Hulk had a cover date of March 1963. Even though over a year and a half passed without having the Hulk as the main character in a title, he made eight guest appearances in other comics.
- This is the first appearance of Lee Kearns. He spoke to Giant-Man and the Wasp back in Tales to Astonish #44, but he hasn’t appeared on-panel before this issue. So, Hank’s claim that Kearns is an “old friend” may be stretching things a bit. Also, Janet called Kearns to report the death of her father, so maybe that’s why the name sounds familiar?
- This is the first appearance of the Beasts of Berlin, the name given to the intelligent Commie apes.
- This is the first time Janet has heard the tragic story of the late Maria Pym. She raises a good point, though: how do we know she’s dead?
- Even with an active fan club, the public at large is still unaware that Ant-Man and Giant-Man are the same hero.
- The Hulk’s transformations no longer appear to be controlled by a gamma device, as they were at the end of Incredible Hulk.
- Bruce Banner believes that stress causes his transformations, both Banner-to-Hulk and Hulk-to-Banner.
Comics Are Goofy:
- Let’s savor this moment of Hank Pym being upset because he is the subject of too much adulation.
- There’s nothing the US government can do to help save Lee Kearns’ life…except provide Giant-Man with an Air Force jet. That wouldn’t cause an international incident if he were caught, right?
- I don’t think Stan Lee knows what “cybernetic” means.
- Ah, yes. Russia: famous home of the great apes.
- Yes, of course! A ray gun that raises the intelligence of primates decreases human intelligence to the level of an ape!
- Good question, Stan. I guess Bruce just wasn’t made for these times.
- What’s the difference between Banner’s “robot” and Iron Man’s armor? It seems strange that Stan Lee would repeatedly call this a “robot” and never use the term for Iron Man.
- At the end of last issue, it sure looked like Bruce and Betty were making out. And yet…Betty is afraid to ask Bruce about his personal life? Their relationship is doomed.
- Bruce, you should give yourself more credit. You’ve menaced mankind at least three times! You invented the destructive gamma bomb, you’ve wrecked a bunch of stuff as the Hulk, and now you’ve invented a powerful armor. Few can threaten mankind in so many distinct fields of study.
Well, That Aged Poorly:
- Yay, patriotism. I’m glad that you destroying an ape-intelligence ray means you’ve avenged your wife’s death, Hank.