Tuesday, August 9, 2016

How the Hulk Failed His Way to the Top

The Hulk is undoubtedly the only major superhero character who was initially cancelled after only six issues.
At any company but Marvel, that would have spelled the end for him. But by the time the Hulk’s last issue was published in March 1963, Stan Lee was integrating Marvel’s titles into a close-knit universe, so that the Hulk need not vanish. The misunderstood monster circulated as an antagonist in the Avengers, the Fantastic Four and Spider-Man before acquiring his new feature in Tales to Astonish in October 1964.
In his penultimate issue, Incredible Hulk 5 (Jan. 1963), the mercurial early Hulk is now cunning and aggressive, transforming at will with the aid of a gamma ray gun. He tackles the underground despot Tyrannus as well as the commie despot General Fang.
Tyrannus woos Betty Ross as a means of neutralizing Earth’s defenses in the person of her dad, General Thunderbolt Ross. Holding Betty and Rick Jones hostage in his weird kingdom, Tyrannus forces the Hulk to compete as a gladiator in a sequence that anticipates Planet Hulk events decades later. We get a glimpse of how Jack Kirby might have handled that storyline.
To defeat the hordes of the General Fang (we had armies, commies had hordes, you see), the Hulk decides it would be best to dress up as a Yeti for reasons that aren’t entirely clear to Rick Jones or to us. He appears to be a cute, green-faced polar bear who talks like a Brooklyn barroom bouncer.
You never knew quite what you were going to see when you opened a Jack Kirby Hulk comic, but it was always interesting.

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