Deck Log Entry # 180 It Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time (Part Two)

“Why does Hulk’s head hurt when Hulk tries to think?”


“Hulk smash!”


That was the Hulk I encountered every time I looked at an issue of Tales to Astonish in the mid-1960's.  Whenever physicist Bruce Banner felt intense stress, he transformed into the over-sized, emerald-hued monster called the Hulk.  The Green Goliath possessed incalculable strength and was virtually indestructible, to boot.  “Hulk is the strongest one there is!” he bellowed in almost every story.


He was also a green-skinned imbecile.  The trade-off for all that might was he retained none of Doctor Banner’s intellect.  Or hardly any intellect at all, for that matter.  That meant the Hulk was easily frustrated, and with his hair-trigger temper, he would go off on a destructive rampage once or twice an issue.  Even when he wasn’t pissed off at one thing or another, he was still something of a lout.  (The idea that an unannoyed Hulk had a childlike innocence wouldn’t emerge until the next decade.) 


And the Hulk’s speech reflected his limited brainpower.  He referred to himself in the third person, as “Hulk”, being unable to grasp the concept of definite and indefinite articles.  Most others he addressed only by physical characteristic---with the exceptions of Rick Jones and the hated General “Thunderbolt” Ross.  (“Ross!”)  A McGuffey Reader wouldn’t have helped, since the big green goof was also illiterate.


In going back and filling in the blanks on the early Marvel universe---thanks to the reprints in Marvel Tales and Marvel Collectors’ Item Classics, and the infrequent back issue---I had come across a few original-concept surprises:  Thor speaking in conventional English; Iron Man’s clunky, all-golden armour; Daredevil’s first costume of yellow-and-black.  Yet, nothing was as startling as discovering the departures between the early Hulk and the version familiar to me.  And not just because they were so different; but also because there were so many of them that the character himself seemed to change from issue to issue.


Obviously, with the Hulk, Stan Lee was going for a riff on the classic Doctor Jekyll and Mister Hyde.  It was equally obvious that Lee couldn’t settle on how he wanted to do that.  Each succeeding story brought a change in the concept.  Stan liked the Hulk as a character, believed in its marketability.  He wasn’t going to let it go.  So he kept tinkering with it.


Rather than present them in the piecemeal fashion that I discovered them, it’s better to go in chronological order, to show how the Hulk was a character in search of a format.



The Incredible Hulk # 1 (May, 1962)


Whoa!  If all you knew about the Hulk was from the mid-1960’s onward, then you wouldn’t have recognised much about ol’ Greenskin at all from his début.  For one thing, he wasn’t green---he was grey!  That fact is well-known now, to the point that, in the late 1980’s, Marvel attempted to make hay out of a grey Hulk.  But by 1965 with the Hulk firmly established as being green, his original grey-ness had been swept under the rug and wasn’t considered part of his canon.


That was only the most visual difference.  The original Hulk had some smarts.  No Einstein, but he was crafty.  Personality-wise, he was arrogant and brutish, and above all that, I had to wrap myself around the fact that this Hulk could use personal pronouns.

And the last unexpected thing:  Dr. Banner’s transformation into the Hulk was triggered by the setting of the sun.  And at dawn, he reverted to his human self.  Day and night, good and evil---one of Stan’s less subtle metaphors.



The Incredible Hulk # 2 (Jul., 1962)


Ah, that’s better.


As it developed, there were printing problems with a grey-skinned Hulk.  The four-colour process used at the time didn’t accommodate grey all that well, and it was impossible to keep the shade consistent.  After seeing the first issue’s uneven colouration of the Hulk, Stan Lee changed the hue of his star’s skin to green.  There was no in-story explanation; the Hulk was simply green, as if he had always been so.


He was still transforming according to the rise and fall of the sun, though.  And the Hulk was still functionally intelligent, in a thuggish sort of way.  But a new wrinkle was added---the now-emerald behemoth was prone to bestial rages, when provoked or frustrated.


It’s also worth pointing out that, at this stage, the Hulk, though phenomenally strong, wasn’t as staggeringly powerful as he would become a mere three years later.  In order to keep the Hulk contained, Bruce Banner confined himself to a vault in his secret desert laboratory just before sunset.  The stone walls of the vault were sufficient to keep his monstrous self imprisoned, despite his constant pounding.  The idea that the Hulk could not punch through a stone wall would be unthinkable by the time I started reading the stories.



The Incredible Hulk # 3 (Sep., 1962)


Practical considerations had forced turning the Hulk green, but this issue marked the first time Stan Lee made a change in the character for dramatic reasons.  I’m guessing Stan found the night-and-day aspect too limiting.  But he didn’t stop there.


The opening chapter of “Banished to Outer Space” sees the Hulk tricked into boarding a rocketship, which General Ross then seals and launches from a remote location.  Angry at the deception, Rick Jones fiddles with the dials and knobs of the rocket’s control panel, in an attempt to bring the Hulk back to Earth.  This causes the ship to pass through a radiation storm, which bathes the craft and its emerald-hued occupant in a bizarre energy.  This strange force also surges back through the control panel and briefly envelops Rick.


The Hulk’s rocket is disabled and it crashes to Earth near its launching point.  But, by then, it is daytime, and as Rick rushes to the crash site, he realises that the Hulk would have changed back to Bruce Banner before the ship hit.  The boy fears Banner was killed by the impact.


To his astonishment, Rick sees the Hulk emerge from the wreckage, even though it is broad daylight.  Something in the strange radiation removed the nighttime constraint on the Green Goliath’s existence.  But that’s not all of it.  When the monster angrily lashes out at Rick, the boy discovers that he can command the Hulk’s actions.

The downside is, when Rick falls asleep, his mental control of the Hulk lapses, leaving the Emerald Behemoth in a mindless rage.  Rick awakens just in time to save a near-by town from a Hulk rampage, but he is left with the problem of how to stay awake constantly.



The Incredible Hulk # 4 (Nov., 1962)


Lee must have decided that he hated the notion of a mind-controlled Hulk as soon as it saw print because, in the first of the two stories in this issue, he not only jettisoned the idea, but came up with yet another format for his green-skinned star.


When General Ross sends troops to capture the Hulk, in “The Monster and the Machine”, Rick Jones mentally commands the enthralled goliath to flee.  Instead, Ross settles for taking Jones into custody, in order to determine the connexion between him and the Hulk.  Rick telepathically summons the Hulk, who attacks the base and swoops off with the boy.


Rick has the Hulk take them to Dr. Banner’s secret desert lab.  Realising he cannot go on without sleep, the youngster takes a desperate chance.  He finds a prototype of a gamma-ray projector, along with Banner’s notes for operating it.  Ordering the Hulk to submit to the device, Rick then follows Banner’s written directions.  The machine fires to life and blasts the Emerald Behemoth with gamma radiation.  He immediately reverts to Bruce Banner.


Dr. Banner studies the data recorded by the projector-ray and theorises that, with controlled dosages of gamma radiation, he can control his transformations to the Hulk and back.  After making some adjustments to the ray, he straps himself in and tells Rick to pull the switch.  One gamma-ray-zap later, Banner discovers that he has succeeded beyond his wildest hopes.  Not only has he transformed back to the Hulk, but he has retained Banner’s intellect!


Rick Jones quickly sees that the monster may have Banner’s brains, but still displays the brutish nature of the Hulk.  The Banner part of him holds some influence though, as the Green Goliath declares his intention to use his might to accomplish good deeds.


In the second story of the issue, “Gladiator from Outer Space”, the Hulk establishes his super-hero credentials by defeating an attack by Communist forces disguised as an invasion of aliens from outer space.


This story marks the introduction of the Hulkster’s purple trunks, replacing his familiar torn trousers.


The next issue, # 5 (Jan., 1963), was the only one in the series’ run that instituted no changes to the previous ish’s status quo.  So we can skip it and go right to . . . .



The Incredible Hulk # 6 (Mar., 1963)


After two issues of being able to change between the Hulk and his normal self at will, Dr. Banner begins to experience some side-effects from the gamma-ray projector.  The transformations are becoming more painful and less complete.  When the Hulk turns the ray on himself at the beginning of the story, he discovers that he has not changed into his usual frail human form.   "Puny" Banner has become huskier and more muscular.


Before he has time to adjust to his new physique, Banner is alerted to an event at the military base commanded by General Ross.  A being called the Metal Master (a real alien from outer space this time) has arrived in the near-by town and claims dominance over the Earth.  He backs it up, too, when he uses his power over metal to rout Ross’s army, by melting tanks and deflecting missiles.


Banner steps under the gamma-projector and becomes the Hulk, again.  But there’s been another glitch.  While the rest of him is the Hulk, his head is still that of Bruce Banner.  He’s really into this super-hero stuff now and refuses to expose his secret identity.  Instead, he dons a latex mask of the Hulk, which he had conveniently made “for study”, and bounds off to tackle the Metal Master.


The troops hold back while man-monster and metal-master square off.  Round One goes to the villain, though, when he turns a hunk of iron into an aerial torpedo and---again, it was a weaker Hulk in those days---kayos ol’ Greenskin with it.  The Metal Master flies off, and curious soldiers surround the semi-conscious Hulk.  One of them discovers the Green Goliath is wearing a mask and removes it.  Fortunately, the transformation process had completed during the battle, and Banner-head was replaced by the Hulk’s unsightly noggin.


After an interlude in which the Hulk once again escapes from General Ross’s custody, feverish preparations are made for the next confrontation with the Metal Master.  Bruce Banner has an idea for a weapon which will defeat the marauding alien, but he needs Rick Jones’s help to gather the components.


Incidentally, this story features Rick’s formation of the Teen Brigade (which is a subject for its own Deck Log Entry---if I ever get desperate for ideas).


By now, the Metal Master is in Washington, D.C., making his demands to the White House.  The Hulk arrives just as the villain is demonstrating his power, but instead of the knock-down, drag-out battle that a reader would expect to see in a 1965 tale of the Hulk, instead, ol’ Jadejaws wins out over the Metal Master with trickery and guile.  The alien puts everything back the way it was and leaves Earth.


Back at his secret lab, the Hulk learns that, for saving the nation’s capital, the President has awarded him a pardon for any crimes of which he’s been accused.


 * * * * *


The entire run of the Hulk’s first series and at the end, he was even more different from the version that I knew than when it started.  Here, he possessed Bruce Banner’s mind and scientific acumen; he controlled when he changed to the Hulk and back; and he willingly acted as a super-hero.  That was a far cry from “Hulk smash!”


However, something I had read in The Avengers # 16 (May, 1965) now made more sense.  Iron Man reminded the new line-up that, when the Avengers were founded, the Hulk was a member.  That was my first inkling of such a thing, and I had struggled to fathom how even Stan Lee could make the brainless, temperamental monster fit in as part of the team.  But the Green Goliath of The Incredible Hulk # 6 would be more workable in a group, as I saw for myself when I was finally able to read the Avengers’ origin.



The Avengers # 1 (Sep., 1963)


The Hulk is still eating his super-hero Cheerios in this tale, as we see when he tries to prevent a nest of dynamite from exploding on a line of railroad tracks.  Unfortunately, the dynamite is only an illusion, cast by Thor’s arch-enemy, Loki, and it causes the Hulk to inadvertently damage the tracks himself.  Nevertheless, he is able to hold the tracks secure while a train passes over them.


Unfortunately, the engineer spies the Hulk and jumps to the conclusion that he was trying to wreck the train.  That’s the word that gets out and, Presidential pardon or no Presidential pardon, ol’ Greenskin decides to make himself scarce.  This sets in motion the events which lead to the formation of the Avengers, and the Hulk decides it might be a pretty good thing to be on a team of heroes.


In the next issue, it’s clear that, while he may be the group’s powerhouse, the Hulk gets a low mark in the “Plays Well with Others” block.  He’s abrasive, arrogant, and intemperate, and Iron Man would dearly love to chop the Emerald Behemoth off at the knees, except that he has to get in line behind Thor and Giant-Man to do it. During their battle with the Space Phantom, his teammates’ insults quickly push the Hulk past his boiling point.  After growling a few choice words, he quits the Avengers and leaps away.


Stan Lee wasn’t giving up on the Hulk.  If he didn’t work as a hero, then maybe he’d find his niche as a villain.



The Avengers # 3 (Jan., 1964)


This issue begins closely after the conclusion of the previous one.  While the Avengers launch a search for the Hulk, their quarry returns to the American southwest, where Rick Jones persuades him to rest in the desert lab.  Using the gamma-ray projector to become his human self, an exhausted Bruce Banner locks himself in the stone vault and tries to sleep.  Instead, he tosses and turns fitfully, only to feel himself involuntarily transforming back into the Hulk.  Banner is helpless to prevent the change, blaming it on an insufficient dosage from the gamma-ray projector.


Instants later, Rick is startled to see his green-skinned pal smash through the stone wall of the vault, something he had not been able to do before, and it scares the bejeesus out of him.  It’s more than just the monster’s increased strength.  The Hulk is filled with rage and a contempt for humanity.


It’s a sea change for the character of the Hulk.  He had always been brutish and arrogant, even with Bruce Banner’s intellect, but here, he moves over to the dark side.  He considers humans to be less than ants, and if he happens to step on them so be it.  Later, when he teams up with the Sub-Mariner, the Hulk is willing, even eager, to destroy the Avengers.  And after that’s done, he plans on killing Namor for good measure.


He has bloomed into an outright villain, an attitude which will guide his next few appearances.


The Hulk battles the Avengers twice in this tale.  The first time, he outwits and outfights his former teammates with embarrassing ease.  The second time, with the Sub-Mariner at his side, he almost pulls off the unthinkable.  That’s when Stan Lee tosses the readers another curve.


In the heat of battle, the Hulk suddenly reverts to Bruce Banner.  Banner chalks it up to the excitement of the pitched combat with the Avengers.  Within the short, unstable history of the Hulk, this is the first time the transformation has ever occurred without any outside stimulus.  A corner is about to be turned.


Oh, and on a fashion note, this story marks the return of the Hulk’s torn purple pants.  The purple trunks are gone for good, or at least, for the rest of the Silver Age.



Fantastic Four # 25 (Apr., 1964)


This story continues the premise that the transformations from Banner to the Hulk and back again are now occurring spontaneously.  In an early chapter, Banner makes it back to his secret laboratory; however, the Hulk gains ascendency and, in a fit of pique, destroys all of the scientific equipment. The gamma-ray projector is reduced to junk.


This is a significant shift for the character, since the ability to control the changes has been taken out of Bruce Banner’s (and the Hulk’s) hands.  Now the transformations occur seemingly at random, which is a far more useful literary device.


And the Hulk is still a thug, callous and potentially deadly.  He spends this issue and the next with blood in his eye, ready to visit a terrible vengeance on Rick Jones.  Fortunately, the Fantastic Four and the Avengers are on hand to prevent it.



Tales to Astonish # 59 and # 60 (Sep. and Oct., 1964)


When the Hulk unexpectedly reverted to Bruce Banner in The Avengers # 3, it was probably just a plot device Stan tossed in because he was down to the next-to-last page and he needed a quick end to the story.  But it must have gotten the Smiling One to thinking.  If over-stress changed the Hulk to Banner, it made even more sense that the same thing would cause Banner to change to the Hulk.  Even better, he could toss in some medical mumbo-jumbo about racing pulse rates and elevated blood pressure and stuff like that, to make it sound legit.


So that’s just what Stan did.  The problem is, I wasn’t exactly sure when he first did it.  In Tales to Astonish # 59, the Hulk appears in the Giant-Man story, as a prelude to getting his own feature in the title.  That tale---“Enter the Hulk”---includes a sequence in which a highly peeved Bruce Banner lets his anger get the best of him, and he turns into his green-skinned alter ego.  From Banner’s thoughts, it’s clear he knows that the sudden increase in his blood pressure instigates the transformation . . . .


Yet, when the Hulkster moves into his own slot, in the very next issue, we find Dr. Banner completely in the dark about what causes him to turn into the Hulk and back again.  It isn’t until the bottom of page three that he figures out that extreme stress triggers the change.


It seems unlikely that the two stories were printed out of order.  So my guess is Stan Lee, who was cranking out stories for almost the entire Marvel line, got ahead of himself here.



Tales to Astonish # 65 and # 66 (Mar. and Apr., 1965)


As I was reconstructing the Hulk’s early history from all those reprints and back issues, I saw that I was still dealing with the reasonably intelligent Hulk.  From the beginning, he had a solid, if low-brow, intellect and he was still that way when his series in Tales to Astonish commenced. That certainly wasn’t the Hulk I knew.  Of all of these early discrepancies, as Stan tried to find the right formula to make the Hulk work, that was the big one for me:  when did ol' Jadejaws become a dimwit?


I had assumed it was a gradual process, something the character eased into.  The more the Hulk moved in the direction of stupid, the more Stan liked it, I figured.  To my surprise, I found out that I'd figured wrong.


It happened in one issue.


For the first seven stories in his Tales to Astonish run, the Hulk still had a decently working brain and spoke in his tough-guy grammar.  In Tales to Astonish # 65, ol’ Greenskin doesn’t get much camera time, but he still has his wits and talks in proper syntax, with passive verbs and pronouns, even.


Then a month later, Tales to Astonish # 66 comes out, and suddenly, right in the middle of the on-going plotline, the Emerald One has turned into an idiot.  Everything is “Hulk angry!  Hulk smash!” now.  And the captions make reference to “the cloudy brain” of the Hulk and how he lacks cunning.



Tales to Astonish # 67 (May, 1965)


Now, he was almost the Hulk that I was familiar with.  Almost, but not quite.  There was one last detail.  Stan Lee had insisted that extreme stress also caused the Hulk to change back to Bruce Banner.  In fact, that was still the standard in Tales to Astonish # 66:


But, the more the Hulk rages, the faster his heart beats---the higher his blood pressure rises---until it reaches the crucial point which triggers the most amazing transformation in medical history . . . .


After that, it’s “Hello again, Bruce.”


I think Stan had finally gotten the Hulk to the level he wanted---an almost mindless creature of rage.  Perhaps he felt that this version of the Hulk would work better without a ceiling on his anger.  Or maybe it was just another case of Stan losing track of some of the details among all the scripts he was writing.  But for whatever reason, beginning with Tales to Astonish # 67, the Green Goliath had to calm down after a rampage in order for the transformation back to Banner to kick in.


And that’s the way it stayed.



When I first went back and read a few early stories and saw how different the Hulk was from the one I was reading by the end of ’65, I had no idea it had actually taken three years of adjustments by Stan Lee to get there.  Sure, most comic-book characters experience some minor revisions at first.  It’s part of the settling process.  But few have suffered as many basic changes in premise as has the Hulk.


In the final analysis, though, after all that honing and tweaking, Stan got it right.  The final product---the Big Green Goof---is the version everyone instinctively associates with the character.

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Not a big deal, Commander, as there are only so many topics to go around.

The thing is that we know when the change took place but not the why either in-story or in reality.
Commander Benson said:

Philip Portelli said:

In the above, I talk about Tales To Astonish #66-67. In them, the Hulk gets wounded by the Communists' "evapo-ray blaster" and a dissident scientist treats the Jade Giant with a salve to counteract the effects of the ray in his bloodstream. After that is when we get "HULK SMASH!", so did the ray dumb him down or was it the salve or both?

And were the Commies trying to disable the American Hulk on purpose?

Forgive me, Philip.  To make sure my memory wasn't playing tricks on me, I went through my copies of Tales to Astonish before nailing down issues # 65 and # 66 as the break between smart and dumb Hulk.  But I completely forgot about your earlier thread, in which you discussed the same thing.  If I had remembered it, I would have gladly given you credit in my article for being the first one to promulgate the change in the Hulk's mentality and to pinpoint the precise point when it happened.

Luke Blanchard said:

Early in Fantastic Four #25 Banner says the changes are coming more often, and the next change might be the last as "each time the Hulk gets stronger!" That might show the influence of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, where that fate overtakes Jekyll.

As I think you are saying, in this context I think it means that Hulk's personality is overwhelming Banner's (as Hyde did Jekyll) rather than physical strength.

The earliest statement I remember that the Hulk's anger and strength are unlimited (outside of the Hulk's claims the madder he gets the stronger he gets) was by the Beyonder.

The Hulk seemed to reach his limits in Hulk#139, when the Leader tried to beat the Hulk by sending imaginary enemy after imaginary enemy after him in hopes the strain would give Hulk a heart attack. This seemed to be working, since after several fights the Hulk noticed his chest was hurting. The story has been mistakenly described as having an error, showing the Abomination on the cover but not inside. I'd guess the Marvel Superheroes#89 reprint cut out the Abomination panels, because he's in the original, but only for a panel or two. The GCD says Hulk#139 was 19 pages while MSH#89 was 18 so something had to get removed.

Of course the writer of #139 also wrote the Hulk breaking an entire dimension in #126. Just about impossible to prove or disprove something when the same writer gives contradictory information.

And then of course there's Stan, who refused to say who was stronger, Thor or the Hulk. Yet in Tales to Astonish#93 he has the Silver Surfer defeat the Hulk, then in Silver Surfer#4 he makes it clear that even with Loki powering him up the Surfer is no match for Thor. So if the Surfer can beat the Hulk but not Thor then Thor should be the most powerful. Yet Thor can't beat the Hulk. And Fantastic Four#55 shows once the Surfer gets mad enough he can power himself up so he's way out of the Thing's league. And when Dr. Doom steals his powers the FF don't stand a chance against him. (But then Stan has a rocket take his powers from him and almost kill him.) If we just go by Stan then apparently everybody's power levels are bouncing around all over the place and anybody could beat everybody else if he's having a good day.

Eventually Hyde tried to change back to Jekyll and found he couldn't. This happened to Hulk in #6. In #4 and #5 Banner is cured but can't resist turning himself into a monster on purpose. Peter David had Betty tell him off when she found out about that. Unfortunately the Hulk was cancelled at that point so we don't see the first time emotions change him. Was it a result of the gamma device he was using to change and the crazy stuff that happened in #6 was a prelude, or would something else have happened to alter the way he transformed? Stan wouldn't remember and Steve isn't talking.

Ron M. said:

And then of course there's Stan, who refused to say who was stronger, Thor or the Hulk.

This reminds me of DC's "who's faster, Flash or Superman?"

If we just go by Stan then apparently everybody's power levels are bouncing around all over the place and anybody could beat everybody else if he's having a good day.

I think to know who will win you just have to see whose comic it is. Thor will appear to be tougher in his own book than in someone else's. Also, there are all the bad guys in the FF, Avengers and JLA books who give the whole team trouble but are beaten with relative ease by a single hero. Whatever serves the story.

Following his battle with the Avengers and the FF in Fantastic Four #25-26, and just before his Tales to Astonish battle with Giant-Man, the Hulk made an appearance in Amazing Spider-Man #14 (JUL64) when the brand-new Green Goblin entices Spidey to New Mexico to film a movie. Since this was the Hulk's preferred stomping grounds, Spidey runs into him in a cave. In the panel that first shows the Hulk, Stan's caption says he's "the strongest living being to walk the earth." Other than having a mad-on against the human race his speech pattern is a stilted version of Bruce Banner's.

That's usually true. No matter how much trouble Thor has with Crusher Creel, if he turned up in Spider-Man, Spidey would somehow clobber him, maybe trick him into a cardboard box or something. What's weird is the Surfer wins in Hulk's comic (until the Hulk cheap shots him) but loses in his own so the rules seem to be working backwards for him. 

I know Flash and Superman had at least two races that ended in ties. 
Richard Willis said:

Ron M. said:

And then of course there's Stan, who refused to say who was stronger, Thor or the Hulk.

This reminds me of DC's "who's faster, Flash or Superman?"

If we just go by Stan then apparently everybody's power levels are bouncing around all over the place and anybody could beat everybody else if he's having a good day.

I think to know who will win you just have to see whose comic it is. Thor will appear to be tougher in his own book than in someone else's. Also, there are all the bad guys in the FF, Avengers and JLA books who give the whole team trouble but are beaten with relative ease by a single hero. Whatever serves the story.

Richard Willis said:

As I think you are saying, in this context I think it means that Hulk's personality is overwhelming Banner's (as Hyde did Jekyll) rather than physical strength

Yes. Initially Jekyll changes using a potion, but later (spoiler warning) the change into Hyde comes unexpectedly, and more and more often.

Ron M. said:

So if the Surfer can beat the Hulk but not Thor then Thor should be the most powerful. Yet Thor can't beat the Hulk. 

In Journey into Mystery #112 Thor gets Odin to suspend the enchantment of his hammer before fighting the Hulk.(1) Arguably, that implies he's more powerful than the Hulk when it's operational.

I like to argue that it doesn't follow that because the madder the Hulk gets the stronger he gets that his strength is theoretically infinite. His anger might have limits. Also, his anger might yield diminishing returns as it increases.

(1) Oddly, he then throws it at the Hulk. The dialogue says he's trying to throw it away and the Hulk intercepts it, but that's not what Kirby drew.

If my power was normally in my hammer and it lost its power for five minutes, I'd be looking for a good place to hide it, not tossing it at a thousand pound gorilla that was yelling he was going to rip me apart. Interesting it only occurs to Thor after he threw it away that it might possibly get broken now. Whoops! Maybe I'd better try to get it back from that big green goon! Uh, excuse me, huge monster trying to kill me? Could I have my weapon I've been hitting you upside the head with back, please?

One possible origin for the Hulk concept: The Bert I Gordon film, Amazing Colossal Man. Protagonist tries to rescue a man whose plane has crashed at Ground Zero for an experimental super-bomb. Protagonist fails but survives (a high point of the film is where a nuclear expert explains that there's nothing unusual in this) and begins transforming into a super-strong giant, increasingly belligerent and alienated. But I can see why Stan would want to credit Jekyll/Hyde and Frankenstein instead. Though the idea of him as a sympathetic Frankenstein figure really doesn't fit here--he's violent, belligerent and makes statements about how the world will never be safe as long as the Hulk is around. It was a long time before the idea of Hulk as a lonely, frustrated child became established.

I honestly don't think Lee ever did get a handle on the strip. Even after the power set stabilized, the plots didn't. In one, the military uses Banner's "T-ray" which turns out to be a time-travel device. Bam, Hulk is in the future fighting the Executioner who's leading an alien invasion (why? I'm not sure even Stan knew), while in the present, Rick decides Hulk is dead and reveals he's really Banner.

In another story, the Stranger spends the entire tale lecturing the Hulk on how humanity sucks and he's going to use Hulk to wipe us out. His control vanishes when Hulk reverts to Banner, and Banner races back to his lab to kill himself. But then the Abomination gets his powers and we never hear anything of the Stranger (in this context again).

Example Three: A Dr. Zaxon shows up to take over Banner's research and spends a large part of the issue thinking of all his evil, evil, evil, evil plans for the research. After all this build-up, Hulk destroys him in nine panels of the next issue (a decade later I'd think it was a self-parody of sorts).

All that from the first volume of Essential Hulk ... I know they were working to deadline and Lee and his collaborators often made wild swings from issue to issue, but Hulk (for me) never overcame that level as so many other books did.

Everything we've actually seen shows his strength isn't infinite, at least up through the Bronze Age--in the Avengers/Defenders crossover, Thor and the Hulk lock grappling with each for hours. Of course, it's usually Hulk saying "the madder he gets" and as the Commander has established, the Hulk wasn't that bright. So maybe he was wrong.

As for Thor being theoretically more powerful than the Hulk with the hammer on hand, Marvel was full of little caveats like that. The Thing is pound-for-pound as strong as Hulk, it's just that Hulk has more pounds. Namor is as strong as Hulk or Thor when in water, less out of it (and of course when they're in water, they're hampered and not able to move as easily).

I like to argue that it doesn't follow that because the madder the Hulk gets the stronger he gets that his strength is theoretically infinite. His anger might have limits. Also, his anger might yield diminishing returns as it increases.

In Journey into Mystery #112 Thor gets Odin to suspend the enchantment of his hammer before fighting the Hulk.(1) Arguably, that implies he's more powerful than the Hulk when it's operational.

Banner also came up with a robot operated by a human inside of it, and a super powerful android (perhaps based on the ones the Leader made?) in Tales to Astonish, neither of which could be beaten by the Hulk. He had to trick the first into falling into a "bottomless" pit, and destroyed the other by holding one of Banner's machines over its head.

When the Stranger takes off with the Abomination, he says no one would miss him. The implication is he wanted to take the Hulk but snatched the new guy instead. So did the Stranger arrange the accident that turned that janitor into a monster? What did he want Abomination (or Hulk) for? What exactly did he do with Magneto and the Toad after catching them? Just left them on his planet while he looked for other cosmic goodies to collect? Why did Stan come up with the Collector instead of just reusing the Stranger?

In the Hulk's first battle with the Thing, they're about even, the dialogue telling us that the Hulk slowly starts forcing the Thing back because he's taller, heavier, and has a longer reach. We never find out who would have won because the Wrecker (not the Thor villain) has his robot shoot the Hulk in the head. The Thing, furious the fight was interrrupted even though he was losing, goes after the robot. In their second fight the Hulk's obviously stronger, although not so much that he doesn't have a heck of a time trying to put him down for the count. I believe by the next time they fight there's no competition. Both of them got stronger over the years (in FF#18 a Skrull says as far as they can tell the Thing can only lift about 5 tons) but the Hulk's strength went up faster. (Of course that means Thor's also kept going up. This can only be explained by saying Odin was holding back Thor's full strength at first. But then it's implied he might have beaten Hercules if Odin hadn't taken half his strength.)

Avengers#3 shows the Hulk's endurance will eventually give out, and he's no match for Namor underwater. The Official Guide to the Marvel Universe put the Hulk's strength at 95+ tons, but Namor underwater at only 75 (40 on land.)

The only real signs the Hulk has this incredible power level in the early days is him lifting part of a mountain to attack Havok (who beats him by repeatedly blasting the Hulk in the head) and Crusher Creel lifts a mountain to dump on the Hulk by absorbing his strength, then gets crushed himself when Hulk turns back to Banner. In the late 70s he holds up a mountain so Valkyrie and Nighthawk can escape. When it falls on him they start to mourn his death when he suddenly breaks out and laughs at how he showed the mountain for thinking it could smash him. No idea how much a mountain would weigh but considering what we would otherwise see the Hulk do (except for that silly dimension breaking clap), it seems like trying to hold one up would get him flattened. This was also apparently why the Beyonder said the Hulk's strength level was infinite, because he held up a mountain in Secret Wars. Maybe Hulk should change his name to Antaeus.

I remember one story where Hulk got so angry he forgot how to talk and just made growling sounds, possibly the idea coming from the tv show where he didn't talk. Is it really possibly once someone is completely out of control looney tunes furious for them to get still angrier? Seems doubtful. Even keeping at a state of pure maniacal fury once reaching it would seem very taxing.

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