Soon after buying my first Hulk comics (Incredible Hulk #167 and Marvel Super-Heroes #38), I began collecting backissues of both series as well as any reprints I could find elsewhere. I eventually acquired reprints of those elusive first six issues (Mile High Comics was asking $30 for #1!), but that mean I got them in the order of their initial publication. The first one I found was a story from #3 reprinted in Giant-Size Defenders #1. Later, another story from #3 (a linking story retelling "The Origin of the Hulk") was reprinted in Marvel Treasury Edition #5, and I acquired #3's the "Ringmaster" story  in Marvel Tales #2 as a backissue.

At this far remove, I cannot recall in exactly which order I acquired the other five issues, but I know I was finally able to read #1 reprinted in Stan Lee's Origins of Marvel Comics. Before that, though, issue #2 and #6 I had serialized in Marvel Collectors' Item Classics (although I was missing the concluding chapter of #2 for a long time). I finally filled in the gaps with a little pocketbook edition which reprinted all six issues in their entirety. This is an example of what those of use who were not true "first generation" Marvelites had to go through in the '70s to fill in gaps. (I consider myself "a bastard son of the first generation" Marvelite.)

In 1978, Fireside Press released the volume I have already reference, which reprinted a large swath of Hulk serials from Tales to Astonish I didn't have, plus some other appearances as well. Before the Hulk was awarded a spot in TTA, he made a number of "interstitial" appearances (mostly) between Hulk #6 and TTA #60. Lest anyone doubt or deny we are living in a new Golden Age, allow me to remind you that all six issues of Hulk, along with the interstitial appearances from Fantastic Four #12, #25-26, Avengers #1-3, #5, Spider-Man #14, Tales to Astonish #59 and Journey into Mystery #112 are available in a single volume, arranged in release date order.

I'm going to skip those for now, but will soon begin reading the Hulk's series from when he shared Tales to Astonish with first Giant-Man then Sub-Mariner. 

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BILL EVERETT - (#78-83):

Back during the early days of The Jack Kirby Collector, publisher John Morrow ran a continuing poll of Kirby's best inker. Joe Sinnott and Mike Royer were, expectedly, the top two vote-getters, but practically everyone who had ever inked Kirby garnered at least one vote. Bill Everett made a good showing but, other than a few issues of Thor, I can't think of any other time he inked Kirby's pencils. What I think respondents were remembering (and voting for) was the work represented here, Everett providing inks and pencils over Kirby's rough layouts. the art in this run looks great, but I see more Everett than Kirby in it. 

The story's splash page depicts the Hulk returning from the future in a kind of "time whirlwind" but, other than that,#78 pretty much marks the beginning of a new storyline. (I can't explain why the Hulk returned to his cave in the Southwest rather than the Mall in Washington, D.C. other than writer's fiat.) As far as we know, Bruce Banner is still permamently stuck in the Hulk's body, but "with each passing second, the brilliant brain of Bruce Banner becomes more clouded... more dulled... as the bestial, savage mind of the Hulk all but obliterates the identity of his other self!"

With Banner and theHulk both presumed dead at this point, a new civilian scientist has been assigned to take Banner's place at the missile base: Dr. Konrad Zaxon, whose specialty is "organic energy." (Don't get too used to him, though; he will be around for barely more than a single issue.) The Hulk soon makes his presence known, and is brought down by a combination of Zaxon's "pore gas" (which the Hulk need not breath) and anti-matter beams. (NOTE: The green-clad soldiers' uniforms identify them as "U.S. Army" but General Ross and Major Talbot are still clad in blue.)

Rick tells Betty Bruce's secret, but she doesn't believe him. Just then, Talbot comes bursting in with the news that theHulk has been captured. Later, Zaxon dons a suit of gold armor, even clunkier than Tony Stark's first suit but a classic Everett design, with the intention of stealing the Hulk's organic energy and using it to rule the world. His plan is half-baked at best, but the issue ends with him releasing the Hulk and the two about to face off.

MAILS TO ASTONISH: This issue's letters page contains the annual "Statement of Ownership and Circulation" as  required by the Post Office. Average monthly circulation for Tales to Astonish is 224,000. Also, I have noticed that Stan published a lot of letters from college student s and fraternities. 

The story begins in medias res but, as the Hulk polishes off Dr. Zaxon by the end of the second page, it's almost like a new story. I first read this yarn reprinted in Marvel Treasury Edition #5 when I was about ten years old. I was still very new to Marvel (and to comics!) but I was already familiar with Marvel's version of Hercules thanks to Marvel Treasury Edition #3. After defeating Zaxon, the Hulk is pursued by USAF jets. He tears up some railroad track and uses the rails as projectiles to drive them off. This is where Hercules, riding on the train, enters the story. They fight for 4+ pages, then the Army starts lobbing artillery shells from the nearby hills. Hulk beats a strategic retreat and Hecules stays behind to carry the train, car by car, over the gap in the damaged tracks.

Issue #80 presents a pretty good jumping on point as it begins with the Hulk brooding morosely in a cave. Suddenly, however, he is transported "hundreds of leagues beneath the surface of Earth" and is greeted by a mysterious, robed figure who turns out to be an aged Tyrannus. I do recall that I was already familiar with Tyranus when I first acquired MSH #35 (the reprint of TTA #80) as a mail order backissue, but whether I first read Hulk #5 in Marvel Collectors' Item Classics #5-6 or the Pocketbooks edition I can no longer say. 

Tyrannus shows up from time-to-time over the years, usually when you least expect him, and currently he is at war with the Moleman. (Marvel turned the whole "Subterranean Wars" thing into a boring crossover in one year's set of annuals in the '80s, but we need not get into that here.) Tyranus has also captured Betty Ross (from an "Army base" FWIW), Rick Jones and Major Talbot in an attempt to coerce Hulk into doing his bidding but, in a rage, he does little more than to smash the bars to their cage, freeing them. 

Just then, the forces of the Moleman attack, giving Bill Everett (or Jack Kirby) the opportunity to design weapons of war including (but not limited to) the "robotic multi-powered octo-sapien" and the "chemical iso-ice freeze gun." The Hulk tackles the octo-sapien and they both land in Tyranus's fountain of youth (which Moleman has captured). It explodes and, from the smoke appears none other than Bruce Banner, who hasn't been seen since he succumbed to a gunshot wound to the brain in TTA #70. (Surprisingly, he's wearing glasses.)

As I have mentioned (probably too often), I started collecting this series, as reprinted in Marvel Super-Heroes, with #38 (reprinting TTA #83), so I was already well familiar with Boomerang and the Secret Empire. I read the beginning of the Everett era reprinted in MSH #33-37 as mail-order backissues (except for TTA #79/MSH #34, as noted above), but I was particularly pleased to read the origin/first appearance of Boomerang (from TTA #81), as well as the introduction of the Secret Empire, in MSH #36. Regarding the first appearance of the Secret Empire, that group bears a striking resemblance to Bill Everett's "Council of Seven" (and their leader "The Great Question") from Amazing Man (1939). If you missed those issues, fear not! They are readily available in Amazing Mysteries, The Bill Everett Archives v1 (2011). (Volume 2 is Heroic Tales.) TTA #81 also introduces the Air Force's Orion missile. 

Meanwhile, far beneath the Earth's surface, Tyranus and the Mole Man's forces converge with Bruce Banner still caught in the middle. Banner runs into Tyranus and learns that he sent Betty, Rick and Talbot back to the surface via his matter transmitter. On his was to find the transporter to use on himself, Banner changes into the Hulk. Above, the three former pawns are picked up by soldiers in a jeep bearing NASA markings. Come to think of it, Talbot and Rick were both abducted from a plane bearing NASA markings. Could General Ross's command be some sort of joint operation? In any case, Betty is soon kidnapped by the Boomerang, a former pro baseball player who was suspended for unspecified reasons. (These days I might think doping, but I always suspected it was for gambling on his games' outcomes.) 

The Hulk makes his way to the matter transmitter and, perhaps guided by the last vestiges of Banner's personality, settles in. It's set on automatic and beams him to the surface. The end of the battle is inconclusive, but we haven't seen the last of Tyranus of the Moleman either one.

As #82 opens, the Hulk materializes in the midst of an artillery barrage. It's not aimed at him, though (not yet!); he just had the bad fortune to appear on a missile testing range. General Ross is called to the scene. Major Talbot arrives and give the general the news about Betty being kidnapped by Boomerang. Meanwhile, Number Five in the Secret Empire hierarchy falls victim to a booby trap; Number Nine is suspected. Back in the desert, Hulk crosses paths with Boomerang. He tries to rescue Betty, but Boomerang has a clear advantage in the air. The Hulk is relentless, though, so Boomerang is forced to stop and do battle with some of his specialized weaponry. He makes a pretty good show of himself, but is soon forced to take to the air again.

General Ross leads a detachment of soldiers in search of his daughter, leaving Major Talbot behind to guard the Orion missile. Rick Jones, however, stows away aboard on of the trucks in Ross's convoy. Elsewhere, Boomerang finally gives Betty up to the Hulk in order to escape.

This is where I came in!

Reading two consecutive issues of a comic book series was a thrill I had not yet experienced at that time. All told, I think I prefer reading the last part of a continued storyline (such as this story or Captain America #199 or Tarzan #223) rather than a middle part (Spider-Man #73 or Aquaman #42); that way I wouldn't have to make up my own endings. (All comics mentioned were actual middle or end chapters I experienced as standalone issues.) When I was a kid, I liked to compare this issue (or rather MSH #38) with Hulk #170, which shipped three months later. (Both featured Betty alone with the Hulk.) Let me assure you, when I was nine, I absorbed everything in this issue like a sponge

Boomerang gets chewed out by his employers, the Secret Empire, then sets out to steal the Orion missile while General Ross is otherwise occupied leading a task force in search of his daughter. Ross is wearing a green helmet and kahki fatigues here and, back at the base, Talbot is wearing an Army uniform as well. 

At a "high-level cabinet meeting" of the Secret Empire (Numbers 2-4 and 6-9), things become heated between Number Two and Number Nine. Two accuses Nine of killing Five last month, and Nine responds by throwing a stun genade which takes them all out. He then opens his robe to reveal he is wearing armor underneath. That's the last we see of the Secret Empire in Hulk's side of TTA; the immediate plot will be resolved in the Sub-Mariner's side, but it will be some time yet before we learn the true identity of Number Nine. Hey, sometimes life is like that. I'm sure Steve Ditko would have approved.

The Hulk faces off against Ross's task force, but Rick Jones leaps out of the back of a truck to deescalate the situation. The Hulk leaps off with both Jones and Ross (see cover, more or less), and takes them to the cave where he left Betty. Then he leaps off by himself, giving General Ross something new to think about. 

Jeff of Earth-J said:

The three former pawns are picked up by soldiers in a jeep bearing NASA markings. Come to think of it, Talbot and Rick were both abducted from a plane bearing NASA markings. Could General Ross's command be some sort of joint operation?

In recent years, for cost cutting, the Defense Department has created Joint Bases such as ” Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam” combining the administration of the Pearl Harbor Naval Base and the adjacent Hickam Air Force Base. There are several examples throughout the country. At the time of these Hulk TTA stories this wasn’t done. The separate services stayed separate.

NASA is civilian, not military. During my marriage we went on tours at three California NASA facilities:

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (not on a military base) 

NASA facility located at Edwards Air Force Base

NASA facility located at Vandenberg Air Force (now Space Force) Base

Like the Gold Depository at Fort Knox, these are located there but not under military authority. To visit the ones inside of bases we had to be pre-cleared, park outside and be bused in (post-9/11 security). I don’t think that was the case in the JPL facility, but don’t remember. That may have been pre-9/11. 

...but perhaps in the Marvel Universe...?

In #79 Hercules is on his way to Hollywood, where he'll be tricked into signing a contract with Pluto. According to Mike's Amazing World #79 came out at the same time as Thor #127, the issue following the Thor/Hercules fight. Hercules doesn't appear, but there's a sequence with Pluto in his producer disguise plotting.

It is amazing how many different artists worked on the Hulk during his Tales to Astonish days. I am assuming Stan had Jack doing rough layouts for much of this run in order to maintain consistency in storytelling due to the number of different artistic hands that would pass through. I find Bill Everett's rendition of the Hulk very appealing. He hits the visual mark between man and monster. 

JOHN BUSCEMA - (#84-87):

While TTA #84 is not exactly tyhe beginning of a new arc, it is a good jumping on point. The splash page blurb from #60 has been reworked as follows: "BEGINNING: A new chapter in the award-winning series that delicately poses the age-old question, 'Can a green-skinned introvert, with anti-social tendencies, find happiness and fulfillment in a modern, materialistic society?" Actually, John Buscema's short run doesn't officially kick off until next issue, but as the "Art" credit reads "Almost the whole blamed Bullpen" he might be somewhere in the mix. Last week I wrote about this issue from another angle, but today I'm going to look at it in context of the overall arc.

"Reasoning" that he will no longer be hunted due to the fact that he saved Betty from Boomerang, the Hulk leaps to the missile base only to find it deserted. "and then, some dim, forgotten memory returns to his clouded brain, as the green-skinned giant vaguely recalls a time, months ago, when he was briefly part of a team--when powerful friends to turn to." With that in mind, the Hulk sets off for New York City to fins the Avengers. Once there he tries to disguise himself but is soon spotted. Ducking into a movie theater playing a newsreel, he briefly spots a man whom he seems to recognize causing a commotion. The man is the Sub-Mariner, and what he is doing in the theater at that time is explained in his side of the book in a subtle crossover.

As theHulk settles in to watch the newsreel, a footnote explains: "Those of you who read our past few ishes can skip the next page, as its prime purpose is to bring newer Marvelites up to date! Just another super-service from your big-hearted bullpen.--(signed) Sanctimonious Stan" There wasn't any way I was not going to read the next page and a half, and it's a good thing I decided to ignore Stan's warning because the newsreel did, in fact, advance the plot. Mainly it explains why the base was deserted when the Hulk arrived. Boomerang and Major Talbot were in a standoff, with Talbot threatening to push the missile's self destruct button if Boomerang did not withdraw. Bluff or not, Boomerang does not call and the missile was moved to Cape Kennedy in Florida to be tested.

Soon, Rick Jones hears a news report on the radio of the Hulk being in New York city, and he quickly answers an ad from someone wanting his car to be driven north. The man admonishes Rick not to open the truck, which Rick finds odd but he's in a hurry.  Meanwhile, the Hulk is on the run from a beat cop and ducks into a subway station. "Momentarily losing his footing... the mightiest mortal to stride the Earth topples from the station platform, landing squarely atop the deadly, highly-charged third rail." the NYC subway system fascinated me when I was nine years old, and my mother, my grandmother and I had a bus tour of NYC planned for later that summer. I was bound and determined to ride a subway (I still have the postcard I sent to my dad when I achieved that goal) and, if possible, catch a glimpse of that "highly charged third rail." But I digress.

By the time the Hulk makes his way out of the subway (by jumping through the street) he has forgotten why he came to NYC in the first place.

MAILS TO ASTONISH: The "Next Issue" blurb caught my eye: "Another cavortin' Marvel character gets killed off for good in our sensational Sub-Mariner series! Which character? Aww, why should we spoile the fun by telling you now? But, we'll promise you this--when Marvel kills 'em--they stay dead?" Oh, really? Since when? (Although, this particular character has managed to stay dead for the past 57 years.)

I have a distinct memory of reading Marvel Super-Heroes #40 (which reprinted TTA #85) on a Carol Tours tour bus while in New York City. The Hulk was in New York city while I was in New York City! In this issue, Rick Jones drive through the Lincoln Tunnel into New York City; I had ridden on a bus through the Lincoln Tunnel into New York City! I imagine this experience was not unlike what it is for a Mundane child to visit Disneyland. 

At this time in my life, I was vaguely aware of artistic styles changing, but I didn't pay too much attention to it  beyond that. Except, this issue drew specific attention to it on the splash page: "Almost everyone else has taken a whack at penciling ol' Greenskin's adventures, so we thought it was high time we coaxed one of our most famous Marvel alumni to add his towering talent to our ever-growing ranks of artistic Hulkophiles! We have a hunch you're gonna like the results." John Buscema had done some work for Marvel in the '50s before transitioning over the the world of commercial art. When he came back, Stan Lee first assigned him to SHIELD, following Jack Kirby's layouts. Buscema chafed following another artist's layouts, and reportedly erased as many as he followed. In this issue of TTA he's working solo and, looking back from a perspective nearly 60 years later, there's something just a little... off about his Hulk. He doesn't have the character pegged down just yet. I didn't notice that in 1973, though; lukewarm Buscema is still better than red hot just-about-anyone-else.

In this story, the Hulk is shot off the top of a building (at least five stories but probably not much more than that) by a rocket volley from a fighter jet. A cop on the ground observes, "It isn't possible!! After a fall like that--he's still alive!! If he could survive that--then, how can anything stop him??" Just as I liked to compare Betty Ross's predicament from TTA #83 to that in Hulk #170 when I was a kid, so too did I like to compare this fall to the one he would take in that same issue some time in the future: eight miles from the Bi-Beast's Cloud City! I also liked to compare the Hulk's relationship with Rick Jones in this issue to the one he would one day have with Jim Wilson in then-current issues of Hulk.

By this time the Orion missile has been fired from Cape Kennedy. As the Feds close in on the spy Gorki (whose car Rick is driving) in Florida, he activates his robot which telescopes from his car in NYC. The weight of the growing robot collapses the car (and no, that disn;t make any more sense to me when I was nine than it does today). The robot fulfils its function by sending a homing signal to the Orion missile, drawing it to NYC. Seeing the missile, Hulk instinctively leaps to catch it. However, "the gamma-ray-affected brain of the green titan slowly forgets the reason for his leap.. and, with forgetfulness, the rage within his breast gradually subsides, until... as his pulse rate slows--as his blood prerssure returns to normal--the most incredible transformation in recorded medical history occurs once more."

Sounds like "writer's fiat" to me, but it does make for an exiting cliffhanger as Bruce Banner finds himself desperately hanging on to a deadly missile about to strike New York City!

As #86 opens, Banner opens a panel on the missile and alters its guidance system (which he himself designed). He sends the Orion out to sea and is prepared to ride it to his death, but panics and Hulks out. Unfortunately, an Air Force pilot spots him and reports that it was the Hulk who somehow "aimed" the missile at NYC but missed. Rick Jones is waiting on the docks, hides Hulk in a warehouse and goes to get some food. 

Elsewhere in the city, the police discover one of the Leader's hidden labs and a "Hulk-Killer" humanoid the Leader never got the chance to activate. General Ross is called up from Florida and he orders his "top research expert" (apparently Banner's second replacement following Zaxon) to activate it to send against the Hulk. Although I knew the Leader (from Marvel Feature #11) at the time, I remember not being familiar with his humanoids when I read this story for the first time, which means I had not yet acquired Hulk Annual #3 as a backissue and, of course, that Fireside Press collection was still a couple of years in the future. 

Boomerang was not paid for his efforts to secure the Orion missile before the Secret Empire met its demise, and he is pissed. He spends a page or so practicing, upgrading his equipment and railing against the Hulk. Meanwhile, the scientist has managed to activate the Hulk-Killer and, predictably, it is running amok out of control. Now Ross wants to pit the Hulk against it in hope the Hulk will take it down. The way the Hulk-Killer is presented, I think it is the Hulk's most dangerous foe to date (although that will soon change). The two soon meet face-to-face, and the cliffhanger looks something like this:

If I thought Buscema's first attempt at drawing the Hulk was a little clunky-looking, it certainly didn't take him long to catch on. I remember just starring at the splash page to TTA #87 (or rather MSH #42). The cover blurb declares: "AT LAST! the secret of the HULK revealed for all the world to see!" A splash page caption advises: "Read this one slowly, Hulk buff! It's really gonna hitcha where you live!" This story had much more effect (on me, anyway) than #77, in which Rick Jones merely told Bruce Banner's secret. 

As the Hulk's battle with the Hulk-Killer humanoid continues in New York, Gorki's interrogation in  Florida clears the Hulk. Word reaches Talbot just as Ross is about to fire the Proton Cannon at both the humanoid and the Hulk. To his credit, Talbot does report the Hulk's innosence to Ross before the weapon can be fired. Then Rick Jones arrives on the scene. "As General Ross cogitates, and Rick jones struggles to break through--the block-busting battle continues to rage." Meanwhile, Boomerang tries on his new, improved costume. Hearing of the radio of Hulk's impending defeat, Boomerang flies to the scene to gloat. 

By this time, the battle has carried the combatants to an abandoned Navy yard. The Army arrives on the scene and General Ross identifies himself as the "commanding general for this sector." Rick impulsively rushes foreward and is smacked down by the humanoid. "At that fatal instant, an increbible fate steps in [an "incredible writer's fiat," more like]--as the sudden shock  of seeing his friend injured causes the world's most incredible transformation to occur once more." This time, however, it is witnessed by Ross and Talbot and Betty, none of whom have even seen Bruce Banner since his dead body disappeared in #70. 

Banner divises a plan to defeat the humanoid which requires the Hulk's brawn as well as his own brain. The plan works, but Hulk is caught in the feedback and knocked unconscious. "Meanwhile, unnoticed in all the confusion, another pair of eyes has witnessed the entire tableau"... those of Boomerang, who resolves to bide his time and take his revenge on the Hulk after he has changed back to Bruce Banner. That's not the end of the story, but this is where I will leave it to be...


MAILS TO ASTONISH: The letters page reveals that it was Gabe Jones (as shown in Strange Tales #149) who had been masquerading as the Secret Empire's Number Nine.

Jeff of Earth-J said:

Ducking into a movie theater playing a newsreel, he briefly spots a man whom he seems to recognize causing a commotion.

Are Stan (and Jack) thinking back to earlier in their lives? Has anyone still alive ever seen a newsreel in a movie theater? They went away when people started getting their news on TV.

The NYC subway system fascinated me when I was nine years old, and my mother, my grandmother and I had a bus tour of NYC planned for later that summer. I was bound and determined to ride a subway (I still have the postcard I sent to my dad when I achieved that goal) and, if possible, catch a glimpse of that "highly charged third rail."

In 1992 when we visited the East Coast, my wife and I took a bus tour of New York City. The starting point was near our hotel which was near 50th Street. The last two spots to visit were (by boat) Liberty Island and Ellis Island. When we left Ellis Island we missed the bus to go back to our starting point. Since NYC is set up in grids and numbered streets, I was confident we could take the subway back. Having heard horror stories, Gayle was a little concerned. I said it was evening rush hour and should be perfectly safe. We made it back fine. As for the third rail, I think I heard something recently about their getting rid of it and replacing it with another power option.

Sounds like "writer's fiat" to me, but it does make for an exiting cliffhanger as Bruce Banner finds himself desperately hanging on to a deadly missile about to strike New York City!

Hard to believe that a regular human could hold on to a speeding missile.

To his credit, Talbot does report the Hulk's innocence to Ross before the weapon can be fired.

If he’d known it was Bruce Banner, would he have done this?

Are Stan (and Jack) thinking back to earlier in their lives?

Possibly. I think they were aware of the anacronism, though.

Has anyone still alive ever seen a newsreel in a movie theater?

I think this was a theater specializing in newsreels. In the Hulk side of the feature, the door he ducks into says "Employees' Entrance - City Newsreel Theater"; in the Sub-Mariner side, the marquee says "NEWSREEL - First Pictures of the Hulk." I'm willing to grant them a little artistic license in this case.

" mother, my grandmother and I had a bus tour of NYC..."

I should have said, "...and Washington, D.C."

Hard to believe that a regular human could hold on to a speeding missile.

FWIW, I think it had gone ballistic by that point.

If he’d known it was Bruce Banner, would he have done this?

He knew what Rick Jones had told him, even it he hadn't yet witnessed the transformation for himself. Talbot's inner monologue: "The Hulk is innocent! In another few seconds, we might have finished him--and the humanoid--with the proton gun! If I had just received this message a minute later--I'd have been rid of Banner--the man Betty loves--forever! What's come over me? How can I even think such a thing? I'm a soldier! I've a duty to perform! And, if the Hulk is innocent--he must be saved!

GIL KANE - (#88-91):

TTA #88 was my first Gil Kane. Just yesterday I mentioned not being particularly aware of artistic changes in the comics I read when I was nine years old, but this was my first Gil Kane... and I hated it! Just as I had starred at John Buscema's splash page of #87 in awe, I starred at Kane's splash of #88 in revulsion. I found it to be just... plain... ugly. Readers were given a preview of the new artist's style on the cover of #87, but I rather liked that. I didn't like anything about the inerior of #88, though... not even the Hulk's haircut. It was completely different from Bruce Banner's! I used to put my thumb over the top of the Hulk's head in panel one of page seven, obscuring his hair, to see what the Hulk would look like bald. I also didn't like the way he drew President Nixon; I thought it was a bad likeness.

ASIDE: In point of fact, it was not President Nixon but President Johnson. I was aware of our current President at the time, and I knew about the assassination of President Kennedy, but when I was nine I hadn't twigged to the fact that there had been a President between them. I wouldn't learn about LBJ until the next year, when Kellogg began issues "President Picture Cards" in boxes of Pop-Tarts. I ate those like crazy trying to complete the entire set (which I still have) but, by the time they had moved on to a different sales gimmick, I was still four Presidents (i.e., two cards) short. My mother wrote directly to the Kellogg company and told them we had been eating Pop-Tarts "until they were coming out our ears" and they sent the cards I was missing. Yay, mom!

By the time #88 opens, Hulk has regained consciousness and television news crews are on the scene. Watching the coverage from the White House is Richard Nixon Lyndon Johnson, who has shared the knowledge of Bruce Banner's dual existence with Rick Jones since TTA #64. I didn't know that at the time but it didn't really matter because, in any case, LBJ sent a message to General Ross on the scene by special White House courier. Meanwhile, Boomerang sabotages the Hulk's chances of acceptance by throwing a small explosive disc unnoticed by any of the bystanders. Rick Jones spots Boomerang and tries to tell the general, but he won't listen. Then Rick tries to calm the Hulk, but that doesn't work, either. Just after the Hulk leaps away, the message arrives from the President granting General Ross authority to offer the Hulk full amnesty if, in Ross's estimation, the Hulk is no longer a threat. If the message had arrived a half an hour earlier he might have thought differently but, under the circumstances, he rips the message to shreds and lets it fall at his feet.

Elsewhere, Boomerang has followed Hulk to the New Croton Dam (...I suppose; it is not identified in the story, but is only 22 miles away from Manhattan). Boomerang gasses the Hulk, which begins the process of changing the Hulk back to Banner. He then throws an exploding boomerang at the dam in hope of drowning Bruce Banner in the flood. Then he makes the mistake of flying too close to the transitioning Hulk, who gets a good whack in, slamming Boomerang against the rocks, smashing his boot jets and breaking one of his legs. He begs the half-Hulk to save him, and Banner/Hulk does try but, because of the effects of the gas, is unable to hold on. He drops Boomerang, who is then swept to his death in the rushing water flooding from the broken dam. I was mildly surprised when Marvel brought Boomerang back in the '80s but, AFAIAC, it's a new Boomerang; this one is dead, due to no one's fault but his own. 

MAILS TO ASTONISH: This issue includes a letter from future Black Panther and Killraven scribe Don McGregor.

I've gotta be honest, TTA #89 didn't do much for me (when I first read it in MSH #44). It was too talky, too cerebral... plus it was drawn by that "Sugar" Kane guy. I also felt like I missed something in terms of the Stranger, who previous appeared in X-Men #11 (and, barely, #18), so this time through I read X-Men #11 first. (I've read X-Men #11 before now, of course, but this is the first time I have done so specifically as a prelude to TTA #89.) It didn't really help; if anything, it made it worse. The Stranger was introduced as a member of a species that was "interested in mutations"; here he wants to practically wipe out the human race and start over again. The practical upshot of this is that he puts the hulk under his control and sends him out on a rampage.

TTA #90 introduces spy Emil Blonsky, soon to become the Hulk's mightiest foe, the Abomination. Things have been busy between issues. First of all, Blonsky attempted to kidnap Betty Ross but failed. He also made three attempts at sabotage, but those were thwarted as well. By this time, too, the Hulk has leaped across the country, leaving a swath of destruction in his wake. As he reaches the missile base, "without warning, the sudden strain of trying to think" causes him to revert to Banner (writer's fiat). Oddly, the Stranger's control of the Hulk does not extend to Banner (writer's fiat). Afraid that he will fall back under the Stranger control the next time he becomes the Hulk, Banner decides that the Hulk must die.

Blonsky is busy snapping pictures of the gamma ray machine when Banner enters the lab, turns on the machine and stands in front of it. Sudden;y, Talbot and his men arrive, searching for the spy but finding Banner instead. they take him away, leaving Blonsky with the machine. Standing in front of it where Banner stood, Blonsky notices the foot control and activates it. Suddenly, Blonsky is transformed into a creature even more powerful than the Hulk (because he received a "more intense dosage of gamma rays than Bruce Banner had formerly received." When Banner sees the green-skinned monster wreaking havoc, his pulse rises and he turns into the Hulk. 

Ross, Talbot and Betty arrive on the scene, and Betty dubs Blonsky an "abomination" and the name sticks. The Abomination delivers a beatdown to the Hulk so intense that the Hulk doesn't even get a punch in! Gil Kane put so much sheer power behind the Abomination's blows you'd think they'd been drawn by Jack Kirby. In a 2/3 page panel, the hulk lies unconscious (dead?) at the Abomination's feet. Gone were my previous qualms about Gil "Sugar Lips" Kane's art. Unsure of whether or not he could withstand a missile barrage, the Abomination grabs Betty and leaps away, leaving her father to lament that the only being capable of stopping the Abomination is now lying unconscious at their feet.

This character really captured my nine-year-old imagination! I never had any doubt that the Hulk was stronger than the Thing, was stronger than Thor, but here's a character who is definitely stronger than the Hulk!


MAILS TO ASTONISH: #90's letter col prints a letter from future Hulk scribe Bill Mantlo.

#91 opens with Ross and Talbot believing that the Hulk has been beaten to death. [In current (revisionist) continuity, the "Immortal" Hulk is dead at this point... for the second time.] The base doctor is unable to revive the Hulk, but Rick Jones suggests hooking him up to "gamma electrodes." This procedure works (or maybe he's immortal), but the Hulk wants no part of helping the general who has hounded him his entire existence. He even smacks Rick Jones, knocking him to the ground and bruising his face. Then, with tears in his eyes, Rick grovels at the Hulk's feet, but the Hulk's having none of it. He starts to walk away, dragging Rick through the dirt behind him. Finally Rick mentions Betty, which reaches the Hulk, and he changes back to Banner. Seriously, this page (p. 6) is as important to me as that scene of Spidey lifting that machinery.

Banner's plan is to draw the Abomination to them using the Infinite Weapon (another of his many projects) which uses "infra-gamma beams." His plan works, and the machine begins to drain the Abomination's gamma energy from him. At the critical moment, however, Banner becomes the Hulk and smashes the machine's control lever. In four wordless (except for sound effects) panels which take up 2/3 of the page, the Hulk soundly defeats the Abomination. ("ZOK!" "SPOOFF!" "BTOOOMM!" ""BRRAKKK!") The Stranger reappears, reconsiders his plan to destroy the human race, and takes off with the Abomination instead, removing the last vestiges of his control from the Hulk's brain as he departs. 

The Hulk still isn't in the mood to make nice, however. "Stay back!!" he shouts. "Hulk must be free! Hulk must go--! And, where the Hulk walks--he walks--alone!

NEXT: Marie "The She"

For the bulk of his first story the Stranger is our size. He turns into a giant when he reveals what he really is at the end of the story. He briefly appeared again in X-Men #18 in the alien form he uses to travel between planets. ToS #89 introduced his costume. It's an example of Kane imitating Kirby's design sense. He mostly drew the Stranger human-sized, but it's sometimes hard to tell. I think it was Silver Surfer #5 that standardised the Stranger as a giant.

Marie Severin - (Starting with #92...):

I recently covered TTA #92-93 from another angle:

TTA #92:

Jeff of Earth-J said:

TTA #92, like #84, begins a new storyline. As it opens, Bruce Banner is a fugitive in New York City and the Hulk hasn't been seen in a month. Banner is working on an experiment to cure himself in his flophouse loft apartment. It is unsuccessful, and the stress changes him into the Hulk, who leaps out into the night sky, philosophizing about life on another planet. "If only I could escape from her!!" he laments. "If only I could go somewhere else--if the Hulk could only reach--the stars!!" Suddenly, he spots what he thinks is a "flying saucer from another world" whizzing overhead. He leaps for it and grabs ahold, but is knocked back to the ground.

The last page, a full-page panel, reveals the Silver surfer in all his glory! "No mere human THREATS-- no possible earthly POWER--can affect the destiny--or stay the hand of--THE SILVER SURFER!!" Consider this: I am ten years old, and this is my first ever glimpse of the Silver Surfer. I didn't know who he was, but man was I intrigued! Even if I had been reading this story in TTA #92 in 1967, it still would have been only the Surfer's eleventh appearance overall (following Fantastic Four #48-50 and #55-61).

TTA #93:

Jeff of Earth-J said:

Last issue was all set-up; now the action begins! Hulk and the Surfer trade blows for three pages, then the Surfer withdraws. Police with flamethrowers move in to attack the Hulk. The Surfer sees in him a kindred spirit and rescues him. Hulk doesn't believe the Surfer cannot leave Earth and attacks him as soon as they land. they fight for three more pages. After the Hulk is knocked unconscious, the Surfer uses "a mental beam of purest cosmic energy" to "probe the inner recesses of his slumbering brain." 

The Surfer "extracts a visual memory of the fateful past from within the clouded brain of the sleeping giant" and, feeling pity. attempts to rid the Hulk's body of all gamma radiation, thereby curing him. But the Hulk comes to just as the Surfer is reaching for him, misunderstands, and attacks. The Surfer has had about enough of this $#!t by now and flies off, giving Hulk the final word: "He is gone! Now--I am trapped here on Earth--forever! But, someday I'll find him--I'll make him take me out there--among the stars--where frightened men will hound me--no more!"

The Hulk's first meeting with the Silver Surfer is full of irony writ large.

Marie Severin's tenure continued into the Hulk's own solo title. she passed away in 2018 at the age of 89. Here is a brief (7 minute) interview with her from 2000. 

#94-96 - "The High Evolutionary"

#95's COVER BLURB: The quote comes from Alfred Edward Housman's poem "The Laws of God":

And how am I to face the odds

Of man's bedevilment and God's

I, a stranger and afraid

In a world I never made

(I'm not sure who first pointed that out to me, but it was probably Luke Blanchard discussing Howard the Duck.)

The story begins with the Hulk still wanting to reach the stars. He soon runs across two hunters who have just tranquilized a caribou to turn over to the "New Man." They use gas to subdue the hulk, then deliver him to the High Evolutionary's spaceship. Once enroute, the Hulk comes to and has a slight altercation with Sir Ram, an evolved ram, knocking him unconscious. As the Hulk speeds into out space he concludes, "I don't know how it happened, but at last I'm leaving Earth! I'm going into the sky, to some new world. It doesn't matter if I live or die. All that matters is the Hulk will have a second change!"

But the ship is heading into a cosmic storm. the high Evolutionary tries to contact his pilot, but the frustrated Hulk destroys the communications equipment. He rouses Sir Ram, but too late to avoid the cosmic storm. The Hulk survives but the pilot dies of radiation poisoning. The radiation also has the effect of changing the Hulk back to Bruce Banner. The High Evolutionary guides the ship in by remote control, expecting the Hulk but finding Banner instead. His race of "New Men,"  evolved from animals, are reverting to their bestial heritage and are revolting. Without the Hulk to help him fight them off, he stuns Bruce Banner with a vacuum ray and decides to evolve into what mankind will become one million years in the future.

Before he can flip activate the machinery, however, the New Men break in. He throws up a forcefield, but not before he is seriously wounded by a beast man with a sword. He drops the vacuum ray (which was preventing Banner from transforming) and tries to convince Banner to change, but he cannot change at will. The High Evolutionary drops the forcefield and goes on the attack. It is not until one of the New Men nearly kills Banner that he changes into the Hulk. While he holds the beast men off, the High evolutionary doffs his armor, climbs into the machine he had been planning to use on Banner, and activates it, changing himself into a literal deus ex machina


He devolves the New Men back to their original forms, then returns them all, including the Hulk, to Earth, leaving his right back where he started, wishing for the stars (which means he managed to keep a thought in his head for five issues straight). This was some heady stuff for a nine (now ten) year old. Although I was already familiar with the concept of evolution from Planet of the Apes, it still stuck me as rather unusual fodder for a comic book story. As with the "Stranger" story, I felt as if I were coming in late with the High Evolutionary as well. What's more, the Hulk had recently visited Counter Earth in nearly concurrent issues of his own series, and the High Evolutionary was somehow tied in with that, too.

Although readers of TTA #94 (or MSH #49, in my case) were provided with a flashback recapping all one needed to know to enjoy the story, I nevertheless wanted to read the original story for Thor #134-135. A few years further on, inspired by Walt Simonson's Thor, I would read those stories, reprinted in Marvel Spectacular. (Backissues of Marvel Spectacular were 50 cents apiece at the time, less expensive than a new comic.) Stan Lee would frequently concoct sequels/conclusions to well-received stories, often in other titles. Despite the fact that the High Evolutionary was later resurrected, as with Boomerang, I consider TTA #96 to be the conclusion to the High Evolutionary's story (as conceived by Jack Kirby and developed by Stan Lee). 

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