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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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!

Back to the “Army or Air Force” bit, Marine Corps members refer to themselves as Marines, Sailors refer to themselves as Sailors, Air Force members refer to themselves as Airmen. Only Army personnel refer to themselves as Soldiers.

You and Captain Comics recently had a discussion about to which branch of service General Ross and Major Talbot belonged (although I cannot find that exchange now). It seemed to me at the time that the Army was the one most frequently mentioned (despite the fact that Marvel now "officially" designates it as the Air Force), so, when I decided to read through the Hulk's TTA run, I thought I'd make note of which branch/es was/were mentioned at the time. I was surprised other branches were mentioned as often as they were, but I still think "Army" edges them out (when a branch is specified, which it often isn't), despite their blue uniforms.

To add to the confusion, when Stan and Jack were in the Army, the Air Force/Air Corps was, like Artillery and Infantry, a branch within the Army. It was not a separate service until 1947.

As for "missile base," that gets confusing, too. The Army in the 60s and today has "field artillery" (howitzers) and "air defense artillery" (missiles for blowing $#i7 up, which are smaller than what Bruce Banner could ride but much larger than rockets from bazookas). I was in a field artillery battalion and worked for a captain of air defense artillery (branch ADA). When he rotated out, I worked for a captain of field artillery (branch FA) We had self-propelled (tracked) howitzers*. 

*A cannon fires at what can be seen. Tanks have this type of cannon. Howitzers fire at what they can't see, but at coordinates that are distant.

#97-99 - "The Legion of the Living Lightning"

The Hulk accidentally leaps into a small private plane, bringing it down. Feeling remorse, he helps the pilot, stopping his bleeding and putting a splint on his leg. When the pilot comes to, he tries to recruit the Hulk to his cause and gives him direction to the secret base to which he was heading. Meanwhile, Rick Jones has been unable to fins any trace of the Hulk via his Teen Brigade. Also, General Ross orders Talbot to give up the search for the Hulk and reassigns him to "Operation: Lightning." (Incidentally, the major is wearing Army colors.) 

Back at the secret base, the man has passed out and theHulk is disabled by a ":strange device [which] fires a bolt with enough power to level an armory." The Lord of the Living Lightning is a martinet in command of a crew I could imagine storming the U.S. Capitol. He orders the Hulk released from the beam and sets about convincing him to join their cause. At just that time, a spy is brought to him. the spy is none other than Major Talbot, and that convinces the Hulk to join the L.L.L. His first mission is to destroy the Army base.

TTA #98 opens with a symbolic splash of the Lord of the L.L.L. as puppet master with Hulk on his strings. "Since the Hulk's clouded brain is far less developed than his incredible strength, the great, green-skinned Goliath is easily duped by the Lord of the Living Lightning into believing that the secret, subversive group of traitors are really patriots!" [I couldn't have put it better myself.] "Thus, in his blind confusion, the raging giant sets out to fight--on behalf of a deadly fanatic who plans to overthrow his nation's government!" Sound familiar?

For his own part, the Hulk is totally convinced: "Leader said he will stop all war--all fighting--he will bring peace to the whole world if Hulk helps him! Now world will see that Hulk is good--Hulk fight s for peace! Lord of Living Lightning is Hulk's friend!! I must not fail him!" If that's not a metaphor for January 6th, I don't know what is.

The Hulk wreaks sufficient havoc until he is finally laid low by gas bombs, but not before paving the way for the L.L.L. to follow in his footsteps. "Once I've taken control of your much-vaunted missile base," the Lightning  Lord rants, "it will be a signal for every other subversive group [the Oath Keepers, the Proud Boys] to rise--and to strike at the heart of this nation! For, America is the greatest bastion of freedom on Earth--and only by crushing that freedom can those like myself seize the reins of power!" There is even a panel of the Lightning Lord with one leg on General Ross's desk, bringing to mind a certain infamous photo of more recent vintage.

Ross arrives and is ushered to a cell in which Betty has been imprisoned alongside the unconscious Hulk. The Lightning Lord demands that Ross surrender the base in a live, nation-wide radio broadcast or he will leave Betty in the cell. And the Hulk  is waking up!

The Hulk wakes up, but Betty is in no danger from him. The Lightning Lord intervenes but makes the mistake of threatening Betty, which doesn't sit well with the Hulk. He orders the Hulk shot with lightning blasters, which has the unforeseen effect of changing him back to Banner. Meanwhile, Talbot escapes his guard and dons a Legionnaire uniform. He rescues General Ross, Banner and Betty, and the Lightning Lord beats a strategic retreat, abandoning many of his men in the process. Ross leads Banner to a lab in which the gamma ray machine has been rebuilt after the Abomination destroyed it. Banner changes to the hulk and leaps off to attack the Legion's hidden base. "Seconds later, the Air Force jets, which finally reach the site" witness the destruction of the base. 

"The Hulk beat us to it!" they conclude. "He destroyed their base! Let's head back! Nothing that lives could have survived that blast... nothing!!"


This never was one of my favorite stories, but now I see some eerie real-world parallels some 55 years on.

#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.)

Out of the context of the poem, the phrase makes no sense, since neither the Hulk, Howard, you nor I made the world we live in. Nice to finally know where it comes from.

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). 

They (over)used the High Evolutionary for everything. He was even mixed up with the origins of Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch.

"...neither the Hulk, Howard, you nor I made the world we live in."

Like the petulant teenager who informs his parents, "I didn't ask to be born!" None of us do, kid. That's why I don't have kids, though: none of them asked to be born. No one's ever going to say that to me. Ha! I win.

 "[The High Evolutionary] was even mixed up with the origins of Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch."

That bit is from Thor #134, the very first H.E. story. Pietro and Wanda, on leave from the Avengers, have "returned to Europe hoping tp regain their waning mutant powers!" Pietro sees a "strangely flickering light" from atop a nearby mountain.

PIETRO: Remeaber the legends, Wanda? We were told that such a light flashed above the mountains on the night we wer born!

WANDA: Yes, Pietro... yes! It was said that its brilliance seemed to light up the entire sky! Do you think...? Can it be possible that our own mutant-type powers are in some way related to... that??

PIETRO: I do not know, Wanda! And yet... a name echoes in my brain... I have heard tales of the miracle land of... Wundagore! Now, I wonder...?

It was Roy Thomas who finally revealed the link in Giant-Size Avengers #1

#97-99 - "The Legion of the Living Lightning"

The Hulk accidentally leaps into a small private plane, bringing it down. Feeling remorse, he helps the pilot, stopping his bleeding and putting a splint on his leg.

I’m really surprised that I don’t remember this, even though I read it 55 years ago. The Hulk (not Banner) stopped a guy’s bleeding and put a splint on his leg??? That’s almost like a chipmunk planting and growing his own nut trees.

Then shorty after they tell us how clouded the Hulk’s mind is.

You're not wrong. Modern continuity has it that Banner's influence is always working subtly behind-the-scenes, calculating angles of cars thrown at buildings, always picking up empty cars, estimating where the debris would fall, etc. 

ISSUE #100:

I recently covered this one from another angle. I wasn't all that thrilled with TTA #100 when I first read it (reprinted in Marvel Treasury Edition #5), when I later acquired the original, or reading it in omnibus format today.

Jeff of Earth-J said:

TTA #100 is, as it says on the cover, "An Epic-Length 22-Page Battle!" Unfortunately, it's not much more than that. Even when I was 11 I wasn't all that impressed. The story begins with the Sub-Mariner observing, "The Hulk! Plunging to his death atop a south-western peak!" on one of his monitors. "But, if I could save him," he muses, "what an invincible ally he would be!" (as if they hadn't already teamed-up in Avengers #3). Concluding that a simple landslide would not have killed the Hulk, Namor sets out to find him. On his way, he fouls up the Puppet Master's plot to steal "the world's most valuable hydrofoil." Spying a newspaper headline about the Hulk, the P.M. decides to sculpt a statue of the Hulk out of radioactive clay and set him against Sub-Mariner in revenge. 

And that's about the extent of the plot. the rest of the issue is pretty much just them fighting. When they first meet face-to-face, Namor doesn't even mention that they should already know each other (although later he does say, "Have you so soon forgotten Hulk? the Sub-Mariner can fly??" The battle goes through several reversals but, when the P.M. tries to force Hulk to kill Subby, Hulk resists, giving Namor the opportunity to defeat him. When Namor goes looking for him later, he finds only the unconscious form of Bruce Banner (whom he does not know), and walks away into the surf.

ISSUE #101 - "Asgard"

As Banner awakens, the moon has crested the horizon. Loki, while seeing Thor, noticed Bruce Banner and magically caused him to change, then transported him to Asgard. It's not clear what Loki's plan is at this point, other than to cause general havoc... that and writer's fiat. the Hulk arrives on Bifrost, the fabled rainbow bridge leading into Asgard and immediately runs afoul of Heimdall, its guardian. The Hulk cleverly uses Heimdall's hyper-sensitive hearing against him, then leaps into Asgard, where he encounters the Warriors Three. After a four-page skirmish, the Hulk(who doesn't want to fight for a change) calms down. The W3 invite Hulk to seek Oldar the Oracle who resides on the other side of a bottemless chasm. Realizing that things aren't going his way, Loki causes Hulk to change back to Banner mid-leap and fall into the chasm towards certain doom.

"NEXT ISSUE: The HULK in his OWN MAG at long last!"

THE INCREDIBLE HULK #102 - "Big Premiere Issue!"

The conclusion of this story takes me one issue beyond the scope of this discussion. The year is 1968 and, up until this point, Marvel Comics was constrained by its distributor (DC Comics, if you can believe that) to a certain number of titles per year. When Marvel no longer found itself under those restrictions (a situation we need not go into here), it split off all of its "split book" characters into solo titles of their own. I used to think that, for the most part, the character with "seniority" in the title took over [what we would refer to toady as] the "legacy" numbering, but that generalization did not hold true for Tales of Suspense, in which the "junior" character (Captain America) took over the legacy numbering and the "senior" character was given a new number one. (If such a situation existed today, no doubt both of the characters would get their own "new number one.") But now I think the more popular character was the one which carried on the "split book" title's numbering. Judging by the mail, more letter writers were interested in the hulk over Sub-Mariner. Another thing I noticed this time through: although the characters alternated the cover spot, whichever character got the cover also got lead billing (as well as a full-figure in the corner box as opposed to a head-shot). Hulk's popularity over Sub-Mariner continued into the '70s as well, as demonstrated by the fact that the Hulk's TTA covers were retained for MSH, but Subby's were replaced with new Hulk ones.

When we left off, Bruce Banner was falling to his death from a cliff in Asgard. On a ledge below, however, stands the Executioner and the Enchantress, who, we shall soon learn, are there to recruit trolls in an uprising against Asgard. When the Enchantress sees that it is a mortal, she rescues him on the off-chance that he might know something about Hercules, with whom she has become obsessed with. He doesn't, so she gives the Executioner the OK to slay him. (Oddly, as I mentioned in a previous post, the Executioner "remembers" him from the future.)

Meanwhile, the Warriors Three continue their quest to find Oldar the Oracle (who is clearly modeled after Hal Foster's Horritt the witch from Prince Valiant). This being a "Big Premiere Issue" and all, Horrit relates the Hulk's origin... in verse. Down in the chasm, Banner transforms in to the Hulk at the threat of being killed. He fights the Executioner for a while, but the Enchantress, apparently tired of waiting, signals the trolls to begin their assault on Asgard. The Executioner reluctantly abandons his battle with the hulk to lead them. Hulk follows and ends up fighting on Asgard's side. In revenge, however, the Enchantress kills him with a spell. (In modern continuity, this would be the third time the "immortal" Hulk actually died since the series began.) 

Odin, however, intervenes and brings the hulk back to life (whether he needed it or not). Hulk, seeing Odin's sceptor, mistakes it for a weapon and threatens to attack. This pisses Odin off, but Fandrall (whom Odin refers to as "Balder," thus proving he's not omnipotent) intercedes, and Odin decides to spare his life and simply return him "from whence he did come" (NYC's Times Square as it turns out in #103, but this is as far as I intend to take this discussion). 

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