The Hulk, Mind Slave!
It’s not much of a mind, but a lot of people conveniently decided they had to have it!
Dear Mr. Silver Age,
I know The Hulk is a misunderstood beast, but you’d think, with all his good intentions and the good deeds he did in his early days during The Silver Age, that people would have understood that he meant no harm. What happened?
Mr. Silver Age says: It’s true, Bruce, that time after time, despite having General Ross’s minions shooting really big guns at him, The Hulk found ways to save Ross’s daughter Betty, the entire Army base, several cities and sometimes the whole darned world. Yet he continued to be hunted and feared as an evil beast rather than simply a really strong guy in need of some understanding and TLC.
That’s not an easy thing to do without looking rather dim yourself in not comprehending what’s going on. Ultimately, the creators had to rely more often on that all-time great comics excuse: mind control.
In The Hulk’s earliest days, it wasn’t hard to find a reason to chase after him and maybe fire a missle or two in his general direction. It took awhile before his destruction was understood to not have evil intent, at least, and his dual identity became widely known. So Ross and the boys thought they were shooting at some big, green, maybe alien monster bent on who knows what.
But first his true identity as Bruce Banner was revealed (in Tales To Astonish #77), and then his adventures clearly helped save Betty and everyone else in the world, and those factors were hard to ignore. So mind-controlling The Hulk became a popular way to ensure The Orchid Ogre’s intentions could be misunderstood—and allow him, in turn, to be wary of everyone who tried to help him.
We got a brief taste of the fun that could come from mind-controlling Jade Jaws early in the series, when Rick Jones gained that ability in The Incredible Hulk #3 (Sep 62). Rick managed to abort a Hulk trap that had shot The Green Goliath into space. An electric shock traveled between the space capsule/prison to Rick, allowing him to control Hulkie’s movements when he landed.
This was fortunate, as The Lime Lunatic was a bit testy and wanted revenge on Rick upon arriving back on Terra Firma. The teen-ager discovered that Hulk was immobilized unless Rick told him what to do—at least while Rick was awake.
Once Mr. Jones fell asleep, all bets were off, as The Emerald Enormity showed the first time Rick grabbed some shut-eye. After that, Rick forced himself to remain awake, but that’s not an easy thing to do, especially when The Ringmaster is hypnotizing you to do his own bidding.
Rick’s control remained until the next issue, when Jones used one of Bruce’s machines to revert The Hulk to his human form and then re-transform him into Green Genes, this time with Banner’s brain. That ended Jones’ control, and Jade Jaws went through a bunch more oddball combinations of Banner/Hulk brain/body transformations before settling into The Mignonette Monster version we came to know and love.
For many months after that, The Hulkster was hounded and stayed on the run, not needing anyone to control his movements to give the plots some dynamic tension. The only time anyone came close to mind-controlling him was in TTA #74 (Dec 65), when The Leader got Hulk to agree to track down a specific item at The Watcher’s home pad. The Emerald Enormity was guided through Chez Uatu to the desired knick-knack by the mental direction of our favorite viridescent villain. But Lettuce Lips was in full control of his mind, such as it was, and simply followed The Leader’s lead, so that doesn’t really count.
But once Banner’s identity became known and all those Army guys had a better idea of who they were aiming at, firing off all those missiles became a bit tougher to justify. It was especially difficult for General Ross, whose daughter kept telling him what a numbskull he was. It was easier for Major Talbott, who figured that if he accidentally killed The Hulk, it would also eliminate Banner, his major rival for Betty’s hand (and other bodily parts).
The turning point came in TTA #87 (Jan 67), when The Hulk was accused of sabotaging The Orion Missile, a big Army project that had been progressing for a number of issues. Talbot caught the true saboteur, who disavowed any partnership with The Hulk.
The major cursed his luck, because had he learned that a few minutes later, after The Army had pulverized The Hulk, he’d have had a clear and guilt-free path to Betty.
“How can I even think such a thing?” he asked himself, picking up the phone. “I’m a soldier! I’ve got a duty to perform! And, if The Hulk is innocent—he must be saved!”
When informed, Ross was thunderstruck. “We’ve been wrong about The Hulk—tragically wrong!” he exclaimed. “And now we’ve got to make up for it!” And so Hulk and Ross warily teamed up, benefitting both.
Sadly, that partnership didn’t result in Jade Jaws becoming known as a volatile but well-intentioned green giant. Because just as things were looking up, The Stranger showed up in TTA #89 (Mar 67). He decided that Turquoise Toes would make a nifty weapon of mass destruction to soften up mankind so they could easily be conquered. So he called up a massive Kirby Kontraption and mind-controlled The Hulk with a simple suggestion.
“You hate all of mankind!” he informed our suggestible super-hero. “You exist for only one purpose—to smash out and destroy! You have no other purpose—no other goal—but destruction! Nothing may dampen the flaming inferno of rage that smolders in your soul!” So much for being misunderstood.
Hulk’s rampage didn’t last long in TTA #90, but it lasted long enough. Transforming back to Banner negated the command (as if Bruce Banner as a weapon of mass destruction would inflict much damage anyway).
He became The Green Goliath again after The Abomination kidnapped Betty, and he overcame The Stranger’s control to ultimately help free her.
This success again kind of evened the scales, so to kill some time, The Olive Obelisk danced a two-step with The Silver Surfer and then headed out into space to play with The High Evolutionary for a few issues. That gave General Ross time to decide if he really wanted to launch more missiles at his daughter’s beau. In deference to Betty’s interests, Ross decided Jade Jaws should be locked up rather than killed. What a dad!
When Hulk returned to Earth, he landed among the Legions of Living Lightning, a revolutionary group that convinced him that they were his friend. The Hulk could be pretty gullible for someone who was continually feeling rockets hit him in the back, so this allegiance really doesn’t count as mind control. But it’s darn close. And it allowed the Army soldiers to line him up in their sights again—and weakened Betty’s arguments that, deep down, Bruce was just misunderstood.
The Green Goliath threw off the group’s influence just in time for TTA #100 (Feb 68), which he celebrated by having a full-issue battle with his title roommate, Namor the Sub-Mariner. These two guys usually would be more than happy to take a poke at each other just for looking at the other cross-eyed, but this time, they didn’t even have to work up a good ole misunderstanding.
Instead, the always-handy Puppet Master decided to get revenge on Namor for past mistreatment through The Green Gargantua. His past efforts to directly control Subby never worked out very well—of course, which of his plans ever did work out very well?
He carved up a Hulk puppet, saved the hero from his current dangerous situation and ordered him to kill Subby.
Along the way, The Purple-Pantsed Puppet slapped around Rick Jones when the kid blocked his way to Subby, losing him points with his other big supporter, Betty. “The Hulk is…beyond any help!” she bemoaned.
That skirmish, of course, didn’t have a big winner, especially once The Hulkster reverted to Banner, and none of them ever learned what had made Jade Jaws go Medieval on Subby.
After a few issues in Asgard, The Hulk returned to Earth in #103 (May 68) in time to watch a TV show in which Rick Jones admitted, after having been smacked around one time too many, that his big, green pal probably needed to take a dirt nap. Bruce confronted Rick, who pulled a gun but couldn’t bring himself to shoot Banner.
But Betty showed up just then and agreed that Bruce needed to be put down for good. Whew, that was some tough love!
We understood why Rick was feeling a bit miffed, but for Betty to diss Bruce so drastically meant that he had no place to turn. It was a shocking position for Ms. Ross to take, but of course (wait for it), she was being mind-controlled!
This time it was by The Space Parasite, who wanted to shock Banner enough that he’d become The Hulk and battle SP. As if just showing up and threatening Betty wouldn’t have done the trick.
Villains left The Hulk’s mind, such as it was, alone for only a few issues before it once again came into play against The Mandarin. After spending all of #107 (Sep 68) battling Green Genes after transporting him to his hideout, Mandy decided in #108 to cut to the chase and just go ahead and mind-control the big lug.
He intended to use The Hulk to destroy various key strongholds in volatile countries, which would decide that The Lime Lunatic must be working for their hated enemy. They would then launch nuclear missiles at each other, leaving Mandy as the last one standing.
Why these guys were so intent on ruling a nuclear-ravaged world isn’t too clear, but nobody ever said that world-conquering super-villains had to have a shred of sanity.
Ultimately, Mandy’s control device went on the fritz, freeing Hulk to realize who his real enemy was, thus ending this adventure in mind control.
That essentially put an end to the spate of mind-controlling for awhile, but not to the rampant misunderstandings and miscommunications.
In #114 (Apr 69), our coosome twosome reconciled, with Banner admitting he really should get rid of that darn Hulk personality, and Betty professing her belief that her Hulkie never really wanted to harm anybody but just struck back in fear and helpless rage. I’m not sure that’s a good thing, but I guess it’s not evil, either.
But then Talbot managed to arrange things so it appeared that Betty betrayed Bruce to The Army, keeping him occupied until they could capture him. That got worked out in #116, as it always did. The Hulk didn’t have a huge fan club, as Betty pretty much was always winning election as president, vice president, secretary and treasurer.
Through the years—especially during Peter David’s long tenure—The Hulk had many permutations that tried to keep the uneasy balance between evil monster who should be shot down on sight and misunderstood creature who didn’t mean any harm. It’s not easy maintaining the hunted-innocent concept for 40 years, and mind controlling him to act out of character helped set him back a few steps when it was needed in the early days.
But even when Jade Jaws was mind-controlled, it never lasted long. Having your ostensible hero being controlled as a mindless destructive force can remain exciting for only so long. And the mind-controlling element was never about the destruction he caused or even its ramifications.
It only made sure that The Army had a justifiable reason to keep aiming those Hulk-busting missiles at his enormous green body and pulling the trigger even when his heroics were right out in the open. It ain't easy living the lime lifestyle.