Hulk Questions AKA I Was Wondering #13

Since his debut in 1962, the ever-Incredible Hulk has been one of Marvel's more bankable stars appearing in several titles, cartoons, a fondly remembered TV series, two movies and the highlight of the hit film The Avengers. The Hulk has comic timing! Who knew? However he has also been one of Marvel's more inconsistantly portrayed characters with some severe leaps of faith needed to follow his exploits. Usually I ask questions and hope to get answers. This time I did some research and came to a very surprising conclusion for these queries:

Did the Hulk retain Bruce Banner's memories?

Was the Hulk really a different personality?

Did the Hulk know he was Bruce Banner?

When did the Hulk lose his intelligence?

Did Bruce Banner really want a cure?



I've commented about the Hulk's mental state with Mister Silver Age and wrote about his origin before but rereading The Essential Hulk Volume 1, I discovered that:

  • In Incredible Hulk #1 (My'62) {to be referred to as Hulk for brevity's sake}, the Hulk had no conscious idea that he was Bruce Banner but instinctively headed for Bruce's quarters. Faithful sidekick Rick Jones (more on him later) breaks it to the temporarily Gray Goliath that he IS Banner. The Hulk hates the sight of Banner's photo, knowing that being Banner means not being the Hulk.
  • Hulk #2 (Jl'62), the Hulk kidnaps Betty Ross and brings her to Banner's lab.
  • Hulk #4 (N'62), Banner undergoes a gamma radtion treatment that allows him to retain his persona as the Hulk but immediately acts fiercer, crueller and cruder. Banner realizes that he is still losing control of his Emerald Alter Ego.
  • Hulk #5 (Ja'63), Obviously the Hulk is not Bruce Banner in control. He acts and speaks too differently. And he still threatens humanity (more on that later).
  • Hulk #6 (Ma'63), the Hulk wants to change back into Banner who he considers a completely different person, two minds sharing one body. He is also afraid to remain the Hulk, to be hunted and hated by the world forever!

After his own title is cancelled, he begins his guest-starring phase in Fantastic Four, Amazing Spider-Man and The Avengers (more on that later). He regains his solo strip in Tales To Astonish (TTA) #60 (O'64) where he is still portrayed as a dual personality and "both" fully aware of the other.

In TTA #62 (D'64), the Hulk is fully cognizant that he is "becoming" Bruce Banner.

Here's where it gets interesting. In TTA #65 (Ma'65), Bruce Banner is captured by the Communists and turns into the Hulk to escape and, of course, reek havoc. He gets struck by their experimental evapo-ray blaster and is wounded. A friendly scientist treats the wound with a salve that he created to counteract the effects of the ray on the Hulk's bloodstream. At least, that's his reasoning.

However in TTA # 66 (Ap'65), in the middle of an adventure, the Jade Giant starts speaking like "Hulk will find" and "Hulk will destroy"; a dramatic change to be sure and radically different from any previous portrayal of the Hulk. It also states that Banner not always has the Hulk's memories.

Was the evapo-ray the cause of the Hulk's diminishing intelligence? Or was it the salve? Or both?

Later in TTA #70 (Au'65), Banner once again "takes over" the Hulk but just as quickly in TTA #71 (S'65) becomes more belligerent with the Hulk assuming control, stating that Banner is "dead" and that only the Hulk remains!

By TTA #79 (My'66), it's back to the third-person "Hulk-speak" and it's all downhill, mentally that is, for the Hulk from there!

Later more questions filled with gamma-goodness!



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  • There's an article here on the surviving pages of an unused Hulk story from the period of his first title drawn by Jack Kirby. It looks to me like it represents the Hulk as under the control of Rick, so my guess is it was originally intended for Incredible Hulk #4 and wasn't used because that issue dropped that element.


    Arguably the Hulk, as first presented, was a cross between the Universal version of the Frankenstein monster and the Lon Chaney, Jr werewolf. As I've argued before, Banner's fear of his Hulk identity is very much like the Chaney character's fear of his. The odd thing is that Marvel got the feature largely right with the first episode, then seemed to lose its way with it.

  • Lots of concepts with the Hulk were dropped quickly with the character introduced in #1 being very different from the one in #6.

    Another question I have is why did the Hulk's face change so much? You can see the Frankenstein Monster's influence in the cover of #2 (above) but we also later see

    1936086499?profile=originala very monstrous Hulk from Fantastic Four #12, looking very menacing, almost deformed.


















    Yet in Fantastic Four #25, he looks far more human, more bruiser than brute, bordering on handsome.

    But they're all pencilled by Jack Kirby. Why did they change his facial features so often? To fit the role of the Hulk in thatparticular story?

    Then there's Steve Ditko's influence. His inks in #2 increase the menace of the Hulk. His pencils in #6 alter his physique yet convey far more emotion as the Hulk ponders a Banner-less existence.

    When the Green Goliath returns in TTA #60, Ditko followed Kirby's modifications for a more "attractive" Hulk as does Marie Severin. Later both Bill Everett and Gil Kane bring back the more british elements in the Hulk's features.



















  • Then there's the questions about Rick Jones, the teenage trespasser that caused all this.

    In Hulk #1, he is driving onto a missile test site (ie government property) on a dare, disrupts the mission and jeopardizes lives, forever altering Bruce Banner's. Yet he's allowed to stay with Banner in the infirmary which lets him witness the Hulk's birth. He follows the Hulk's first path of destruction to Banner's quarters where they capture Igor, sees Banner revert at daylight and is there with Banner when the MPs arrive!

    Why wasn't he arrested? Sent to juvie? Escorted off the base? Nope, he's seen with Banner the next night.

    In Hulk #2, he's seen going out on an expedition with Banner by General Ross, who doesn't seem to mind that this teen troublemaker is still on his base!

    Later he tries to stop the Hulk from attacking soldiers, shouting that he's his (the Hulk's) friend right next to General Ross!

    In #3, Ross tricks Rick into luring the Hulk into a rocket to shoot him into space (an idea later revisited with equal success in World War Hulk) because the Army knows that Rick is protecting the Hulk. But Rick is still allowed on the base after this, giving him the opportunity to free the Hulk and briefly gain control of him, another short-lived concept!

    In #4, even Betty suspects that Rick Jones links the Hulk and Bruce Banner though she can't bring herself to connect the obvious dots. Rick is brought yet refuses to answer any questions without any consequences!

    In #5, all is forgotten because Rick is described as Banner's assistant despite his overt connection to the Hulk!

    Not to mention all the times the Hulk flucuates between hating Rick and protecting him.

    Also in Avengers #2, Rick follows the Hulk to New York City but has no contact with the Avengers. Yet in #4, he's apparently part of the team unofficially at least. How did that happen?

    Also he's described as an orphan but he has an Aunt Polly in #3.


  • The Captain noted the similarity between Rick's role in the Hulk's series and Rickie Wood's in the Heap's here.

  • The Hulk is probably the book that struggled more than any other in its earliest days to figure out what it was going to be. Keep in mind, it was Marvel's second "super-hero" book, but it was even more wildly unlike a superhero book than FF was, with way more of the "monster" element than superhero ideas. 

    I think they were realizing that some ideas weren't long-term plotpoints they could maintain once they got further along with telling the story. Even as it was, there's a cycle to the Hulk's adventures, in which more and more people see him helping out, and then he's mind controlled or tricked into doing something destructive, resetting the Army's vendetta against him.

    We can probably find reasons to justify Ross's benevolence toward Rick, either in being too busy or wanting to use Jones to get at the Hulk. But it probably was felt he was needed to give readers a viewpoint character, so he got away with murder to maintain that.

    Hulk's appearance may have depended on the inker, or on Stan telling the inker to make him less gruesome. They may have found that the Frankenstein look wasn't attracting readers--not that anything did, as he was cancelled after six issues. It took a lot of guest appearances before they felt comfortable giving him a regular spot again and then it was only half a book.

    But if you look at early Thor issues, it's pretty apparent they weren't quite sure what to do with him either. With Ant-Man in there too, who didn't last long before he became Giant Man, it doesn't seem like they had a firm grip on what they wanted to do with these guys. It's a wonder they survived at all!

    -- MSA

  • Mr. S.A.,  I think you're very right here.   We look back on the Marvel Age of Comics with a sense of wonder over what it became...a huge interacting network of characters who grow and change and interact...but we loose touch with the extremely tentative nature of a struggling company who is blindly finding it's way, getting encouraging letters from fans, having a hip-talking promoter at the helm, and a couple of seasoned artists pouring their hearts and talent into making the most imaginative stories to amaze, enthrawl and entertain young minds.


    In the late 60s, my older cousin who had lots of early Marvel books, shocked me by insisting that the Hulk could fly. I adamantly denied this, saying he could only jump real high, but then he invited me over to his house and I spent a long afternoon reading the first six issues of the Hulk magazine, amazed by the inconsistant portrayal and the extremely clear description that the Hulk could fly, after his trip into space, as I recall. I was stunned and stumped.

    I was shocked to discover that the Hulk didn't change back and forth with anger until  AFTER he started the Tales to Astonish run...  The first six issues seemed to have a changing formula about what he could and couldn't do... fly...stay in control of his mind...partially change...plan...control the changes...and talk and interact with others cooperatively...depending on which issue it was.  Stan has said he had a notoriously bad memory, but perhaps it was more than just not remembering what the status quo was... perhaps given every two months, nobody remember where it was going.  And as every story was done-in-one, who cared?

  • One point I've run across recently... Jack Kirby was apparently very angry and frustrated that his editor kept changing his mind and re-directly the course of the series, sometimes after pages had already been drawn. THIS is why Jack tore a whole set of finished pencilled pages IN HALF... and walked off the book. And THAT is why, suddenly, Steve Ditko did the 6th issue.

    I don't know that sales were behind the cancellation of the HULK after 6 issues. It's quite possible it had more to do with available talent.  The same month as HULK #6, Steve Ditko also did AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #1... and Jack Kirby had other things to do.

    To agree with one thing that has been said here... about 6 months back, I re-read HULK #1.  Damn, that is ONE FUN COMIC!

  • Philip said:

    Also he's described as an orphan but he has an Aunt Polly in #3.

    Well his parents could be dead, and he still has an aunt. That would still fit Rick being an orphan. It may not even be an actual blood relative, I am Uncle Travis to 4 of my friends kids.

  • Come to think of it, in his first issues the Hulk was portrayed as slow-moving. The first story that displays him fighting as a fast-moving super-bruiser is the Ringmaster one in #3. That's also where he started leaping, although the story speaks of him as flying. So the issue which introduced the mind control idea, so quickly dropped, also introduced key aspects of the classic Hulk.


  • As I recall, only the cover mentions him flying. The dialogue in the story makes reference to leaping, even though the art shows him making maneuvers in mid-air that would only be possible with the power of Superman-type flight. I figure they had second thoughts about making him fly, and changed the dialogue at the last minute.
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