It is now fifty years since the first issue of the Marvel comic The Incredible Hulk was published. The cover of is dated May 1962 although it was probably in the shops a earlier as part of the general magazine distribution policy of putting product up for sale in retail outlets two or three months prior to the cover date. The copy line read “Is He Man Or Monster Or…Is He Both” referring to the split personality of the character who was designed following the Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde literary model as part human (gamma radiation research scientist Dr. Bruce Banner) and part monster and superhero (the Hulk) with the ability to alternate between the two. Having a monster as a superhero was new for Marvel which had successfully launched the superhero team of The Fantastic Four the previous year. Hulk was a superhero of a different kind. The creation of the character and the comic was attributed to the same team responsible for The Fantastic Four, Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. Oddly, in the first issue of the comic, the Hulk is grey and not the green colour he became identifiable as. The change in hue was made in issue #2.
The Incredible Hulk Issue 1, cover detail.
Similar in strategy to the premiere of The Fantastic Four Stan Lee set about engaging the readers and creating a fan base, his “true believers”, by soliciting letters to the editor with feedback and suggestions for storylines. In a crossover marketing move in Issue #5 of The Fantastic Four Johnny Storm is seen reading a copy of The Incredible Hulk and commenting on his resemblance to the Thing. There were similarities but the Thing was a team player whereas the Hulk was more of a loner despite subsequently becoming a member of The Avengers for a period of time.
Johnny Storm caught reading the first issue of The Incredible Hulk.
In addition to the comics, there have been television series, both animated and live-action, and three recent films: Ang Lee‘s Hulk with Australian actor Eric Bana playing the character(s), The Incredible Hulk with Edward Norton in the role(s) and currently The Avengers with Mark Ruffalo performing the one, two part. Digital animation has been utilised in the monster part in all three movies. Hulk, the combination angry green giant and remorseful scientist was nicknamed the Jolly Green Giant by Stan Lee. An appealing aspect of the character is that it represents a case study in anger management. As a man Bruce Banner is pleasant enough but when ‘the other guy’ takes over and goes on the rampage anger abounds. On returning to human form Banner is regretful about the behaviour of his other half and tension is established to block further transitions and tame the rage. In the latest film that rage is magnificent. Hulk’s ‘dance’ scene with Loki is both humorous and magical and exemplifies his contempt for both humans and gods.
Ad in Brit Marvel Comics for a HULK cover patch, circa 1975.
Read my other superhero related posts:
Captain America: The First Avenger: RED SKULL VERSUS CAP
The Green Hornet: GONDRY GOES FOR IT
Green Lantern: MAN IN A GREEN MASK WITH MATCHING RING AND LANTERN
The Rabbi’s Cat: included in CATS IN COMICS: THE RABBI’S CAT
Thor: THOR’S COMIC OPERA: Götterdämmerung Revisited
X-MEN: A FIRST CLASS X-MEN FILM
X-Men: DO OR DIE, BABY THE NEAL ADAMS X-MEN RUN