3/15/2012

In my last post, I discussed how the basic premise of the Hulk changed radically during the first five issues. I saved the next two issues for their own post, because issue six alone is a doozy.

For a moment, I'll do a quick recap. My basic argument is that Stan Lee didn't really know what to do with the Hulk when he first created him. That argument is supported by the fact that the whole premise changes wildly from issue to issue. It goes from Banner changing to a surprisingly articulate and ruthless Hulk at night, and back to Banner during the day. Then the Hulk gets zapped and becomes a mindless slave that Rick Jones can control with his mind. Then Banner is restored to normal, but bombards himself with gamma radiation again to become the Hulk once more. Oh, and now the Hulk has a bit of a 'tude.

Yeah, he's not Magneto
In issue six, Banner has set up the machine so he can turn himself into the Hulk at will, then turn himself back again, just by blasting it on. I should probably get into the story a little bit. Uh, the Hulk faces an alien who calls himself the Metal Master, because he can control and even re-shape metal with his mind. Sort of like Magneto. Scratch that. Exactly like Magneto.

Anyway, the important thing is that it seems like Lee is still figuring out what to do with the character. He's settled onto the idea of Banner changing himself into the Hulk at will, and back again. But throughout the story, there are a lot of weird things that happen that seem to plant the seeds for future storylines.

First, Hulk speculates that if he doesn't change himself back to Banner in time, it might become permanent. Gee, that sure would be an interesting premise for a future story.
Hulk is late
Then, Banner talks about how he suddenly has some of Hulk's strength after changing. Wow, sure would be cool if a future issue had Banner in his own body with the Hulk's strength, eh?
Banner strong!
Then he changes into the Hulk again, but with Banner's face. Oh my, his identity could be revealed! Good thing Hulk can put on a mask of his own face that Banner made for no apparent reason. My, seems like Hulk has to protect his secret identity, something many superheroes struggle with in story and conflict-generating ways!
Banner-faced Hulk
Later, Banner changes himself back, but is so weakened, he can barely move. Oh no, sure would be bad if Banner ended up becoming too weak to change into the Hulk just when we needed him at some point!

Banner is a weakling
And then the Hulk tries to change himself back to Banner, but nothing happens. Oh, golly! The Hulk is trapped as Banner, and panics at the thought of being unable to hide his identity.

The Hulk panics
Oh, wait, turns out the ray did work, just took longer than normal. But what would happen if Hulk couldn't change back, hm, dear reader?
Oh, Hulk's okay
The issue even ends with Rick Jones openly speculating about how unpredictable the gamma machine is. My, seems like anything could happen. And probably will, so stay tuned!

Unfortunately, that never happened. The Incredible Hulk was cancelled after the sixth issue. However, the character remained popular enough that the Hulk returned almost two years later in Tales to Astonish 60, sharing the book with Giant-Man. It was only at this point that Lee abandoned the gamma ray machine concept, and established the premise that Banner changes into the Hulk at moments of stress. That became the fixture we know and love today. But man, I wish I could back in time and tell Stan Lee, "Dude. Just have Banner change to the Hulk when he gets mad. Not that complicated." Would've saved him a lot of time.

What did you think of issue 6?
[Image Source: Marvel Comics]


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3 comments:

Michael Offutt said...

This is an interesting series you've put here. It really shows as writers how storyboarding can resolve issues prior to tackling them in manuscript form. What Stan Lee has done with these issues is essentially all the storyboarding. Only he published the storyboards and sent them out into the world. But we can look back at them and see his active brainstorming and how it resulted in the final product.

Neil Fernandes said...

Another cool post here...The biggest FAIL from all from these ideas is the body change but no head change! That's so fked up lol!

Nigel Mitchell said...

I agree, Michael. He's clearly working out his ideas, but I'm guessing at the time he was so rushed that he just sent it on be drawn. If Lee had more time, he might have been able to step back and develop it more.

Yeah, Neil, that's why I chose it for the preview pic. It's crazy!

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