The Incredible Creation of the Incredible Hulk

The Incredible Hulk Essential 1This collects Incredible Hulk 1-6 and Tales To Astonish 60-91, beginning in May 1962. I enjoyed it immensely, and somewhat unexpectedly, much as I enjoyed reading Captain America — and the similar trials and tribulations of the early years of a character’s introduction into the comic universe. Perhaps because what I love most is what they reveal about the process of creation, the twists and turns the superhero takes in the collective hands of each team, and the breakneck pace at which these twists and turns happen issue by issue because as good hacks really good at what they do, they never had time to slow down or think too clearly. They wrote really fast, spun out every idea to see how it worked, and if it didn’t they scrapped it and started again.

You get the sense they loved most every minute.

There are wonderful sentences like these:

But with the coming of dawn, the thing that was the Hulk, vanished, and Bruce Banner returned to normal, knowing that he was destined forever to be two people — by day, a mild-mannered intellectual–but by night, the most dangerous menace the world had ever known!

I love the exclamation points, they are everywhere. I love the fact that Bruce Banner once upon a time changed into the Hulk only at night — it is only gradually that his anger becomes the trigger. He keeps getting hit with those gamma rays you see, and the plot keeps requiring different methods of change, different triggers. For a while it was just the rays themselves. And Bruce Banner complies with it all, goes with the flow because he never has a second to think, he is too busy fighting amazing creatures, discontented men, powerful aliens and super spies. You see him go from one thing to the next before he gradually begins to settle down into the character you thought you knew.

I don’t know what could be cooler than that. You almost don’t want him to settle. The constant creation and re-creation of character around a recognizable frame, this is what I find most awesome in comics. Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, what a team…

Then there are the antics — I don’t know why this stunt on a teeter-board with all the bad guys apparently poised on one end made me quite so very happy, but it did:

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Things like the the ‘world’s first nuclear absorbatron, it was built to absorb the impact of an atom bomb blast,’ or Hercules exclaiming ‘By the Zesty Zither of Zeus!’ also filled me with pure joy. As did the raw energy and movement of Jack Kirby’s drawings — the way the images are the equals of the words in driving forward the story. It’s funny too how the Hulk shifted one way and another in the hands of different artists, from almost-Frankenstein to my least favourite, where the Hulk is at his most monkeyish. But that didn’t last for long and I can’t help but think it was Kirby taking a hand in again as he took over art direction for a while (but not the art itself).

Then there is this title page:

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Beginning: A new chapter in the award-winning series that delicately poses the age-old question, “Can a green-skinned introvert, with anti-social tendencies, find happiness in a modern, materialistic society?”

These are the questions that matter….

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