Friday, January 1, 2010

8: Incredible Hulk #2

Incredible Hulk #2
May 1, 1962

  • With this issue, the Hulk is now his famous green, instead of grey as in the first issue. But when the Hulk, at issue's start, lumbers out of a nearby swamp at night (a swamp? bordering a desert? really?), the coloring is darker - almost a greenish/grey hue - so it's not an immediate change all at once. His bright emerald tones would start appearing just pages later, though.

  • And speaking of greens, let's get this out of the way: There's no way to avoid a comparison with Fantatic Four #2. In that second issue, Stan & Jack allayed any doubts their readers might have had by pitting their still-fresh super-team against an alien race - looking not completely unlike frogs - bent on world domination. The Skrulls would return again and again, going on to become one of the most feared alien menaces in the Marvel canon. The Toad Men, on the other hand ... would not.

  • That's not the only misstep, sadly. Jack Kirby was the penciller for the first five issues of The Incredible Hulk, but after just two pages the canny reader will note that the art this issue has the distinct look of Steve Ditko, early artist and co-creator of Spider-Man and Doctor Strange. Turns out, for this issue he was drafted as the inker! Unfortunately, Ditko's style is SO distinctive that it blots out most of the lauded Kirby style from Jack's pencils underneath. Steve Ditko is, of course, a master in his own right ... but is perhaps not well-suited for a monster book (or at least not here). And certainly the mixture of these two artistic powerhouses came at the nigh-total expense of one of them. Perhaps Stan realized this too, as Dick Ayers would come on as Kirby's inker with issue #3.

  • In fact, it's tempting to see the whole comic as a well-intentioned mistake from start to finish. Reading it now, the comic is certainly enjoyable enough on a kooky, kitschy level ... but that's kind of the problem. Whether you're laughing at the goofiness of the Toad Men, or trying to read it with the degree of seriousness they hoped their younger readers would, the tale is still one of an angry, misunderstood monster - versus space invaders in actual flying saucers. Alien toads are completely at odds with the dark, horror tone of having a monster as the book's protagonist, and the mix never completely gels. Maybe next issue will get back to basics...?


S.K. said...

Don, I don't have much to add but I wanted to tell you that I love the blog. I don't know anything about the history of comics but I'll be staying to learn...

Don Alsafi said...

Thanks, S.K. - I'm really happy to hear that! Especially since one of my goals was to make this (hopefully) something that could appeal to fans and non-fans alike, but you're never quite sure how successful such a thing will be....

Harvey Jerkwater said...

The Hulk took a long time to find a workable status quo, didn't it? Those early issues saw Marvel throwing all kinds of stuff at the wall to see what stuck.

The FF evolved just a little from where they started, and were in their modern form by what, #3? Spider-Man was pretty much the same from AF #15. The Hulk, not so much. "He's cruel!" "He's Banner but angrier!" "He's Rick Jones's mind-controlled puppet!" "He changes at night!" "He changes with the gamma gun!" Yikes.

Don Alsafi said...

Agreed. One of the fascinating things about this early look is how half the time they're SO on-target that it seems that were visionaries with a decades-long game plan ... and other times they're so clearly making everything up as they go and seeing what sticks. I'm particularly interested to see if and when those missteps start occurring with less frequency (or if they remain, and it's just the successes that have been remembered...).

Hoosier X said...

I love this comic. In particular, there is one panel that could have been the starting point for a drastically different Hulk series that I think could have been fascinating for a few years.

It's the last panel on page 10. In the preceding pages, the Toad Men have captured Bruce Banner and taken him to their ship to make him reveal how scientifically advanced the humans are. They don't know he's the Hulk ... but they soon find out when the ship travels onto the dark side of the Earth. (Recall, this is back when Banner turned to the Hulk at night.)

The Hulk takes over the ship, terrorizes the Toad Men and surveys the mighty firepower now at his disposal. "With this flying dreadnaught under me, I can wipe out all mankind! now the Hulk will be the hunter instead of the hunted!"

It doesn't quite work out that way.

Anonymous said...

The early Hulk stories are all mixed up, but fun in an offbeat way. I suspect Lee and Kirby didn't know what to do with the Hulk and likely might have been worried about making him too dangerous, since the Comics Code was very much in control. Still, I love some of the quirky stories, as well as the excellent Lee-Ditko artwork.

Nick Caputo

Donaldson said...

Swamp in the desert! Bam!

Love the blog. I'm re-reading from the beginning to catch up...

Don Alsafi said...

I stand corrected! :D

And thanks, Donaldson - I'm glad to hear it! And totally looking forward to your comments.... :)

Oliver said...

In John Byrne's SENSATIONAL SHE-HULK #2 (June 1989), the Toad Men make an appearance. Definitely not a coincidence!

The sanctuary cave used to keep the Hulk at bay during nighttime hours makes its first appearance here.

Eldron said...

Stan really liked the idea of a new hero coming up against an invading force of aliens. The Fantastic Four, Hulk, Thor and Spider-Man all notably face them very early on in their careers, although only the Skrulls have had a major lasting impact on the Marvel Universe...

Anonymous said...

Any chance the last spam comment can get deleted?

Don Alsafi said...

Done! (It's been an ever-growing problem...)

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