Thursday, January 19, 2012

The HULK

In the late-50's/early 60's, Marvel's specialties were teen humor books, westerns, and "giant monsters". With the success of THE FANTASTIC FOUR (which can easily be viewed as a combination of superheroes, giant monsters, and teen humor), publisher Martin Goodman was no doubt anxious to try for another hit. Taking the wild concept of The Thing (in F.F.) one step further, Jack Kirby came up with THE INCREDIBLE HULK.  Instead of an angry "monster" being just one member of a team, this time, he's the star. And while test pilot Ben Grimm's volatile personality had its ups and downs, nuclear research scientist Bruce Banner found himself in a "Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde" situation.  Changing back-and-forth between mild-manner intellect and wild, destructive, almost completely out-of-control unstoppable engine of destruction, it's no wonder it took years before anyone found out they were the same guy!

In addition, Kirby has gone on record as saying he conceived The Hulk as "a handsome Frankenstein". And who didn't watch the early Boris Karloff movies half-wishing the monster would somehow, against all odds, come out on top and be viewed as a hero? Further, elements from several 1950's science-fiction movies found their way into the mix, particularly THE AMAZING COLOSSAL MAN (where a man is caught in the blast of a nuclear explosion, somehow survives, but turns into a monster in the process), and EARTH VS. THE FLYING SAUCERS (check out some of the characters in the film for parallels, especially the military types, the scientist, etc.). And then of course, there's the ever-present Cold War "red scare".

(8-17-2013)  I just dug out the files for these and have done ADDITIONAL clean-ups.  So if you've come here before, these are going to look BETTER than they did before!  (Pass it on...)

THE INCREDIBLE HULK  1  /  art by Jack Kirby & Paul Reinman   (May 1962)
While the first issue remains a powerful, exciting, and FUN read, somehow Kirby & his editor kept playing with the format, as if they weren't sure or weren't satisfied with exactly how to handle the characters and concept. But taken as a whole, it's a wild ride.

THE INCREDIBLE HULK  2  /  art by Jack Kirby & Steve Ditko   (July 1962)
THE INCREDIBLE HULK  3  /
art by Jack Kirby & Dick Ayers   (September 1962)
THE INCREDIBLE HULK  4  /  art by Jack Kirby & Dick Ayers   (November 1962)
THE INCREDIBLE HULK  5  /  art by Jack Kirby & Dick Ayers   (January 1963)
After 5 issues, The Hulk became one of the first Marvel characters of the 1960's to cross over with another book, when he guest-starred in FANTASTIC FOUR #12. Things were kept very consistent because the same 3 guys were handling both books at the time-- Jack Kirby, his editor, and Dick Ayers.

FANTASTIC FOUR 12  /  art by Jack Kirby & Dick Ayers   (March 1963)
A difference of opinion on the contents for the 6th issue resulted in Kirby apparently TEARING several pages of pencilled art IN HALF, and quitting the book on the spot.  Perhaps his editor was the one who kept changing his mind on the book's direction, and Kirby had had enough, especially if changes were requested AFTER several pages had already been done?  In his place, Steve Ditko was recruited, who'd already inked the cover and interior of issue #2.  Just 7 months earlier, Ditko had illustrated the debut of Spider-Man in AMAZING FANTASY #15, and the same month he did HULK #6, AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #1 appeared! 4 months later, the 1st installment of Ditko's own creation, Dr. Strange, would debut in STRANGE TALES #110.

THE INCREDIBLE HULK  6  /  art by STEVE DITKO   (March 1963)
With the departure of Kirby, it was decided to cancel THE HULK after 6 issues, in favor of other projects. But he would not be out of the spotlight for long.  Only 6 months later, he'd return, in the 1st issue of what today might be called a "company-wide crossover"-- THE AVENGERS. And, eventually, he got his own series again, the 2nd time in the pages of TALES TO ASTONISH.


Finally, as a extra treat... many comics fans are not aware that artists, even those with "cartoony" styles, often base their creations on REAL people. It's even more hidden when they're followed over the years by an army of other illustrators, who are not aware of the original models, or simply fail to stay "on model", and compounded by decades going by and later generations of fans who simply have no knowledge of the people who served as inspiration, or even of the original creators themselves.

With this in mind, I've been slowly trying to track down the people I believe many of these characters were based on.  In the case of this series,  I've managed to find the following...

BRUCE BANNER  (Burt Lancaster)
GENERAL "THUNDERBOLT" ROSS  (Thorley Walters)
BETTY ROSS  (Donna Reed)
RICK JONES  (Robert Walker Jr.)
MAJOR GLENN TALBOT  (Lee Van Cleef)

I just discovered Betty Ross the other day, after re-reading HULK #2 and flipping again thru HULK #1.  In some panels, she was so similar, it was downright spooky! Imagine my delight when I was able, very quickly, to find a photo where she even had the same HAIR as Jack Kirby had drawn in HULK #1.

Rick Jones I mostly noticed from his appearance in TALES OF SUSPENSE, while Glenn Talbot came from his 1st appearance. Kirby never drew him quite like this, because Talbot was created by Steve Ditko!

I remember, when I was re-reading this story in TALES TO ASTONISH #61 a few years ago, seeing the above panel, and thinking, "Oh my GOD!!  it's LEE VAN CLEEF!!"  Ever since, I can hear his voice in my head when I read Talbot's dialogue.  He never quite looked this recognizable afterwards, and when Jack Kirby returned several issues later Talbot became a more "generic" character.

The last one I added here was actually Bruce Banner.  This suggestion was courtesy of Christian Alexis Olmeda, over at the Jack Kirby Fan Group (before that group went to HELL).  It wasn't one that I might have ever thought of myself, as I tend to see Burt Lancaster in "action" roles, but then I found this photo from 1957, and whatta ya know?  That IS pretty close to what Kirby drew in HULK #1.

(Continued in Tales To Astonish, Part 4)

Artwork (C) Marvel Comics

Raw Scans supplied by Barry Pearl

Restorations by Henry R. Kujawa

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