I could never do enough superhero posts to keep up with the demand! Here is another one combining my Top Twenty for 2020 theme – the first 20 Incredible Hulk stories from the 1960s.
THE INCREDIBLE HULK Vol 1 #1 (May 1962)
Title: The Hulk
Villain: The Gargoyle (Yuri Topolov)
Synopsis: In the desert far outside Desert Base in the American Southwest, Dr Bruce Banner’s creation – the first Gamma Radiation Bomb – is being tested. General Thaddeus “Thunderbolt” Ross keeps leaning on Bruce to hurry with his preparations while his daughter, Bruce’s girlfriend Betty Ross, tries to calm him down.
Shortly before the bomb can be set off, Banner sees through his binoculars that a teenager (Rick Jones) has driven into the dangerous area on a dare. He tells his assistant Igor Drenkov to halt the countdown but Drenkov, a Soviet Agent, spitefully decides not to. Bruce gets Rick Jones to a bunker just in time but is caught in the Gamma Bomb’s explosion himself.
Rick gets Banner back to Desert Base where they pretend Bruce also got to the bunker in time since Bruce doesn’t trust others to study the Gamma Radiation’s effect on him. That night Dr Banner transforms into a huge, hate-filled gray (yes, gray) monster.
The Hulk shoves Rick Jones aside and bursts out of the base, fighting assorted soldiers on the way. Rick follows the monster at a distance. Hulk, apparently on instinct, goes to Bruce Banner’s cabin in the countryside.
In that cabin the brute knocks out Igor Drenkov, who was stealing all of Banner’s notes for his Soviet masters. Seeing a photo of Bruce Banner, Hulk flies into a rage over how much he hates the physicist. Rick reminds Hulk that HE is Bruce Banner, enraging the creature so much he turns on the teenager. Just in time the sun rises and Hulk turns back into Bruce Banner. (Yes, at first the transformation was triggered by changes from day to night and back again.)
Drenkov got arrested and uses a hidden radio device in his thumbnail to communicate with his Russian superior, code-named the Gargoyle. This villain was exposed to atomic radiation long ago and became a hideously ugly, but incredibly ingenious, mad scientist.
That night Bruce Banner again becomes the Hulk and goes on a rampage. Again, led by instinct he goes to the neighborhood where the Rosses live. The sight of him makes Betty faint and after the Hulk leaves General Ross vows to get the monster if it takes the rest of his life.
After the Hulk trashes more soldiers the Gargoyle uses his creation – a high-tech drug-gun which turns Hulk and Rick Jones into his obedient thralls. The villain gets the two to his waiting submarine off the West Coast, where he plans to take them to the Soviet Union for study.
At sunrise the Hulk turns back into Bruce Banner. The Gargoyle is moved to tears at this because it reminds him of his own monstrous state which he is stuck in. Dr Banner uses the Gargoyle’s scientific equipment to turn him back into a normal-looking man.
Back to normal, Yuri has lost his genius and his willingness to work for the Soviet Union. He has Bruce and Rick returned to America, then blows up himself and all of the devices he invented as the Gargoyle.
NOTE: In the 1970s the Gargoyle’s malformed but supernaturally intelligent mutant son the Gremlin would go on to serve the Soviets as another of the Hulk’s Rogues Gallery of villains. Also, Desert Base would later be renamed Los Diablos Base, then Hulkbuster Base, then Gamma Base.
THE INCREDIBLE HULK Vol 1 #2 (July 1962)
Title: The Terror of the Toad Men
Villains: The Toad Men
NOTE: This second Hulk story is the first with his green skin coloring since green was easier to render on the printed page than gray back then.
Synopsis: The story starts in the nighttime hours as the Hulk battles the police in a small Southwestern town. Rick Jones, apparently now trusted a little by the Hulk, calms him down and leads him away into the desert to save lives.
At sunrise the monster becomes Bruce Banner again. Bruce pleads with Rick to abandon him since he can’t guarantee the Hulk won’t kill him some night. Rick refuses, since Bruce is only in this fix because he saved the teen’s life. (Actually it’s because of Igor Drenko but we’ll let that go.)
As the day goes on, Bruce and Rick make excuses to General Ross and his daughter Betty to cover the fact that they are searching for a hidden cave where Bruce might be able to devise ways of containing the Hulk at night. (“Dad, why does Bruce suddenly seem more interested in spending his time with that cute teen boy now instead of me?” I’m kidding!)
A spaceship lands in the desert. The ship is crewed by the alien race of Toad Men, who have been monitoring the Earth in anticipation of conquering the planet. They set out to abduct Bruce Banner, PhD, whom their studies have shown to be the most brilliant scientist in the world. (WOW! Stan Lee and Jack Kirby throwing an early diss at Reed Richards/ Mr Fantastic over at the Fantastic Four!)
Meanwhile, Bruce and Rick, working AMAZINGLY quickly, have found and set up high-tech equipment in a secluded cave in the desert. A ten-foot thick door will supposedly imprison Bruce/ the Hulk overnight, with Rick Jones on hand to set him free each morning. (All this set up in one day COVERTLY!)
The Toad Men enter the cave and capture the pair with their magnetic rays, then take them back to their vessel. Determining that Rick is no threat, they drop him back to Earth in a plastic pod. Bruce refuses to tell the Toad Men the state of terran science so they lock him in a cell until he agrees to talk.
Night falls and our protagonist becomes the Hulk. He bursts out of the cell and – since he’s not yet the really stupid brute he would be for most of the 60s and 70s – he rounds up the crew of Toad Men and imprisons them all. The Hulk gleefully anticipates the damage he can do to humanity with the high-tech weaponry on the spaceship.
NOTE: Ever since I researched the Prize Comics version of the Frankenstein Monster in the 1940s I’ve wondered if Stan Lee and Jack Kirby (who were both already working in comic books in the 40s) just rehashed elements of those Frankenstein stories. (Not accusing them of anything.)
As I mentioned at the time, the Prize Comics version of the Frankenstein Monster had the enormous strength and malevolent hatred of humanity that the later Hulk had. In addition, he was often fought by other Prize superheroes AND was a sometimes villain, sometimes hero like the Hulk. And to say it bluntly, the early issues of Hulk feature the monster resembling (to me) the Prize Comics Frankenstein.
Back to the story, General Ross and his forces shoot down the spaceship with the Hulk trying to pilot the unfamiliar craft. It crashes in the desert and the Toad Men flee, to be picked up by other ships in their fleet. Hulk turns back into Bruce Banner in the sunlight and is arrested for treason for being on the ship that was attacking the Southwest.
Betty Ross tries to convince her father that Bruce must be innocent but he disagrees. The leader of the Toad Men takes over all television and radio broadcasts in the world and demands Earth surrender within 24 hours or his fleet will use their technology to cause the moon to collide with the Earth.
As the Hulk, Banner escapes that night for a rampage, then as himself the next morning creates a Gamma Weapon that is used to cause the entire fleet of Toad Men ships to spiral off into space, hopelessly out of control. Bruce is cleared of treason and hailed as a global hero.
THE INCREDIBLE HULK Vol 1 #3 (September 1962)
Title: Banished To Outer Space
Villain: General T.R. “Thunderbolt” Ross
NOTE: This is the first time the Hulk uses his enormous, miles-long leaps.
Synopsis: Time has passed. Bruce Banner and Rick Jones have slipped into a routine of imprisoning Bruce/ Hulk in the cell in their hidden cave overnight, then having Rick free him at sunrise.
General Ross has not forgotten his vow to destroy the Hulk, however, and, suspecting Rick Jones of having some link to the monster leaks word to him that only the Hulk might be able to survive the tremendous G-forces involved in testing America’s latest experimental vessel in the Space Race with the Soviet Union.
That night Rick lets loose the Hulk and lures him to the craft. It turns out it was all a trap and Ross has the ship launched into space, boasting that the Hulk is being sent into space forever. Jones penetrates to the remote controls of the craft and manipulates them frantically.
Far above the Earth, the Hulk has been exposed to strange solar radiation which gives him and Rick a slight mental link (it’s a comic book, just go with it), and changed the Hulk so that sunlight no longer causes him to change back into Bruce Banner AND sets him on the road to becoming the stupid, “Hulk will smash!” -minded monster that he’ll stay for quite awhile.
Rick’s messing with the controls also causes the passenger section of the vessel to be ejected back to Earth. It hits near the launch site in the desert and the Hulk emerges from the ruins, shocking Rick since it’s daytime.
The Hulk goes on another rampage but eventually Rick manages to convince him to return to their hidden cave where he imprisons the monster back in the cell with the ten-foot thick walls.
Hulk Story Four: The Ringmaster
Villains: The Ringmaster and the Circus of Crime
NOTE: Years later Marvel Comics would retcon it so that this Ringmaster is a descendant of the Ringmaster that Captain America fought during World War Two.
Synopsis: The Ringmaster and his Circus of Crime travel the American Southwest. The Ringmaster uses the hypnotic device on his top hat to enthrall each audience so that his circus members can go steal all their belongings. In this first appearance they stupidly leave entire towns still in trances when they move on.
Rick Jones leaves the Hulk imprisoned in the cell and takes in the circus. When he realizes the Ringmaster is hypnotizing him and the rest of the audience, Jones summons the Hulk with the new mental link they have. He instructs Hulk how to escape and come to his rescue.
The Hulk does so, takes on the Ringmaster and all the evil circus members AND Thunderbolt Ross’s men when they attack the Hulk at the circus. With the supervillains all defeated, Rick piggybacks on the Hulk and has him leap off into the desert for their escape.
THE INCREDIBLE HULK Vol 1 #4 (November 1962)
Hulk Story Five: The Monster and the Machine
Villain: Thunderbolt Ross
Synopsis: General Ross and his troops test out their new Iceberg Missile intended to trap the Hulk in a virtual iceberg. It works against a robot Hulk created for the test so Ross wants to find the real one and use it on him.
The troops close in on the cottage rented by Rick Jones, where he is keeping the Hulk like a pet through their new mental link. When the Hulk saves Rick from being taken by the army the pair flee to their old hidden cave.
Once at the cave, Rick pieces together some old notes of a machine Bruce Banner was working on prior to Thunderbolt Ross’s attempt to exile the Hulk in outer space. Jones puts the finishing touches on the device and has the Hulk stand in front of it. Once activated this Gamma Ray Machine turns the monster back into Bruce Banner.
Soon Bruce is able to fine-tune the machine so that he can turn back and forth from the Hulk by standing in front of the machine and exposing himself to its rays. The pair try to use the Hulk as Bruce’s “superhero” alter ego, and Banner turns into the brute when a fire breaks out in a nearby town.
Though the Hulk saves multiple lives he is still feared as a monster. The saddened beast returns to the cave and Rick uses the Gamma Ray Machine to turn him back into Bruce Banner.
Hulk Story Six: The Gladiator From Outer Space
Villain: Mongu (Boris Monguski)
Synopsis: An alien vessel lands in a major city. Out of it emerges a large figure calling himself Mongu. He issues a public challenge to the Hulk, the mightiest being on Earth, to meet him in combat in the Grand Canyon. If the Hulk wins, Mongu and his people will leave Earth in peace. If the Hulk loses, Mongu will summon an entire space fleet to conquer the planet.
Rick Jones and Bruce Banner see news reports about this and decide that the Hulk must accept the challenge. At the appointed time Bruce stands in front of his Gamma Ray Machine, turns into the Hulk and leaps off to face Mongu.
At the Grand Canyon the Hulk squares off against Mongu, who reveals that he is really a Communist Soviet Agent named Boris Monguski and his “spaceship” is really of Soviet design. The Russians want to capture and study the Hulk to try to make more such monsters.
Hulk defeats the enormous, high-tech “Mongu” battle-suit/ armor AND all the weaponry of Mongu’s Soviet soldiers. With the battle over, the Hulk leaves as the army moves in to confiscate the large Mongu suit of high-tech armor.
THE INCREDIBLE HULK Vol 1 #5 (January 1963)
Hulk Story Seven: Beauty and the Beast
Villain: Tyrannus (Romulus Augustulus)
Synopsis: At Los Diablos Missile Base, General Ross shows footage of the Hulk during his rampages to Dr Bruce Banner, whom he is assigning to invent a device capable of capturing and containing the beast.
Meanwhile, in a futuristic subterranean kingdom, its ruler Tyrannus watches the surface world through high-tech viewscreens. Tyrannus and his monstrous Tyrannoids are rivals to the Mole Man and his Moloids.
Tyrannus sees Betty Ross during his binge-viewing and becomes obsessed with her beauty. He plans to use her as a hostage or maybe a forced bride to facilitate his planned conquest of the surface world.
Tyrannus travels to Los Diablos in “normal” clothing and introduces himself to Betty as an archaeologist. (He can sell himself like this because he is really an ancient Roman explorer who stumbled on the underground Fountain of Youth over a thousand years ago.) The blonde hunk convinces Betty to come with him to explore some nearby caves in search of artifacts.
Bruce Banner and Rick Jones secretly follow them, since Bruce’s jealousy is making him suspicious of Tyrannus. They see Tyrannus abduct Betty and reveal his real motives. Tyrannus does a video conference with General Ross telling him if he ever wants to see his daughter again he must use his base to help the villain start his war on the surface world.
Bruce rushes to his own cavern hideout and uses his machine to become the Hulk, then pursues Tyrannus and Betty deep inside the Earth.
The Hulk battles Tyrannus’ legions of Tyrannoids AND his high-tech weaponry, including robots. Meanwhile Rick frees Betty and, when Tyrannus seems to be crushed under collapsing tunnels, the trio escapes to the surface. (Tyrannus survived and will return to fight the Hulk, the X-Men and other Marvel superheroes.)
Hulk Story Eight: The Hordes of General Fang
Villain: General Fang
Synopsis: The Hulk is minding his own business in the desert southwest one day, when Thunderbolt Ross launches his Iceberg Missile at the Hulk. At first the instant-iceberg contains the monster but after enough effort the Hulk escapes and leaps away. He reaches his hideout and turns back into Bruce Banner, then hangs out with Rick Jones.
Across the world General Fang, a Communist Chinese officer, invades Lhasa with his troops. Lhasa’s High Lama sends out a call for help to the other nations of the world. (Obviously all this is a takeoff on the real world situation when the U.S. helped the Dalai Lama escape under similar circumstances.)
Bruce Banner hears news reports about the situation and turns himself into the Hulk. He then travels to Lhasa where he faces General Fang and his entire army. Naturally our hero defeats them all, then grabs the general and turns him over to the then-Chinese government in exile on Formosa. After that he heads for home.
FANTASTIC FOUR Vol 1 #12 (March 1963)
Hulk Story Nine: The Incredible Hulk
Villain: The Wrecker (Karl Kort)
NOTE: This Hulk tale takes place between the 5th and 6th issues of his own series. Also, this Wrecker is NOT the same as Thor’s foe.
Synopsis: General Ross visits the Fantastic Four at their Baxter Building headquarters to request their help in dealing with the Hulk. He shows the team footage of the Hulk’s rampages and then shows footage of assorted Top Secret defense projects which have been trashed in recent weeks.
Ross blames the Hulk but in reality a Soviet Agent called the Wrecker has been responsible for the sabotage. The Fantastic Four accompany Ross back to his base where the general shrugs off Bruce Banner and Rick’s theory that another figure they nicknamed the Wrecker is behind the sabotage, NOT the Hulk.
The Fantastic Four coordinate plans with Ross’s troops for a combined effort against the Hulk, while the Human Torch and Rick Jones learn that one of the scientists on base, Karl Kort, is a Communist.
While the FF guard and/or participate in tests of new weaponry to safeguard it from the Hulk, the Wrecker kidnaps Rick Jones before he can confirm he is a Soviet Agent. Banner becomes the Hulk and – through misunderstandings – clashes with the Fantastic Four members in caverns around the area.
The destructive battle unearths the Wrecker’s robotic vehicles that he has been using to destroy Top Secret weapons. The Hulk and FF work together to defeat the Soviet Agent and his high-tech weapons, including an atomic gun.
The Wrecker is captured and the FF prepare to return to New York. Hulk becomes Bruce Banner again and thanks the team for their help protecting the base.
THE INCREDIBLE HULK Vol 1 #6 (March 1963)
Hulk Story Ten: The Metal Master
Villain: The Metal Master
Synopsis: At Los Diablos, General Ross impatiently waits for Bruce Banner to show up so the test of a new missile/ rocket can commence. Rick Jones finds the Hulk and learns that he has been stuck in the Hulk’s form for days because his machine has been failing PLUS it’s becoming painful to make the transformation. With Rick’s help the machine works this time and the Hulk becomes Banner once more.
Soon an alien called the Metal Master, attracted by all the space rockets being tested at Los Diablos, lands and threatens humanity to stop their efforts at interplanetary travel. The alien destroys the rocket that was set to be tested by Bruce Banner, then, with his control of metal, easily defeats Ross’s troops when they attack.
Riding a hunk of metal like the Silver Surfer rides his surfboard, the Metal Master flies around the world, using his mastery of metallic objects to wreak destruction everywhere. Bruce Banner steps in front of his machine again to become the Hulk and sets out after the alien.
The Hulk loses his first battle with the Metal Master and is beaten unconscious. Ross’s troops abduct the knocked-out monster and imprison him in a massive, thick cell. Once he comes to, the Hulk eventually manages to break out of the cell, reaches his cave and becomes Bruce Banner again.
As Banner he creates a device to defeat the Metal Master, then turns back into the Hulk. He takes the invention to Washington D.C. where the Metal Master is demanding that President John F Kennedy surrender the U.S. to him.
The weapon lets the Hulk defeat the Metal Master, who flees Earth promising not to return. Hulk becomes Bruce Banner again and claims he was just on vacation and that’s why he’s been missing for days. Uh. Yeah.
Betty is happy that Bruce is safe but fears that he is not telling the whole truth.
NOTE: As impossible as it seems today given the Hulk’s popularity, the Hulk’s original series was canceled for low sales after this 6th issue. In the intervening time Marvel Comics used him as a member of the Avengers, where he helped them fight Loki, the Space Phantom and the Lava Men, but also used him as a rampaging villain fighting the Avengers and Fantastic Four.
I won’t count those stories toward this count of twenty since I already reviewed them HERE . In late 1964 the Hulk was back in his own series, sharing Tales to Astonish with Giant-Man and the Wasp. In the 1970s and 1980s the Hulk would be a regular member of the Defenders rather than the Avengers.
TALES TO ASTONISH Vol 1 #60 (October 1964)
Hulk Story Eleven: The Incredible Hulk
Villain: Unnamed Soviet Spy
Synopsis: At Los Diablos Base, General Ross boils with impatience at Bruce Banner for being late to work on his latest creation: a robot tough enough to survive nuclear blasts in order to study them at point blank range.
Betty defends Bruce from her father, then after the general leaves she asks Bruce to confide in her about his frequent absences and tardiness. (Presumably because they’ll go on his Permanent Record if he doesn’t.) Banner refuses, since he doesn’t want her to know he’s really the Hulk.
Late in the day, Thunderbolt Ross orders Dr Banner to have the robot ready to be tested by morning. Bruce works on it late into the night and his presence in the lab scares away a potential intruder, a Soviet spy.
Worked up and agitated, Bruce transforms into the Hulk, but, hating all things Bruce Banner, he doesn’t pursue the spy and just leaps away from the base to hide in the desert.
The next morning, the Soviet spy eliminates the soldier intended as the robot’s pilot and takes his place. Ross, furious that Banner is nowhere to be found, orders the test to begin. The robot survives a nuclear bomb explosion AND afterward is still functioning well enough to survive an attack from multiple tanks.
The Soviet spy is convinced this robot will make a fitting gift for Mother Russia and decides to hijack it without further delay. He pilots the robot to destroy the tanks and then has it flee into the desert.
The Hulk catches sight of the robot, recognizes it as Bruce Banner’s creation and tries to destroy it in a rage. The spy within the robot uses it to battle the attacking Hulk, but the green monster soon has it on the ropes. Before he can finish off the robot, however, Hulk starts turning back into Bruce Banner, thus enabling the robot and its pilot to escape.
General Ross has his troops scour the desert for the hiding spy and the commandeered robot. Later, Bruce Banner offers to create an even more powerful robot to defeat the one that’s still on the loose but Ross turns down the offer, convinced that Bruce and the spy are in cahoots.
Betty consoles Bruce and assures him that SHE doesn’t think he’s a Communist spy. Meanwhile, Bruce fears what havoc the missing robot may unleash next.
TALES TO ASTONISH Vol 1 #61 (November 1964)
Hulk Story Twelve: Captured at Last!
Villain: Soviet spy in the stolen robot
Synopsis: The Soviet spy – I’ll call him Robot-Spy to save space from this point on – has discovered the Hulk’s secret cave hideout. He has been using all the scientific equipment that Banner has stashed there to try to create a missile capable of wiping out Los Diablos Base.
Meanwhile, back at that base, Dr Banner is finishing up a device that will help him track down Robot-Spy. Major Glenn Talbot, making his very FIRST appearance, arrives at the base and meets with General Ross. He tells Ross he is there to investigate the general’s claim that Bruce Banner may be a Communist spy.
After their meeting, Ross has his daughter Betty show Major Talbot around the base. As all Hulk fans know, these two will ultimately fall in love and get married.
During the tour, they stop at Bruce’s lab but find him gone. Talbot – who hasn’t told Betty his mission – learns from a guard that Dr Banner was seen leaving base and heading into the desert with a new invention. Talbot tricks Betty into accompanying him on a helicopter tour of the desert, secretly hoping to spot Banner.
Just as Bruce’s device has led him to within sight of Robot-Spy, Glenn and Betty see him and land in their helicopter. Robot-Spy thinks it’s authorities searching for HIM, so he grabs an enormous boulder to throw at the copter. Bruce sees this and his panic causes him to turn into the Hulk.
Hulk leaps into the sky and shatters the boulder to save Betty, but shrapnel from the boulder injures Glenn Talbot, who was shielding Betty’s body with his own. Hulk battles Robot-Spy while Betty, touched by Talbot’s chivalrous gesture, tends to Glenn.
The Hulk ultimately triumphs and knocks the trashed Robot-Spy into a canyon, killing the Soviet. His missile shortly launches according to its programming but Hulk intercepts it in mid-air, causing it to explode.
Our hero is knocked unconscious by the explosion, and when he comes to he is bound in seemingly unbreakable bonds with multiple tanks around him. General Ross orders the tanks to open fire on the Hulk, hoping to execute the monster.
TALES TO ASTONISH Vol 1 #62 (December 1964)
Hulk Story Thirteen: Enter … The Chameleon
Villains: The Leader (Samuel Sterns) and the Chameleon (Dmitri Smerdyakov)
Synopsis: News of the Hulk’s imminent execution in the desert southwest fills the airwaves. Rick Jones, who is being trained by Captain America in superheroics at Avengers Mansion, convinces Cap to use Avengers’ influence to get the Hulk an immediate stay of execution while the legalities of such action are weighed. The tanks continue to keep their weapons trained on the monster, who is still kept in the unbreakable shackles in the meantime.
Watching all this unfold in his secret desert lair is the Leader, another Gamma Radiation-spawned being who will become the Hulk’s archenemy. The Leader is making his very FIRST appearance this issue. The villain is working for the Soviet Union in this story, but later he’ll decide to try to conquer the world for himself.
The Leader contacts Spider-Man’s Communist foe the Chameleon, another Soviet spy. Our main villain wants the Chameleon to come west and learn what became of Robot-Spy, who was working in the Communist spy team run by the Leader.
The Chameleon and Rick Jones unknowingly board the same plane for the southwest. Once arrived at Los Diablos, Rick tries to get close enough to help the Hulk, while the Chameleon impersonates General Ross.
As Ross, the Chameleon orders the troops around the Hulk to leave so they can talk privately. When they’re gone the spy tries to recruit the Hulk to work for the Soviets, too. Hulk refuses and when the Chameleon is distracted, he happens to turn back into Bruce Banner.
The scrawny Banner is easily able to slip out of the shackles designed for his bulky alter ego. He flees and finds Rick Jones, who helps him get a change of clothes to resume his duties as Banner.
Bruce arrives back at the base to find General Ross chewing out his men for letting the Hulk escape. Major Talbot, who has told Ross there MUST be a connection between Bruce and the Hulk, tries to question Dr Banner but Bruce blows him off.
Later, in his lab, Bruce is knocked out by the Chameleon, who then impersonates Banner and steals his prototype of a Gamma Grenade. Betty Ross walks in on him before he can leave with it, and engaging the imposter in conversation, soon realizes it’s not really Bruce.
The Chameleon takes Betty hostage, enraging Banner, who has come to in a nearby closet. He turns into the Hulk and chases the Chameleon. The villain tries to kill Betty by tossing her on a rocket-sled testing device but the Hulk saves her.
With Hulk and Ross’s troops closing in on him, the fleeing Chameleon throws the Gamma Grenade back at them. Hulk reflexively throws himself on it and absorbs the explosion while the troops flee back to base.
When the dust clears we see that the grenade caused Hulk to turn back into Bruce, who staggers away to safety. Cut to much later, as a Board of Inquiry clears Bruce Banner of any suspicion thanks to Betty testifying on his behalf. Her father and Glenn continue to distrust Bruce, however.
Elsewhere, the Leader decides he will take a more active role against the Hulk and Los Diablos Missile Base.
TALES TO ASTONISH Vol 1 #63 (January 1965)
Hulk Story Fourteen: A Titan Rides The Train
Villain: The Leader
Synopsis: The story opens up with the Leader working in the laboratory of his desert hideout. He is putting the finishing touches on his very first Humanoid.
NOTE: Yes, this is the first of the Leader’s trademark creations called Humanoids. In the years to come he will create Humanoids of all shapes, sizes and varying degrees of strength.
The Leader reflects on his origin. In a reversal of the Hulk’s origin story, in which gamma radiation transformed the scrawny but brilliant Bruce Banner into the simple-mindedly destructive Hulk, the Leader was a mentally weak but brawny man named Samuel Sterns.
Sterns was working as a laborer at a chemical plant when a gamma cylinder exploded accidentally, transforming him into the brilliant, devious Leader. He now had extraordinary intelligence and various psychic powers, including the ability to shoot brain-blasts from his oversized head. Since those blasts induced pain directly through the brain, they could even hurt a creature like the Hulk.
Meanwhile at Los Diablos Base, the disguised Chameleon learns that Washington has ordered Dr Banner and his latest invention transferred from there to a safer location since General Ross is unable to secure his own base from the Hulk and countless spies.
Major Talbot is assigned by Ross to handle the transfer since neither of them trust Banner. The Chameleon informs the Leader of all this, and the Leader plans to use his freshly completed Humanoid to steal Banner’s new invention during the transfer to another base.
Talbot has Dr Banner and his nuclear device transferred via train, with Glenn himself staying right with Banner all the way. The Leader uses a helicopter to drop his monstrous Humanoid onto the moving train so it can steal the device.
The Humanoid easily overcomes all the soldiers on the train, prompting Major Talbot to lock Bruce Banner in their room while he tries to deal with the situation. Bruce gets so stressed out by all this that he turns into the Hulk and battles the Leader’s Humanoid.
This first Humanoid was designed with enough strength to match the Hulk’s own, and its boneless, pliable body and lack of nerve receptors make it immune to most of the Hulk’s attacks on it. The Humanoid knocks the Hulk off the train and begins uncoupling the train car containing Banner’s nuclear device.
The furious Hulk leaps enough to catch up with the train and attacks the Humanoid anew. In this rematch our hero wins, beating the Leader’s creation and severing his remote connection with it.
They both fell off the train in the battle, however, and the exhausted Hulk turns back into Bruce Banner. Later, Major Talbot finds the missing Banner and has him thrown into a cell on suspicion of having been trying to help the Leader steal his own invention.
The Leader, meanwhile, plans to utterly destroy the Hulk.
TALES TO ASTONISH Vol 1 #64 (February 1965)
Hulk Story Fifteen: The Horde of Humanoids
Villain: The Leader
Synopsis: The story opens with Bruce Banner still languishing in federal prison. He is taking plenty of tranquilizers to avoid becoming the Hulk but General Ross and Major Talbot think he’s taking them to stay calm now that his “treachery” has been exposed.
At last Banner is transferred to a prison near Washington DC as his trial date approaches. Rick Jones visits Bruce in that federal prison and tells Banner he should prove his innocence by revealing that he’s really the Hulk.
Bruce refuses, telling Rick he’s afraid if his secret got out it might lead to governments around the world exposing human guinea pigs to Gamma Bombs to try mass-producing Hulks for their armies. Rick Jones leaves and goes to the White House. Using his Avengers Passcard he gets a private meeting with President Lyndon B Johnson.
Rick tells LBJ that Bruce Banner is really the Hulk and how it happened AND tells him Dr Banner’s reasons for not wanting anyone to know. LBJ promises he’ll keep it a secret (LMAO) and issues a Presidential Pardon for Bruce. He also orders that Bruce be given back his Security Clearance and be rehired by the Defense Department.
Soon Banner is on a flight with the still-suspicious Major Talbot to Astra Island, where his newest invention will be tested. We are finally told his invention – the one the Leader tried stealing – is called the Absorbatron. If it works it will be able to absorb all radiation from a nuclear explosion.
While making preparations on Astra Island with the hostile Glenn Talbot looking over his shoulder, Bruce runs out of his tranquilizers (Idiot!) and at one point turns into the Hulk after slipping away from the Major. While the Hulk rampages, Glenn is convinced that Banner must have summoned the monster somehow.
The Leader, meanwhile, has been observing the island and sends in an entire army of his Humanoids – none of them as strong as the one Hulk-strength Humanoid from last issue. While the Hulk battles them, too, Major Talbot calls in reinforcements to try to kill the Hulk and destroy the Humanoids.
TALES TO ASTONISH Vol 1 #65 (March 1965)
Hulk Story Sixteen: On the Rampage Against the Reds
Villains: The Leader, assorted Soviet Union officers
Synopsis: While the Hulk’s battle with the army of the Leader’s Humanoids continues, the military strike force summoned by Major Talbot arrives on Astra Island.
The strike force unleashes tank fire and missiles on the combatants, hoping to destroy the Humanoids along with the Hulk. In the aftermath the Hulk has disappeared and the Leader orders his surviving Humanoids to flee the island.
The army searches the island for any sign of the Hulk OR Bruce Banner but none can be found. Major Talbot sets out in a helicopter to search the sea surrounding the island.
The Hulk had been blown off Astra Island by the bombardment and has been floating unconscious at sea. He transforms into Bruce Banner, who is picked up by a Soviet sub which was in the area to monitor the test of the Absorbatron.
Glenn Talbot spots this happening and is convinced that Banner is willingly going aboard, meaning he is defecting to the Soviets. Elsewhere, the Leader begins to wonder if he should switch his strategy to trying to convince his fellow Gamma-spawned monster the Hulk to work with him to take over the world, rather than try to destroy the Hulk.
Ultimately, Bruce Banner finds himself imprisoned behind the Iron Curtain. The Soviet commander tells Bruce that if he wants properly fed he will have to work for them. He shows Banner a well-guarded laboratory where scientists from around the world – all of them missing or presumed dead – continue their research, but for the Soviet Union.
One of the captive scientists tries to rebel and destroy some of the technology in the lab, but he is beaten and dragged away by the Soviet guards. Bruce angrily refuses to work for the Communists, so he is placed in a tiny cell until he changes his mind.
Alone in the cell, Banner works himself up so much that he turns into the Hulk and breaks out. He rampages through the Soviet prison, destroying many of the devices that the captive scientists were forced to create for the Communists.
The Russian commander has his army use some of the high-tech weaponry on hand to attack the Hulk. Eventually the monster is seriously wounded by a vaporizer ray before it gets destroyed.
One of the scientists tends to the wounded Hulk when suddenly the commander bursts in and threatens the monster with a deadly Proton Ray. This is the cliffhanger ending for this issue.
TALES TO ASTONISH Vol 1 #66 (April 1965)
Hulk Story Seventeen: The Power of Doctor Banner
Villains: The Leader and assorted Soviet officers
Synopsis: The captive scientist who was tending the Hulk’s wounds throws himself in front of the Proton Ray being fired at the brute.
The Soviet commander panics, fearing that the Hulk will kill him to avenge the slain scientist, and flees. The Hulk is enraged over the death of the human who tried to help him and resumes his rampage, totaling the Soviet prison and everything in its vicinity.
At length the exhausted Hulk transforms into Bruce Banner, who collapses into sleep amid the ruins. Meanwhile the Soviets have tanks and bombers on their way to raze the entire area.
Back in the U.S. Major Talbot has requested to be sent on a covert mission inside the USSR to retrieve the “defected” Bruce Banner but the offer has been turned down by the government. Glenn and Betty Ross grow closer as he comforts her over her heartbreak regarding Banner.
Meanwhile at the Leader’s desert hideout, the Chameleon informs the Leader that Bruce Banner is being held behind the Iron Curtain. The Leader contacts the Politburo to confirm this and is informed that the Hulk is rampaging through Banner’s prison, presumably trying to free Dr Banner.
The Leader is smugly convinced that the Hulk will succeed in “rescuing” Banner and returning to the U.S. Once he is back in the country the Leader will approach the Hulk about an alliance to take over the world.
Back in the USSR (see what I did there) Bruce Banner wakes up and wanders the ruins around him. Coming upon what’s left of the scientist who took the Proton Ray blast to save the Hulk, Banner gets worked up so much that he turns back into the monster just as the bombers begin blasting the area.
The Hulk wipes out the Soviet bombers and tanks then leaps off into the distance.
TALES TO ASTONISH Vol 1 #67 (May 1965)
Hulk Story Eighteen: Where Strides The Behemoth
Villain: Kanga Khan
Synopsis: The Hulk’s massive leaps have taken him further East and into Mongolia. While wandering the mountains the brute grows weary and turns back into Bruce Banner.
The next day Bruce is awakened by the men of Kanga Khan, a hill bandit chief. Bruce, fluent in multiple languages, explains his situation to the outlaw leader and promises him a big reward if he can get word to the U.S. about his whereabouts.
Kanga Khan agrees, thinking to himself that if the U.S. won’t pay the price he demands he will just refuse to turn Banner over to them. While waiting for word to get to the U.S. and to hear back, Kanga Khan makes Bruce at home as an honored guest, even keeping him supplied with drugs that Bruce takes to avoid turning into the Hulk.
General Ross insists that Major Talbot handle the exchange of money for Dr Banner since Glenn is sufficiently suspicious of Bruce to be alert for a double-cross. Eventually the negotiations are over and Talbot plus the funds are sent to Mongolia to secure Banner’s release.
Rumors among the bandit community have caused jealousy among Kanga Khan’s rivals regarding the big money he is getting in exchange for the American scientist in his camp. Just when Major Talbot is there turning over the ransom payment for Bruce those rivals attack the camp, intent on grabbing Banner and the money for themselves.
Major Talbot gets Bruce and shoots their way out of the camp amid the battle between the rival gangs of bandits. Kanga Khan’s rivals pursue the two Americans into the surrounding mountains, where, in a firefight, the ledge that Bruce and Glenn are crouching on gives way and they start falling thousands of feet below.
TALES TO ASTONISH Vol 1 #68 (June 1965)
Hulk Story Nineteen: Back From The Dead
Villain: The Leader
NOTE: I have no idea why this tale is titled Back From The Dead.
Synopsis: During the fall, Bruce’s fear transforms him into the Hulk, whose bulk also saves Major Talbot, but Glenn was knocked out by the impact and doesn’t realize Bruce changed into someone else. Hulk leaves Talbot unconscious on the ground and leaps away.
While the Hulk is making his way back to the U.S. the Leader gets word from Soviet spies that the Defense Department plans to go through with a test of the Absorbatron, Banner or no Banner. He still plans to have his Humanoid army steal the device and in preparation for that he shrinks dozens of them to microscopic size.
The Hulk eventually gets to New Mexico and, obviously on instinct, reaches Bruce Banner’s house there and falls asleep inside, turning back into his human alter ego. Neighbors report this, so the next morning when Bruce wakes up he finds General Ross, Betty Ross and multiple soldiers in his room. Banner is arrested.
With Bruce back in a federal prison for a few days, Major Talbot eventually gets out of Mongolia through his own connections. In Washington DC the Major meets with President Lyndon Johnson and tries to convince LBJ that Banner is a Communist agent.
LBJ honors his promise to Rick Jones about not revealing Bruce’s secret but orders Talbot to stop this nonsense about Banner being a traitor. He has Bruce released from federal prison and a few days later Bruce and Glenn are once again on their way to Astra Island to at long last test the Absorbatron.
Before Banner and Talbot arrive the Leader flies over the island in an aircraft and sprays it with his microscopic Humanoid army, waiting for the right moment to be enlarged and steal the Absorbatron.
Tensions between Dr Banner and Major Talbot are higher than ever since Glenn thinks Bruce abandoned him to his fate in Mongolia. At any rate, just as the two are close to finishing preparing the Absorbatron for its test, the Leader remotely enlarges his Humanoids to full size.
The Humanoids knock out Glenn Talbot, seize the Absorbatron and when the frightened Bruce Banner becomes the Hulk they spray him with a special gas devised by the Leader. The gas knocks out the Hulk. The Leader, observing all this from his aircraft, heads back to Astra Island to take the Hulk and the Absorbatron into custody.
TALES TO ASTONISH Vol 1 #69 (July 1965)
Hulk Story Twenty: Trapped in the Lair of the Leader
Villain: The Leader
Synopsis: The Leader lands back at Astra Island and with the aid of his Humanoids he takes them, the unconscious Hulk and the Absorbatron with him in his craft.
The U.S. Navy tries to stop him but the Leader makes himself known to them and gets past them with his ship. Soon other military units arrive on the island, revive Major Talbot and scour the island for Bruce Banner and the Absorbatron. It is assumed that Banner helped the Leader steal the device and escaped with him. General Ross orders Bruce shot on sight.
When the Leader arrives back at his desert lair he has his Humanoids place the still-unconscious Hulk on a laboratory table so he can study the monster. The Leader’s instruments are unable to penetrate the Hulk’s impervious skin so he leaves the room to devise instruments that CAN do it.
While the Leader is off laboring away at that task the villain’s knockout gas at length causes Hulk to turn back into Bruce Banner. Piecing together his predicament, Bruce uses some of the equipment in the lab where he is confined to send morse code to the outside world asking for someone to save him.
Rick Jones and his Teen Brigade of Ham Radio Operators (LMAO) intercept the message but so do the authorities. Rick tries to beat the army to the Leader’s lair, where the transmission is leading everyone, since he knows they’ll shoot Bruce on sight.
Before reentering his lab, the Leader looks in on it, and sees the Hulk missing from the table. He assumes the monster is trying to escape and floods the room with more of his specialized gas to knock him out. Bruce panics that he’ll be killed by such a potent gas and the panic turns him into the Hulk.
The Hulk bursts out of the lab before the gas can take effect and battles the Leader face to face. The Absorbatron gets destroyed in the battle and so does much of the Leader’s lair, prompting him to flee.
General Ross’s soldiers have arrived at the Leader’s HQ, beating Rick Jones there. The frantic Rick makes his way in after them and reaches the front ranks, where they all see Bruce Banner lying on the floor. To Rick’s horror, the soldier closest to Bruce declares him dead.
*** WELL, THAT’S TWENTY STORIES! TO AVOID LEAVING YOU ON THAT CLIFFHANGER I’LL MENTION THAT – OBVIOUSLY – BRUCE ISN’T REALLY DEAD. THE LEADER’S GAS SIMPLY MADE IT LOOK THAT WAY. HE EVENTUALLY REVIVES IN THE NEXT ISSUE THANKS TO RICK, AND THE HULK’S ADVENTURES CONTINUE.
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