Monday

OMU: Fantastic Four -- Year Two

With the third issue of Fantastic Four, Stan Lee & Jack Kirby christened their series “The World’s Greatest Comic Magazine,” and despite the hyperbole, it was an assertion often hard to deny. The nature and personality of the series rapidly took shape, as well as the devotion to continuity—both within this series and amongst their other superhero titles—that came to define the Original Marvel Universe. In that third issue, the team first adopted their familiar blue and black costumes, having worn regular street clothes in their first two outings. They also left the fictional setting of “Central City” and set themselves up in the very real town of New York, another innovation that bucked the old conventions of superhero comics. From then on, both in Fantastic Four and a spin-off series of Human Torch solo stories published in Strange Tales, Stan, Jack, and Dick Ayers created a truly bizarre rogue’s gallery of villains, ranging from the ludicrous to the sublime.

The next twelve months in the lives of the characters were extremely busy, as they battled dangerous menaces such as Doctor Doom, the Sub-Mariner, the Skrulls, the Wizard, and the Puppet Master; encountered weird alien beings like the Watcher and the Impossible Man, and met other superheroes inspired by the FF’s example, such as the Avengers, Spider-Man, and the X-Men, as well as the misunderstood Hulk. All the while each member of the team was dealing with his or her own personal issues that often led to quarreling, self-doubt, and lingering misunderstandings. But they also learned to live with each other as a team and as a family.

Note: The following timeline depicts the Original Marvel Universe (anchored to November 1961 as the first appearance of the Fantastic Four and proceeding forward from there. See previous posts for a detailed explanation of my rationale.) Some information presented on the timeline is speculative and some is based on historical accounts. See the Notes section at the end for clarifications.


The Marvel Universe kicks into high gear — The True History of the Fantastic Four!


January 1962 – The Fantastic Four decide to take a break from the media frenzy generated by their debut and rent an isolated hunting lodge in upstate New York. While there, they hear on the radio that they are being blamed for a number of terrorist attacks and have been declared public enemies. An Army squadron surrounds the cabin and places them under arrest. The Fantastic Four are moved to a specially-prepared federal prison, but, realizing they have been framed, they break out and track down the imposters. Reed Richards’ greatest fears are realized when the imposters turn out to be the advance team of an alien invasion fleet, a race of shape-changing Skrulls from the Andromeda galaxy. Posing as the imposters, the FF board the fleet’s flagship and convince the Skrulls that the earth’s defenses are too formidable. Returning to Earth, the Fantastic Four are able to convince the authorities that the Skrulls committed the crimes, and they are cleared of all charges, although the threat of the alien invasion is never made public. Though one of their number has slipped away, Reed has the remaining captive Skrulls change themselves into cows and then hypnotizes them into forgetting their true nature. The FF leave them grazing in a pasture near King’s Crossing, NY.

February 1962 – Reed uses the money from the sale of Richards Laboratories to lease the top floors of the Baxter Building, located on the East Side of Manhattan not far from the United Nations Building, to serve as their headquarters. Reed and Ben Grimm move into the Baxter Building, where Reed sets up his laboratory equipment. With the help of his teammates, Reed has their headquarters up and running in just a couple of weeks. Intending for an evening’s entertainment, they end up instead battling the powerful illusionist called the Miracle Man. At the conclusion of the battle, the Human Torch angrily quits the team. Then, wandering through the city, Johnny Storm finds the Sub-Mariner in a Bowery flophouse. The Torch flies him out to the harbor and drops him in. The sudden shock partially restores Namor’s memory. Learning of the destruction of Atlantis, the Sub-Mariner attacks New York, but the F.F. drive him off. This is the team’s first major public victory, and they are hailed as the saviors of the city.

March 1962 – Doctor Doom attacks the Fantastic Four in their own headquarters and kidnaps them, holding Sue Storm hostage. Reed is shocked when he recognizes the voice of his former college colleague. Doom takes them to his private castle hidden in the Adirondack Mountains and sends Reed, Ben, and Johnny back in time, to circa 1700. Returning to the present, the FF trick Doom and escape. Realizing he is outmatched, Doom leaves his laboratory in flames and abandons the fight.

April 1962 – Doctor Doom tracks down the Sub-Mariner and enlists his aid in attacking the Fantastic Four. Namor attaches a small device in the basement of the Baxter Building that allows Doom to haul the entire skyscraper into space. However, Doom double-crosses the Sub-Mariner, intending to destroy him as well. Namor helps the FF defeat Doctor Doom, and the villain is left drifting in outer space. The Baxter Building settles back on its foundations and Namor returns to the ocean depths. Sue has developed a crush on the muscular and enigmatic Sub-Mariner, and he finds her attractive as well, none of which sits well with Reed.

May 1962 – The Fantastic Four are invited to a congressional dinner at the Capitol in Washington, DC. However, a riot breaks out as people throughout the city are affected by an alien ray. A flying saucer tails the FF back to their headquarters in New York, where they are coerced into journeying to the planet Xanth. Foiling the schemes of the Xantha dictator, Kurrgo, they return to Earth aboard the Xantha flying saucer. Reed immediately begins studying the alien craft, hoping to crack the secrets of its advanced technology. Still bitter about the government’s treatment of his starship project, Reed refuses to turn the flying saucer over to the military.

Later, Johnny goes on his own to capture a masked menace calling himself the Destroyer, who is threatening an amusement park in Glenville. Next, the Torch matches wits with Bentley Wittman, the celebrity genius known as “the Wizard,” who tries to discredit the young hero. After which, the Fantastic Four battle the mysterious Puppet Master and Ben meets the villain’s blind step-daughter, Alicia Masters. Alicia finds herself drawn to Ben, and helps the FF win the fight. The Puppet Master is severely injured, and must be hospitalized.

June 1962 – While investigating acts of sabotage at a local housing development, the Human Torch encounters the warlord Xemu of the “Fifth Dimension” and meets the beautiful alien Valeria. Upon his return to Earth, Johnny enrolls in summer school to make up for his missed semester. Meanwhile, Reed invests a great deal of their money into the stock market. Unfortunately, the market soon takes a sudden plunge, and the team is forced to declare bankruptcy. Tensions run high as they contemplate selling off Reed’s many inventions to ward off their creditors. However, they receive an unexpected offer from a Hollywood movie studio to appear in a documentary film. Desperate for cash, the four adventurers soon find themselves back in California. They are astonished to discover the owner of the studio is none other than Prince Namor, the Sub-Mariner, who financed his purchase of the studio with treasures from the ocean floor. Although the team at first enjoys their taste of the Hollywood lifestyle, they soon discover it is all an elaborate trap. The FF overcome Namor’s attacks, and Sue rejects his rather arrogant marriage proposal. Moreover, she shames him into honoring their contract, and he agrees to produce the film. The documentary is made in record time, to feed the public’s growing fascination with super-powered beings like the monstrous Hulk, the heroic Ant-Man, the mighty Thor, the Avenging Angel, and the mysterious television sensation called Spider-Man. Ben celebrates his 37th birthday.

July 1962 – The Fantastic Four is a hit in theaters; the FF become more famous than ever and quickly return to financial solvency. Seeing the film, Spider-Man tries to join the team, but changes his mind after meeting them. The Human Torch gets into a fight with a character calling himself Paste-Pot Pete, who manages to escape after the Torch foils his attempt to steal a new missile. Then, Doctor Doom returns and switches bodies with Reed, a trick he learned from the alien Ovoids, who rescued him when he was adrift in space. Despite his best efforts, Doom is defeated, and subjected to his own shrinking ray, which actually transports him into the Microverse. Later, the Torch captures a counterfeiter named Wilhelm Van Vile and also battles the Wizard again in his own high-tech house. The Impossible Man comes to Earth for the first time, looking for some fun. He wreaks havoc for a few hours, until the FF trick him into going elsewhere. Sue celebrates her 23rd birthday.

The Torch battles Carl Zante, known as the Acrobat, who tries to trick him into helping commit a bank robbery. Then the Torch picks a fight with the Sub-Mariner to prove himself to his older teammates. Soon after, the Fantastic Four are contacted by General T.E. “Thunderbolt” Ross, who seeks their aid in capturing the Hulk. Convinced the Hulk is, in fact, real, the FF agree to give it a shot, and they fly General Ross back to New Mexico in their newly-modified Fantasti-car. Soon, Reed meets Ross’ scientific advisor, Dr. Robert Bruce Banner. After an inconclusive battle with the Hulk, the FF discover the base is actually being sabotaged by a communist agent, who is arrested. The FF receive military honors, and are soon back home in New York. Then, the Torch defeats Wilhelm Van Vile again after the two-bit crook finds a reality-warping alien paint-set.

Meanwhile, Reed’s study of the Xantha flying saucer has enabled him to back-engineer a ship that will safely reach the moon, years ahead of the government’s project. He is intent on investigating a mysterious “Blue Area” of the moon he has discovered. Upon arriving, they find the remains of a long-dead alien city within a pocket atmosphere, a super-powered cosmonaut calling himself the Red Ghost, his three super-powered apes, and a mysterious entity calling himself the Watcher. The Fantastic Four are mobbed upon their return to Earth, and their celebrity only increases as the first people on the moon.

August 1962 – Reed presents a report of their lunar adventure to NASA, but the space administration finds his tales of intangible communists, super-powered apes, and omnipotent giants too outlandish to give credence. They accept his technical reports for study, but they are so advanced and idiosyncratic as to be of little practical use to the Apollo program. A fair amount of resentment begins to grow toward the grandstanding heroes.

Meanwhile, the Puppet Master goads the Sub-Mariner into once more fighting the FF, this time in his own undersea lair. Although defeated, Namor has begun to turn his attention away from the surface word and to become obsessed with finding his lost people. Later, the Human Torch battles a cranky Glenville resident nicknamed “the Sorcerer,” who comes into possession of a box of demons. Paste-Pot Pete busts the Wizard out of jail and they attack the Torch, only to be defeated again.

Then, having gotten on each other’s nerves, the Fantastic Four decide to take a break and pursue separate interests for a little while. Reed takes a position with General Electronics in New England, Sue accepts a role in a low-budget science fiction film in California, Johnny joins the circus, and Ben first tries his hand at professional wrestling. Their opportunities have all come about due to the careful calculations of the criminal genius called the Mad Thinker, who seizes his opportunity to break into the Baxter Building and steal Reed’s most recent genetics research. The Thinker uses Reed’s formulae to create the first of his awesome androids. With the unwitting help of their mailman, Willie Lumpkin, the FF defeat the Thinker and he is arrested. Later, the Torch battles Professor Orson Kasloff, a super-villain wannabe who calls himself the Asbestos Man. Reed celebrates his 40th birthday.

September 1962 – Johnny begins his senior year at Glenville High School, and is invited to give a motivational speech at a high school in Queens, where he first meets one of the students, Peter Parker. Then, the FF team up with Ant-Man to battle Doctor Doom, who has made himself absolute ruler of a civilization in the Microverse. Here they first meet the brave Princess Pearla, who develops a crush on the Human Torch. Having driven Doom back to their home universe, the FF and Ant-Man return as well. Failing to track Doom down, the FF try to go about their daily lives, only to be hounded by silly-looking floating dummies—Doctor Doom’s way of taunting them. Then, Doom begins to act on the global stage, bedeviling President John F. Kennedy and Soviet Premiere Nikita Khrushchev. He holds Alicia Masters hostage, but the FF are nevertheless able to board his flying fortress, escape his diabolical traps, rescue Alicia, and drive Doom to abandon ship in utter defeat.

The FF’s plans to relax over the next week are foiled when a Skrull warrior publicly claims the earth for his alien empire. Going into battle, the FF are stunned to find that this “Super-Skrull” can mimic all their powers. The FF are finally able to weaken the Super-Skrull and trap him within a volcano on a deserted island in the Pacific Ocean. Johnny celebrates his 18th birthday. Soon after, Doctor Doom tries to use Spider-Man against the FF, but fails. Then, the Torch fights the Eel and nearly dies when he must absorb the blast of a small nuclear device that the criminal inadvertently activates. Recovering, the Torch then teams up with Spider-Man to capture the thief known as the Fox. Although they don’t exactly get along, the Human Torch and Spider-Man part on relatively friendly terms.

Meanwhile, the Sub-Mariner has been reunited with his people, the Atlanteans, and decides to launch a full-scale invasion of the surface world. Namor and his legions are able to conquer New York City before being driven off by the Fantastic Four. When the Invisible Girl is injured, Namor calls off the attack. Namor’s girlfriend, Lady Dorma, is furious, and seeing it as a betrayal, the Atlanteans desert their prince.

October 1962 – Sue soon recovers from her injuries, and Johnny meets Doris Evans at school, then battles her father’s gardener, Samuel Smithers, who discovers the means to become the Plant Man. Then, the FF travel back to ancient Egypt using Doctor Doom’s abandoned time machine. In the past, they battle the renegade time-traveler calling himself Pharaoh Rama-Tut. Later, the Torch again brawls with the Acrobat, who is passing himself off as Captain America. The Torch sees through the ruse and unmasks him. Then, the enigmatic Watcher alerts the FF to the menace of Owen Reece, the Molecule Man. Barely able to match the Molecule Man’s seemingly limitless power, the FF are relieved when the Watcher lends a hand. A few days later, the Torch first fights the Sandman after he escapes from jail.

Then, the FF are contacted by CIA agent Nick Fury, whom both Reed and Ben had met during WWII. Fury requests their aid in battling the Hate Monger, who has been causing riots and unrest in major cities. Fury and the FF track the Hate Monger to his headquarters in a small South American country. The villain is killed in the ensuing conflict, and the heroes are stunned when, unmasked, he appears to be none other than Adolf Hitler himself. Soon after, the Torch and the Thing once again fight the Puppet Master, nearly killing each other in the process. On Halloween night, Johnny sees a live TV broadcast during which Doctor Strange makes a “haunted house” disappear.

November 1962 – Sue discovers her force-field powers, and with Reed’s help develops new applications for her invisibility as well. Tired of being hounded by the public, the FF consider moving their headquarters to a more remote area. Reed decides to investigate purchasing a small island off the coast of New Jersey. However, once there, they encounter the Mole Man again, and are forced to destroy the island completely. Then, the Human Torch has a rematch with the Eel. Later, Iron Man contacts the FF while searching for the Hulk. Soon after, the FF battle Doctor Doom again, along with his three scientifically-altered underlings, “Handsome Harry” Phillips, Yogi Dakor, and Bull Brogin. However, Doom outsmarts himself and once again is cast adrift in outer space. The Torch exposes a communist agitator known as the Rabble-Rouser. Then, the FF are called away from a Life magazine photo-shoot to deal with the “Infant Terrible,” a powerful alien toddler lost on Earth. Later, on an evening sightseeing cruise around Manhattan, the Torch meets Iceman, and they fight the modern-day pirate called Captain Barracuda.

When the Hulk goes on a rampage in New York City, the Human Torch and the Thing try to stop him, while Mr. Fantastic succumbs to a sudden illness. Although outmatched, the Thing puts up a valiant battle that rages all across the city. Finally, the Fantastic Four and the Avengers join forces to battle the Hulk at a construction site, totally demolishing the partially completed building. The Hulk is driven into the harbor and promptly disappears. The FF and the Avengers part on good terms, vowing to assist each other in battling menaces to mankind. Then, the Avengers mop up while the Torch fights the Plant Man again in the New York Botanical Gardens.

December 1962 – The lovestruck Sub-Mariner kidnaps Sue and takes her to his undersea lair. The Human Torch enlists the aid of Doctor Strange to find her. The FF battle Namor and his Atlantean soldiers, but the fight ends when Sue tells Namor she would never choose him over Reed. Despite this, Reed is plagued by doubts as to where her true feelings lie.

The Human Torch goes after the “Terrible Trio,” Doctor Doom’s former minions whom the FF fought a month ago. Then, the FF travel to Washington, DC to receive the Congressional Gold Medal and to meet with President Kennedy. Reed hires young attorney Matt Murdock to work on their lease while they’re gone. When they return, the FF find their headquarters is a shambles and their long-range passenger missile has been wrecked in a battle between Daredevil and Electro. Worse, Murdock neglected to work on their lease, so Reed fires him. However, Murdock’s partner, Franklin Nelson, soon convinces Reed to give the law firm another chance. Later, the Fantastic Four meet the mysterious X-Men, who lead them into battle with the Puppet Master, the Mad Thinker, and his awesome android. The FF are impressed by the X-Men, and are left with a good opinion of the team. Soon after, the Torch and the Thing battle Abner Jenkins, who calls himself the Beetle. Then, the FF secretly return to the moon for a rematch with the Red Ghost. They are again aided by the Watcher. Next, the Torch and the Thing battle Paste-Pot Pete, who has given himself a make-over.

Exhausted, the FF take a Christmas vacation to Transylvania, but end up battling the diabolical alchemist Diablo. After returning home, the Torch and Thing have another run-in with the Sub-Mariner, when they incorrectly assume he is leading an invasion force toward New York.


Notes:

January 1962 – At the climax of Fantastic Four #2, Reed tricks the Skrulls by showing them pictures of monsters he claims to have clipped from some comic books, specifically Journey Into Mystery and Strange Tales—two titles actually published by Marvel. This is the first mention of a Marvel Universe counterpart of the Marvel Comics Group. It is unlikely a race as advanced as the Skrulls would be fooled by comic book illustrations, but it may be that Reed faked some photos based on what he saw in Johnny’s comics. The four Skrull spies would eventually return in Avengers #9293, playing a key role in the epic Kree-Skrull War.

February 1962 – The Sub-Mariner was the first “Golden Age” character resurrected for the new Marvel Universe, although the Human Torch was inspired by his 1940s namesake. Coincidentally, Johnny sees one of the other bums in the flophouse reading an old copy of Sub-Mariner Comics. For a more detailed look at Prince Namor during this time period, see my Sub-Mariner chronology.

March 1962 – Doctor Doom, the FF’s greatest nemesis, was introduced in Fantastic Four #5. In the same issue, Johnny is seen reading an Incredible Hulk comic book, the third time the Marvel Universe counterpart of the Marvel Comics Group is referenced. Reportedly, what Johnny has is a fictionalized account, in comic book form, based on the various recent sightings of the mysterious green-skinned menace. For a more detailed look at Doctor Doom during this period, see my Doctor Doom chronology.

April 1962 – Fantastic Four #6 features the first “Super-Villain Team-Up,” which would become a regular feature of the Marvel Universe. Doctor Doom and the Sub-Mariner would eventually even star in their own short-lived series together.

May 1962 – It stands to reason that Reed Richards would bear a grudge against the government for threatening to pull the plug on his starship project a year earlier, and explains why the team never really cozied up to the military-industrial complex despite Reed’s scientific genius. The Human Torch debuted in his own series of stories in Strange Tales #101.

June 1962 – On this timeline, the stock market crash in Fantastic Four #9 coincides with a real stock market crash in late May 1962. It’s possible it took a week or so for the team to feel the full effects of the financial crisis. At this point, Spider-Man was still known as an entertainer, appearing mainly on The Ed Sullivan Show. His career as a crimefighter had yet to begin in earnest. The winged mutant Warren Worthington III spent the early part of the summer fighting crime as the Avenging Angel before being persuaded to join the X-Men.

July 1962 – Spider-Man never acknowledges that seeing the FF’s movie inspired him to try joining their team, but it makes sense. In fact, as far as I know, the FF’s movie was never mentioned again, although it played an important part in establishing their reputations with the general public. (It’s quite possible the film was in black-and-white, and this accounts for its obscurity.) In Fantastic Four #10, the Marvel Universe counterparts of both Stan Lee and Jack Kirby make their first appearance, working on their authorized based-on-true-stories Fantastic Four comic book.

August 1962 – Although the Fantastic Four were the first people on the moon in the Marvel Universe, the government continued the Apollo program anyway, though at an accelerated rate, as seen in Fantastic Four #98.

September 1962 – The Human Torch makes a cameo in Amazing Spider-Man #3, and then Doctor Doom menaces the web-slinger two issues later. Spidey and the Torch defeat the Fox in Strange Tales Annual #2, the first of many such team-ups between them. The Atlantean invasion of New York is depicted in Fantastic Four Annual #1.

October 1962 – Although Johnny’s seeing Doctor Strange on TV on Halloween night is never shown, it is the sorcerer’s most public appearance before the Torch contacts him in Fantastic Four #27, which takes place about a month later. Something must have given Johnny the idea to seek help from such a mysterious and unscientific source. Doctor Strange’s battle with the House of Shadows is depicted in Strange Tales #120.

November 1962 – The epic battle between the Fantastic Four, the Hulk, and the Avengers was the first of many blockbuster crossover events, the like of which would eventually cause the Marvel Universe to collapse under its own weight. But they were a startling innovation and still loads of fun circa Fantastic Four #25–26.

December 1962 – The FF’s trip to Washington occurs in Daredevil #2. This takes us up to Fantastic Four #30 and Strange Tales #125.






Wednesday

OMU: Fantastic Four -- Year One

The publication of Fantastic Four #1 kicked off what writer/editor Stan Lee would come to call the “Marvel Age of Comics,” and also introduced readers to the fictional world I have come to call the Original Marvel Universe. Fantastic Four set the standard for Marvel Comics, and for many years served as the company’s flagship title. The team’s chronology is therefore unusually rich and complex.

However, the sequence of events that led to the fateful trip into orbit that first gave the four heroes their superhuman powers was really never explored in great detail. For example, it was never adequately explained what Sue and Johnny, who were later shown to live in a house on Long Island in New York, were doing in California with Reed and Ben, especially since Johnny was still in high school. Also, piloting a rocket ship into outer space requires at least several months of intensive training. Ben Grimm couldn’t possibly just show up one night after work and get behind the controls. And so, by making a careful examination of the stories, including the numerous related flashbacks seen over the years, I have used common sense to construct a simple, straightforward narrative, laying it into a historical context, that reveals previously hidden details.

Note: The following timeline depicts the Original Marvel Universe (anchored to November 1961 as the first appearance of the Fantastic Four and proceeding forward from there. See previous posts for a detailed explanation of my rationale.) Some information presented on the timeline is speculative and some is based on historical accounts. See the Notes section at the end for clarifications.


And now, the way it began -- The True History of the Fantastic Four!


February 1961 – His starship project nearing completion, Reed Richards contacts Ben Grimm to take him up on his college promise to be the pilot. Impressed by Reed’s tenacity, Ben accepts the job and resigns from the Air Force, taking a position at Richards Laboratories in Central City, California. Ben begins extensive mission training, and he and Reed renew their friendship. Ben continues to date Dr. Linda McGill, whom he had recently met on the Air Force base where he was last posted, though it becomes more of a long-distance relationship.

May 1961 – Susan Storm travels to California to spend the summer with Reed, leaving her brother Johnny with their aunt. Reed quickly realizes he has fallen in love with Sue, and they soon reach an unspoken agreement that they will eventually marry. Driving home one evening, Reed and Sue encounter a flying saucer and its lone occupant, an alien invader calling himself Gormuu. The creature quickly grows to gargantuan size and attacks Central City. Realizing Gormuu is actually expanding rather than gaining mass, Reed is able to feed him enough raw energy to dissipate Gormuu’s molecules. Convinced that advanced alien races may pose a threat to the earth, Reed sees his project as more important than ever.

June 1961 – After completing his sophomore year at Glenville High School, Johnny Storm joins his sister Sue in California. He quickly makes a number of new friends, thanks to his interest in hot rods and racecars.

July 1961 – Reed is stunned when he learns from the government that his funding is likely to be cut. His protests fall on deaf ears as the new Kennedy administration has decided his research is too radical. Having already spent his entire inheritance, Reed realizes his only chance of convincing the government to continue its support is to test his ship as soon as possible.

August 1961 – Without time to train another two members of his crew, Reed reluctantly agrees to allow Sue and Johnny to accompany them into space. Ben objects to this suddenly accelerated schedule, fearing safety is being compromised, but Sue goads him into taking up the challenge. Unable to obtain official clearance, Reed, Sue, Ben, and Johnny steal into the complex in the middle of the night and initiate an unauthorized launch. Unfortunately, an unexpected surge in cosmic radiation overwhelms the ship’s shielding, and the four astronauts are bombarded by cosmic rays. The ship crashes to earth near Ithaca, NY. Emerging from the wreckage, the foursome discovers they have undergone a mutagenic change on a fundamental level. Sue fades from sight, having gained the power of invisibility. Ben transforms into a hideous orange-hued brute. Reed’s body develops a bizarre elasticity, and Johnny suddenly bursts into flame and rises into the air.

Having tracked the starship’s flight, the military goes into action. An Army helicopter arrives at the crash site and transports the four astronauts to a nearby base, where they are debriefed by government agents. Reed is informed that not only is his funding terminated, but his project has been shut down and his security clearance revoked.

September 1961 – The foursome returns to Reed’s lab in Central City, California, where he begins studying what’s happened to them. He first synthesizes “unstable molecules,” based on their transformed space suits. Ben has the most trouble dealing with his transformation, though Johnny’s flame poses a hazard to everyone, and Sue seems on the verge of a nervous breakdown. Reed realizes that they all need to find some positive direction to move in, and he suggests they use these strange new powers to help protect and advance the human race. Devising colorful code-names for themselves, they create a new team of super-powered adventurers called the Fantastic Four. Sue decides to call herself the Invisible Girl, Ben names himself the Thing, Johnny adopts the name of his boyhood hero, the Human Torch, and Reed proclaims himself Mister Fantastic.

Ben returns to his apartment in a profound depression and receives an unexpected visit from Linda McGill. The shock of his transformation causes her to panic and run away, which makes Ben lash out in a fit of rage, destroying his apartment. Despondent, he makes his way to a nearby bridge, where he contemplates committing suicide. However, Linda has followed him to apologize and offer comfort. Not wanting Linda to be saddled with a hideous freak, Ben drives her away, but nevertheless finds the will to go on.

October 1961 – The superhero concept proves therapeutic, as Reed had hoped, as the Fantastic Four throw themselves into learning all they can about their strange new powers. Training constantly, they begin to gain control over their abilities. Reed channels all his research into the project as well, while struggling to raise money for the endeavor through his many inventions and patents. He also draws upon his wartime training in the O.S.S. as he prepares himself to lead the team on its missions.

November 1961 – When the world’s atomic plants come under attack, Reed sees an opportunity for the Fantastic Four to go on their first mission. The team travels to Monster Isle in the Bermuda Triangle, where they discover the Mole Man and his subterranean kingdom. The crisis averted, the Fantastic Four goes public following this mission and are hailed as heroes for saving the world’s atomic plants. They are described in various newspaper and television reports, becoming a media sensation. The Fantastic Four themselves quickly become the focus of the story, rather than any threat they may have defeated. Unaccustomed to super-powered adventurers, the public offers the bizarre quartet a wary acceptance.

December 1961 – The foursome decides to move back to New York City when Reed sells Richards Laboratories in order to raise money for the team. He and Ben take apartments in the city while Sue and Johnny move back into their old house in Glenville, Long Island. Johnny returns to high school, having missed the entire first semester of his junior year. Ben becomes increasingly reclusive as his bitterness only seems to grow.


Notes:

February 1961 – For a breakdown of events in the lives of Reed, Sue, Ben, and Johnny up to this point, see OMU: Ancient History 4. Ben’s relationship with Dr. Linda McGill was shown, in abbreviated fashion, in Marvel Fanfare #46.

May 1961 – Reed’s battle with the alien Gormuu was presented in Fantastic Four #271, in John Byrne’s homage to Marvel’s monster comics of the late 1950s–early 1960s. We also see Johnny around this time, being bullied after school by Georgie Munson and his buddy Greg, in a flashback in Fantastic Four #233.

August 1961 – The Fantastic Four’s origin story was revealed primarily in flashbacks in Fantastic Four #1 and The Thing #10, though it was retold numerous times with little variation. August 8, 1961 was the date the first issue of Fantastic Four went on sale, and serves as one of the two dates upon which my timeline of the Original Marvel Universe is based.

September-October 1961 – I believe the account of the group’s decision to become a team of superheroes in Fantastic Four #1 involves a fair amount of artistic license for dramatic effect, and the actual process of forming the team was a bit more extended. Clearly, they would need some time to come to terms with their bizarre transformations and to be able to control their powers. The psychological impact of their transformations was never thoroughly examined in any canonical story. In the flashback in The Thing #10, especially, they seem unaccountably blasé about what they’ve just experienced. Danny Fingeroth’s attempt in Marvel Fanfare #46 to show Ben’s depression, though somewhat rushed, was a step in the right direction.

November 1961 – This is the cover date of Fantastic Four #1, and serves as the other date upon which my timeline is based. In those days, comics were routinely cover-dated about three months ahead, so they would seem fresher after sitting on the stands for several weeks. After all, a bi-monthly comic could sit on the stands for seven or eight weeks before the new issue came out, and publishers didn’t want to risk losing sales on a magazine thought to be “outdated.”

December 1961 – It is eventually made clear that the team must have moved from California to New York sometime between the first two issues, though they do not establish their headquarters until the third issue.


OMU Note: The final canonical appearance of Mister Fantastic, the Invisible Woman, the Human Torch, and the Thing was in Fantastic Four #354.




Friday

OMU: Sub-Mariner -- Part One

Prince Namor, the Sub-Mariner was in fact the first Marvel Universe character to see print. He debuted in the ultra-rare 1939 promotional comic book Motion Picture Funnies Weekly some six months before the start of his regular feature in Marvel Mystery Comics. The brainchild of writer/artist Bill Everett, Namor was a violent, hot-headed hero with no love for the world of the surface-dwellers. He remained a fixture of the “Golden Age” comics published by Marvel’s predecessors, Timely and Atlas, until the mid-1950s. He was the first such character revived by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby for their new wave of superhero comics in the early sixties, and from the start they established a tenuous continuity with his earlier adventures. The Sub-Mariner’s absence from the scene since the “Golden Age” was explained by showing him living as an amnesiac derelict, a state he had been in for many long years. The full story of how he lost his memory would be revealed much later, after he once again received his own title.

Note: The following timeline depicts the Original Marvel Universe (anchored to November 1961 as the first appearance of the Fantastic Four and proceeding forward from there. See previous posts for a detailed explanation of my rationale.) Some information presented on the timeline is speculative. See the Notes section at the end for clarifications.


Let us plumb the depths of The True History of the Sub-Mariner!


January 1962 – For nearly twelve years, Prince Namor of Atlantis has been living as a bum in New York City’s Bowery. His long hair and beard disguise his appearance. He shuffles around in an intoxicated stupor with no memory, given to fits of rage and violence. The other bums try to avoid him whenever possible.

February 1962 – By chance, Johnny Storm, the new Human Torch, discovers Namor in a flophouse after storming out on the Fantastic Four. Trying to restore Namor’s memory, the Torch drops him into the harbor. Namor swims to a nearby Atlantean outpost in the North Atlantic Ocean, which is in ruins. He learns there that the main city of Atlantis has also been destroyed by the surface dwellers. Namor returns to New York bent on revenge. He directs a giant sea monster to attack the city, but it is killed by the Fantastic Four. When Namor first meets Sue Storm, the Invisible Girl, he is smitten with her. Namor is still a bit mentally unbalanced from his ordeal, and the Fantastic Four are able to drive him off.

March 1962 – Namor returns to Atlantis, located off the coast of Antarctica, and finds the city utterly destroyed and abandoned. He begins searching the oceans for his lost people.

April 1962 – Doctor Doom tracks down the Sub-Mariner and convinces him to join forces in attacking the Fantastic Four. Namor returns to New York to plant Dr. Doom’s “grabber” device in the basement of the FF’s headquarters, which enables Doom to haul the entire Baxter Building into orbit. Then, realizing he’s been betrayed, Namor attacks Doom’s orbiter and leaves the villain drifting in space. The Baxter Building is returned to its foundations and Namor ditches Doom’s spaceplane in the ocean.

May 1962 – Namor continues his search for the Atlantean Diaspora, but without success.

June 1962 – Learning the Fantastic Four have gone bankrupt, Namor hatches an elaborate scheme. He purchases a failing movie studio in Los Angeles and renames it Imperial Studios. Then, he tricks the FF into performing for the cameras while he tries to destroy them. The FF escape Namor’s various traps, however, and Sue shames him into honoring his part of the bargain. Namor orders that the movie be completed, then returns to the ocean depths. Ironically, the documentary film The Fantastic Four is a financial success, and Imperial Studios will continue to operate for many years to come.

July 1962 – Several weeks later, the Human Torch picks a fight with the Sub-Mariner, and manages to bury him in an undersea avalanche. By the time Namor frees himself, the Torch has gotten away.

August 1962 – Namor finally finds evidence of his people, and knows he is on the right track. However, his search is delayed when the Puppet Master takes over his mind and uses him to attack the Fantastic Four. Thus, Namor kidnaps the Invisible Girl. The FF track him down, but Namor is soon freed from the Puppet Master’s control and immediately sends the FF home, intent on resuming his search.

September 1962 – Namor is at last reunited with his people and claims his throne, leading them to re-settle the ruins of the original city of Atlantis in the North Atlantic Ocean. He is also reunited with his betrothed, the lovely Lady Dorma. Namor immediately raises his army and declares war on the surface world, leading them in an invasion of New York. However, when the Invisible Girl is badly injured, Namor calls off the attack. Lady Dorma is furious, and, seeing it as a betrayal, the warlord Krang convinces the Atlanteans to desert Namor. The Sub-Mariner returns to Atlantis and finds himself alone.

October 1962 – Having been abandoned by the Atlantean people, Namor begins plotting his revenge against the surface world. However, he studies his enemies more completely this time, and makes his plans much more carefully.

November 1962 – Namor seeks to make an ally of the Hulk against the human race. Together, they set a trap for the Avengers on the Rock of Gibraltar. During the battle, however, the Hulk seems to disappear, and, realizing he is outmatched, Namor beats an angry retreat. Continuing his search for his people, Namor comes across a group of Eskimos worshipping a strange idol—a human figure within a giant chunk of ice. Enraged, Namor hurls the idol out to sea, where it begins to drift south.

While searching for the Atlanteans, Namor finds an alien from the D’Bari system who’s been trapped on Earth for centuries. Upon learning that the alien is the basis of the myth of the Medusa who turned men into stone, Namor strikes a bargain. He promises to raise the alien’s spaceship from the ocean floor once the Avengers are turned to stone. The plan nearly succeeds, but the newly-revived Captain America saves the day. Meanwhile, Namor comes across a loyal band of his elite guard, and together they attack the Avengers. The Sub-Mariner and Captain America are as yet unable to remember each other, both still suffering from partial amnesia. When the alien blasts off in his spaceship, Namor abandons the fight, certain that the Avengers won’t survive the havoc caused by the ship’s launch.

December 1962 – The Sub-Mariner becomes obsessed with Sue Storm, which drives even his elite guard to desert him. Alone again, Namor boldly invades the Baxter Building and kidnaps Sue. His troops return during the ensuing battle with the Fantastic Four. However, Sue ends the battle by declaring her love for Reed Richards. The surface-dwellers mysteriously vanish before Namor can lash out in rage.

Namor is invited to Magneto’s island fortress in the North Atlantic to discuss joining forces against the human race. The Sub-Mariner soon arrives and meets the Scarlet Witch, Quicksilver, Mastermind, and the Toad. When the X-Men attack, Namor drives them off and then accompanies the Mutant Brotherhood to Magneto’s command bunker. However, Namor is incensed by Magneto’s harsh treatment of the Scarlet Witch and destroys Magneto’s control systems. Flying into a sudden rage, Namor then wrecks Magneto’s fortress, fights with both the X-Men and the Brotherhood, and finally returns to the sea.

Soon after, Namor agrees to meet with Reed Richards at the Baxter Building to discuss a truce. However, the Human Torch and the Thing attack Namor before he reaches shore, afraid that he is launching another invasion. Believing Richards has betrayed him, Namor returns to the ocean depths after an inconclusive battle.

January 1963 – Some weeks later, Namor is finally reunited with his people and once again takes the throne. All is forgiven, and the Atlanteans begin settling into the reign of Namor the First. Before long, however, Atlantis comes under attack by the barbarian hordes of Attuma, who believes the Atlanteans are vulnerable while trying to re-establish their settlement in the long-abandoned city. A war breaks out, and a scorned Dorma decides to betray Namor to Attuma so that she and her prince can have a life together. Once Attuma breaches the walls, though, his promises to Lady Dorma are forgotten, and the war resumes.

February 1963 – Dorma flees from Atlantis, filled with shame, and goes to enlist the aid of the Fantastic Four. They agree to help and travel to Atlantis to do battle with Attuma’s army. Sue uses her powers to make Namor invisible, giving him the edge over Attuma in single combat. Attuma and his followers are defeated, although Namor remains unaware of the FF’s involvement.

March-April 1963 – Atlantis recovers from the battle with Attuma’s hordes. The city strengthens its defenses as Namor builds his government and watches as Atlantean society finally begins to flourish once again. Namor also begins training his troops to fight more effectively. Meanwhile, Warlord Krang continues to badger Namor to invade the surface world once again. Namor is sick of fighting, however, and wishes to turn his attention to domestic affairs.

May 1963 – The Avengers contact the Sub-Mariner with an offer of membership. Aware of his service to the Allied Powers during World War II as a member of the Invaders, the Avengers believe they are offering Namor the chance for redemption in the eyes of the surface world. Namor does not yet remember his time with the Invaders, however, and declines the offer. He is now interested only in being an effective ruler.

Krang continues to beat the drums of war, but Namor now desires to make peace with the surface world. He returns to New York seeking a forum, and decides a public trial will suit his purposes. He engages the law firm of Nelson and Murdock and then goes on a rampage, causing extensive property damage. He is opposed by Daredevil, but Namor allows himself to be taken into custody. However, as the trial begins, Dorma arrives to tell Namor that Warlord Krang has staged a coup in his absence. Namor returns to Atlantis, despite Daredevil’s best attempts to stop him. However, Namor is captured by Krang’s forces and imprisoned.

Namor is soon set free by Dorma, and he leaves Atlantis on a quest to find the fabled Neptune’s Trident, possession of which will prove he is the rightful ruler of the realm. Krang is aware of his escape, however, and sends agents to ensure the quest ends in failure. Along the way, Namor meets an elderly Atlantean named Vashti, whose unwavering loyalty to his prince inspires Namor to persevere. The Sub-Mariner faces a giant squid, the monstrous Seaweed Man, and the diabolical Demon of the Diamonds before abandoning his quest in order to rescue Dorma from the murderous Faceless Ones. However, by placing his love for Dorma above his political ambitions, Namor earns Neptune’s favor. Taking the trident, he returns to Atlantis, defeats Krang, and reclaims the throne.

June 1963 – Preparations are made for a celebration of Namor’s rule and the city’s liberation from the tyranny of Krang. Amidst much pomp and circumstance, Dorma is recognized for her devotion to her prince, and Vashti is made Lord Vashti, Grand Vizier of Atlantis. Then, Krang is banished from the realm to wander the oceans in perpetual exile.

July-August 1963 – Namor focuses his attention on domestic affairs and redressing the wrongs committed by Krang during his usurpation. Namor also helps Vashti settle into his new role, and spends as much time with Dorma as his schedule will allow.

September 1963 – A series of damaging sub-sea earthquakes leads Namor to a floating research platform that is drilling into the ocean floor. After destroying the drill, the Sub-Mariner confronts the lead scientist, Dr. Henry Pym. In the middle of their argument, though, Namor once again falls victim to the Puppet Master and heads immediately to New York. Once there, the Puppet Master forces the Sub-Mariner to rob a bank, but Namor eventually shakes off the villain’s influence.

Dorma finds Namor in the Hudson River and tells him that the earthquakes have awakened the Behemoth, a giant android monster created by the Atlanteans during World War II as a defense against a Nazi invasion of their realm. Returning to the ocean depths, Namor battles the monster until he manages to force it into a bottomless pit of quicksand.

Returning to Atlantis, Namor is informed by Lord Vashti that Dorma has fled the city to marry Krang. The news drives Namor to the brink of madness and he becomes a tyrant, branding Dorma a traitor and arresting her family. Learning they have sought refuge on the surface world, Namor sets off to track them down. He catches up to Krang’s high-speed flagship off the coast of Long Island, but it escapes due to the interference of Iron Man. In a rage, the Sub-Mariner follows Iron Man back to Stark Industries and brawls with him. Then, catching a glimpse of Krang’s ship offshore, Namor abandons the fight and sets off in hot pursuit. Unfortunately, Krang escapes again.

October 1963 – The Sub-Mariner finally catches up to Krang and Dorma, who are now traveling in Krang’s gigantic battle cruiser, a heavily-armed dreadnaught that can fight in the sky as well as beneath the waves. Krang manages to defeat Namor with a powerful missile when the exploding warhead induces a case of temporary amnesia. The stunned Sub-Mariner is found by the leader of the subversive organization called the Secret Empire, who convinces Namor he is one of their agents and sends him to track down and kill the Hulk. However, Namor fails to locate the Hulk before his memory returns. He is still in New York when Krang generates a huge tidal wave that inundates Midtown Manhattan. Despite the troops who are trying to capture him, the Sub-Mariner alerts the American military to the location of Krang’s battle cruiser, and it is destroyed by a Navy submarine. Both Krang and Dorma are captured by the Army, but Namor rescues them and returns them to Atlantis.

Once back in their undersea realm, the Sub-Mariner defeats Krang in single combat before the eyes of all Atlantis. The defeated warlord is then taken away to be imprisoned in solitary confinement outside the gates of the city. Dorma is released when Namor learns that she agreed to marry Krang only to save Namor’s life from the Behemoth, which Krang was controlling. All is forgiven, and Namor once again turns his attention to matters of state.

November 1963 – Attuma and his hordes attempt another invasion of Atlantis, but are driven back by the Sub-Mariner. However, after discovering an indestructible alien robot which recently crashed to Earth, Attuma unleashes it on Atlantis. The Sub-Mariner manages to contact the spaceship as it returns to search for its lost property, and is able to hold off the robot until its owners come to retrieve it. The discouraged Attuma then retreats to Skarka.

December 1963 – Namor’s cousin, Lord Byrrah, speaks out against the Sub-Mariner, blaming him for the calamities that have befallen the Atlanteans over the last year. Surprisingly, the people soon call for Byrrah to replace Namor as their sovereign. Though incensed by their betrayal, Namor accepts Byrrah’s challenge to single combat. However, Byrrah wins the contest through treachery, and his first act as ruler of Atlantis is to have Namor exiled to Inferno Isle some 8,000 miles away. While receiving his sentence, Namor learns that both Attuma and Krang are Byrrah’s co-conspirators. The outraged Sub-Mariner escapes from the volcano monster on the lonely island and swims back to Atlantis. Upon arriving, he finds the city being damaged by a giant vortex-creating machine. After destroying the weapon, Namor returns to the royal palace, where he learns from Dorma and Vashti that Byrrah had used a hypnotic ray to steal the loyalty of the citizens. His faith restored, the Sub-Mariner reclaims his crown. Krang and Attuma flee from his wrath, while Byrrah is sentenced to permanent exile.


Notes:

January 1962 – For earlier events in Namor’s life, see OMU: Ancient History 4.

February 1962 – The Sub-Mariner is reintroduced in Fantastic Four #4. Coincidentally, Johnny sees one of the other bums in the flophouse reading an old copy of Sub-Mariner Comics. It is established as early as Fantastic Four #2 that the Marvel Universe has its own counterpart of the Marvel Comics Group, which went on to become something of a running gag in various titles.

April 1962 – The first “Super-Villain Team-Up” occurs in Fantastic Four #6.

June 1962 – In the original story in Fantastic Four #9, Namor’s business venture actually has the unlikely name of S-M Studios. This was later changed to Imperial when it was realized that kids might get the wrong impression of what kind of movies Namor was making. It’s unlikely Stan Lee realized that S-M could mean “sadomasochism” as well as “Sub-Mariner.” He didn’t have that sort of sense of humor.

July 1962 – The Human Torch first takes on the Sub-Mariner solo in Strange Tales #107, which at the time was a sort of companion title to Fantastic Four.

August 1962 – The Sub-Mariner first comes under the Puppet Master’s sway in Fantastic Four #14.

September 1962 – The original city of Atlantis is located at roughly 55°N by 21°W, whereas Thakorr’s Atlantis (where Namor grew up) is over 8,700 miles away at about 66°S by 10°E. The Atlantean invasion of New York is depicted in Fantastic Four Annual #1.

November 1962 – Namor and the Hulk first team up in Avengers #3. In the following issue, Namor plays his part in the resurrection of Captain America. The real reason Cap and Namor don’t seem to know each other is that it wasn’t until years later that Roy Thomas had the idea that they had fought side-by-side during World War II as members of the Invaders. That was the first major “retcon” of the Marvel Universe.

December 1962 – Namor is unaware of the behind-the-scenes involvement of Doctor Strange in Fantastic Four #27. He deals with Magneto and the X-Men for the first time in Uncanny X-Men #6. His battle with the Human Torch and the Thing occurs in Strange Tales #125.

February 1963 – Namor fights off Attuma and his barbarian hordes for the first time in Fantastic Four #33. Attuma’s realm, called Skarka, is located about 1,200 miles west of Atlantis.

May 1963 – Again, the Invaders angle is not in the original story in Avengers #16, but it explains why the Avengers would make Namor such an offer at this point. He would eventually join Earth’s Mightiest Heroes many years later. Namor battles DD in Daredevil #7. The Sub-Mariner’s 15,000-mile journey to find Neptune’s Trident kicks off his solo series in Tales to Astonish #70 and following.

September 1963 – Namor’s encounter with Iron Man forms an early Marvel crossover event, as the story detours into the “Iron Man” feature in Tales of Suspense #79-80.

December 1963 – This brings us up to Tales to Astonish #91.


OMU Note: The Sub-Mariner’s final canonical appearance was in Namor #25.




Wednesday

OMU: Hulk -- Year Two

After spending the better part of a year as a regular character in The Avengers, the Hulk was again awarded a series of solo stories, this time as part of the split-book Tales to Astonish. As Marvel was phasing out its sci-fi and monster stories, it converted its anthology titles into superhero double features. The Hulk was first paired up with stories featuring Giant-Man and the Wasp, and later with the Sub-Mariner. During this period, the Hulk seemed to finally hit his stride, and important characters such as Glenn Talbot and the Leader were introduced. The “secret identity” facet of the stories was also abandoned, as the dual nature of Bruce Banner and the Hulk was made public knowledge. The series was distinctive in that, rather than telling self-contained stories, or even two- or three-part story arcs, Stan Lee decided to try more of an ongoing “soap opera” approach, allowing each issue to roll into the next for an extended, rambling narrative.

Note: The following timeline depicts the Original Marvel Universe (anchored to November 1961 as the first appearance of the Fantastic Four and proceeding forward from there. See previous posts for a detailed explanation of my rationale.) Some information presented on the timeline is speculative and some is based on historical accounts. See the Notes section at the end for clarifications.


We now continue with... The True History of the Incredible Hulk!


January 1963 – Bruce Banner manages not to turn into the Hulk for two or three weeks by focusing on his research and restocking his hidden underground lab. He also tries to distance himself from Betty Ross, now that his transformations are unpredictable. One day, Giant-Man arrives at Desert Base in search of the Hulk. Feeling persecuted, Bruce’s frustration reaches the boiling point and he loses control, changing into the Hulk. The jeep he was driving is wrecked, and he goes off to attack Giant-Man. Hulk goes on a rampage in a nearby town, terrorizing the locals once again. Then, he encounters a strange spinning man, really the criminal known as the Human Top, who tells Hulk he can find Giant-Man in the next town. Sure enough, Giant-Man is there and Hulk attacks. After a battle in the main street of the evacuated town, Hulk and Giant-Man see a missile coming towards them. Giant-Man learns from the Wasp that the missile carries a low-yield atomic warhead, fired by the military after the Human Top told them the Hulk was alone in the deserted town. Cursing himself, Hulk intercepts the missile and hurls it into the hills outside of town. Although the others are saved, Hulk is caught in the ensuing nuclear explosion and blacks out. He crashes to earth and changes back into Bruce Banner. Betty is overjoyed when Bruce comes staggering out of the desert, and after a long rest, he resumes his research.

February–March 1963 – Bruce buries himself in his research for a few months, making tremendous strides forward in a variety of projects, primarily a device he calls the “Absorbatron,” which will protect a city from atomic attack by absorbing all the radiation. Also, perhaps inspired by Iron Man, Bruce develops a heavy-duty suit of robotic armor to be used for close observation of nuclear tests. Having realized that undue stress triggers his transformation, Bruce only turns into the Hulk a few times in this period, and Hulk, increasingly suspicious of humans, keeps a low profile out in the desert.

April 1963 – Bruce turns into the Hulk when a spy tries to steal his suit of robotic armor, but Hulk leaps off into the desert and the spy gets away with the armor. The next morning, as the spy is testing the armor, Hulk attacks him. However, Hulk begins changing back into Bruce and the spy gets away again. He discovers one of Bruce’s underground equipment dumps and begins constructing a crude missile to destroy Desert Base.

A day or two later, as Bruce is cobbling together a portable electronic scanner to track the robotic armor, Major Glenn Talbot arrives as the new security chief for Desert Base. Talbot has been suspicious of Bruce for some time, and was assigned to the base when General Ross finally made a full report of Bruce’s many disappearances over the last year. Later, while out in the desert tracking the robotic armor, Bruce changes into the Hulk and battles the spy, knocking him into a deep chasm inside a cavern. The missile has been launched, however, and Hulk intercepts it, but the resulting blast knocks him unconscious. Talbot finds him, and the Hulk is captured by the military once again. Rick Jones returns to New Mexico that night, having heard a report of the Hulk’s capture on the radio. Meanwhile, the dead spy’s employer, the mysterious figure known as the Leader, sends the master of disguise called the Chameleon to find out what happened. Disguised as General Ross, the Chameleon unwittingly helps the Hulk to escape unobserved. Having changed back into Bruce Banner, he easily slips out of the Hulk-sized shackles, and Rick helps him avoid the guards, get back to his quarters and get some fresh clothing. Bruce then turns up at a late-night emergency meeting and confronts General Ross and Major Talbot. Shortly afterward, the Chameleon attacks Bruce, ties him up, and assumes his identity. Bruce turns into the Hulk and attacks, causing the Chameleon to flee. Trying to escape, the Chameleon throws a gamma grenade he took from Bruce’s lab. Hulk shields the blast with his body, but the shockwave knocks the Chameleon out.

The next morning, the Chameleon recovers and reports to the Leader that the Absorbatron is being moved to a base on the west coast by train. Later that afternoon, the train leaves, with Bruce and Talbot aboard. The Leader sends one of his robotic Humanoids to steal the device. Hulk fights the Humanoid off, but the Absorbatron falls off the train. That evening, Talbot finds Bruce with the Absorbatron and places him under arrest on suspicion of espionage.

May 1963 – Several days later, Bruce is transferred from the military prison to Washington DC, to stand before a congressional investigation. Having been following the story in the newspapers, Rick Jones arrives and uses his Avengers connections to get a meeting with President John F. Kennedy. Desperate, Rick tells Kennedy the whole story of Bruce Banner and the Hulk. JFK agrees to keep the secret and arranges for the charges against Bruce to be dropped.

The next day, Bruce and Talbot arrive at Astra Island in the Pacific Ocean to test the Absorbatron. The Leader’s army of Humanoids attack, trying to steal the device. Hulk fights them while Talbot secures the device inside the bunker. Troops move in, and a grenade causes a landslide that knocks Hulk and the Humanoids into the ocean. Hulk swims off, changes into Bruce Banner, and is picked up by a Russian submarine.

A week later, Bruce arrives in the Soviet Union and is brought to a work-camp for kidnapped scientists. He changes into the Hulk and destroys the camp. The Soviet Army attacks, and Hulk defeats them. He leaps away, finally coming to rest in Mongolia, where he changes back into Bruce again. He is captured by a group of bandits, who contact the American government with their ransom demands.

A few days later, Glenn Talbot arrives at the bandits’ camp to pay the ransom and pick up Bruce. However, rival bandits attack, allowing Bruce and Talbot to slip away in the confusion. They are caught in an avalanche, and Bruce turns into the Hulk and saves the unconscious Talbot. Leaving the major behind, Hulk leaps away, finally returning to the New Mexico desert. After transforming back into Bruce Banner, he is arrested once again as a traitor.

Several days later, Major Talbot makes it back to the United States and has a special meeting with President Kennedy. Bruce is released from prison and returned to Astra Island for the Absorbatron test. The Leader’s Humanoids attack again, but this time the Hulk is defeated. The Leader steals the Absorbatron and takes it and the Hulk to his secret underground lab in Arizona. Hulk becomes Bruce long enough to transmit an S.O.S. to the Air Force. Rick follows the troops as they trace the signal. Hulk goes on a rampage and destroys the Absorbatron. The Leader escapes as the soldiers storm the base. As the Hulk is changing back into Bruce, one of the soldiers shoots him in the head. The bullet lodges in his brain, and Bruce appears dead, but Rick hijacks the ambulance and takes him to the secret underground lab. He turns Bruce back into the Hulk via gamma ray bombardment, and he revives. However, he now has Bruce Banner’s intelligence once more.

The next day, the Leader’s giant Humanoid attacks Desert Base, and the Hulk fights him. Rick warns Hulk that the military is about to launch their “Sunday Punch” super-missile at them. They escape as the Humanoid is destroyed by the missile. However, the soldiers manage to track Hulk back to his underground lab, where they destroy it completely with heavy artillery. During the bombardment, the Leader contacts the Hulk with an offer, and Hulk allows the criminal mastermind to teleport him away, to the Leader’s base in Italy. That night, the Leader’s Humanoids stop Hulk from escaping. The Leader discovers the bullet in his brain and dissolves it with a special technique.

June 1963 – Over the next few days, the Leader makes a detailed study of the Hulk, and puts him through a battery of tests. With the bullet no longer in his brain, Hulk’s personality soon becomes dominant once more. Then, the leader makes the Hulk honor his part of the bargain and teleports him to a planet inhabited by one of the enigmatic Watchers. Hulk fights off an alien champion and retrieves a globe called “the ultimate machine.” After returning the Hulk to Earth, the Leader puts the globe over his head in order to absorb all the knowledge of the universe. However, it is too much for him, and he keels over, apparently dead. Hulk takes the globe and heads into the Alps. He tries it on, and the Watcher allows the Hulk to hear Rick Jones’ thoughts as he waits in military prison. The Watcher retrieves the “ultimate machine” as Hulk leaps away, heading for Washington, DC, where he plans to seek help from President Kennedy. However, General Ross and his troops are waiting for him by the time he arrives, and they blast the Hulk with Bruce’s “T-gun,” which creates a time displacement that transports the Hulk 500 years into the future.

Soon after, Rick Jones is questioned again by the military and then released, though Talbot keeps him under surveillance.

July 1963 – Talbot follows Rick into the caverns, where he finally breaks down and tells Talbot that Bruce Banner and the Hulk are one and the same. As Talbot reports this revelation to General Ross, Rick tells his story to Betty, who is incredulous. The story soon leaks, and before long, all the world knows the truth about Bruce Banner and the Hulk.

September 1963 – The Hulk, who has been fighting with the Executioner in the distant future, finally rematerializes in the present day. Meanwhile, General Ross’s new chief scientist, Dr. Konrad Zaxon, reports for duty. Hulk soon returns to the base and is captured. That night, Dr. Zaxon frees the Hulk in an attempt to use him to conquer the world, but his folly costs him his life. During his escape, Hulk is hit with the Air Force’s new Orion missile, which is secretly filmed by an agent of the subversive organization called the Secret Empire.

The next morning, the Air Force tracks down the Hulk. He nearly wrecks a train during the fight—a train on which Hercules is traveling to Los Angeles. Hercules battles the Hulk and drives him off, carries the train across the damaged tracks, and continues on his way. That night, Hulk is kidnapped by Tyrannus, who now needs his help in his subterranean war against the Mole Man.

The next day, when Hulk proves uncooperative, Tyrannus kidnaps Rick, Betty, and Major Talbot. Hulk goes into battle against the Mole Man’s forces, but changes into Bruce Banner again. Meanwhile, Tyrannus returns Rick, Betty, and Talbot to the surface, where they are attacked by an agent of the Secret Empire calling himself Boomerang. They are no match for Boomerang’s weapons, and he kidnaps Betty. However, Bruce manages to transport himself back to the surface, despite becoming the Hulk again. He materializes in the middle of an artillery test, then fights off Boomerang and rescues Betty. That night, Hulk brings Rick and General Ross to where Betty is waiting in the desert. Meanwhile, Boomerang tries to steal the Orion missile, but Major Talbot and the Air Force troops fight him off.

October 1963 – Hulk arrives in New York City, intent on finding the Avengers. He passes the Sub-Mariner in a crowded movie theater, then wanders around the city for a few days. Finally, Rick Jones arrives in town while the Hulk is shambling around causing property damage. Meanwhile, the Orion missile is hijacked by the Secret Empire and aimed at New York. The saboteur is captured by the military, and Hulk leaps aboard the missile, changing into Bruce long enough to change its course and save the city. Turning into the Hulk before crashing into the ocean, he swims ashore. Rick finds him and they go into hiding. Meanwhile, the Secret Empire is defeated by S.H.I.E.L.D., and their surviving agents are all jailed.

November 1963 – Hulk is still lurking around New York City when Spider-Man comes looking for him. Hulk tries to drive him away, and their fight takes them into a Gamma Ray Research Center in Manhattan. Hulk destroys an experimental device and is bathed in gamma radiation, which causes him to change back to Bruce Banner for a few minutes. Bruce and Spider-Man have a moment to discuss his situation; and after he changes into the Hulk again, Spider-Man decides to leave him alone.

December 1963 – The NYPD discovers one of the Leader’s abandoned laboratories, and General Ross is called in to take over. They find a dormant Humanoid built to take on the Hulk, and Ross orders it activated. Shortly after midnight, the Humanoid is brought to life, but it proves uncontrollable and goes on a rampage. Hulk attacks it, and their battle rages through the night and into the next morning.

After daybreak, Hulk suddenly transforms into Bruce Banner, and he quickly devises a plan to stop the android. After he changes back into the Hulk, his plan succeeds and the Humanoid is destroyed. Reporters are on the scene, and it seems the Hulk has saved the city a second time. Seeing the coverage on the morning television news, President Lyndon B. Johnson offers the Hulk amnesty, at General Ross’s discretion. However, Boomerang is lurking in the shadows and tricks Hulk into causing a panic. As the Hulk leaps away, General Ross decides he is still a menace. Boomerang catches up to the Hulk at a dam as Hulk heads west again. During their fight, Boomerang destroys the dam, but is swept away in the ensuing flood. Hulk turns back into Bruce and passes out. Hours later, the Stranger appears, intending to use the Hulk as his instrument to destroy the human race. He alters the Hulk’s mind with an alien machine, and sends him on a rampage. All that night, Hulk heads west, wreaking havoc and destruction in his path, such as demolishing a bridge over the Mississippi River.

Finally, the next morning, Hulk reaches Desert Base, where his transformation into Bruce Banner frees him from the Stranger’s influence. Desperate, Bruce realizes his suicide is the only hope for humanity. He steals into his lab and sets the gamma ray bombardment machine for a lethal overdose. However, the troops discover him and place him under arrest. Unknown to them, a spy by the name of Emil Blonsky was hiding in the laboratory. Believing Bruce’s device will make him super-powerful, Blonsky turns it on himself, and is immediately transformed into a scaly green monster, which will soon come to be called “the Abomination.” Seeing the Abomination from his prison cell, Bruce turns into the Hulk and attacks him. However, the Abomination is too tough, and he knocks Hulk out with a crushing blow to the head. The Abomination kidnaps Betty Ross and leaps away, and with the help of Rick Jones, the base personnel are able to revive the Hulk. However, Hulk just wants to take off, but Rick begs him to stay and help rescue Betty. Hulk calms down and becomes Bruce again, and quickly devises a strategy to defeat the Abomination. He lures the monster back to the base and subjects him to a ray that weakens him. However, the excitement is too much for Bruce and he turns back into the Hulk, wrecks the machine, and fights the Abomination to a standstill. Suddenly, the Stranger intervenes, having changed his mind about destroying humanity. He teleports the Abomination to his base somewhere in outer space. The danger passed and Betty safe once more, Hulk wanders off into the desert—alone.


Notes:

January 1963 – There was something of a tradition with these Marvel split-books that a character about to be given his own series would guest-star in the lead feature the issue before it started. Thus comes this story from the Giant-Man series in Tales to Astonish #59.

April 1963 – The commencement of the Hulk’s solo stories, by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko, from Tales to Astonish #60 and following.

May 1963 – The President of the United States is not clearly shown in these stories, as was often the case, and appears to be the sort of “generic” president often seen in fictional stories. Occasionally Marvel took this approach, and occasionally they made him look like the sitting president at the time the stories were published. These are what Marvel continuity pioneer George Olshevsky dubbed “topical references,” meaning they were based on people or events current when the stories were created, but can be discounted during chronological analysis as literary / artistic license. Watch for an upcoming post about the Presidents of the United States in the Original Marvel Universe.

June 1963 – While it is debatable, I don’t believe the Watcher depicted in this story is Uatu, the familiar Watcher who lives on Earth’s moon, despite the listing on the Marvel Chronology Project. The trouble with the Watchers is that they all pretty much look alike.

September 1963 – As suggested in Thor #372, the Hulk is returned from the future by the Time Variance Authority.

November 1963 – The Hulk is hiding out in New York City when President Kennedy is assassinated. It is unclear how much of this time he spent as Bruce Banner and how much as the Hulk, for he was in the city for several months, keeping a low profile as best he could.

December 1963 – During this appearance, the President of the United States is actually drawn to look like Lyndon Johnson, courtesy of artist Gil Kane. This is one of the few times in the Original Marvel Universe that the President looks like the man who was in office according to the date on the timeline. As usual, it is pure serendipity. This takes us up to Tales to Astonish #91.


Previous Issue: The Hulk -- Year One




Monday

OMU: Hulk -- Year One

The Incredible Hulk was a flop. I’m not talking about Ang Lee’s recent film—which, though it disappointed many studio executives, actually went on to do quite well—nor do I mean the Bill Bixby/Lou Ferrigno television series of the late 1970s–early 1980s, which garnered respectable ratings for most of its run. I’m talking about the original comic book series, which was ignominiously cancelled after just one year. The second of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby’s new line of superhero comics, it featured a grim, prickly scientist who transformed into a bad-tempered anti-social, monstrous brute. Initially conceived as a cross between Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and Frankenstein, the series never seemed to get out of the experimental phase, as Lee and Kirby—and later, Steve Ditko—constantly tinkered with the premise to try to find a workable formula.

As a result, the overarching storyline of the Hulk’s earliest adventures is rather full of holes, many of which have never been closely analyzed or explained. The process of sorting it all out is greatly helped by plugging everything into a chronological timeline, for here some previously-unnoticed gaps in the character’s history become apparent, and the relationship between the various stories becomes a little clearer. Also, perhaps more than many other characters, the Hulk’s origin is tied in to the historical context of the Cold War nuclear arms race, and the story suffers when taken out of that setting. Thus, studying the first year of the Hulk’s existence in terms of the Original Marvel Universe reveals a great deal of behind-the-scenes detail.

Note: The following timeline depicts the Original Marvel Universe (anchored to November 1961 as the first appearance of the Fantastic Four and proceeding forward from there. See previous posts for a detailed explanation of my rationale.) Some information presented on the timeline is speculative and some is based on historical accounts. See the Notes section at the end for clarifications.


Now, in unprecedented detail... The True History of the Incredible Hulk!


January 1962 – Dr. Robert Bruce Banner readies the Gamma Bomb Project for testing at the top-secret Desert Base military installation in northern Catron County, New Mexico. However, Bruce’s research assistant, Igor Drenkov, is a Russian spy. The base commander, General Thaddeus E. Ross, nicknamed “Thunderbolt,” is impatient for the tests to get underway, but Bruce is very cagey and secretive. The general’s daughter, Betty Ross, admires Bruce, but has not yet been able to determine if he is interested in her. The gamma bomb test will be America’s first atmospheric nuclear detonation since 1958, and there is interest in the project at the highest levels.

February 1962 – Moments before the gamma bomb is to be detonated, Bruce spots an old jalopy driving onto the test range. Telling Drenkov to delay the test, Bruce grabs a jeep and sets off to warn the intruder away. However, the murderous spy does nothing, and the bomb explodes. Having gotten the intruder, a rebellious local teenager named Rick Jones, into a protective trench, Bruce takes the full brunt of the nuclear blast, and is bathed in wave after wave of powerful gamma radiation. As a mutagenic change is triggered in his cellular structure, something deep inside Bruce Banner’s mind breaks free.

Heedless of his own safety, Rick Jones drags Bruce to the jeep and drives him back to the base, where they are both taken to the infirmary. As night falls hours later, Bruce is transformed into a hulking gray-skinned brute. He terrorizes the base all night, and is named “the Hulk” by the soldiers. Returning to Bruce’s quarters, the Hulk discovers Drenkov ransacking the place and pulverizes him. Then, at first light of dawn he changes back into Bruce Banner.

The soldiers take Drenkov into custody, but he manages to transmit a report to his superiors in the Soviet Union through a concealed miniature radio. He will be brought up on espionage charges, tried, convicted, and sentenced to a long prison term. Meanwhile, the soldiers spend the day searching the surrounding area for any sign of the Hulk.

The next night, Bruce changes into the Hulk again and frightens Betty Ross. However, he and Rick are kidnapped by the deformed Soviet scientist called the Gargoyle and taken to Russia. When the jet lands, it is daylight, and so Bruce Banner emerges instead of the Hulk. Bruce agrees to help the Gargoyle become normal again using an experimental gamma ray treatment.

During the process, Bruce is accidentally exposed to another massive dose of gamma rays, further altering his cellular structure. Now when he changes into the Hulk, his skin becomes green instead of gray.

The grateful Gargoyle sends Bruce and Rick back to the United States in a special passenger missile. They are ejected before the missile crashes into the Gulf of Mexico and parachute down into the swamps of Louisiana. Each night, Bruce transforms into the Hulk and goes on a rage-fueled rampage as he and Rick make their way back to New Mexico.

Bruce and Rick finally return to Desert Base, and General Ross is suspicious of Bruce’s disappearance. Bruce is checked out by the base’s medical staff, and it is confirmed that he is suffering from an unknown form of radiation poisoning. Bruce quickly creates the ideal prison for the Hulk in a cavern underneath a nearby lake, outfitting it with a huge vault door.

While they are checking the hastily-installed vault, Bruce and Rick are kidnapped by agents of a Tribbitite invasion fleet. Aboard the spaceship, Bruce transforms into the Hulk as they pass over the dark side of the planet. The Hulk subdues the crew and considers using the advanced weaponry to attack the human race. However, a missile assault by the American military causes the ship to crash. It is still daylight where the ship lands, and the soldiers find Bruce Banner aboard. He is arrested and taken in for questioning. No aliens are found in the ship, as they managed to tunnel their way out before being discovered. They signal their fleet and the full-scale invasion begins. The Tribbitite king appears in a worldwide broadcast and announces that they are altering the moon’s orbit to cause it to crash into the earth. As night falls, Bruce changes into the Hulk and busts out of prison. He goes on a rampage, attacking the soldiers and wrecking General Ross’ house. He kidnaps Betty and takes her to Bruce’s lab, where Rick confronts him. The Hulk is about to kill Rick when a Tribbitite-caused earthquake strikes, demolishing the house and knocking them all unconscious. The sun rises before they wake up and the Hulk becomes Bruce again. Hurriedly, Bruce uses his experimental gamma ray weapon to repel the invasion fleet. The government convinces the public that the invasion was a hoax. All charges against Bruce are quietly dropped. By nightfall, the Hulk is sealed in his vault deep inside the cave.

April 1962 – Weeks pass and most nights the Hulk is imprisoned. Occasionally, though, Bruce transforms before he can get to the cave and the Hulk goes on a rampage until dawn. Finally, General Ross convinces Rick to lure the Hulk into a rocket for a “test flight.” Rick does so, and the Hulk is launched into space. The rays of the sun transform him back into Bruce Banner, who is then bombarded with radiation in the unshielded capsule. Realizing he’s been tricked, Rick sabotages the controls, causing the capsule to separate from the rocket before reaching escape velocity. As dawn breaks, the capsule plummets to earth, crashing in the desert near the base. Rick fears that Bruce has been killed, but, to his surprise, the Hulk emerges, stronger than ever. However, the Hulk has now fallen under Rick’s total mental domination. Exhausted, Rick soon learns that if he falls asleep, the Hulk will go on a mindless rampage. The vault door was wrecked when Rick freed the Hulk earlier, so he manages to stay awake all night. The next morning, Rick goes to his aunt’s house in the nearby town of Quemado to wash up and get something to eat.

That afternoon, Rick falls victim to the Ringmaster and his Circus of Crime, which has been on a looting spree throughout the Southwest recently, pursued by two FBI agents. They have been hitting towns along Route 60, planning to soon turn south and head for Mexico. However, Rick summons the Hulk, who busts the place up. The two manage to escape when the soldiers arrive to capture the Hulk. The FBI agents arrest the Ringmaster and his cronies.

June 1962 – The Hulk has not changed back into Bruce Banner since being launched into space six weeks ago, remaining under Rick’s mental control. Whenever Rick falls asleep, the Hulk terrorizes the countryside. Wandering west, the Hulk busts up a movie shoot, and even reaches Los Angeles before Rick, placed under arrest by the military police for Banner’s disappearance, summons him back. The Hulk rescues Rick and they return to Bruce’s secret lab in the underground caverns. Rick bombards Hulk with gamma rays and he changes back into Bruce Banner at last. Bruce has a brainstorm while semi-conscious and sets the machine so that he will retain his intelligence while in the Hulk’s body. However, his inhibitions are gone and his hostility keeps increasing while the Hulk. Now subjecting himself to regular doses of gamma radiation, he no longer changes at sunrise and sunset. His strength continues to increase with each exposure.

Then, the Soviets try to recapture the Hulk after piecing together what happened in the Gargoyle’s lab four months ago. They lure the Hulk into a trap posing as an alien invader. The now more-intelligent Hulk sees through the scheme and defeats them, but ends up getting blamed for the hoax.

With the Hulk now more or less under control. Bruce continues his research. General Ross continues to push for new Hulk-busting weapons. Then, Betty Ross is kidnapped by the subterranean caesar called Tyrannus and taken to his underground domain. The Hulk follows to rescue her, but is forced to work as Tyrannus’ slave for several days while Betty is held hostage. Finally, with Rick’s help, Betty is rescued and the Hulk seals Tyrannus in as they escape to the surface. Betty goes into shock and blocks the entire episode from her conscious mind. It takes her a month to fully recover.

July 1962 – Bruce continues to change into the Hulk by gamma ray bombardment, reveling in his strength and power. He is almost captured by General Ross and his Hulk-busting weapons, but the Hulk has become too powerful. Hearing a radio report that the Communist warlord known as General Fang is threatening a Tibetan monastery, Bruce decides the Hulk will put a stop to it. He and Rick travel to Tibet by way of Formosa and China, battling the Red Chinese Army as they go. Arriving in Tibet, they defeat General Fang and his troops, leaving him marooned on the island of Formosa, alone and hunted by American troops stationed there. The Hulk and Rick return to the U.S. aboard a cargo freighter.

The military is on full alert for the Hulk after hearing of his attack on the Red Army in China. General Ross decides to bring in the world-famous adventurers the Fantastic Four. As they arrive at Desert Base, Bruce Banner and Reed Richards meet for the first time. The Hulk is being blamed for various acts of sabotage, but Rick discovers that the real saboteur is Bruce’s new assistant, Dr. Karl Kort, a Communist spy. Attempting to rescue Rick, the Hulk has an inconclusive battle with the Fantastic Four. Then, the F.F. capture Kort, destroy his wrecking robot, and rescue Rick. The Hulk retreats to his lair and changes himself back to Bruce. The F.F. are treated to full military honors before returning to New York.

Desert Base is attacked by a lone alien invader calling himself the Metal Master, who possesses the psionic ability to manipulate metallic atoms. The Hulk battles him, but the Metal Master knocks him out. The Hulk is finally captured by the military and imprisoned. The Metal Master then wreaks havoc around the globe while the Fantastic Four are off in space. Meanwhile, Rick and his gang of pals from Quemado form the Teen Brigade, a network of ham radio enthusiasts. The Hulk escapes his specially-designed cell, returns to his underground lab and changes himself back to Bruce Banner by more gamma ray bombardment. Bruce and Rick quickly hatch a plan to defeat the Metal Master, with the help of the Teen Brigade. They assemble a mock weapon of non-metallic parts, which the Hulk takes to Washington DC, where he challenges the Metal Master. The alien falls for the trick, and the Hulk intimidates him into undoing all the damage he caused and leaving the earth. Thanks largely to the Teen Brigade, the Hulk’s role in the Metal Master’s defeat is made public, which even earns the Hulk a full pardon from President John F. Kennedy. Bruce then returns to work, claiming to have been on a retreat in Bermuda the whole time. Although General Ross is suspicious, it is acknowledged that Bruce has been ill since the gamma bomb explosion. Bruce Banner and Betty Ross finally begin to really date each other, as Bruce now believes he has the Hulk under control, and for the next six or seven weeks, he resists the urge to transform himself.

September 1962 – Bruce finally succumbs to temptation, and the Hulk is once again seen bounding around the desert. However, the Hulk is tricked by the Asgardian god Loki into wrecking a train trestle, and is blamed for trying to destroy the train. Worried, Rick Jones tries to use the Teen Brigade to contact the Fantastic Four, but Loki diverts the broadcast to Thor, hoping to draw him into battle with the Hulk. Unbeknownst to Loki, Iron Man, Ant-Man, and the Wasp also receive the message, and the four superheroes converge on the Teen Brigade’s headquarters in Quemado, New Mexico. The adventurers soon discover the Hulk hiding out at a traveling circus, pretending to be a robot. They attack him and the audience panics when they realize “Mechano” is really the monstrous Hulk. While Iron Man, Ant-Man, and the Wasp fight with the Hulk, Thor defeats Loki and reveals his trickery. The superheroes decide to band together as a team, which the Wasp names “the Avengers.” With Ant-Man, Iron Man, and Thor to vouch for him, the Hulk is cleared of any wrongdoing.

October 1962 – The Hulk and Rick Jones come to New York City with the Avengers and participate, perhaps halfheartedly, as the Avengers set up shop in Tony Stark’s Fifth Avenue mansion, doing organizational work and figuring out their by-laws in a series of meetings, as well as negotiating with the government for special “Avengers Priority” security clearance. Far away from his gamma ray bombardment machine, the Hulk finds he has no way to change back into Bruce Banner as, after months of regular exposure to gamma radiation, his body has become dependent on it.

November 1962 – At their first meeting for the month, the Avengers are goaded into fighting each other by the alien shape-changer known as the Space Phantom. The alien first impersonates the Hulk, thereby sending the real Hulk into the dimension called Limbo. Later, the impostor attacks Iron Man at Stark Industries, then switches out and lets the real Hulk and Iron Man fight. However, the Space Phantom is seen taking Giant-Man’s form and his secret is revealed. A huge fight breaks out in Stark’s weapons factory, and the Space Phantom is finally defeated when he tries to take Thor’s form, but is thrown into Limbo himself. Disgusted at the way the others have treated him, the Hulk angrily quits the team.

The Hulk returns to New Mexico, and Rick soon follows. He finds the Hulk and convinces him to return to his hidden lab in the cave. There, Rick gets him in front of the gamma ray bombardment machine and the Hulk becomes Bruce Banner again at last. However, repeated exposure to gamma radiation has further altered Bruce’s cellular structure, and his transformation is now triggered by his stress level and the release of adrenaline. Tossing and turning in his bed, Bruce’s stress and anxiety cause him to soon turn back into the Hulk. He smashes out of the secret lab and heads off into the desert. The Hulk’s personality is gradually separating itself from Bruce’s again, and as it does so, the Hulk will lose much of his intelligence. This process will take about two months.

Rick summons the Avengers and they are soon battling the Hulk in the desert. However, the Hulk escapes on an eastbound train, then in a truck that dumps him into a river which carries him into the Gulf of Mexico. For days, the Hulk swims out into the Atlantic Ocean until he is exhausted. He is rescued by a passing freighter, but he soon abandons the ship when he spots a small deserted island. Swimming ashore, the Hulk is met by the Sub-Mariner. Namor convinces the Hulk to join him in an attack on the human race, and they form an uneasy alliance. They challenge the Avengers to a fight on the Rock of Gibraltar. The two super-powered misanthropes ambush the heroes, and the fight is going well for them until the stress and excitement unexpectedly causes the Hulk to change back into Bruce Banner. He flees the scene before anyone sees him.

Bruce transforms into the Hulk and makes his way back to New Mexico. His changes come more frequently, and he does not yet understand what triggers them. After many days, he returns to his secret underground lab, but the Hulk smashes every bit of equipment within. Then, he decides to return to New York and take revenge on the Avengers. He goes on a rampage in Manhattan and is opposed by the Fantastic Four. The Hulk and the Thing have their first epic battle. However, the Thing gets tired out and the Hulk goes and attacks the Avengers in their headquarters. The battle soon moves to a skyscraper construction site as the Hulk confronts Rick Jones about his apparent “betrayal.” As the battle rages on with both the Avengers and the Fantastic Four, Rick finally gets the Hulk to swallow a gamma ray treated capsule which Bruce had given him for emergencies. The Hulk dives into the East River, turns back into Bruce Banner, and drifts away.

December 1962 – After a couple of weeks, Bruce manages to make it back to New Mexico and tries to explain away his many long and sudden disappearances as due to his radiation sickness. He discovers his destroyed laboratory and slowly begins replacing some of the equipment with pieces he has stored in other caves in the area. Betty is happy to have him back, but General Ross has a new problem to deal with. A strange, growing rock is pushing up through the ground and causing damage by emitting powerful sonic blasts. Ross assigns Bruce to study the phenomenon, but the Avengers soon arrive and take over. They discover the rock is a weapon being used by the subterranean Lava Men. During the subsequent battle, the stress causes Bruce to change into the Hulk again, and the Hulk immediately attacks the Avengers. However, they trick him into destroying the growing rock. The resultant implosion stuns the Hulk and he staggers off into the desert and collapses, turning back into Bruce. Betty soon finds him and brings him back to the base. Rick returns to New York with the Avengers and Bruce gets back to work on his research.

Bruce Banner continues to change into the Hulk whenever he gets too stressed out, and wanders the desert with increasing paranoia. A week or so after the battle with the Avengers, the Hulk is hiding in a network of caves when he encounters Spider-Man. Thinking Spider-Man has come to capture him, the Hulk attacks and drives him off.


Notes:

January 1962 – There had been a moratorium on above-ground nuclear testing for several years at this point, which I think significantly ups the ante for Bruce’s project. In the real world, such testing did resume later in 1962.

February 1962 – It is never adequately explained why the Hulk appears gray the first two times he transforms, and then is green thereafter. The “Gray Hulk” was for decades written off as a printer’s error, until being brought back into continuity during John Byrne’s brief run on the book in the mid-1980s, going on to replace the “Green Hulk” for several years. I like the idea that something actually caused the change to occur, and since he was messing around with radiation in the Gargoyle’s lab, it is a sensible deduction that it occurred then. Reading the Hulk’s early adventures, it soon becomes clear that the gamma bomb explosion was only the first step towards creating the Hulk as he came to be known. It actually took repeated exposures to gamma radiation for the popular “Hulk smash!” incarnation to emerge. Upon returning from Russia in the Gargoyle’s “passenger missile,” the Hulk is next seen in a swamp, though how he and Rick got there is never made clear. Hence, I assume the missile actually landed in the Gulf of Mexico. The Hulk would have first come to the public’s attention during this trek from Louisiana back to New Mexico. General Ross and company might not have realized at first that these scattered reports of a “green monster” heading west are describing the same brute they are searching for. Although, strangely, it is never exploited in the comics, the simple fact that Bruce was caught in the gamma bomb explosion serves as an all-purpose excuse for his subsequent bizarre behavior and frequent disappearances. The fact that he had some unknown form of radiation “poisoning” would be unlikely to arouse anyone’s suspicion that he and the Hulk were one and the same, since none of the other characters were even aware that the Hulk had an alter-ego. No one besides Rick knew what he was or where he had come from, until much later. The timeline makes clear that the Tribbitite—or “Toad Men”—invasion follows only about a month after the Skrulls attempted to invade the planet in Fantastic Four #2.

April 1962 – The pseudo-scientific mumbo-jumbo that Stan Lee employs to explain Rick’s mental domination over the Hulk is unnecessary. It is more likely that it was merely that Rick was the first person the Hulk encountered upon emerging from the crashed space capsule. In his peculiar mental state, the Hulk could have fallen under anyone’s sway. If one of General Ross’s soldiers had gotten there first, the Hulk’s history might have been very different, indeed. The town where Rick was living was never named, but the Marvel Atlas Project gave the general location of Desert Base, and there aren’t too many towns in that area of New Mexico. Of the contenders, Quemado had the best-sounding name. Likewise, a look at a map of the area makes the Ringmaster’s plans more apparent. What else would he be doing out in the middle of nowhere?

July 1962 – The Hulk’s first major crossover appearance is in Fantastic Four #12. The Metal Master attacks in the last issue of the Hulk’s original series, Incredible Hulk #6. The only other heroes who could have opposed the Metal Master were the Fantastic Four, but they were on their week-long trip to the moon and back, as seen in Fantastic Four #13. I’ve speculated on how Bruce would excuse his absences to General Ross in order to keep his security clearance. Things quiet down around Desert Base in the hiatus between the end of the Hulk’s series and his appearance in Avengers #1, and Bruce has time to get back in the General’s good graces, as well as to get to know Betty. However, Bruce’s fatal flaw during this period is that the raw power of the Hulk is just too seductive, and like any nuclear scientist, he is arrogant enough to believe he can keep that power under control.

October 1962 – The admittedly-rather-boring organizational period of the Avengers was never detailed in any canonical story, but the presence of both the Hulk and Rick, as the more serious-minded heroes do all the drudge work of getting an official super-team off the ground, might make for an amusing character-driven anecdote. Obviously, Iron Man and Ant-Man were the driving forces behind the writing of the Avengers’ charter and by-laws.

December 1962 – This takes us up to Avengers #5. The Hulk then makes a surprise appearance in Amazing Spider-Man #14.


OMU Note: The Hulk’s final canonical appearance was in Hulk #377.