Incredible Hulk #1 Homage Covers

The Incredible Hulk #1 (May 1962)

Writer: Stan Lee
Cover & Interior Artist: Jack Kirby

Published between The Fantastic Four #1 (October 1961) and Amazing Fantasy #15 (August 1962), The Incredible Hulk #1 (May 1962) — despite being the first of only 6 issues — helped Marvel Comics launch what would become a long-lasting public love affair with imperfect and unlikely heroes. A simple summary: Dr. Bruce Banner, like Ben Grimm of the Fantastic Four, is turned into a monster by no fault of his own during an ill-fated experiment with a newly discovered and little understood force of energy.

The modern Marvel myths of The Incredible Hulk and The Thing share important elements with Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, published more than 140 years before, in 1818. In Mary Shelley’s classic horror novel, Victor Von Frankenstein, a medical student studying — ironically, no less — Natural Sciences, pieces together a monster from body parts of the recently deceased and brings it unnaturally to life using electricity, discovered only a few decades before and little understood when the novel was published. Later depictions of Victor Von Frankenstein show him to be Dr. Frankenstein rather than a mere student. Perhaps this influenced the naming of Dr. Bruce Banner.

The creation stories of The Thing and The Incredible Hulk take place only 17 years after the detonation of the world’s first atomic bomb, which ushered in both the Atomic Age (also called the Nuclear Age) and the Cold War. Like electricity in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, the promise and peril of this new source of energy — atomic energy — both thrilled and terrified the world and continues to do so yet today. In Marvel Comics’ modern myths, Ben Grimm mutates into The Thing by accidental exposure to cosmic rays while Dr. Bruce Banner is turned into The Incredible Hulk by accidental exposure to gamma radiation. Most readers are likely to notice that cosmic rays and gamma radiation are both much like atomic radiation, invisible and only detectable with specialized equipment.

Stan Lee confirms that which astute readers, as noted above, have already surmised. In the introduction to Marvel Masterworks, Volume 8: The Incredible Hulk Nos. 1-6, Lee reveals the influences by which he created the Hulk. He notes the popularity of the misunderstood monster of both Benjamin Grimm, a.k.a. The Thing, and Boris Karloff’s sublime portrayal of the monster in the now-classic Universal Studios film, Frankenstein. Lee also confesses that he borrowed the mechanism of the Hulk’s “secret identity” from yet another familiar literary classic, Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde. Here yet appears another doctor! Perhaps Lee borrowed the Hulk’s initial somber gray hue from the noted classics as well.

The Incredible Hulk would last just six issues before being cancelled and its main character — the Hulk — moved to another Marvel title in November 1964 (Tales to Astonish #59). The Incredible Hulk would appear side-by-side with other Marvel characters for more than 40 issues, through Tales to Astonish #101 (March 1968). The very next month, Dr. Bruce Banner would get his own series again, starting with The Incredible Hulk #102 (April 1968). This series would continue until #611 (October 2010), when the Hulk would continue to lumber on in The Incredible Hulks, and thereafter regularly appear in his own titles and in crossovers. In August 2018, a new series — The Immortal Hulk — began to explore the deeper ramifications of the Hulk’s gamma-fueled condition and recently-discovered immortality, reviving the character’s popularity.


Sources: Wikipedia (The Incredible Hulk – Comic Books) & Marvel Masterworks, Vol 8: The Incredible Hulk Nos. 1-6