* Prices may differ from that shown
The creation of the Incredible Hulk, according to Marvel, was as a result of a gamma radiation experiment gone wrong. Beyond that, I must admit I have never really thought about it. This Marvel Masterworks release sets about bringing us the first few issues of the Incredible Hulk, as well as some explanations of the character's creation.
Starting us off is a foreword from Stan Lee, one of Marvel's creators. He explains that the popularity of the Thing, Frankenstein and Mr Hyde sort of combined to give them an angle for a new character. Thus began the Incredible Hulk around 50 years ago, explained due to gamma radiation, as scientist Bruce Banner finds Hulk as his alter ego.
Currently, we know the Hulk's transformation to be brought about through Banner losing his temper, but it wasn't always so. Marvel toy with switching between Banner and the Hulk, initially using night-time as the trigger for the transformation, and then requiring exposure to gamma rays each time a change is necessary. The stories are quite interesting, I suppose, but I was much more interested in how the Hulk progressed as a character.
These first issues, originally released in the 1960s, came at a time when the period of detente between the States and the USSR was very intense. Thus Russia is portrayed as the villains in one issue, as is a Chinese dictator, and various characters with 'powers' of some sort. Each time a villain appears, the Hulk is the hero and saves the day, yet it is twisted to show that he could very well be behind the threats to the nation. This enables Hulk's nemesis, the army's General Thaddeus 'Thunderbolt' Ross, whose daughter is madly in love with Banner, to advertise the Hulk as a danger to the world, pushing him into hiding.
It is intriguing to see the development of the character in such a short space of time as a few issues. The Hulk originally started out as a grey colour before they realised this was bland and dull and that a green colour would be more fitting with the gamma radiation. The character interacts well with teenager Rick Jones, who Banner saves from the gamma radiation in the very first issue at a cost to himself. The only issue with this is the believability factor, firstly of Rick being there, and secondly of Banner rushing out on his own to save him, as opposed to halting the gamma test or making a phone call. This is perhaps the reason that Jones hasn't been included in any of the feature films of the Hulk.
However, there is quite a bit of the collection that is unbelievable, including alien toads trying to take over the world and a man who can control metal (perhaps the influence for Magneto?) with his mind. Through it all, the artwork has that traditional and individualistic element to it, looking like each box and contour of each character and backdrop has been manually drawn and created, the colours quite pale and gentle, a far cry from the rich and deep computer generated style we often experience these days. I must admit, I do like this form of artwork. It somehow seems proper.
This is an enjoyable issue, and it told me something new about the Hulk. Up until now, I had never really looked at his origins, but with the first few issues ever, as well as a foreword from Stan Lee from 1989, and an afterword by epic Hulk writer Peter David in 2008, make for really good reading. It wasn't a perfect issue: at times, there is far too much wording on the page, and it sort of spoon feeds you the story as opposed to letting the frames do the telling. Occasionally, an image or two seems out of place. Encompassing 149 pages of original Incredible Hulk issues, this collection is currently available from amazon.co.uk for £11.95, and is one I highly recommend.
Book Series: Marvel Masterworks