Did you know that the Incredible Hulk wasn’t a hit right off the bat? It’s true! His original series was cancelled after only a year, possibly to make room on the schedule for Spider-Man. But you can’t keep a good character down. Let’s look at why the Hulk got canned and how he returned to become a pop culture titan!
Incredible Hulk #1, 1962
This is the grand poobah of all key Hulk issues: his first appearance! Debuting concurrently with Fantastic Four #4, The Hulk was the second superhero of the Marvel Age. His origin was, like the F4’s, designed to appeal to the sci-fi anthology fans that had been Marvel’s core audience up to that point. Bruce Banner is a scientist whose selfless act of heroism sees him transformed into a grey-skinned monster. Hunted by the U.S. Army and Soviet spies, Banner and his teen sidekick Rick Jones discover that the transformations are temporary.
With the second issue, the skin of Banner’s mutated form turned green. The Jade Giant as we know him was born! The series featured The Hulk battling various evildoers while simultaneously running from the Army, the epitome of a misunderstood monster. What modern fans might not know is that Banner controlled his transformations with a Gamma Ray Projector! The anger element was added later.
Incredible Hulk #6 hit stands in Spring 1963 and wrapped up his story. The Hulk successfully tricks the alien Metal Master into leaving Earth, earning him a Presidential pardon. Additionally, he smashes up the gamma projector after triggering the change back into Banner. Had Marvel wanted, that could have been the end of the Incredible Hulk for good!
Fantastic Guest Appearances
A funny thing happened the very same month The Incredible Hulk was cancelled: it crossed over with the Fantastic Four! Fantastic Four #12 saw Marvel’s First Family tapped by the U.S. Army to help capture The Hulk. The series of sabotages that old Jade Jaws is suspected of are, of course, the work of a Soviet spy and the heroes come together to defeat the real threat in the end. It’s a classic story and generally held to be the 1st Marvel Crossover. The Hulk’s profile skyrocketed just a moment too late.
That boost in popularity secured him a spot in the first three issues of The Avengers some six months later. From there, The Hulk would pop in the pages of Fantastic Four, Amazing Spider-Man, Thor’s feature in Journey into Mystery, and Ant-Man’s feature in Tales to Astonish. The latter series would become his home with issue #60, sharing it with first Ant-Man and then Sub-Mariner. All told, it took a year-and-a-half worth of fan-favorite guest appearances for the Hulk to earn back his starring slot.
The Silver Age adventures of the Incredible Hulk are among the most beloved early Marvel Comics around! The Hulk has gone on to be one of the most recognizable superheroes around, with movie and TV appearances making him recognizable to millions. In terms of investment potential, he’s been part of some very key Marvel moments. You’ve got his 1st appearance, the 1st Marvel crossover, the founding of the Avengers, and the 1st appearance of Wolverine – if you collect nothing but Hulk appearances, you can have quite the valuable collection.
Back to the Past will be bringing a collection featuring both Incredible Hulk #1 and Fantastic Four #12 to auction in January! Both issues will have been graded and encapsulated by CGC, ensuring each comic has an impartial grade and stays in that condition. Follow us on social media @b2pCollect to keep up with when bidding opens, and be sure to drop us a line when it comes time to sell your collection!