There are few who have contributed more to the comic book industry Stan Lee and Roy Thomas. Both wrote most of the stories in the latest Hulk Epic Collection, which features a hell of a lot of innovative ideas and firsts for Hulk. The collection houses stories from 1969 through 1971 and there are quite a few cool moments — and also some crazy facts.
So what’s it about?
The official summary reads:
It’s time to Hulk-out! We begin with bare-fisted battles against the Sub-Mariner, the Inhumans and the bizarre swamp beast, the Glob! Then, the Hulk and the Thing go mano-a-mano. With Reed Richards’ help, the man inside the monster is freed, allowing Bruce Banner to step up to the wedding altar with Betty Ross. But when the Leader and the Rhino return, happily ever after is the last thing they have in mind. There’s also an earth-shaking battle between the Hulk and the Avengers; the Absorbing Man; a team-up with Dr. Strange; the unbelievable separation of Banner and the Hulk into separate beings; and the hordes of Hydra. This Hulk-sized Epic Collection will leave you feeling green and loving it!
Why does this matter?
This is a 440 page trade paperback containing 21 single issue stories featuring the first time Bruce Banner was able to change to the Hulk while controlling himself. See what inspired the character’s future transformations here.
Crazy Fact #1: The very first Namor vs. Hulk confrontation required a pill
One might wonder how Hulk can fight Namor underwater in Atlantis, but the answer is easy enough: an Atlantean found Bruce Banner’s body and it was so damaged only Atlantian technology could save him, so she gives him an underwater breathing pill. It’s a rather convoluted lead-up to a battle between Namor and Hulk, originally appearing in Incredible Hulk #118. The hot-headed (and extremely sexist) Namor ends up using his “whirlpool trap” and for other Marvel firsts, Hulk is the first to break free from it. The battle ends up sending tidal waves across the globe and literally crumbling much of Atlantis, but is eventually ended when Namor sends Hulk flying onto a random island.
Crazy Fact #2: Bruce Banner promised to find a cure to make Thing “normal” thanks to this act
A quarter into the collection Hulk is on a rampage and ends up with the Fantastic Four as the only thing standing in his way. They fight, of course, and eventually Mr. Fantastic shoots him with a sonic blaster that contains a combination of his and Banner’s formulas to cure Hulk. It ends up working so well Bruce can turn back to Hulk and back to Banner on a whim. There’s no reason to change back to the Hulk however as he promises, “You just witnessed the end of an era! I’ll never become Hulk again…you can make book on it!” Sure Bruce, sure you won’t. In a somewhat bizarre couple of interchanges (Human Torch vows to watch over Bruce until it’s proven he won’t turn into Hulk again) Thing suggests they let Bruce leave and live in peace since he’s had so many folks hounding him, like the military and superheroes. This kindness is honestly not that big of a deal, but Bruce sure thinks so, saying, “And now I’ll make a vow…that I’ll never give up trying, till I find the formula that will turn you back into a normal man again.” First of all, Thing is normal, bud. Second, last I checked Bruce Banner didn’t try so hard to help the Thing.
Crazy Fact #3: The Avengers and Hulk would have been defeated thanks to this World War I plot from Kang
Kang is a kooky villain who seems to get in his own way more than actually pull off a plan. In Incredible Hulk #135, he attempts to go back in time to presumably kill Phantom Eagle. Soon his time machine is disrupted and he devises a new plan, which requires he confuse Hulk so much the Hulk goes with it. This plan requires Hulk to kill his own grandfather in the World War I trenches in 1917. His grandfather is French, and will die if a cannon isn’t destroyed. If Bruce Banner is never born there will never be a Hulk for the Avengers to band together and fight, thus Kang believes the Avengers would have never been started. Considering how “What If” stories play this game, I’m sure the Avengers still would have been created, but it’s pretty clear Kang isn’t good at writing those kinds of stories. Through sheer luck and chance however, Hulk ends up blowing up the canon he was supposed to avoid.
Is it good?
Those are only three interesting items to mull over from this fantastical and overly dramatic collection. I didn’t even mention The Nightcrawler (later changed to Dark-Crawler for obvious reasons if you’re a fan of the bamf’ing X-Man)! Believe me, this was some of Stan Lee and Roy Thomas’ greatest work thanks to the chances they always seemed to take and also how much development they paved for Hulk that future writers still use today.
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