Marvel Studio’s Incredible Hulk film finally hits theaters this Friday (6/13) and in honor of the occasion I thought I’d devote a few minutes to my discovery of, and thoughts about, Marvel’s Green Goliath.
When I was a kid, I used to stop by my local public library each summer to pick up books for the long school break. I loved this activity because when I’d walk through those doors I’d leave the summer heat outside and with a blast of cool air a whole new world would open up to me. Super-heroes, Monsters, Detectives…the sky was the limit and I’d spend hours tracking down books using the library’s newly installed computer system, and hunting the shelves for the treasures that would pop up on the screen. It was during these years that I stumbled upon a few hardcover volumes (pre-Masterwork) of what I now recognize to have been Marvel’s 1960’s material. These volumes included reprints of Captain America and the Hulk and in conjunction with a fantastic Amazing Spider-Man hardcover collection that I had found in my elementary school library, it was here that I’d get a basic introduction to the wonders of comics and the tragic adventures of the Incredible Hulk on the four-color page.
But I shouldn’t get ahead of myself just yet, those comics weren’t my first introduction to the Hulk by any means, as a child of the 80’s I used to plant myself firmly in seat to watch The Incredible Hulk starring Bill Bixby and Lou Ferrigno. I loved that show! Every week Bruce Banner would seemingly show up in a new town after walking for days, try to live life as best he could, meet someone in need, and thereafter find himself entangled in a situation that necessitated his transformation into the incredible Hulk:
Please don’t make me angry. You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry.
Bixby masterfully uttered those lines with such a sense of power and forlorn sadness that I’ll never quite forget the feeling of pity, and even fear, that I had as a young boy watching what would then happen. Inevitably, the Hulk would save the day, sense the danger his presence would further cause the town and its inhabitants, and head silently down the road unable to find his own peace. It was a difficult thing to watch, certainly, but I always came back for more and I’ll always appreciate the way the show affected me. And of course, the “Lonely Man” end theme has forever planted itself in my mind. When I hear of the Hulk, it’s that song that comes to mind, and to this day it still tears me up.
Later, as I was just getting started in the comic hobby, I managed to trade for a copy of Tales to Astonish #93 which became my first Hulk-related comic. “He Who Strikes the Silver Surfer” was a great tale to start off with, for me, because it continued that theme of the Hulk’s loneliness that I knew so well. In this story by Stan Lee, Marie Severin, and Frank Giacoia, the Hulk is tired of being hunted and misunderstood, and seeks a way off the planet to be alone unto himself. And when the Hulk encounters the Silver Surfer he figures that the ‘flying man’ can help him in the endeavor. But a tragic misunderstanding ensues and the two find themselves instead locked in combat. Perhaps even worse, at one point after the Surfer has temporarily knocked the Hulk out, he detects the man inside the monster and even seeks to free him from his burden using the power cosmic, but startled, the Hulk awakes and again attacks – squandering the opportunity to be free from his torment. It was a fine comic, and it has a prominent place in both my memory and my collection.
I’ve enjoyed the Hulk’s origin, many back-issues, and Peter David, Dale Keown, and Gary Franks memorable run on the book since and that’s pretty much where I stand as far as my collection is concerned (for now). But I try to stay up to date on the goings on in his book and my memories and fondness for the character remain. It’s my hope that as he’s brought to life on the big screen that a whole new generation will discover the sense of wonder and grandeur found in the Hulk and that more than a few fans, like myself, will again have the chance to enjoy an adventure featuring this tragic, yet heroic character, created and cared for so many years by Stan Lee, Jack “The King” Kirby, and others.