Wednesday, May 3, 2017

The Incredible Hulk (1962) #1


Cover Date May 1962
On-Sale Date 1 March 1962
Cover Price $0.12 US
Pages 32 (24 story pages)

Cover Credits
Pencils: Jack Kirby. Inks: Jack Kirby (probably). Colours: Stan Goldberg. Script: Stan Lee (probably). Letters: Artie Simek.
  The inks for this cover have previously been credited to George Roussos or Paul Reinman, but comics historian Nick Caputo believes that Kirby inked the cover himself.

Story Titles
Part 1: "The Coming of the Hulk" (6 pages)
Part 2: The Hulk Strikes (5 pages)
Part 3: The Search for the Hulk (3 pages)
Part 4: "Enter... the Gargoyle!" (5 pages)
Part 5: The Hulk Triumphant! (5 pages)

Story Credits
Script: Stan Lee. Pencils: Jack Kirby. Inks: Paul Reinman. Colours: Stan Goldberg. Letters: Ray Holloway & Artie Simek
  According to Nick Caputo (him again!) Artie Simek lettered parts 3 to 5, and Ray Holloway lettered the first two parts (although Simek lettered the title and logo on all five).

Plot Summary
Dr. Bruce Banner, under the command of General Thunderbolt Ross, is testing an experimental gamma bomb for the US military. When a teenager named Rick Jones sneaks onto the test site on a dare, Banner goes to his rescue. Banner's assistant Igor - secretly a Soviet spy - fails to halt the countdown as instructed, and as a result Banner is irradiated by the gamma bomb blast.  When night falls, the radiation transforms him into a gray-skinned super-strong behemoth, and he goes on a rampage. He is dubbed "The Hulk" by one of Ross's soldiers.
  The Hulk inadvertently stops Igor from obtaining the gamma bomb plans, and reverts back to Banner at daybreak; only Rick Jones, now his loyal friend, knows his secret. From his prison cell Igor sends a message to summon the Gargoyle, a mutated, super-intelligent Soviet scientist. The Gargoyle manages to capture the Hulk and Rick and take them to the USSR.  When he discovers Banner's secret, he breaks down and admits how much he hates being a mutated freak.  Banner cures the Gargoyle of his mutation, and the Gargoyle allows Banner and Rick to escape in his own personal rocket, programmed to return to the USA.  Once they are gone, he blows up his own lab with himself inside to strike a blow against the Soviets who ruined his life.

House Ads
There's a full-page ad that plugs both Amazing Adult Fantasy and Fantastic Four. The latter shows a group shot of the team in their new uniforms, with each labelled by name, describing them as "America's Greatest Fantasy Characters".


CHARACTERS APPEARING

HEROES:

The Hulk (aka Dr. Bruce Banner) (1st appearance)
Bruce Banner is the inventor of the gamma bomb, and is described as one of the USA's most famous scientists, as "America's foremost atomic scientist", and also as "the most famous missile expert in the world". He has been placed in charge of the g-bomb's first test explosion. He's reserved and cautious, refusing to go ahead with the test until every precaution has been taken. On the surface he is extremely confident, not allowing any of his colleagues to check his work, and keeping the plans for the gamma bomb a secret known only to himself. He even declares that "I don't make errors". In reality, he is more tense and worried about the test than anyone else on his team.
  Banner dislikes violence, and when threatened by his assistant Igor he calmly states that "he detests men who think with their fists". He's not a coward, though, as he shows no hesitation in driving out onto the test area to save Rick Jones.
  Bruce Banner wears glasses, and smokes a pipe. 
  As the Hulk, he is large and heavily muscled, with grey skin. The first thing he does after his transformation is swat Rick away (calling him an "insect"), and smash his way outside; he seems frantic to escape his confines. He attacks some soldiers in a jeep with no provocation, but then leaves, wanting to get away and hide. The Hulk at first seems to have no memories of being Bruce Banner, but eventually some subconscious instinct drives him to retrieve the gamma bomb formula from his home.
  When ho encounters Igor in his house, the Hulk is irritated when the spy shoots him, but goes into a rage when Igor says that he's "not human"; the very suggestion of being human seems to enrage the Hulk. He recognises a photo of Bruce Banner, and recoils in a mixture of fear and hatred when he sees it, saying that it is "weak" and "soft". For a brief moment Banner's personality resurfaces, as he remembers the gamma bomb explosion, but soon he is the Hulk again, and glad to be the Hulk rather than "that puny weakling in the picture". (And while we're at it, why does Bruce Banner have a framed photo of himself in his house?)
  Bruce's reaction to his transformation is one of delayed shock; he holds it together while there are soldiers around, but as soon as he is alone with Rick and Betty he has what might be described as a nervous breakdown. He describes his ordeal as a nightmare, referring to the Hulk as a "brutal, bestial mockery of a human -- that creature which fears nothing -- which despises reason and worships power!" He tries to find an open, uninhabited area before his next transformation, but doesn't get there quickly enough.
  It's difficult to say how Banner feels about Rick Jones after saving the boy's life.  He doesn't show much emotion towards Rick one way or the other, but it should be noted that he never once blames him for his condition. The two of them seem to slip quite easily into a mentor-sidekick relationship, based more on Rick's gratitude than anything else.  The Hulk's relationship with Rick Jones is an unstable one, however. Most of the time he tolerates the boy's presence, but he doesn't hesitate to throw him around when he loses his temper. At one point he even makes some threats that suggest he's about to kill Rick for knowing his true identity.
  His (and Banner's) relationship to Betty is more straightforward. As Banner he is polite and reserved around her, although it's obvious that he's attracted to her. Upon his second transformation to the Hulk, he instantly decides that he needs to see Betty when he recognises that he's near her house. He approaches her threateningly, and shows contempt for her fainting spell, but he handles her gently.
  Banner seems remarkably calm about being abducted by Soviets, but he does not hesitate to aid the Gargoyle by reversing his mutation.
  Background: Banner is repeatedly described in this issue as the USA's foremost expert on atomic science, as well as the most famous missile expert in the world. Presumably he has spent most of his adult life in study and research. He is the creator of the gamma bomb, although he has yet to share his discoveries with anyone else; he has spent weeks before this issue overseeing the g-bomb project under the watch of Thunderbolt Ross.
  Powers and Skills: Banner, as mentioned before, has extensive knowledge of atomic science and missile technology. His knowledge of radiation is sufficient that he is able to reverse the Gargoyle's mutation. He is also seen driving a military jeep.
  As the Hulk, he is super-strong and resilient. He is shown breaking through brick walls, smashing jeeps, and crushing a pistol in one hand. He's not entirely invulnerable or bullet-proof: when Igor shoots him with his .38 the bullet penetrates his shoulder, although the Hulk seems not to feel the injury. His arm is still wounded even after he transforms back into Banner.
  Banner's transformation into the Hulk takes place at nightfall, and he changes back into Banner at sunrise; it seems as though the absence of sun-light is what triggers the change at this point. The Hulk does not possess most of Banner's memories and skills, although he is subconsciously influenced by those memories during this story. At one point Banner's persona seems to come to the surface while he is still the Hulk, but only briefly. His speech patterns don't deteriorate significantly when he becomes the Hulk, although his personality becomes more savage and bestial.


VILLAINS:

The Gargoyle (1st appearance)
The Gargoyle is one of the most feared men in the USSR, due to his hideous disfigurement and frightening intelligence. When Igor sends him a message, it passes through the hands of several Soviet officers who are too afraid to face him in person. As for the Gargoyle, he wants everyone in the world to fear him.
  Upon learning of the Hulk, the Gargoyle immediately decides that he either needs to kill the Hulk, or capture him as a symbol of his might. Later on, his plan is to turn the Hulk over to Soviet scientists to study, and perhaps create an army of such powerful creatures. He shows no hesitation or fear at confronting the Hulk, and captures him easily with a ray that saps his will. Even though he considers Rick Jones to be unimportant, he captures him as well, because he believes in taking no chances. He's supremely confident through the whole operation, declaring that he is "never wrong", and reveling in the ease of his victory.
  The Gargoyle has a lot of resources at his command, and is able to deploy them quickly. He takes command of a rocket-firing sub within a matter of hours to take him to the USA, and also uses a Soviet jet based on the American X-15 to return to the USSR.
  Upon seeing that the Hulk has reverted to human form, the Gargoyle recognises Bruce Banner as America's foremost atomic scientist. As soon as he is alone with Banner and Rick, he breaks down in tears, saying that Banner must be insane to want to be a monsters, and crying that he wants to be normal again. He instantly seizes on Banner's offer of a cure, and there's no further mention of his plan to turn the Hulk over for experimentation.
  Upon regaining his human form (and losing his super-intelligence), the Gargoyle rages bitterly at a picture of Nikita Khrushchev, who he blames for his former condition. Having been cured by an American, the Gargoyle decides that he can now stand up to his former masters. He helps Banner and Rick to return to the USA in his own escape rocket, then sacrifices his life to strike a blow against "the Reds" by blowing up his laboratory and the facility surrounding it.
  Background: Before he was mutated, the Gargoyle (whose real name is not revealed in this issue) worked on secret Soviet atomic bomb tests. (That the tests were secret indicates that they may have taken place before 1949, when the USSR detonated its first atomic bomb. The Gargoyle blames Khrushchev, however, who didn't become Premier of the USSR until 1958. I'd be inclined to use the later date; there are many reasons why the tests could have been done in secret despite the Soviet arsenal being known about.) It's not clear in what capacity the Gargoyle worked on the tests. Although he was not super-intelligent before his mutation, there's nothing to indicate that he wasn't a scientist of some sort.
  Powers & Skills: The Gargoyle was mutated by exposure to atomic radiation; his head grew large and bulbous, and his face twisted and grotesque. He also gained increased intelligence. He had no powers other than these, but his scientific genius and position as a Soviet agent gave him many vehicles and gadgets to work with: a rocket-firing submarine, a gun that fires a pellet that saps its target's will and makes them his slave, a plane based on the American X-15, an advanced laboratory, and his own personal escape rocket. Even as a normal human, he has enough intelligence to set the controls of his escape rocket, and rig up enough explosives to blow up his own facilities.


Igor Drenkov (1st appearance, named only as Igor)
Igor worked as Bruce Banner's assistant on the gamma bomb test, but in actuality he was a Soviet spy. He tries to convince Banner that the test is too dangerous to go ahead, then complains multiple times about Banner's secrecy in keeping the bomb's plans to himself. After Banner refuses to share the formulas, Igor loses his temper and threatens Banner physically; he claims to be concerned that nobody has checked Banner's work, and that an error could "blow up half the continent", but it's far more likely that he's concerned for his own skin.
  When Banner rushes onto the test site to rescue Rick Jones, telling Igor to delay the countdown, Igor takes it as his opportunity to be rid of Banner for good. (Presumably he thinks that he'll be able to obtain the plans once Banner is dead.) He doesn't tell anyone to delay the countdown, and is thus partly responsible for the creation of the Hulk.
  With Banner under medical surveillance, Igor goes to his cabin when night falls to look for the plans. Unfortunately for him, the Hulk finds him there. Igor shoots him without hesitation, but the Hulk ignores the wound and knocks him unconscious. He is later found and placed under arrest. (Strangely, the soldiers who find him already know that he's a spy, and have been looking for him. Igor must have been exceptionally careless on his way to ransack Banner's cabin.)
  Igor is last seen in his prison cell, using a "sub-miniature transistor short wave sending set" pasted onto his thumbnail to send a high-priority message to his superiors in the USSR.
  Powers & Skills: Igor is a Soviet spy, and has presumably been undercover for a long time; it seems implausible that he would be trusted as Bruce Banner's assistant otherwise. He must also have a decent level of scientific knowledge in the areas of missile technology, radiation, or some other relevant field. He knows how to fire a .38 pistol.


SUPPORTING CAST:

Betty Ross (1st appearance)
Betty is the daughter of General Ross, and despite having no apparent qualifications she seems to have full access to the gamma bomb test facilities and the surrounding military base.
  Betty shows an obvious attraction to Bruce Banner, supporting him when her father goes on a  tirade about the constant delays of the gamma bomb test. Later, when soldiers go to Banner's home hunting for the Hulk, Betty is with them; she claims that she returned to apologize for her father's earlier rudeness. She shows obvious concern when Banner has his nervous breakdown, and offers her help before she leaves. Before this scene the two refer to each other as "Dr. Banner" and "Miss Ross", but after this they're on a first name basis, and it's played very much as the beginnings of a mutual attraction. She's still thinking about him in her next scene at home with her father.
  Betty encounters the Hulk when walking outside, and faints in fright at the sight of him. Later she describes him as "horrible" and "terrifying", although she also senses something sad about him, as though he was in need of help.
  When first introduced, Betty seems to have little fear of her father's temper, and even gently teases his nickname of "Thunderbolt". Despite a few instances where he dismisses her for being a girl, she shows no signs of resentment; their relationship appears to be a loving one, and she's comforted by his presence after her ordeal with the Hulk.
  Background: Nothing of Betty's background is revealed, but as there's no sign or mention of her mother in the issue it could be inferred that Betty has lived with her father on various military bases.
   Powers & Skills: None to speak of, unless you count the customary "woman's intuition" that every female written by Stan Lee eventually displays.


General "Thunderbolt" Ross (1st appearance, no first name given)
General Ross is in charge of military operations on the gamma bomb test site, having been stationed there with his men for weeks. He's irritated at the constant delays, irritated that Banner is a "milksop", and just irritated in general. According to him "a bomb is a bomb", and if he were in charge of the operation they would have tested it by now. It's possible that some of his anger is just posturing; according to his daughter, ever since he was nicknamed "Thunderbolt" he's been trying to live up to it.
  Ross seems remarkably comfortable after Banner's near-death, the Hulk's rampage, and the revelation of a Soviet spy on the base: he's reclining at home with a cigar and a newspaper. He even asks why Betty has been troubled all day, as though he's not aware of these occurrences, on top of the fact that Bruce Banner - who his daughter obviously likes - has been bathed in radiation and shot in the shoulder. To his credit, though, General Ross does show genuine concern for her, even if he does dismiss her for being a girl more than once. After she is menaced by the Hulk, he swears that he will destroy the monster even if it takes him an eternity.
  Background: Thunderbolt Ross is probably in his fifties or sixties, and is a three star general in the US military. (It's not outright stated here which branch he belongs to, but it will later be clarified that he's in the Air Force. It's probable, especially given Jack Kirby's history of military service, that this can be inferred from his uniform in this issue.)
  Powers & Skills: Blustering, obviously, as well as the skills he must have learned in his long military career. It's hard to say at this point, because he's not in this issue a great deal.


Rick Jones (1st appearance)
Rick Jones takes a dare from his teenage friends to drive onto the gamma bomb test site, and thus becomes partly responsible for the creation of the Hulk. He's very cool about the risks, and more worried that his friends will think he's a chicken, but it becomes obvious that he had no idea that a bomb was about to be tested.
  Rick feels grateful to Banner for saving his life, and takes him straight away to a doctor. Even after Banner transforms into the Hulk and strikes him, Rick chases after him to give whatever help he can. He tries to stop the Hulk from killing Igor, helps him locate the gamma bomb plans, and also tries to convince the Hulk that he is really Bruce Banner. He's grateful not only because Banner saved his life, but because he saved him from becoming the Hulk, and he is quick to lie to the soldiers when they start questioning Banner's whereabouts. He considers Banner and Betty's burgeoning relationship "revoltin'", and seems not to understand the true horror of Banner's transformation (saying that turning into the Hulk must be "a gas"). Even so, he vows to stick around to stop the Hulk from doing anything terrible, and tries to keep the Hulk from seeing Betty.
  Rick is kidnapped by the Gargoyle and taken to Russia along with Banner, but he contributes little to the adventure except to question Banner's decision to help the Gargoyle.
  Background: Rick is an orphan, and claims that nobody has done anything for him before Bruce Banner saved his life. He's a teenager, though it's not clear exactly how old he is.
  Skills & Powers: Rick knows how to drive a car, and is seen playing a harmonica (whether he can play it well is not established). It's clear that his scientific education is minimal, as he mistakes a geiger counter for a radio.


MINOR CHARACTERS: Technical staff and soldiers at the missile base, the base doctor, various Soviet military officials and personnel, US Defense personnel, a hypnotised truck driver, Nikita Khrushchev (in a painting)

LOCATIONS:

Los Diablos Missile Base (1st appearance, not yet named)
The base is located in a desert in the US, although there's no further indication of its exact location.  (Later stories will place it in New Mexico.) The base is the site of the first gamma bomb test. Preparations for the test have been going on for weeks, and General Ross and his men have been stationed there for that whole time. Aside from the testing ground, the base features solid concrete bunkers with scientific facilities inside, a medical facility, a number of cabins to house the personnel, and at least one prison cell.


OBJECTS:

Gamma Bomb (1st appearance)
Also referred to as the G-Bomb, it is supposedly "the most awesome weapon ever created by man". It was invented by Bruce Banner, and has its first live test during this story. Only Banner knows the formula for creating the bomb, which releases powerful gamma rays when detonated. Although he is many miles away from ground zero when the bomb explodes, Banner is still bathed in the full force of the gamma rays. Although he survives, the radiation causes him to transform into the Hulk when the sun sets.


Gamma Bomb Plans (1st appearance)
Bruce Banner refuses to share his formula for the creation of the gamma bomb with his fellow scientists, preferring to keep them a secret. He has them written down, though, taped to the bottom of a glass beaker and labelled 'Top Secret Report on Gamma Ray Bomb'. He probably could have hidden them better. The plans are handed over to the US military after Igor's failed attempt to steal them. (This may explain how the government was able to create a bunch of gamma bombs later on, as revealed in Incredible Hulk (1968) #337.)


Gamma Radiation (1st appearance)
Also referred to in the story as "gamma rays", this form of radiation was the basis of Bruce Banner's gamma bomb. Banner is said to be the only one who knows the secret of harnessing their power, although it seems that he has no idea what will happen when the bomb detonates and the gamma rays are released.  After Banner is bathed in the full force of the bomb's gamma rays he screams for hours before coming to his senses. Once the sun goes down, the radiation causes him to transform into the Hulk. In later stories it will be revealed that only certain individuals will be mutated by gamma radiation, and that said mutation affects everyone differently based on their psychological make-up. None of that is apparent in this story, though.
  (This would normally be where I describe what gamma rays are like in the real world, but it's honestly a bit beyond my understanding. If you're that interested, here, knock yourself out.)


Sub-Miniature Transistor Short Wave Sending Set (1st appearance)
This tiny device is pasted onto Igor's thumbnail, and went unnoticed when he was thrown in prison. It's powerful enough to send a signal all the way from the US to the USSR.


Soviet X-15 (1st appearance)
This plane, which is launched from a Soviet submarine, is used by the Gargoyle to transport the Hulk and Rick to the USSR. It makes the flight in a matter of hours, and appears to be capable of suborbital flight. It's also said to have been copied from the American X-15. The American X-15 was indeed capable of reaching the edge of outer space, and still holds the highest speed ever recorded for a manned, powered aircraft. The American X-15 could only carry a crew of one, though; this Soviet version has been altered to fit the pilot and at least two passengers (one of whom is exceptionally large).

That's an actual X-15 on the right, provided for comparison

Gargoyle's Escape Rocket (1st appearance)
The Gargoyle has his own personal escape rocket set up near his lab in the USSR. After Banner restores his humanity, the Gargoyle pre-programs it so that it will return Banner and Rick to the USA. It's controls can be set to automatic, and it also has an "automatic escape ejector".


Gargoyle's Pistol (1st appearance)
This pistol shoots pellets of the Gargoyle's own invention. The instant they strike, the target is sapped of their own will and becomes the Gargoyle's slave. The Gargoyle uses it on the Hulk, Rick Jones and a random truck driver, and it works perfectly in all three cases.  It's effects wear off in a matter of hours.


Other Objects: Rick's car (presumably vaporised by the gamma bomb), Rick's harmonica, a geiger counter, various military weapons and vehicles, Igor's .38 pistol, a photo of Bruce Banner (why does Banner have a framed photo of himself anyway?), a Soviet rocket-firing submarine, a Soviet experimental man-carrying rocket, a truck, a Soviet dinghy

WHO'D WIN?

The Hulk. There aren't any other super-strong beings in this comic, and so far it's clear that nobody normal is a match for him, at least physically.  Even so, the Gargoyle is able to capture him easily with his technology, and there's no reason he wouldn't have been able to do so again if he had wanted to.

CHRONOLOGY

The story spans two nights, both of which feature a full moon, but there aren't any other clues to place it in relation to other comics. It must take place before Fantastic Four (1961) #5 though, because in that issue we see the Thing reading a Hulk comic.

CONNECTIONS & RETCONS

As revealed in Original Sin (2014) #3.1-3.4, Tony Stark tampered with the gamma bomb; Bruce had built into it an excessive amount of shielding that would have caused the energy within to build up and create an explosion five times larger than the one that created the Hulk. Stark fixed the shielding. He also saw the potential for the bomb's radiation to cause mutations, and tried to e-mail Bruce about it, but due to animosity between the two of them Banner deleted the e-mail before reading it.

Due to some time-travel shenanigans, the future version of the Hulk known as the Maestro was sent back to the heart of the original gamma bomb blast and killed (as depicted in Hulk: Future Imperfect (1992) #2)

The Gargoyle dies here, and has technically never returned. I say technically, because although he did come back in Rampaging Hulk (1977) #1, those stories were declared non-canon due to various continuity issues, and retconned as fictional accounts created by the alien techno-artist Bereet (in Incredible Hulk (1968) #269). The Gargoyle did have a son, however, and the similarly deformed Gremlin first appeared in Incredible Hulk (1968) #165.

Hulk Annual '99, makes numerous retcons to this origin story, most notably the idea that alien Skrulls were manipulating events surrounding the gamma bomb test, and that the "gamma bomb" was actually a firing mechanism for a gamma laser intended to shoot down UFOs. It also depicts Betty Ross as being on staff for the project, retcons Igor as a Skrull, and makes any number of smaller changes to the events as originally depicted.  This annual has never been explicitly written out of continuity, but in Captain Marvel (2000) #2 Rick Jones is shown reading said annual and scoffing at the involvement of the Skrulls.

FIRSTS

This is, of course, the first appearance of the Hulk, who - despite having his first comic cancelled at #6 - will star in various iterations of his own book from 1968 all the way to the present day. He's also one of Marvel's most recognisable characters in pop culture at large, with two feature films, a live action TV series, numerous cartoons and countless bits and bobs of merchandise to his name.

It's also the first appearance of the three most important members of Hulk's supporting cast: Rick Jones, Thunderbolt Ross and Betty Ross. Thunderbolt and Betty (despite each having been killed off at least once) have remained integral to the Hulk's story throughout his history, the former as an antagonist and the latter as his primary love interest (and both as Hulks in recent years). Rick Jones has transcended his status as a supporting player for the Hulk, and has acted as a sidekick/partner for numerous other characters, including the Avengers, Captain America, Rom, and two different Captains Marvel.

The Gargoyle makes his first (and technically last) appearance here. It's strange, given that he was the Hulk's first villain, that he's never properly returned, but he remains one of the few Marvel characters with any significance to have stayed dead.

We're treated here to the first of what will be many Marvel Universe appearances of evil Communists. Villainous Commies are all over Marvel's books in the 1960s, whether they be from the USSR, China, or some country that Stan Lee made up. Eventually they are phased out as generic villains, though many super-villains with Communist origins will continue to appear right up until the present day.

THINGS THAT MAKE NO SENSE

The thing that makes the least sense in this story is that Bruce Banner would be the one to run out onto the test site to rescue Rick Jones. It's played as though Banner and Igor are the only ones who see him, which seems unlikely enough, but for the military to allow someone as important as Banner to just run out of the bunker as the bomb is counting down is ludicrous. General Ross and his lax security is as much to blame for the Hulk's creation as anybody.

IS THIS ONE IMPORTANT?

I'll be saying this a lot in the early years of Marvel, but of course it is. It introduces one of Marvel's most important characters (both in the comics and in terms of pop culture at large), as well as the bulk of his supporting cast. And while most of the details have changed over the years, the central conflict of the series is there from the beginning.

IS IT ANY GOOD?

It's been said that Stan Lee and Jack Kirby didn't really know what to do with the Hulk once they'd created him. That's an opinion that 's borne out by later issues in this series, but it's certainly not apparent in this first story. This origin tale is tense, eerie and atmospheric, with a ton of memorable scenes: Banner screaming for hours on end after being irradiated by the bomb, the relentless crackling of the geiger counter as he makes his first transformation, his grim vigil as he once more waits for night to fall. The first three parts of the issue are brilliant stuff, and Kirby really shines here, showing off his talent for horror. Once the Gargoyle turns up and things swing more towards standard superheroics it's not as strong, but even there the villain provides a nice counterpoint to the Hulk, and it gives Bruce Banner a heroic moment as well. The anti-communist ending hasn't aged very well, but the origin sequence is perhaps one of the best that Marvel ever produced.

BEHIND THE SCENES

  • Writer Stan Lee has claimed inspiration from both "Doctor Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" and "Frankenstein". The Origins of Marvel Comics hardcover, published in 1974, provides some of his closest recollections to the time of the character's creation, and there he says: "It was patently apparent that the Thing was the most popular character in the Fantastic Four. ... For a long time I'd been aware of the fact that people were more likely to favor someone who was less than perfect. ... It's a safe bet that you remember Quasimodo, but how easily can you name any of the heroic, handsomer, more glamorous characters in The Hunchback of Notre Dame? And then there's Frankenstein. ... I've always had a soft spot in my heart for the Frankenstein monster. No one could ever convince me that he was the bad guy. ... He never wanted to hurt anyone; he merely groped his torturous way through a second life trying to defend himself, trying to come to terms with those who sought to destroy him. ... I decided I might as well borrow from Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde as well - our protagonist would constantly change from his normal identity to his superhuman alter ego and back again."  From the quotes above, it seems likely that Lee was inspired more by the movie versions of those stories than the novels; the Frankenstein monster is quite murderous in the book, and heroic characters in The Hunchback of Notre Dame are pretty thin on the ground.  In later years he has also compared the Hulk to the Golem of Jewish  mythology.
  • Artist Jack Kirby has said of the Hulk's creation that he was inspired by the story of a mother lifting a car to rescue her trapped child.  This is the story in his own words, from an interview in The Comics Journal: "The Hulk I created when I saw a woman lift a car. Her baby was caught under the running board of this car. The little child was playing in the gutter and he was crawling from the gutter onto the sidewalk under the running board of this car - he was playing in the gutter. His mother was horrified. She looked from the rear window of the car, and this woman in desperation lifted the rear end of the car. It suddenly came to me that in desperation we can all do that - we can knock down walls, we can go berserk, which we do. You know what happens when we're in a rage - you can tear a house down. I created a character who did all that and called him the Hulk. I inserted him in a lot of the stories I was doing. Whatever the Hulk was at the beginning I got from that incident. A character to me can't be contrived. I don't like to contrive characters. They have to have an element of truth. This woman proved to me that the ordinary person in desperate circumstances can transcend himself and do things that he wouldn't ordinarily do. I've done it myself. I've bent steel."
  • The Hulk as depicted in this issue has grey skin, as opposed to the green that will become more familiar. The story is well-known, but I'll reiterate it here for the sake of completeness. Stan Lee chose grey for the Hulk, supposedly because it didn't represent any one ethnic group, but the grey colouring was inconsistent in the final product due to poor printing, and Lee wasn't happy with how it looked. In the very next issue the Hulk's skin was coloured green, with no explanation given, and for decades the character would be coloured green in reprints of this issue (with the Origins of Marvel Comics hardcover being a notable exception). The grey-skinned Hulk is first reintroduced in Incredible Hulk (1968) #302 as a vision of the Hulk's past, and returns for real in Incredible Hulk (1968) #323. Following these issues, reprints of Incredible Hulk (1962) #1 would depict the Hulk with his original grey skin.
  • The name Bruce Banner was coined in an alliterative style by Stan Lee, because he claimed that doing so helped him to remember the names better.  Ironically, those alliterative names are the ones that Lee would mess up the most; in Fantastic Four (1961) #25 he named the character as "Bob Banner", which later caused him to retcon the Hulk's full name as Robert Bruce Banner.
  • This story is the first set in the Marvel Universe to feature lettering by Ray Holloway. Holloway is another enigmatic letterer who I was able to find little information about.  Pinning down the beginning of his career is tough, because letterers weren't credited for a long time, but his work probably dates back to the 1940s.  As far as credited work goes (at least on comics.org, which I find is the most reliable about these things) he worked solidly for Marvel from 1958 to 1966. After that he worked for various publishers, primarily DC, before returning to Marvel in the mid-1970s. For most of his final stint with Marvel he was the letterer of Spidey Super Stories, and issue #57 of that book is his last credited work for Marvel (and perhaps for any publisher).  It should be noted that Holloway is not the pseudonymous letterer known as 'Sherigail'; Marvel artist John Romita has implied in the book John Romita and All That Jazz! that Sherigail was actually production assistant Morrie Kuramoto.

Ray Holloway, from FOOM #17

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

The Fantastic Four (1961) #4


Cover Date May 1962
On-Sale Date 8 February 1962
Cover Price $0.12 US
Pages 32 (23 story pages, 1 pin-up & 1 letters page)

Cover Credits
Pencils: Jack Kirby. Inks: Sol Brodsky. Colours: Stan Goldberg. Script: Stan Lee. Letters: Artie Simek

Story Titles
The Coming of... Sub Mariner!
Chapter 1: "On the Trail of the Torch!" (5 pages)
Chapter 2: Enter the Sub-Mariner! (5 pages)
Chapter 3: Let the World Beware! (3 pages)
Chapter 4: Sub-Mariner's Revenge! (5 pages)
Chapter 5: "Return to the Deep!" (5 pages)

Story Credits
Script: Stan Lee. Pencils: Jack Kirby. Inks: Sol Brodsky. Colours: Stan Goldberg. Letters: Artie Simek.

Plot Summary
The Human Torch has quit the team, and the rest of the FF go out looking for him. After a violent confrontation with the Thing, he hides out in the Bowery, where he encounters an amnesiac super-strong hobo. Johnny identifies the hobo as Namor, the Sub-Mariner, and revives his memories by dropping him into the ocean. Namor, finding that his former homeland has been destroyed by atomic tests, declares war on the human race. He summons a giant sea monster called Giganto and attacks New York. The Thing defeats the monster by carrying an atomic bomb into its stomach. The Human Torch defeats the Sub-Mariner by creating a whirlwind and hurling him out to sea, but Namor vows that he will be back.

Flashback 1
The Human Torch burns through a wall to escape from the US military.

Flashback 2
The Torch burns the Monster from Mars statue, blinds the Miracle Man, and quits the team in a recap of events from Fantastic Four (1961) #3.

Pin-Up
There is a pin-up that shows Mister Fantastic stretching up from the ground and reaching towards a criminal who is leaning out of a skyscraper window and threatening him with a gun. It also has an inset that shows a close-up of Reed's face.


Letters Page
Len Blake thinks that Fantastic Four lives up to the tagline of "The Greatest Comic Magazine in the World". Anthony Gonzales thinks that the Thing grumbling about his new costume was great. The suspiciously named "S. Goldberg" compliments the way that the characters bicker like real people. Shirley Howard wants to know, now that Marvel have finally had a hit, what they are going to do for an encore. Bruce Fogel wants an explanation for how the gem in FF #2 turned invisible along with Sue Storm. Jim Moony (probably not the future Marvel inker Jim Mooney) wants biographies of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. And "Unsigned" wants  the Human Torch to have his own solo book (be careful what you wish for, mate).

House Ads
Several pages have text running along the bottom, with messages such as "The Hulk is Coming!", "Who Is the Hulk??", "What Is the Hulk??", and "You've Never Seen Anyone Like the Hulk!".  There's no indication here of what these messages mean, but they're ads for Incredible Hulk (1962) #1, which goes on sale about a month after this issue.

CHARACTERS APPEARING

HEROES:

The Fantastic Four
When the story begins they are more accurately "The Fantastic Three", as the Human Torch quit the team in Fantastic Four (1961) #3. He's back with them by the end of this issue.

Mister Fantastic (aka Dr. Reed Richards)
Following on from last issue, Reed is determined to find Johnny. He doesn't seem to be worried about the Torch's safety, as he reassures Sue that he is sure the Torch is okay; presumably he's concerned about the possibility of Johnny turning against humanity (as he said in issue #3). He's quick to blame the Thing for Johnny quitting the team, putting it down to his jealousy of Johnny's achievements in their battle with the Miracle Man, and he demands that the Thing help search for him.  (To be honest he seems exasperated with the Thing this issue, telling him to be quiet on more than one occasion.)
  His search tactics leave much to be desired though. He begins well, by suggesting that each of them take a section of the Fantasticar to comb the city. After that it goes downhill, as he is seen talking to random teenagers, recklessly pulling a young man from his moving motorcycle, accosting the crew of a helicopter (in the air), and questioning the passengers of a moving train. Shouldn't he be able to whip up a scanner or something?
  Reed has heard of the Sub-Mariner, but thought that he had died years ago. He doesn't have much interaction with Namor, except to express his determination to stop him from destroying the human race.
  Powers and Skills: Reed shows the customary use of his stretching abilities, with a little bit of super-strength while doing so (pulling a kid from a moving motorbike, catching Johnny in mid-air).  He's shown stretching from the ground to a helicopter flying above the Manhattan skyline.  He's also seen stretching to converse with passengers on a moving train, so he's able to stretch fast enough to keep up for at least 30 seconds or so. As an example, the R33 was a railway car that operated in New York starting in 1962, and it had a top speed of 89km/h, so it would be somewhere in that vicinity.


The Thing (aka Ben Grimm)
The Thing initially doesn't seem interested in looking for Johnny. He says that the Torch is a spoiled teenage brat, and that the team doesn't need him. When Reed blames him for Johnny's disappearance, the Thing plays the victim, complaining about being blamed for everything. Once it becomes clear that Reed is going to make him search for Johnny, he's suddenly eager to do it, implying that he wants to beat him up for deserting the team.
  Despite his obvious antipathy for Johnny, the Thing seems to know him well, as he's the only member of the team to think of looking at Swanson's Garage, one of Johnny's old hangouts. Upon finding him he instantly attacks. He says that he wants to teach Johnny a lesson for quitting the team, but it soon becomes apparent that he's angry because he thinks that the Torch has been laughing at his ugliness.
  The Thing plans to "rough Johnny up a little" (not kill him), but when a freak occurrence reverts him back to his human form he is ecstatic, and no longer cares about fighting.  The reversion only lasts for a short time, however, and the Thing grows despondent at becoming a monster again, sinking to his knees in a "helpless rage".
  Upon the arrival of Namor the Thing is confident, claiming that nothing human can stand up to him.  Namor attacks with a sea monster instead, however.  Upon seeing Giganto smashing New York, the Thing is quick to devise a plan which involves him carrying an atomic bomb into the monster's stomach.  (His exclamation of "One side woman!" to Sue isn't his finest hour, though.) He shows bravery and determination in executing the plan, and once he's away from the team his anger and bitterness are not as apparent. He shows some trepidation and fear at the thought of entering Giganto's mouth.  After Giganto has been blown up, and Johnny has expressed his pride in him, the Thing cracks a joke that might be the first piece of dialogue in which he genuinely sounds like the character he would become: "Big deal! That and a dime will get me a cup of coffee!"
  The last exchange between the Thing and Johnny, though a small one, is important, as it signals the end of their animosity. They'll still have fights and arguments, but for the most part they'll be more playful than genuinely hostile from now on.
  Powers and Skills: The Thing's feats of super-strength are minimal in this issue. He smashes some furniture and walls, lifts and throws a car, and easily defeats the monster inside Giganto's stomach.  The most impressive thing he does is carry an atomic bomb on his back. The bomb looks to be about the size of Fat Man (the bomb that was detonated over Nagasaki), which weighed 10,300 pounds, or about 5 tons.  He is bent over under the weight, but otherwise seems to have little difficulty carrying it.
  The Thing shows great resilience in surviving the shockwave of an atomic explosion, although he is stunned. The art isn't entirely clear, but it's likely that he was shielded from the majority of the blast by Giganto's body.
  The Thing mysteriously reverts back to his human form just as he is about to pulverise the Torch. It's presented here as a freak occurrence, but the later revelations about the nature of his transformation make it possible that he reverted subconsciously to stop himself from hurting Johnny.


The Invisible Girl (aka Susan "Sue" Storm)
Sue is understandably worried that Johnny is still missing, though not hysterically so. She's even more understandably worried that the Thing might hurt Johnny if he finds him. She cries when the Torch's section of the Fantasticar is left behind, and is relieved when her brother is found.
  Sue begins the search for Johnny in the centre of town, in a neighborhood where there are a lot of teenagers. Her search tactic seems to be nothing more than walking around while invisible, which seems even less effective than Reed's random questioning. And despite the concern she showed earlier, she still takes the time out to stop and enjoy a soda.  Eventually her search takes her to the Bowery (and several feet from Johnny), but she refuses to believe that her brother would end up in a place like that.
  Sue shows some initiative when she steals Namor's horn, but she is easily captured thereafter. Her beauty causes Namor to instantly propose to her, with the idea that he might then show mercy to the human race. Sue seems reluctant to make a decision, but later when Namor lays out exactly what he plans for the surface world she accepts his proposal in a state of near-panic in order to save humanity.  (At this stage, there's no indication that Sue is attracted to Namor. Her motivation here is strictly about saving the human race, and her acceptance of the proposal is treated as though she's sacrificing her own life. Later, of course, this will change, starting with Namor's next appearance in Fantastic Four (1961) #6.)  Sue has been aware of Namor in the past, as Johnny remembers her talking about him when they were young. What Johnny remembers is her talking about his powers, and there are no other hints to let us know what she thought of Namor previously.
  Powers and Skills: Sue uses her invisibility powers to explore New York unnoticed (and to drink a soda, which we'll assume she paid for). She later puts her power to use in stealing the Proteus Horn from Namor, but he captures her with ease shortly after. At this point Sue has yet to show that she can turn other objects invisible (aside from her clothes and costume), and this proves her downfall.


The Human Torch (aka Johnny Storm)
Johnny has been hiding out from the army, the police and the rest of the Fantastic Four since last issue. His hiding skills aren't that great, because he's spending his time working on hot rods with his friends, in a garage where he's been known to frequently hang out. It's a miracle that it took so long for anyone to find him.
  Johnny seems to enjoy showing off his powers for his friends, although he doesn't have a lot of regard for their safety, as he is messing about with his flames near drums of gasoline. He claims that his power is completely under control, but it's a bit reckless. When the Thing shows up and attacks, he shows a lot more concern for the safety of the hot rod he's been working on than he does for his friends.
  After his discovery by the Thing, Johnny goes to the Bowery, the one place where he believes that nobody will find him. Despite being basically homeless, he shows no signs of self-pity at all, and even finds time to enjoy reading an old Sub-Mariner comic.
  Johnny shows concern for the "old bum" who is eventually revealed to be the Sub-Mariner, and tries to stop the other derelicts from harassing him. He shaves Namor with his flame, as a way to help him regain his memory, though it seems like a dubious method. As soon as he realises who the old bum really is, he shows no hesitation or thought for the consequences, and drops him into the ocean to restore his memory.
  Despite his feelings about the Fantastic Four - he never wanted to see them again - he summons them as soon as it becomes apparent that Namor is a threat to mankind. He and the Thing go right back to insulting each other, but after the Thing defeats Giganto, Johnny tells him that he's proud of him. (As mentioned above, that pretty much marks the end of the genuine animosity between the Torch and the Thing.)
  The Torch utters his famous catchphrase "Flame on!" for the first time in this issue.
  Background: Believe it or not, this issue is the first to specifically state that Johnny is a teenager.
  Powers and Skills: Johnny's standard flaming powers are on display here, but he uses them with more finesse than he has in previous issues. He claims to be able to completely control his flame, and demonstrates by flaming on near drums of gasoline without them catching fire. He's also shown welding a hot rod engine with a single flaming finger, and using the same trick to shave Namor's beard and hair.
  He is able to fly to a height of at least 1,000 feet. By flying in circles, he's able to create a tornado of such strength and suction that it's able to hurl Namor and the corpse of Giganto out to sea.
  Johnny's apparently great at modifying hot rod engines.


VILLAINS:

Namor the Sub-Mariner (1st modern appearance)
At the beginning of this story, Namor had been living as an amnesiac bum in the Bowery for a number of years (for reasons that aren't explained in this issue). It's made clear that he was an active super-hero in the 1940s, and quite well-known; Johnny finds an old comic based on him, and most of the characters in the story have heard of him.
  As an amnesiac, Namor seems dull and confused, and only wants to be left alone. He is only roused to anger when harassed by other flophouse derelicts. As soon as he is immersed in the ocean his memories return, along with his intelligence and sharp temper. He is quick to vow revenge on the human race for the destruction of Atlantis, even though he is sure that his people have survived; he opts to attack New York with Giganto rather than go looking for them.
  Upon seeing Sue Storm for the first time, Namor declares that she is the loveliest human he has ever seen, and offers to show mercy to the human race if she will marry him. He does not give her much say in the matter, however; as soon as the rest of the FF arrive, he declares that he will have her as well as his revenge. He seems even more offended when Sue realises the extent of his plans, and offers to marry Namor for the good of humanity; he considers marriage to himself to be an honour, not a sacrifice. (These scenes are the basis for most of Namor's appearances over the next few years. His infatuation with Sue, and the subsequent love triangle with Reed, will drive most of his stories until Reed and Sue are married in Fantastic Four Annual (1965) #3. Sue doesn't show any signs of attraction to Namor here, but she also doesn't show outright disgust.
  Background: We learn here that Namor was the prince of an undersea civilization that has existed for centuries. He was active circa the 1940s, and renowned as the world's most unusual character. He starred in his own comic books, at least one of which depicted him fighting soldiers on the cover. Some time later he lost his memory, and lived as a derelict in the Bowery for "long years", with his mind in a fog. During the time that he was an amnesiac, his home was destroyed and his people scattered by atomic testing.
  Powers and Skills: Even in his amnesiac state, Namor is easily strong enough to scatter a group of Bowery derelicts. He is able to live underwater, and is said by Johnny to have "the strength of ten men". Sea water revives him instantly, restoring his mind and his vitality.  Once revived, he is shown as strong enough to scatter Reed, Johnny and the Thing all at once.
  Namor is described as "travelling in his native element like a careening torpedo", so it's probable that he swims significantly faster than a normal man.
  Namor claims that his people could not be harmed by radiation, and that probably also applies to Namor himself.
  In addition to his natural powers, Namor has knowledge of the location of the Proteus Horn, and was able to use it to command Giganto. Later issues will show that he knows the locations of many treasures and relics buried at the bottom of the ocean.


Giganto (1st appearance)
Described by Namor as "the largest living thing in all the world", Giganto is found slumbering on the bottom of the ocean, as he has done for "ages".  He can only be awakened by one thing: the Proteus Horn, which Namor's people buried near him centuries ago. The creature is described as mindless, and once awakened it will follow the trumpet-horn wherever it leads.
  Giganto is large and strong enough to splinter a tramp steamer, and later is shown smashing several large buildings at once.  It is resilient enough to withstand heavy cannon fire, and the only thing shown to be able to harm it is an atomic bomb detonated inside its stomach (which kills it).
  Although Ben says that Giganto breathes through its mouth, it also has a blowhole, which it uses to fire a jet of water at the Human Torch. It's possible that the creature uses both to breathe, and is amphibious; it seems to have little trouble surviving on land.
  Despite Namor's claims that Giganto has been asleep for ages, the contents of the monster's stomach suggest otherwise. There are several ships there: one resembling a galleon, one that could perhaps be a Viking longship, and another that looks like a steamship. (Please be gentle, my knowledge of ships is rudimentary at best.)  Even if Namor is correct, Giganto must wake up periodically to swallow some ships before going back to sleep.


The Monster Inside Giganto's Stomach (1st appearance)
Giganto doesn't just have ships in its stomach, it also has at least one living creature.  It's somewhat larger than the Thing, with a fish-like face and six limbs that each end in pincers. It attacks the Thing silently, and he makes short work of it. Presumably it's killed in the subsequent atomic bomb explosion.


The Miracle Man (in flashback)
The Miracle Man is shown here in a flashback to Fantastic Four (1961) #3, being captured after Johnny has blinded him.


The Monster From Mars (in flashback)
The statue of the Monster From Mars is shown here in a flashback to Fantastic Four (1961) #3, being burned to a crisp by the Human Torch. Although come to think of it, it's just an illusion cast by the Miracle Man, so the real thing doesn't appear here at all.


MINOR CHARACTERS:

Atlanteans (1st mention; not shown or named)
The people of Atlantis are only named here as "Namor's people". They are described as being "old when the stars were young" (a bit of Stan Lee hyperbole, no doubt). At the very least their civilisation is centuries old, as that's how long ago they are said to have buried the Proteus Horn. Namor's home city was destroyed a few years ago by atomic testing; the ruins are of green stone, with elaborate carvings and engravings.  Like Namor, his people must be able to survive underwater. According to Namor, they are immune to radiation.

Johnny's Friends
Three of Johnny's friends are hanging out with him at Swanson's Garage, telling him how great he is at fixing engines. They don't stick around for long once the Thing shows up. It's probable that they're the same friends that appeared last issue, and I've provided some visual reference to compare.

The left panel shows Johnny's friends from Fantastic Four (1961) #3, and the middle and right panels show them from #4. It's hard to draw a conclusion either way, especially considering the crude colouring in #3.

Others: US soldiers, citizens of New York, a soda shop customer, motorcyclists, kids playing baseball, bowery bums, helicopter crew, train passengers, tramp steamer crew, New York police, New York city officials (or perhaps other governmental types, it's not clear).

LOCATIONS:

The Baxter Building
The Baxter Building is barely seen this issue, but it's reiterated that the location of the FF's headquarters is still a secret.

The Bowery (1st appearance)
After he is discovered by the Thing, Johnny goes to the Bowery, where he believes that nobody will ever find him. It's shown to be a very poor district of Manhattan, full of derelicts and bums. Sue describes it as a "haven of lost souls", and refuses to believe that Johnny would ever end up there. This was true of the area in the real world from the Civil War up through the 1970s, after which a slow gentrification process forced the vagrant population out.


Swanson's Garage (1st appearance)
Located in an area of Manhattan with plenty of greenery, Swanson's Garage is one of Johnny's favourite hangouts, and it's here that he goes when hiding out from the FF and the military. It suffers quite a bit of damage at the hands of the Thing in this issue.


Atlantean Outpost (1st appearance, not named)
After having his memory restored, Namor swims directly to his "undersea kingdom", only to find that it is in ruins due to atomic testing. The rubble is made of green stone, and covered in elaborate carvings, and the city probably resided off the coast of New York. The implication in this story is that this was the capital of Namor's kingdom, but it was later revealed in Sub-Mariner (1968) #1 that it was only an outpost.


OBJECTS

Fantasti-Flare (not yet named)
Johnny fires his flare to summon the FF after he has revived Namor.


Horn of Proteus (1st appearance)
This trumpet-horn is, according to Namor, the only thing that can command Giganto; the monster will follow its sound wherever it leads. It was buried near Giganto's sleeping place centuries ago by the Atlanteans, and only now retrieved by Namor to use in his revenge on humanity. Namor claims that it can also be used to summon other sea monsters as well as Giganto. At the end of the story Namor is hurled out to sea, and he loses his grip on the horn, which sinks to the bottom of the ocean, apparently lost forever.
  (Proteus was a god of the sea from Greek mythology, and no doubt this is what Stan and Jack were referencing here. There is also a villain called Proteus who shows up in Sub-Mariner (1984) #2, an Atlantean wizard, but he has no known connection to the Proteus Horn.)


Fantasticar
Reed, Ben and Sue use the Fantasticar when searching the city for Johnny, splitting into sections so that they can cover more ground individually. This is the first time that Johnny's section of the Fantasticar has been left behind.


Atomic Tank (in flashback)
Miracle Man was driving the tank when Johnny blinded him, in a flashback to Fantastic Four (1961) #3.


Sub-Mariner Comic
This comic from the 1940s was conveniently lying around in the very same flophouse where Namor himself was staying. It doesn't appear to be depicting an actual real-world comic, but it's in remarkably good condition.


WHO'D WIN?

It's hard to say from this issue, because there are no conclusive battles. Namor and the FF never come to grips, and even though Johnny is able to hurl him out to sea it's not really a proper fight. Giganto is beaten when the Thing sets off an atomic bomb inside it, but the sense given is that it could beat the FF with ease in a straight battle.  The only thing we can definitely state is that the Thing is able to beat up the monster that lives inside Giganto's stomach.

CHRONOLOGY

This story seems to take place all in a single day, but given that New York City is evacuated it should probably take place over a bit more time than that.  It shouldn't take place more than a week or so after Fantastic Four (1961) #3, as Johnny just recently quit the team and is still on the run.

CONNECTIONS & RETCONS

The Sub-Mariner's history, and the events leading up to this issue, are given plenty of attention in later stories. His amnesia isn't explained here, but in Sub-Mariner (1968) #1 it's revealed that it was caused by Paul Destine, a would-be world conqueror, using the Serpent Crown.  The date of this event is given as 1959 in Saga of the Sub-Mariner (1988) #6. This fits well with Namor's prior publishing history, as the last comic he starred in was published in 1955.
  Atlantis was not destroyed by atomic testing as Namor believes in this issue, but was actually ruined by Paul Destine.  The people of Atlantis did not die, but instead fled to the Atlantic Ocean to set up a new kingdom under the rule of Byrrah (as established in Saga of the Sub-Mariner (1988) #7.  Namor won't find them again until Fantastic Four Annual (1963) #1.
  It's established in Marvel Universe (1998) #7 that Giganto, and others like him, were created by the Deviants.  An entire race of Gigantos is seen in Fantastic Four (2014) #3.  I don't believe that the subterranean Giganto from Fantastic Four (1961) #1 has been specifically linked to the undersea monster, but as both have Deviant origins it's possible that they may be related.
  The Horn of Proteus is not lost in the depths of the murky sea forever, as this issue would have you believe.  In the real world, it reappears again in Sub-Mariner (1968) #21, where the Atlantean warlord Seth uses it to summon some undersea monsters to attack the US Navy.  Chronologically, it was first retrieved by Doctor Doom in Fantastic Four: World's Greatest Comic Magazine (2001) #3.

FIRSTS

While this isn't the true first appearance of the Sub-Mariner (that happened in Marvel Comics (1939) #1), it is the first time he appears in the Silver Age, and also his first meeting with the members of the Fantastic Four.  He spends the early-to-mid 1960s as an antagonist for the Fantastic Four, until transitioning into a heroic role and headlining his own strip beginning in Tales to Astonish (1959) #70.
  Likewise, this is the first Silver Age mention of the Atlanteans and their civilisation. Atlantis will be one of the more prominent "hidden civilisations" of the Marvel Universe going forward.
  It's also the first appearance of an undersea Giganto, as well as the Proteus Horn. Both of these will reappear from time to time, but their major claim to fame is that they're involved in this particular issue.
  Johnny utters his famous catch-phrase "Flame on!" for the first time in this issue. He must know he's onto a good thing here, because he uses it no less than four times.
  The tag-line of "The World's Greatest Comic Magazine!!" appears on the cover in its proper form for the first time ever.  The tag-line - or a variation of it - will appear on most FF covers going forward; of the first volume of the series, every issue after this has it except for #232, 286, 319, 350, 358, 374, 376-380, 386, 389, 392, 406, and 413.

SIGN O' THE TIMES

When Johnny checks into the derelict hotel, he thinks to himself, "It's not the Waldorf, but it'll keep me safely hidden..." This is a reference to the Waldorf-Astoria, a highly-regarded New York hotel that opened in 1893.
  Stan Lee frequently spells teenager as "teen-ager" throughout this story (and in most Marvel Comics of this vintage). The concept of being teenage was something that came into prominence after World War 2; no doubt the word is still a novel one, and hadn't reached the point where the hyphen would be dropped.
  The 1940s Sub-Mariner comic that's just lying around in a Bowery flophouse becomes less and less plausible as the Marvel Sliding Timescale drags the story forward in time. Even in 1962 it seems a little unlikely to still be around.
  This one is hardly indicative of the time, but as Ben is entering Giganto's mouth he compares the experience to the Biblical story of Jonah and the Whale. Jonah was a Hebrew prophet, who was commanded by God to go to the wicked city of Nineveh and raise his voice against it. Instead he tried to flee his task by ship, and was cast overboard by a storm and swallowed whole by a whale. Inside the whale he prays for deliverance, until the whale vomits him up on dry land, and Jonah is free to go to Nineveh and do his duty. Aside from the whale the stories bear little resemblance, but Ben's knowledge of it is consistent with the later revelation that he's Jewish.

THINGS THAT MAKE NO SENSE

There aren't any egregious errors or plot holes. The only "mistakes" that I can think of are issues with time. How long would it really take to evacuate Manhattan, for example? This comic seems to think a few hours to a day would do it, which seems unlikely. It's possible that only the section nearest to Giganto's rampage was evacuated, but the comic seems to suggest that it was the entire city.

IS THIS ONE IMPORTANT?

Extremely. Not only is it the Silver Age debut of Namor, the Sub-Mariner, but it's also the link that ties the modern Marvel Universe back to its Golden Age roots. A cohesive timeline, and the idea that all of these stories fit together somehow, is one of the cornerstones of the Marvel Universe, and connecting all the way back to Marvel Comics (1939) #1 goes a long way towards establishing that.

IS IT ANY GOOD?

Now this is more like it. With Jack Kirby getting a handle on the visuals and character designs, and Stan Lee starting to get the voices right, Fantastic Four begins to come into its own. The icing on the cake is the reintroduction of Namor, a real masterstroke. Not only does it provide the story with a villain who comes with tons of personality and motivation built-in, but it also provides a link back to very beginning of Marvel's publishing history. It's all wrapped up in some tense action, and the sequence where the Thing carries an atomic bomb inside Giganto's stomach is brilliant. There's a lot of improvement to come, but this is miles ahead of the first three issues.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Timeline of the Marvel Universe (as of December 1961)

This is the last of the planned "year end" posts that I have lined up.  I'm intending to create a detailed time-line of the Marvel Universe as it stands at the end of each calendar year.  I'm using real dates, but I'm going to move them forward when necessary to accommodate Marvel's sliding timescale.  At the moment everything is anchored to 1961 and works very well.  Obviously this is another one that's going to get too big for the blog, but I'll continue posting it as long as it remains practical.

1950 ("long ago")
  • Fantastic Four (1961) #1, page 22.2 to 22.9 flashback: After being ridiculed for his ugliness, the Mole Man strikes out alone to find the land at the center of the Earth.  After traveling the globe he washes up on Monster Isle, and enters a strange cavern.  Mole Man finds the center of the Earth, but is blinded in a sudden avalanche. (The clothing being worn by characters in this flashback leads me to believe that this takes place somewhere in the post-World War 2 era.  I have chosen 1950 on a whim.)
  • Mole Man learns to sense things like a mole, and develops a radar sense. He masters the creatures below the earth, and uses them to carve out an underground empire.  (Mentioned in Fantastic Four (1961) #1 page 23.1 and 23.2) 

1957
  • Work begins on a memorial statue (that will be melted by a Skrull posing as the Human Torch in five years time). (Mentioned in Fantastic Four (1961) #2 page 3.2.)

1959
  • This is the latest year in which Reed Richards can begin constructing his rocket to the stars.  (Mentioned in Fantastic Four (1961) #1 page 9.6)

Before Fantastic Four (1961) #1 origin flashback
  • Reed Richards and Susan Storm are engaged to be married.  (Mentioned in Fantastic Four (1961) #1 page 9.4.)

Tuesday 4th April, 1961
  • Fantastic Four (1961) #1, page 9.1 to 13.8 flashback: Reed Richards, Ben Grimm, Susan Storm and Johnny Storm fly Reed's test rocket into outer space.  They are bombarded by cosmic rays, and after landing the shuttle discover that they have all developed super-powers: Reed can stretch, Susan can turn invisible, Johnny can burst into living flame, and Ben has become a hulking monster.  They decide to aid humanity, calling themselves the Fantastic Four. (The only requirement for placing this flashback was that it had to go before Yuri Gagarin became the first person in space on April 12th. I chose the 4th day of the 4th month for my own amusement.)
  • Fantastic Four (1961) #2, page 6.8 flashback: Reed uses his stretchy arms to hail a passing plane.

July/Early August 1961 (before Fantastic Four (1961) #1)
  • Atomic plants in Australia, South America and behind the Iron Curtain are dragged beneath the earth by an unknown force.  (Mentioned in Fantastic Four (1961) #1 page 14.3 and 15.1) 

Tuesday August 8th, 1961
  • Fantastic Four (1961) #1, page 1.1 to 25.7: Reed Richards fires his signal flare to summon the Fantastic Four.  Susan, Johnny and Ben all make their way across the city to Reed's apartment, where he tells them about the disappearing atomic bases.  The FF track the cause of the disappearances to Monster Isle, and they confront the Mole Man and his monster hordes in his lair deep beneath the earth. The Mole Man's domain, and Monster Isle, are destroyed in an atomic explosion during the conflict, but the FF manage to fly to safety. (I have placed this story on August 8th, to match the release date of the comic.)

Between Fantastic Four (1961) #1's origin flashback and Fantastic Four (1961) #2
  • The Fantastic Four establish a number of secret apartment hideouts. (Mentioned in Fantastic Four (1961) #2 page 11.1. This probably happens between FF #1 and #2, but it's possible that it was done before they fought the Mole Man as well.) 

Before Tales to Astonish (1959) #27/1
  • Henry Pym learns judo.  (Mentioned in Tales to Astonish (1959) #27/1 page 6.6.)

July 1961
  • Tales to Astonish (1959) #27/1, page 2.6 to 2.7 flashback: At a monthly meeting of his scientific peers, Henry Pym is mocked for his outlandish ideas. (This flashback takes place several months before Tales to Astonish (1959) #27/1.)

Between Fantastic Four (1961) #1 and #2
  • The Fantastic Four become well known public figures.  (Mentioned in Fantastic Four (1961) #2 page 2.2.) 
  • The US military prepares special cells designed to imprison the Fantastic Four.  (Mentioned in Fantastic Four (1961) #2 page 8.2.)
  • The alien Skrulls, who are planning to invade Earth, learn of the Fantastic Four and decide to eliminate them.  (Mentioned in Fantastic Four (1961) #2 page 16.5.)

Thursday September 28th, 1961
  • Fantastic Four (1961) #2, page 1.1 to 3.6: Four Skrulls impersonate the Fantastic Four while committing acts of sabotage, theft and vandalism.
  • An order is put out by the US military that the Fantastic Four are to be shot on sight.  (Mentioned in Fantastic Four (1961) #2 page 4.1.)

Friday September 29th, 1961
  • Fantastic Four (1961) #2, page 4.1 to 10.7: The real Fantastic Four are laying low at a hunting lodge, but the military manages to track them down and arrest them.  The FF are placed in special holding cells, but all of them escape and fly away in a stolen helicopter.
Saturday September 30th, 1961

  • Fantastic Four (1961) #2, page 11.1 to 24.5: The FF track down and defeat the Skrull impostors. They then fly a shuttle to the Skrull mothership in Earth's orbit, masquerading as Skrulls themselves. Reed manages to trick the commander into believing that Earth's defenses are too strong to risk an invasion. The Skrull fleet retreats.  The Skrull impostors, who are still captives on Earth, promise not to cause trouble as long as they are given lives where they can be contented.

Sunday October 1st, 1961
  • Fantastic Four (1961) #2, page 24.6: The Fantastic Four leave the three Skrulls, who have been hypnotised into believing that they are cows, to graze in a pasture.

Friday October 27th, 1961
  • Tales to Astonish (1959) #27/1, page 3.1 to 3.3 flashback: Henry Pym has nearly completed his newest invention, a serum that can shrink anything.  He daydreams about its possible applications.

Saturday October 28th, 1961
  • Tales to Astonish (1959) #27/1, page 2.1 to 7.8: Having completed his serum, Henry Pym tests it by shrinking a chair, then returning it to its normal size.  He tests it on himself, but shrinks faster than he had expected.  He runs outside in a panic and attracts the attention of a nest of ants.  Pym runs inside the ants’ nest to hide, and is chased mercilessly by them.  A friendly ant helps him to return to his home, where he uses the enlarging serum to return to normal size.  Pym decides the serums are too dangerous, and pours them down the drain. (I have moved this story forward a month from its publication date so that it doesn't fall on the same day as Fantastic Four (1961) #2.)

December 1961
  • Tales to Astonish (1959) #27/1, page 7.9 to 7.10: At a monthly meeting of his scientific peers, Henry Pym tells them that he has abandoned his crazy ideas.  Even so, from now on he will never again knowingly step on an ant hill.

Between Fantastic Four (1961) #2 and #3
  • The Fantastic Four purchase the tower of the skyscraper that serves as their headquarters.  Reed Richards redesigns the roof so that it will work like the deck of an aircraft carrier.  (Mentioned in Fantastic Four (1961) #3 page 5.6. Reed presumably designs the Fantasticar and other vehicles at this time as well.) 
  • The Invisible Girl designs costumes for the Fantastic Four. (Mentioned in Fantastic Four (1961) #3 page 7.1.)

Tuesday December 12th, 1961
  • Fantastic Four (1961) #3, page 1.1 to 5.7: The Fantastic Four are in the crowd watching a stage magician called the Miracle Man.  The Miracle Man shows off his seemingly limitless powers, and uses them to humiliate the Thing.  The FF return to the Baxter Building, while the Miracle Man decides that the time has come for him to conquer the world.

Wednesday December 13th, 1961
  • The police commissioner receives a note from the Miracle Man declaring his attention to conquer the human race.  (Mentioned in Fantastic Four (1961) #3 page 8.8.)
  • Fantastic Four (1961) #3, page 6.1 to 23.7: The Miracle Man uses his power of illusion to animate a giant monster statue in order to help him steal an experimental atomic tank. The Human Torch destroys the statue, while the Invisible Girl trails the Miracle Man to his junkyard hideout. The rest of the FF arrive, and the Human Torch creates a bright flash that blinds the Miracle Man and negates his powers.  After the Thing complains that he's getting all the credit, Johnny quits the team in anger.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Reading Order (as of December 1961)

As I cover each year, I intend to write an updated reading order covering the entirety of the marvel Universe to that point.  At the moment the list is small, but obviously it's going to get very large, and very unwieldy.  Eventually it will become a downloadable file, but for now I can just post it here.

  1. Fantastic Four (1961) #1 - The FF battle the Mole Man in their first mission
  2. Fantastic Four (1961) #2 - The FF stop a Skrull invasion
  3. Tales to Astonish (1959) #27 (1st story) - Henry Pym invents a shrinking serum and is trapped in an ant hill
  4. Fantastic Four (1961) #3 - The FF battle the Miracle Man

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Unanswered Questions: 1961

There are a lot of dropped plots throughout Marvel history, and many subplots that go unresolved for years or even decades. I'm planning to keep track of these unanswered questions, and do a round-up of them as I reach the end of each year.

(I'm also keeping track of characters that don't receive a real name, because a lot of those take a long time to be revealed.)

Unanswered Questions (as of December 1961)

1) What is the Mole Man's real name?
2) How is it that the Fantastic Four always have clothes that adapt to their powers?
3) What happened to the fourth Skrull impostor?
4) What is the Miracle Man's real name?

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Characters Introduced in 1961

As I work my way through Marvel history, I have a number of posts planned for every time I reach the end of a year. The first of these is a list of all the characters, objects, places and other things introduced within that year.  1961 only had four comics set in the Marvel Universe, but as it's the first year there a lot of debuts.

Teams

The Fantastic Four (Fantastic Four (1961) #1)

Super-Heroes

The Human Torch (Johnny Storm) (Fantastic Four (1961) #1)
The Invisible Girl (Sue Storm) (Fantastic Four (1961) #1)
Mister Fantastic (Reed Richards) (Fantastic Four (1961) #1)
The Thing (Ben Grimm) (Fantastic Four (1961) #1)
Henry Pym (Tales to Astonish (1959) #27)

Super-Villains

The Mole Man (Fantastic Four (1961) #1)
The Miracle Man (Fantastic Four (1961) #3)

Aliens/Races

The Skrulls (Fantastic Four (1961) #2)

Creatures

Giganto (Fantastic Four (1961) #1)
The Stone Monster of Monster Isle (Fantastic Four (1961) #1)
Tricephalous (Fantastic Four (1961) #1)
The "Monster From Mars" (really just a statue) (Fantastic Four (1961) #3)

Minor Characters

Central City Police Chief (Fantastic Four (1961) #1)
Lt. General Fredericks (Fantastic Four (1961) #3)

Locations

Central City (Fantastic Four (1961) #1)
Monster Isle (Fantastic Four (1961) #1)
Subterranea (Fantastic Four (1961) #1)
The Valley of Diamonds (Fantastic Four (1961) #1)
Henry Pym's House and Laboratory (Tales to Astonish (1959) #27)
The Baxter Building (Fantastic Four (1961) #3)

Objects & Things

Cosmic Rays (Fantastic Four (1961) #1)
The Fantasti-Flare (Fantastic Four (1961) #1)
The Pocket Rocket (Fantastic Four (1961) #1)
Pym Particles (in the form of Pym's size-changing serums) (Tales to Astonish (1959) #27)
The Daily Bugle (Fantastic Four (1961) #2)
The Daily Globe (Fantastic Four (1961) #2)
The Fantasticar (Fantastic Four (1961) #3)
The Fantasti-copter (Fantastic Four (1961) #3)
The FF's Long-Range Passenger Missile (Fantastic Four (1961) #3)
The Pogo Plane (Fantastic Four (1961) #3)