Script: Stan Lee
Art: Jack Kirby
Inks: Steve Ditko
Letters: Art Simek
Originally, Russ was going to have me skip over this second Hulk story and go straight to the third, The Hulk Banished to Outer Space. But as I started to read, I felt I was missing something. I didn’t know how Hulk had gotten from where he was at the end of his origin story to where he is at the beginning of the third story. I guess Russ didn’t think The Terror of the Toad Men was worth reading, because the villains, the Toad Men, are not a formidable foe. But they certainly provide a good amount of trouble for Hulk, and for humanity in general, until the brilliant brain of Bruce Banner takes care of them in the end. So it’s a good story, full of drama and excitement. But more importantly, I think in this story we also have some important developments in the relationships of our main characters. So I want to say a word or two about The Terror of the Toad Men before we move on to the next adventure.
As we begin, people everywhere are terrified by the Hulk, and only teenager Rick Jones can deal with the monster. While Banner and Jones make arrangements for an underground chamber to contain the Hulk, the Toad Men from outer space “have focused on the most brilliant scientific brain on Earth” and sweep up both Banner and Jones with their magnetic ray.
Captive aboard the alien spaceship, the earthlings are treated to a dissertation by Captain Torrak, who details the havoc their race can wreak on Earth with magnetic force, UNLESS Banner agrees to tell them everything he knows about Earth’s technological capabilities. When Rick Jones pipes up his objections, the Toad Captain catapults him back to earth in a “magnetically guided plastic escape cylinder.”
Banner transforms into the Hulk, overpowers the Toads, then decides to use the ship’s weapons to wipe out mankind. But the military shoots down the alien ship, finds Banner, and arrests him for treason.
The Toads use their magnetic power to escape the fallen ship and signal their comrades in the sky, who launch an invasion, which consists of pulling the Moon closer to Earth, with those intended results of wreaking havoc.
Meanwhile, Banner becomes Hulk again, escapes his prison cell, overpowers the army and kidnaps Betty Ross.
One again, Hulk becomes Banner, and now that he has his wits about him, he uses the gamma ray cannon to vanquish the Toad Men. End of story.
Yes, I know I went through all that very quickly. But that doesn’t mean I’m done. Not by a long shot! As I read through this story, question upon question kept occurring to me, and I’m afraid the rest of this entry is going to be series of questions, peppered by the occasional comment.
In fact, I’ll start with a comment. In the first story, Hulk is gray. But now we see him in his traditional green skin. My guess is that the artists/editors simply decided that green was more visually appealing than gray. It certainly makes a nice contrast against the Hulk’s pink/purple outfit. I don’t really think you can call his clothes a “costume,” like other superheroes wear. There’s no forethought; it’s just the torn shred of what Bruce Banner happened to be wearing at the time of the transformation.
QUESTIONS AND MORE QUESTIONS
Which brings up the first of my questions. And I’m sure I’m not the first person to ask this, but how is it that Hulk doesn’t completely bust out of Banner’s clothes? He’s significantly larger in every way, so why do these garments still hang on his body? Unless Banner’s pink/purple jumpsuit is made from a stretchable jersey material? But what about when Banner is dressed in a collared shirt and dress pants? We know those aren’t stretchable!
And how about this: wouldn’t it be likely, at some point, that someone is going to notice that the rags hanging on Hulk’s body look suspiciously similar to the remnants of the outfit Banner was wearing…just before he bleeped off the radar screen?
And isn’t anyone going to notice that Banner and Hulk never seem to be around at the same time?
Well, General Ross has an explanation for that last one. “That milksop will find a safe place to hide whenever danger threatens!” I’m not sensing a lot of respect here. But then again, that would be totally in keeping with the General’s character, to value brawn above brains. Of course, with his daughter totally ga-ga over the brilliant Bruce Banner, that’s likely to cause some tension and disagreement in the Ross household. But that’s a good thing, isn’t it? The more drama, the better.
But back to my questions! And this is a big one, one that I feel really has to be explained, or it will just be totally unbelievable if no one in the story decides to ask the same question. It seems that we’re developing a pattern of Rick Jones showing up when Hulk is in full swing and shouting out things like “Lemme thru! I’m the only one who can reason with ’im!” and “Hulk! It’s me, Rick! Your friend!”
Uhh….why? What does some teenage orphan boy have to do with a monster like the Hulk? How is he “friends” with the Hulk? Isn’t anybody going to ask him that? And by the way, kid, aren’t you that pipsqueak that’s always hanging around Dr. Bruce Banner? And say, kid! Where IS Banner anyway? Why is it that he’s never around when the Hulk is around? Is General Ross right about him being a milksop? Or might it be…something… more….
SUSPENSION OF DISBELIEF
So this is the really weird thing about how I approach comics. As far as “suspending my disbelief” I’m totally willing to do so in matters of magic and mutations. Hulks, super-powers, monsters, little green men from outer space (or, toads, as the case may be)—bring ‘em on! The more the merrier. But DON’T tell me that the army, the navy, the marines and the local police are not going to question the one person who always seems to be right in the middle of everything.
Now, maybe in future issues Rick Jones will be questioned, and maybe he’ll come up with some kind of explanation that makes sense, or at least seems plausible to law enforcement. I’ll just be extremely disappointed if the authorities don’t at least make some attempt at getting information from him.
Now, speaking of Rick Jones, why did the Toad Men take him aboard their ship in the first place? They want Banner, “the most brilliant scientific brain on Earth,” but why does Rick Jones have to come along for the ride? Is their magnetic ray not fine-tuned enough to hone in on only one person? Well, maybe. But that only leads to the next, and more compelling question: once they’ve got Rick Jones, why don’t they just kill him? They don’t need him. The only possible good he can be to their evil plans is that if Banner refuses to talk, they can say “Tell us what we need to know or we’ll kill your companion!” But they don’t even do that. As soon as Jones squawks, they catapult him back to Earth.
My question still stands: why not kill him? Why send him back to Earth, so he can report everything he’s learned about the Toad Men, their capabilities and their plans to invade and conquer Earth? Why risk letting this pesky little kid mess everything up for them?
This leads directly to my Villain Valuation. The Toad Men don’t rank much higher than the Skrulls, as far as I’m concerned. No self-respecting villain is going to wrap an escape cylinder around someone who is absolutely of no use to them, and may in fact be able to do damage to their plans. They are much too kind for villains. Well…kind…or just plain stupid.
Yeah, I think I might have to come down on the side of stupid. The only thing the Toad Men have going for them is interplanetary space travel and the use of magnetic force. And perhaps their biggest mistake is kidnapping “the most brilliant scientific brain on Earth,” and letting him in on exactly how they plan to conquer Earth, never imagining that this brilliant scientific brain might indeed be able to find a way to put an end to their ambitious plans. Which of course, he does.
Not very bright, Toad Men.
HEROES AND MOTIVATION
But once again, I find it is Banner who is the hero, not Hulk. Hulk is, in fact, still somewhat of a mystery to me. I’m not sure what motivates him. Yes, he’s angry, incredibly angry at the human race. The moment he gets a chance to strike back at Earth, he takes it, willing to attack his own planet for…for what? For “That’ll show ’em!” Show ’em what? What exactly is he upset about?
The best I can figure, he’s upset because the military and police are always chasing him and trying to kill him. Well, I guess that’s a good reason to be upset. But if he succeeds in his plan to “wipe out all mankind,” where is he planning to live? On the desolate Earth? Or perhaps with the Toad Men? Maybe Hulk is smart enough to figure out that if he throws his lot in with the Toad Men, they won’t be capable of giving him any trouble. Either he’s thought through his plan to that point, or he hasn’t thought things through at all, and is just acting on sheer emotion. They hate me, I hate them, I kill them.
But later, when Hulk meets Betty, she asks him “Why do you hate us so??” And Hulk says:
Okay, now I’m even more confused. What does Hulk mean when he says “Look what men have done to me?” Does he mean the fact that he’s a Hulk? Does he think “mankind” has done this to him? Does he not remember it wasn’t “men” in general who turned him into the Hulk, but that it was his own doing, as Bruce Banner? It was Banner’s gamma bomb experiment that caused him to turn into the Hulk. And what’s more, if you really want to get technical about it, this is all Rick Jones’ fault, isn’t it? If Jones hadn’t gone out on that testing ground in his jalopy in the middle of a scientific experiment involving a gamma bomb, Banner wouldn’t have had to run out to rescue him, and therefore the Hulk would have never come into being.
But maybe Hulk IS thinking things through…maybe he’s thinking right back to the security guards that should have been alert enough to keep Rick Jones off the testing grounds, so that Banner wouldn’t have HAD TO run out there to rescue him, and therefore the Hulk would have never been created.
But does Hulk detest himself so much that he wants to kill anyone and everyone who is responsible for his being? Does that really make sense?
So Hulk, still an enigma. But here’s another enigma. When the army discovers the spaceship, they immediately shoot it down. When the spaceship falls to Earth, they find Banner aboard and arrest him for treason. Whoa! Slow down there! Wouldn’t he explain that he was kidnapped by the aliens? Of course by the time the army gets there, the aliens have escaped, burrowing underground with their magnetic power, so maybe the army thinks this is Banner’s spaceship? Would they continue to think that even if Banner provided a different version of events? And not only that, it’s not very trusting, is it?— to assume that just because a man is on a spaceship he was necessarily planning to attack Earth.
And “planning” is all they can accuse him of, because nowhere in the story does it say that the alien spaceship actually made any hostile move on the Earth. The military is just shooting down the spaceship because it IS a spaceship. As General Ross says, “If your radar shows an unidentified flying object above us, SHOOT IT DOWN, man! What do you think we’re HERE for?”
In other words, shoot first, ask questions later. Sigh…
A lot of questions raised in this second issue of Hulk. Maybe some of this stuff will get sorted out in future issues. But I’ve been here long enough now, and I’m anxious to get back to my reading, so that next time I can give you my impressions of Thor!
MY MID-MONTH MARVEL MOVIE MUSINGS
But before I go, one exciting announcement! At least I’m excited about it. In preparation for the release of The Avengers, Russ and I just completed a Marvel Movie Marathon, watching five films in five nights leading up to The Avengers, and of course I wrote about them here. It was a hectic schedule, but I did so enjoy reviewing these films. I enjoyed it so much that I decided I would like to continue reviewing Marvel movies, and so I am instituting My Mid-Month Marvel Movie Musings. Once each month, somewhere near the middle of the month, I’ll pick a Marvel movie to watch and review. I’ve chosen the middle of the month in honor of Stan Lee’s alliterative character names. I wanted something full of the same letter, and M was the obvious choice.
So, starting in June, look for a movie review somewhere in the middle of each month. The focus of this blog will continue to be a celebration of the comics in their classic format, but as the future of Marvel’s most popular characters is now being played out in blockbuster movies, in living color, with symphonic soundtracks and special effects for all the world to see, I’m excited to explore this marvelous new territory opening up here in The Marvelous Zone.
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