Another well-known character in Marvel Comics is the Incredible Hulk. Since his 1962 debut, he could be considered one of the earliest known anti-heroes, not to mention one of the most powerful characters in comics with his rage-fueled strength. And thanks to his appearance in the movies (most notably Marvel’s The Avengers), the Green Goliath and his alter-ego, scientist Bruce Banner, are as popular as ever. So here’s a look at the Top Five key issues of the Hulk’s comic book history.
5) The Incredible Hulk #141: This was the issue that debuted one of the most familiar of Hulk’s supporting characters: Dr. Leonard Samson. After his return from the Microverse, the Hulk is lured by a holographic projection of Betty Ross, who has been turned into glass, to be captured in the hopes of curing not only her, but Bruce Banner of the Hulk. A process involving siphoned gamma energy from the Hulk works on both counts, but Samson has other ideas. He bombards himself with the energy, turning his hair green and giving him great strength (which varies depending on the length of his hair, a nice nod to his Biblical namesake). He then starts fighting crime and courts Betty, which causes a furious Bruce to expose himself to gamma radiation again to become the Hulk and fight Samson. The fight ends when Betty calls off the Hulk, making him leap away for his next adventure. Doc Samson has since become a familiar face in not only the Hulk’s neck of the woods, but the Marvel Universe as a whole, providing his psychiatric services to various superheroes.
4) The Incredible Hulk #102: After his initial regular series ended with six issues, the Hulk appeared regularly in the anthology series Tales to Astonish, eventually becoming its most regular character. So much so, the series was re-titled as The Incredible Hulk with issue number 102. The issue involves the Hulk having been transported to Asgard by Loki, battling the Enchantress and the Executioner (with the Hulk nearly being killed by the latter’s Bloodaxe), and being revived by Odin. Of course, the Hulk thinks Odin had attacked him and tried to pick a fight (he’s funny that way), causing the Lord of Asgard to transport him into space for his ingratitude. While not a number 1, this was the first issue of the Hulk’s first real regular series (or second, if you want to get technical about it), which continued until it was rebooted in 1999.
3) The Incredible Hulk #181: What makes this issue important is not really a Hulk-related event, but the fact that it was the debut appearance (first full appearance, his real debut was at the end of the previous number 180) of the one of the most popular characters in the Marvel Universe: Wolverine! Armed with claws made of diamond-hard adamantium, the feral mutant is sent to take down the Hulk, who is in Canada battling the Wendigo, a mythical creature born when a human goes cannibal in the Canadian woods. The two team up against the Wendigo, only for Wolverine to turn on the Hulk, leading to the start of one the longest-running rivalries in the Marvel Universe. Meanwhile, a would-be sorceress plots to transfer the curse of the Wendigo to the Hulk in the hopes of curing her afflicted brother, not even caring of the Hulk’s human identity of Bruce Banner! Wolverine would later join the X-Men, and would clash several more times with the Hulk in the years to come.
2) The Incredible Hulk #1: This is where it all began, the debut appearance of the Hulk and his human alter-ego, Dr. Robert Bruce Banner. While testing his gamma bomb at a military base, Banner is caught in the blast while saving the life of teenager Rick Jones, who had snuck on to the base on a dare. Though he miraculously survives, Banner soon transforms into a monstrous, grey-skinned brute that would be called the Hulk! Followed by Jones, the Hulk goes on a rampage on the base, pursued by the military forces led by General Thaddues “Thunderbolt” Ross (who soon becomes determined to capture and/or destroy the Hulk), and unintentionally stopping Russian spy Igor, who was posing as Banner’s assistant to steal his secrets. Though he plots to take on the world with his strength, the Hulk changes back into Banner when the sun rises, leading to the start of the struggle between the two personalities and to a confrontation with mutated genius the Gargoyle. While this was the actual debut of the Hulk, the Number 1 spot goes to…
1) The Incredible Hulk #2: This issue is the one that debuted the more familiar version of the Hulk: the green-skinned one! There was no explanation for it at the time, though, it just happened due to the fact that printing grey color was both difficult and expensive back in the ‘60s (it would later be explained via retconning that the change was to the Hulk undergoing a mutation, one of several over the years). The issue itself has Bruce Banner continuing his changes to the Hulk at sunset (it would be many issues later before the more-familiar anger-fueled changes would take effect), avoiding the authorities and continuing his rage against humanity. He would soon, however, be convinced to help the villainous Toad Men, who threaten to destroy the Earth by crashing the moon into it! The Hulk would remain green for many years, but would go back to his sunset-triggered grey appearance during the ‘80s when Banner would try one of his many attempts to cure himself.