Tales to Astonish Issue 62: Enter the Chameleon!
Published December 1964
Sensationally Scripted by: Stan Lee
Dynamically Drawn by: Steve Ditko
Impeccably Inked by: George Bell
Lovingly Lettered by: Sam Rosen
Last time the Hulk left the poor Soviet Spy in Banner’s robot suit do die in a ditch. After getting knocked out by one of the Air Force’s bombs, he ends up getting captured. What will he do now?
This is possibly the first time I noticed something off about an issue by Marvel Comics, that could earn somebody a No-Prize, but this was published almost fifty years ago!
The story begins with the Hulk tied up in specially designed chains that are said to be unbreakable. The caption box claims that “ironically, the chains are an invention of Doctor Bruce Banner himself!), even though last issue the soldiers clearly said it was Tony Stark’s design. General Ross gloats at this victory and vows to “get the truth” from this savage brute.
Far away from the missile base, a man wearing a scientific worksuit like Marty did in Back to the Future pauses work on some humanoid creation, calling the master of a thousand disguises, the Chameleon. I mainly know him as a Spider-Man villain, so it is a bit surprising to see him here, but it as I remember he’s actually a Soviet spy for hire. The spy this “Leader” sent hasn’t come back yet, due to the events of last episode, so he has the Chameleon sneak on to the base to complete his mission. The Chameleon takes the job, finding it an easy task, since all he has to do is disguise himself, believing that there’s nothing in his way, not even a pesky web-slinger or a green Hulk.
Somewhere else, Rick Jones informs Captain America that he must leave for New Mexico to go check on the Hulk. Apparently over the break, Rick Jones began working for the paragon patriot as a sidekick. The Captain sees nothing bad about this request and allows Rick Jones to go alone looking for the Hulk, never mind that it’s now a rather dangerous world out there for a young man like him, especially with all the spies and superpowered freaks running around. On the plane, Jones has the misfortune of sitting right next to the Chameleon, who disguised himself to evade the lack of airport security.
At the base, Major Talbot tells General Ross that Banner is still nowhere to be found. Later Rick Jones arrives on base to be greeted by someone called “Miss Brant,” even though it is obviously Betty Ross. I guess the team of Stan Lee and Steve Ditko working on the Hulk is causing a strain on the former. Betty Brant is Spider-Man’s girlfriend at the Daily Bugle. Betty Ross is Bruce Banner’s girlfriend at the New Mexico Air Force base. Jones leaves Betty Ross, and heads toward the base. A soldier doesn’t let him in, especially because Dr. Banner isn’t with him. Instead, he tries to sneak in, only to be caught by Talbot.
Minutes later… The Chameleon puts on his disguise, becoming General Thunderbolt Ross. He easily slips onto base, as nobody really checked IDs back then, and reaches where the Hulk is held in captivity. He bargains with the Hulk to secure his release, but the titan remains defiant even in the face of an ally. As the Chameleon/Ross tells a soldier to stand down, Banner transforms back into his milksop self and gets away. Surprisingly even security is sooo lax that the military forgot to put up cameras all around the compound. There could’ve easily been footage of the Hulk’s secret identity, but Ross and his men thinks it’s okay to just leave the Hulk in chains.
Rick quickly finds him, after evading Talbot, and hides Bruce while he changes his clothes. They have a heart-to-heart about recent events, and Jones feels guilty for leaving Bruce all alone, while he traveled the world with Captain America.
General Ross is furious upon learning the news that an impostor of his is found on base and that he helped the Hulk get away. Dr. Banner comes in and his is chastised for his constant absences. He is allowed to leave, but Talbot warns Bruce not to try any funny stuff, as the Pentagon is currently investigating some rumors about his disappearances, ie that he’s selling materials to the Soviets. Immediately after, the Chameleon attacks Banner and hides in in a dark corner of his lab.
Dressed as Banner, he performs his mission looking for secret research papers and prototypes. Betty comes in and soon realizes that the Bruce she’s looking at is an impostor, due to his violent treatment of her. The real Banner hears his girlfriend distressed, and turns into the Hulk. Just as he’s about to pound the Chameleon in, the villain holds Betty hostage with a Gamma Grenade Bomb. The Hulk struggles to make a decision, and flees when a patrol is coming toward the lab.
While the Hulk tries to stop the Chameleon from using that bomb, our villain takes Betty and puts her in a rocket sled. It doesn’t help Banner’s case, as Talbot spies the Chameleon dragging Betty along the way. The man without a face activates the sled sending Betty to her high impact death, thinking that the Hulk will be distracted, allowing him time to get away. It doesn’t as the Hulk slows down the rocket sled, and leaps toward his foe. The Hulk is now stuck in between a rock and a hard place, as a platoon charges from one direction and the Chameleon the other.
The bomb is thrown, and the Hulk goes into action, quelling the damage. He creates a barrier made of asphalt to protect the soldiers, and hurls himself toward the gamma grenade. It explodes, but the Chameleon barely gets away. In the aftermath, Bruce finds himself turned back to normal again and runs back to the base for a change of clothes.
After Betty recovers, she clears Bruce of sabotage by explaining that there was an impostor and that the Hulk saved her and yadda yadda. It still doesn’t drive away any suspicion of the Hulk’s connection to Banner.
For the epilogue, the mastermind behind the Chameleon prepares his humanoid creation for the next story.
Once again this was a pretty thrilling episode, even if the Chameleon was a bit lackluster as usual. Major Talbot is indeed a threat to Bruce’s safety, as Glenn is suspicious of him for Banner’s mysterious actions over the course of the series. Our hero can’t very well say he’s the Hulk, especially since that would mean instant lockup or worse.
If you thought Norman Osborn’s hair is weird, the effect is duplicated here, as Talbot seems to have cornrows, when it’s actually the color of his hair appearing as two shades.