Tales to Astonish Issue 89- “…Then, There Shall Come a Stranger!”
Published March 1967
Handled with Hulkitude by: Stan (the Man) Lee & Gil (Sugar Kane)
Lettered by: Sam Rosen
After his battle with the Boomerang, Banner lies prostate on the ground as the flowing waters of the river flow past him. A glow in the sky approaches him ever closer and closer until it reveals himself to be an old man dressed in fantastic garb, calling himself “the Stranger!” Editor Stan notes that he was originally an X-Men villain, whose power is “beyond all normal ken.” What is this destroyer of planets doing with puny Banner?
He commands Banner to rise, and tells him that mankind is far too dangerous for itself. Somehow, unlike other alien races mankind is far to concerned with greed and hatred of others, and willing to blow each other up at the drop of a hat. The Stranger’s will is clear, he will force the Hulk do go on one deadly rampage, destroying every piece of civilization. All of man will be wiped out by his command. Sounds like somebody doesn’t want to get their hands dirty. With what’s left of the human race, they will be subjugated into his control, and yadda yadda. To bring peace, he’s going to destroy an entire planet? Sheesh. How about something more constructive, like turning atomic power into a viable energy source, moving along scientific advancement? These puny humans haven’t even got space travel yet!
Back at Missile Command HQ, General Ross and Talbot try to find a way to capture the Hulk, if not destroy him. Betty keeps going on and on about leaving Banner alive, but her father dismisses it under the assumption they are not dealing with “Mary Poppins!” Very topical. Rick Jones arrives and joins the chorus in not letting Bruce Banner die because of the Hulk’s actions. Neither is a killer, and if this keeps up he may as well be.
The Stranger has also brought over a new toy to play with for his Earth destruction plan, a humongous machine that gives him a recharge on his powers. Banner is forced to transform into the Hulk. Rather than obey his new master’s will, the Hulk rebels, and is soon forced to obey his every command due to the machine. It turns him all wide-eyed like a zombie, and now the Hulk is going to destroy as per the Stranger’s wishes.
Tales to Astonish 90- “The Abomination!”
Published April 1967
A Heroic, Hulkish Handiwork, by: Stan (The Man) Lee & Gil (Sugar) Kane
Lettered by: Swingin’ Sam Rosen
“Hulk must smash… Must Destroy… Everything!” I wonder when he actually just says “Hulk Smash!,” because I haven’t really seen it in this volume. He says a a variation of it, and sometimes uses the first person correctly. I thought it would a Jack Kirby thing, since one can imagine how he would draw it, but even the Hulk has some sense of intelligence not to chain those words together in such a rough manner. I don’t know… Maybe it was said much later and has since then entered pop culture consciousness like Queen Victoria’s non-quote “We are not amused.” She never said they, and yet we know her by it.
In the present, the Hulk is causing mayhem to structures around the world while the Stranger watches in appreciation. The green “scythe” continues to reap over the grass of civilization, destroying buildings and deadly weapons. Suddenly, he turns back into Banner, remembering everything he did in the Stranger’s name. He realizes if the Hulk can be easily controlled by villains and not by the innocents, then his other self must die! Only with his gamma ray machine can he do so.
Back at the base, General Ross has his hands full with a Soviet Spy who has sabotaged three missiles. He demands that he should be found now, no excuses. Betty is inconsolable once again, as Banner has been missing for days. Inside Banner’s, the spy begins to take his photos until Banner comes in. Talbot and his men arrive just in time to prevent him from using the gamma ray machine. Banner demands to be left alone, but he is pulled away to see the General. The spy emerges, and presses the foot plate, activating the machine. The ray hits him and he turns into the creature from the Black Lagoon, no! He is now the Abomination!
The uglier-than-Hulk creature destroys the Gamma Ray machine, and goes to find the Hulk. Banner eventually sees this monster and transforms to stop him, and thus begins the battle of “two great gamma-powered Goliaths!” The battle ends for now, with the Abomination emerging victorious. He takes Betty away as a hostage and leaps away. With our hero knocked out, and General Ross admits that the Hulk wasn’t so bad compared to that monster. To be Hulkinued… Right now!
Tales to Astonish Issue 91- “Whosoever Harms the Hulk…!”
Published May 1967
A Power-Packed Plethora of Pulsating Perils by: Stan (The Man) lee and Gil (Sugar-Lips) Kane!
Lettered by: Artie Simek
What a way to end the first volume of the Essential Hulk with a colossal calamity! The Abomination has kidnapped Betty, and knocked out the Hulk! General Ross yells at the Hulk for allowing this to happen, and almost has a conniption fit until he realizes what to do. He orders that he should be taken to Banner’s lab. The surgeon examines the giant brute, and he reports that the Hulk’s pulse is weakening and if nothing is done, he could die!
Rick Jones bursts in and tells the General of the experimental Gamma Ray electrodes that may help save the Hulks life. The surgeon soon puts them on and the Hulk reawakens once again. Being his usual cantankerous self, he decides to flee the compound with no disregard for whoever’s in his way. Rick tries to plead with his friend that if he runs, there will nobody to stop the Abomination in a rather emotional moment. The Hulk starts to think about the safety of Betty, and Banner regains his senses.
The now conscious Banner tells everyone to go to the “Infinite Weapon Lab” to implement his plan to stop their more monstrous foe. Using the “Infinite Gamma Ray,” the Abomination is lured to the base, with Betty in tow. He puts her down, and the weapon is activated, draining the Abomination of all of his power. Banner cannot control his rage while using the machine, and he lets go of the Infinite Weapon’s control lever. He turns into the Hulk, and they begin their clashing of fists once again. Many sound effects appear as they basically demolish the place, until the match is abruptly ended by the Stranger.
The otherworldly being has found his perfect servant in the Abomination. He leaves the Hulk alone and takes the Abomination for his own purposes.
Banner’s friends and allies come to celebrate the Hulk’s victory, but he leaves once again. The Hulk is a loner, and always will be.
So ends the first volume of the Essential Incredible Hulk. It was a pretty cool ride, going from B-movie science fiction plots to basically comic book serial thrillers at every end. Just when we thought poor Banner would get no rest, it does end rather properly, as our green giant is now forced to roam the Earth looking for a home.