The Incredible Hulk was introduced in May 1962 inside the pages of The Incredible Hulk #1, printed by Marvel Comics. The character was created by Marvel legends Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. The Hulk started life as Bruce Banner, a physically weak, socially awkward physicist. But that all changes when Banner is accidentally exposed to massive amounts of Gamma Ray radiation while saving Rick Jones, a young man who drives his motorcycle onto a military testing ground, just as Banner’s experimental Gamma bomb is about to explode.
Banner’s body is riddled with Gamma rays and it unleashes another side of his personality, that is, the Hulk. But Banner doesn’t just become aggressive and animalistic, his body also transforms into a hulking mass (no pun intended) with the strength and endurance of a thousand men.
The Hulk comic only lasted for six issues before it was canceled, but Marvel continued to use him in other comic books series, most notably Tales to Astonish, and his popularity grew over time, arguably reaching his peak in the Bronze Age of the 1970s. Today, he’s considered one of the flagship characters in the Marvel stable.
During the peak Hulk years, CBS aired the television show, The Incredible Hulk, which ran for five seasons from 1978 until 1982. The show was developed by Kenneth Johnson, who had previously worked on The Six Million Dollar Man and The Bionic Woman. Later, he would create the cult classic miniseries V, as well as direct Short Circuit 2, produce the television series based on the 1988 film Alien Nation, and wrote and directed the Superman spin-off film, Steel, starring Shaquille O’Neal.
When Johnson was approached to develop the Hulk TV show, he initially turned it down because he didn’t like comic books. However, he later relented, but maintained his dislike for comics, leading him to make many changes from the original Hulk storyline.
For one, the human character was no longer named Bruce Banner, but was now David Banner, played by Bill Bixby. Johnson didn’t like the alliteration Bruce Banner, saying it sounded too much like a comic book name like Clark Kent. He also thought the name Bruce was too gay-sounding. Yeah, it was the late-70s, man. A compromise was reached and Johnson agreed to make Bruce his middle name.
Among other changes, Johnson had also wanted the Hulk to be red, because, in his mind, that was the color of rage. However, Stan Lee rejected that idea because the green was simply too iconic at that point. The green Hulk would be played by bodybuilder Lou Ferrigno in what has become his defining role.
The biggest difference from the comic was the storyline of the show itself. After his intentional exposure to gamma rays in his lab, Banner transforms into the Hulk. When he goes to his research partner, Dr. Elaina Marks, to see if she can cure him, a fire starts in the lab and Banner transforms in order to save her.
Unfortunately, he’s too late, Elaina has already died, but the Hulk is seen by a reporter, Jack McGee, carrying her out of the fire and accuses the green monster of killing her. Banner is presumed dead, so he takes to the road, traveling from place to place, trying to find a way to keep the monster at bay. At the end of every adventurous episode, Banner was back on the road, usually hitchhiking to his next destination, while the now-iconic song, The Lonely Man, played in the background.
The record we’re checking out today, titled simply, The Incredible Hulk, was released in 1978 by Peter Pan Records, and was released as a direct tie to the television show from the same year. In each of the four tales, David Bruce Banner comes to a new town and soon finds himself in a situation where only the Hulk can help. The cover art for this one is probably one of my favorites in my collection.
The stories on this album are really entertaining, so I made a podcast episode out of them! Side A contains Black Chasm and Monster from the Deep. Side B has The Assassin and Blind Alley. You can check out all four stories on this episode of When You Hear This Sound!