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SILVER-AGE FLASHBACK: Incredible Hulk 123 (January 1970)

April 6, 2002

Having addressed the events and occurrences of issue 122 I thought it apropos to at least offer a bit of closure to those whose interest was piqued but who may be unable to obtain a copy of issue 123 to learn the startling conclusion to the tale originally published toward the end of the Silver Age of comics. Thus, a few comments re: Incredible Hulk 123:

This Roy Thomas/Herb Trimpe issue opens with the Hulk strapped into an apparatus conceived by Reed Richards. Reed throws the proverbial switch on the as-yet unnamed device and the Hulk’s atoms vanish before the startled eyes of Reed’s colleagues. Seconds later, Banner appears alive and well. Against the advice of Reed (who would like Banner to remain with him to test the effects of the gamma device that caused the transformation from monster to man), Banner declares that he’s “got some heel-kicking to do!” and dresses up in slacks, a white shirt, a colorful tie, and fashionable dress shoes. Banner then destroys all of these presumably new clothes by showing Reed that he can change to the Hulk but still retain the brain of Bruce Banner. After accidentally breaking a chair (by sitting on it, natch!) the Hulk transforms back to Banner. He then is seen in all-new attire (I guess he and Reed wear the same size clothes) and immediately phones Betty Ross announcing that he’s cured of becoming the Hulk.

The lovers embrace at an airport and over the next few days they embark on casual activities such as attending baseball games, swimming at the shore, and observing the skyline at night. Bruce is anxious that the monster within might once again emerge, but he vows to never become the Hulk again.

Meanwhile, General Ross shows off a top-secret weapon to his lap dog, Glen Talbot. The weapon is the imposing Murder Module—a huge tripod-like device atop which is housed a dome-like control center. The two military men remark on the awesome power of this weapon, little knowing that it’s soon to be stolen by the Coneheadesque gamma-villain known as the Leader.

All good things must eventually end, and thus Banner and Betty’s peace is disturbed by a plea from Ross who summons Banner and asks that he become the Hulk once more. You see, friends, the Murder Module is being transported on a “mammoth truck” and Ross wants Banner to ride along in case trouble abounds. Banner accepts the offer and the two shake hands in the presence of Betty, Talbot, and others. Fans of Judge Judy will realize that the two have thus engaged in a verbal contract. The Leader watches from above in his flying ship. He makes off with the Murder Module (and really, wouldn’t it have been more politically correct to call it a Tripod of Terror?) via a combination of his ship’s Menta-Disk and his own mental prowess which he notes is “matchless.”

The always humble Leader then sends a powerful mental beam toward the driver of the truck, rending him incapable of turning the rig's wheel. On Banner’s urgent advice, the duo jump from the truck as it careens off road into a canyon. He quickly transforms into the Hulk and lands (with the now unconscious driver in his hands) safely. The ever soft-spoken Leader, meanwhile, has landed his craft and has decided to take the Murder Module out for a test drive. He is impressed by the vehicles capacity for destruction though he seems less impressed with the Module’s stereo system and power steering. A brief (3 page) battle ensues and ends with the Hulk completely trashing the shiny-new Murder Module (thus completely invalidating the manufacturer’s warranty) and coming very close to crushing the Leader to death. (Did I forget to mention that the Leader blasted the Hulk with a strange gas that caused him to revert back to his savage side? So sorry.) Thus, as he is putting the squeeze on the Leader, the “Banner” side of his psyche eeks through like the cutest of mice and dramatically declares, “I’m Bruce Banner—and [might I momentary make a mighty-Marvel mention that] I’m a man—a man—not a mindless marauding [malevolent, microcosmic, machiavellian, male-chauvinist] monster!” He releases the Leader from his stranglehold of doom (the Leader runs away like a girl--a green girl with a moustache and an extra-long head--but a girl nonetheless) then, realizing that he’d nearly become a murderer (and paying no heed to the army of ants he carelessly tramples to death during his tiresome soliloquy) Banner vows that he will never become the Hulk again, not even if his life depends upon it. The “next issue” blurb is only two words—“It Does!”

Can you ask for more action? More excitement? More spine-tingling drama? Okay, well, there’s also an advertisement for weight-gain nutrient (we all know that America is just full of underweight citizens). There’s also an ad for obtaining a high school diploma at home as well as an ad showcasing various novelty items. I guess the advertisers of that era assumed the average comic book reader was an underweight high school dropout with a penchant for whoopee cushions. Pretty much nailed it, I’d say.

Hulk on.

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