As I roam the streets of Sheffield, people often say to me, "Steve, why are you roaming the streets of Sheffield with giant magnets strapped to the sides of your head?"
And I say, "Poltroon! Know you not that magnets are the mightiest weapon known to man? Why, if I had just one more fridge magnet glued to my forehead, humanity itself would face extinction."
And it's true!
If you don't believe me, just take a look at Incredible Hulk #2, in which the treacherous Toad Men from somewhere or other decide to use their mastery of magnetism to invade the Earth.
As they explain, with their magnets they can suck the water from the oceans and make people's feet stick to the pavement. Who ever thought feet and water could be so magnetic?
But that's not the only trick because, ignoring the fact that the moon has no magnetic core, with their magnets they have the power to yank it out of Earth's orbit. Clearly they get their laws of magnetism from the same place as Magneto.
I must make a confession. This is the first Hulk story I ever read, way back in the pages of Mighty World of Marvel #4. In fact I only read the second half at that time, as I'd missed the first three issues, but just one glance at the opening image - Bruce Banner stood in the wreckage of a crashed alien spaceship - was enough to hook me. I didn't care that the Toad Men were silly villains. Let's face it, the Skrulls - also in that issue - were even sillier and that didn't stop them becoming arguably Marvel's main alien menace to humanity over the years.
That transformation highlights the other problem the strip had; the fact that Bruce Banner only used to change into the Hulk when it was dark. On paper it seems a great idea, adding a sense of nocturnal menace and tragedy to the proceedings but it proves to be an unwieldy conceit that manages to make the Hulk ultimately irrelevant to the tale, as he plays no part at all in the Toad Men's demise. There's also the fact that, once the Hulk's irrelevant rampagings are over, there's only space left in the mag for Bruce Banner to defeat the Toad Men with ridiculous ease.
This probably all makes the story sound terrible and, in theory, it possibly is. But, one, it was the first Hulk story I ever read, so I'm bound to have a fondness for it and, two, I'm a fan of 1950s invasion flicks and Universal horror movies, so its mood is always going to appeal to me.
In the end, I don't suppose anyone reading it'd be shocked to be told the title was cancelled within a few issues of this one but it has a charm to it that those of us who love the corny and hoary can't resist and it is oddly enjoyable to speculate just how the comic would've developed had the early concept of the Hulk never been ditched.
Lees Hall, Gleadless.
6 months ago