Tuesday, June 18, 2013

The Terror of the Toad Men!

In the early days of The Incredible Hulk, it didn't take a rocket scientist--or Bruce Banner--to figure out the direction and tone which writer Stan Lee and artist Jack Kirby were giving the book. In fact, it read very much like one of those old monster comics which Steve Does Comics can't get enough of:

Mild-mannered milksop physicist by day--raging, bitter brute by night. "Milksop," as General "Thunderbolt" Ross often refers to Banner, is one of those words you feel compelled to look up:

I don't know too many indecisive physicists, but I'm not about to get in Ross's face and argue it with him.

At any rate, those early Hulk issues had all the makings of a monster mag spin-off. I mean, just look at issue #2, where the Hulk and all of Earth encounter the terrifying Toad Men:

I know what you're thinking: There are intelligent, hostile toads on Earth, about to invade?? Before you hide under your table--not that that's going to do a lot to save you from invading toads--I should clarify that these toads are invading from outer space, arriving in their toad ship:

Aren't monster stories great? You don't really need to ask a lot of questions, like how the heck toads evolved somewhere in space, or how they became conquering toads. In a monster mag, you just go with it. And it gets better! These are actually Magneto-like toads:

I guess that's preferable to having millions of toads swarming into your neighborhood.

So how does Banner, who's still laying low and trying to get his bearings after his tragic gamma bomb accident, find himself involved with world-conquerors like the Toad Men? ("World-conquerors like the Toad Men" just sounds wrong, doesn't it?) Well, even with a massive invasion fleet hovering nearby with the element of surprise on its side, the Toad Men prefer to play it safe by snagging Earth's most brilliant scientist in order to get an idea of the planet's defenses and level of technology. And look who their machinery singles out:

Take that, Reed Richards and Victor Von Doom! According to advanced technology, Bruce Banner is Earth's most brilliant scientist. A milksop. Man, you two are going to be roasted in next month's scientific journals.

But even though the Toad Men manage to make off with Banner, their orbit takes them into Earth's dark side--and you know what that means. They can kiss all that brilliance of Banner's goodbye and shake hands with a raging monster who likes captivity even less than being hunted and hounded. Once again, I know what you're thinking--a battle between the Hulk and the terrifying Toad Men is bound to be epic. Unfortunately, the Hulk takes about 30 seconds to mop up his captors:

Meanwhile, "Thunderbolt" Ross hasn't been idle all this time. His base spots this U.F.O., and Ross has it shot down. Don't you just love "Thunderbolt" shoot-from-the-hip Ross? Why waste time assessing the U.F.O.'s origin or intent--"unidentified" being the key word here--when you have a base full of missiles with your finger on the launch button? Though in this case, his instinct proves correct, as his attack brings the down an enemy ship. But its Toad Men occupants aren't amused, and signal their fleet to attack.

And, brother, when Toad Men attack, they mean business:

So Earth can either surrender, or be smashed by its own moon and crumble to pieces. I don't think I'm out of line by suggesting that surrendering to a race of Toad Men might not be as humiliating as it seems, at this point. Or are you fond of the idea of finding your home suddenly resting on a tiny frozen asteroid hurtling through space?

If you're expecting the Hulk to pull your fat out of the fire, forget it--the Toad Men have issued their ultimatum in broad daylight, which means that our fate now rests in the hands of a milksop Bruce Banner. Fortunately, according to the Toad Men, he's also Earth's most brilliant scientist. Heck, even Betty Ross and Rick Jones can back that up, and that's good enough for me:

And what does Banner have going for him that Richards and Von Doom don't? Gamma rays, that's what.  Mind you, Banner has no idea what effect they'll have, but fires anyway.  Ross would probably be proud of him:

So we can presume that the Toad Men and their armada are still spinning out of control somewhere out there in deep space. That should be giving the Watcher a chuckle or two.  At least their attempt at conquering Earth made Mysterio take note, as he once attempted to ambush She-Hulk by using humans disguised as Toad Men.  I didn't read the issue, but I'm guessing she found her attackers less than terrifying.


Kid said...

I always loved this story. The Hulk looked like the Frankenstein monster and the Kirby/Ditko art was brilliant. What's not to like?

Super-Duper ToyBox said...

those first stories were bizarre scifi

Anonymous said...

This story was definitely a link between the early Marvel "monster mash" stuff and the age of superheroes. It made me remember this old Hostess twinkie ad or somesuch that featured the Hulk and the Toad Men, one of whom got excited and hollered, "By the Great Horned Toad!" It really cracked me up, but then again, I have a weird sense of humor. I think the Hulk stopped that invasion by sharing fruit pies with the Toads.

Comicsfan said...

Good lord--I've just got to track down that twinkies ad. The Toad Men Live Again!

Kid, that's a good observation about the Frankenstein look--I think Ditko helped with that impression with all of that eye shadowing he added.

SDTB, this one was certainly as bizarre as they come!

Edo Bosnar said...

Out of those first 6 issues of Hulk, this one (and no. 6) are my favorites, primarily because of the art.
Ditko's inks worked really well on Kirby's pencils - in fact, I'd go so far as to say he was Kirby's best inker in this early Marvel phase (before Sinnott showed up). It's too bad they weren't teamed up more often.

As for that She-Hulk issue, yeah, she took care of them pretty handily - no mean feat, since as you noted, Mysterio just had a bunch of little people put on Toad Men suits.
Personally, I'm a bit surprised that, say, Thanos never rescued the Toad Men from their wayward journey and made them part of the fleet for his utlimately failed attempt to invade and conquer Earth. Or even better: centuries later, the Guardians of the Galaxy come upon the lost-in-space Toad Men, help them out, and convince them to attack the Badoon...

Anonymous said...

This is my favorite version of the Hulk. Bruce Banner is the hero despite having every reason not to be.

Steve Does Comics said...

This was the first Hulk tale I ever read, and I've always loved it.

PS. Thanks for the plug for my site, ComicsFan. :)

Comicsfan said...

Edo, I liked Ditko's inks on Kirby, as well. I was never crazy about Kirby's Spider-Man, so I'm mildly curious how this pairing would look on Spidey's book.

Somehow I think Thanos just did an eye-roll when the Toad Men went spinning by, and then he went about his plans.

Steve, np--the reference seemed apropos. :D

Kid said...

CF, there's a Kirby/Ditko story in FF Annual #1 (an expanded version of the Spidey/FF encounter in ASM #1), and another one in ASM #8 (Spidey Tackles the Torch) - plus another one in Strange Tales Annual #2. Kirby pencils, Ditko inks.

Anonymous said...

About that ad...just hit Hostess comic ads hulk...you'll find it. I'm only here to help, C.F.
I'm embarrassed I remember that. Geez, my high school guidance counselor was right about me.

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