Everyone remembers their first comic book, or at least, the one that got them into the hobby in the first place. I’m sure I had some random Superman, Batman or Spider-Man comics, seeing as I like their Saturday-morning adventures, but the one that hooked me for life is probably an unlikely one, The Incredible Hulk #285.

A dude punching another dude was more than enough for my 5 year old self.

I remember when I got this comic as well. Back in the 80′s you could still find comics everywhere. My mom and I were at a Woolworth’s where they sold polybagged 3-packs of various comics. It was a bit of a crapshoot, as you could only see one of the books, but the cover of Hulk #285 spoke to me, so I asked for it. 3 for a buck was a good deal, so I went home with this in my hot little hands. I also got US 1 #3 and ROM: Spaceknight #44, but I was too young to appreciate their awesomeness back then.

I was already familiar with the Hulk thanks to the hour block of Spider-Man & His Amazing Friends/The Incredible Hulk on Saturday morning. Even if I wasn’t, there was a handy origin recap in this issue, which made it a great jumping on point for impressionable young minds like my own.

 

I guess radiation is perfectly safe if you're in the trenches.

 

To be honest, when I was a kid, the whole framing sequence with a be-lab coated Hulk didn’t do too much for me. I appreciate it much more now, but I was hoping for “Hulk Smash” Action! Instead, we get introspective Banner. As the tale went on, I was getting a bit disappointed. We have a little vignette with Rick Jones, that I also really didn’t care about. I was about ready to give up and confine my love of superheroes to the small screen. But just when I was about to give up the ghost, the book turns into a true Marvel Masterwork when this guy shows up…

 

Marvel Monster Names: Accept no substitutes!

 

Now we get a classic Marvel throw down. Zzzax and Bannerhulk have a pretty one-sided fracas. You see, Banner is over thinking the fight. He’s trying too hard to be the Savage “Hulk Smash” Hulk, instead of the hybrid he’s become.

 

Not exactly intimidating, but stylish!

 

The battle rages for page after page, but Zzzax seems to have the upper hand, batting aside Bannerhulk with ease. All the while, Banner is cursing himself because he just can’t get mad enough. In retrospect, this is kind of silly, because he’s definitely mad enough at himself. To his credit, Bannerhulk is incredibly tenacious. He’s not giving up no matter how ineffective he seems. That did, and does appeal to me. What happened next is what cemented me as a life-long comic fan. Banner started using his brains.

 

Score one... FOR SCIENCE!

And with that, Bannerhulk sent Zzzax back from whence he/it came. I was a really nerdy kid, and the fact that one of the superheroes I already enjoyed could use his considerable brains to solve a problem when others would just punch first and ask questions later. Instantly, the Hulk was my favorite hero. Even though this intelligent Hulk didn’t last forever, it led into the amazing Hulk #300. If I wasn’t hooked before, I definitely was by then. I tried to get every new issue when they hit the newsstand. I thrilled when the original grey incarnation of the Hulk re-emerged in #324, but shortly after I stopped getting it for a couple of ironic reasons. Todd McFarlane and Peter David.  At the time, I really didn’t like the personality of the Grey Hulk. I thought he was too mean. As for the art, I just was not into the McFarlane style. Once my tastes were more sophisticated, I went back and enjoyed the heck out of David’s run (still not a big fan of Toddy Mac’s art, though). It was about that time, I found out about back issues and used book stores. Along with older Hulk issues, I got cheap books covered the vast array of costumed heroes from both Marvel and DC. I’ve never looked back since.