Today, we look at when the Hulk first started talking about himself in the third person (you know, when it went from “I will smash you!” to “Hulk will smash you!”).

In “When We First Met”, we spotlight the various characters, phrases, objects or events that eventually became notable parts of comic lore, like the first time someone said, “Avengers Assemble!” or the first appearance of Batman’s giant penny or the first appearance of Alfred Pennyworth or the first time Spider-Man’s face was shown half-Spidey/half-Peter. Stuff like that.

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I recently did a When We First Met based on when we first learned that the Hulk’s strength was derived from its rage, and a few people were curious, too, about the Hulk’s changing language over the years. As it just so happened, I had been planning a When We First Met on the topic already after reader Scott D. wrote in to ask, “In his original grey appearances, and then onto green, he was as intelligent as the next person, even cunning. When did he morph into the more childlike “Hulk Smash! Hulk not talk in complete sentences !” version that was associated with him for so long?” and, well, okay, I guess I’ll do it now!

When the Hulk debuted in Incredible Hulk #1 (by Jack Kirby, Stan Lee and Paul Reinman), he interestingly enough DID talk in stilted half-sentences…

However, it was unclear at first whether he was talking that way because that was how he talks or whether he talked that way because Stan Lee wanted to get across that he was a bit frantic, trying to find the cabin that had the gamma technology formulas in it (which he remembered from the Banner side of his brain)…

Very soon, though, it was clear that it was the latter, that he was just being a bit frantic, so his dialogue was off, when he was more in control, he went back to “normal” language, if a bit on the monstrous side of things in terms of WHAT he said…

(As an aside, the very first use of the word “puny” by the Hulk. History in the making!)

In a striking early bit in the issue, the Hulk changes back to Banner and Banner notes how his brain is on fire, showing that their very way of thinking is so painfully different from each other. It’s a clever idea that was never really picked up on again by Stan Lee…

In any event, that is how the Hulk talked. Like a bit of a hooligan, but in general, like a regular person. His dialogue wasn’t what put people off about him. Here’s the interesting thing, though, that I noticed when re-reading these stories to get the answer. Well, on the one hand, as I noted last time, It really is one of the great hilarious bits of history that the Hulk’s original series only lasted six issues, and they are six of the most notable throwing junk at the wall stuff you’ll ever see. I think I’ll do a bit in the future of just HOW all over the place that original series is. It’s just like they had no even SLIGHT idea what to really do with the character.

But on the other hand, and more important to today’s topic, I noticed just how HUGE of a role that Rick Jones played in those early stories. It’s not that I ever thought of him as UNimportant, but looking at them now, he is VITAL to Kirby, Lee and Steve Ditko’s approach to the character. He is both A. the one character who knows (and is friends with) both Banner AND the Hulk that knows the truth about the Hulk (and because Banner became the Hulk due to Rick’s recklessness, Rick is obviously so indebted to the Hulk that he can’t leave his side) and B. He is the guy who controlled the Hulk’s transformations once we moved past night and day being the reason for the change…

RELATED: Hulk’s Strength Is Tied to His Rage – But When Did That Begin?

However, when the Hulk received his own feature in Tales to Astonish in Tales to Astonish #60 (by Steve Ditko, Stan Lee and George Roussos), Rick was nowhere to be found, as he was part of the cast of the Avengers at that point (he was a sort of junior member, like the Wasp. I wish I was joking about that) and so the Hulk and Banner had no one who knew of their secret…

So obviously Ditko and Lee now had to have the Hulk transform back and forth without Rick’s help and in the process, the character became much more about Hulk vs. Banner than it had been before (that wasn’t a total new thing, but it became THE central focus of the Hulk now), like this bit in Tales to Astonish #61…

You could tell, like this bit from #63, that Lee was really leaning into this “Hulk, not Banner” deal…

The more that he draws attention to the dichotomy of the two of them, the more that the Hulk inherently has to refer to himself as the Hulk. And I guess Lee started to like the sound of it.

At the end of Tales to Astonish #65 (Dick Ayers now inking Ditko), Lee repeated the sort of stilted, half-sentence approach from Incredible Hulk #1, as the Hulk is in battle and I guess the idea was that the Hulk wasn’t thinking clearly since he was so busy fighting…

When he is injured, you can see that, too, he uses cut-off words, like “Go ‘way” but when he’s calmer, he speaks more normally…

I suspect, though, that Lee was starting to think that that sort of thing worked well as the Hulk’s just sort of standard way of talking, because the next issue (Vince COlletta now inking Ditko), when the dirty Reds kill the man who helped the Hulk in the previous issue…

That was it. Perhaps the loss of another friend was too much, but whatever the reason, the Hulk then went to the standard bit of referring to himself as “Hulk” instead of “I” from this point forward.

Thanks to Scott for the suggestion! If anyone else wants to know about an interesting comic book first, just drop me a line at [email protected]!

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