Title: “The Space Phantom”
Credits: Written by Stan Lee, Drawn by Jack Kirby, Inked by Paul Reinman, Lettered by Art Simek
Supporting Cast: Rick Jones, Teen Brigade
Villain: The Space Phantom
Hulk Intelligence: Uncouth loudmouth
Plot: An Avengers meeting is supposed to start, but Ant-Man and the Wasp haven't arrived yet, giving Thor an opportunity to harangue the Hulk about the Hulk's fashion sense (he's wearing purple trunks, and nothing else). The Hulk (who's started referring to himself in the third person) tells Iron Man to get Thor off his back, so we see there's already tension between the neo-Avengers! Before the two musclemen can come to blows, Ant-Man and the Wasp show up, and the meeting begins. Meanwhile, in space, an egg-like object approaches the earth, changing shape into meteor form (while thinking) before landing safely on the planet's surface, where it changes into its normal shape of... the Space Phantom! He plans to destroy the Avengers as preparation for an invasion by his race. He then changes his form into a passerby, sending that person into Limbo since “two identical bodies cannot co-exist.” In this disguise, the Space Phantom enters Avengers Mansion, not knowing he's being watched by a TV on top of the meeting table. The Hulk decides to take care of this unwelcome visitor, but the Phantom simply takes his place, sending the Hulk to Limbo! Then, disguised as the Hulk, he enters the meeting room, even more belligerent than the Hulk had already been. Soon, the Phantom starts the Avengers fighting amongst themselves, first by battling Iron Man (although their fracas is interrupted by Thor), and then bursting out of the mansion and walking the streets (including passing by the man he's replaced earlier, but he gets that guy to shut up before he can tell too many people what happened to him). Suddenly, Rick Jones is there, telling the Phantom (whom he thinks is the Hulk) that he'll take him to the secret lab. Rick notices the “Hulk” is acting strange, but still climbs on his back so the “Hulk” can leap to their destination. When Rick mentions the Hulk isn't acting like himself, the Phantom realizes that Rick suspects, but he isn't worried about Rick, being drunk with the Hulk's power. The Space Phantom tells Rick who he is, transforming back to himself (and bringing the Hulk back from Limbo) for but an instant before resuming the Hulk's (and sending the Hulk back to Limbo). The Phantom leaps away, but not too far away is a multiple anti-missile missile gun, invented by Tony Stark, which is about to be tested. The Phantom leaps through the site, stealing the weapon and accidentally triggering it, sending missiles everywhere. When Tony Stark learns of this, he dons his armor immediately to face off against the person whom he believes is the Hulk! In fact, as they face off, Iron Man tells the Phantom that he always thought it was a mistake allowing the Hulk to join the Avengers! Though the Hulk's body is stronger than Iron Man's armor, Iron Man shoots an electrical charge through the Phantom's body, causing a sharp sensation of pain. While the real Hulk would've fought back through the pain, the Phantom flees, deciding to change his form into that of a wasp, instantly bringing the real Hulk there, although Iron Man didn't notice this. Instead, Iron Man puts on an expanding device that resembles a hammer onto one arm, and prepares to attack! Meanwhile, Rick Jones has gone to the Teen Brigade to call Giant-Man (Henry Pym's new identity, just recently revealed in Tales to Astonish #48), and Rick tells Giant-Man about the Space Phantom. Giant-Man and the Wasp head out to deal with the situation. Later, as Iron Man battles the Hulk, Giant-Man and the Wasp arrive to break up the battle, explaining that there's no reason to fight (not that this lesson was learned, as pretty much every first-time meeting between Marvel superheroes would usually result in them fighting each other). While Iron Man's ready to make nice-nice again, the Hulk's pretty pissed off, even dismissing the Wasp's mention of sensing an evil presence there! The evil presence is revealed as the wasp the Space Phantom changes into, which attacks the Wasp. Giant-Man picks up on this with his cybernetic helmet and runs off to the scene of the attack, followed by the Hulk and Iron Man. Soon they arrive at Tony Stark's factory, and split up to search. Giant-Man finds the Wasp, but then the Space Phantom realizes that Giant-Man's form is better to borrow! The Phantom then grabs the Wasp, but then the Hulk arrives, and the two begin to fight! The Wasp, released, goes off to find Thor. Giant-Man and the Hulk battle through the factory, destroying a moon tractor as the fight goes on to where Iron Man is (well, they send it flying at Iron Man, who destroys it himself)! Since Iron Man is toppled by this, the Space Phantom decides to change form to Iron Man! The Hulk tells Giant-Man, just returned from Limbo, to grab the Phantom! Meanwhile, the Wasp arrives at Dr. Don Blake's office, where she'd been told before to go if Thor is needed. When Dr. Blake gets the message, he sends the Wasp out of the room so he can transform into the Thunder God, and then the two of them head off to the battle! When they arrive on the scene, Thor realizes that “Iron Man” must be the current form of the Phantom, since he's fighting both the Hulk and Giant-Man. The Wasp slips into a gap in the armor and disables a few devices to help her teammates out, and then escapes the armor just before Thor's hammer bears down on him! Quickly, the Phantom uses a magnetic wave to send the hammer back, which Thor catches and then the Thunder God calls up a torrential downpour that instantly causes the “Iron Man armor” to rust! But then the Space Phantom decides to take on the identity of Thor! However, since Thor is not human, this results in the Phantom being sent to Limbo, and Iron Man to return! The Hulk tells them he didn't realize how much each of them hate him until now, and decides he doesn't need any of them, and quits the Avengers! The remaining Avengers wonder what the Hulk will do next!
Invention Exchange: Tony Stark's anti-missile missile gun and moon tractor.
Reprinted In: Marvel Super-Heroes Special #1, Giant-Size Avengers #3, Marvel Masterworks #4, Marvel Masterworks: The Avengers #1, Avengers Classic #2, Avengers: Assemble (Family Dollar exclusive), Essential Avengers #1.
Notes: Adapted as episodes 22-24 of the 1966 Hulk animated series. It was later established that the Limbo that the Space Phantom sent the people he duplicated to was the same Limbo that Rom, Spaceknight dispatched Dire Wraiths to. I have no idea how the Phantom's power could possibly allow him to duplicate Iron Man's armor, it doesn't seem to really fit! Thor told the Phantom that the Phantom's power only affects humans, but of course, it also affected that wasp, which is definitely not human!