Credits: Written by Stan Lee, layouts by Jack Kirby, pencils and inks by Bill Everett, letters by Art Simek.
Supporting Cast: Major Talbot, Betty Ross, Rick Jones
Villain: Tyrannus and the Mole Man
Hulk Intelligence: Angry Brute Who Wants to be Left Alone, Or He Will Smash!
Plot: Sitting in the desert at night, the Hulk wonders why everyone hates him. But suddenly, he decides that since he's the strongest, and nothing can hurt him, that they should go ahead and do their worst! Next thing the Hulk nows, there's a noise and a flash of light, and the Hulk disappears, to reappear inside of a giant matter transformer deep within the bowels of the earth! Tyrannus, hidden underneath a cloak and hood, is glad that the Hulk's been found, although the subterraneans serving him are concerned the Hulk may turn against him! The Hulk breaks out of the matter transformer, ready to attack whoever captured him, but Tyrannus forbids his forces from firing, as he needs the Hulk! The Hulk dimly recalls Tyrannus, who now asks that they be allies and help each other. The Hulk says he needs no one's help, and Tyrannus lowers his hood to show how he's rapidly aged since last they met! He then promises the Hulk that here in the subterranean empire Tyrannus rules, there is a place for the Hulk, where he will belong! The Hulk, stupid as he is at this point, likes the idea, and asks Tyrannus what he must do. Tyrannus tells the Hulk of a pool of water that will restore Tyrannus' youth, but that someone has captured this well! The Hulk promises to destroy him! Meanwhile, at that pool, the Mole Man and his Moloids guard it, even though the Mole Man refuses to even touch the water! He only wants to keep Tyrannus from it, causing his enemy to continue aging and growing weaker, so that only the Mole Man will survive to take over the surface world! Suddenly, a Moloid approaches, warning the Mole Man of the arrival of the Hulk! The Mole Man orders his giant robot, the Octo-Sapien, to arise! Back at Tyrannus' quarters, he's informed that the Hulk has eaten, and now he rests! Tyrannus doesn't like the idea of the Hulk resting, and goes to wake him, but the Hulk wants his nap! Tyrannus then shows the Hulk that he's captured Betty Ross, Rick Jones, and Major Talbot, and that if Tyrannus perishes, so do they! Betty begs the Hulk to free them, as does Rick, but the Hulk says he has no friends except Tyrannus! Talbot tries to get Rick and Betty to stop talking, because it's just making the Hulk angrier, and then Betty says, “But, if the Hulk isn't Bruce Banner – then – Bruce must be – dead!” This really sends the Hulk into a rage, as he's fully gone into the “I hate puny Banner” mode. He lashes out, destroying the side of the cage! Suddenly, the area is shaken by a barrage of artillery from the Mole Man's hordes! Tyrannus orders the Hulk to the attack, and he does, wading into the Mole Man's forces and smashing their machines! At one point, the Moloids fire a freeze gun at the Hulk, which fires a stream of chemical iso-ice that seems to hold him, but in seconds, the Hulk starts to break free, despite the fact that the ice gets harder with every second! Finally, the Mole Man orders the Octo-Sapien robot to attack! After a few pages of battling the Octo-Sapien, the Hulk forces the robot into a well of water – yes, the same well that Tyrannus is looking for! The water causes the circuits of the robot to explode, and when the steam clears, a figure rises... but it's not the Hulk... it's Bruce Banner, miraculously wearing his glasses!
Invention Exchange: Tyrannus' matter transformer (really a matter transmitter), the Mole Man's Octo-Sapien and Iso-Ice chemical.
Reprinted In:Marvel Super-Heroes #35, Essential Hulk #1.
Notes: Things happen very quickly here, and it seems that Stan's continuing to play each issue by ear, not really planning ahead very far! Last we'd seen of Rick and Talbot, they were boarding a plane in pursuit of the Hulk, even though the Hulk was only a few miles away from the base, and now here they are (Tyrannus at least tells he he plucked them from the plane). Bill Everett does a great Hulk, but his tech doesn't seem to look very good – I don't know how finished the layouts Kirby provided were, but the Octo-Sapien looks ridiculous! And of course, there's the whole matter of Bruce Banner reappearing wearing his glasses, his hair neatly combed, and his pants restored!
This time around, we actually open the cartoon with the Popeye theme, although it's not arranged the way you're probably listening to it in your head right now. Still, it's a start, right? Anyway, "Blow Me Down" opens with Popeye singing his song while on a boat... well, you think that, but when the camera pulls out, he's actually riding on a whale! He's got a mast inserted in the blow hole for the sail, and a stick is tied to the tale for a rudder. Popeye's neck is extremely rubbery, stretching out quite a bit as he sings. His whale/boat pulls up to a pier, and Popeye goes ashore in what is some kind of South or Central American city (you can tell from the sombreros).
As Popeye walks down the street, evil banditos keep an eye on him, and one even shoots at him -- but the bullet bounces off of Popeye's head and kills the bandito who shot it! Popeye goes into the shop, "Alla Kinda Flowers," and asks for a bouquet of flowers for his "Sweet Patootie," but comes out with a rather sad looking daisy. Walking with it down the street, one Mexican (oh, let's just say he's in Mexico for the hell of it) laughs at Popeye, showing his gigantic teeth. Popeye punches the man in the mouth, shattering his teeth and making a maraca sound.
Meanwhile, Olive is performing at a cantina, and Popeye arrives and sits at a table with his flower. Olive's dancing is something to behold, legs going everywhere! She sees Popeye and rushes to his table, tripping on a spittoon, which Popeye laughs at before giving her the flower. Olive goes back to dancing, but ends up getting both feet stuck in spittoons! Popeye laughs at this, but Olive, getting angry, decides to dance with them on anyway, making the best of it, and getting a round of cheers from the crowd.
However, all is not well, as Bluto the Bandit arrives, and shoots up the place! When the smoke clears, everyone else is gone except for Popeye. He goes up to Popeye (muttering under his breath, "Who's that guy?" -- this may be the first under-the-breath ad lib the voice people did for this series, and would become a trademark of the cartoons) and poses exactly as his wanted poster, but Popeye doesn't notice him. He finally gets Popeye's attention, and Popeye mutters, "Who's afraid of you?" and laughs.
Bluto then proceeds to demonstrate his strength by grabbing a bottle of booze and squeezes it to force the cork out, and then takes a drink! Popeye responds by hitting the table, sending the bottle and a glass up into the air, where the bottle pours into the glass before landing, and Popeye drinks the glass dry. Bluto then draws his pistol and shoots at a candle on a shelf, splitting it into several smaller candles, which he then shoots to light! He hands over his pistol to Popeye, but Popeye simply puts the gun into his mouth and chews it up, spitting out the bullets he's made like a human machine gun, and knocking out the supports for the second floor hallway!
This, of course, makes Bluto rather upset, and he punches Popeye in the jaw, sending Popeye's head spinning around! After Popeye's head spins back, he punches Bluto, sending him flying to the other side of the cantina. Bluto then opens the door, and in comes his bandit crew, which he sics on Popeye. Popeye warns them, "You guys will get hurt, travelin' alone!" and he eats his spinach, and we get a very minor effect demonstrating the strength he gains from it.
The bandits attack, but Popeye easily hits them as they come at him, sending them flying all over the cantina. Bluto, meanwhile, goes to Olive's dressing room, and we see from the door's movement and Olive's cries that she's in trouble! Popeye launches himself up the stairs and to the room, where he walks right through the door (which puts itself together again), but inside, Bluto's on the floor, and Olive's hitting him with a club! Mind you, at this point we still have a minute and 15 seconds left in the cartoon!
Popeye stands there, watching. Bluto suddenly gets up and punches Popeye, then Olive hits him with her club, and we go through this a few times, as it gets faster and faster, until Bluto is finally all worn out! Popeye then punches Bluto out of the window, and jumps after him! The two then fight on the rooftops before falling to the street. They continue to trade blows -- at one point Popeye casually leans out of the fight and relights his pipe -- and then Bluto's left barely standing, and Popeye calls his "muscular troops" to battle, as a bunch of smaller muscles travel up his arm to join into one big muscle, and then he punches Bluto around the world, and then turns around to knock him out when he comes out of orbit! Popeye then sings, "I'm Popeye the Sailor Man! (toot! toot!)" and we iris out.
Okay, by now you may have noticed that the Popeye formula is starting to come into play. In its final form, it would look something like this:
Iris open on Popeye singing his theme song. He might be on a boat or walking down the street. As he sings, we see where he is.
Popeye demonstrates his amazing strength and/or toughness in a casual way.
Popeye goes to where Olive is (if she's not already with him).
Bluto arrives and tries to steal Olive away
Popeye and Bluto exchange some blows.
Bluto gets the temporary advantage, and takes off with Olive.
Popeye finally eats his spinach. The Popeye fanfare plays, some kind of effect is done to visually show his strength (like a closeup of a muscle, revealing a generator running or some such thing).
As "Stars and Stripes Forever" plays, Popeye immediately goes into action, fighting whatever's in his way, having at least one or two transformation punches, and finally defeating Bluto.
Popeye holds Olive and sings the last few lines of his theme song, often altered to fit the particular cartoon, and we iris out.
As you can see, the formula isn't there quite yet -- the muscles joining into the big muscle should've been right after Popeye ate his spinach, to show how it's making him stronger. And Bluto is capable of putting up way too much of a fight after Popeye's eaten his spinach, too!
But the series is, after all, a work in progress. Still, the best rating I can give to this one is three cans of spinach!
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