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Tales to Astonish #78: Review

Apr 1966
Stan Lee, Bill Everett

Story Name:

The Hulk Must Die!

Review & Comments

4 stars

Tales to Astonish #78 Review by (April 24, 2024)

 Glenn Talbot reveals the secret identity of Bruce Banner to Betty Ross and Thunderbolt Ross.

Reviews and additional comments by Peter Silvestro:

Review: Hulk returns from the future restless and looking for a fight! Who knew time travel has the same effect as caffeine! Anyway, Hulk crashes around until he falls into an elaborate trap that the “strongest of all,” even by Dr. Zaxon’s admission, should be able to escape from at several points. But it’s all comic book science so everything works the way the writer wants it to and that’s that. And so Dr. Zaxon quickly reveals himself to be a comic book mad scientist, dreaming of harnessing the Hulk’s power, not to replace fossil fuels, but to help him conquer the world. Yes, that was more or less the Leader’s scheme but it’s totally different because Zaxon is interested in organic energy and not gamma rays. And so Zaxon decides to confront Hulk wearing Tony Stark’s cast-off Mark II armor and carrying a big fat gun, on a page heavy with sound effects! Is he in for a surprise!

Gene Colan’s style has solidified into his defining style by this issue, having gotten off to a bit of a rough start; see, practice does make perfect. And so, things look better. Like Hulk, Subby is looking for a fight but everything goes crazy, what with starting a fire and the hypnosis. Puppet Master’s scheme makes sense (robbing a bank, we don’t hear anything beyond this) but naturally, an outsider like Namor botches the robbery and a second try goes worse. Cool issue with Subby making some natural mistakes, especially as he has a tubby little creep steering his activities. And Hank and Janet are here for name value; Janet’s real adventure starts elsewhere.

Comments: Hulk story: Part one of two parts. Glenn Talbot reveals the secret identity of Bruce Banner to Betty Ross and Thunderbolt Ross. First appearance of Dr. Konrad Zaxon, who won’t be around long.

Subby story: Part two of four parts. What happens next to Wasp is seen in AVENGERS #26, wherein she is captured by Attuma on her way to New York City. Puppet Master was introduced in FANTASTIC FOUR #8 and he was seen in that comic and in Human Torch’s solo series in STRANGE TALES; this is his first appearance outside those titles. PM had previously controlled the Sub-Mariner in FF #14; this is his second try there. Puppet Master has also changed his appearance: he was always portrayed as a tiny man with a huge bulbous head; here he is a pudgy man with a big nose; STRANGE TALES #133 was something of a transitional issue wherein he resembled Uncle Fester from THE ADDAMS FAMILY though FF ANNUAL #3 had him in his original look; eventually he goes back to being the tiny man with the bulbous head. Penciler Gene Colan credited as Adam Austin.

The letters page includes one by a Steve Edwards who might be the future graphic artist of that name.


Synopsis / Summary / Plot

Tales to Astonish #78 Synopsis by Julio Molina-Muscara
Hulk, back in the 20th century, is knocked out with sleeping gas, and locked in a pit shielded with antimatter.

Betty Ross
, who learnt the secret identity of Bruce Banner (Rick Jones revealed it to Glenn Talbot in the previous issue) has a hard time believing her love interest could be the Hulk. 

Thunderbolt Ross hires Doctor Zaxon to replace Banner as the base's scientist. He seems like a nice guy, but secretly he wants to absorb the Hulk's strength and use it to conquer the world. 

Wearing a special suit, Zaxon frees the Hulk, and fires an energy absorbing weapon onto him.

“The Prince and the Puppet!” 4/5 Synopsis by Peter Silvestro.
Writer: Stan Lee. Pencils: Gene Colan. Inks: Vince Colletta. Colors: ? Letters: Art Simek.

Synopsis: Prince Namor the Sub-Mariner has boarded the research ship and orders Henry Pym to end his drilling project which is threatening his kingdom of Atlantis. A soldier tries to shoot Namor but Hank deflects his aim and the shot goes wild, hitting an oxygen tank, starting a fire. Suddenly, the soldiers and researchers are fighting a fire that quickly spreads through the ship, knocking out communications and trapping Namor. But the one message they were able to send mentioned that the Sub-Mariner was aboard the ship…

…and it was picked up by the Puppet Master, who has an idea. He quickly shapes a puppet of the Sub-Mariner out of his radioactive clay and on activation, Namor is brought under his control in the middle of a fight with Hank Pym. On the Puppet Master’s command, Namor turns, walks to the deck, and dives overboard, swimming to New York. Hank Pym and Janet Van Dyne realize that America must be warned about the Sub-Mariner. With the ship’s radio gone, Jan volunteers to fly to New York as the Wasp, pausing for rest breaks along the way….

Namor arrives at the Puppet Master’s lair in a lonely mansion near New York. Before he can pursue his scheme of revenge, the villain needs funds so he orders Namor to rob a bank. Shortly, Namor creeps toward a nearby bank, overpowers the night watchman, cut the alarms, and enters. He is too weak to open the vault so he starts a fire, triggering the sprinkler system which allows him to regain his full strength and he easily tears the door off the vault. He scoops up some loot and returns to the Puppet Master who is enraged: what Namor stole was a batch of non-negotiable bonds which are of no value to him. He sends Namor back for cash but on arrival at the bank, he is surrounded by soldiers, summoned by the revived watchman. The Puppet Master tells Namor he must fight to the death….

Preview Pages
Click sample interior pages to enlarge them:

Bill Everett
Bill Everett
Gene Colan (Cover Penciler)
Vince Colletta (Cover Inker)
Stan Goldberg (Cover Colorist)
Layouts: Jack Kirby. Letterer: Sam Rosen.


Listed in Alphabetical Order.


(Bruce Banner)
Thunderbolt Ross
Thunderbolt Ross

(Thaddeus Ross)

(Janet Van Dyne)

Plus: Henry Pym.

> Tales to Astonish: Book info and issue index

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