Lee says the angry Hulk still makes him smile

Lee is tickled green that the Hulk

Stan Lee and Jack Kirby created The Incredible Hulk in 1962, just after the Fantastic Four and just before Spider-Man, in the middle of Marvel's prolific Silver Age. What was different about the Hulk was that, unlike the rest of the Lee-Kirby creations, he wasn't a superhero - at least not in the traditional sense.

"You couldn't really call him a hero. It was more of a never-ending story," Lee says. "In a way I try to do that with all my heroes, but for the Hulk it was more obvious, because he was a monster."

Marvel heroes were always conflicted, but the Hulk was the first mainstream comic where the inner conflict was more important than the Bam! Zot! Pow! Lee based the Hulk on Frankenstein's monster, specifically Boris Karloff, "who didn't want to hurt anybody but he did anyway."

"But that became pretty tiresome, you know - `Hulk kill!' - so I figured on the Jekyll and Hyde thing, to add some more dimension," Lee says. "I wanted to let him be a normal guy who after a while enjoyed being the Hulk. The psychology of that."

Lee then went to artist Kirby, his long-time collaborator. "I said, `Don't laugh at me. But can you draw a nice looking monster?' I'm sure Jack thought I was crazy."

Quotas were so high at Marvel that Lee barely had time to finish the first Hulk story-arch. He handed over duties to other writers, who took the character in different directions - concentrating on the psychology of rage, or making the Hulk character more heroic, or broadening the romantic subplots.

Lee devoted more time to other characters, like Spider-Man, but he found, to his surprise, it was the Hulk that first broke into mass media, in a hit 1970s TV series.

"We were very lucky. (Writer/director) Ken Johnson had such a good handle on who the character was, he was like Sam Raimi was for (the movie) "Spider-Man."

Lee is tickled green that the Hulk has finally made it to the big screen. He even has a cameo, as a security guard working with Lou Ferrigno (the TV series Hulk).

"Why else would anyone go see it?" Lee exults. "I get to say three words. I'll probably win an Academy Award for it."

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