It’s interesting to study the period when Kirby and Lee had just started reintroducing superheroes into the lineup of what was to be published for the fledgling Marvel line. At that point, Kirby was still crafting the lead story in a series of monster comics. Such an example in the April 1962 issue of Journey Into Mystery #79 was entitled The Midnight Monster.
The main character in this story bears more than a passing resemblance to The Incredible Hulk, whose first issue appeared a few scant months later. Note in particular the similarity in the transformation scenes of the two comics, appearing on page five of the Hulk and page three of “The Midnight Monster”, wherein we see a scientist morphing into a strange and frightening creature. Notice also also that in the very beginning of the series, Bruce Banner turned into The Hulk when the sun went down, a sort of Midnight Monster himself.
Many people see this Midnight Monster story as a Hulk prototype, and also see it as strong evidence that Kirby’s eclectic creativity was the primary force behind the profusion of characters that flowed from Marvel in a matter of months in the early 1960’s. Kirby is such a powerful visceral and visual storyteller, that his spirit infuses the narrative with his essence. In most cases, it is not the concept that is important, it is the style and vitality of the creator that makes the character come alive for the reader.
We also have compelling evidence of Kirby’s initiating the creative process nearly this early in the torn pages of a Hulk story, possibly intended for Issues three or four, in a period where the Hulk still has some sort of psychic connection to Rick Jones. The pages in question, such as the pencilled one below were brought by Kirby to Lee’s office for approval, and have Lee’s notes written on them as though the two were discussing the dialoging before the communication broke down. It was reported that Kirby tore the pages in half and threw them in the trash in anger after Lee rejected them.
In a note written by Kirby that was used as evidence in the recent (and resolved) legal action between Disney/Marvel and the Kirby heirs, the King stated that he had created the Hulk which was a spin- off of a single story that he did for Marvel. This story, “the Midnight Monster” may very well be the story he refers to. The characters in both tales are infused with a similar menace and with an old-world gothic aura that is so much a part of Kirby as to be an indelible signature.