A recurring theme in the early Hulk comics was home. The Hulk (and Bruce Banner, too, of course) was constantly in search of a place to belong, but he kept finding he didn’t belong wherever he happened to be. He’d almost find happiness on occasion, as either Hulk or Banner, and then it would be snatched away somehow or another. So he kept moving on in a never-ending odyssey—the hero’s journey home, even though he hadn’t exactly figured out what “home” was.
Perhaps the best iteration of this early format was in Incredible Hulk #140, in a story conceived by the great Harlan Ellison and scripted by one of the era’s the prolific Marvel writers, Roy Thomas.
The Hulk is stranded in a subatomic world, where he inadvertently saves a kingdom of green-skinned people, immediately earning their adoration. Bruce Banner’s brain takes over Hulk’s body, and he becomes engaged to the queen of this world. He’s respected and admired, and he has much to offer. He’s not a monster here.
So you know it’s all going to get ripped away from him.
The ending has a perfectly tragic touch. As the Hulk reverts to his usual brainless self, he’s vaguely aware of the happiness he had, and he bounds off in search of that place—unaware that it’s within a mote of dust clinging to his clothes.
Story: Harlan Ellison
Scripter: Roy Thomas
Penciler: Herb Trimpe
Inker: Sam Grainger
Publisher: Marvel Comics
How to Read It: back issues; Marvel Unlimited; Comixology; included in Hulk: Heart of the Atom (TPB)
Appropriate For: ages 9 and up