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Comic Book Questions Answered – Just How Many Toes Does the Hulk Have?

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Comic Book Questions Answered – where I answer whatever questions you folks might have about comic books (feel free to e-mail questions to me at bcronin@comicbookresources.com). Here is a link to an archive of all the past questions that have been answered so far.

This time around, the question comes courtesy of Cully, who asks about the depiction of the Hulk’s toes. Cully mentioned it because Marvel recently released some promotional images from the upcoming Jim Starlin/Alan Davis Infinity Entity mini-series and in a flashback to the early days of the Avengers, Davis draws Hulk with three toes.

hulkinfinity

Cully wanted to know when did Hulk first have five toes? Let’s find out!

The answer, amusingly enough, is right away.

In his very first appearance, the Hulk had five toes…

hulk1toes

When he turned green in the second issue, still five toes…

hulk2toes

Even in Jack Kirby’s last issue of the original series, #5, still five toes…

hulk5toes

Steve Ditko took over as the artist for the sixth and final issue and, sure enough, still five toes…

hulk6toes

Here’s where it gets weird. So Kirby is not drawing the Hulk title anymore, but then he and Stan Lee have the Hulk guest-star in Fantastic Four #12 (which came out the same month as Incredible Hulk #6) and suddenly the Hulk has THREE toes!!!

hulkff12

All throughout the issue, three toes…

ffhulk12

hulkff12a

Okay, so Hulk is now popular enough that he is made a member of the Avengers, but in the first issue, Kirby now draws the Hulk with FOUR toes…

avengershulk1

avengershulk1a

avengershulk1b

The SECOND issue, however, opens with the Hulk having three toes again!

avengers2hulk

But midway through the issue, he’s back to four toes…

avengers2hulka

And when he quits the team at the end of the issue, he has four toes…

avengers2hulkb

The Hulk returns to FIGHT the Avengers in the following issue alongside Namor, and he starts with four toes…

avengers3

but then seemingly alternates between five and four toes every other panel…

avengers3hulk

Go to the next page to see when five toes finally became the norm…

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35 Comments

Alan Davis and Al Ewing used this inconsistency as a plot point in their recent miniseries “Avengers: Ultron Forever” where the Hulk had three toes and went through a few other changes which were explained as a side effect of “The Hulk” still determining what it would be.

Follow-up question: What’s the deal with the Thing’s toes?

Banner was using a Gamma Ray device to deliberately change back and forth in those days. It turned out to be so unpredictable that in issue 6 it only turned him into the Hulk from the neck down! He still had a pink Banner head!
I imagine the inconsistent number of toes could be explained away as a side effect of the Gamma device, particularly since the toe count settled down pretty much the moment he stopped using it.

If memory serves, in BRING ON THE BAD GUYS, in the Abomination chapter, Stan Lee referenced the confusion the artists had about how many toes the Hulk and the Thing had.

Good God, who inked FF#25? Was Kirby doing breakdowns only? Because those panels have a passing resemblance to Kirby.

To get a definitive answer, we need a picture of Lou Ferrigno’s feet.

In that page from #3 you show, it looks to me like he has (or at least could have) five toes in every panel – it’s just, sometimes his little toe is only drawn as a little line (panel 6 especially), or it’s obscured by a rock (panel 2) or something.

I kind of hate it when later writers try to make art mistakes canonical.

Hulk’s secret secondary power:
The Angrier He Gets, The Stronger He Gets
But the HUNGRIER He Gets, The More Toesome He Gets!

Thank goodness Rob Liefield was never asked to draw the Hulk. Imagine a whole issue where he not only has no toes, but no feet!

The freaking Hulk getting beheaded by Cap’s shield? Really?

Personally I love it when later writers try to make art mistakes canonical – it’s like trying to win the coveted Stan Lee “No-Prize.” Good fun.

Oh… and considering all the changes Hulk’s body seemed to be going through in determining what his body would eventually look like all I can think is – thank goodness he was always wearing trousers and Y-fronts!!
Yeah… I went there!

It appears to have affected his fingers as well. Looks like someone was using The Thing as a template; three toes and four fingers.

Yeah, it’s been sort of canon that the Hulk’s mutation sometimes varies. The Grey Hulk, apart from the color, has a shorter stature and more ‘ugly’ Neanderthalish look most of the time; and the merged/Professor Hulk had a more “Human” face (and I think appeared taller than savage and Grey).

Plus it was hinted that the “Devil Hulk” in Jenkin’s run would be a snake-like creature, although in that case, that particular incarnation was still in Hulk’s ‘head’ and we didn’t really see it’s true form. (Likewise, Bruce’s father sometimes manifests as a reptile-like monster mentally and physically, most recently when he came back in Chaos War).

Echoing Jeff here: look, Kirby was drawing stuff so rapidly back then that it was legitimately an art error. The Hulk has five toes. The end.

A similar thing that cheeses me off is the insistence that Spider-Man 2099 wears a blue suit. The opening arc explicitly said that he wore black. He’s colored blue thanks to the old convention of using blue as a substitute for black, same as Superman’s hair used to be colored. So what do all the Spidey 2099 toys show him as? BLUE. It’s depressing.

The correct answer is, “As many toes as he damn well pleases.”

Jamie- That’s not how Stan’s No-Prizes worked. If a letter writer caught a mistake, the editor (or assistant editor, or whoever was writing the LC) would try to explain it away. If they couldn’t come up with anything you got your No-Prize. It was Jim Shooter (I think. I like blaming things on Shooter) who moved the onus to the readers.

@George N

That would be George Roussos, he used the pseudonym George Bell.

I kinda like his inks over Kirby, it has a certain almost underground/indie comic charm to it when it works. It often didn’t work though and then it ends up looking rather ugly and has a strange fragility to it (IMHO).

I second the incredulity at Cap’s shield decapitating the Hulk.

It would be interesting to have a column of some sort on the various changes over time in the way No-Prizes worked.

Somewhere I read that for a time a No-Prize was an actual empty envelope with the word “No Prize” printed on it. Can this be confirmed?

Were any of the 3- and 4-toed Hulk issues inked by Vince Colletta, perhaps? (Okay, that was probably unnecessarily mean.)

Agree with Jeff. Blatant fanwank like that has no place outside of fanfics.

He stabilized with 5 toes just so he could do the part about “this little piggy cried ‘wee wee wee’ all the way home”. Hulk gets mad without all the piggies!

@Nu-D

It was an empty envelope that looked like this: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/thumb/1/13/NoPrize.jpg/300px-NoPrize.jpg

Incidentally, my dad owns one.

@Nu-D. I won a no-prize in 1971? for answering a call-out from the letters page of Avengers #97 for which comics the characters Rick Jones assembled from his mind appeared in during the Timely Comics of the 40*s. My name was published along w/ other correct responders on a later letter page. Being 11yrs old at the time the only reason I was able to answer correctly was that I had just finished reading Steranko*s History of Comics vol. 1. And yes, it was simply an envelope saying : Congratulations you have won a No-Prize. I think it had a drawing of the Hulk on it. Wish I still had it.

NU-D, I’ve heard the same thing.

Captain America’s shield thrown by someone who is Power Man levels times Jessica Jones level strength would do worse than behead a fledgling Hulk easily…

“Somewhere I read that for a time a No-Prize was an actual empty envelope with the word “No Prize” printed on it. Can this be confirmed?”

Yes, I received two of them back in the late 60s.

My understanding is that originally a No-Prize was, literally, no prize, but that some people, not getting the joke, complained that they never received theirs, so they started sending actual envelopes. Again, some people didn’t get the joke.

Well, Kirby pencilled up to 8 pages per day! No wonder some toes were forgotten:)
Hillarious, how can you complain about not receiving a no-prize? Some people…

Brian, a similar piece could be done on Wolverine’s claws. They alternate between Samurai sword style flat blades to rounded spikes

Wolverine’s claws were always pigstickers until Frank Miller drew them thinking Wolverine would not have them added as weapons, he’d have blades. I think that version became the norm (except by rushed art) until they made them part of his body (and bone) and had to explain how natural bones would grow to be sword blades. Then it was back to a free for all.

Aside from the toe mutation, I guess it also solves the ‘hair’ problem. Some shots of the Hulk early on show he has shaved/no hair around his ears, but has a top. Other images show him with a full head of hair. Could this just be the military cut of Banners coming through? Of course, once he became the grey hulk and smart hulk, his hair remained shaved around the sides, but Banner didn’t sport the same hair style then. What gives? Any hair dressers in the room?

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