- Be true to who you are, Dr. Banner -- as Ross was false to himself! Wear your uniform proudly! The uniform of the Incredible Hulk, which people everywhere have come to respect -- and honor, as the monster... who became a man!
- -- Ann Nocenti
Appearing in "Old Soldiers Never Die"
- Bill Mantlo (Mentioned)
- Sal Buscema (Mentioned)
- Carl Potts (Mentioned)
- Karen Ross (First appearance) (Only in flashback) (Death)
- Betty Ross (Appears in Flashback)
- Peter Ross (Only in flashback)
- Alexander Ross (First appearance) (Only in flashback)
- Elizabeth Ross (First appearance) (Only in flashback)
- Union/United States Army (Only in flashback)
- Imperial Japan (Only in flashback) (Topical reference)
- United States Air Force (Only in flashback)
- Igor Drenkov (Recap)
- Leader (Recap)
- Abomination (Recap)
- Hulk-Killer Humanoid (Recap)
- Glenn Talbot (Recap)
- Gremlin (Recap)
- Doc Samson (Recap)
- Sasquatch (Recap)
- Wendigo (Recap)
- Bereet (Recap)
- Rick Jones (Recap)
- Matt Murdock (Recap)
- Fantastic Four (Recap)
- Avengers (Recap)
- X-Men (Recap)
- MODOK (Recap)
- Iron Man Armor Model 3 (Only in flashback)
- Captain America's Shield (Only in flashback)
- Captain America's Uniform (Only in flashback)
- War-Wagon (Only in flashback)
Synopsis for "Old Soldiers Never Die"
The Hulk visits the Park Avenue headquarters of Marvel Comics and visits assistant editor, Ann Nocenti. He is depressed over recent events concerning General Ross and seeks Ann’s advice. He wants to know whether he should expose Ross as a traitor or not. Ann speaks with him at length, and suggests to him that Ross' personal demons are probably the greatest punishment that could ever be visited upon him.
At the Pentagon, Ross sits in his office and contemplates his failings, both as a soldier and as a father. He recalls how ever since he was a child he wanted to serve his country. He enlisted in the military at eighteen and served in both World War II and Korea. After the war, he was promoted to the rank of General and given an office position in Washington. It was about this time that his wife Karen gave birth to their only child, Elizabeth. Although Ross wanted a son to carry on the family military tradition, he still loved his daughter very much.
It became particularly painful for him years later, when Betty found love in the arms of scientist Bruce Banner, a man whom Ross viewed as a "milksop". He was present the day that Banner was caught in the wake of a Gamma Bomb explosion – an incident that prompted him to turn into the incredible Hulk for the very first time.
For years, Ross hounded the Hulk and his crusade cost him a great deal. His military career dovetailed, and his daughter spurned his obsessive persecution of Banner. On several instances, Ross even engaged the Hulk directly, piloting advanced war machines specifically designed to incapacitate the green goliath.
When Banner assumed full control over the Hulk's physical form, Ross was skeptical. He didn't believe that the world could ever regard the Hulk as anything but a monster. To safeguard the country against future Hulk-related instances, Ross conspired with the villain M.O.D.O.K. to destroy the Hulk. By aiding M.O.D.O.K., Ross committed treason.
Now, Ross sits at his desk in a state of complete despair. Having dishonored his uniform, he places the barrel of his service revolver against his temple and prepares to commit suicide. Ross hesitates and eventually places the gun back onto his desk. He decides that he now has a new war to fight – his own conscience.
General Thunderbolt Ross - traitor! After years of betraying everything he stands for, the former Hulk-hounding General must punish - himself! Meanwhile, the Hulk falls prey to a shattering identity crisis, which can only be solved by... the Marvel's Bullpen?
- Bruce Banner now has control of the Hulk and its transformations since a series of bombardments of gamma radiation between Incredible Hulk #269–272. He retains this ability until Incredible Hulk #296.
- A number of facts pertaining to the family history of the Ross family and the military career of General Ross himself should be considered topical references per the Sliding Timescale of Earth-616. Since this story, a lot of the references in this story have been generalized as recounted in Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe: Hulk 2004. They are as follows:
- References to General Ross' grandfather fighting in the American Civil War and his father fighting in World War I have been generalized. While they are still identified as having careers in the American military, a specific conflict is not specified.
- Likewise any references referring to Thaddeus Ross fighting in World War II and the Korean War should be generalized as well. That handbook no longer specifies a specific conflict. In fact instead of fighting in two different wars spanning two decades, it merely states that he fought in a single war.
- Coversely, the appearance of Ann Nocenti here is not considered a topical reference. Unlike other real-world individuals, Marvel Comics creators are exempt from the rules of the Sliding Timescale. Instead they exist in the Modern Age and are in their relative prime.
- Incidentally enough, the Hulk has a comic book produced about his adventures. Many heros on Earth-616 have comic books based on their exploits. This has been a practice since the Fantastic Four licensed out their adventures to the comic book company back in Fantastic Four #10.
- General Ross recounts a number of events that cover the history of the Hulk up to this story they are as follows:
- The birth of the Hulk, which was first chronicled in Incredible Hulk #1.
- General Ross discovering that Bruce Banner and the Hulk were one and the same. He learned this truth in Tales to Astonish #78.
- The arrival of Glenn Talbot on base which happened in Tales to Astonish #61.
- His first battles with the Leader (Tales to Astonish #62–66), the Abomination (Tales to Astonish #90–92) and the Hulk-Killer. (Tales to Astonish #86–87)
- Mentions of the Hulk's first presidential pardon (Tales to Astonish #64) and the first time that Bruce Banner gained the ability to control his transformations into the Hulk. (Incredible Hulk #123)
- Banner's failed attempt to marry Betty (Incredible Hulk #125) and the construction of Hulkbuster Base. (Incredible Hulk #145)
- He also recounts Betty's marriage to Glenn Talbot (Incredible Hulk #158), his capture at the hands of the Gremlin (Incredible Hulk #163), and his rescue which resulted in capture of Glenn Talbot. (Incredible Hulk #166)
- He also recounts Betty's breakdown (Incredible Hulk #167), and his subsequent capture and battle with the Hulk which occurred in Incredible Hulk #184–185.
- Glenn Talbot's rescue from the Russians (Incredible Hulk #187–188) and how the Hulk was needed to cure Talbot's catatonic mine in Incredible Hulk #200. This was followed by Betty and Glenn's split up in Incredible Hulk #212 and eventual divorce in Incredible Hulk #238. Ross was resigned from his post at Gamma Base that same issue.
- How Glenn died battling the Hulk in Incredible Hulk #260.
- Ross also recounts how Banner regained control of the Hulk (Incredible Hulk #269), how this drove Betty away (Incredible Hulk #277) and obtained a presidential pardon again in Incredible Hulk #278–279.
- Finally, Ross recounts how he betrayed his country by helping MODOK use the Abomination to try and kill the Hulk, which happened in Incredible Hulk #287–289.
- According to General Ross' recollection he discovered that Banner and the Hulk were one in the same by secretly witnessing the transformation between Banner and the Hulk. This is not correct. He actually found out through Glenn Talbot in Tales to Astonish #78, after Rick Jones gave away the secret in the previous issue.
- Ross also states he resigned from command of Gamma Base because he "sensed that he was wrong about so many things". In reality, he was forced to resign after suffering a nervous breakdown in Incredible Hulk #229.
This story delves into the past life of Thaddeus Ross prior to his first appearance in Incredible Hulk. These flashbacks affect the chronologies of certain characters between pages 6-10.
Page 6, Pannel 3: Thaddeus Ross is a young child playing soldier in front of his father.
Page 6, Pannels 4-6 and Page 7, Pannels 1-2: Thaddeus Ross studies his family's military history and enlists and graduates from the military academy.
Page 7, Pannel 3 to Page 8 Pannel 3: Thaddeus Ross meets and marries Karen Lee, fights in his first major military conflict.
Page 8, Pannel 4 and 5: Ross becomes a Major, assigned to a desk. Grows restless.
Page 9 to Page 10, Pannel 3: Ross involved in his second major military conflict, promoted to the rank of General. Peacetime again. Betty is born. Karen dies. Raises Betty alone, sends her to private school.
- This issue is part of 1983's "Assistant Editor's Month". Ann Nocenti, assistant editor to Carl Potts, edits this issue and even makes a guest appearance in the comic itself.
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