When We Learned of Tony Stark and Bruce Banner’s Hidden Working Past

This is “Foundationed Deep,” a feature where we look at particular odd/strange/interesting instances of retroactively connecting different comic book characters (for instance, Uncanny X-Men #268 retroactively established that Wolverine knew both Captain America and the Black Widow from World War II).

Today, we look at the real first meeting between Tony Stark and Bruce Banner.

Amusingly enough, there had already been two first meetings between Bruce Banner and Tony Stark (we’re not counting the time that Iron Man and the Hulk spent together as teammates in the Avengers, as obviously the Hulk had his whole other personality than Bruce Banner).

Incredible Hulk #131 (by Roy Thomas, Herb Trimpe and John Severin), which was a period where Hulk and Banner had been forcibly separated, was the first time that Bruce Banner worked with Iron Man. They tried to come up with a machine that would merge Banner and the Hulk back together so that the Hulk could be taken down…

If you prefer specifically Banner and TONY STARK working together, as opposed to Iron Man, you’d have to wait until the conveniently numbered Iron Man #131 (by David Michelinie, Bob Layton and Jerry Bingham), which would also make the heads of some of the “Science Bros” fandom from the Avengers movie explode as it shows Tony and Bruce working on a project in basically their underwear…

So that story makes it pretty clear that that was, in fact, the first meeting between Tony and Bruce, as Tony actively introduces himself to Bruce. However, I guess you could argue that maybe Tony thought that Bruce’s mind might have been altered? Whatever the reason, it was later revealed that the two men shared a much more significant past together.

In Original Sin: Hulk vs. Iron Man #3.1 (the theory was that this was the first issue of this miniseries, but it all took place after Original Sin #3) by Mark Waid, Kieron Gillen, Mark Bagley and Andrew Hennessey (Gillen and Waid were the respective writers of Iron Man and Hulk at the time and they would co-plot each issue together and each one would script a different issue, usually with the artist associated with the book they worked on, so Waid scripted the first issue, which was drawn by Bagley and Hennssey, the artists on Hulk), we see that Bruce Banner and Tony Stark were students together when they were young men…

We also see that Tony actually stepped in while Bruce was working on the Gamma Bomb project. At first it looked like Tony was trying to help his old friend out, but then it appeared as though he was revealing the fact that Bruce had actually been doctoring with the bomb to make it not quite as destructive as it possibly could be…

It then turned out that Tony did some last minute tinkering with the bomb and thus, Bruce figured that Tony had sabotaged the bomb and that is why it exploded and turned Bruce into the Hulk! He was none too pleased about that bit of news (which he discovered during Original Sin #3, when the Watcher’s eye revealed a bunch of secrets to the Marvel heroes who were present at the time, including Iron Man and Hulk), which is why the series was called Hulk vs. Iron Man.

But there was a twist, of course!

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