This is "From a Different Point of View," a feature where I discuss a comic book series with another writer. In this case, it is CBR's own Eileen Gonzalez who will be going over the history of the Avengers with me, story by story!
We continue with Avengers #2, "The Avengers Battle the Space Phantom," by Jack Kirby, Stan Lee and Paul Reinman
Brian Cronin: My pal Avash asked whether Stan Lee and Jack Kirby ever really intended the Hulk to be a regular member of the Avengers. What do you think?
Eileen Gonzalez: It doesn't really feel that way. Both this story and the one before it are set up explicitly to demonstrate how much animosity there is between the Hulk and the other Avengers. Or if they did intend for the Hulk to be a permanent member in the first issue, they regretted it immediately and undid it with the second.
Brian Cronin: It's weird. It would be super clever if this was all planned. But I tend to think the latter is more likely than the former. After all, Kirby and Lee had patented the whole "Superhero team who bickered" with the FF. So I don't think they would necessarily be against that sort of deal with another superhero team.
Eileen Gonzalez: True, but I don't know if they had that much time for planning in advance back then.
Brian Cronin: I think they just realized it made NO sense. The fascinating thing is that the Hulk did not have his own series at the time, so it wasn't like he had a fallback plan. It was here or nowhere for the Hulk.
Eileen Gonzalez: The Hulk does continue to show up in Avengers comics from time to time, but generally as an adversary. So yeah, that does feel like a weird choice if he didn't have his own series. He was supposed to be a hero, after all, not a villain, and yet every time he shows up in early Avengers comics, he's cast as the antagonist, however unwillingly (or unwittingly).
Brian Cronin: Yeah, he really is the enemy in, what, four of the first five issues? He really was used as a sort of recurring villain for the early issues.
Brian Cronin: And he's a team member in half of those issues! In the meantime, he also fights the Avengers alongside the Fantastic Four in Fantastic Four #25-26
Eileen Gonzalez: That's such a weird thing to do with your hero. I mean, in his defense, he's generally being manipulated by a greater evil, but still. (At least in the comics I've read he's being manipulated.)
Brian Cronin: Could they just have thought, "Eh, he works better as an antagonist?" If we're assuming (and I think we're right to assume) that Kirby did the plotting of #1 almost by himself, it could be a case of Lee telling him that he wanted to go in a different direction for #2. As I write that, that actually seems to be the most likely scenario for me now.
Eileen Gonzalez: Could be. Maybe either Lee, Kirby or someone above them didn't like the direction the Hulk was going and ordered a change.
Brian Cronin: I am more and more thinking that it was a case of Kirby writing the Hulk as a member, Lee then decides he like the Hulk better as an antagonist and so he tells Kirby to come up with a plot for #2 where they can write the Hulk out. Because wow, from page one, they're all at each others throats big time!