The Marvel Universe is filled with many different superheroes and rogues. However, the Marvel Universe also has plenty of supporting cast members. The issue with these folks is that they're often the first people to be excised when a new writer takes over a title, so only the very best supporting cast members have managed to appear consistently throughout their comic book histories (like Aunt May, Foggy Nelson and J. Jonah Jameson). Perhaps the most interesting supporting cast members in the Marvel Universe, though, is Rick Jones.
Rick Jones debuted in the same issue where we first met the Incredible Hulk. Since then, Rick has been a regular supporting character in a staggering amount of comic books, from "Hulk" to "Avengers" to "Captain America" to "Captain Marvel." It's amazing how many different roles Rick has inhabited over the years. Let us now take you on a chronological journey through Rick's stunning comic book career.
15 HULK'S COMPANION
A lot of teens pull dumb stunts. They challenge each other to do stupid things like try to chug a gallon of milk or eat six saltine crackers in a minute. Rarely, though, do they challenge each other to drive out to the middle of a bomb testing site, but that's exactly what Rick Jones' friends did to him in "Incredible Hulk" #1 (by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby and Paul Reinman). Rick couldn't let them call him chicken, so he drove his jalopy out to the testing site right when a new bomb was about to be tested! Scientist Dr. Bruce Banner saw him and managed to get Rick to safety but the bomb went off before Banner was free of the blast radius. The resulting explosion transformed Banner into The Incredible Hulk.
Indebted to Banner for saving his life, Rick became the Hulk's only friend and the only person who knew that Banner and the Hulk were the same person. He gave Banner and the Hulk whatever help they needed, including operating the gamma radiation machine that Banner built that could force the transformation at times.
14 TEEN BRIGADE
In the final issue of the original "Incredible Hulk" series, Rick Jones Rick ran into a couple of his friends who were talking about their brand new ham radio. That inspired Rick into creating the Teen Brigade, a group of teenagers across the country (organized by Rick) to be an army of eyes and ears to help out superheroes. In their first appearance, they helped the Hulk defeat the Metal Master. Then Bruce Banner appeared to have cured himself of being the Hulk.
The Teen Brigade then ended up actually forming the Avengers, inadvertently. When the Hulk returned, the Teen Brigade tried to call in the Fantastic Four for help, but their message was waylaid and instead sent to Dr. Donald Blake by the mischievous Loki (who was trying to force his brother, Thor, whose alter ego was Dr. Blake, into fighting the Hulk). However, Iron Man, Ant-Man and the Wasp all found out as well, and once they all discovered that Loki was pulling the strings, they formed a new team alongside the Hulk: the Avengers!
13 HONORARY AVENGER
The Avengers were a lot like a popular DC comic book series of the early 1960s (that likely inspired the creation of the Fantastic Four), the Justice League of America. That series had a teenager named Snapper Carr,who was part of the team (although he was an official member, they treated him more like an honorary mascot). Carr's role on the Justice League was likely the inspiration for Rick playing a similar role on the Avengers. The Teen Brigade continued to help the Avengers, but Rick took on more of an active role with the team.
That role grew substantially when Captain America joined the team. Rick reminded Cap of his dead partner, Bucky, and he began to train Rick and have the youth join him on missions. It got to the point where Iron Man offered to make Rick a full Avenger, condescendingly comparing such a membership to one they gave the Wasp, as if she got some sort of pity nod. In "Avengers" #8, Rick and a few of his Teen Brigade friends actually helped to defeat the time-traveling warlord, Kang the Conqueror. Rick even had a room at Avengers Mansion!
As noted, when Captain America first showed up in the "Avengers," he thought that Rick looked pretty much exactly like his dead sidekick, Bucky. He then showed some interest in training Rick to become his new Bucky; Rick was majorly on board with the idea. The way that this was presented early on, it seemed like Stan Lee was really into the idea, but then for whatever reason, it progressed very slowly. Rick even split from Cap for a time when he felt guilty for basically abandoning the Hulk. The Hulk, though, then turned on Rick, so he returned to getting training from Cap.
He finally became Cap's official new Bucky, complete with a costume. Captain America, though, struggled with feeling guilty over the idea of putting another young man in danger. Finally, during a period where the Red Skull had switched bodies with Cap, the Skull (in Cap's body) berated Rick, causing Rick to quit being Bucky and also to quit being part of the Avengers.
11 CAPTAIN MARVEL
Roy Thomas had been given the directive to try to revamp the disappointing "Captain Marvel" title, which Marvel needed to keep publishing to maintain its trademark on the "Captain Marvel" name. The name had famously been used in the Golden Age by the Fawcett superhero, a teen boy who shouted "Shazam!" and then transformed into the world's mightiest mortal, Captain Marvel. That series ended in the 1950s following a lawsuit against Fawcett by National Comics (better known as DC Comics), who felt that Captain Marvel was infringing on their Superman copyright.
Now, Marvel had the trademark on the name and wanted to keep publishing it, so Roy Thomas, Gil Kane and Dan Adkins revamped the book in "Captain Marvel" #17, where Rick Jones began to switch places with Captain Marvel (in a riff on Billy Batson/Captain Marvel) through the powerful nega bands (whoever wasn't on Earth would be in the Negative Zone, although the two would also be able to hear each other's thoughts). Jones and Mar-Vell became fast and lasting friends. During this time period, Rick helped take part in the Kree-Skrull War, where the Supreme Intelligence tapped into the "Destiny Force" within Rick Jones to draw the war to a close.
10 NEW TEEN BRIGADE
Rick and Captain Marvel eventually found a way to separate from each other and parted ways, although they then teamed up a few more times to help take on the threat of Thanos. Mar-Vell then found that he had contracted cancer from an attack earlier by a villain named Nitro. There was some momentary fear that Rick was also a cancer risk due to his Mar-Vell connection. Rick was at Mar-Vell's bedside (along with many other heroes) when the hero passed away in the classic graphic novel "The Death of Captain Marvel."
Rick then got back involved in the world of the Hulk. During this time period, the Hulk was getting caught up in misadventures all over the world, so Rick created a new Teen Brigade designed to keep tabs on the Hulk's whereabouts. Rick then decided to expose himself to gamma radiation so that he could help capture the Hulk. The experiment backfired and Rick came down with radiation poisoning. Luckily, Bruce Banner managed to cure him.
9 HUNTING DIRE WRAITHS WITH ROM
While Banner cured him of the radiation poisoning, Rick still ended up contracting a rare form of blood cancer. Rick was in the hospital dealing with his treatment when the hospital was besieged by the evil alien shapeshifters known as the Dire Wraiths. The Dire Wraiths would attack people, drill their tendrils into people's brains to access their memories and then kill them and take on the form of the person that they just killed.
Rick became a part of a team of Dire Wraith hunters that was led by the Galodorian Spaceknight by the name of Rom (another prominent member of the group was Rom's love interest, Brandy Clark, who was trapped in a Wraith-killing armor known as Starshine). Throughout it all, Rick dealt with his deteriorating physical condition. Rick served alongside Rom and Brandy for a couple of years and they ultimately succeeded in defeating the Dire Wraiths. The Beyonder (on Earth for "Secret Wars II") then cured Rick of his cancer. Rom and Brandy (who was now free of her armor) went to go live on Galador.
While Rick was off hunting Dire Wraiths, Bruce Banner and the Hulk were going through a strange period of their own. Doctor Leonard Samson had figured out a way to separate Bruce Banner from the Hulk entirely, leaving them as two distinct beings. The separation was successful, but in the process the now mindless Hulk escaped and was more of a terror than ever before without Banner's subconscious holding it back. Banner then formed a government group known as the Hulkbusters to track down and defeat the Hulk. Rick came back into Banner's life around this time as he had discovered that Bruce was set to marry his longtime love, Betty Ross, and Rick was not going to miss their wedding!
However, while the wedding happened, it was soon discovered that neither Banner nor the Hulk could live without each other. So they were going to have to combine the two. Rick, though, decided that since this was all indirectly his fault for driving onto that base years earlier, he would take the hit for Banner and take over as Hulk. He managed to do so, but to his shock, Banner still ended up combining into a Hulk, as well, just a smaller grey Hulk.
7 ON THE RUN WITH THE HULK
The new Rick Jones Hulk fought against the grey Hulk as well as the Hulkbusters. Eventually, Rick was cured of his Hulk period by having the gamma radiation in his system siphoned off. However, the radiation was then siphoned into Samuel Sterns, the villainous Leader, whose gamma-powered intelligence was beginning to wear off. This brought Sterns back to full strength (and then some!) as the Leader, but also created a psychic bond between the Leader and Rick.
When Banner and S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Clay Quartermain discovered that the government had stockpiles of gamma bombs around the country, they stole a high-tech van and headed off on the road to find and destroy these bombs. Rick joined them on the run. They had a number of adventures along the way (including running into the X-Men, where Hulk and Wolverine had a memorable battle against each other). The team of heroes (eventually joined by Betty Banner, as well) discovered a plot by the Leader where he planned to detonate a gamma bomb in the middle of a small southern town, just to see what mutations would occur in the survivors!
6 MEMOIR WRITER
Tragically, the Leader's plan succeeded and the Hulk was also seemingly killed in the blast. Clay, Rick and Betty had to go on with their lives, which was particularly difficult for Betty (who just lost her husband). She stayed with Rick for a while as Rick decided what to do next with his life. Throughout his time with Mar-Vell and into his time with the new Teen Brigade, Rick had pursued a career as a singer/songwriter, and he eventually gained some measure of fame. Soon, publishers were coming to him to write about his life in the world of superheroes.
Hs memoir, "Sidekick," became a bestselling book. However, the Skrulls then tried to kidnap Rick to try to access the Destiny Force within his mind. Moondragon had recently been able to do so during the "Atlantis Attacks" crossover where she knocked Rick out, accessed the Destiny Force within him and cut a swath through the Atlantean army with his powers. The Skrulls were stopped by the not-as-dead-as-he-seemed-before Hulk, who Rick was paired with once again.
5 HULK'S PARTNER
Once the Hulk's various personalities were merged together in Peter David's classic "Incredible Hulk" run, the Hulk was hired by the secretive international peacekeeping group known as the Pantheon to help them on their missions. The Hulk brought Rick along for the ride. This was the most active Rick had been in fighting against bad guys in years (since probably his Bucky days). It was also the closest that Rick and the Hulk had been as friends.
During this period, Rick also married Marlo Chandler, an old girlfriend of the Hulk's from his time working as enforcer in Las Vegas (after surviving the Leader's bomb). Marlo had actually been nearly killed by a crazy woman who claimed to be Rick's mother. Marlo was comatose and seemingly brain dead. Rick's pain from her loss was so powerful that the psychic bond he had with the Leader forced the cerebral villain to find a way to revive Marlo. Rick and Marlo then married. After the Pantheon gig fell apart, Rick temporarily hosted his own talk show before getting tragically pulled back into the Hulk's sphere when a temporarily Banner-less Hulk (due to Banner leaving this Earth during the "Onslaught" crossover) crippled Rick.
4 AVENGERS FOREVER
Rick's health deteriorated rapidly following his severe injuries at the hands of the Hulk. Things got worse for him, though, when Immortus sent an agent to kill Rick outright! Rick was shockingly saved by, of all people, Kang the Conqueror. He was brought to the Supreme Intelligence again, who insisted that Rick tap into the Destiny Force to protect himself. He did so, drawing forth a team of Avengers from different points in time.
The heroes protected Rick while also trying to figure out Immortus' plan, which apparently revolved around an elaborate plot to keep the Avengers from expanding beyond Earth, as it seemed as though they were destined to use the Destiny Force to some day conquer the universe. Immortus was doing everything he could to keep that from happening (at the direction of his leaders, the Time Masters). Eventually the heroes stopped the Time Masters' plan, with Rick using the Destiny Force to destroy the Time Masters' time machines. In the process, Rick was injured and one of the Avengers he had saved, a future Avenger who was the son of Mar-Vell, merged with Rick to save his life. This also served to cure Rick of his previous injuries.
3 NEW CAPTAIN MARVEL
When everyone else went back to their proper times, however, Rick ended up still being merged to the present day son of Captain Marvel, Genis-Vell, who had only recently taken over the title of Captain Marvel for himself. The bond between the two was initially similar to the one between Rick and Mar-Vell in practical terms, but psychologically it was much different since now, Rick was the older side of the pairing.
Sharing a body with another person caused stress on Rick's relationship with his wife, Marlo, which was already in rough shape when he became depressed, and bitter when he was injured by the Hulk. Marlo began a relationship with Moondragon. Through a series of time travel adventures, Rick met two future versions of himself, one of them the old collector from the classic Hulk story "Future Imperfect" and another a supervillain known as Thanatos from Peter David's "Spider-Man 2099" series. Eventually, Rick and Genis split and Rick and Marlo got back together.
Rick was drawn back into the Hulk's world during the "World War Hulk" event. Following that story, with Bruce Banner and the Hulk temporarily out of commission, the supervillain team known as the Intelligencia (who included the Leader in their membership) began to transform various members of the Hulk's supporting cast into Hulks, including Thunderbolt Ross, Betty Ross (which, in turn, saved her life after she had been comatose for years following an attack by the Abomination) and yes, Rick Jones. Rick became a new Abomination, although he called himself A-Bomb.
A-Bomb was programmed to kill Bruce Banner if he ever found him, but Rick managed to fight the programming. He then became a key ally alongside the Hulk (when Banner returned), Red She-Hulk and Skaar, Son of Hulk. Rick really got a kick out of his new powers. However, after having his mind altered following the use of the Extremis "virus" on his brain after being shot, the Hulk decided to eliminate all other Hulks, so he drained the radiation from Rick, taking away his A-Bomb powers. Rick ultimately was grateful for it, as he felt he was getting too addicted to the power.
A side effect of the cure to his A-Bomb abilities was that Rick could now pick up various skills very easily. Like, for instance, he could learn a language practically instantaneously. He used this new ability to become one of the greatest computer hackers in the world. He then used his hacking skills to become a "hactivist" known as the Whisperer. He hacked into S.H.I.E.L.D.'s records and discovered that they were running a mysterious project at Pleasant Hill that involved a Cosmic Cube.
Rick brought in the various Avengers teams into the mess and they discovered that S.H.I.E.L.D. had used a Cosmic Cube to create a city where supervillains were altered by the Cube into becoming ordinary townspeople. Eventually, the Red Skull took advantage of the cube and the whole experiment fell apart. S.H.I.E.L.D. allowed Rick to work off his illegal hacking crimes by working for S.H.I.E.L.D. Will Rick run afoul of the Cosmic Cube-altered Steve Rogers in the future, since the now-evil Steve is in charge of S.H.I.E.L.D.? Time will tell!
What is your favorite Rick Jones role in the Marvel Universe? Let us know in the comments section!