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Thursday, March 01, 2007

A Character I Don't Get: The Hulk

Yep, I hate to admit it, but the Hulk is a character that's never really settled for me. I honestly don't understand the appeal.

Well, the smashing is good, but honestly there are more appealing characters around that also smash.

I admit, I've rarely seen the Hulk in his own comics. In the very few appearance I've seen, he tends to follow the same pattern: He does something stupid as Banner, he does something stupid as the Hulk, he blames everything on the Hulk. It was actually the worst part of that Ultimate Avengers movie. (Dude, when the young hot-shot claims that hiring the other guy was a mistake and HE would have done better, he's not supposed to be RIGHT. Hank would have actually done his job. Though possibly there would be a killer robot somewhere in the end results. And on a tangent, it's really weird to characterise HANK PYM as the young hot-shot.)

So is he different in his own comics? Does he take responsibility? Or does he blame all his screw ups on being the Hulk?

What DOES make this character cool?


  • At March 01, 2007 12:21 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    "So is he different in his own comics? Does he take responsibility? Or does he blame all his screw ups on being the Hulk?"

    Eh - it depends on the writer. Some writers like to write Banner as a whiny jerk who is unable to accept his own role in what the Hulk does. Others write Banner as a guy (who is still fairly whiny) who knows that everything that the Hulk does is his fault, because it was his hubris and mistakes that created the Hulk in the first place.

    I love the character of the Hulk. Part of it is the whole Dr. Jeckyll/Mister Hyde thing that he has going on. But Hulk isn't just Mr. Hyde, he's got a bit of the Frankenstein's Monster thrown in as well. When Hulk is played as mostly an "angry innocent" - uncertain why people hate him but hating them back because of it, the character shines. And when Banner, as whiny as he gets, understands that he has to take responsibility for what the Hulk does, his character shines through too.

    This is why I really loathe Mark Millar's take on the Hulk over in the Ultimates. His Hulk is just an angry ball of emotion who rapes and kills and eats people (and Millar plays all that like a joke). The Hulk in the Ultimates isn't a character at all - he's a McGuffin Device. Banner is the only real character there, and he is, as you point out, a whiny jackass. There's nothing terribly interesting about the Ultimate version of the Hulk, and that's too bad.

    Hulk is best when he's played slightly humorously too. The best version of the Hulk I've seen since Peter David's run is probably Jeff Parker's version in Marvel Adventures: The Avengers. Hulk gets the best lines, and he gets to be a real character not just a plot device.

  • At March 01, 2007 12:24 PM, Blogger Unknown said…

    Bruce never accepting responsibility was something I really hated about the Ultimate Avengers movie too; it made him way too unlikeable. What the hell does Betty see in that milksop scientist?

    In the comics, at least very early on and in more recent times, he usually takes responsibility for EVERYTHING the Hulk does because, ultimately, he and the Hulk are the same being. For a time, he blamed someone else, usually the army or the Abomination or another foe for interfering with him trying to make a cure, causing him to stress out and turn into the Hulk.

    To me, the core of the character is that deep down inside everybody there's this monster waiting to get out, and the Hulk visually and viscerally illustrates it. It's wish fulfillment, with the acknowledgement (in the form of the penitent Bruce Banner and the destruction that follows him) that this is maybe not a good thing. Sometimes it skews one way or the other - "Planet Hulk" seems to be a reaction to the all-Banner Bruce Jones run - but that's what I think makes the Hulk interesting.

  • At March 01, 2007 12:49 PM, Blogger iamza said…

    For me, the Hulk's appeal doesn't lie in the comics, but in the TV series I used to watch (and love) as a kid. It was my favourite show, and left behind a lasting fondness for the character (and, I suspect, for superheroes in general).

  • At March 01, 2007 1:39 PM, Blogger Seth T. Hahne said…

    As jer says, it all depends on the writer. For my money, my favourite Hulk stuff has been: 1) the old Peter David run (that had him battling all the Hulks in his mind and running an organization called the Pantheon - he was genius Banner Hulk in those days) ; 2) and the Bruce Jones run until about the time he ran into Iron Man (with Bruce Jones, it was all about Banner trying to keep the monster in check - he kept Hulk in the shadows for much of the run, which was kinda cool).

    And no, the Hulk Smash stuff has never been all that interesting to me either. I don't mind Millar's Ultimates Hulk but only because it's just an entirely different character and has nothing to do with the Hulk that actually is interesting.

  • At March 01, 2007 1:58 PM, Blogger Evan Waters said…

    The Hulk is pure id. Some characters smash and destroy for plot or character reasons; the Hulk smashes because deep down, we all want to do that sometimes.

  • At March 01, 2007 5:15 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Get the Peter David run on the Hulk. It ends badly, but that's because he was kicked off the book by editorial.

  • At March 01, 2007 10:47 PM, Blogger JP said…

    Yeah, pure id...

    In the early years of the Stan Lee run, which I'm most familiar with, it was all about a kind of adolescent identification/wish fulfillment. Like Hulkie,many a pimply teen feels hard put-upon by a hostile world that refuses to understand him or leave him alone, and on the other hand you cold identify with wimpy, tormented Bruce and wish you, too, could go Hulklike!

    That was my take, anyway. It can get slim pickings, though, and ceertainly hated Millar's take. Jeez, I hate his take on everything, that I've read.

  • At March 02, 2007 12:38 AM, Blogger Anthony Strand said…

    I'm no big fan of the Hulk, but I really enjoyed Giffen & DeMatteis's take on him in their Defenders miniseries. I know you're an old JLI fan, so you should check that out if you haven't.

  • At March 02, 2007 12:54 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I first got into The Hulk with the late 380s of PAD's run, and that was all about the childhood trauma turning Bruce into a gamma-assisted DID sufferer. (Er, DID=dissociative identity disorder=what used to be known as multiple personality disorder.)

    And I feel it incumbent on me to note, as a Hulk geek, that it was Bill Mantlo who set that up, not PAD. (Bill Mantlo is otherwise not essential to your knowledge of any comic whatsoever.) PAD just ran with it.

    Anyway, that said, the Hulk, in his various manifestations, was part of Bruce-- generally (obviously) the angry enraged part. And the tragedy is, among other things, that this guy is so broken, so screwed by life and his upbringing and all that, that he can't be a whole person, that the Hulk 'steals' parts of his life. (Either more literally, by being This Terror He Turns Into, or more figuratively, by making it so Bruce can't access some sorts of emotions, can't access his own power.)

    So yeah, Jeckyll/Hyde, but with modern trappings, basically.

  • At March 02, 2007 8:18 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    As others have mentioned, I think alot of the appeal of the Hulk is the "dual natures" of humanity. I think it's also appealing on that very visceral "Hulk Smash" level...admittedly more of a "guy thing" I would imagine.

  • At March 02, 2007 12:41 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    See, I watched the TV show too. It was a while ago, so memory > brilliant, but the TV show always featured him as a guy who tried really hard to keep himself under control. The Hulk was always the guy who did what Banner couldn't, usually by doing exactly what Banner wouldn't.

    Admittedly, he was still kinda whiny about it, and certainly took things way too seriously, but it was vaguely understandable. He wanted to do things under his own power and couldn't.

    For that, I can like the Hulk.

  • At March 02, 2007 1:39 PM, Blogger Jon said…

    @Kate: Aw, Bill Mantlo wrote Rom, though. And a fairly okay Spider-Man.

    My favorite Hulk is Defenders-Hulk, where Dr Strange would find him aimlessly wandering around the woods and twist his arm into punching stuff.

    He'd occasionally decide he "didn't like" whatever he was doing and just leap away. Like a big dumb child. Adorable.

  • At March 02, 2007 5:59 PM, Blogger Unknown said…

    Don't hate on Bill Mantlo!

    Aside from ROM and the totally awesome Hulk #300, where the monster beat up the entire Marvel universe, he also came up with Spider-Lizard!

    In the DC universe, that would nominate you for godhood.

    As for the Hulk, I got into him in the early 70s when he was misunderstood and childlike.

    In a way, it's wish-fulfillment for anyone who has ever been bullied to turn into a strong enough to fight back and then be left alone.

  • At March 02, 2007 8:35 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    OK, it's true, Rom was kind of fun for awhile. (Haven't read his Spider-Man.) It's just the use of exclamation marks at the drop of a hat kind of turned me off.

    (Yes, I am aware this sort of means I occasionally shouldn't read any comic ever written.)

    Basically, Mantlo wrote in broader strokes that I'm comfortable with, is all. No big thing.

    (I also don't much like the childlike Hulk. I'm just a crankypants. But a friendly one!)


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