Friday, October 30, 2009
Musings about the Incredible Hulk Part 1
(Tales to Astonish 81)
Originally posted January 4, 2009
I’ve never been a fan of the Incredible Hulk because where as many superheroes such as Spider-Man, Batman and Iron Man are at their cores intellectuals, who are just as likely to outwit their enemies rather than overpower them. The Hulk on the other hand is basically a one trick pony; he is literally the ultimate meathead who can only succeed by relying on his superior strength. Since I myself have always resembled the “meek and mild” Bruce Banner or the “bookish milksop” Peter Parker, it’s not hard to understand why I feel more of a kindred spirit towards super-thinkers.
But in my attempt to try new things I’ve been digging deep into my comic collection and reading the myriad of random issues of Old Jaded Jaws and here are my thoughts. (Tales to Astonish 81, Incredible Hulk 111, 113, 128, 133, 145)
At first glance the Hulk stories are as I’ve always thought somewhat repetitive, but when looked at in an analytical sense do possess certain fascinating thematic elements.
The Hulk is a lonely character. He travels all over the world and sometimes into outer space and to other planets on a quest to be left alone. Why does he search for seclusion?
Is he an isolationist? Or an existentialist?
I am being somewhat facetious, because I do actually have an answer; He wishes to end the suffering that every being he meets causes him. Whether it is the American military, alien races, or super-villains, everyone the Hulk encounters attempts to capture, trick, use, or hurt the Hulk.
The Hulk can be seen as a kind of modern day Buddha attempting to reach a form of nirvana by finding an end to his suffering. However, like the ancient warrior Popes, this spiritual figure is not afraid to use violence to reach his religious goals. It would be interesting to see what would happen if the Hulk stumbled into a monastery or a non-violent society. All evidence shows that the Hulk is not truly a violent monstrosity by nature, but merely an animal that feels caged and provoked by mankind and reacts in violent retaliation. However, there are many occasions where the Hulk has saved innocent people or been reasoned with. Perhaps in a non-violent environment the Hulk could find the peace he seeks.
(Incredible Hulk 133)
Another interpretation is the Hulk is an anarchist. In issue 133 the Hulk ends up in a European dictatorship run by a man named Draxon. Draxon offers the Hulk a place in his army and says together “they can put the country on the map.” The Hulk replies that he cares not for maps because when he leaps from place to place he sees no lines in the countryside. The Hulk has no respect for the leaders or the laws of man, he respects only brute force, he is the living embodiment of Darwin’s survival of the fittest, or perhaps Rousseau’s “noble savage.”
(Incredible Hulk 111)
It seems strange to me that the Hulk so often becomes involved in the realm of alien invaders. After all it is the FF or the Avengers that are known for battling such menaces and yet the Hulk seems to have a bull’s-eye painted on his chest that every alien passing by the Earth can see. However, thematically, the aliens are no different then when the Hulk fights super-villains or dictators. All of them seek to use the Hulk’s strength to their own advantage.
The other interesting detail is that it is the Hulk that is the star of the comic not Bruce Banner. In most Jekyll and Hyde type literature the Hyde character is portrayed as an evil creation that must be stopped. However, Marvel embraces the Hulk and devotes little time to developing Bruce Banner, whose only function in the 6 issues I looked at was to be captured by unsuspecting aliens twice. Ironically in the Hulk TV show the opposite was true; for the majority of any given episode David Banner would get himself into some sort of situation and then at the end of the episode the Hulk would get him out of it and somehow save the day.