MIGHTY MARVEL MAY #24: THE HULK

Doc Bruce Banner,
Belted by gamma rays,
Turned into the Hulk…

Stan Lee has said that the Hulk, co-created with artist Jack Kirby, is based on Dr. Jeckyl and Mr. Hyde, the good man who becomes a monster, and also on Boris Karloff’s version of Frankenstein’s monster, the misbegotten, persecuted creature. Those influences are fairly evident. What is absent from all but the original versions of the Hulk are his Cold War origins. Doctor Bruce Banner was a meek, bookish man who used his genius to build weapons of mass destruction and, caught in the blast of one of his bombs, became one himself.

The Hulk is Banner’s alter-ego. When angered, Banner becomes a seven-foot, thousand-pound, musclebound, lime-green, simple-minded version of himself (in most versions: he originally changed at nightfall, was gray-skinned, and merely terse, not simple). As he grows angrier, he gets stronger,often proclaiming “Hulk is strongest one there is!” After the anger has faded, he reverts back to a scrawny Bruce Banner by the side of the road somewhere, his clothes in tatters, barely able to remember what he’s done.

In the 1980s, writer/artist Barry Windsor-Smith proposed a story which would reveal that Bruce Banner had been physically abused as a child. The revelation would suggest that the Hulk was not merely Banner’s repressed anger, but a physical manifestation of the anger of an abused child, to some degree explicating the Hulk’s childlike demeanor. Marvel ran a version of  the story, but without Windsor-Smith (and interesting account of the behind-the-scenes story of how Marvel passed and then ended up using the story anyway can be found here).

The Hulk’s adventures both permit us to worry for Dr. Banner, the victim of violence who perpetuates violence without meaning to, and vicariously enjoy the demolition when he transforms and bellows “HULK SMASH!”

I hope you’ll return for tomorrow’s installment of MIGHTY MARVEL MAY even if tomorrow’s installment isn’t very nice.

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