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Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Internalizing Hulk & She-Hulk: Part 1

On Sunday, my wife and I went to a used bookstore after lunch.   We enjoyed perusing the shelves, and found three novels that we thought would be fun to read.  We had also brought several books to sell, and the bookstore purchased three of ours.  So we left equal on books, only a dollar poorer, and with three new (to us) books to read.

Our next stop was the comic book store.  We looked for missing issues from the two series that we are primarily collecting at the moment.  For me, that’s “Conan The Barbarian.”  For my wife, it’s “Sensational She-Hulk.”  I’ve written enough about Conan in the past that you know that I love Robert E. Howard’s stories, Roy Thomas’ adaptations of the character for Marvel, and why.  My wife recently discovered She-Hulk, and “Sensational She-Hulk” is a fun series.  

In the story, Jennifer Walters, aka She-Hulk, is a smart, well-dressed, professional woman.  In the issue I read (Issue #2), author John Byrne and company worked hard to keep the tone light.  Every few pages, they placed a sticky notes placed over a panel.  

On these sticky notes, Byrne, artist Bob Wiacek, or other Marvel folks would comment on the story thus far.   

She-Hulk even breaks The Fourth Wall, and speaks to them.  She’s always big and green—in other words, hulkified—yet she’s a thoughtful, reasoning person, not a rage-filled, instinct-driven animal.

I grew up watching Kenneth Johnson’s live action TV show “The Incredible Hulk,” and have seen the two recent Hulk movies, as well as “The Avengers.”  In these stories, we see Bruce Banner 95% of the time.  The Hulk is a creature reluctantly unleashed, with little ability to think or reason.  When he emerges, the destruction he causes may be out of proportion to the threat he faces.  He follows his instincts, is driven by rage, and a monster to be feared.  Yet, as I grow more familiar with comic books and the various Marvel universes, I’m see far more stories that depict the Hulk as a thinking, reasoning creature, and rarely see Bruce Banner on the run from the authorities, trying to repress his anger, and searching for a cure to permanently banish the Hulk from his life. 

In Marvel's new animated TV show “Hulk and the Agents of SMASH,” (shown on Disney XD in the United States), you never see Bruce Banner.  He's 100% Hulk--all the time--and he’s a team leader.  He constantly tries to reign in Red Hulk’s excesses, he’s protective of his young friend Rick, he relies on She-Hulk’s expertise in certain areas, and welcomes Skaar, a Hulk-like sword-wielding barbarian (shades of Conan?) who initially joins the team as a double-agent.  Hulk is smart enough to design and utilize weapons, assess the strengths and weakness of his team members, and formulate strategy.  He recognizes when people say one thing but do another, allows situations to play out before he acts, and even apologizes when he realizes that he’s treated someone poorly, or misjudged a situation.  In other words, the Hulk becomes someone we can all learn from.  While it seems odd to admit this, I take this responsible monster's messages to heart, and hope the children watching the show learn from his wisdom.

Needless to say, I find the dichotomy in the various ways the Hulk is portrayed interesting.  More on that tomorrow.

Dragon Dave

P.S. You knew I'd have to sign my name in green today, didn't you? Don't worry, I'm not angry at you!  (Unless, that is, you're a Toad Man).

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