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The Evolution of The Incredible Hulk

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Before we dive into this monster of a post (pun intended!) I just want to take a second to introduce the first article for the CBK competition as well as take a moment to say hi to the newest writer here at Comic Book Kid.

Robin is relative noob to comic books with only a few months of reading behind him but that hasn’t stopped him putting together the biggest piece of character analysis I’ve ever read. Enjoy!

In 1962, Stan Lee and Jack Kirby created a monster, and not just any monster. They created perhaps the most recognisable monster of the 20th century, The Incredible Hulk.

Initially the Hulk came about in The Incredible Hulk #1 with Dr Bruce Banner saving a teenage boy caught in the middle of a testing field and being bombarded with Gamma Radiation from a Gamma bomb he created. Like Jekyll and Hyde, Banner would transform into the Hulk at night, and originally he was a gray monster, a choice made by Stan Lee as he wanted the Hulk to be devoid of any ethnicity. The green we all know and love came later due to colouring issues!

Throughout the next fifty years, the way the Hulk went through many a different incarnation, from Warlord leader of a planet, Las Vegas gangster to a separate entity from Bruce Banner. And it’s this evolution over the years that I’m going to look at!

The Hulk epitomises schizophrenia, with his many different faces similar to Hermes of Greek mythology. All sides of him are riddled with personality flaws and deep seated psychological problems stemming from Bruce Banner’s childhood and the abusive relationship he had with his father. These different psyches are often at loggerheads with one another, depicting an epic internal struggle fueled by Banner’s repressed anger and rage; the Hulk’s birth in radiation and Banner’s altered genetics from this.

Bruce’s mind is often shown as a cave, with other locked psyche’s laying dormant, waiting for them to be woken. From what could be viewed as a simplistic character comes perhaps one of the most complex psychological studies of a character in comics. Not just a hulking brute, the Hulk weaves the tale of a broken, fractured mind, clinging on to what humanity is left in it, desperate not let it’s supercharged fears take control.

These personas are split into the following…

  1. Bruce Banner
  2. Gray Hulk / Joe Fixit
  3. Savage Hulk (The normal, most well known version)
  4. Gravage Hulk (A mixture of the first two, with Banner’s mind, Fixit’s cunning and Savage’s brutality)
  5. The Professor (Banner’s good side)
  6. The Mindless Hulk (A completely savage, wild Hulk incarnation)
  7. The Guilt (A snarling beast who emerges after Betty Ross’s death, but has never materialized outside of Banner’s mind)
  8. The Beast Hulk (A manifestation of Bruce’s father)]
  9. The Maestro (A version of Hulk twisted by radiation caused by nucleur war and later becomes a tyrannical ruler of the wasteland left after that war)
  10. The Devil Hulk (Bruce Banner’s resentment manifested, a being of pure hatred for humanity and one which looks to extinguish all life itself)
  11. King Hulk / World War Hulk (this is a combination of Banner’s mind and Hulks muscles as he conquered a planet and led an intergalactic planetary assault on Earth in response to being marooned by the Illuminati)
  12. World Breaker Hulk ( A being so powerful, it could destroy the half the eastern seaboard of America with a few steps. According to Reed Richards, Bruce Banner is constantly holding in this version of the Hulk)

The Hulk 2

I love the Hulk, I love his brutality and his ferocity. I also love how that’s all countered with his humanity in the guise of Bruce Banner. I love how Banner, in the latest arc, Indestructible Hulk is striving to create a lasting legacy, one of development and benefit for humanity, in a direct contrast to the Hulk’s destructive nature which is being used by S.H.I.E.LD, He laments to Maria Hill

Tony Stark and Reed Richards use their genius to save the world every other week. That’s how they’ll be remembered in history. Meanwhile, I – I who, forgive me, have just as much to contribute – will be lucky if my tombstone doesn’t simply say “Hulk Smash.

Now, I don’t know about you, but I love the HULK-SMASH catchphrase, I love the Hulk keychain that adorns my work fob and keys. I even used to use a Hulk inflatable punchbag, as you do. It seems strange that the cute, quite dumb Hulk we see in my kids favourite cartoon The Superhero Squad  and in my sons cuddly toy he takes to bed with him is a creature of destruction by nature. In fact, throughout the Hulk’s history he has been as much a force for destruction and anarchy as a force for good and protection.

This sex pistol streak has lead him into all sorts of scrapes and misadventures, with the Hulk having been an adversary for the Avengers on many an occasion, not least in the Fear Itself full universe arc and the Planet Hulk and World War Hulk storylines. In the later of those two, the Hulk’s anger and rage is more grief stricken and vengeful than in Fear itself, after the loss of his wife Caiera and unborn child, he vowed revenge on Earth and the Illuminati, a shadowy cabal of superheroes who decided to banish the Hulk from the Earth due to his destructive capacity! This massive interstellar saga is a far cry from those early, schizophrenic days of a scientist attempting to control his anger and rage, and I feel they reflect upon the changing era’s of the comic book world!

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The story I find most compelling with regards to the Hulk is Bruce Banner’s unrelenting capacity to attempt to hold onto what humanity he has.

We’ve had three recent film incarnations of the Hulk, all portrayed by different actors, and this underlying preservation of Banner’s humanity is always there in those films. It defines him. Perhaps this was best portrayed, in my humble opinion by Edward Norton and his expressive eyes in 2008′s The Incredible Hulk.

Whilst Mark Ruffalo has been the best Hulk out of the film versions, Norton shows this internal struggle in a much better light than Ruffalo, since the basis of the 2008 film is him attempting to not harm Betty Ross, whereas this factor is taken away from 2012′s The Avengers. It would be interesting to see Ruffalo take this angle in a future film! The story of Bruce’s desperate struggle to hold on to his humanity has always been influenced by his love of Elizabeth “Betty” Ross. This shadows Victor Hugo’s Quasimodo, a source, Stan Lee has always claimed was one of the character’s he based the Hulk on.

There’s also shades of the fairy tale Beauty and the Beast (we aren’t talking Disney’s talking teacup tale, we’re talking the Grimm original tale) with his love of Betty forcing him to embrace the Hulk persona on numerous occasions to protect her.

The Hulk 1

Visually, the Hulk had changed drastically over the years, with him becoming bigger, faster, stronger and more Daft Punk song titles as time goes on. Initially just being an overly large, gray, monstrous inhuman, the Hulk has increased in muscle mass, body tone and apparently brain capacity with old Gravage Hulk taking centre stage. He becomes a world breaker, a war leader, a gladiator, a tyrant and a separate entity to Bruce Banner at some points. The Hulk lives up to his name now, with him being a towering beast at almost 8 foot tall!

The Hulk also has some “Incredible” powers dont’cha know, to go with his now “Incredible” stature!

He’s amazingly strong, exceptionally fast, has amazing durability and stamina, he can adapt to environments which would kill a normal human, a fast healing factor and strangely he can also see Astral forms and ghosts, which comes in handy with his work with The Defenders and Dr Strange. Most of his powers increase in their strength and potency as the Hulk becomes more and more angry.

So what’s in store for the big green meanie?

  • Well his current run in Indestructible Hulk sees him working as a weapon for S.H.I.E.L.D!
  • There’s a Disney cartoon coming called Hulk and the Agents of S.M.A.S.H which teams the Hulk with Red Hulk, She Hulk, A-bomb and Skaar to battle threats no other superhumans could face! The voice cast for this is amazing, with Seth Green, Eliza Dushku and Fred Tatasciore amongst those already cast!
  • Then there’s Ruffalo and Avengers 2 and the MCU’s phase 3!

Could we be seeing a Hulk film again in the future? Well not as yet, but with Marvel announcing films way into 2017, who knows!?!

I’d love to see Mark Ruffalo’s intense portrayal of Bruce Banner having to deal with his love of Betty Ross, or maybe even as an antagonist, as that was one of the best parts of the Avengers film! All we know, is the Hulk’s future will definitely be angry, as that’s his secret…

Hulk I'm Always Angry GIFHulk I'm Always Angry Gif

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I am the watchman in the night, the guardian of the dark, the waiter of the pizza hut, I am Robin... Nah, only kidding, I'm Rob, a relative newbie to the world of comic books and superheroes, but by heck, I don't half love the little super beggars!

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