Check out the introduction for background on this series of posts!
Check out part 1: Green Lantern. Check out part 2: Captain America.Check out part 3: Wolverine. Check out part 4: Power Girl. Check out part 5: Aquaman. Check out part 6: Luke Cage. Check out part 7: Iron Man. Check out part 8: Spider-Man. Check out part 9: Wonder Woman. Check out part 10: John Constantine.
The Hulk has had 2 movies, has been in more than 10 cartoon shows/movies, had a well known live-action TV show, and is easily one of the most recognizable comic characters in the world. Huge, green, and angry. How does he stack up to the rest of the so-called heroes?
Who is the Hulk?
Hulk used to be just plain old Bruce Banner. Of course, nothing was plain about him. Many call him one of the smartest people on the planet. He used to work for the US government making an ultimate weapon called a gamma bomb. When testing the bomb, a young kid (Rick Jones to be precise) drove onto the testing site. Banner ran to save him, throwing Jones into a shielded area just in time, but was himself caught in the heart of a gamma bomb explosion. Ever after, Bruce Banner has shared his existence with the raging Hulk that lives inside him. There have been different incarnations of the Hulk, ranging from Green to Grey, child-like to manipulative, smart to dumb. Some of these will factor into the scoring, so I’ll divide Hulk into essentially 3 characters: Savage (Green, dumb, childlike), Mr. Fixit (Grey, Manipulative, smart), and Smart Hulk (Green, shares many traits in common with Banner).
Is this character heroic? Except for Mr. Fixit, yes. While the Savage Hulk may not seem like he is very heroic, he always does the right thing when pressed. He has shown willingness to sacrifice himself over and over for the sake of others. Smart Hulk does as well, but he is often less overt about his heroism. (Savage: 1 point) (Mr. Fixit: 0 points) (Smart Hulk: 1 point)
Does this character represent the “powers” or fight against them? Defiantly fights against them. Hulk is the quintessential outcast character. The US military has often been his most aggressive enemy. No matter if he be Savage, Fixit, or Smart Hulk, even other heroes do not trust him, cannot control him, and look at him as a threat, often for no good reason other than his other-ness. And Hulk hates their hypocrisy and never shies away from pointing it out. Which of course makes them more aggressive. (1 point)
Does this character kill? Errrr… depends on who you ask. Since the Hulk goes through so many different states of mind, it is hard to nail down which has done what. Even the Savage, Mr. Fixit, and Smart Hulk categories are somewhat arbitrary and porous. Still, having said that, Hulk is often protrayed as a savage, mindless brute who can level towns and mountains alike without even thinking about it. Surely he has killed thousands of people? Well, not really. In a more recent comic, a super-brilliant prodigy called Amadeus Cho revealed that when he was the Hulk, all of Banner’s intelligence didn’t dissapear, but instead was being used in Hulk’s subconscious to do “super-math,” essentially calculating the physics of Hulk’s rampages and making sure that no innocents have ever been killed. And sure enough, I looked back through tons of issues, and couldn’t find once instance of an innocent person dying. Still, what about killing bad guys? Savage Hulk, ironically, is innocent. He hasn’t killed any bad guys. Ever. Even Mr. Fixit, while he has maimed and broken his bad guys, has never killed them. Probably an oversight, though, as he has said he would. However, when smart Hulk has come around, he has killed a few. Especially when you consider that he helped a planet stage a rebellion against its oppressors. Lots of bad dudes died then. (Savage: 1 point) (Mr. Fixit: 0 points) (Smart Hulk: 0 points)
Does this character have a spirituality? Eh… no not really. Banner straight up says he doesn’t believe in that stuff. Savage Hulk can see ghosts, though, and often interacts with spiritual beings more easily than normal people. Fixit and Smart Hulk don’t really talk about religion… unless it is with Thor. (Savage: 1 point) (Mr. Fixit: 0 points) (Smart Hulk: 0 point)
Does this character have an interesting (and sustainable) story to inhabit? Definitely. Hulk is never status quo. His book, probably more than any other I can think of, has seen his character develop, devolve, change, and grow like no other. His antagonism to power, only to see them come begging to him when they need help is always satisfying. His disregard for the judgement of others, and his faux desire to be left alone, masking his deep longing for acceptance and intimacy is heart breaking and often reads like Greek tragedy. (1 point)
Does this character have a supporting cast that isn’t just around to make them look good? Yes. Hulk has done a great job of surrounding himself with other people to share his burden, even as he pretends to push them away. From Banner himself, who alternates between antagonist, protagonist, friend, brother, and mad scientist to Rick Jones, his constant companion and friend (and now fellow gamma-powered hero), to Betty Ross (his girlfriend/wife who has also become gamma-powered recently), to General Thaddeus Thunderbolt Ross (his constant enemy-turned gamma powered rivial), and a whole host of others (Jarella, Caiera, Meek, Brood, Hiroim and Korg, Amadeus Cho, etc…). Hulk shares the spotlight, because he needs people as much as the world often needs him. (1 points)
Does this character have a T-shirt I can buy in size XL? not a whole lot that don’t look tacky. (0 bonus points)
Does this character represent, in broad terms, an outlook on life that I can support? Ahhh… probably not. At best, Hulk is wish fulfillment. He might represent us at our worst, or what we might want to do when if we had unlimited power. But the point is, Hulk is really defined often BY his power. Savage Hulk might do the right thing, but only in the way a 5-year old might. Mr. Fixit isn’t concerned in the least about the right thing, and Smart Hulk is unpredictable, often representing the best of us, and then sometimes the worst. (0 Points)
Are this characters powers (or lack thereof) interesting? Yep. Hulk is the strongest there is. Most of Hulk’s adversity comes because of his great power, not as a challenge to it. His immense (nearly immesuarable) power scares people, even his friends. The tragedy that follows him like a shadow makes his power all the more pathetic in terms of getting him the peaceful life he desires. (1 point)
Savage Hulk: 7 out of 8 points
Mr. Fixit: 4 out of 8 points
Smart Hulk: 5 out of 8 points
Tune in next time for a discussion of Batman…