You know what I like? The Incredible Hulk.
I've always liked him. Ever since my first comic reading days as a kid, I liked how he was different. He wasn't like all those other superheroes, who went around looking for someone to help -- looking for trouble, basically. The Hulk didn't want trouble. The Hulk just wanted to be left alone
. I loved that. The Hulk just wanted to kick back in the forest, away from all the puny humans, feed grass to an innocent deer who didn't know to be afraid of the green monster, compose some haikus, I don't know -- and then some dumbass supervillain would always
come along and drop a building on the Hulk's head. And so the Hulk would have no choice but to GRRRAAAARRRRRR HULK SMASH!!
and whale the holy living shit out of the bad guy. The Hulk didn't go looking for supervillains. The Hulk didn't give a gamma-irradiated rat's ass
about supervillains. He wasn't proactive, he was purely reactive. Mess with Hulk, Hulk smash.
Also, the Hulk was the strongest one there was. And you knew because he would tell you: "Hulk is strongest one there is!!" There wasn't anybody
who could beat the Hulk in a straight-up fight. Even Thor -- who's a god
, for crying out loud -- could only fight him to a draw, at best. How sweet is that?
And best of all: half the time he was puny Banner, so nobody would see it coming.
The element of surprise, turning the tables on the assholes -- that was great. I mean, you see a giant pile of orange rocks walking down the street, you go, "Hey, it's the Thing." But not the Hulk. He's just this meek little rocket scientist -- and then some hooligans start thinking they can get tough with him, or maybe they just won't stop talking on their cell phones in a movie theater. Next thing you know, they're standing in the shadow of (if I may quote) "7 feet, 1,000 pounds of unfettered fury!" and crying for their mommies. Now that's
Then, of course, came the TV show. The Incredible Hulk
TV series changed a ton of stuff from the comic -- from the main character's name ("Bruce" was deemed too effeminate for a hero, so they called him "David" instead), to his backstory (adding a wife who died in a car accident) to how he became the Hulk (self-administered dose of radiation, rather than accidental exposure), to the Hulk's strength (bullets could actually hurt
him, rather than just bouncing off) and speech (rather than childish language, the Hulk never spoke at all), to who was tracking him down (not the obsessed General "Thunderbolt" Ross and Ross's daughter, Betty, who loved Banner, but some reporter named McGee). But it was still great. Where else could a nine-year-old see primetime superhero live-action on TV? (Well, Wonder Woman
, I guess, but that was fun for an entirely different reason, even at that age.) "Mr. McGee, don't make me angry. You wouldn't like me when I'm angry." So true, so true.
The Hulk is even what got me back into comics. In 1988, my freshman year of college, down at the Student Union there were these guys handing out "welcome packages" -- little boxes with various crap from local merchants inside, like shaving cream or scotch tape or whatever. And there were some comic books, too. I hadn't collected or even read comics for about 8 years, but when I read that issue of The Incredible Hulk
in my welcome package, I was instantly hooked again. Because the Hulk was... he was grey
! And he was smart!
And a little bit... bad
, too. He was cunning, devious. Banner was on a mission, and the Hulk was cooperating
with him, but for his own selfish reasons. And the art was very new and striking, stylized in a way that was totally different from the comics I had read as a kid, much more dynamic, and grittier, too -- drawn by some guy named Todd McFarlane (who has done little of note since then).
It was all wrong! And totally compelling. I bought a slew of back issues (all written by the fantastically entertaining Peter David, who would stay with the series for about 13 years, an amazing run from beginning to end), and I was suddenly a comic book fan again.
The there's the movie. I liked Hulk
(not The Hulk
, for some strange reason) more than I know many people did. It had the handicap of a CGI-created main character to overcome, which turned out to look better that I thought it would, but still, it's hard to invest yourself in a bunch of 1s and 0s on the movie screen. And I think it made a mistake in not having the Hulk speak; that left him as a personality-less destruction machine. The destruction was pretty awesome
, true, but I'd have liked to hear him say "Hulk smash" at least once. I mean, throw me a frickin' bone. And where's Rick Jones?
But I liked Eric Bana as Bruce Banner, I love
Jennifer Connelly in anything
, and I appreciated both the slower, more subtle character moments as well as the inventive visual "comic book" style of the movie. I liked that the film spent time developing Banner's repressed psychological scars, which helped to create the Hulk persona bottled up inside him -- and that it showed Banner enjoys
releasing that rage. And that tank fight: come on, that was kick-ass.
Right now, though, I'm having a tough time liking the Hulk. Because all I've got to go by is the comic book, by current writer Bruce Jones... and the comic sucks
. I flat-out hate it. For one thing, it suffers from Marvel-itis, in which a two-issue story is painfully stretched out to a trade paperback-friendly five or six issues. For another, it's all X-Files
-type conspiracies and mysterious covert agencies and that's all fine and good in the beginning
, but eventually you have to start coming up with some resolutions to those mysteries, and, like The X-Files
, for what few questions it did
supply (before I finally dropped the book), it fell far short of the expectations it had created. And worst of all, a capital crime for an Incredible Hulk comic: it doesn't feature the Incredible Hulk!!
Bruce Jones got the bright idea of using the Hulk in a very limited capacity only. Which meant that for a good number of issues, the Hulk only appeared in brief flashbacks, or by implication (gang of toughs threatens Banner, cut straight to gang of toughs with their asses kicked, with no sight of the Hulk in between), if he even appeared at all
. That might be fine once or twice, as a change of pace, but when I buy a Hulk comic, I want to see the goddam Hulk. I don't buy a Superman comic for 22 pages of Clark Kent reading internet jokes from his mom at work, and if I wanted 22 pages of Bruce Banner, then I'd buy a goddam comic called Bruce Banner
one called The Incredible Goddam Hulk
But. It appears Jones is out. He's signed an exclusive deal with DC, which means his run on the Hulk will soon be over. And good riddance. The buzz in the fan world is that Peter David is a possible candidate to take over from him, which couldn't make me happier. Problem is, according to his website, nobody's offered David the job yet (although if anybody has a brain at Marvel -- which you may debate amongst yourselves -- they will soon), and what's more, he speculates that the Hulk might not even continue in an ongoing series. Which would be terrible. Why a bevy of A-list writers aren't clamoring for this gig is beyond me. Peter David, among others, has shown that the Hulk can be so much more than a one-note "Hulk smash" character. Hell, at this point, returning the Hulk to all "Hulk smash" all the time would be a daring new direction in itself.
Bottom line is, Marvel had better get someone
up to the task of helming a monthly Hulk comic, and they had better do it fast. He's one of their most popular, interesting, challenging creations ever, and I want to see someone who can bring the comic back up to a consistently entertaining level. Forget all this men-in-black crap.
Or Hulk will smash.
Labels: "You know what I like?", Ang Lee, Bruce Jones, Comics, Hulk, Jennifer Connelly, Peter David, Rick Jones, Superman, Todd McFarlane, X-Files