The Incredible Hulk - Remembering the Old, Dumb Hulk and His Childhood Angst

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There Was A Time When Hulk Smashed

Having a new actor is in the role of motion picture version of The Hulk in the Avengers movie is fine as long as the surly Green Goliath on the screen is portrayed as the classic version of the Incredible Hulk.


While it is understandable that the comic books had to modify the Hulk’s character in recent years, the old Hulk is fondly missed.

Thankfully, the old school 1960’s to 1980’s version of The Incredible Hulk is who we see in the Avengers movie.

The Modernization of The Incredible Hulk

Modern versions of the Hulk are designed to appeal to an older audience. (This started with the short-lived magazine The Rampaging Hulk in the 1970's) A smarter, more cynical, more devious alter-ego for Dr. Robert Bruce Banner is something that those over the age of 18 will be drawn towards when purchasing comic books. The “dumb Hulk” you see in the Avengers movie trailer is not exactly the pathos driven Hulk of the classic Marvel Comics, but he is somewhat close to it.

The truth is the original version of The Incredible Hulk portrayed him as a dumb brute and that limits what creators can do with the character. Narratives did have to kept simple in order to compensate for the main character’s limitations. Despite his limitations, the creativity of the Marvel Bullpen did manage to present The Hulk in many thrilling adventures. The old Hulk appealed to younger readers and this allowed the character to remain one of Marvel’s top tier heroes for decades. What was it about this brutish character that made him so popular? In a way, the original version of the Incredible Hulk was popular for the same reason that the Frankenstein Monster was so popular. When you really stop and look at the dumb Hulk of old, he is really a small child in a big world.

Often, that world can be a cruel one. For young children who may be struggling with serious problems children should not have to contend with, the wandering misunderstood outsider who was the lumbering Hulk garnered not only sympathy, but empathy.

How Dumb Was The Old Dumb The Incredible Hulk?

Once again, the Hulk is a small child in an overgrown body who is misunderstood and, as he was apt to say, just wants to be left alone. Of course, he never really is left alone since he is perpetually tormented by a menagerie of creepy villains and obsessed military personnel. The symbolism in these characters is unmistakable. The super Hulk villains are symbolic of bullies that kids must deal with when they are different and the Hulkbuster army represents the authority figures who make life difficult for a (seemingly) strange kid that is trying to survive in an environment that is harsh. While Stan Lee may have envisioned The Incredible Hulk to be the Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde character we see in the comics and the Avengers movie, the truth is he is closer to the another misunderstood child,the Frankenstein monster.

On Being Disaffected

For decades the depiction of The Hulk as a disaffected child contributed to the appeal of the lumbering hulking creature. In many ways, there was a sad pathos associated with the creature. He was hunted and haunted due to the personal vendetta of General Ross. (This was an obvious tip of the hat to Moby Dick) Despite the fact the Hulk was constantly betrayed by the “puny humans” he trusted he would always someone do the right thing and save the day by fending back any all-powerful threat that reared its head. Of course, the Incredible Hulk was never thanked for his help. Often, he was wrongly blamed for contributing to it.

The character did mature and in a cynical way.

Anger is no longer a form of childlike rage in later tales. Instead, it is adolescent angst at the core of the character’s motivations. The angst in the modern versions of the comic character although it has become darker, more violent, and, in some ways, downbeat. That is not a criticism of the new version of the Hulk as much as it is an observation.

For those that wish to see a version of the Hulk closer to the earlier incarnations, you just have to wait until the Avengers movie opens some time in 2012.

OTHER HUBS OF NOTE:

The Equally Amazing Super Villain Generation Gap In The First 12 Issues of The Amazing Spider-Man

Daredevil in the 1970s: The Precursors to the Legendary Frank Miller Run

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