Hulk: The Angry Hero

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Posted November 27, 2013 by Stefanie Storm in Comic Books

The Incredible Hulk, our favorite unstoppable green rage monster. If you tick him off he’ll smash everything to bits, and the angrier he gets, the more powerful he becomes. He’ll confront anything and anyone who steps out of line, or just foolishly offends his alter ego; Robert “Bruce” Banner.

In this article we will be exploring Bruce Banner’s origins and personal background, from his first appearance to the expansion of his origin with his father’s introduction to the mythos. I will also be reviewing my first Hulk comic, The Incredible Hulk at Bay 1974, Book and Record set, all in an effort to explain why The Hulk means so much to comic readers like me.

From Gray to Green; the Many Faces of Hulk
Incredible Hulk #78

Incredible Hulk #78

Bruce Banner was first introduced in The Incredible Hulk #1 May 1962 by writer/editor Stan Lee and Artist Jack Kirby. Since Lee didn’t want to suggest any particular ethnic group he decided to make the Hulk gray. In the first five issues Bruce would turn into a gray skinned humanoid monster at sunset and back to his normal human state at dawn. Due to the problems with the gray coloring, colorist Stan Goldberg played around with different shades of grays and greens resulting in Lee’s decision to change the skin color to green. Eventually the cause of his transformations changed as well, making anger and stress the catalyst that bought out the Green Goliath.

Over the years Hulk has seen many changes, and been through many different adventures with a variety of artists and writers. His various transformations from the Gray Hulk known as Joe Fixit, Savage Hulk, Mindless Hulk, and Professor Hulk (just to name a few) have definitely created some awesome comics, amazing plot twists, and literally out of this world adventures.

It’s no wonder the big green guy is cranky, you would be too if you kept being poked and prodded at.

A Monster Within, Fast Forward to the Future

In 1985 during The Incredible Hulk Volume 2 by Bill Mantlo and Mike Mignola, Bruce Banner’s father, Dr. Brian Banner was introduced as an Atomic Physicist who believed that his DNA was altered due to daily exposure of radiation. This caused him to suspect that his son Bruce was born a mutant. The stress of Dr. Brian Banner’s career and the thought of his son having a monster gene within him, caused him to become an alcoholic with anger issues and became abusive to Bruce and Bruce’s mom, Rebecca.  As a child Bruce witnessed his father’s abusive behavior, which eventually was the cause of his mother’s death.

Dr. Brian Banner’s years of working with radioactive materials did in fact have an effect on his DNA and was passed on to his son Bruce since the day he was conceived, making him somewhat of a mutant immune to radiation. This would explain why Bruce wasn’t fatally harmed in the Gamma Bomb blast that caused his first transformation. Instead, the gamma radiation enhanced his already naturally altered DNA creating the anger fueled Hulk we know and love today, a lean green destruction machine that was silently dormant within poor Bruce Banner since his disturbed child hood. All the anger he suppressed and bottled up inside for so many years was finally awoken and released due to the detonation of the gamma bomb, a nuclear weapon created by Bruce’s own hand.

Dr. Robert Bruce Banner and the Hulk Within

Under the monstrous exterior, Hulk has a gentle side who just wants to be left in peace. We assume this comes from Bruce Banner, who is somewhat of a shy and  nerdy guy (if a little passive aggressive), the human side has been able to control the monstrous green side on occasion, but trying to keep such a huge ego under wraps isn’t easy, and more often than not Hulk is depicted as an out-of-control force of nature.

Don't make me angry

Along with his various incarnations he’s also been given more superpowers than Clark Kent; Hulk is a super powerful genetically altered anger fueled machine with superhuman strength, health regeneration, dynamic durability, able to leap through continents, and with just a simple clap of his hands can cause you to go deaf. As if that wasn’t enough, he’s also able to breathe underwater and resist telepathy, So all of this adds up to make this guy a force to be reckoned with.

The Hulk vs The Abomination
Hulk: Destruction #2

Hulk: Destruction #2

Among the many villains that made the mistake of making Hulk angry,  was a Yugoslavian spy named Emil Blonsky, aka The Abomination. Like Bruce Banner, Emil Blonsky was also exposed to gamma radiation that transformed him into a giant green skinned monster whose powers were similar (if not greater) than the Hulk’s. Superhuman strength, regeneration, and the ability to leap long distances. However, unlike the Hulk Emil Blonsky is unable to transform back into a human. Blonsky blames Bruce and his alter ego the Hulk for his condition, which is the reason why The Abomination would usually be the one to look for a fight with Bruce Banner.

This villain sure has been a force to be reckoned with, since he’s one of the only people strong enough to put up a decent fight. On occasion he seemingly gets the upper hand in a fight, but Hulk always emerges as the victor. It pays to have superhuman strength and health regeneration when in battle with The Abomination.

Power Record’s The Incredible Hulk at Bay 1974
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The first Hulk comic book I ever received was given to me by my dear father in the early to mid 90’s. This was the first battle I saw the Hulk get into with the Abomination which is why it has stuck with me until this day.

In this issue the Hulk saves Betty from an island with an erupting volcano by carrying her to safety towards a military plane and tells her to go and not worry about him, reassuring her that he’ll be alright. As Betty is rescued by four military men and taken back to the plane Hulk sneaks around and hides inside the shuttle jet’s cargo hold. As they arrived back at the base the Hulk has calmed down and turned back into Bruce Banner, he waits in the cargo hold until the soldiers are off the plane steals a camouflage flight suit and walks out onto the base. He sneaks into an air vent that he knows leads into the underground concourse and falls asleep on one of the bunkers.

A few hours have passed by and Banner finally wakes up to discover that the Abomination and Rhino have shown up at the base and have wreaked havoc. Betty and her father, General Ross, along with Colonel Armbruster are sealed into one of the Hulk-Retaining Cells (that was originally created by General Ross to capture the Hulk) as Rhino and the Abomination set up a gamma bomb to go off at any minute killing those trapped inside.tumblr_mkkyin4AjM1qb57azo1_500

As Banner makes his way towards the Retaining Cells to release Betty and the others, the Abomination sneaks up behind him and puts his giant hand over his mouth and nose, unfortunately the Abomination was oblivious to who this was, and the surprise attack caused Banners heart  to race and induces a transformation. Then suddenly, in the place of a puny quiet physicist now stands the Incredible Hulk! As always the fighting between two giant monsters is exciting, and has us rooting for our favorite green hero. The Hulk prevails and saves the day with his brute force and superhuman strength, rescuing Betty and yes, even her father, Thunderbolt Ross.

Everybody Loves Green

Hulk has been my favorite hero since my teenage years for so many reasons. Not only has he helped me with my anger issues, but it’s easy to relate to a character such as this. A lot of us can sympathize with Bruce Banner and his dark side, or rather, his green side. Within a lot of us there lies an anger that has been suppressed and kept hidden for so long. We keep it locked away never letting it out, never talking about it, and with no way of Hulking out our frustrations. We simply can’t unleash our fury like the Incredible Hulk without getting ourselves into serious trouble. So reading about it and watching Hulk do it in the panels of our comic books provides us with a way to live vicariously through Banner’s alter ego.

Many of us love to watch the destruction and the power that the Hulk is capable of demonstrating. We enjoy the fact that this Green Goliath can not only be considered a hero, but an anti-hero as well. Being a goody two shoes just isn’t his style. Whether you’re a villain or a fellow hero and friend, don’t make the mistake of making him angry, you won’t like him when he’s angry.

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About the Author

Stefanie Storm