Jun 1, 2017
The 40 Years of Comics Project - Day 827: Incredible Hulk #237, July 1979
The Hulk's battle with Machine Man and the Corporation ends with rampant destruction and, if I read the last couple of panels right, Hulk being cast into outer space. This seems to be a common remedy to the problem of the big, green rage monster. It's a weird dichotomy. On the one hand, the people who write his adventures seem to understand that the character is so difficult to fit into the shared universe that launching him off-planet appears to be the sanest response. On the other hand, the character, and presumably his adventures on Earth, are so popular that he's one of the few Marvel characters who's been in print basically continuously since his inception in the 60s.
Why? I'm coming to the end of this week of reading Hulk stories, and I still don't understand his allure. In fact, I see him more as antagonist, and functioning more smoothly as antagonist, than I do as protagonist. Again, this is why Bruce Jones' run on the title in the early 2000s was so interesting to me, in that it was actually the story of Bruce Banner fighting against his alter ego, rather than treating the Hulk as a hero. Attempting to depict the character as somehow heroic is troublingly apologist. In today's issue, the Hulk has been responsible, in part, for the destruction of an entire suburb, and he finishes off the issue by completely destroying a skyscraper in the middle of a major urban center. The story gestures to the idea that, somehow, no one dies in the destruction, due to superlative evacuation procedures, but, and this might seem a weird thing to say, this rings far too unrealistic. Given the amount of property damage that seems to follow the Hulk around, the idea that there are no casualties in his wake is patently ridiculous.
Though if the Hulk was killing people left, right, and center, chances are the comic wouldn't be quite as popular. So is this the key to his popularity? The Hulk depicts a world in which we can lose complete control of our most negative emotions but in which no one is hurt by this loss of control? That kind of brings the character into focus for me, I think.
To be continued.