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I find it hard to believe, but it was five years ago this month that I started writing “Comics in Context,” which was originally at IGN and has since moved here to Quick Stop Entertainment. From time to time I wonder how many people are out there reading this, and whether or not the effort of turning out over two hundred installments has been worth it. It doesn’t help that certain members of the comics blogosphere have described my online writings as “insane” or “crazy” because each is as long as, say, a magazine feature article. Then recently a colleague advised me that none of the critical essays I’ve done for this column could be taken seriously by cultural institutions, because they’ve been published on the newfangled Internet instead of in good old-fashioned books. (I may be a Luddite in many respects but I can already imagine Graduate Students of the Future reading this week’s column and reacting to this with shock and disbelief.)

But I prefer to think that over these last five years I’ve built a substantial body of work in this column. And every once in a while I run into somebody who turns out to be a reader of this column and expresses his appreciation. Due to upheavals in my life and the pressing need to find paying work, lately I haven’t been producing new installments of “Comics in Context” as often as I’d like. But I intend to continue with the column, and once again, I’d like to thank my editor for these last five years, Ken Plume, for talking me into starting the column in the first place, and for supporting my efforts all this time.

I write my second “Comics in Context” piece (“Comics in Context” #2: “Crouching Banner, Hidden Faust”) about director Ang Lee’s disappointing Hulk movie for Universal back in 2003. By coincidence, June 2008 brought the opening of a new movie about Marvel’s green-skinned monster, The Incredible Hulk, directed by Louis Leterrier, produced by Universal and Marvel Studios, and featuring a newscast, including Edward Norton as Bruce Banner, Liv Tyler as Betty Ross, and William Hurt as her father, General “Thunderbolt” Ross.

So, on this anniversary of the start of my column, this gives me the opportunity to revisit some old subjects of mine, and not just the topic of cinematic treatments if the Hulk. One of my motives for starting my column was my irritation at mainstream media writers who had begun writing about comics and comics-based movies only to vent their prejudices against–and flaunt their ignorance of–the comics medium and the superhero genre.

In the last half decade the treatment of comics in the mainstream media has vastly improved. But the battle is still far from over. Take, for example, Rex Reed’s review of The Incredible Hulk movie in the June 23, 2008 issue of The New York Observer, titled “Marvel Mush”, in which he writes, “If you didn’t waste your allowance on the Marvel comics created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby 46 years ago.” Some of us think that the Lee/Kirby Hulk is a classic of American popular culture. (And anyone who spent his allowance on Incredible Hulk #1 in 1962 and didn’t throw it out now made a very valuable investment.)

It was way back in the first and second installments of “Comics in Context” (See “Comics in Context” #1: “Big Dumb Fun” and #2: “Crouching Banner, Hidden Faust”) that I first took to task New York Times film critic A. O. Scott for his clueless approach to the superhero genre and to comics in general. In his June 13, 2008 Times review of The Incredible Hulk movie, Scott at first seems unchanged and unrepentant in his attitude to the genre: “ If you really need a superhero to tide you over until Hellboy and Batman resurface next month–and honestly, do you? really? why?–I guess this big green dude will do.” I suppose that Mr. Scott finds it utterly inexplicable why any of you would venture into a comics shop once a week to buy even one superhero comic.

But I find myself agreeing with Scott when he remarks that “The Adequate Hulk would have been a more suitable title” for this movie than The Incredible Hulk. I thought that Ang Lee had no real feel for the superhero genre; the new movie, directed by Louis Leterrier, is much more successful in staging the action sequences and maintaining the momentum of an adventure story. The Incredible Hulk movie was reasonably entertaining in those terms. But beneath the shiny surface of CGI monsters and spectacular battles, the movie felt thin and superficial.

Why? Scott answers “without a vivid, complex character at the center of the movie, even the more inspired bits. . .feel perfunctory and familiar.”

Certainly Edward Norton’s performance as Bruce Banner inspires sympathy for the character: a good man whom fate has afflicted with a curse that would break the spirit of most people, and yet he struggles on, seeking a cure, literally seeking the peace of mind that would free him from his inner demons. But why should we care about the rampaging, rageoholic monster that is this movie’s version of the Hulk?

In his June 23, 2008 review in The New Yorker, critic David Denby contends that “And the truth is that, in any version, the Hulk is a dull beast. He’s just a big angry guy; he has no soul, no oddities, no vulnerable or tender spots. King Kong and Frankenstein’s monster are Byron and Keats in comparison with the Hulk, as I wrote when Ang Lee’s version came out.”

First, I should point out Denby’s overreaching in implying that he knows every version of the Hulk. Really? How many Hulk comics has he read, do you suppose? Is he aware of Peter David’s various versions of a smart Hulk during his long run on the comic? I doubt it: later in this review Denby expresses his wish that the new movie “would transcend its comic-book origins,” implying that comics are a medium lower in the artistic hierarchy than the cinema.

But I agree that the Hulk of this movie is indeed “a dull beast.” He mostly expresses literally violent rage. This may lead to spectacular battle scenes, but it makes the character, as a personality, tiresome. It’s not quite a one-note performance, though. Despite what Denby says, the Hulk has a “tender spot” since the Hulk grows calm and even seems emotionally vulnerable when he’s alone with Betty Ross. That makes for a two-note performance, which still isn’t enough.

The new movie pits the Hulk against his opposite number from the comics, another gamma-irradiated monster, the Abomination, whom Stan Lee and Gil Kane created in Tales to Astonish #90 (April 1967). But why should we root for the Hulk when he fights the Abomination? What makes the Hulk better than the Abomination? Is it simply that we know that the Hulk can transform back into Bruce Banner, who is a nice guy? Shouldn’t we care about Banner in his Hulk form as well, if the Hulk is the protagonist of the film?

But in the film, the Hulk is presented at almost all times as a destructive monster. This may lead to spectacular battles that will excite the action lovers in the audience. But why should one feel any sympathy for a creature continually snarling with anger? In the movie Banner proposes to General “Thunderbolt” Ross that he turn into the Hulk in order to stop the Abomination from tearing up Harlem. Inexplicably, General Ross agrees. But why? As he is presented in the movie, this Hulk would more likely go start a destructive rampage of his own through New York City, or perhaps even join with the Abomination in wreaking havoc in Harlem.

At least since he wrote the Simon and Schuster paperback Origins of Marvel Comics, Stan Lee has stated that his vision of the Hulk was inspired by Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and by Frankenstein’s Monster, specifically as portrayed by Boris Karloff on film. Karloff’s Monster was dangerous, easily enraged and violent, to be sure, but he was also like a child in a powerful, grotesque adult body, lonely and longing for companionship, often not engaging in gratuitous violence but fighting back against his persecutors. In the Hulk’s original six issue series, Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, and Steve Ditko experimented with the character, portraying him more like a Mr. Hyde to Banner’s Dr. Jekyll: this Hulk was brutal and had a violent temper, but was intelligent. It was in the Hulk’s subsequent series in Tales to Astonish in the 1960s that Lee and his collaborators perfected the classic Hulk, moving more in the direction of the Karloff Frankenstein’s Monster. This is the Hulk as a child in a superhuman adult body. Banner’s brilliant mind has regressed to the undeveloped state of a small child. Like a toddler, the Hulk is egocentric, thinking the world revolves around him: hence his continual boasts about his own power. He is also easily prone to temper tantrums if he doesn’t get his way, but whereas a small child is powerless to cause major damage, the Hulk’s tantrums have catastrophic consequences. Stan Lee’s classic Hulk is caught in a contradiction. He insists he just wants to be left alone, like a sullen child. In Tales to Astonish and Stan Lee’s stories in the Hulk’s second series, the Hulk primarily fights only against those who have disturbed his solitude and attacked him first, whether it’s the armed forces or a super-villain. But the Hulk, in seeming contradiction, also longs for companionship and love. Hence the Hulk regards Betty as his friend, and Rick Jones too, although their relationship has its ups and downs. (Since the classic Hulk has the mentality of a prepubescent child, he doesn’t have conscious sexual feelings towards Betty.) The classic Hulk is not merely Bruce Banner’s Mr. Hyde, he is Banner’s inner child, granted superhuman power. By extension, the Hulk represents the reader’s dark side and his inner child as well.

It is crucially important that Stan Lee allowed his classic Hulk to talk. Of course, a character given only to roaring wouldn’t have worked well as a protagonist in the comics medium. But though the Hulk’s dialogue, Lee enabled the character to express not simply his rage but also his other emotions, his loneliness, his preference for avoiding conflict unless provoked, his understandable resentment of his persecutors like general Ross, and his sentiments for the few individuals who treat him kindly. One of Stan Lee’s greatest talents is his ability to delineate characterization through dialogue. Through his writing of the Hulk, both the Hulk’s dialogue and his narration, he cast the Hulk as a genuine anti-hero, more sinned against than sinning, a persecuted outcast from society, who nonetheless was capable of genuine bravery and heroism in fighting back against his persecutors. Through the Hulk, as with the other classic Marvel heroes of the 1960s, readers can see their own feelings of alienation writ large. In short, Stan Lee made it possible for readers to sympathize with the Hulk. Through dialogue, Stan Lee presented the Hulk as a thinking, feeling person, even if he was mentally handicapped. The Hulk in the new movie is more like an animal, vicious against intruders but submissive towards his mistress Betty, as if he were her pet.

In Ang Lee’s Hulk the monster never spoke. (Nor did the Hulk speak in the now-classic 1970s live action television series. (But I was never a fan of that series in part because it too strayed too far from my concept of the Hulk as a character.) Towards the end of Louis Leterrier’s Incredible Hulk, the monster utters his first words, “Hulk smash!” in keeping with the movie’s depiction of his as a continually raging beast. What if in the next Hulk movie, the filmmakers let him speak more. Instead of portraying the Hulk as a “beast” incapable of speech, let him voice his thoughts, however clouded they may be. Let’s see the primitive, primal human within the monster.

In his June 12 review in Newsweek, David Ansen hits upon a further problem with the film, writing that “When the sensitive, physically unprepossessing Banner/Norton turns into the gargantuan, muscle-bound, growling Hulk, there’s a total disconnect. They don’t seem remotely related to each other, which makes it hard to have an emotional through-line. The actor is replaced by a special effect, and though you may develop feelings for this heroic beast they aren’t the same feelings you have for Banner.”

I don’t think that the Hulk in the new movie seems “heroic” or even antiheroic, but simply a threat. The fact that the human playing Banner is replaced by a CGI version of the Hulk worsens the “disconnect” between Banner and his alter ego, who seem to have very little in common. Is there any psychological resemblance between them at all?

Having now seen a good number of superhero movies, A. O. Scott has developed enough insight into them to make a very perceptive point in his aforementioned New York Times review: “Superhero movies depend not only on virtuosic special effects or action set pieces, but also, perhaps even more, on the psychological drama of existential division. The mild-mannered reporter is also the man of steel; the reclusive millionaire dons mask and cape to fight evil.”

Scott continues, “The better superhero performances explore the tensions inherent in their protagonists’ double lives. . . . But the contradictions and continuities between Bruce Banner and the monster he becomes figure surprisingly little in The Incredible Hulk. When Betty asks Bruce what the transformation feels like he answers that the Hulk ‘isn’t me,’ and in taking this disavowal at face value the movie sacrifices opportunities for pathos as well as humor.”

Scott missed the ambiguity in that exchange between Bruce and Betty. When Banner claims the Hulk “isn’t me,” Betty points out that the Hulk seemed to recognize her. Indeed, the fact that the presence of Banner’s beloved Betty soothes the Hulk is a strong indication that the Hulk and Banner are indeed psychologically connected. In claiming that the Hulk “isn’t me,” Banner is therefore engaging in denial, repelled by the Hulk’s savagery.

Even in the classic Stan Lee Hulk stories of the 1960s there seems little or no psychological connection between Banner and the Hulk. Indeed, in the story “The Monster’s Analyst” in The Incredible Hulk #227 (September 1978), written by Roger Stern and Peter Gillis, Banner’s psychiatrist Doc Samson contends that the Hulk and Bruce Banner are two separate beings. In other words, they have different minds which battle for dominance within the same physical form.

It was writer Bill Mantlo who decisively overturned this interpretation in Incredible Hulk #312 (October 1985), in which he demonstrated that the Hulk was the expression of the powerful, but long repressed anger that had been building in Bruce Banner since his deeply unhappy childhood, dominated by his psychologically and physically abusive father. Mantlo’s story appears to have been a strong influence on Ang Lee’s Hulk movie, which used Banner’s father as its principal villain.

There are other hints in the new movie of a psychological link between Banner and the Hulk. At the university in Virginia, it is when Banner sees Betty get hurt by a soldier that his pulse rate finally goes over the top, triggering his transformation into the Hulk. In other words, it was his anger at seeing Betty hurt that triggered his violent rage to punish those he held responsible.

Moreover, when we last see Banner in the movie, he is engaging in one of his meditation rituals to achieve inner calm. It doesn’t work, and the pupils in his eyes turn green, the signal (borrowed from the 1970s Incredible Hulk live action TV series) that he is about to transform into the Hulk. Yet Banner wears a thin, enigmatic smile in this final close-up.

Denby argued in his review that “If he [Bruce Banner] were ambivalent about the powers that lie within him—drawn to the excitement but also repelled by it—the tension for the audience might be overwhelming, because Bruce’s mixed emotions would speak to the way we’re tempted and repelled by anger, too. But the movie presents Bruce conventionally, as a man who has a strange, hateful disease that he can’t get rid of. Bruce is merely disgusted by his situation (there’s no make-my-day gleam in his eye as he approaches fury), and, afterward, he’s just exhausted and empty. If he could only describe for us the wild pleasure he feels—the allure of the forbidden struggling against morality and sense—then the movie would transcend its comic-book origins and become a kind of tragic fable of id released and regretfully tamed. But Bruce is just a decent, sorrowful guy who’s been dealt a bad hand, and, for all Norton’s skill, we lose interest in him.”

I think that this image of Banner as “decent, sorrowful guy” tormented by his condition has more emotional and psychological resonance than Denby thinks. Banner is an archetypal figure of a man living under a curse, translated into science fiction terms. The Hulk is not only a variation on Jekyll and Hyde, but also on the werewolf, or, indeed, of any human who unwillingly is transformed into a beast. The werewolf and Hyde and similar beings can serve as metaphors for anyone who finds himself struggling to survive despite burdens or afflictions that seem impossible to control or overcome.

One of the aspects of the new movie that I most admire is the way it portrays Banner as literally a homeless person, a scientist who has lost his place in society, and who repeatedly ends up in rags, forced at one point in the film to beg for money. Being the Hulk could serve as a metaphor for alcoholism or drug addiction, for crippling psychological problems, or just for twists of fortune that plunge a successful man into dire poverty. The figure of Banner represents the good within a person, striving to reclaim a normal life despite the inner or external demons represented by the Hulk.

Yet doesn’t the film’s final image of Banner suggest the “make-my-day gleam in his eye as he approaches fury” that Denby mentions. Is it a hint that the next Hulk film might show Banner begin to embrace the appeal of his inner Hulk, at least to some degree?

After the soporific Ang Lee Hulk film, Marvel Studios was understandably intent on making the new Hulk movie succeed as an action movie. But the key to Stan Lee’s Marvel revolution is characterization, and the movie’s characterization of the Hulk (as opposed to Banner) seems hollow. If the Ang Lee Hulk film was all intellect and no energy, the new Hulk movie has energy and spectacle, but insufficient intellectual substance or heart. It’s especially disappointing coming after Marvel Studios’ Iron Man movie, which so successfully combined characterization and action in what was recognizably the classic Marvel Comics tradition.

There’s also a lack of connection in the movie between Emil Blonsky, played by Tim Roth, and his gamma-irradiated alter ego, the Abomination. In Stan Lee and Gil Kane’s original storyline, Blonsky was an enemy agent, presumably working for the Soviets, posing as an American soldier. (Lee did not come up with the name Blonsky; the comic book Abomination’s real name and Yugoslav nationality were established much later.) There’s no longer a Soviet Union, so it makes sense that the moviemakers changed Blonsky into a Russian-born member if the Royal Marines (justifying Roth’s native British accent) working with the American armed forces. I rather enjoyed Roth’s portrayal of Blonsky as this feisty little man, unafraid to take in the much larger Hulk, but concerned that he is already past his physical prime and envious of the Hulk’s power. The movie does such a great build-up to the point at which Blonsky forces scientist Sam Sterns to transform him into the Abomination. But there is no clear connection on screen between Roth and the CGI Abomination that takes his place. The Abomination can talk, but does so in that ancient cliche, a voice that has been electronically altered to sound much lower and deeper. I would have preferred that the Abomination still speak with a voice recognizable as Roth’s. One of the points of the Abomination in the comics, after all is that, unlike the Hulk, Blonsky was changed only physically, not mentally by the gamma rays: he retains his normal intelligence and personality. And that leads to another important point about the Abomination: that his normal personality, obsessed with power and dominating others, proves to be more truly monstrous than that of the Hulk who, in his classic 1960s-1970s persona, prefers to leave other people alone as long as they return the favor. For that matter, couldn’t the movie Abomination’s face have retained some resemblance to Roth’s?

The movie’s Abomination is generally disappointing. I would have much preferred that the filmmakers had adapted Gil Kane’s classic design for the character, with his large, batlike ears and scaly, reptilian hide. Kane’s design is simply far more distinctive and memorable than the blander, more humanoid movie version. (Alas, I see that Marvel’s own online “Marvel Universe” entry for the Abomination now uses a picture of the movie Abomination rather than a picture of the Kane design. See here.)

I also don’t understand why Blonsky, once he turns into the Abomination, begins running amok, wreaking destruction through Harlem. The dialogue that the movie gives the Abomination shows that he retains his normal intelligence. Did the gamma treatment drive him mad? Did it increase his aggressiveness beyond control? Or did Blonsky remain sane, but simply want to flaunt his new power? But what’s the point of perpetrating all that damage? Couldn’t the movie have made the answer clearer?

Just as the Iron Man movie quietly sets up the Mandarin as the evil mastermind behind the scenes, presumably to take the spotlight in a future film, The Incredible Hulk surreptitiously introduces the Hulk’s own archenemy. Banner and Betty meet with another scientist, the afirementioned Dr. Samuel Sterns (played by Tim Blake Nelson), who has been aiding Banner via the Internet. (Banner and Sterns use the code aliases “Mr. Green” and “Mr. Blue” on the internet. Could this be a sly reference to the similar color-based code names in one of Tim Roth’s best known films, Reservoir Dogs?) Well-informed Marvel aficionados know that Sam Sterns is the real name of the Leader, who was endowed buy gamma radiation with green skin, an enormous skull and brain, and superhuman genius. If the Hulk represents ultimate brawn, then the Leader represents ultimate brain power. Through the opposition of the Hulk and the Leader, Stan Lee was making the point that the Hulk, monster though he is, is a kind of savage innocent who is morally preferable to the Leader, who turns his great intellect to attempts to dominate humankind. I prefer the Leader’s origin in the comics, with its pleasing irony: in the comics Sam Sterns was a janitor of low intellect who, through sheer accident was exposed to the gamma radiation that transformed him into an evil genius. I certainly hope that in the next Hulk film Nelson plays the Leader seriously, and not as the goofy nerd that he played in the current movie. (Yes, once again we had to suffer through the stereotype of the scientist as nerd, though, of course, Banner and the movie Betty are scientists, too, and they are portrayed respectfully.) You may notice that in the final shot of Sterns in The Incredible Hulk his head already seems to have begun transforming.

I like the movie’s references and homages to the 1970s Incredible Hulk TV series and to the Hulk’s history in the comics. Lou Ferrigno, who played the Hulk in that TV series, has an on-screen cameo as a security guard and also plays the voice of the Hulk. (It was a pleasure seeing his surprise appearance in the Hulk movie panel at this year’s New York Comic Con.) It was a nice and unexpected surprise to see a “cameo” by the late Bill Bixby, who played “David” Banner (renamed from Bruce) on the Hulk TV shows; Bixby turns up in the movie on a TV screen in a clip from another of his TV series, The Courtship of Eddie’s Father. (Next time, Marvel Studios, I want to see a clip from My Favorite Martian!) Even the name “David B.” turns up in the movie as one of Bruce’s aliases. Two young people who witness the Hulk’s battle with the military on a college campus turn out to be named Jack McGee (after the reporter on the 1970s Hulk TV series) and Jim Wilson (after the Hulk’s young African-American friend in the comic during the 1970s). I didn’t realize it while watching the movie, but Betty’s psychiatrist boyfriend in the film turns out to be named Leonard Samson, after Doc Samson, the character in the Hulk comics.

There’s a character in the new movue named Stanley, presumbly after Stan Lee, and the real Stan makes his usual Hitchcockian cameo, this time as a man who imbibes a soft drink without realizing it’s been tainted with Bruce Banner’s gamma-irradiated blood. (So does Stan turn green? The movie never tells us.) I am again disappointed that Stan doesn’t get any lines. Having seen him brilliantly perform onstage time and again at comics conventions, I find it hard to believe he wouldn’t be good in front of movie cameras. Besides, he did perfectly well with speaking roles in Ang (no relation) Lee’s Hulk, Spider-Man 3 and the Fantastic Four movies. (I even tend to think his appearances are the high points of the FF films!)

I’m impressed by how Marvel Studios continues to knit together its separate films into a cinematic Marvel Universe. Following the closing credits in the Iron Man movie, SHIELD director Nick Fury, as incarnated by Samuel L. Jackson, meets with Tony Stark, played by Robert Downey, Jr., to propose the formation of the superhero team that will become the Avengers. SHIELD turns up in The Incredible Hulk movie as well. Moreover, in the final scene of this new Hulk movie, Downey, as Stark, turns up and starts to tell General Ross about the team idea. Although the positioning of this scene at the end of the movie suggests that it was intended as a surprise, Marvel Studios showed it at their Incredible Hulk panel at the New York Comic Con. Clearly, Marvel wants the fans to realize that they are tying the continuity of the movies together. After all, the “shared universe” continuity of Marvel Comics has been one of the company’s great strengths since the early 1960s.

It’s already been announced that Marvel Studios will release an Avengers movie in 2011. In the comics the Hulk and Iron Man were both founding members of the Avengers. But in Avengers #1 in 1963, the Hulk was portrayed as considerably more intelligent than the classic 1960s version that evolved later. Just how the Hulk of these first two movies, who seems to be constantly enraged and uncontrollable unless Betty Ross is around. could function as a member of a team of superheroes is beyond me. Marvel Studios is going to have to change the movie Hulk considerably.

A big surprise was the new Hulk movie’s references to the “super-soldier serum” and even to its creator, Professor Reinstein. Blonsky is treated with the serum to boost his physical prowess before he becomes the Abomination. As many Marvel aficionados know, Reinstein and his “super-soldier serum” are elements in the origin of Captain America, who also gets a movie in 2011. I look forward to watching how mainstream movie critics react three years from now when it sinks in on them that Marvel had been subtly setting up the premise of the Captain America movie as far back as the late spring of 2008!

ADVERTISEMENTS FOR MYSELF AND OTHERS

This week (the last in June 2008), TwoMorrows Publications releases issue 18 of Danny Fingeroth’s magazine Write Now!, a special issue celebrating the writing career of Stan Lee. Among the many comics professionals who contributes appreciations of Stan’s work to this issue are Roy Thomas, Denny O’Neil, John Romita. Sr., Tom DeFalco, Joe Quesada, Louise Simonson, Jimmy Palmiotti, J. M. DeMatteis, Jim Salicrup and me! The magazine also showcases examples from Stan’s movie and television scripts from the official Stan Lee Archives at the University of Wyoming. (I confess to being impressed that a university holds an archive of Stan’s work. If only it weren’t so far away!) You can find out more about Write Now! #18 at the TwoMorrows website here.

On the occasion of my own online column’s anniversary, I’d like to draw my readers’ attention to the work of a fellow toiler in the vineyards of cyberspace. Peter B. Gillis, a former comics writer for Marvel, DC and First Comics, consistently writes brilliantly insightful essays in a wide variety of subjects, from politics to music to, yes, comics, for his blog “No Time to Explain” which deserves a far greater readership than it currently receives. Recently he has written two of his best entries for the blog. On June 16 there was “The Smartest Guy in the Room,” on June 16, which not only deals with Barack Obama’s campaign but discovers a historical pattern of differences between Democratic and Republican presidential candidates. Then. two days later, on June 18, upon completing a rereading of J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit, Peter posted “There and Back Again Again,” in which he not only demonstrates how The Hobbit served as Tolkien’s template for the entire Lord of the Rings, but also illuminates Tolkien’s unusual choice to utilize protagonists–Bilbo and Frodo–who do not succeed in their quests. Of all the websites I regularly visit, Peter Gillis’s blog is the best written and most intellectually surprising and stimulating. It serves as proof that essay writing on the Internet can have depth, seriousness, and lasting value. (Peter Gillis will also soon return to comics writing for the ComicMix website, and I will alert you when his story appears.)

-Copyright 2008 Peter Sanderson

Comments:

8 Responses to “Comics in Context #226: Half a Decade with the Hulk”

  1. Aaron Says:

    “(Banner and Sterns use the code aliases “Mr. Green” and “Mr. Blue” on the internet. Could this be a sly reference to the similar color-based code names in one of Tim Roth’s best known films, Reservoir Dogs?)”

    No, it’s actually a reference to the Hulk comic books.
    Check out Bruce Jones’ run on the series. Some good stuff.

  2. Joshua Says:

    That was quite informative. I did enjoy the new Hulk movie, even if it was kinda shallow, but I’ve heard that something like 70 minutes were cut out of the film, essentially removing a lot of the “deeper” (if you will) parts and making it into a more straight-up action film.

  3. Jim Says:

    Mr. Sanderson, just wanted to congratulate you on this column’s five-year anniversary. I always enjoy it, and it’s definitely one of my top-five must-read sites on the Web. I would be very disappointed if you stopped writing “Comics in Context.” Best of luck to you.

  4. Darrell Says:

    Just want to point out that the Hulk has two lines in the movie not just the “Hulk Smash!” line. His first line is, “Leave me alone,” said during the first time he changes from out of the shadows in a forlorn and resentful tone. The writer missed this and I feel that it changes the tone of the Hulk’s dipiction as just a threat. Also, the Hulk only did fight those who threatened him and did consciously save lives (albiet primarily Betty’s). They can certainly do more to make him sympathetic but I don’t think it was a one sided as all that.

  5. mitch Says:

    Good article sir I enjoyed that. When I watched T.I.H though I kind of felt like we were watching the evolution of the Hulk character into the layered character we are all fans of from comics. The film specifies that it had been an extended period in which the Hulk had not surfaced. I think it was something like over 150 days. The Hulk at this point is five years old and regardless of whether the hulk is of the same mind as Banner or a different individual entirely when Banner becomes the Hulk he is rebooted into a creature that only has five years of experience. Furthermore he is a five year old who continually comes out of extended comas. He is learning each time he manifests. His limitations should reduce as he gets older and will therefore hopefully allow for a maturer more complex hulk to emerge for the forthcoming Avengers franchise.

  6. Donovan Says:

    Dear Mr. Sanderson,
    I look forward to your column every week, and I’ve read most of your archive. You’ve inspired me to make a great many purchases and see quite a few movies that I wouldn’t have otherwise. Please rest assured that you do have some “fans” out here in internet land.
    -Donovan

  7. Rick B. Says:

    Please allow me to add to the comments of appreciation for your column. Your thoughtful insights have certainly deepened my appreciation for the topics you cover on a regular basis, and I would snap up a book of them very quickly. (By the way, a number of times I have tried to leave comments and have not been able to, apparently due to technical snafus with the site, so perhaps the tech folks at Quick Stop could check this. Also, don’t forget to check your older columns for comments as well from time to time… )

    I’m in agreement with your assessment of the new Hulk film, and can only hope there will be a DVD version that has the reportedly cut 15 minutes or so restored, as this was all supposed to be character-related. I appreciated the scene with the Hulk and Betty in the cave during the rainstorm, not only for the vulnerability it revealed with the Hulk’s character, but also for its faithfulness to that same scenario in Tales to Astonish (don’t have the issue in front of me now, but I’m pretty sure it was in or close to the Boomerang story and had Bill Everett art).

    Also worth noting was Banner’s comment to General Ross, when Banner was arguing that he had to become the Hulk and stop the Abomination, that Banner believed he could assert some of his own personality or intelligence during his time as the Hulk (also indicating the film saw the Hulk more as a manifestation of Banner than a basically unrelated being).

    Please keep writing -
    thanks, Rick B.

  8. Bev H. Says:

    Dear Mr. Sanderson:

    Just want to tell you how much I do enjoy your columns. I appreciate your in depth articles and have no problem with the length. When something is interesting it never seems too long.

    Congratulations on your fifth anniversary! I believe I have read all of your columns. It took some time but it was a great and fascinating time.

    Naturally, as I am a rabid Spidey fan I especially enjoyed your columns regarding my hero. I have agreed with all of your opinions regarding the recent mistakes and blunders that have been made at Marvel to do with the Spideyverse. I really wish you were still employed there as their continuity expert. I don’t believe they ever replaced you with anyone.

    As far as that goes, considering the present state of the Spideyverse, if I had my wish you would be one of my choices to replace the great destroyer Quesada as Editor in Chief. My other choices would be Jim Shooter or Jim Salicrup.

    Be that as it may, I certainly hope you continue on with your fascinating columns here as I would really miss you if you left.

    Bev

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