Dedicated to the definitive superhero non-team.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

For He's a Jolly Green Fellow

The plight of Dr. Bruce Banner continues on the big screen in June, when The Incredible Hulk film hits theaters. The trailer depicts Banner as a political fugitive struggling to control his anger-induced transformations.

But the green goliath has known better days.

Twenty-five years ago, Bruce Banner seemed to achieve the impossible by maintaining his intellect when becoming the Hulk.

The world took notice, and Hulk (with Banner's mind) received a full presidential pardon for his previous acts of destruction (The Incredible Hulk #278). Afterward, he got a key to New York City and a parade in his honor. Heroes from across the globe gathered for the commemoration (#279).

Yet when Iron Man recalled how the once-menacing Hulk had been a founding member of the Avengers, two heroes in the audience responded with chagrin.

Hellcat: Hey, Doc—You gonna let the Avengers claim the Hulk as one of their own? The green guy's a Defender now!
Dr. Strange: I am no longer sure, Hellcat. The old Hulk was a member of our non-team. The new Hulk may not so readily fit in.
These reactions made sense. Hulk left the Avengers after only a few issues but fought regularly alongside the Defenders throughout most of the original series, even with his lowered intelligence and tendency toward rage. One of the Defenders' ongoing accomplishments was keeping Hulk calm so he wouldn't smash everything to pieces.

During Hulk's amnesty, long-time love interest Betty Ross felt remorse in a different way. After sticking by Banner for years as he struggled to cure his uncontrollable alterations, she didn't like the idea of a man who now wanted to become the Hulk, even with his brain intact.

Bringing Hulk and Banner together, even temporarily, brought challenging questions to the table. Was turning into the Hulk, under any circumstances, a type of affliction? Was Hulk's mind a mere side effect of gamma-radiation poisoning, a repressed aspect of Banner's core personality, or a new person in his own right?
The Incredible Hulk. Vol. 1. No. 278. December 1982. "Amnesty!" Bill Mantlo (writer), Sal Buscema and Joe Sinnott (artists) , Jim Novak (letters), Bob Sharen (colors), Allen Milgrom (editor), Jim Shooter (editor-in-chief).
The Incredible Hulk. Vol. 1. No. 279. January 1983. "Acceptance." Bill Mantlo (author), Mark Gruenwald and Greg LaRocque (artists), Janice Chiang (letters), Bob Sharen (colors), Allen Milgrom (editor), Jim Shooter (editor-in-chief).

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