Sunday, June 15, 2008

Like so many of comics' most enduring icons, it was the influence of other popular characters in fiction that defined the early existence of the Hulk. Stan Lee recounts one of his many triumphs in a golden run as little more than the notion of bringing together the mild manner alter-ego of Mr. Hyde, with the lumbering behemoth of Frankenstein's Monster.

In the decades that have followed Hulk's 1962 debut, writers have developed the character far further. Some transformations have manifested in literal changes, while others depend on the inner turmoil that makes Hulk one of the most psychologically dramatic characters in comics.

Beneath the rage of this green-eyed monster is a commentary on the human condition and the ever-relatable condition of anger and a desire for control. Out of this simmering frustration comes further themes, such as the stifling insolence of General Thunderbolt Ross and his omnipresent military. As an anti-authority figure; Hulk's rages have made him a cultural phenomenon and a hero for underdogs everywhere!
The following collection of battles represent just a few of Hulk's clashes with authoritarian influences, ranging from the downright evil, to the misguided, to righteous.

Marvel versus DC #3 (April 1996)
"The Showdown of the Century!" Marz/Castellini

It's the battle that continues to be one of the most contest in comics history. Though not their first encounter, this throwdown between the incredible Hulk and DC's Man of Steel, Superman, was to be the definitive encounter as determined by the people!

Whether you agree, or not, the events described in Marvel versus DC represent one of the most auspicious fanboy occasions in comics. The result came down to the moral majority - us, the fans - who decided by ballot who would emerge superior in this eagerly anticipated showdown of superhero superpowers.

They are among the strongest in their respective universes, but is the oft misperceived potential of the Hulk's strength enough to get him across the line? Flash back to 1996 to find out, true believers!

Iron Man #2 (December 1996)
"Hulk Smash!" Lobdell/Lee/Portacio

In 2008 they entered the history books as two of Marvel's biggest box office successes! With Robert Downey Jr making a much publicized cameo in Incredible Hulk; (opposite William Hurt's General Ross); the age-old rivalry between these heroes of science may yet be set to cross over to the big screen!

As two of Marvel's biggest icons a Hulk/Iron Man film represents not only a massive potential for computer generated fight sequences, but also a step toward the fanboy dream of translating our cohesive universe - in tact - to the feature film arena!

Iron Man and the Hulk's clashes date back to the sixties, and while this 1996 meeting in a parallel universe might not be the most famous of their battles, it is a worthy addition to three decades of feuding!

Incredible Hulk #449 (January 1997)
David/Deodato Jr

Since this, their first appearance in 1997; the Thunderbolts have come a very long way. The team, once comprised of villains assembled by the disguised Baron Zemo, was to infiltrate the trusts of the public in an era where Earth's greatest heroes had been secretly transported to a pocket reality. While that connection of villains serving good may have been maintained in a team now overseen by Norman Osborn, and led by Moonstone, they are far from the team seen here.

A brief entry into Hulk's pantheon of arch-nemesis', the Thunderbolts register not only their first appearance, but also the position the Hulk occupies within the Marvel universe. While readers may champion the Hulk as a hero of worthy heart, as shown by the Thunderbolts' attempt to earn the goodwill of the public, the potential for Hulk to lose control means he is a hero who can never be trusted. How ironic.

Avengers #4 (February 1997)
"That Which Gods Have Joined Together..." Liefeld/Loeb/Yaep/Churchill

Returning to the pocket realm of the Heroes Reborn universe; the mindless Hulk engages the Avengers in a clash that leaves Hawkeye wounded, and the Swordsman (Wade Wilson!) without the use of his hands! Not a great scenario for a guy who relies on swords!

Like the individual struggles the Hulk has entertained [with Iron Man]; the Hulk's association with the all-star teaming of the Avengers is one decades old. An unpredictable presence holding membership with the team; the Hulk has come to the rescue of Earth's mightiest heroes as often as he has bewitched them!

Once again; this clash reminds us that recent events (re: the Illuminati) are not at all without their merits as the Hulk rampages across the Marvel Universe, ever a wildcard!

Hulk (June 2003)

It's a subject that seems destined to inspire controversy!
Ang Lee's feature adaptation, Hulk, was to be one of Marvel's great triumphs, boasting the first of their films to be directed by an (eventual) Oscar winner and well respected artist cum filmmaker!

What resulted was a script layered across the many traditions of the Hulk, calling upon not only the action-packed battles with the military, but also the emotional centre of Banner's relationship with Betty Ross, daughter of his arch-rival, and the psycho-drama of his internal struggle.

For some reason fans had decidedly different illusions of what a Hulk film should be, leaving Ang Lee's experimental masterpiece in infamy. I personally regard it as something of a triumph for the Hulk franchise, even with it's many problems concerning stylized editing techniques, and bloated backstory.

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