Hulk and Thing: a monster conversation

And a monster fight.  I wouldn’t post an article between these two behemoths without some punching involved.  Today, they get some extra therapy in a philosophical conversation between the only two people on Earth who understand what the other is going through.  Mainly being hideous monsters who just want do some good, be left in peace, and not let the self-loathing become overwhelming.  As happy as these two superheroes can eventually be, everything’s always covered in a thin layer of sadness over their unwanted transformation.  Sure, super strength’s nice, but being a Frankenstein-esque/rock creature isn’t.  In Fantastic Four #533-535, written by J. Michael Straczynski and drawn by Mike McKone, our two protagonists bond just a little bit more — in between the fistfight anyway.

Oh, also the government is trying to take away the Fantastic Four’s kids, but I’m ignoring that part.

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Rampaging, out-of-control Hulk lists among the top five worst possible disasters in the Marvel universe (number one is Norman Osborn’s hair — cue rimshot).  Bullets bounce off Hulk, he only gets stronger the longer he fights, and the Hulk could level entire military bases with one good jump.  So time to knock some orange rocky sense into the green monster.

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I don’t know why this Hulk’s grey.  He can talk too.  The color and intelligence level of the Hulk varies practically every other issue.  For now, the gamma bomb explosion made him grey and smart.  I do apologize, because the fight lasts a good issue and a half, but I’m going to skip most of that too.  I’m not a total jerk: here’s a small taste.

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Ben Grimm brings up our theme today: monsters.  No matter how good the intentions, no matter how noble the actions, the Thing and Hulk will always leave some sort of destructive mess in their path. That’s just part of the price of being super strong brawlers.  But as the gamma bomb makes the Hulk hallucinate green thoughts, we get a deep look at the inner pain our poor Hulk goes through.

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Brilliant writing.  Of all the people in the universe that the Hulk hates, of course he hates himself the most.  Can any superhero compete with the Hulk in sheer number of accidental civilian deaths?  With the Thing, we all agree that he’s making the best of a terrible situation, but with the Hulk, a genuine question needs to be asked: has the Hulk been a force of more good or bad in his life?  Not the genius scientist Bruce Banner, I’m talking about the Hulk.  That green rage monster that wipes out towns whenever someone bullies meek Banner in a diner.  The Avengers nowadays mostly just point Hulk in the right direction, using him as a weapon to toss at tough opponents rather than a valued ally and component of the team.  I mean, I’m generalizing here, but it’s an interesting question to ponder.

One question we do know the answer to though?  Nothing can kill the Hulk.  Part of the Hulk’s pain and major appeal is the doomed-to-walk-the-Earth-forever thingie because of his almost-invulnerability. Yet I admire those who try anyway.

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The day I stop reading comics is the day I’m no longer delighted by a giant full-page fire blast.  Spoiler alert: never.  Y’see, today the Hulk learns acceptance.  And that’s something the Thing learned a long time ago.  One can’t walk around for a decade as the Thing without understanding how to live daily life as an ugly, dangerous, clumsy, frightening, frustrated rock monster.  The Hulk can’t die and the Thing can’t be cured.  They simply learn how to adapt.  When they’re not saving the world.

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I guess the article title’s misleading, as their conversation only takes place in the last three pages of the arc.  It’s still important, so read it twice.  I had trouble getting the nuances of it the first time around.

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On an interesting note, this issue was published the exact same month Planet Hulk started (the whole shoot Hulk into space to be someone else’s problem solution).  It’s a fun little meta joke.  On Friday, we return to Cosmic Marvel once more for a Nova versus Nova fight!

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4 Comments on “Hulk and Thing: a monster conversation”

  1. roflstomper says:

    ok not to criticize too harshly but you know dick all about hulk comics, If you think he is just a mindless rage monster that the leaders of the MULTIPLE teams he is on just point in the right direction like a big angry gamma cannon. then you’re wrong he is one of the most complex and heart wrenching characters in marvel and his best moments were man trapped in the body of a monster not jolly green giant on steroids has a rage episode . it would be nice if you could show more of the hulk and what he deals with rather then generalizing him the way you did im a huge fan and as a fan its insulting to the character and also i expected better considering ima huge fan of yours as well probably my least favorite article youve done for the record this is just my opinion hope to see more of your stuff soon

    • Jason Levine says:

      My friend, I love the Hulk. And yes, you’re right, I do generalize — I’m not afraid to admit that I’ll focus on certain aspects of a character while ignoring other aspects to make my point. And yes, you’re also right, Hulk is absolutely 100% one of the most complex and heart-wrenching characters in Marvel — especially the eternal battle between Bruce Banner and the Hulk. But I refuse to back down from what I said. The Hulk has been in thousands of comics for over 50 years. For every story where he’s the capable leader of a super team, there’s another story where he’s a mindless rage monster wrecking innocent towns, and then another story where he’s a bouncer in Las Vegas called Joe Fixit. Comics and their characters evolve and devolve and change and return to the status quo almost every other year or so. Remember what has happened in Hulk comics just in the past three years?
      1) Hulk and Banner separate
      2) Hulk kills Banner
      3) Hulk and Banner reunite
      4) Banner and Hulk work for SHIELD
      5) Banner gets shot, becomes mentally-challenged
      6) Banner gets Iron Man’s Extremis and regains his intelligence
      7) The Hulk becomes as smart as Bruce Banner, now calling himself Doctor Green
      That’s the nature of comics. For everything I say and for every opinion I make, another issue somewhere will debunk it. It’s impossible not to have that with fifty years of storytelling. But c’mon, I know dick all about Hulk comics? Anyway, I like you, I’m a huge fan of yours too, I very much appreciate you reading my blog, and I promise to start delving into some Hulk comics to see if I can find something deeper.

  2. Nick says:

    Jason,
    don’t let the haters get you down, roflstomper if you don’t have anything good to write, don’t bloody write it! You make some valid points concerning the Hulk but to say Jason doesn’t get comics, that’s just wrong mate.
    A great article, keep up the good work.

    Nick

  3. Pretty sure that the Avengers DO use the Hulk as a guided missile. I can think of a handful of times in that last big Avengers Vs Thanos event alone.

    The Hulk IS a complex character, and that is one of his biggest problems. They do so many over the top and insane status changes to his book/character that it makes it hard to take him seriously. And every now and then, the writers seem to forget that some of the changes they have made have already been done. We’ve seen the Hulk with Banner style brains before (although one “might” count as Banner with Hulk’s body) Yet that nugget keeps getting pulled out and served to us again. My favourite is the “I’m always angry/there is no seperation between Hulk and Banner” ploy, the one that says that they are not separate, but the same entity.

    I love Marvel, and the Hulk is one of the 4 greatest and most recognizable comic book characters of all time, but he suffers from the same problem as Daredevil and Dr.Strange: It takes a very good writer to make a good Hulk story. The character IS complex, and like in the samples above, it takes nuance to really show that. Many writers can’t quite “get” that, so they either just parrot what has been done before, or fall back on cliches. That is the second biggest problem with Hulk, he is over simplified to Big Dumb Hulk Smashes.

    A perfect example of this is Jeph Loeb: Planet Hulk and World War Hulk brought a lot of the character’s complexities to the surface, and in the climax of that saga, Hulk went through not just a lot of shattered streets and battered heroes, but had to come to an emotional and character defining moment. Then Loeb gets his hands on the book and they lock the Hulk up and focus on the silly non-mystery of Red Hulk. When we see ol’ Green Skin again, all that build up from the two previous arcs is gone, and all we are left with is Hulk Smash again… then came Son of Hulk but that is another matter 🙂


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