Thursday, May 10, 2012

Discuss: The Hulk -Smart, Dumb, or Just Plain Surly?


Karen: Talk about your favorite version of the Hulk. Is it the smart Hulk, who had Banner's intellect, the dumb, childlike Hulk, or the average intelligence, but just plain mean Hulk? Or something else?


dbutler16 said...

I've never been much of a Hulk fan, but anyway...I can't stand the dumb Hulk. While there is a certain visceral appeal to that whole bit about 'the angrier he gets, the stronger he gets' and there are time I wish I could "go Hulk" all in all, I find almost no interest in that sort of character. Smart Hulk is certainly cool as I love super-geniuses, and I also liked the Mr. Fixit incarnation, I think my favorite Hulk is the surly guy we see on the Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes animated show currently on TV. Of course, a character like that works well in a group dynamic where he has others to play off of. It might not be as appealing in a solo mag, but than I was never a regular reader of Hulk's solo mag - I'd but it if the cover looked interesting.

dbutler16 said...

I should have added, I'm so used to the dumb Hulk from the 70's, it's always a bit of a shock to me when I read something from the early 60's such as the Hulk's brief run in the Avengers, and he's actually somewhat well spoken. Many of us of a certain age forget that he didn't start as a dumb brute. Still, I'll take the EMH animated Hulk as my preferred choice.

david_b said...

Like dbutler, was never a big Hulk reader. Love him in the new movie, and quite frankly, in the animated 60s cartoon (from old TTA stories..).

Also, like dbutler he does work better for me in a team like Defenders, where he's not just a presence where the action tends to happen around (which is fine in some stories..), but an actual, if often unwilling, protagonist. His demeanor, like Namor's, exemplify's the Defenders's initial stance, sort of a honorable "willing to assist 'this time', but don't push it."

As I've mentioned before, his bouts with ol' Benjy Grimm are priceless, occasionally delving into funny Martin-Lewis bits, like MF# 11 (my favorite Thing-Hulk team-up) or Starlin/Wrightson's 'Big Change'..

Thor-Hulk bouts are nearly as fun, either in Defenders 10 or Hulk 255 (both Sal B. drawn..) or let's step back in the wayback machine to Journey into Mystery ish 112

Inkstained Wretch said...

Let me second, dbutler. I was never the biggest fan of the Bronze Age Hulk because his dumbness made him both hard to relate to and made it hard for writers to create good stories featuring him. The comics always seemed too contrived to me.

My favorite Hulk stories from this period were the Defenders tales because having him in a team with Dr. Strange and the rest put him in a workable context story-wise.

My favorite Hulk is, again like dbutler, the current cartoon version. He is essentially the Avenger's Wolverine: the resident loose cannon/badass. The scene in the recent episode where he trash talked the Executioner while cracking his knuckles was awesome.

J.A. Morris said...

I'll always have a special place in my heart for "Smart Hulk" since I was reading the title on a semi-regular basis when it happened. Bill Mantlo nearly made me cry when he turned the Hulk more savage than ever in issue #300.

I read a lot of "Dumb Hulk" (aka "Savage Hulk") back issues because I liked Hulk's villains of the era,like Abomination, Rhino, Bi-Beast,Zzzax,Wendigo. I also enjoyed Hulk's interactions with his friend Jim Wilson during the Bronze Age.
I agree that Dumb Hulk worked best in the Defenders. I still crack up at Hulk referring to Doctor Strange as "dumb magician".

But I'm with dbutler16, I love the Hulk on the animated Avengers series. Surly, but great to have on your side in battle.

I never read any of the "Mr. Fixit" stories other than guest appearances in other titles. I figured I'd read it when it came out as a tpb, I'll get around to that one of these days.
Since we're talking Hulk, can we clear something up? The catch phrase is remembered as "Hulk smash!", but I remember it as "Hulk will smash!". I know, minor point, but I figure this blog was as good a place as any to bring it up.

humanbelly said...

I'm going to go against the current prevailing opinion, here. Although "dumb" is an easy enough short-hand description for ol' Greenskin from the late Tales to Astonish run up through, oh, about issue #285 or so. . . it doesn't exactly sum up the character at all, when written well. Childlike and simple are much more appropriate, but with the obvious courage, grit, perserverance and determination (generally fueled by anger, mind you) of a much more mature individual. But the child-like view of a duplicitous world; the perpetual wounding from being betrayed again & again; an unyielding desire to "just be left alone" and find peace contrasted with a heart-breaking perpetual lonliness; an infallibly soft heart when it came to protecting "girls" and innocents; the unconscious search for a place where he could truly belong; and an astonishing hypersensitivity to being called a "monster" (the number of times that one word has sent an otherwise-stable situation down the tubes is ridiculous-- geeze, just have the courtesy not to call the guy very hurtful names to his face, and maybe you'll discover a powerful, loyal, trusting friend. . .)-- all of these elements made for a much more compelling and UNIQUE character in comics than him just being another strong, tough guy with a chip on his shoulder and a bad attitude. Or a super-scientist with the strength to back it up. Or completely mindless, truly savage engine of destruction.

That Hulk that I liked the most was believable when he talked to himself out loud, because that was clearly the best way for him to work through his thoughts. And this Hulk was capable of learning and developing over the years, which was quite gratifying. Honestly, the Hulk we see in Earth's Mightiest Heroes isn't too far a cry from what I could see the child-like Hulk growing into over time. Innocence falls a bit to the wayside, replaced by a bit of a sullen teenager with an understated sense of humor.

Ah, but I must get back to work-- could rattle on far too long. .


Edo Bosnar said...

The so-called "dumb" Hulk was my first exposure to the character in the '70s, so it's always my default position for the character, even though I did eventually read quite a bit of the earlier Silver Age material - including his surly phases. As noted above, he was key to the Defenders in his "dumb" incarnation, and I really enjoyed Mantlo's long tenure with the Hulk, who wrote him well as both "dumb" and smart.

J.A. Morris said...

humanbelly wrote:

"geeze, just have the courtesy not to call the guy very hurtful names to his face, and maybe you'll discover a powerful, loyal, trusting friend. . ."

I think hb brilliantly sums up why some of us enjoyed the 70s Hulk stories & why Hulk worked so well in the Defenders, Strange,Valkyrie, Nighthawk,Hellcat,etc. treated him with respect.

Speaking of Hulk, here's a nice new interview with Sal Buscema(Patron Saint of the Bronze Age!), he talks a bit about the many years he penciled Hulk:

William said...

The way I like to see Hulk portrayed was best illustrated in the one shot comic Avengers 1.5 (by Roger Stern and Bruce Timm). His personality was somewhat Wolverine-like. Whereas he was basically just a tough guy with a bad attitude. He wasn't a genius, but he wasn't child-like either.

humanbelly said...

As an addendum, let me assure one and all that I still enjoyed some of Greenskin's other incarnations-- but they just never endeared themselves to me as thoroughly. The "Professor" Hulk was of course a product of decades-long wish-fulfillment, and it was absolutely worth exploring. That period was a better read upon returning to it (with The Pantheon and all that) than it was when it originally came out.

And Joe Fixit was a hoot! The best, most entertaining depiction of him, though, was in (of all places) the 2005 HULK: ULTIMATE DESTRUCTION game. He was an unlockable personna voiced by one Michael Donovan-- and the gentleman absolutely nails the character. A relentless, trash-talking, motor-mouth wiseguy in a really fancy monkey-suit, who gleefully wades into whatever challenge or boss awaits. It's not often that a game characterization could perhaps outshine its source material-- but this one stakes out that territory.


Lemnoc said...

Was never a fan of the dumb brute Hulk, mostly because of the whole "hunted victim" thing that was going on simultaneously. "Why puppy not like Hulk. Hulk like puppy. Why water from sky always fall on Hulk?"

Remember: Anger is his weapon. Bad mood is his resting state.

I always liked the Hulk more thuggish, as more of a in your face kind of @sskicker. Like he was in his earliest Avenger appearances, and in his Mr. Fix-It incarnation (which I think got his essential surliness just right). I remember in that arc, when he just brought it to Absorbing Man, hit him so hard he shattered the guy's head, was pitch perfect. Loved it.

dbutler16 said...

I also agree with Lemnoc's comments.
Also, William, I think that the Hulk from Avengers 1.5 is very similar to the Hulk from the current Avengers cartoon, so if you haven't checked that out, you should!

J.A. Morris said...

Speaking of Hulk from the Avengers cartoon, here's some sad news:

Looks like the Avengers toon has been cancelled:

The url contains a link to a FB page set up to save the series, but those campaigns tend to fail.

dbutler16 said...

J.A. Morris, you've just ruined my day! :-( I'll click the FB link to try and save the show, but like you say, it's probably doomed.

Lemnoc said...

Hulk not pout. Pout for other guy. Hulk smash!

Inkstained Wretch said...

The Avengers canceled? Awww, crap. This time you've gone too far, Dr. Doom!

William said...

dbutler 16, I of course watch the Avengers. I even own the first season on DVD. And I do indeed very much like the Hulk as he appears on the show.

If they are going to cancel the Avengers toon, I'm glad they at least plan to complete the current season. I would love it to continue on after this season though, as I think it's the best Marvel animated series ever. It's on par with Batman TAS, and Justice League, IMO.

Karen said...

It would be a real shame if they dumped this Avengers cartoon. It's been consistently entertaining and true to the spirit of the comics. I also like the version of the Hulk here. I got a big laugh out of last week's Korvac episode when Iron Man is pondering something and Hulk blurts out that what he's looking at is cosmic radiation. Surprised not only me but Iron Man as well!

Hulk is a series I loved as a kid, but haven't returned to much as an adult. I think I need to make more effort. Part of it is the "childlike" Hulk can be hard to take at times. But more than that, the Trimpe art is not really to my liking (except when John Severin inked him).

Fred W. Hill said...

Seems I stopped collecting the Hulk (and nearly every other comic) near the tailend of Mantlo's run, apparently just before the series started getting really interesting. I missed all of Peter David's run, including the Mr. Fixit phase. Judging by the first 5 issues of the Hulk by Lee & Kirby, they hadn't really figured out what to do with him yet. Seems it was Ditko's idea to base the transformation on his mood and I'll suppose Lee decided the 2nd series would do better if the Hulk had a more childlike personality, albeit one prone to severe tantrums, than a wiser, more willfully savage one. The former suited the '60s & '70s, but since the mid-80s, the latter better fit what the fans responded to. I enjoyed the dumb Hulk enough to buy the series regularly for over 10 years, but I can also see the appeal of a wiser Hulk. I also really enjoyed Hulk's tenure in the Defenders, particularly as written by Englehart & Gerber. Usually the worst aspect of the Hulk was the handling of his alter ego, Bruce Banner, who too often came off as whiny (well, yes, he has a serious problem, but ....)and emotionally stunted. Roy Thomas' late Silver Age (or early Bronze Age) story where Doc Samson cures him of his Hulkiness and then Banner has a jealous fit after seeing Samson & Betty appearing to get too friendly and so reverses his cure, just put me in awe at Banner's idiocy! At least later writers dealt with Banner's pre-Hulk psychological problems in greater depth. Banner's depiction in the Avengers film, however, was one of the highlights of that great flick. Admittedly, his rather stoic acceptance of his situation and ability to control his emotions seems better suited to sporadic appearances than a monthly mag that requires Banner to regularly lose control, turn green and start smashing things.

humanbelly said...

Re: Cancelling EMH. Sadly, this actually isn't a new development. We've discussed it a couple of times over on the Avengers Assemble boards. The second season finished production, gosh, back in late 2010, I believe? And got shelved forever. . . obviously waiting for the movie's boost. At that point, the creative team left the project for good. The interviews I remember made it VERY clear that there was no interest in continuing that version of EMH. I had the impression that (due largely to lame time-slots and program-pairing) the first season never lived up to the ratings punch that they had counted on, so they pulled the plug WAY early. This highly popular second season, therefore, is in fact kind of an extremely noisy, visible ghost.

(There are plenty of details I don't have, though. Quite willing to be enlightened. . . )


Anonymous said...

Well I'm a Hulk purist so I prefer the savage Hulk persona. Why? Well when Stan Lee created him way back in the 60s he was supposed to be a superhero who was also a monster, emphasis on MONSTER . Stan really incorporated elements of both Frankenstein and Dr Jekyll/Mr Hyde in the creation of the Hulk. I believe he wanted Hulk to be a superhero, yes, but also one who was hunted, misunderstood, feared and alienated; a superhero unlike previous ones before him who led seemingly perfect lives and were always in control of themselves like Batman or Superman.

The Hulk was always supposed to represent the darker side of humanity. Sure, he could defend the earth against the Abomination, but he might also destroy half of New York in the process!

Also, being so associated with rage meant that the Hulk always worked best as a bestial being, where anger was dominant over intellect.

Of course, I was also a fan of the Bill Bixby/Lou Ferrigno Hulk TV series which also showcased how effective the savage/childlike Hulk persona was.

I've never warmed up to the smart or surly versions of the Hulk because they never seemed to be the 'real' Hulk, if you know what I mean. Sure, talented writers can come up with some interesting scenarios if they explore the smart Hulk/Surly Hulk personas but the true Hulk to me will always be the savage Hulk!

PS Loved the Avengers movie! Bring on Thanos! HULK SMASH !!!!!

- Michael from Trinidad.

Fantastic Four Fan 4ever said...

I liked the very early first issue version of the Hulk. He didn't refer to himself in the third person. He was self aware and aware in the back of his mind that he was Bruce Banner. The whole "Hulk Smash" mindset was an easy way to write a Hulk script when approaching a deadline. I do like Peter David's and John Bryne's versions. The issues where he had the mind of Banner or was aware of his alter ego; made for better stories. I very much liked the Herb Trimpe era of art but writing wise, I wish there was less "Hulk Smash" and better dialogue. The sarcastic Hulk from very early on would be the way to go. The one in the Avengers was good because he was more self aware and smarter than his other movie versions. I did like the Ed Norton version. However I did like the new guy portraying him even more. He seemed to be better written. Correct me if I am wrong but doesn't he look a bit like Vincent D'Onofrio from Law and Order:Criminal Intent?

Rip Jagger said...

I grew up with the naive Hulk, the child-in-a-brute's-body Hulk. But despite that I've rather liked the other versions, especially the surly ones.

Nowadays I've lost track, but Hulk seems to have become Hulk-de jour depending on who wants to write it.

Rip Off

Edo Bosnar said...

Sorry to sort of derail this thread, but I have to thank J.A. for that link to the Sal Buscema interview. Great guy, and a class act. It's just too bad he's not doing any penciling any more, but heck, the guy's almost 80 and it's awesome that he's doing any work at all.

Also, a bit of sad news: the great Tony De Zuniga has passed away...

Lee Winters said...

I loved peter david and todd macfarlane ' s gray hulk . He was so dark , so monstrous. He was very intelligent. I think this incarnation would be great in a hulk movie. A hulk who's motivations are completely different from banners. A creature of dread.

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