Thursday, January 28, 2016

How Bruce Banner Lost My Sympathy

I have been a fan of the character of The Incredible Hulk for a long time, all the way back to my very first comic book. I've always enjoyed reading about the character in the variety of incarnations he's had, but mostly when Bruce Banner could not control the green Hulk from bursting forth to deal a metric ton of whoop-ass on the villain of the month. I always felt for Banner, since I also struggle with rage issues. (On a side note, I do not now, nor have I ever, owned a pair of purple pants.)

However, as part of my current reading project, I was able to read the first 6 issues of "The Incredible Hulk" and then follow him into "Tales to Astonish". Now, I realize that Stan and Jack didn't know where the character was going, or just what to make of him, after their initial idea, but those first issues still have made me lose what sympathy I had for Dr. Banner. You see, Banner comes up with a way to control his change into The Hulk in Issue #4.

Yes, I said that he came up with a way to control his transformations in the FOURTH ISSUE. Of course, now that he never has to turn into The Hulk again, he works up a way to control the beam with his toes and change back and forth. (Ironically, this machine was used in The Incredible Hulk #267, so I already knew that it existed.) He then proceeds to use this to change between The Hulk and Banner, until Stan came up with the idea that stress would now trigger the change.

What this does, retroactively for me, is remove all of the pathos that came from these transformations. We go from having a man selflessly saving a teen-ager and exposing himself to his own gamma bomb, cursing him into becoming a monster, to a man who has purposely changed himself into a monster numerous times and now can't control it any more. Just a bit of a switch in how I perceive the character. It's not that I don't enjoy reading those stories any more, but now every time Bruce complains about his condition, I can't feel bad for him.

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