Bruce Banner. A mild mannered scientist, hiding deeply rooted secrets of familial violence and aggression. He is the very definition of someone who is deeply repressed. Then there is the Hulk. An engine of green destruction. A massive enigma of gamma radiated danger. Unbound by the laws of man.
There comes a point of contention for the character. A duality that beckons eXplanation. His natural state of being is not somewhere at the right or left of his forms. But Instead in the middle.
Western society through its modern day mythology of heroes and gods teaches us about the concept of repression without the pulpit and without the ridicule of shoving its contents down our throats. The mark of well to do storytelling? Perhaps.
Hulk’s destructive capabilities withstanding, the character is known as a sort of modern day Jekyl & Hyde. The good the character can do is almost always outdone or outweighed by the destruction he’s wrought in the past, or the assured promise that he will do so again.
But what is it that makes Bruce the Hulk. Or vice versa Hulk Bruce?
Repression. The things human beings hide deep within themselves. The day to day stresses. An unpaid school loan. A looming mortgage. Seemingly small things yes? But what about the absence of concepts to help combat these stresses? Bruce is not a martial artist. As far as anyone knows he never had access to the sort of activities that would have helped his brain to develop in such a manner where cognition could have taken precedence. But why?
In the eighties Marvel took a darker route with its stories. The Hulk in particular took a dive into Banner’s past where it was revealed that he came from an abusive past and household. The trauma of an abusive parent is nothing to scoff at. Especially when these abuses occur in the formative years of a child’s cognitive development.
Banner is a hoarder of negative emotion. Much like hoarders in real life these are the kinds of people who may not be able to reconcile their pasts. Who would rather shove the things that harm them into a corner, rather than deal with them constructively.
Though this may be a medium for young adults, often times comic books do not hold back in the content they portray to young minds. Abuse of any kind can be a strong subject matter. Especially in a child’s world. It implicates several other topics of commonality such as: spousal, physical, emotional, etc etc. The trauma experienced by these kinds of behavior are exactly what make a character like Bruce Banner and subsequently his anger translator the Hulk into a viable medium for progressive storytelling.
But there is hope. The Hulk for all his rage is a character who is not defined by his paSt. Not entirely. The Hulk when left to his own devices can be among Earth’s mightiest heroes. He is also almost never been defeated in combat because of that which fuels his strength, his rage.
Traditionally it has been under extreme pressure that Bruce Banner keeps the Hulk bottled up. Either through meditation, or some device or amount of tranquilizing Bruce is the gate keeper that keeps what is perceived as a menace to society at bay. Perhaps were it not for the comics code the readership might’ve seen him use something stronger than a sedative to keep the monster at bay. But why do we even define him as a monster?
The hulk is an idea. Uncontrollable, undeniably a force of nature. It isn’t defined by logic or by concepts of good vs evil. It simply is. So if applied properly through Banner’s intellect, its strength could be an equalizer in all things relative to life on earth and beyond. The very fact that his strength is viewed as a threat to earth is something that cannot be denied from a critical point of view.
One of the major pro: earth without a green behemoth coalitions were none other than the illuminati, which just like its namesake contained the combined might of earth’s super powered intellects wrapped into a collective. The short and skinny behind their operation is that they had contingencies for Bruce Banner if he ever Hulked out completely.
Earlier on it was proposed that Banner would be sequestered and blasted off into space.
Banner came back pretty pissed and waged a war against the ones who wronged him.
What does this tell us about the Hulk?
Perhaps it means that even amongst his peers he is without equal in strength. True. That could never be denied. Perhaps it is the simple understanding that he is very much in a league of his own. So much in fact that people considered to be his contemporaries are most often than not operating in loss when dealing against the hulk.
It could be argued that the Hulk’s otherness is a direct contradiction to the status quo of human life. Even further down the line of discourses available we could say that he is a catalyzer for contention in race, gender, the American Dream and a number of other motifs that align with him.
Positing that the Hulk and Banner are one and the same person let us consider for a moment the notion of race in his books. He is obviously a caucasian male and as it stands most if not all of his books even the team centric ones have never featured stories regarding people of color. But if one were to look further into the integration of the gamma radiated creature living inside Banner, perhaps it can be viewed as a direct correlation to race as a discourse.
Bruce turns into a giant green creature with enormous strength and who is prone to bouts of extreme rage. This, while not quite so obvious, it wouldn’t be a stretch to put up a view of the modern person of color or man if you will. It is unspoken and common in knowledge that many of the stereotypes applied to the Incredible Hulk. The good ones and the bad could very well be used as proxy for people of color primarily in the realm of: Afro-Latino and gender studies.
Banner is nothing if not a proxy for the losing side of the status quo of the American Dream. A monster shamed for his appearance and innate power by people who do not understand him.