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The Incredible Hulk
COMIC BOOK SUPERHERO, created by Stan LEE and Jack KIRBY in 1962.  Although it was a burst a gamma-ray radiation that first transformed Bruce Banner (later Robert Bruce Banner, then David Bruce Banner) into the green-skinned, brutish behemoth known as the Incredible Hulk, the figure had clear affinities to earlier SHAPE-CHANGING figures from FOLKLORE like the WEREWOLF, and an obvious ancestor in Robert Louis Stevenson's JEKYLL AND HYDE. Yet the Hulk was also a novel creation.  Unlike his predecessors, he was not evil, but merely childish, and while capable of outbursts of blind anger and destructive rampages, he could also be calmed down, reasoned with, and persuaded to perform heroic or altruistic deeds.  In this way, the Hulk was peculiarly modern: while the Victorians, fascinated by Charles Darwin's theory of EVOLUTION, feared that a primeval MONSTER might be lurking beneath the veneer of civilized humanity, contemporary people, educated by generations of psychobabble, know that there lies within the human soul only an Inner Child.

Still, a child with the superhuman strength of the Hulk could be menacing indeed (like film versions of the FRANKENSTEIN MONSTER, whom the Hulk physically resembles, and whom Lee has acknowledged as another influence on his creation), and he certainly made for a singular presence in the comic books of the 1960s, as he was just as likely to fight against other super-heroes as to oppose villains.  At times, his stupidity could be employed to SATIRIC effect, as in the memorable story guest-starring Tom Wolfe where he unleashed his fury against a "radical chic" party given to raise money for him when he does not understand the value of the little green pieces of paper he is offered.  More often, the Hulk seemed simply an excuse for pages and pages of nonstop mayhem, since he never paused to figure out what was going on or to engage in boring conversation.

However, the television movies (The Incredible Hulk [1977]; Return of the Incredible Hulk [1977]; Bride of the Incredible Hulk [1978]; The Incredible Hulk Returns [1988]; Trial of the Incredible Hulk [1989]; Death of the Incredible Hulk [1990]) and series (1978-1981) starring Bill Bixby served to sharpen and clarify his character: while the comic-book Hulk might endure in that form for several weeks and emerged unpredictably, the television Hulk's appearances were always brief and always came in response to a specific situation: whenever Banner became angry. Once, for example, when Banner was enraged by an obstinate telephone operator, he turned into the Hulk and smashed the phone booth, providing a satisfying image of what someone at that moment might well wish to do.  Thus, the Hulk became, arguably like Mr. Hyde, an embodiment of all the primitive emotions that modern humans are obliged to suppress for the sake of maintaining civilized society—a pop-culture illustration of Sigmund FREUD's Civilization and Its Discontents.  Now deprived of the ability to speak or reason, the television Hulk thus served as a stark, stripped-down image of all the selfish and anti-social impulses that arguably make all super-heroes appealing, impulses that more polite figures like SUPERMAN and BATMAN can only mildly suggest; and while Bixby's death has temporarily halted his celluloid career, one has to imagine that a character of such elemental appeal will someday reemerge, to strike out at new sources of modern frustration.

Since first appearing in his own comic book, the Hulk has regularly appeared in several comic books, worked with (or, more often, against) virtually every hero in the Marvel universe, served briefly as a charter member of the Avengers, later joined the Defenders, and met up with DC's Batman in one crossover comic. Lee's The Incredible Hulk (1978) is a useful compilation of his early adventures.

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