“THE HULK IS A WEREWOLF” Why Joss Whedon is Right On the Mark!


joss hulk

So recently, IGN.com interviewed Director Joss Whedon about the upcoming Marvel’s Avengers: Age of Ultron movie, and during the interview they asked Mr. Whedon what his thoughts were on another solo Hulk movie. The storyline Planet Hulk was discussed, and Whedon claimed that it wouldn’t work. To briefly paraphrase, he stated that the Hulk belongs in a group to attain superhero status. Solo adventures with the Hulk have him following more of a horror film trope then super-heroics, and that the Hulk resembles more like a werewolf than a hero. The full interview can be seen here at IGN.com

I always think that there are basically two Hulks” Whedon explained. “There’s horror movie Hulk and superhero movie Hulk. In the first film we got a taste of both and it really has to do with Banner’s attitude about who he is when he turns into the Hulk. And since the movie begins with the team together, the first thing we see is superhero Hulk, who has a level of cogency that makes him still useful and he isn’t just swatting things madly. But then, once the Scarlet Witch gets done with him, we get to see a vision of him that we have never seen before where he is completely out of control. And also clearly in a lot of pain. It was kind of beautiful to be able to go that far with him.

– Joss Whedon via IGN.com

After reading the interview myself, I stumbled into a few online chats discussing the topic. Upon further reflection during a conversation on a Google+ thread by fellow fan Sirena Roman, I realized just how correct Joss Whedon was with his assessment. The Hulk COULD very well be like a Werewolf. Let’s examine.
Originally the Hulk turned when it was a full moon. The original grey Hulk. Rick Jones had to lock Bruce Banner into a steel and concrete shelter in an underwater cave at sunset. Needless to say that got limiting quick so by the time the Hulk came back in Tales to Astonish (and full on mean Green) they changed it to whenever he got angry, hurt, or threatened. When Whedon went on to further explain why Planet Hulk should not be made in to a movie, he made another allusion to the Hulk being a werewolf story:

Honestly I think it’s a legal thing. I think it’s because there’s other studio rights and this and that. It’s difficult. Hulk movies are very difficult because it isn’t a classic superhero story. It is more of a werewolf story, and finding a way to thread both of those makes if difficult. But I think it has more to do with the boring issues… because they love the Hulk and they love Mark as much as I do.

– Joss Whedon via IGN.com

Bruce Banner transforms into the Hulk. Scene from "Marvel's Avengers (2012)"
Bruce Banner transforms into the Hulk. Scene from “Marvel’s Avengers (2012)”
Scene from "An American Werewolf in London (1981)"
Scene from “An American Werewolf in London (1981)”

Also, most Morphic Monster Creatures (Human-Werewolf, Human-Monster, Normal to Beast) all follow the same formula to transformation. The stories are just told differently. Whedon has a good point in his thinking. The Hulk needs that tortured pathos to really generate a feeling of connection with his audience. Bruce Banner is a repressed Genius scientist who really f’ed up by unleashing the deadliest monster in the world. Which happens to be him. When he loses control. So we connect with him when he gets irritated and tries to calm down. Plus, every time he turns into the Hulk his face isn’t smiling! He’s terrified. Of what he might do as the Hulk.

The same goes with any werewolf story. Someone somehow in someway becomes a werewolf at some point at sometime. That person becomes aware of what they become, and have seen the carnage that they have done when transformed. That person fears becoming the beast. Same kinda vibe.

The Various Hulk Incarnations thru the Years
The Various Hulk Incarnations thru the Years

In fact the Hulk, or rather Banner, has had fractured psyche’s emerge at times too. A result of later stories depicting Bruce’s beatings by his physically and emotionally abusive father. The Hulk has been mindless and split from Banner, he’s been super intelligent, he’s been a fierce and cunning warrior in several different realms, he’s been a mob thug, a Leader of the Pantheon, plus countless others. It’s part of the evolution of the character. But in all other media the Hulk is always Mr, Angry Smashy. 

The Hulk was a character that I always came back to with collecting. I would be into him during the Trimpe/Sinnot days, drift away, then back again for the Byrne/Milgrom run in the 1980’s, left, came back with David/Keown/Frank era, dropped it, wash rinse repeat. But the one underlaying theme that binds all of the Hulk’s numerous incarnations over the years has been about losing control. Regardless if he was Savage, Rampaging, Doc Green, Joe Fixit, Dr. Banner, or in a World War or on a War World. 

Rockin' the Wolf. Scene from "Teen Wolf (1985)"
Rockin’ the Wolf. Scene from “Teen Wolf (1985)”

But even Werewolves, like Gamma irradiated Monsters, can ago against type sometimes. In the movie Teen Wolf (1985), Scott enjoys being the wolf. Revels in it. Feels confident and empowered by being the wolf. But, also, eventually worries about losing control. Which, in the grand design, is really the root of the belief of Lycanthropy. The transformation to a wolf on a full moon is simply a metaphor of a man’s madness brought on by the lunar event.

Hulk and Company

Keeping the Hulk in an ensemble cast is a good idea because it allows him to play off of the other characters equally. The Hulk on his own is left to the storytelling equivalent of being on the run, gets caught/hurt/threatened, turns into the Hulk, smashing smashing, turning back to Banner, turning back to the Hulk, smashing and more smashing. In a group, he can have much more interactive and entertaining moments. Be it Sucker punching Thor, having a tender moment with Black Widow, or Going toe to toe with a Hulkbuster armoured Iron Man, being in a group completely shifts the Hulk’s axis from Monster to Hero. Much like what I believe Joss Whedon was implying with his comments.

Planet Hulk

Personally, I’m all for a Planet Hulk movie! I’ve loved almost every incarnation of the Hulk. I’m not so much defending that side of Whedon’s statements as much as I am promoting his “Hulk is Like a Werewolf” comment. Planet Hulk was ball busting awesome! The comic run and the animated movie. I’d love to see it on the big screen!

"Future Imperfect" by George Perez
“Future Imperfect” by George Perez

Little sidebar: One of my favorite Hulk stories of all time was George Perez’s dystopic “Future Imperfect“.It told the tale of a world where the Hulk did in fact loose control and lost his humanity, and succumbed to the monster. The Maestro is a disturbing faction of the collective Hulk psyche — he’s the savage hulk, mixed with Joe Fixit, mixed with “Banner Hulk” of the time. All three distinctly different personaes — the mindless rage, the brute, and the Brilliant scientist all combined into one new personality. One where the Brilliant Scientist had gone mad, lost control, and succumbed to the savage monster that laid waste to this alternate timeline world. When the time travelling Hulk (don’t ask) of the 1990’s arrives in this future timeline, many years have passed since the Hulk’s snapping and eventual transformation into the Maestro. During that period, the Brute had become the dominant mind at the helm. It’s a great graphical novel to check out and I would love to see this as a film too some day. But in order to get to stories like “Future Imperfect” seeing the big screen, I think going in a “Planet Hulk” direction could be an important stepping stone towards it.

What do you think?

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