The Hulk is one of Marvel’s most enduring & popular characters to have survived to this day. Having read the first volume in the Hulk Marvel Classics collection I can see why.
You have to love reading comics from that era, it’s a sociological wet dream and I know a thing or two about wet dreams. So anyways, you know the drill. Bruce Banner is a top U.S. physicist. A tragic accident transforms his being to where he (with varying methods and effects) becomes the green-skinned giant himself, the Hulk! Hulk’s strength is almost unlimited and tied directly to his rage. The more angry he becomes the stronger he gets. He gets into some wacky hijinks, kills some communists & generally manages to be a perfect paragon of American anti-heroes.
In the early 60’s (Hulk’s first appearance was in 1962), the world was one mixed up, crazy place. America hated Russia, people were dealing with the aftershocks of war & the culture was becoming obsessed with science and the future. The young were imaginative, eager & ready to rebel which is something that never really changes.
The pop culture from the time reflects this perfectly and boy-howdy do we see it in comics! The angst of Dr. Banner’s hidden secret, the sexist/sexualizing treatment of Betty Ross, the racist demonization of the Russians and Communist countries. At the center of all the cultural trappings lies the character that truly drives the story and has kept us coming back for more for all this time.
The Hulk and Bruce Banner are mirrors of one another. The one has limitless strength while the other has limitless intellect and their self-destructive symbiosis provides endless soap opera drama & potential for character growth which is really all a comic is. He is so easily related to by young people due to the pain and frustration he feels for being hounded and forced into places and people he didn’t want to be. We all can see a bit of ourselves in his struggle for balance and inner peace. Yin & yang, good & evil, humans have always found a dichotomous binary in their core being.
You want to sell a book? Slap some relevant culture, deep-seated emotional anguish & some bitchin’ superpowers and you might just have yourself a money-maker. A money-maker that actually means something to boot!
And that’s the Hulk. Hounded, powerful but ultimately good. Also, Stan Lee’s writing is worth the read alone. It is like corn, stuffed in a corn dog, smothered in corn syrup. This is some corny stuff.
It is completely worth the read and I recommend going back to these Marvel and DC collections to really understand the beginnings of these characters and the culture that they sprang from.