Green Days: A Hulk Fan Blog

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Opinion- A Little Help From Hulk's Friends

Something occurred to me the other day upon reading the solicit for Incredible Hulk #96. Part of the solicit says something along the lines of "Find out the horrible truth about Miek's past!"

I couldn't put my finger on it at first, but something just seemed strange about that. Later, while re-reading "Planet Hulk: Exile," I realized why it seemed strange.

Since when has the personal history of a peripheral Incredible Hulk character been important enough to be mentioned in the solicitation?

See, I've been trying to answer a question: If "Planet Hulk" hadn't happened right after a very long era of SUCK, would we care as much? In other words, I think a lot of Hulk fans have been creaming their jeans over "Planet Hulk," and rightly so, but would we be as excited if what came before "Planet Hulk" wasn't as abysmally sucky as it was? Could this story stand on its own? And in trying to answer that question, I re-read "Planet Hulk" several times, trying to identify the major differences between this story and the stories we've gotten since David first left the title. A lot of the differences are glaringly obvious: more action, more of a concrete connection with the rest of the Marvel Universe, and hey, look Bruce Jones! Every now and then the colorists actually have to break out the green!

But then I noticed something else, something that I didn't even realize was missing until it came back: a strong, likeable, and consistent supporting cast.

You've got to figure that creating and preserving a supporting cast has got to be a major hurdle for Incredible Hulk writers. It's not like rotating Captain America's sidekick roster. How do you come up with a believable premise for non-super characters to spend time with a guy who A) often reiterates how much he just wants to be left alone and B) tends to drop small states on the heads of those who don't comply? Not to mention the fact that the Hulk tends to just say "Hey, why don't I leap to Canada or South America for the weekend?" Poor Rick didn't get that much dough from his autobiography, how's he supposed to keep up with the travel expenses?

One of the greatest strengths of Peter David's original run was the supporting cast members. Whether it was sidekicks, lovers, disgraced SHIELD agents, or militartistic supermen named after Greco-Roman heroes, the green-sometimes-gray goliath always had an interesting supporting cast whose own dramas, even when they were only peripherally connected to the Hulkster, were engaging enough to keep you reading. Even during what was possibly the loneliest era for the Hulk during David's first run - the post-Onslaught/pre-Heroes Return era - David went so far as time-warping Janis Jones out of Future Imperfect to share panels with the Hulk.

The Hulk has felt disconnected not only from the greater MU since David's departure, but from the world itself, and I think the lack of a good supporting cast is the main reason. Jenkins and Jones each introduced a few peripheral characters, but they weren't enough. Jones's supporting cast was mainly comprised of wild re-interpretations of characters like Doc Samson and Betty Banner, and to longtime Hulk fans, those re-interpretations were less than satisfying. Jenkins introduced Angela Lipscombe and the conspiracy-theory minded Hack, but Hack never got much spotlight, and Lipscombe promptly disappeared once Jenkins left. Way didn't have enough time to introduce any kind of supporting characters, and neither did David during his second run.

I'm not saying that Hulk's Warbound Gladiators are the sole reason for the success of "Planet Hulk," but it's nice to have them isn't it? Pak used the obvious advantage of an alien gladiator environment to give Hulk some much-needed allies, and he's handled it well. He was careful not to make Hulk warm up to them too soon, which makes the team dynamic feel genuine. I'm surprised to actually find myself worrying about whether or not the gladiators will surive "Planet Hulk." I'm even worried about the Brood Sister. And she doesn't even have a name!

Future Hulk writers: Take Notes.


At 2:52 PM, Anonymous Nivek said...

I know having a strong supporting cast, original villians, and new challenges makes reading this story much more enjoyable. Pak is the first post PAD writer to honestly keep the Hulk at statis que, but change everything else and leave things open in multiple fresh new directions.


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