I think the title I used pretty much sums up my problem with the Hulk mythology, There is too damn many of them. Now that isn’t to say there isn’t some good stuff there but how many times can you photocopy a photocopy before it looks a mess. The thought came to me when I bought one of Grey Hulks origins and I say one of them because it’s common knowledge he was supposed to be grey in the first print, Then there was my copy were the Hulk became grey again in the 80’s and then there was Joe Fix’It later assuming control, Where do you begin with the Hulk back story if you were to retell it?, This is one of the reasons I think it is so hard for Marvel Studios to get something up and off the ground.
Now that isn’t to say all these iterations upon iterations of the Hulk are poor, Hulk Agents of S.M.A.S.H the cartoon series embraces the fact there is … how many of them?… and it is firmly in the hands of Paul Dini, Which carries some weight with me at least. But in terms of in the comic books it is why jumped off at some point during the time when Hulk and Red Hulk split the title, It just seemed like “Hey Hulk sales are flagging throw in another!” and the back stories developed are usually something, something, something…convoluted plot device. I mean even death didn’t stop the Ross’s from seeing red.
I find that often you have to pick which part of Hulk’s history works for yourself, Some readers may like Red Hulk, Some may not and then the lesser referred to or used Devil Hulk now as metal as that name is he again has a very awkward back story. So lets take a look at the rarely seen member of the Hulk Family;
Week 20: Devil Hulk, For when red, grey, gangster, women, abomination, girl, boy, robot, blue and of course green just aren’t enough
Who were they?: To describe Devil Hulk on the most basic level is another one of those things in Bruce Banner’s psyche but also has a pinch of Ang Lee like back story. The Devil Hulk first made an appearance is the late 90’s where it was explained that every bad feeling that Banner experiences causes the Devil Hulk to become stronger within his mind. One day the Devil Hulk could be one of the transformations Banner makes but he is kept dormant within Banners mind through certain barriers. This became known to Banner when he had Lou Gehrig’s disease which meant that eventually he would die and one of the personalities within him (The Professor, Savage or Joe Fix’it) would assume control. These barriers that held the previously unknown Devil Hulk eventually broke down and it took the combined might of Joe, Savage and Banner himself to re-imprison him. Making the same kind of internal struggle between the Hulks we often see and let’s be honest make for great visuals.
Eventually The Professor who was allowed to stay outside and figured along with Reed Richards and Doc Samson that a gene sample from Bruce’s dead father Brian would cure the disease (by the way this is a real disease, just pointing out that kind of trivialises the real life seriousness of it does it not?) so they dug up the corpse and presto-changeo Bruce is cured.
Now you could end the first part of the Devil Hulk story there but the fact they dug up Brian was significant because much earlier to the Devil Hulk story line Bruce had killed Brian. Throughout Bruce’s life Brian tormented his child whom he believed would one day become a monster as a result of a nuclear accident at his work. The loss of this job also caused him to beat his wife and as we seen on-screen in Ang Lee’s Hulk things took a much sinister turn when Rebecca who is Bruce’s mother tries to stop Brian harming Bruce and he murders her. He is confined to a mental hospital after Bruce out of fear fails to testify against his father.
After spending several years in state hospital Brian is released into the care of Bruce, But had hidden the fact he still believed his son would become a monster. With his resolve to end Bruce permanently he get’s into a scuffle with him by Rebecca’s graveside and Bruce pushes him whereby he splits his head open on a tombstone and dies.
This comes into play for many years and adds to the struggles Bruce deals with in his mind, Perhaps even being a reason in the developing of the more evil Devil Hulk.
What have they done recently?: Well the Devil Hulk finally became physical during the Chaos War crossover, Where as the result of a the Chaos Kings trying to destroy existence the dead begin to return. Rebecca returns to warn the Hulked out Bruce to run and that his father is returning but both are attacked almost immediately by Brian who has taking the form of the Devil Hulk. This Devil Hulk in appearance is somewhat similar to the Hulk featured in Old Man Logan more so than the reptile like one previously used in the 90’s whether this was intentional or not, it does seem interesting that the more evil Hulk becomes then by far more the powerful he becomes which again goes back to the Hulk essentially being a gamma powered allegory of Jekyll and Hyde.
During the fight several Hulk’s try to attack Devil Hulk such as Skaar but even he can barely scratch him. Hulk fares worse literally being fried and skewed by Devil Hulk. The game changer in the fight is when they realise that Devil Hulk similar to Hulk and his rage gains his power by the fear he causes in others. This fear in Bruce begins to lift when Bruce’s dead wife Jarella enters the fray and strikes Devil Hulk with a sword with the reasoning being that the living only empower him but since she is dead she can actually hurt him.
Seeing Devil Hulk weakened causes Bruce to gain the courage needed to completely dis-empower the Devil Hulk and finally learning to come to peace with the Banner family past. Since the Chaos War eventually came to an end, the dead (save for one or two) are returned to the afterlife.
What can we expect next?: Well Brian is dead again and only embodied Bruce’s fear hence he was Devil Hulk, But that isn’t to say the Devil Hulk persona has been completely absolved from Bruce’s mind. So there is certainly a chance he will return at some point. But as I pointed out at the start the Marvel Universe is getting cramped with gamma powered folk so do we really need another?
The Chaos War: Incredible Hulks Trade is available in the usual places Ebay, Amazon etc so pick it up should you want to read about the Devil Hulk yourself.