Hulk, in a fit of pique (can’t help it), beats up an old lady who gets in his way, and suddenly his role in the world zigs from hero to villain. Fake distinction. He can always zag back. If they want him to be a bad guy, he’ll do it, but he could do either, or both at the same time. He’s good at them.
To tell the truth (which he always does), he probably likes being a bad guy best. As a hero, he was supposed to save lives, but was anyone except himself really worth it? As a bad guy, he’s free to take lives without remorse, and more or less at random. Which is easier. No pretending. More fun. He’s grown old and fat and is not so great for the hero part anyway. The amazing thing is, everyone still loves him. He understands that. He loves himself.
The only one who won’t admit he loves him and can get away with it is Sam. Sam’s an old buddy. Well, not a buddy exactly. His uncle doesn’t have buddies. More like a family business partner. He runs the corporation, which Sam says is in a gutter fight over what’s left of the Earth’s goods before it all ends catastrophically. His uncle sometimes takes Hulk on as a kind of enforcer. Mr Fixit. Nasty work, but it unleashes him. And it’s for a good cause. Sam calls Hulk a bloated, blank-brained, shit-green abomination, and says he is embarrassed to be anywhere near him, but Hulk knows he’s only kidding. Stupidity is a handicap, Sam always says with a big toothy smile, little tuft of white beard wagging, his finger pointing straight at Hulk like a command: Absolute stupidity rules!
His pal Cap says the Sam may be a ruthless sonofabitch, but he’s also a true-blue patriot who always gave him room to swing, when he could still do that and not fall down. The old fellow’s Captain America costume doesn’t fit him anymore; it bags in the seat, bulges in the middle, hangs like limp rags over his bony shoulders. Thanks to cataract operations, his sight’s back, some of it, but his wits are still missing. Remembers old World War II comic book fantasies better than he remembers five minutes ago. Something off about his smell, too. Good guy, though. Sentinel of Liberty. They both had tyrannical alcoholic fathers and are, consequently, both teetotalers. They understand each other, to the extent that Cap can understand anything. When rage invades Hulk and makes him lose it, Cap’s still there for him. Hero, villain, Cap doesn’t give a shit.
Whenever Hulk’s own old man was tanked, which was most of the time, he got a buzz out of kicking his kid around the room like a soccer ball. The goal was the fireplace. The smartass sometimes lit a fire in it just to make it easier to see what he was aiming at. Those were his toddler days when he was still mostly buried in skinny little Brucie Banner, but getting seared in the fireplace made him so mad that he bulked up suddenly from wimp to butterball, ripping right out of his little kid clothes. He bounced out of the burning coals and kicked back. His dad only grinned and slapped him down, gave his little dickie a vicious tweak as a bonus. Probably why it never grew. But his crazed kickback taught Hulk what he could do when he got mad enough. Furious hatred became something to strive for.
Not that he has to try hard. Seems to have an appetite for it. The rage. The power. Feels so good! Even when it’s fatal for bystanders. Maybe especially when it’s fatal. Sometimes, to nail his enemy, he has to take out a whole building. A lot of so-called innocent people get killed. Well, he tells the fake-news hacks who badger him about it, those people should be more careful. When Hulk becomes justifiably pissed off, things happen, it’s who he is. National icon. Everybody knows. If his complexion changes: watch out!
Does it bother him that he always turns green when he bulks up? Might bother Banner who’s prissier, but by the time the ripping starts, Hulk is always past being bothered. Besides, green means go, and Hulk does go. In a big way! Hulk smash! It’s why the nation loves him so. Green’s good.
At his most frenzied, he’s ready to shut down the whole damned universe. Fuck everything! Gives him an electric tingle, just thinking about it. He’s supposed to love people, but in truth they’re all losers, sludge in the world’s gears, he hates them. Hates old Sam, too, much as he loves him, and sick, scrawny Banner with his leaky brain as well, even if that’s himself. Hatred. It’s great! They say his volcanic temperament is because of the gamma-ray radiation Banner took to get high, but it’s not. It’s who he is. To the core. Beautiful! Really, he’s incredible.
They’ve always been close, he and Banner, but he’s never seen the creep, except in a mirror, if that’s not some kind of parlor trick. Can’t believe what you see in a mirror. Think about it. It’s not even there. Break the mirror, and what have you got? Brucie may be smart, Hulk’s smarter. But when fury has him by the nuts, he can smash but he can’t think. To think, he has to stay cool, and that’s the hardest thing. Every time Hulk finds himself shrunk back into Banner’s shitty life, rage wigs him out again and he bursts the seams of another suit. He never remembers how any of this happens. It’s just how life works, shrink, pop, shrink, pop . . .
Well, not everything pops. Some of it shrinks without popping. Once it even disappeared for a while under his popped gut. Did that make him a girl? No, just a very angry top-heavy green guy with no apparent dick.
Banner’s dad, who presumably was also Hulk’s dad, was a hot-shot atomic scientist, and he taught Brucie enough physics to terrorize his high school. Bombing his school was probably a childish thing to do, even if he was super smart. They locked him up. Should have thrown away the key, given the casualties, but the military were impressed, sprung him from his iron cage, and set him up with his own bomb-making lab. Good guys, the military. Know how to appreciate talent when they see it. They’re all as dumb as the meatheads in his motorcycle gang, but Hulk loves ‘em.
His biker pals are also good guys. They’re always in and out of trouble with the cops, but that’s not their fault, just different lifestyles. Fact is, guys on two wheels don’t get the same treatment from cops as guys on four. So unfair! His gang are not phony stunt-riding show-offs like the Thing’s overrated Thunderiders, but real people, big rough suckers, tattooed and beardy. Great patriots. Wear the flag on their skin to prove it. In the old days, Hulk could pin them all, three or four at a time. They cheered him on in their grunting way, and he grunted along with them and slammed them down again. Can still do that, one at a time, if he’s mad enough. Which is usually not a problem. He thinks of them as his people, but a lot of them have made the heroes’ hit list, so sometimes he’s had no choice. When a bunch of them gang-raped a young kid, for example, he was obliged to step in and smash a few. Wouldn’t have to do that now.
A lot of young kids ride with Hulk’s gang. They adore him and he hangs out with them when he can. They talk his language. They call him Speedo. He likes that. The little ones squeak, trying to grunt like the big boys, and give him high fives. They show him a lot of respect. Doesn’t get that from everybody. They have a hard time, though, pumping away on their bicycles and tricycles with their chubby little legs, trying to keep up with the big boys on their motorbikes, and the gang gets pissed off about all the stopping and starting. He also gets pissed off, and he finally wheels back and cuffs one of them, forgetting how strong he is. Probably took out all his teeth. Hopefully, they were mostly baby teeth.
A big snarly guy with a beard, eyepatch, and three or four yellow fangs, spits through them and thanks him. Whatever Hulk wants to do to his lazy little brat, he’s OK with it, he says. I love little brats, Hulk says, and delivers a blow to the father’s swastika’d cheek that takes out what teeth are left and the jaw as well. Hates fathers. Getting thumped and punched by one so often as a kid made a bully out of him, and he’s gone on being one. Feels good. It’s a one-way street, and you don’t have to worry who’s on it. Smash! Pow!
Women are another matter. His dad taught him all about them with two words: Lay‘em ‘n leave‘em. Or maybe that’s four. Five, probably. Numbers and letters aren’t what he’s best at, genius though he is. His father forgot his own advice and married one of them, but had to knock her off when she made the mistake of interfering with his paternal discipline of little Brucie. Nice try, but definitely not smart, and Mom paid the price. That’s what they tell him. Hulk doesn’t remember much, and he doesn’t remember that. Best he can recall, he was always a family of two. Which was twice too many. When the army finally took out old man Banner with a guided missile, Hulk cheered them on. Good show! Now he’s alone. With Junior.
Though his dad hated women, Hulk loves them, at least the soft places between their legs. So squeezable. They’re almost always wet down there, so he knows he’s good for them, even if sometimes he has to hurt them. Has nothing to say to them, though. They’re too dumb. And the sluts sometimes say things that make him mad. Like blurting out that they can’t feel him inside them. That bulks him up instanter. Not many of them are very attractive after that. Doesn’t mean to be hard on them, but he has a bad temper, he’s famous for it, they should know that by now, be more careful what they say. He’d rather be a cool stud with little pussies swooning over him, but he’s not made for it, so he has to take them any way he can. That’s all right, they’re more fun when they fight back. They like to yell and scratch and flail around, but getting laid is all they really want. His dad told him so, and it’s true. Probably Hulk got on with their lunatic dad better than that sicko pissant Banner ever did. He’s glad the evil old fucker’s dead, but he misses him.
Hulk had a wife once, a tough cookie named Betty, daughter of a hard-bitten general. A real pain in the ass, that general. Hated him. Hated Betty, too, to be honest. She challenged him once to a wrestling match, and he took her down, but once he had her pinned, he didn’t like what it felt like, so he banged her head once against the floor and let her go. She might have been an old girlfriend of Captain America whom he dumped or got dumped by, but Cap’s not sure. Betty who? While Betty was still technically eligible, she won, in spite of her outrageous biceps, a Miss Universe contest. Hulk made sure of it. Five years later, she was a total pig. A three at best. Now she’s an old bag, falling into negative numbers. Still a powerful lady, though. He doesn’t mess with her.
The Thing’s also a pal, but Hulk doesn’t like him any more than the girls do, and they’ve got into some colossal brawls. Rocking the landscape. Their fights always drew big crowds, so one time they got invited to do a show for a pro wrestling outfit. Big bucks. But what a scam! A hoax! They claimed the Thing won. He didn’t. They designated Hulk the bad guy on the night, so he had to lose. He was cheated! The whole thing was rigged!
Captain America agrees. Total fake! But he probably doesn’t know who or what they’re talking about. Cap and the Thing were best pals once upon a time, famous odd couple. The beaut and the brute. The two of them used to throw superhero poker parties together. Hulk was never invited. Hasn’t forgotten that, even if Cap has.
As a kid, the Thing hung out with a vicious street gang, had a mean drunken father like everybody else, then spent some time underground in the sewers after he plated up, feeling sorry for himself. Got over that, but never did get rid of the sewer stink. Hulk’s not beautiful, ugliness is part of his MO, but the Thing is downright grotesque. Like Hulk, the Thing also got zapped, in his case by cosmic rays. Blue Eyes could have avoided that, but he was stupid, ended up with those thick rocky scales for a hide. Women don’t like him or his stink – how could they? – so his sex life is mostly DIY.
They’re both superheroes, like Cap, and they’ve all three run with the same supergangs, loose bands of righteously enraged warriors out to save da mockersy, as the loutish Thing says. Sam tells them they’re misguided fools. Democracy is jingoistic propaganda, useful in wartime, but not how the worldgame’s played. Bullies beat the shit outa the da mockersy wimps every time, he says, you can bet your ballocks on it. The Thing’s perplexed by that. He can’t wrinkle his brows, though the dirty orange tiles over his eyes clack against each other in consternation. Ain’t that the berries, he says. Why we standin’ up for the little guy, then? Need ‘em, Sam says. They’re the market.
The Thing still rides with his Thunderiders, but their cocky stunts are now too much for a daffy nonagenarian, so Cap tags along with Hulk’s biker gang instead. Says it makes him feel young again, barreling down the highway, whistling his wet toothless whistle. He has a prostate like a cantaloupe and has to stop from time to time to take a slow leak, but Hulk and his gang are not that young either, and usually appreciate the break. Cap blames his problems on the super soldier serum they pumped in him back in the war, which he says is also responsible for his jock itch. Cap used to ride a rig souped up for him by a weapons factory. Superfast. Deadly. Doesn’t have it any more. Parked it some place, can’t remember where.
Trouble with Cap is, he spent a couple of decades after the war frozen solid in a block of ice and never quite thawed out. Sam’s fed up with his terminal brain decay and is ready to throw him back in the ice locker. Leave him there this time. He says it would be doing Cap a favor. That causes Hulk’s sphincter to tighten up. Hulk feels a little burned out between the ears himself what with all the popping and shrinking, and worries he may be next on Sam’s list of disposables. Which makes Cap a buffer, Hulk’s personal human shield. Has to keep Cap kicking for his own sake.
So, when Sam, back from ruining a few more economies, says he needs some relaxation and challenges Captain America to a wrestling match, Hulk, fearing Sam’s true intentions, volunteers to take the decrepit old fellow’s place. Sam grins at that, and it’s not a comforting grin. Hulk loves to wrestle, provided he can win, and he’s pretty sure he’s stronger than his uncle, but Sam’s smarter in a sneaky way. However hard Hulk concentrates, Sam always finds a way to wind him up, turn him furiously stupid, and flatten him. Hulk is always hopeful, however, and maybe this time he can keep his head long enough to bring his uncle down. That would make history.
Keeping his head, though, means he has trouble popping, so it’s scrawny Banner who enters the arena. The fight has brought an eager crowd, screaming for blood. Sam plays dirty, like always, and, before the referee can even blow his whistle to start the fight, Sam power-slams Banner right out of the ring. Banner staggers woozily to his feet, crawls back in, and Sam, grinning still and grunting like a wild pig, slams him down again. Banner’s inner Hulk is growing angry, but not angry enough. I should do better than this, he thinks. There it is: he’s still thinking. Nasty habit. Can kill you. He stops thinking and lets the hatred surge. Hah! Something’s ripping! Hulk SMASH! He headbutts Sam and bowls him over, drops his weight on him, and hammers ferociously at his skull. Sam is laughing. At Hulk? He pounds him harder. Over and over. Bludgeoning is what Hulk does best. Sam’s still laughing, but his face is a bloody mess. If he lets up, Sam will kill him. Hulk loves Sam, but he loves himself more. Sam’s neck is a tough one to break, but he breaks it. Crunch! Snap! Feels great, though it ends their fight. Hulk flexes his biceps and takes a bow, his mighty green ass hanging out of Banner’s shredded pants, triumphantly taking the air.
Artwork by Amrit Birdi & Co.