So yesterday we were discussing the features of a gothic hero in class, and as per usual I was thinking about Bruce banner, because you know. What else am I going to think about? The books I should be studying? ahahahaha no.
So I then realised that early Hulk comics in particular are very much covered in silly gothic tropes. For a start there’s the obvious Jekyll and Hyde/ Frankenstein inspiration for Bruce and Hulk, but that’s not all there is. This obviously builds on the ‘foolish/evil scientist trope present in later gothic fiction, however that’s pretty obvious and the literary reference is even acknowledged by Bruce himself in The Incredible Hulk: The End.
There are also a butt load of other tropes though, and I kind of don’t quite understand why… Ok, so a strong hero, at least in the work of Anne Radcliffe, is one who is able to acknowledge and then repress his emotions. Sound familiar? For a male gothic hero acting on ones emotions is a big nono, which is something Hulk readers are all too familiar with. Repression is a huge theme in both, as is the ability to rationalise and separate oneself from emotions.
And in contrast to this, there is Betty. (again, early early Betty, not later Betty she’s a badass.) Now female characters in contrast are defined by their outward show of emotions, which are often very physical, as the character tries to remain strong but is betrayed by her blushing/fainting/crying. Betty is a big culprit for this, there is a lot of fainting and frustrated crying in the first issues. She is also constantly kidnapped, another key trope for the gothic heroine. She is defined, during this period by her love for Bruce, which overcomes all other motivations. A perfect gothic heroine.
General Ross, then, must represent the overbearing, power seeking patriarch. His desire for power, leads him to betray his daughter’s trust and to overlook her happiness. (This is a harsh reading of general Ross, but he said Bruce should be more like Brian so I have no sympathy for that man.)
The explained supernatural is also explored in these comics, not only through Bruce turning into a big ol’ irradiated rage monster, there is also the idea of generational curses. Brian Banner’s fear that Bruce will become a ‘monster,’ the same way he views himself and his Father, indicates an unfounded belief in genetic personality traits, which is essentially a modernised belief in generational curses. Ironically this curse is sort of made a reality by Brian Banners fear based abuse - a typical Radcliffe style plot device. (Though Radcliffe might suggest originally that Bruce was cursed by the ‘Banner family curse’ before explaining it away.)
Anyway, I think this is interesting and noone in real life will listen. You might not care. I don’t know how to do a click through link so sorry about that…