the-incredible-hulk-16885-1366x768

The Incredible Hulk’s Origins: The Monster Within

The Gamma Bomb that launched a thousand comics

 

The brilliant scientist, Dr. Bruce Banner, was caught in the blast of a test Gamma Bomb, exposing him to seemingly deadly gamma radiation.  He began experiencing strange symptoms during times of stress – his mind and body would change and grow into a hulking beast of a man, full of rage and superhuman strength. “The Hulk” is a comic book superhero character from Marvel Comics.  He first appeared in the 1962 comic, The Incredible Hulk.

This character has stood the test of time and has remained incredibly popular, with comics continuing to feature him to this day, and big budget blockbusters, such as The Avengers, featuring him as well.  Though his origins pointed to his destructive nature, The Hulk’s abilities have been harnessed as a force of good.  Stan Lee and Jack Kirby created the character in the early 1960’s with influences from literature and current events.


 

Literary Monsters

 

Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde Hulk lesson

Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein (1818), and Robert Louis Stevenson’s Jekyll and Hyde (1886) are influences of The Hulk.  In Frankenstein, a young scientist, Victor Frankenstein, creates a grotesque yet sentient creature in an unorthodox scientific experiment.  His creation becomes “the monster.” The monster has moments of self reflection, wondering why he has been given such a terrible fate: to be created, and then hunted down and tortured by society.  This theme is very much at play within the early Hulk comics.  He doesn’t understand why this had to happen to him, and why people won’t let him run off into isolation and be at peace. This aspect of The Hulk’s personality is at odds with his often incited desire to destroy.

This dichotomy leads to the other main literary influence.  Jekyll and Hyde is a novella that explores the rare mental condition often called “split personality,” known in psychiatry as dissociative identity disorder.  This refers to when more than one distinct personality exists within the same body.  Jekyll and Hyde is especially relevant to The Hulk, as it portrays one distinctly good personality, while the other is evil.  Dr. Henry Jekyll is at odds with his evil other personality, Edward Hyde.  Jekyll asserts that “man is not truly one, but truly two,” and he imagines the human soul as the battleground for an “angel” and a “fiend,” each struggling for mastery.


 

War, Mankind, and The Hulk

 

hulk banner transformation

There are influences from The Cold War in the Hulk comics. After World War II, in 1947, tensions between the United States and the Soviet Union escalated and existed for much of the rest of the 20th century. Many international incidents occurred that brought these nations’ to the brink of disaster including the Berlin Crisis (1961) and the Cuban Missile Crisis (1962).  The Hulk makes certain statements that point to his conception as an allegory for man’s ability to wage wars.

In issue #1, Bruce Banner is afraid he’ll keep changing into “that brutal, bestial, mockery of a human — that creature which fears nothing — which despises reason and worships power!”  In issue #102, the Hulk rages, “Me GO! Must kill…destroy! Must prove to world no one stronger!”  These statements allude to the darkest natures of humanity during times of war.

The upcoming Marvel movie Avengers: Age of Ultron explores similar themes about humanity’s warring nature, and ultimate hope for peace.  The Hulk will be a part of that story, ever relevant as his very existence is a representation of the same struggle.

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The RLL Podcast: Ep. 5 – Sixth Grade Student Breaks Down the Comic Book Phenomenon, Easter Eggs and More…

Screen Shot 2016-08-08 at 12.49.12 PM
It’s been our goal to have more youth involved with the show and this episode got us off to a great start. I brought in 12 year old comic book expert Jojo to talk all things superheroes. How do the movies connect to the canon of their comic book sources and how do you define and identify easter eggs on screen? And what better place to talk comics than the home of Kevin Smith’s Comic Book Men on AMC, also known as Jay and Silent Bob’s Secret Stash in Red Bank, NJ. This is also our first video podcast as well, the video version will be up on our Youtube channel youtube.com/nuskoolofficial. Check it out, he’s a cutie and you might notice a resemblance. (Hint, Hint)

Subscribe on iTunes 


Ep. 5 – Show Notes:

Check out all of the great work mentioned in this episode:

Comic Book Men on AMC

Amazing Spider-Man

Ms. Marvel

Black Panther

The best in the business at finding comic book movie easter eggs:
Mr. Sunday Movies YouTube Channel

Watch the video version of this podcast episode here.

Superman-e1453737365265-940x470 thumbnail

The Ethics and Moral Dilemma of Superheroes

Essentially, the question for every superhero is whether the ends justify the means.

 

Both Batman and Superman refuse to kill their enemies, thus allowing them to cause even more havoc in the future. Batman pushes away those who care about him the most, Superman hides his true identity by lying to his friends and loved ones. Superheroes face a slew of ethical dilemmas, not the least of which is the fact that most of them are vigilantes—breaking the law even while saving the day.

batman killer06

We often view comic book stories as simple cases of hero vs. villain, but such a perspective takes for granted the idea that superheroes are the good guys. In fact, moral virtue is a complicated concept, and what doing the right thing means depends on your perspective. There are nonetheless two main schools of thought on what makes an action right or wrong:  deontology, which categorizes actions as good or bad in themselves, and consequentialism, which classifies each action based on its results. Essentially, the question for every superhero is whether the ends justify the means.

There was quite a bit of controversy around the amount of destruction caused by Superman in the film Man of Steel. Many felt such destruction could have been avoided, and it was also left unclear how many people perished as a result of his battle with Zodd, whose death also left people questioning Superman’s moral foundation. This issue will probably inform the plot of the upcoming film Batman v Superman where Batman will question Superman’s regard for human life.

Superman destruction

 

batman-v-superman-trailer-009

Take Oliver Queen on Arrow, for example. He starts out as brutal vigilante who kills his enemies without hesitation. His mission is to avenge his father by taking out the criminals who had plunged Starling City into lawlessness. After the death of his best friend, Oliver decides to rededicate himself to saving the city, but he believes that in order to do so, he must become a hero called the Arrow and give up killing.

LQ7pFln

On the show, this shift is presented as a positive decision, but is it really? He no longer murders people, but many of the criminals he puts away end up escaping and hurting more people. Is it more important for the Arrow to provide a positive example or for the villains to be stopped permanently?

Oliver himself realizes the shortcomings of his no-kill rule: when faced with a choice between allowing a villain to harm one of his loved ones and killing the culprit, Oliver invariably chooses to compromise his principles in the name of protecting his family and friends. This inconsistency reflects the tricky questions superheroes face as well was the difficulty of putting ethical principles into practice.

What do you think? Should superheroes strive to do the right thing or focus on protecting innocents no matter the cost? Or should they try to find a balance between the two?

xmenapocalypseimax-1-2

X-Men: Are Mutants Already Among Us?

 

Evolution: The World Is Always Changing

The world is always changing, and all of us with it, some of the latest and greatest scientific discovery has been in the field of genetics and evolution. Since Charles Darwin’s first postulations of evolution through his studies of the adaptations of finches and other animals of the Galapagos Islands to the scientific ‘miracles’ happening in labs today like growing human ears on mice, the field has been met with hesitation and hostility. The study of evolution is truly groundbreaking and revolutionary in our own understanding of life itself.
Collection-Of-25-Inspiring-Quotes-From-Charles-Darwin1

 

Evolution in The X-Men Series

Evolutionary insights have also inspired astonishing stories like X-Men. The X-Men are children of the atom developed in comics during the 1960s. First titled as “The Mutants” Stan Lee and Jack Kirby were advised to rename the comic, as at the time most people didn’t know what a mutant was. The stories of the X-Men showcase the more fantastical possibilities of mutations and delve into the social issues they would face as a new class of life. Inspired by Darwin’s legacy, the X-Men even have a character named after him, whose mutant ability helps him adapt to survive!

tumblr_ma4im2vlvz1rvq7rx

 

Which Superheroes are Mutants?

But what is a mutant? Look no further than the immortal words of Lady Gaga, “Mutants are born that way.” Mutation is part of evolution, the process by which all the creatures in the world today became what they are. Mutations are fundamental changes to a person’s genetic code. The basis in the evolutionary truth of mutation sets X-Men apart as a long standing comic stories. The Avengers aren’t mutants, Tony Stark is a genius but impossibly so and not as a result of a genetic mutation as far as we know. Captain America and the Hulk are not mutants, although their powers do come from the effects of serums and radiation they were born as average (or below average) people. Hawkeye and Black Widow are just regular people and Thor isn’t even human to begin with.

 

What About Quicksilver?

Quicksilver on the other hand is an interesting case. He has appeared in both The Avengers and X-Men films. Just as he is in comics, in the X-Men films he is a mutant, he was born with the mutant gene which he inherited from his father Magneto. But in Avengers: Age of Ultron, his superspeed like his sister Scarlet Witch’s powers are the result of alien technology and radiation. Because 20th Century Fox owns the rights to the X-Men and the mutants, in the Marvel CInematic Universe they are known as “miracles” not mutants and Magneto doesn’t even exist. They are technically the same character with the same abilities just with completely different backstories and personalities, and only one of them is a mutant.

avengers-x-men-quicksilver-marvel-fox

 

Born Not Made

In the X-Men films, all of the mutants are born that way, with their abilities manifesting at birth or near adulthood. The only other way mutations have been shown to occur is through the transference of other mutants, like Rogue, Viper, or Apocalypse. Though many believe her to be mutant, we probably will never know for sure, but either way Lady Gaga is right, mutants are born not made. In this lesson we will look at genetic mutations both fictional and real and try to answer the question – Are there mutants already among us?

Jem-and-Holograms-Movie-Aubrey-Peeples thumbnail

The Reboot Era : Comparing and Contrasting Remakes to Originals

 

Testing new characters and ideas is a risky proposition…Established characters come with background knowledge from a tried and tested universe

 

You may have noticed that there are a lot of reboots these days – remakes or updates of an older media property for a new audience. Lately, 80’s toy and cartoon properties like My Little Pony, Transformers, G.I. Joe, and most recently Jem, have all been updated decades later. Some are hip cartoons for kids and parents to watch together, like My Little Pony. Some are major blockbuster action movies like Transformers, G.I. Joe and TMNT. Some updates have a modern twist, like how the new movie Jem and the Holograms makes its protagonist an online viral media star.

Jem movie reboot

What you may not know is why there are so many reboots. There are a lot of reasons for it. In another cool NuSkool lesson, we explore some of the social reasons for reboots. Sometimes as society changes and we share new values, old morals from stories like fairy tales no longer seem to fit the stories we tell. (It’s a big leap from Hansel and Gretel as naughty, meddling children to the wisecracking superheroes of Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters!)

There are economical reasons for reboots. Testing new characters and ideas is a risky proposition for media producers who spend upwards of hundred of millions of dollars on popular media like Hollywood films, television programs, and video games. Established characters come with background knowledge from a tried and tested universe that producers can plug into and even change afterward, like when comic books that are adapted into movies or shows change based on its popularity.

rick walking dead comic reboot

There are also legal reasons for reboots. Popular media properties like superheroes, cartoons, toys, and other well-known characters are protected under copyright laws, which grant rights to the owners of these properties to control, to some degree, how the properties are used. If you wanted to make a Hollywood movie with a Marvel superhero like Iron Man, you would need to get permission from the person who owns the copyright. When you follow the chain of ownership, you end up at Disney, a major media institution that owns the rights to the Marvel universe, the Star Wars universe, and (of course) the Disney and Pixar animated franchises. (Remember, USERS like you also have certain rights to use copyrighted characters in a wide variety of ways, such as the critical analysis of this lesson or fan-made art projects, under US copyright law’s definition of fair use, which you can learn more about here.)

Comparing and contrasting original media properties to their rebooted versions tell us a lot about how different authors and producers tailor their media for different audiences. In this lesson, you will figure out how reboots are similar to or different from their originals and make some observations about what those differences tell us about the media property itself (including who owns it and how much it cost to make), different target audiences, and different techniques that rebooters use to tell the same story in a new way.

Superman-e1453737365265-940x470 thumbnail

The Ethics and Moral Dilemma of Superheroes

Essentially, the question for every superhero is whether the ends justify the means.

 

Both Batman and Superman refuse to kill their enemies, thus allowing them to cause even more havoc in the future. Batman pushes away those who care about him the most, Superman hides his true identity by lying to his friends and loved ones. Superheroes face a slew of ethical dilemmas, not the least of which is the fact that most of them are vigilantes—breaking the law even while saving the day.

batman killer06

We often view comic book stories as simple cases of hero vs. villain, but such a perspective takes for granted the idea that superheroes are the good guys. In fact, moral virtue is a complicated concept, and what doing the right thing means depends on your perspective. There are nonetheless two main schools of thought on what makes an action right or wrong:  deontology, which categorizes actions as good or bad in themselves, and consequentialism, which classifies each action based on its results. Essentially, the question for every superhero is whether the ends justify the means.

There was quite a bit of controversy around the amount of destruction caused by Superman in the film Man of Steel. Many felt such destruction could have been avoided, and it was also left unclear how many people perished as a result of his battle with Zodd, whose death also left people questioning Superman’s moral foundation. This issue will probably inform the plot of the upcoming film Batman v Superman where Batman will question Superman’s regard for human life.

Superman destruction

 

batman-v-superman-trailer-009

Take Oliver Queen on Arrow, for example. He starts out as brutal vigilante who kills his enemies without hesitation. His mission is to avenge his father by taking out the criminals who had plunged Starling City into lawlessness. After the death of his best friend, Oliver decides to rededicate himself to saving the city, but he believes that in order to do so, he must become a hero called the Arrow and give up killing.

LQ7pFln

On the show, this shift is presented as a positive decision, but is it really? He no longer murders people, but many of the criminals he puts away end up escaping and hurting more people. Is it more important for the Arrow to provide a positive example or for the villains to be stopped permanently?

Oliver himself realizes the shortcomings of his no-kill rule: when faced with a choice between allowing a villain to harm one of his loved ones and killing the culprit, Oliver invariably chooses to compromise his principles in the name of protecting his family and friends. This inconsistency reflects the tricky questions superheroes face as well was the difficulty of putting ethical principles into practice.

What do you think? Should superheroes strive to do the right thing or focus on protecting innocents no matter the cost? Or should they try to find a balance between the two?

Jem-and-Holograms-Movie-Aubrey-Peeples thumbnail

The Reboot Era : Comparing and Contrasting Remakes to Originals

Testing new characters and ideas is a risky proposition…Established characters come with background knowledge from a tried and tested universe

You may have noticed that there are a lot of reboots these days – remakes or updates of an older media property for a new audience. Lately, 80’s toy and cartoon properties like My Little Pony, Transformers, G.I. Joe, and most recently Jem, have all been updated decades later. Some are hip cartoons for kids and parents to watch together, like My Little Pony. Some are major blockbuster action movies like Transformers, G.I. Joe and TMNT. Some updates have a modern twist, like how the new movie Jem and the Holograms makes its protagonist an online viral media star.

What you may not know is why there are so many reboots. There are a lot of reasons for it. In another cool NuSkool lesson, we explore some of the social reasons for reboots. Sometimes as society changes and we share new values, old morals from stories like fairy tales no longer seem to fit the stories we tell. (It’s a big leap from Hansel and Gretel as naughty, meddling children to the wisecracking superheroes of Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters!)

There are economical reasons for reboots. Testing new characters and ideas is a risky proposition for media producers who spend upwards of hundred of millions of dollars on popular media like Hollywood films, television programs, and video games. Established characters come with background knowledge from a tried and tested universe that producers can plug into and even change afterward, like when comic books that are adapted into movies or shows change based on its popularity.

There are also legal reasons for reboots. Popular media properties like superheroes, cartoons, toys, and other well-known characters are protected under copyright laws, which grant rights to the owners of these properties to control, to some degree, how the properties are used. If you wanted to make a Hollywood movie with a Marvel superhero like Iron Man, you would need to get permission from the person who owns the copyright. When you follow the chain of ownership, you end up at Disney, a major media institution that owns the rights to the Marvel universe, the Star Wars universe, and (of course) the Disney and Pixar animated franchises. (Remember, USERS like you also have certain rights to use copyrighted characters in a wide variety of ways, such as the critical analysis of this lesson or fan-made art projects, under US copyright law’s definition of fair use, which you can learn more about here.)

Comparing and contrasting original media properties to their rebooted versions tell us a lot about how different authors and producers tailor their media for different audiences. In this lesson, you will figure out how reboots are similar to or different from their originals and make some observations about what those differences tell us about the media property itself (including who owns it and how much it cost to make), different target audiences, and different techniques that rebooters use to tell the same story in a new way.

xmenapocalypseimax-1-2

X-Men: Are Mutants Already Among Us?

 

Evolution: The World Is Always Changing

The world is always changing, and all of us with it, some of the latest and greatest scientific discovery has been in the field of genetics and evolution. Since Charles Darwin’s first postulations of evolution through his studies of the adaptations of finches and other animals of the Galapagos Islands to the scientific ‘miracles’ happening in labs today like growing human ears on mice, the field has been met with hesitation and hostility. The study of evolution is truly groundbreaking and revolutionary in our own understanding of life itself.
Collection-Of-25-Inspiring-Quotes-From-Charles-Darwin1

 

Evolution in The X-Men Series

Evolutionary insights have also inspired astonishing stories like X-Men. The X-Men are children of the atom developed in comics during the 1960s. First titled as “The Mutants” Stan Lee and Jack Kirby were advised to rename the comic, as at the time most people didn’t know what a mutant was. The stories of the X-Men showcase the more fantastical possibilities of mutations and delve into the social issues they would face as a new class of life. Inspired by Darwin’s legacy, the X-Men even have a character named after him, whose mutant ability helps him adapt to survive!

tumblr_ma4im2vlvz1rvq7rx

 

Which Superheroes are Mutants?

But what is a mutant? Look no further than the immortal words of Lady Gaga, “Mutants are born that way.” Mutation is part of evolution, the process by which all the creatures in the world today became what they are. Mutations are fundamental changes to a person’s genetic code. The basis in the evolutionary truth of mutation sets X-Men apart as a long standing comic stories. The Avengers aren’t mutants, Tony Stark is a genius but impossibly so and not as a result of a genetic mutation as far as we know. Captain America and the Hulk are not mutants, although their powers do come from the effects of serums and radiation they were born as average (or below average) people. Hawkeye and Black Widow are just regular people and Thor isn’t even human to begin with.

 

What About Quicksilver?

Quicksilver on the other hand is an interesting case. He has appeared in both The Avengers and X-Men films. Just as he is in comics, in the X-Men films he is a mutant, he was born with the mutant gene which he inherited from his father Magneto. But in Avengers: Age of Ultron, his superspeed like his sister Scarlet Witch’s powers are the result of alien technology and radiation. Because 20th Century Fox owns the rights to the X-Men and the mutants, in the Marvel CInematic Universe they are known as “miracles” not mutants and Magneto doesn’t even exist. They are technically the same character with the same abilities just with completely different backstories and personalities, and only one of them is a mutant.

avengers-x-men-quicksilver-marvel-fox

 

Born Not Made

In the X-Men films, all of the mutants are born that way, with their abilities manifesting at birth or near adulthood. The only other way mutations have been shown to occur is through the transference of other mutants, like Rogue, Viper, or Apocalypse. Though many believe her to be mutant, we probably will never know for sure, but either way Lady Gaga is right, mutants are born not made. In this lesson we will look at genetic mutations both fictional and real and try to answer the question – Are there mutants already among us?

civil war mcu thumbnail

Marvel Civil War: Whose Side Are You On?

 

civil-war-promo-art-600x321

Captain America 3: Civil War was just released. Since Avengers: Age of Ultron, the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) has carefully started to shift the story towards one of the greatest conflicts in comic book history, Marvel’s Civil War. In a sure sign that comics were getting awesome again, Marvel built in a story arc where the Avengers fought each other. This has happened before in comics, usually because one superhero gets mind-controlled by a villain. In the Marvel Civil War, though, the Avengers were instead fighting because they had different interpretations of rights. Both sides’ views were supportable by some interpretations of the Constitution. But would either have stood up in court? If the Avengers had taken their differences to court, instead of to the streets, which way would it have gone?

Which side are you on? Try the quiz below to find out!

The Plot of the War The Marvel Civil War was told in seven comics, released from 2006-2007. It takes place after most mutants have been killed, or have fled in secret to Xavier’s school. Having dealt with mutants, the United States government turned their attention to superheroes. The government wasn’t a big fan of superpowers. Untrained superheroes kept stepping up to villains in crowded areas, getting themselves and others killed. In one case, a couple of new superheroes tried to fight Nitro in a mall, leading to the deaths of over 600 people. In addition, superheroes, especially the Avengers, were also interfering in politics. Nick Fury was fired because he led a coup against one of the United States’ allies (in fairness, that ally was an evil cyborg). Finally, the government decided to act. Congress passed the Superhero Registration Act, forcing all superheroes to take off the masks, register their abilities, and work for federal law enforcement. They hired Tony Stark (Iron Man) to help enforce  the law. Captain America violently resisted. Both sides escalated in force.


 

The Arguments

The pro-registration arguments, supported by Tony Stark and Mr. Fantastic, include:

  • Superheroes cannot veto a Congressional decision
  • Regulation of use of powers will be required by law
  • The government may restrict the rights of some to protect the rights of many

The anti-registration arguments, supported by Captain America, include:

  • Privacy protects superheroes and superheroes have a right to it
  • The majority should not legislate against minority rights
  • The government should not restrict rights in the present because of possible events in the future.

Do either of these arguments carry legal weight? This lesson below explores the legal precedents at play.

civil war mcu thumbnail

Marvel Civil War: Whose Side Are You On?

The first promo art of Captain America 3: Civil War was just released. With the latest chapter Avengers: Age of Ultron upon us, the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) will carefully start to shift the story towards one of the greatest conflicts in comic book history, Marvel’s Civil War. In a sure sign that comics were getting awesome again, Marvel built in a story arc where the Avengers fought each other. This has happened before in comics, usually because one superhero gets mind-controlled by a villain. In the Marvel Civil War, though, the Avengers were instead fighting because they had different interpretations of rights. Both sides’ views were supportable by some interpretations of the Constitution. But would either have stood up in court? If the Avengers had taken their differences to court, instead of to the streets, which way would it have gone?

Which side are you on? Try the quiz below to find out!

The Plot of the War The Marvel Civil War was told in seven comics, released from 2006-2007. It takes place after most mutants have been killed, or have fled in secret to Xavier’s school. Having dealt with mutants, the United States government turned their attention to superheroes. The government wasn’t a big fan of superpowers. Untrained superheroes kept stepping up to villains in crowded areas, getting themselves and others killed. In one case, a couple of new superheroes tried to fight Nitro in a mall, leading to the deaths of over 600 people. In addition, superheroes, especially the Avengers, were also interfering in politics. Nick Fury was fired because he led a coup against one of the United States’ allies (in fairness, that ally was an evil cyborg). Finally, the government decided to act. Congress passed the Superhero Registration Act, forcing all superheroes to take off the masks, register their abilities, and work for federal law enforcement. They hired Tony Stark (Iron Man) to help enforce  the law. Captain America violently resisted. Both sides escalated in force.

The Arguments
The pro-registration arguments, supported by Tony Stark and Mr. Fantastic, include:

Superheroes cannot veto a Congressional decision
Regulation of use of powers will be required by law
The government may restrict the rights of some to protect the rights of many

The anti-registration arguments, supported by Captain America, include:

Privacy protects superheroes and superheroes have a right to it
The majority should not legislate against minority rights
The government should not restrict rights in the present because of possible events in the future.

Do either of these arguments carry legal weight? This lesson below explores the legal precedents at play.