Christmas, Toys, and Oz


I might do a re-read of The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus this year, seeing as how I have the new edition with Eric Shanower’s illustrations. I guess it depends on how soon I finish the library books I have checked out. But anyway, this book credits Santa with making the first toy, a wooden cat; and later the first doll from clay.

L. Frank Baum sets the story in an unspecified past, when “[t]he world was new” and “so long ago our great-grandfathers could scarcely have heard it mentioned,” but the mention of Christmas suggests it couldn’t have taken place before the fourth century AD. We know that playthings existed long before that, so I suppose the mythology has to be taken with a grain of salt. Also, we know that Merryland is ruled by a wax doll who is also a fairy, so did she exist before Santa made the first doll?

I’m sure I’m thinking way too hard about this, but that’s basically what I do here. The Baum and Oz books contain a lot of toys, including living ones and beings inspired by them in different ways. The Scoodlers, for instance, were based on jumping jack toys with faces on both the fronts and backs of their heads, but they’re flesh-and-blood creatures.

Bear Center is a community of live teddy bears.

We don’t know who created them, but the King claims that the fairies dropped some magic into his body while he was being stuffed. According to Bill Campbell and Irwin Terry’s The Lavender Bear of Oz, the city is equipped with the necessary materials for the bears to repair themselves and even make new residents, with help from the Threadbears who produce strands of thread from their own bodies. Miss Cuttenclip has a village of paper dolls made from living paper provided to her by Glinda.

The Squee Gees are rubber people who live in a rubber city in the southern Gillikin Country, and Kabumpo compares them to Princess Pajonia’s rubber dolls that can only make noise when squeezed. As such, they have to punch or squeeze each other in order to converse.

Oddly, one of the Squee Gees is said to be a baker, but there’s no indication as to what a rubber man might bake. There are a few different communities of balloon people, and an island of living kites. The Fuddles, Topsies, Hoopers, and Sport from the island of retired pirates and bandits are based on jigsaw puzzles, tops, rolling hoops, and sporting equipment, respectively. Peg Amy spends time as a live wooden doll, and Twiffle and Twoffle in Jack Snow’s Shaggy Man are little wooden clowns.

Getting back to Merryland, two of the seven valleys there are inhabited primarily by toys. The Fourth Valley, where the Queen lives, is home to dolls of many different sorts. Most of them are quite small, and live in dollhouses set on streets lined with trees carved from wood and grass made of wood shavings. The Queen herself is the size of a small child, and carries a magic wand. She rides in a coach drawn by horses on wheels. They eat cotton, while the dolls eat sawdust. The majority of her subjects are mischievous, troublesome, and hyperactive, so she only animates them for a little while at a time, which seems rather cruel.

There’s a lot about Merryland that comes across as perhaps unintentionally dark, though. Queen Dolly also has a room in her palace decorated with laughing children’s faces, which I can’t imagine would be too pleasant, although Tot seems to like it.

In the Sixth Valley, there are a good many wind-up toys, including a merry-go-round and a train, as well as a lot of animals. One alligator contains a squeaker, and unlike the Lavender Bear’s embarrassment at his own, he quite enjoys hearing it but can’t unless someone steps on him.

Winding up the residents is the job of Mr. Split, a wooden man who can split himself into two by means of brass hooks. When separated, his left side speaks only the beginnings of words, and the right only the ends.

The alligator refers to a person who made him, but never says who it was.

In Ruth Plumly Thompson’s The Curious Cruise of Captain Santa, the titular character visits the Lost Islands, which, like Merryland, are home to many living toys. One of them, Rockaway Island, not only rocks back and forth itself but is inhabited by wooden rocking animals.

Another, Doll Island, is ruled by a jack-in-the-box, and its inhabitants speak a language called Squeek.

With their permission, Santa and his crew take some of the residents, buildings, and vehicles to use as Christmas presents; but they are no longer able to talk and move on the other side of the horizon. Santa thinks they might come to life again if they’re loved enough.

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Posted in Bill Campbell and Irwin Terry, Characters, Christmas, Eric Shanower, Holidays, Jack Snow, L. Frank Baum, Magic, Oz, Oz Authors, Places, Rachel Cosgrove Payes, Ruth Plumly Thompson, Toys | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Saving the Nine Worlds Again

When I hear about a new book coming out by an author I like, I try to put a hold on it at the library. Recently, it seems like all my holds came in at once, and since they have other holds and I can’t renew them, it means I have to concentrate on one at a time instead of my usual leisurely (but organized in a way that makes sense to me) switching back and forth.


The Ship of the Dead, by Rick Riordan – This is the third and last book in the Magnus Chase series. I didn’t know this one was going to be the conclusion, and it kind of felt like the ending was pretty abrupt after the episodic build-up. It’s probably not going to be the last time we see Magnus and his world, though. Riordan is making no bones about how his mythology series all take place in the same universe with Percy Jackson showing up to train Magnus in the first chapter. He has problems of his own, which makes me think how crazy it is that the Greek, Egyptian, and Norse pantheons not only co-exist, but are all dealing with world-threatening events at around the same time. It sounds like these things happen all the time for those connected with the old gods, though. Mythological figures also don’t change all that much in personality, even when they adopt new technology and culture. Odin, for instance, has become obsessed with PowerPoint presentations. Magnus and his friends have to stop the ship made of dead men’s nails from sailing, and hence prevent Ragnarok. This leads them to the home of <a href=https://vovatia.wordpress.com/2011/08/20/out-to-sea/the sea god Aegir and his daughters, the castle of Skadi, and back to Alfheim to battle Hearthstone’s father who had been turned into a dragon by the power of Andvari’s ring. Finally, they reach the ship for a confrontation with Loki in a contest of insults that doesn’t exactly turn out as planned.


The Book of Dust, Volume 1: La Belle Sauvage, by Philip Pullman – The author returns to the world of His Dark Materials with this prequel, introducing an innkeeper’s son named Malcolm Polstead (an older version of him had previously turned up as a student in Lyra’s Oxford, but I haven’t read that yet) who has to take the baby Lyra from the convent where she was left to seek sanctuary at Oxford, which is complicated not only by enemies who want to take the baby, but also by a massive flood. I kind of feel this isn’t enough plot to fill an entire novel, especially when we know basically what’s going to happen. Still, it was pretty cool seeing this world of visible animal-shaped daemons and religious intrigue again, even if I have forgotten a lot of details from the original series. Lord Asriel and Mrs. Coulter both make appearances, as do several other characters from the earlier books, all in true prequel style. A new villain this time is a reprehensible scientist who’s a pedophile and abuses his own daemon. I understand the next book in this trilogy will take place after His Dark Materials.


Donald Duck: Terror of the Beagle Boys, by Carl Barks – This was a birthday gift from my brother. It’s the tenth volume in the series of Fantagraphics collections, although it’s not like they’re being released in order. The comics here see not only the introduction of the Beagle Boys, but also the organization of Junior Woodchucks to which Huey, Dewey, and Louie belong. In the first appearance of the criminal gang, they’re actually successful, but not due to their own efforts so much as Scrooge and Donald’s attempts to prevent them backfiring. The Beagles only appear in the final panel, aren’t wearing their prison jumpsuits, and don’t have any lines. Another story here, “In Old California,” apparently a favorite of Barks’s, has Donald and his nephews seemingly travel back in time to California in the mid-1800s. “Dangerous Disguise,” a spy story with a lot of twists that takes place on the French Riviera and in Spain, is interesting in that all but five characters (Donald, his nephews, and a bullfighter who looks like Donald) are drawn as human instead of animal-people. I understand Barks preferred drawing regular people as background characters, but the editor didn’t approve. Human and funny animal characters often appeared side-by-side in animation, but I guess the comics were stricter about maintaining the sense of this being sort of an alternate world. The short “Attic Antics,” which was drawn by probably not written by Barks, is of interest in that it features Pete trying to rob Grandma Duck while Daisy is visiting, and being foiled by the mice from Cinderella. Again, such crossovers weren’t uncommon in animated shorts, but I get the impression they were much less of a thing in Disney’s comics. Barks shows off his penchant for humorous drawing with a sea serpent Donald encounters during his tenure as a snake charmer.

I do think it’s a little odd that this story ends with Donald happily collecting trash while his nephews complain he refuses to make anything of himself while the very next story in the collection has Donald complaining about doing any kind of work at all while the nephews don’t mind farm labor, but in a way that makes the characters more realistic, as people aren’t always consistent. The latter comic was also the origin of this:

Posted in Authors, Book Reviews, Cartoons, Comics, Humor, Magnus Chase, Monsters, Mythology, Norse, Percy Jackson, Rick Riordan | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Birdo Is the Wordo


Birdo, one of the Super Mario Bros. 2 mini-bosses, comes up online every once in a while. Drew Mackie, for instance, has addressed the character a few times. The fascination with the monster is largely due to his/her being transsexual. Well, maybe. The instruction manual describes the creature with, “He thinks is a girl and he spits eggs from his mouth. He’d rather be called ‘birdetta.'”

This seems to be a pretty close translation of the Japanese manual from Doki Doki Panic, although there the name is Catherine (Kyasarin), who’d rather be called Cathy. I suspect that’s not a common name in Japan, although in parts of the world where it is used, it’s traditionally a female name, so does his preferring to be called by a nickname even relate to gender? With the Western name, an O is typically a masculine ending in Romance languages, while “etta” would be feminine. That doesn’t explain why “birdetta” wasn’t capitalized, though. Also, have you ever known anyone, male or female, who spat eggs from their mouth?

I assume the feminine part is in the generation of eggs, but do they even function like regular eggs? We do see a Birdo egg hatch in Super Mario RPG, but we don’t see whether this egg comes from another Birdo’s mouth. And if they are genuine eggs…well, I believe gender is fluid, but I think you need a second X chromosome to produce ova. Of course, not all Birdos encountered in the game DO spit eggs; some only spit fire. Perhaps these are the males of the species? I doubt it’s that simple, though. How many Birdos are there, anyway? The manual suggests there’s only one, but it uses the singular for most of the enemies, including ones where you can clearly see multiple individuals on the same screen. As with Toads and Yoshis, the name of the species also appears to be that of one particular recurring Birdo. The Satellaview BS Super Mario USA treats the three different-colored Birdos as separate characters, which means there are at least three.

There’s a newly hatched Birdo in SMRPG, and it is immediately able to spit explosive eggs.

Some of the sports games show several Birdos than that at the same time.

So is EVERY Birdo a male that thinks he’s female?

Certainly, the gender confusion surrounding Birdo has become integral to the character in later appearances. The Satellaview game gave all of the Birdos the voices of men with feminine traits. Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga has Popple hesitate before calling Birdo a dame. And there’s a Japan-only game called Captain Rainbow with appearances by several characters from various Nintendo properties. Here, Birdo is arrested for using a women’s bathroom (pretty topical these days), and your character has to find proof that she’s really female, which is provided in the form of a censored item that’s presumably supposed to be a vibrator.

I’m not entirely sure how that’s conclusive proof of anything, but it’s good enough for the police robot. Hey, we all have to learn about the Birdos and the Beezos someday. If Birdo generates eggs from her mouth, I don’t think I want to know what part she stimulates with the vibrator. But really, we know so little about Birdo anatomy that I’m not sure there’s any real reason to assume our ideas of sex and gender even apply to them.

Maybe they’re hermaphroditic, and others who encounter them just assume that they must be either male or female. This page suggests that the snout might actually be a cloaca, with the fire that some Birdos spit being a digestive waste product. It’s also unclear why the translators thought a name containing “bird” was appropriate for these creatures. I guess it’s because of the eggs, although birds aren’t the only animals that lay eggs. The writers of the Super Mario Bros. Super Show took the bird thing to heart, however. In the very first episode’s cartoon segment, “The Bird! The Bird!”, we see a Birdo who flies, lives in a nest, and eats worms.

I’ve seen it suggested that Birdos are dinosaurs, which are related to birds. The scales on their backs do seem reptilian. But then, this is the same franchise that has fire-breathing animals with spiked turtle-like shells, ox horns, and hair on their heads. And Yoshis who are identified as male can lay eggs, although they never seem to produce offspring. We do see plenty of Yoshis hatch from eggs, but not necessarily the same eggs we see others lay. I guess it’s no wonder that Yoshi and Birdo are sometimes shown as a couple.

While we eventually meet friendly versions of most of the enemy species, especially in the Paper Mario series, Birdo shows up as an ally of Toad as early as 1994, in Wario’s Woods.

The young Birdo in SMRPG deems Mario and his allies too cute to kill. In Superstar Saga, she helps out Peach by serving as a decoy, but you later have to fight her when she joins up with the thief Popple because she has a crush on him.

I think this is the first time Birdo is able to use her snout for suction and create egg shields. She’s come to be characterized as glamorous and flirtatious, and aspires to stardom.

I don’t know whether that’s true of every Birdo, though.

Posted in Animals, Cartoons, Gender, Mario, Monsters, Super Mario Bros. Super Show, Television, Video Games | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Hello, Yellow Brick Road


Let’s take a look at the 2017 Oziana, the literary magazine of the International Wizard of Oz Club, which was recently released. There are three stories this time, plus a one-page poetic work. As far as I can remember, the authors’ names are all new to me, which is good inasmuch as I sometimes fear there are only around ten people who read and write for the publication. “Angry Jack,” by Sara Philips, describes what happens when Jack Pumpkinhead lashes out at his friends, and they argue back. Most of the things that anger Jack are valid, and some of those he yells at refuse to even admit their own part in angering him. The explanation for his mood is done with a pun. “Patchworked Memory” is a short piece by Grace Willey, a free-form character sketch of the Patchwork Girl. “The Road Not Taken,” by E.J. Hagadorn, explains the origin of the Yellow Brick Road and identifies its architect as Alonzo Ward, nicknamed Brickabrack, a bricklayer from Hartford. I guess that would be the one in Connecticut, although his letter doesn’t specify. The town received that name in 1637, so that fits with the road’s construction beginning around 1700 according to Paul Dana’s The Magic Umbrella of Oz. Brickabrack has a prophetic vision of the road when he mixes up magic powders at the Wicked Witch of the East’s house, and then hides a note for Dorothy to read before he dies. Finally, we have “Unsociable,” by S.A. Samuelson, focusing on the developing relationship between Reera the Red and Ervic from Glinda of Oz. Reera gets married to Prince Glenn of Portmore in Richard Quinn’s Red Reera the Yookoohoo and the Enchanted Easter Eggs of Oz, largely because she wants a child. In Paul Dana’s upcoming Yookoohoos, however, she’s married to Ervic and they have a kid. Presumably the marriage to Glenn didn’t work out, perhaps because he wasn’t able to father a child, or because the life of a princess clashed too much with her previous largely solitary lifestyle. I remember hearing that Edward Einhorn once joked about the Bumblebeast who appears outside Reera’s home in Living House could be her husband, although that still leaves the question as to whether he’s Glenn or Ervic. There are some tales that give backgrounds for Reera’s ever-changing animal companions as well. One is a black ant who usually takes the form of a horse called Bone White, and another named Thrug is a former familiar of the Wicked Witch of the West who started out as a dragon but was transformed into a donkey. Anyway, Samuelson’s story keeps Reera in character with how L. Frank Baum wrote her. It also deals with the possibility of boredom when living continuously at the same age in an enchanted land, something Marcus Mebes also addressed with Woot the Wanderer in his recent short story “Peer Counseling.” It does seem like he’d eventually run out of places to wander, even considering the possibility of places within Oz that are bigger on the inside than the outside or ones that blink in and out of existence, both of which have been suggested by various authors. One of my favorite observations of the idea of avoiding boredom in a largely unchanging place is the advice the Wizard of Oz gives a newcomer from the United States in Daniel K. Cox’s “Beyond the Rainbow” from the 1978 Oziana: “You see, eternity is better when taken a little at a time.”

I have two Oz books I haven’t started reading yet, Marcus’ fourth volume of The Royal Explorers of Oz and Marin Elizabeth Xiques’ The Fairy Wand of Oz. I’m looking forward to them, but have some library books to finish first.

Posted in Book Reviews, Characters, Edward Einhorn, Fred Otto, L. Frank Baum, Magic, Marcus Mebes, Monsters, Oz, Oz Authors, Poetry | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Join the Odyssey and See the World


I haven’t played Super Mario Odyssey, and I’m sure I’d be terrible at it if I did. There’s a reason I mostly stick to turn-based role-playing. I am, however, quite interested in keeping abreast of new Mario developments and how they affect the games’ universe in general, particularly the geography. As such, I was excited to learn that early media released for Odyssey included a map, and a fairly detailed one at that.

There are even latitudes marked on it, although I’m not sure how official they are. It comes with its own problems, however. It’s been confirmed that the Mushroom Kingdom is the mushroom-shaped place near the top of the map. Isn’t that awfully small, though? I mean, this is also the Mushroom Kingdom, and it looks considerably bigger:

While I suppose it’s possible to fit locations previously said to be in or adjacent to the kingdom onto this landmass, wouldn’t that make the other kingdoms really enormous? I suspect it’s something like what was done in Zelda II and Dragon Quest II, where the entire playable area from the first game is merely a small section of the map from the second.

It serves to emphasize how big the new game world is, but at the same time it means leaving out a lot of stuff. This is apparently the way of the Mushroom Kingdom in Odyssey, where apparently not even Toad Town appears.

This post from Marioverse on Reddit has a map by LukerGamerz that fits a lot of the places from other games into a mushroom shape.

Another version of the map has gained attention due to its possible inclusion of Isle Delfino from Super Mario Sunshine, which doesn’t appear in the game itself.

If you compare it to the other map, however, the dotted line at 45 degrees has apparently become the equator. The latitudes suggest this is only the Northern Hemisphere, but I’m pretty sure it shows all the locations you can visit (well, not counting the Moon), and why wouldn’t Mario’s ship be able to reach the Southern? On the other hand, it also allows us to imagine places that aren’t shown as being just off the map. The Pudding Continent mentioned in Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door must be somewhere, right? There’s been fan speculation as to where places like Sarasaland and Dinosaur Land might be located, but those were never referred to as continents that I can recall.


Another oddity involves New Donk City, which appears on the map to be only a small part of the larger Metro Kingdom, although I don’t think you ever get to explore the rest of it. It appears to be shaped a lot like North America. Anyway, New Donk features indications that it’s where the original Donkey Kong game took place. It was also said (or at least strongly implied) that Big Ape City in Donkey Kong Land was the location of the famous battle between plumber and gorilla, but that’s apparently on Donkey Kong Island.

I guess it’s possible that Donkey Kong Island is part of the Metro Kingdom, but I don’t know how likely that is. Maybe Mario and DK had matches in a few different cities. Regardless, while New Donk has a lot of names from the DK series, I haven’t heard about any actual Kongs showing up, except for a cameo from the eight-bit DK in a two-dimensional segment on a tower wall.

Instead, it’s full of inhabited by giants in business suits and hats.

Okay, maybe they’re not supposed to be giants, but they tower over Mario. Our hero is small, but I don’t think he’s THAT small. A character guide from 1993 referred to Mario’s species as homo nintendonus, so maybe he is significantly different from homo sapiens. So what does that mean for other characters who look more human than anything else but still have cartoonish features, like Peach, Daisy, Professor E. Gadd, or Captain Syrup? Pauline, who’s the Mayor of New Donk, kind of seems to be a cross between the two sorts of person.

Speculation on GameTheory has it that the New Donkers might be so large because they eat magic bananas like those in the Kongs’ hoard.

Did the humans drive the apes out of the city, but retain street names in their honor, as with places in our country with Native American names? Are the Kongs local celebrities but still a minority? Or, if it is the same as Big Ape City, maybe the Kremlings conquered the apes and the humans the Kremlings. We may never know.

Posted in Donkey Kong, Dragon Quest, Maps, Mario, Video Games, Zelda | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Not All Scumbags Are the Same


As of late, it seems like every celebrity or politician is turning out to be creepy and abusive. I’m glad people are speaking up about it, but it just appears disturbingly common. I’m sure part of it is due to money, power, and fame making people think they can get away with anything (and often actually being able to), but that doesn’t explain why what they want to get away with is so cruel and disgusting. I think occasionally about Jared Fogle from the Subway commercials, who presumably didn’t grow up with celebrity privileges, but was just some more or less random guy who ate subs as part of his diet. You’d think the odds of someone like that being a pedophile would be practically nil, but I guess not. Is it a lot more common than I thought it was? It’s even more difficult when someone you actually admire, because you don’t want it to be true, but you want to believe the accusers as they’re inevitably less powerful and often unfairly criticized or threatened. Supporters will often try to frame it as a smear campaign or a way to get money, even when there’s corroborating evidence and coming forward can seriously hurt your career. That’s not to say there are never false charges; I mean, I’ve come across people who lied even when it wasn’t remotely in their best interest. Hey, I wouldn’t be surprised if Michael Jackson really did engage in illegal activity with children, but I remember the last person who brought charges against him being quite litigious. Not that that necessarily means she was wrong, but I can see how it might seem suspicious. In some cases we’ve heard about recently, the abuser has been a rich jerk we want to see taken down a peg: Roy Moore, Bill O’Reilly, Roger Ailes, our esteemed President. I’d probably also put Harvey Weinstein in this category, even though Republicans tried to paint him as a typical Hollywood liberal. I don’t think people get attached to producers the way they do actors or directors, though (except maybe when they’re the same people); and they’re really more businesspeople than entertainers anyway. But when you have someone who seems likeable and positively influential, like Al Franken, George Takei, or Neil deGrasse Tyson, that’s much more difficult to process. I’m sure it’s not like that for the victims, though. By the way, I think Michael Jackson taught us that, once a problematic entertainer dies, it’s okay to enjoy their work again.

Not all sexual abuse charges are of men against women, but that seems to be the most prominent, and I’m sure a general hatred of women and desire to defend the patriarchy, even if it isn’t entirely conscious, plays a role. It’s disturbingly common for men to be angry at women in general because they can’t get any of them into bed, never considering that it might be at least partially their own fault. There’s a frequent narrative of the dorky but nice guy having a crush on an attractive popular girl who only dates scumbags, but I’m not entirely sure why these girls are supposed to be such a catch. If you think a girl is that shallow, though, why would you want to date her? It makes more sense if it’s just about sex, because it’s not at all uncommon to be sexually attracted to someone with a terrible personality, although I can’t say I understand what the biological rationale behind that is. But if that’s all it’s about, then maybe you’re not considering that you might also be a scumbag, just in a somewhat different way.


So what the self-styled Christians defending people like Trump and Moore, while still condemning others who have committed sex crimes? Trump recently attacked Franken, which pretty much everybody with a functioning brain realized was really hypocritical. Part of it is that so-called values voters don’t really put that much stock in their values, except maybe they value of upper-class tax cuts. But I’ve also come across references to how, among fundamentalist Christians especially, there’s a lot of false equivalency going on. I believe I’ve written before about how heinous I find the doctrine that all sin is equal before God; Jack Chick was a supporter of this, as was some guy on Lockup Beth still mentions sometimes who insisted stealing a cracker was as bad as murder. But does anyone really believe this? It seems pretty obvious that some things are worse than others, but I guess it’s a good way to excuse yourself while condemning others who have done committed less severely wrong actions. As far as sex goes, it’s apparently quite common in some circles (or should that be crosses?) to treat all sex outside marriage as pretty much equally bad. So yes, molesting a minor is sinful, but it would no worse than, say, having sex with your committed partner the night before you sign the marriage certificate, or basically anything with the same sex even if it’s fully consensual. Consent, which is the main factor in whether something is legal, becomes rather insignificant. The corollary of this is that, once you ARE married, your spouse isn’t allowed to refuse sex. I don’t believe in the concept of sin anyway, but I’d still say it’s a major theological stretch to go from “all people are sinful and have to be forgiven by Jesus” to “every sin is equally forgiveable.” But yeah, I think this can be a major contributing factor to holier-than-thou hypocrisy. It also doesn’t help that the same religious groups tend to support rigid gender roles, and the idea that if a man DOESN’T want to have sex with basically every woman he sees, there’s something wrong with him.

Posted in Celebrities, Christianity, Current Events, Fundamentalism, Gender, Politics, Religion | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Let’s Talk About the Hulk


I read the collected Planet Hulk storyline when I heard it was going to be part of Thor: Ragnarok and Comixology had it on sale. I also read a collection of the first several Hulk stories, as I hadn’t before.

He’s an interesting character, but it seems like even early on they weren’t quite sure what to do with him. He’s not really a hero or a villain, although he plays both roles at various times. Instead, he largely wants to be left alone and get rid of anyone who’s bothering him, destroying anything in the way. Bruce Banner starts out changing to the Hulk at night, then finds a way to transform back and forth at will with a gamma ray machine, which really seems to me to be tempting fate.

Sure, the FIRST gamma blast gave you super powers instead of cancer, but who’s to say it will continue to do that? This version of the Hulk retains Banner’s intelligence, but he’s later back to being an out-of-control brute. He’s a charter member of the Avengers, but is at odds with them at times. Even when in his most famous “Hulk smash” mode, he’s not really stupid, just driven by emotion. He’s aware of his alter-ego, but doesn’t like him. The Hulk developed as a representation of the repressed part of Banner’s psyche, as he’s emotionally reserved and dealing with childhood trauma. Stan Lee has cited Frankenstein’s monster, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and the Golem as influences on the character. I think there’s also a bit of the berserker, or of Cuchulainn from Celtic mythology when he goes into rage mode and is a practically unstoppable fighter but unable to distinguish between friend and foe. Banner has a young sidekick named Rick Jones, who I believe later goes on to be Captain America’s and Mar-Vell‘s sidekick.

Oh, I also like how Hulk is able to travel great distances simply by jumping, although I guess that’s also what Superman did before he started flying, which I understand was mostly because it was easier to show in the animated shorts.

The Planet Hulk arc shows the green guy as able to successfully lead a revolution, rule a planet, and raise a family, while only very briefly turning back into Banner. After a warp core explosion in the ship that brought him to Sakaar, much of the planet is destroyed, and Hulk returns with his surviving allies to Earth to get revenge.

He eventually finds out that, even though his fellow superheroes did trick him into leaving the planet, it was loyalists of the former king who actually planted the defective core. Miek was aware of this, but didn’t tell the Hulk.

Miek is in the movie, but the part about his being a traitor wasn’t retained. I don’t know if it will show up later, but I have seen talk of both him and Korg reappearing in later films.

There’s also a six-part Comixology-exclusive Thor vs. Hulk series written by Jeremy Whitley, the writer of Princeless, that sees the two of them performing various challenges for a stylish cosmic being known as the Promoter.

I understand that Marvel hasn’t made any more solo Hulk films because of their deal with Universal, but I do wish they’d provided some closure with Betty Ross instead of just casually getting Bruce into another relationship. Oh, well. I don’t think anybody really watches these superhero movies for the romantic subplots. It does seem pretty consistent that women Hulk has feelings for can calm him down, while for Cuchulainn it was just any naked women.

Posted in Book Reviews, Celtic, Comics, Monsters, Mythology, Relationships | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment