Hulk: Six feet under the radar
When Superman died fighting Doomsday, it was all over the news, before it even happened.
When Bane broke Batman’s back, people were talking about it outside of comic shops.
When Captain America was killed in the aftermath of “Civil War,” I found out from my mom because it was featured on “The Today Show.”
Captain America and Thor’s replacements by the Falcon and Jane Foster, respectively, also worked their way into the mainstream pop culture conversation, as did the original Cap’s utterance of the phrase “Hail Hydra.”
But the recent death of an Avenger and character well-known to many people who have never even opened a comic book seems to have flown, more or less, under the radar.
(Obligatory SPOILER WARNING for “Civil War II” #3 that came out three months ago)
OK, so the Huk’s dead – shot through the head (though I wish it were the heart, due to potential Bon Jovi references) by a specially designed arrow fired by Hawkeye. The question of whether it was justified since the arrow was designed by Bruce Banner himself should he Hulk out of control again and the fact that heroes were confronting Banner over a vision of his alter ego having killed several of them is part of the story and fodder for discussion, but I’m more intrigued by the fact that it seems nobody is really talking about this development.
Thanks in no small part to the Bill Bixby-Lou Ferrigno television series, the Hulk is one of the most well-known comic book characters to the general public. I’d argue he’s in the same class recognition-wise as Superman, Batman, Robin, Wonder Woman and Spider-Man.
As an aside, the last Bixby-Ferrigno made-for-TV movie, “The Death of the Incredible Hulk,” traumatized elementary school-age Evan. I was walking around in a fog the next day, prompting friends to ask if I was all right. I’ve handled this one better.
Extensive research (read, quick Google search) shows some non-comic publications and websites picked up the news of the Hulk’s demise, but it’s not hit the “mainstream” media like previous comic events, even that time Superman turned blue.
As near as I can tell, Marvel didn’t intentionally spill the beans early on this one, so that could explain why it wasn’t on as many radars. They did let folks know a major character was kicking the bucket in the issue though.
Even if it didn’t generate a great deal of buzz, the issue’s sales seemed to do all right. “Civil War II” #3 was the fourth-highest-selling book for July, according to Diamond Comic Distributors. The first issue of the series, which doesn’t seemed to have gained the traction of its predecessor, was the top-selling title of June. Issues 2 and 4 came in at fifth and seventh, respectively, for June and July.
I hope that means Marvel will take this approach in the future, as it’s better, in my opinion, for readers to experience the story rather than know in advance what is going to happen (even if I did have to scramble to read it to avoid spoilers).
Another reason could be that, even though everybody already knew it, people are finally accepting the comic book deaths don’t mean a whole lot.
There’s still multiple Hulks running around out there, including Amadeus Cho in “The Totally Awesome Hulk.” I have little doubt Bruce Banner will be back sooner rather than later. Buy enough issues where a character dramatically dies, either out of interest or a misguided hope at an investment, only to have them pop up a year or so later, eventually, you catch on.
Evan Bevins is the writer of the webcomic “Support Group.”