Look for Your Inner Hulk

— Admit it: You'd love to release the green creature within you.

No, not The Great Gazoo, the condescending martian stuck serving Fred and Barney on The Flintstones in the cartoon's later years. Not the "Ho, ho, hoing" Jolly Green Giant who used to be all over the airwaves pushing canned veggies.

Marvel Comics' raging, roaring, muscle-bound Goliath is the only one of those green guys who's had his own show and is now starring in his own big-screen movie.

But for a character that has been angry for more than 40 years, the Hulk should be happy with his resurgence in pop culture. Thanks to the hype surrounding Friday's opening of director Ang Lee's The Hulk, the not-so-jolly green giant can be found almost everywhere outside comic book shelves — in commercials, toy stores, T-shirts, billboards nationwide, video games, bed sheets and underwear.

Lee's computer-animated vision of the Hulk may be new, but the character's appeal is not. Long before "anger management" became a common term, we loved Bruce Banner when he got angry.

Maybe fans cotton to the idea that a wimpy-looking scientist could turn into a monstrous creature — against his will — when provoked by his enemies. Maybe it's always been the Hulk's beyond-superhuman strength and loner mentality. Then there's the way his unfocused rage led him to take on heroes and villains alike; he's had no qualms battling Spider-Man one minute and then Dr. Doom in the next.

More likely, fans want to be the Hulk — or can at least identify on some level with Banner's suppressed rage.

"He's [The Hulk] not really a superhero. He's really the misunderstood monster," said Axel Alonso, editor of Marvel Comics' The Incredible Hulk. "You have the inherent pathos of a 98-pound weakling turning into a 1,000-pound monster — against his will — who can level an entire city."

"At the heart of the issue are anger management issues, and who hasn't wrestled with those?" Alonso continued. "There's something cathartic about this situation. … Who hasn't been in a situation when they would've wanted to release the Hulk, whether it be at the dinner table on Thanksgiving or on someone who's getting in your face?"

Hulk Psychology

The Hulk was among the new breed of darker, conflicted, more "human" comic book characters that Stan Lee, now chairman emeritus of Marvel, unveiled in the 1960s. He and artist/writer Jack Kirby's new character melded aspects of a modern-day Jekyll and Hyde with Frankenstein's monster. People feared scientist Banner's darker alter ego because of his appearance and destructive tendencies — no matter how innocent his intentions were at times or how many lives he saved.

In the comics, Bruce Banner has always been a man of conflicts. He was a military scientist who wanted to use his talent for good, but he also was responsible for creating the gamma radiation bomb that poisoned him. (Banner was poisoned by gamma-radiation while saving the life of a teenager, Rick Jones, who wandered onto a bomb-testing site. The overexposure to gamma rays causes him to turn into the Hulk when he becomes angry or excited.) In the TV series, Banner (called "David Bruce Banner"), haunted by the death of his wife during a car accident and his inability to save her, suffered a gamma radiation overdose while experimenting on himself.

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