Agent of S.T.Y.L.E. - HULK Rock Purple! Hulk SMASH Fashion!
But instead of dying, Bruce’s DNA possessed some unknown factor that caused him to mutate. That night, he transformed into the powerful creature known as the Hulk. At first, the Hulk was gray-skinned and brutish but still intelligent. Later, it was green, savage and child-like, emerging whenever Bruce experienced extreme rage or fear. It was later hypothesized that the Hulks were actually psychological multiple personalities created by traumatic experiences in Bruce’s past and not solely the result of physical mutation.
The Hulk was not, and is not, a superhero. He has often fought evil people and he is certainly super-powered. Often times he has been his own worst enemy and has fought Earth’s heroes. So with this in mind, and since he doesn’t wear a superhero costume, he’s pretty different from other characters in superhero comics. Yet he has had some distinctive looks over the years. So join me (and special guest Tim Gunn) as we look over his many outfits. Due to the different personalities of the Hulk over the years, we won’t be staying strictly with chronological order.
THE FURRY DUDE
Many years later, Marvel brought him back to fight the new, much-more famous and green-skinned Hulk. To prevent confusion, our furry sasquatch was named Xemnu the Titan. He shows up now and then, most recently in an issue of Uncanny X-Men. He still looks ridiculous.
THE GRAY GUY
Gray pigmentation makes the Hulk seem unnatural. It gives off a sense of darkness, but it can also give an impression of stone, as if the Hulk is made of that or some similar material (much like a golem) rather than being composed of flesh and blood. It makes us immediately consider his strength and resiliency, which is pretty effective. In the live-action 1970s TV show The Incredible Hulk, Banner’s monstrous alter ego was referred to as a proto-human or simply as a “creature” and those descriptions definitely apply here.
But the clothes aren’t working. In his first appearance, the gray Hulk had a ripped orange shirt and simple blue pants (possibly Banner was supposed to be wearing jeans). You do not want warm colors on a dark, violent character. It gives a wrong idea and clashes badly with the unique skin tone. Heck, it also clashes badly with the pants. And really, the Hulk shouldn’t leave any shirt tatters on. He would discard them immediately.
A few times over the years, the gray Hulk has been depicted in the purple trousers that Bruce Banner later notoriously started wearing. The purple stands out nicely against the gray skin and, since it isn’t a typical color for men’s slacks, it adds to the unnatural coloring of the character. Please note, though: purple trousers on gray are all right, but purple speedos on the Hulk don’t work so much.
THE GREEN GOLIATH
Interestingly, Banner’s habit of wearing purple suits was later explained as an emulation of Einstein. Like the famous scientist, Banner didn’t believe in wasting time picking out what to wear in the morning, so he just bought several identical suits. And they happened to be purple. Deal with it.
If the shorts were looser, I could accept this. Tight bathing suits and speedos only work on some folks and I just don’t think the Hulk is one of them. It just kills the feeling of danger and power. The Thing of the Fantastic Four can pull off the shorts look, not so much Hulk. If the shorts were lengthened or had a belt line of some sort, who knows? Right now, they’re just too close to underpants. (Special Note: the word “underpants” is funnier than “underwear”; It’s science).
Eventually, Banner’s machine stopped working and his transformations began happening seemingly at random. Bruce realized he was changing whenever he was angry or when fear upped his adrenaline. A couple of issues later, exposure to a second, smaller gamma bomb reverted the green Hulk to its savage, child-like persona and once again Bruce retained no memory or control of his alter ego’s actions. Unable to predict when he would change, he naturally wound up with torn clothes a lot more often again. Usually he was wearing one of his many pairs of purple trousers, but on occasion he sported a different color.
Of course, criticizing trouser color doesn’t mean the Hulk should throw away his pants entirely. That happened when Bruce Banner was temporarily sent to this place called Counter-Earth where he and many of Earth’s heroes were forced to live alternate versions of their own lives. There, when Bruce became the savage green Hulk, his pants were completely lost in the process.
Having the Hulk running around naked after bursting out of his clothing may be more realistic than the trousers always staying in place… But hey, it’s comics. If we’re willing to accept the fact that a 5’ 9 1/2” human being can, at a moment’s notice, develop cell and muscle growth to the extent that he becomes a 7-9 foot tall green creature (or a 6’ 6”-7’ gray creature) who weighs roughly 900 – 1400 lbs. (depending on the incarnation) and that he can then throw off that same mass later to become human again – then hey, I can accept that his pants also conveniently stay on. I don’t think I could take any Hulk battles seriously otherwise.
But ripped clothes in the Marvel Universe seem easily avoidable when you consider the question...
WHY NOT USE UNSTABLE MOLECULES?
Thanks to his research and his incredible intelligence, Reed was able to replicate the material and has produced many different types of clothing for himself and his friends that is indestructible and won’t interfere with superpowers. This why all of Reed’s uniforms and business suits stretch along with him and why his brother-in-law the Human Torch can ignite his entire body without burning away his outfit or even his wallet.
UMF has been used to make costumes for the Avengers and the X-Men at various times. Storm had several UMF outfits, some that looked like ordinary civilian garb, and if any of them received an electrical charge then they would realign their molecular structure and transform into her combat uniform. Colossus of the X-Men had an unstable molecule uniform with the unique feature of exposing his legs whenever he shifted into his organic steel form, allowing him to show off his shiny, metal thighs when he went into action. I’ve always wondered if he asked for this feature or if Professor X thought of it when he asked Reed to make some UMF uniforms, but that just opens up a bunch of other questions that we don’t have time for here.
Seriously, it would solve many problems. Moving on…
I’M MR. FIXIT. YOU’RE IN NEED OF REPAIRS.
After events led to the world thinking the Hulk was dead, the gray incarnation went to Las Vegas and took on a job as a super-strong casino enforcer, figuring no one would mistake him for the infamous jade giant since he himself was neither green, child-like nor dead. In this new identity, he called himself “Joe Fixit” and this incarnation has often insisted on using that name ever since.
As stated before, Joe is not like the green Hulk. He is a brute who can be pretty manipulative and clever. He’s also someone who demands respect as a formidable and intelligent man rather than just a collection of muscles. At the same time, he’s a Hulk and not even a snazzy blue pinstripe suit can disguise his massive build.
Joe also has an easier time finding clothes that fit since he is not as tall nor as massive as the green incarnation of the Hulk (although some artists do depict him as being just as large, ignoring what certain writers and handbooks have claimed about his size).
But hey, one thing is for sure. No muscle shirts. And no muscle shirts without sleeves.
Of course, anyone who’s done basic research on DID knows that you can’t merge splintered personalities over the course of an afternoon, no matter how good your hypnotist is, and a few years later we learned that this seemingly merged persona (nicknamed “the Professor” by some) was yet another alter that Samson had created to take over and act as mediator. Samson didn’t like doing this and lying about it, but it was either that or allow the Hulk to continue as an out of control mess.
Now in one adventure, our merged Professor Banner-Hulk found out there was trouble involving his old Vegas friends and he wanted to help out. To make sure people knew exactly who he was, despite the different size and different colored skin, he got himself decked out in a custom-made suit and once again called himself “Joe Fixit” for a few days.
This is a styling Hulk who at any moment can toss off his jacket and rip off his shirt so you remember how thin a line there is between man and monster. This here, I call the “Tim Gunn Hulk,” referencing well-known fashion authority Tim Gunn, Chief Creative Officer for Liz Claiborne, Inc. and host of shows such as Project Runway and The Revolution.
Naturally, I asked Tim what he thought about this version of the gamma-powered green goliath, especially since had and I have had several conversations about how dissatisfied he’s been with the Hulk’s over-all fashion. Ripped pants drive him nuts, but this look provoked quite a different reaction.
“I love this!” Tim declared. “And it’s not just because he’s wearing a ‘Tim Gunn suit.’ It mitigates all that mass, you know? The way Raymond Burr could wear a suit on ‘Perry Mason,’ the Hulk can too! I’m crazy about this, this is what he should always do!”
If you want to see Tim’s reaction to some of the Hulk’s other outfits (as well as the fashion of other heroes), check out our video together.
HULK IN ARMOR
The first time this happened was way back when the Hulk first fought a villain named Tyrannus, a guy whose name very conveniently announces that you should not trust him to restrain himself from trying to conquer you. Tyrannus forced the Hulk into a gladiator arena and gave him an outfit that no doubt was meant to humiliate ol’ Jade Jaws. I mean, look at that helmet. Whose head was that designed for? What guy wore that helmet BEFORE the Hulk showed up? If you can wear that helmet without falling onto your face, you are an impressive human being.
This makes the Hulk look like he’s about to enter a wrestling arena, but in the context of a warrior-king in a Romanesque society, I’m okay with it. And if you lost the shirt and sandals, those pants would still work for our boy. Not sure about that belt buckle, though, since the Hulk doesn’t generally kill people who get in his way.
This armor seems both incomplete and over-the-top. You spend all that material to give him ginormous shoulder pads yet don’t bother with his feet or the lower half of his torso. And what’s with that bracer on his right arm. Does he have a bladed bracer AND a giant sword? Isn’t that a bit overkill when he also has giant pikes and is, you know, the friggin’ Hulk? Still, this is a fun outfit for an entertaining story, so I can’t get mad about it. It just makes me smile.
I dig this look. This has been stripped down to a few very simple elements, but they all work. You’ve got tons of spikes, but they’re not exaggerated in length enough to look ridiculous. The leather gives a sense of clothing, but the fact that it actually leaves most of his body uncovered reminds us how hard it is to injure this guy anyway. The armor on his left arm emulates old warriors who would guard the arm that wouldn’t be holding a sword. If he were back on Earth, leading the life of a fugitive and occasionally transforming at inconvenient times, this wouldn’t really work. But as the intelligent, hair-trigger temper warrior-king of an alien world, yes. It’s very effective and only one of many reasons why you should read the “Planet Hulk” and “World War Hulk” trades.
I would say time will tell how this will turn out, but in the pages of the new series Avengers Assemble the Hulk seems to be back to his savage child-like self, with moments of greater intelligence peeking through. How the Hulk wound up this way again after being intelligent and capable of complete sentences for the past several years has not been explained yet.
Either way, the Hulk remains a popular character who will no doubt reach even larger audiences in a couple of weeks when The Avengers hits theaters! So be on the look-out for him!
Now the Hulk was also once blue. And there’s a Red Hulk. And there have been various She-Hulks. And Bruce Banner’s buddy Rick Jones once became a Hulk. But those are topics to discuss in a special Alternate Hulks column. For now, we say good-bye to Bruce Banner and his fractured mind. Until next time, this is Alan Kistler, Agent of S.T.Y.L.E., signing off![Alan "Sizzler" Kistler is an actor and author living in New York City. He is the author of The Unofficial Game of Thrones Cookbook, The Unofficial Batman Trivia Challenge and The Unofficial Spider-Man Trivia Challenge. He is a creator and host of the weekly podcast Crazy Sexy Geeks, available on iTunes. Alan has been recognized as a comic book historian and a Doctor Who historian by various publishers and media outlets. He thinks Isaac Asimov should be required reading in all schools. He can be found on Twitter: @SizzlerKistler] Other Agent of S.T.Y.L.E. movie Avengers profiles:
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