This is Past Was Close Behind, a feature that spotlights moments, exchanges, etc. from older comics that take on a brand new light when read in concert with later comic books or events. Basically, stuff that looks hilarious in hindsight. Today, we look at how Marvel made fun of the idea of a Red Hulk.
Okay, so first off, let’s take a look at the Red Hulk.
Introduced in 2008’s Hulk #1 by Jeph Loeb, Ed McGuinness and Cam Smith, the whole shtick is that the Red Hulk had all of the power of the classic Hulk, but he was also smart, strategic and more than a little bit nasty.
He didn’t play by the same rules as everyone else. He wasn’t really a villain, per se, but he also had no problem with fighting superheroes if they got in his way or annoyed him in some way.
We later learned that the Red Hulk had the ability to absorb energy from people around him which would then charge himself up. So, say, when he was fighting against Thor, he would be charged up on Thor’s hammer and would then become stronger than expected. When he fought against the Green Hulk, he would absorb some of the Green Hulk’s gamma radiation which, in turn, would weaken the Green Hulk and make him easier to defeat.
Eventually, we learned that the Red Hulk was secretly Thunderbolt Ross, the man who had made it his life’s mission to hunt down the Hulk. Now that he cut a deal with the Leader and a bunch of other smart villains to power himself up with gamma radiation, he became a red version of the Hulk, but he maintained his mind, complete with all his many years of military know-how. It made him a difficult foe for anyone to defeat.
The Red Hulk was a true anti-hero. That was, in a way, a throwback to the early 1990s, when Marvel seemed to be filled to the brim with popular characters who were, at BEST, anti-heroes, and in some cases they were just outright villains who sometimes fought against people who were even bigger villains than them.
Remember, in the early 1990s, despite him pretty clearly being a murderer, as established in a number of comic books, Venom was given a free pass by Spider-Man to allow Venom to move to the West Coast and become a sort of “lethal protector” To homeless people out west. He and Spider-Man had a bit of a truce, a sort of “you don’t mess with me, I won’t mess with you” arrangement (less formal than a true truce).
This thing sort of unsettled Marvel’s editors at the time, but what were they supposed to do? People LOVED guys like Venom back in the early 1990s.
The X-books even started to slowly but surely seem to kind of sort of chip away at Sabretooth’s evil persona, before they ultimately decided not to do that and even when he served on superhero teams, it was as a prisoner (the editor of the X-Men books, Bob Harras, was a particular non-believer in murderers getting their own series. As soon as Venom’s sales slipped just enough, he canceled the Venom series of miniseries despite them still being profitable).
That trend was the cover of the 1993 Marvel Year in Review…
And in discussing that trend, Marvel included a hilarious deal making fun of the concept of a Red Hulk that, well, you should see for yourself…
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