WARNING: The following contains spoilers for The Immortal Hulk #22 by Al Ewing, Joe Bennett, Ruy Jose, Belardino Brabo, Paul Mounts and VC's Cory Petit, in stores now.
Gender and sexuality are are being addressed more frequently, not only in superhero comics, but also in their adaptations. The Young Justice animated series, for example, recently followed up on the comic book portrayal of Aqualad as gay, while Halo has been portrayed as gender fluid and bisexual. Then, of course, Batwoman will headline her own live-action television this fall.
As for transgender characters, there's DC's Alysia Yeoh (a friend of Barbara Gordon), Coagula from Doom Patrol, Ken Shiga from The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl at Marvel, as well as various indie characters such as Braga, the transgender Orc from Rat Queens. The point is, it's a much more progressive and diverse time we live in, with trans creators also working with the Big Two. And while it's a bit unexpected, it turns out someone who's vocal about transgender rights is the Hulk.
The Immortal Hulk #22 finds Bruce Banner holed up in California with Betty Ross, still reeling after her latest Harpy incident, and the gaunt body of a reviving Rick Jones. They're hiding out from the Shadow Base team and while everyone's in a panic, one of Banner's alter ego takes over to try to restore a sense of composure. It's "Sunshine Joe," the new persona of Joe Fixit, who's evolved so he can occupy Banner's body in daylight, and is much more cheery as he views his time out there as a vacation. He exudes optimism as he acts as the plotter for the Devil Hulk to run the show at night.
He goes next door to the reporter, Jacqueline McGee, who's been documenting their disastrous journey, and lets her know she's safer with them. She's contemplating running away, but he tells her the Hulk trusts and considers her genuine so she'll be protected. She's a bit confused because Joe admits Banner doesn't like her, but the Devil Hulk -- for whatever reason -- thinks she's actually an ally. When she asks Joe if he likes her, he then reveals his answer by connection to something hidden in Hulk's psyche until now.
Joe tells her he's on the fence, but he respects her a lot. He actually spent quite a bit of daytime reading articles online, especially her opinion pieces, to get a better sense of her character, which led to his positive judgment. The piece that turned his head was her story on transgender rights, and Joe admits it won him over because he connects with it, as it revolves around the overall concept of "the other."
He calls the trans rights piece "real good," and lauds her slant of people wanting to be themselves, because, after all, that's what these Hulk personas want. The parallel doesn't exactly hold up, but you can see where Joe is coming from, and he balks at the comments responding to Jacqueline's article saying, "You sure know how to piss off the puny humans."
Joe reveals he's an advocate, and if this Hulk persona supports trans rights, chances are the others do too. It proves that, amid all the chaos, the Hulk stands for inclusivity.
The Immortal Hulk #23 goes on sale Sep. 4