February 27th, 2009
These are my favourite new pants. They bring the total of Hulk pants to five, making the mean green smashing machine a clear winner in the pantularity stakes. (Regular skidophiles will remember that for reasons unclear half the total Hulk pants feature him taking big licks from Iron Man. Technically this is only gamma pant solo mark three.)
Yeeeah! What beauties. In as much seriousness as is appropriate for this seemingly endless parade of shame that I’ve volunteered myself for, I think these are the most perfectly designed pants in my collection – the poor imaginary guy, sweating away over the drawing board in superpant HQ really outdid himself this time. Both for reasons of pure design and in terms of sly humour, the picture choice and the way it’s been mapped to the knicker design are very well done indeed.
The huge, looming perspective on the hand is just right, and the cheeky smiling face (drawn perhaps by Dale Keown? He was the Smooth Hulk guy, no?) … well, more on the face in a bit. Let’s stay with the hand for a minute: as well as bringing a new meaning to the oft-heard phrase ‘it’s big like the Hulk’s forearm’, there’s just something subconsciously reassuring about having the image of that enormous engorged limb propping up my gentle bits all day. It’s like permanently having an atomic orgone bomb, poised at five-to-midnight, nestling in my nutsack, the life-force of an entire (Marvel) Universe right where I really want it. GGGRrrRRr! Rrr.
(Alternatively, after looking again it’s hard not to think about my poor meaty-veggie playfulness being nestled there in the heel of the Hulk’s hand, ready at the merest twitch of a gamma-enhanced muscle to reduce my excellency to nothing more than a creamy, bloody palmful of sour genital paste. I try not to think about that.)
Oh right, let’s talk about the face:
(… I know what you’re thinking: ‘Just what is that, striking him on the chin and frosting his fringe there?’ I think we all know perfectly well what it is really, but is it really appropriate? And shouldn’t it be green?)
But beyond even the greatness of gammapsaff jokes that these pants provide, look again at that face. There’s something else happening in those eyes there. You’re a comics person, so you know that feeling you get sometimes, when a picture comes alive for a second in front of you, takes on a new dimension of life, sits up and begs to be read and re-read. Sometimes this phenomenon crawls out of the confines of the paper page and jumps on your knickers.
So what’s that glint in big Brucie’s eye all about? (Be warned, this where we get out the dusty Jung textbooks and cheap Frazer reprints, hold our noses for a painful, ill-informed dive into the muddy waters of depth psychology, start throwing words like ‘avatar’ around. Readers less than enamored of such an approach may want to skip the next few paragraphs and head for the flatus, discussed at the end of this post, which just between you and me utterly redefines the word ‘classic’.)
Is the elusive, bullshit-streaked quality of ‘modern myth’ (that we all like to ascribe to our superheroes these days – how the hell else are we supposed to make it to 40?) really applicable here? If so, what is it? What is it about the Hulk that makes him speak to our modernity, to the numinous part of self that requires these anthropomorphs to explain the world it experiences? With these things, it’s always best to start obvious: Green. The Incredible Hulk, before he is angry, before he is Id, before he is Shadow, the Incredible Hulk is green. Actually, he wasn’t green when he first appeared actually, but due to the printing prcessssszzzzzz….*
So, I hope we can agree that green can be said to be the colour of nature, and that its associations are various but largely consistent when applied to fertility or nature spirits: both delicate and mighty, verdantly beautiful but also not to be fucked with if you’re wise. Hulky antecedents in this context are ubiquitous, stretching from such familiar Anglosphere folk figures as the Green Man, Robin Hood (whose humane moral imperative of only menacing the rich chimes with the Hulk’s gentleness in the presence of innocent children or fluffy animals), Jack-in-the-Green (that’s a photo of him above there, taken not too far from here in Hastings, c. 1985) or John Barleycorn, to others worldwide, such as the Sufi saint Al Khidr or Hindu beastie Kirtimukha. But the Hulk isn’t just another humanised emblem of the wildly active and persistent power of nature. When he appeared, t the specific cultural moment that produced him, that needed him to explain itself to itself, the times they were a-changing.
Nature itself was changing: the bomb, the key to the origin of the Banner-Scientist:Hulk-Wildman complex, had opened up whole new vistas of how the very concept of nature had to be conceived. Enormously deadly new territories had opened up within mankind’s understanding of the natural, physical universe, all inside the newly explored globe of the atom. These strange new micro-lands, whose effects on the human realm were so huge and wide-ranging they could barely be imagined, needed a new kind of green man to encapsulate them. An anthropomorphic figure who didn’t just represent the eternal bounty, variety and caprice of the earth, but who was actively, catastrophically dangerous and threatening in his individuality (all it take is one man, with one finger poised over one button to destroy everything) and his relationship to the human and physical environment. This green man’s natural home isn’t the lush and sheltering forest of Sherwood, it’s the irradiated, sun-baked deserts of the American Midwest, the same lands that killed John Wayne and the set of national foundation myths that he stood in for.
The Hulk became the channel for the nuclear dangers of the H-bomb, this insecurity, this danger that man had given to himself as his greatest gift and most dangerous discovery.
No wonder he’s always so pissed off.
In this capacity, in the way he updates, integrates and ultimately transcends the function of earlier figures, I think that he of all the mighty Marvel pantheon is the one who can most honestly claim to be a genuine thing of modern myth. That’s what that cheeky glint in his eye is all about, and that’s why he’s on so many pairs of my pants.
Okay then, the rest of you can come back now. Let’s get down to the real business. Let’s look at the flatus. I mean, really look at it – breathe it in:
Basically, it’s perfect. It invites the kind of hubristic speculation that I try to avoid: do the people who make these things read this blog? If I designed them for a living, would I google ‘superhero pants’ to see what was out there? would I end up at this blog? Would I internalise the aesthetic principles and conditions of great superhero pants, as this blog has attempted to describe them over the past year or so, and would it effect my work? There’s a lot of ifs there, too many really, so I guess we’ll have to adopt the Marvel method and assume that the great power cosmic of serendipity is at work here, and that the fact that the flatus on these pants comes so close to the Platonic idea of what a flatus should aspire to be is a mere wonderful coincidence. Let’s look at it again:
Just great. Pure superhero design in full effect, great lettering, great colours, a great sentiment. The whole back side of the pant, stretching from cheek to cheek, is all flatus. This is an innovation (the first of two that this pant makes), a whole new way of thinking about flatii. When wearing these pants, the arse practically bellows at the lucky listener: ‘CRAS[H]‘ (the ‘H’ is largely obscured but, heavily implied). There is also a wonderfully playful openness to interpretation at work in this flatus – look at the lettering on the upper right cheek, specifically where the flying fragment eclipses the upper curve of the ‘S’, transforming it, squint a bit, into what could almost be a ‘P’, making the flatus altogether different – ‘CRAP’ – but equally appropriate (because ‘crap’ is another word for ‘poo’.) It’s really an impressive achievement.
The second innovation made by these keks, essentially unknown within the annals of my knicker drawer, and placed with barely-believable good fortune right by the arsehole, is that central flying shard of shredded steel (and we’ve all had days where it’s felt like that, haven’t we?) This object, this visual signifier of something happening at that precise spot is such a bold new feature of these knicks that it requires a new term to be added to the technical vocabulary that we have to describe superhero pants. The name given to any shitlike object placed with deliberate or seemingly-deliberate cheekiness near the fundamental exit wound is henceforth desigated within the superpant taxonomy the ‘rektus’. With a ‘k’. Example usage: Strewth – the rektus on those boxers was about as easy as a nuclear war. Greatus.
* Yes yes, we incredibly don’t care about the circumstances leading to the Hulk’s development from grey thing to green thing. That he wasn’t conceived as green, but became green by circumstance beyond even the divinely inspired Man and King’s creative mono-mind, is, you guessed it, actual confirmation of the nonsense nature’s god notion advanced above. Because the Universe demanded it.