Some things can’t be explained. It’s for the best. Indeed, there are some questions so deep and so profound that solving them would threaten to unravel all of time and space. Now that I’ve hit a milestone birthday, it’s time to look back at my life and return to some of the great mysteries that have followed me through the decades. It’s a journey that’s taken all kinds of unexpected twists and turns but has taken me precisely where I always knew it would – it’s taken me to the Incredible Hulk.
It was one of my all-time favourite shows as a child, growing up. Which is odd, given that it’s quite a complex story. Each show essentially began with a recap as to the events that brought us to ‘Hulk world’. Dr David Banner, who is introduced as ‘physician, scientist’ and, I think, ‘double denim enthusiast’, is trying to find a way to tap into the strength that exists within all humans. Suffering a temporary shortage of guinea pigs, Dr Banner decides to conduct these experiments on himself. This, I feel, may not be best practice. It’s certainly not the kind of malarkey you brag about when submitting to the New England Journal of Medicine.
Inevitably, an accidental overdose of gamma radiation changes his body chemistry. It could happen to anyone. I mean, who hasn’t been making coffee or tea and forgotten whether or not they’ve added the sugar? Even professionals or whoever the local café near my office has making my coffee because (presumably) professionals are in short supply forget sometimes, judging by the fact that every fifth coffee I order has no sugar whatsoever in it. Presumably it’s much the same for gamma radiation. You put some in, get distracted, can’t remember putting it in, so put it in again. It doesn’t end there.
According to the voice over, when he gets angry or outraged ‘a startling metamorphoses occurs’. In this instance, Dr Banner’s changing a tyre in the rain and is having trouble with the wheel nuts when he goes and turns into the Incredible Hulk. It’s exactly the same when my small skinny flat white turns up without any sugar in it. Unluckily, when Dr Banner becomes the Hulk, he now has the power to get the wheel nuts off but, instead, squanders this super-human strength on flipping the car over entirely. What a jerk.
For those unfamiliar with the show, Dr David Banner is a pretty regular, albeit well-educated, kind of guy. The kind of person for whom the term ‘smart casual’ was pretty much invented. I am, of course, choosing to overlook his near fanatical commitment to double denim for the moment. But things get even tougher on the clothes front from that point on. For whenever Dr Banner gets angry, he totally shreds his clothes, turns green and grows a mullet.
The credits explain that everyone thinks Dr David Banner is dead. Confusingly, it then shows him standing beside his own grave with what looks to be a bag from Sportsgirl for no reason other than to confuse visitors. Apparently the Hulk is being pursued for a murder he didn’t commit and Dr Banner is being followed by an investigative reporter, Mr. McGee, who I assume works for TMZ.
The show is greatly aided by a top-notch cast is the form of Bill Bixby, who plays the tortured Dr Banner with consummate ease and Lou Ferrigno who is terrifying as the Hulk without CGI, instead relying solely on a bucket of food dye.
All of this is explained as the opening credits roll. By the time the show starts, you feel like you’ve already been through an experience. But for all the self-experimentation, gamma radiation and his perpetual fugitive state; the real question is this: how does the Hulk always manage to shred his clothes whilst preserving the structural integrity of his trousers?
It’s quite the thing. Turning into the Hulk makes an absolute mess of his shirts, but he never once seems to split his pants. It’s nothing short of an absolute miracle. It seems that whilst David Banner was searching for the secret to human strength and endurance, he may well have inadvertently invented maternity pants.
Think about it. Clothing that is designed to accommodate a transforming body. I, for one, would love to see Hulk-brand maternity pants on the market. But whilst there were lunch boxes and drink bottles and even t-shirts, they steered clear of the maternity market. What a missed opportunity. The show lasted about eighty episodes over five seasons. I was shocked when it ended.
Perhaps I identified with the Hulk in that he represents anyone whose strength is underestimated. As a kid there was something appealing about the idea of being overlooked but able to transform in a moment of need. It’s funny – the television shows of your youth can transform you back to another time. Just the sound of that urgent piano and I’m back in the family room watching ‘The Incredible Hulk’ with my family. That, perhaps, is an amazing transformation in itself.