All of the previews for the movie show The Hulk in a slugfest with another gamma-spawned creation, the Abomination, basically doing what they should be doing -- trashing entire city blocks. Now, that's what I call a Hulk movie!
The Incredible Hulk is, of course, one of Marvel Comics' best-known creations. Brought about in the early 60's during the formative years of the Marvel Age, he was the creation of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, who sought to modernize a monster mythos, giving their new character elements of both Frankenstein as well as Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.
The Hulk was Bruce Banner, a top-flight scientist working for the military on a new device, the gamma bomb. On the day of the test, a rebellious teenager named Rick Jones approached the test site, and Banner went out to save the boy. Unfortunately, the bomb went off, and while Banner wasn't killed, he was thoroughly irradiated by the strange gamma radiation of the bomb-blast.
Initially, Banner became the Hulk only at night, where he would change from a fairly meek man into the raging powerhouse. In the first issue, the Hulk was actually grey! However, this color did not reproduce well in comics, so he was changed to green. Later, it became established that Banner transformed into the Hulk when seriously provoked, which was pretty often.
For years, The Hulk remained a largely mindless brute of limited intellect, who despised his alter ego and wanted as little to do as possible with "puny humans". He was smart enough to ally himself occasionally with other heroes, most notably the original Defenders, but for the most part, he was a renegade, and both he and Banner were generally on the run.
One of the most notable turning points in the career of the Hulk came in, I'm going to say the early 80's, but it might have been the late 70's. Banner had sought out the assistance of Canada's most prominent radiological scientist, and an old friend, Dr. Walter Langowski. Langowski had subjected himself to gamma radiation, more successfully, seeing it as a possible means of treating disease. The end result was his ability to transform himself into the hairy super-hero known as Sasquatch. However, Sasquatch retained his intellect.
During this particular episode, Sasquatch was attacked by the monstrous Wendigo, and looked to be on the losing side of the battle. Banner, for the first time ever, used his intellect to transform himself into the Hulk, rather than the transformation occurring as a reaction to outside stress. This difference allowed Banner to retain his intellect as the Hulk!
This started Banner and the Hulk on a long and winding road of adventure which continues to this day. It has been determined that Banner is the victim of one of the most drastic split personalities around. There are actually multiple Hulks residing within his psyche. There is the brutish, if somewhat child-like Hulk that is arguably the best known. There is the grey Hulk, who was brought back when printing methods improved, who is more or less a gangster-like thug. And there is a second green Hulk who retains Banner's intelligence. Most recently, a red Hulk has turned up. I have no idea where he came from, and personally, I think it's getting a little ridiculous...
The Hulk, of all of the Marvel heroes, has probably fared the best in past media. The Jade Giant had a very successful if somewhat formulaic television series for quite a few seasons, courtesy of Universal and CBS. The series starred Bill Bixby as Banner, and Lou Ferrigno as the Hulk. Once the series ran its course, there were a number of television movies in later years, which gave us early live-action incarnations of heroes like Daredevil and Thor. A subsequent animated series in the 1990's also fared quite well.
Honestly, the Hulk's only real media stumble was that last movie. Hopefully this new film fares better.
The new movie stars Edward Norton as Bruce Banner, Liv Tyler as Betty Ross, William Hurt as General "Thunderbolt" Ross, and Tim Roth as the pre-Abomination Emil Blonsky. The Hulk is a whole lot of very impressive-looking computer graphics. So's the Abomination, as far as that goes.
The summer of 2008 spawned many super-hero movies (Iron Man, Hulk, Batman, and what the heck, Indiana Jones almost qualifies as a super-hero), there are obviously Hulk toys all over the place. So -- why did I decide to pick up the Hulkbuster Squad? For that matter, who are the Hulkbusters?
"Hulkbusters" is a name that has cropped up any number of times over the history of the character, and is generally used to represent a military or pseudo-military group that is brought together to combat the Hulk, ideally with the objective of either capturing or destroying him. They are often composed of highly-trained and well-experienced soldiers who combat the "The Incredible Hulk", and these poor saps generally get their clocks cleaned and their tanks and fancy machines wadded into scrap metal.
There have been other incarnations of the Hulkbusters. One actually was a more scientific concern, and involved Bruce Banner himself, during a very weird time in his life when he was actually physically separated from his gargantuan alter ego. Okay, everybody who thought the X-Men had the most convoluted history in Marvel...?
But for the movie, it would appear that the Hulkbusters are pretty much military. So -- why would I want these guys? I mean, a military unit that keeps getting its collective butt kicked? Here's the worst-kept secret in the action figure world right now...
They're recolored 3 3/4" G.I. Joe action figures.
Okay, there isn't a G.I. Joe or Cobra insignia in sight, but the construction is identical to the newsculpt G.I. Joe figures that were offered by Hasbro in 2002-2006. One can hardly blame Hasbro for wanting to get decent use out of very expensive existing molds, and really, the figures are pretty cool.
In 2002, Hasbro altered the structure of their long-running G.I. Joe 3-3/4" figure line. The bodily proportions were slightly altered, and the biggest change was an alteration to how the arms were assembled. The metal rivets were replaced by plastic, and the elbow joint was slightly different. Reaction to the change was mixed, but the figures continued well enough through 2006.
Interestingly, the Hulkbuster Squad is not mentioned in the product catalog for Hulk toys that came with them. Granted, given the stuff that is mentioned. I mean -- "Hulkey Pokey Hulk"? It's a big plush-looking thing that punches, spins, and "dances". There's even a Chopper Bike and an ATV 4-Wheeler for the Hulk. Vehicles for the Hulk strike me as a little strange, but I guess I can accept those more readily than "Hulkey Pokey Hulk"!
Of course, this catalog only lists first assortment items, and the Hulkbuster Squad appears to be from the second assortment -- and short- packed at that.
The text on the back for the Hulkbuster Squad reads, "Formed by General 'Thunderbolt' Ross specifically to hunt down the Hulk, the Hulkbuster Squad is made up of the most high-tech and highly trained soldiers on the planet. They carry super-powerful weapons strong enough to stand up even against the Hulk!"
The two figures are entirely different, and I shall describe them individually.
The first one has an exposed head, which appears to have been painted flesh-tone. This was something Hasbro tended to do with some of their later G.I. Joe figures that I always found annoying, especially since, more often than not, the figure's head underneath was molded in flesh tone.
There has been some indication that the headsculpt is supposed to resemble actor Tim Roth, who is in the movie, as Dr. Emil Blonsky, who ultimately becomes the Abomination, and I suppose this is entirely possible. For my part, the only other movie I've seen Roth in was that wretched remake of "Planet of the Apes" that Tim Burton dumped out several years ago. And Roth was a chimp in that film. Not the best way to evaluate an actor's likeness.
There is one other unusual aspect to the headsculpt beyond its likeness -- the headsculpt of the prototype figure pictured on the package back is the same, the prototype has a crewcut, while the figure in the package has somewhat longer hair combed back away from his face!
Now, as I did not pay a lot of attention to the newsculpt G.I. Joe figures, I'm honestly not sure whose -- body parts might have been used for this. I would suspect that Hasbro might have brought together parts from quite a few different figures to make these two Hulkbusters. However, regardless, the overall uniform is very decent. This particular Hulkbuster appears to be wearing a sort of black tunic, that hangs slightly below the waist. He has a dark grey vest with numerous equipment pouches on it, black trousers with pouches on the sides, and military type black boots. There's a sort of texturing to the tunic and trousers that makes them look more like fabric.
The only real spot of color on the uniform is a Hulkbuster insignia on the upper right sleeve. The hair and eyes on the head are nicely detailed. There's something about the look of this figure, especially the uniform, that sort of makes one thing that this is the Hulkbuster Squad's commander.
So I guess the other guy is the Squad (and tell me that army-builders aren't going to be all over trying to snag some more of this guy). This second figure is far more generic in appearance, and also looks more equipped for field battle.
The figure is wearing a molded-on helmet with goggles in front of his eyes. The only part of the face you can really see are the nose and mouth. The expression is one of grim determination.
Now, I can't say for sure, but the heavy padding of the chestplate on this figure looks a whole lot like G.I. Joe member Grand Slam, although I am not certain that this is where this figure's torso came from. The overall uniform is black, with grey chest padding, grey belt, and a grey holster on the right leg. He also has the Hulkbuster insignia on his upper right arm. The lenses of his goggles are painted olive green, simulating night vision.
The figure's military boots are very nicely sculpted, and the figure also has knee-pads and elbow pads molded to his uniform for protection. Yeah -- elbow and knee pads against the Hulk. That'll be about as effective as a flyswatter against an elephant.
Let's discuss accessories. Although it might not do that much good against the big green guy, no one can say that these two don't come well-equipped. And I'm pretty sure that almost all of this stuff is from G.I. Joe, too. Theres two small pistols, two medium-sized rifles, and two really big rifles. Then there's the funky missile launcher whose origins I'm not quite as certain of. It could be G.I. Joe-based, but the "flaming missile" makes me question it. It's still a pretty cool item, and the missile really launches.
And, need it be said, any of this equipment would be welcomed by a G.I. Joe fan looking to accessorize his G.I. Joes a bit more. All of the rifles and such are molded in black, and are intricately detailed.
Basically, as I said before, this set includes one figure rather obviously intended to be an individual, and one obviously intended to be a fairly generic trooper. Two figures don't make much of a squad in my opinion, as cool as they may be.
So, what's my final word here? Honestly, I hope THE INCREDIBLE HULK does well in the theaters. The previews that I have seen look quite impressive. It might not be up there with Indiana Jones or Iron Man -- my two summer favorites -- but it definitely shows potential, and certainly a lot more than the last cinematic outing for the Gamma Goliath.
As for the Hulkbuster Squad -- okay, they're probably not going to fare all that well against the Hulk, at least not for very long. They're not really bad guys, though. Neither is the Hulk. They're just following orders, and that's about it. But really, did I buy these guys because of their involvement in The Hulk? Well, no, not entirely, and I doubt I'll be the only one saying that.
Let's say, then, that these two HULKBUSTER SQUAD figures have -- potential multiple purposes. They can take on ol' Jade Jaws. Or perhaps they could be enlisted in another battle...one with perhaps better odds.
Whatever the case, they're still a couple of cool figures, although
I wouldn't mind if I could get a few more of JUST the helmet-guy, this
would really look more like a Squad. Even so, the INCREDIBLE HULK HULKBUSTER
SQUAD definitely has my enthusiastic recommendation!