The biggest problem about Boris Johnson’s self-administered comparison with The Incredible Hulk – apart from the fact that my four-year-old also compares himself to The Incredible Hulk, and I wouldn’t trust him with a butter knife, let alone Brexit – is that there’s no such thing as a definitive Hulk. The character has appeared in several forms across various media throughout the years, with each incarnation changing to reflect the political mood of the day, the available technology and the mindset of the interpreter.
Mark Ruffalo has already stepped in to correct Johnson’s assertion that the Hulk is a viable metaphor for his Brexit strategy, but perhaps this was a little short-sighted of him. Perhaps the only true way for us to discover the real connection between Boris Johnson and The Incredible Hulk is to work our way through each key screen Hulk on a case by case basis.
The Incredible Hulk (1978-82)
A live-action television series about a once-powerful scientist (played by Bill Bixby, and Lou Ferrigno when angry) who becomes a penniless drifter forced to take menial jobs from suspicious characters just to get by as he’s pursued across the land by an unforgiving press. Wikipedia describes this version of The Hulk as being in possession of “a sub-human mind”. The closing theme tune is a sad piano ballad entitled Lonely Man. This is too easy.
The Hulk (Eric Bana) is still a rampaging beast of near-total destruction, but this time it’s all because of a deep-set, decades-long familial psychodrama that brings out the worst in all parties. So, again, there’s probably something in this.
The Incredible Hulk (2008)
In the year that Boris Johnson became mayor of London, Hollywood had another crack at a Hulk story, with Edward Norton taking the role. However, the film was not a success. It was too brash, thoughtlessly stringing together spectacular set pieces with no thought to how they slotted together. It was fraught with behind the scenes issues and ultimately the lead was recast in favour of someone better suited to the job. It is not for me to draw parallels to Johnson’s mayoralty, but there are loads of them.
Old Man Logan (2008)
Technically this is the comic book that inspired the 2017 film Logan. However, in this version Logan’s main adversary are the Hulk Gang, a group of hillbillies all descended from the Hulk and his myriad children. The Hulk Gang is so numerous that nobody even knows how many children Hulk even had. We can’t rule out the possibility that this is what Johnson was referring to.
The Avengers (2012)
The Incredible Hulk (now Mark Ruffalo) is recruited by a team of superheroes charged with saving the Earth from catastrophe. All goes well as the team begins to overcome their differences and formulate a plan of attack, but then Hulk gets a bit full of himself and pretty much destroys the aeroplane they’re all flying in, even though he’s already onboard. Now I come to think of it, this one fits pretty well too.
Thor: Ragnarok (2017)
Finally, The Hulk is in charge. He’s been able to create an entire planet in his image. Without anyone around to interrupt his efforts, he has become the hero he always wanted to be. His face is carved on the sides of skyscrapers, and thrumming crowds roar with glee at his every move. However, the planet is almost solely comprised of other worlds’ rubbish that’s been gracelessly dumped there through something known as the Devil’s Anus. I don’t want to repeat myself, but that’s as good as analogy for post-Brexit Britain as you’re ever going to find. You know, maybe Johnson was really on to something.
Avengers: Infinity War (2018)
The Hulk starts a fight with someone bigger than him, then loses, then goes into hiding. He then builds a slightly unconvincing Hulk suit out of metal to give him the illusion of superiority, and then still loses again anyway. Right, listen, Boris Johnson is definitely The Incredible Hulk.
Avengers: Endgame (2019)
In which The Hulk becomes something called Smart Hulk. I take it all back, this is nonsense.