Wednesday, September 12, 2007

The One Where Bruce Banner Was Almost Gang-Raped At The YMCA

There's a very interesting discussion over at the John Byrne boards regarding an old story Jim Shooter wrote for "Rampaging Hulk" in which Bruce Banner almost gets gang-raped at the YMCA.

You can see scans of the scene here, but here's some dialogue:

Two thugs confront a naked Bruce Banner in the shower of the local YMCA:

Bruce Banner (knocked against the shower stall wall): "Hey! W-what do you guys want?"

Thug #1: Umm! You're soft! And all pearly white -- and you've got the cutest little cheeks! Think he'll whine, Dewey?

Thug #2: Yeah, Luellen -- an' I like it when they whine!

Banner (sort of weirdly picked up and his face smacked): Look, I -- Hey! Leave me alone! I -- uhh!

Thug #2: Shush, sweetie! It's all right! We just wanna play!

Thug #1: You go first, Dewey! I'll stand guard outside! Fair's fair! I went first with that chubby cutie from Akron last week!

And so on.

Byrne posts "No comment" regarding whether he thinks Shooter's story was homophobic. But he does quibble with him on a different point:

"BTW --- one thing on which I will comment. Shooter described the YMCA scene to me before he did it, and stated that 'Banner is so scared, he does not become the Hulk!' Talk about forcing the character to serve your story!"

Was Shooter's story for "Rampaging Hulk" homophobic, especially in light of the supposed "no homosexuality" policy he was supposed to have in his books?

Or was the story a product of the time?

And if Shooter really had such a policy, was it because of homophobia or economic considerations?

One Byrne Board poster commented:

"But I imagine that, if Shooter did have a policy of no homosexual portrayals in comics, that there were plenty of economic reasons for that. It may have been a business decision, not a personal one. Lots of companies played it very conservative back in the 80's... and comics had even more a reputation as a children's medium than they do now."

When Byrne is asked on the same thread whether there should be gay characters in comics, he says:

"There need to be Gays in comics because there are Gays in real life. No other reason. Same reason, in fact, that there are Blacks in comics. Asians in comics. Women and children in comics! The population of the fictional world should represent the real world."

I'll say that reading the scans of that YMCA scene made me absolutely cringe, though a lot of stereotyped portrayals of homosexuals during the 70s (and heck - 80s & 90s!) make me cringe. Jack Tripper doing his exaggerated "gay" routine to fool his landlords in "Three's Company" makes me cringe now.

Glenn Greenberg posts on the thread that he recently interviewed Shooter about this topic for an upcoming issue of "Back Issue" magazine, which should be interesting.

I leave you with another quote from that same scene in "Rampaging Hulk," when Bruce Banner (too scared to turn into the Hulk), pushing himself away from the grasp of his would-be rapists, says:

"You know...that big green monster who can crush steel balls in his hands? You hurt me and I'll turn big and green and tear your...head off!"


  1. Notice that, when Banner changes into the Hulk, he does so by showing his bum to the reader. Could this be the source of the Hulk's anger, that basically he's an unsatisfied bottom?

    Boy, THAT would change the ending of World War Hulk, wouldn't it?

    All silly jokes aside, I wish that the comics of the 80s had done a better job of showing gay characters. I came from a very religious, sheltered background, and probably acted very poorly to gay friends for the first few years of my adult life. If comics at the time had been more progressive, it would have helped in growing up. After all, if we can learn science and vocabulary from superhero comics, why not how to treat our fellow man?

  2. I remember reading this issue as a kid. Most of the coded (and not-so-coded) information flew over my head. The gay characters still read as creepily sinister, though I wouldn't be able to tell you why.

    Reading it today, it seems less pointedly homophobic and more in line stereotypical treatment of gays in that time period (villain or eccentric sidekick). If I recall, Rampaging Hulk was a magazine and could get away with more of an edge in its content, and this was probably Shooter's idea of pushing boundaries, which is kind of sad.

    "Oh pith," indeed.

  3. as a gay, i dont find this homophobic...

    i find it totally HOT! mmmm rape!

    honestly though, how come gays are always bad guys or girlfriends?

  4. "that basically he's an unsatisfied bottom?"

    hahaha. he didn't get enough post ass rape cuddling?

    or maybe he needed some DP.

  5. I'm an oft-noted Jim Shooter fan, but damn, that's shameful. Why so rough?

  6. Who cares about the portrayal of gays here= is this an accurate portrayal of conditions at the YMCA!?! Communal showers and all that? I was planning to try staying in one during my NYC visit and I've never even stepped into one before.

    More to the point, at least the rapists are multicultural...(yes, that's sarcasm)

  7. All silly jokes aside, I wish that the comics of the 80s had done a better job of showing gay characters.

    Quite - when, oh when, will the insensitive damage wrought by Love & Rockets, Wendel and Dykes To Watch Out For be repaired?

  8. I honestly don't get why people try to maintain distinctions between "offensive" and "of its time when said time is offensive.

  9. Shooter has said that his Pete Stanchek character in Harbinger was supposed to be gay.

    Why create such a character if he was homophobic?