For the curious...

For any of the Avengers fans curious about how the Stark + Banner bromance thing goes in the comic canon, I dug this here up for yas:

Hulk vol 2 071
Hulk vol 2 072
Hulk vol 2 073
Hulk vol 2 074

It's pretty much just Stark and Banner for this short arc, with a few vaguely peripheral people of whom I have never heard before, and of whom no one probably ever heard again. A few notes, for context:

  1. Tony doesn't drink anymore. He dried himself out some years ago in the comics, because he noticed it was starting to interfere in his being a genius billionaire playboy philanthropist. This is basically the only way to get Tony to do anything. He has kept the rest of his world-famous collection of bad habits, on the basis that he is TONY motherfucking STARK and he can do whatever he wants.
  2. Bruce is on the run again, pretty much now and forever. He does typically show up when the Avengers assemble, but aside from that he spends most of his time being an itinerant supergenius and trying not to break things. I believe currently it's the Army trying to get a hold of him again. Evidently they have not learned from experience that penning Banner up tends to end badly for the pen, and anything else within Hulk-smash radius of it.
  3. Iron Man and the Hulk, as in the film, are founding members of the Avengers, but the team tends to go their separate ways whenever the Earth isn't in mortal danger. Canonically, Stark outed himself as Iron Man more or less as in the RDJ movie (although the press conference was held under somewhat different circumstances), and is widely-known to be both the dude in the robotic suit and one of their major sponsors; Banner was outed as the Hulk some time ago, unwillingly, and how much of their tech he's behind is not as easy to pin down. (Other sources for Avengers toys are Reed Richards, of the Fantastic Four, and the occasional alien race, like when Professor Xavier shacked up with Empress Lilandra of the Shi'ar for a while, and she forked over a bunch of stuff for his mutant school.) As far as I know, they don't spend much time together when they aren't breaking shit -- Banner always skedaddles as fast as he can, while Stark is still a very public figure.

It's not alluded to directly in this story, but Banner makes for a very canny fugitive. He's been completely de-Hulked a few times -- it never sticks, obvs -- and nobody can keep him long even when he can't charge right through walls. The fact that Tony catches him at it is more impressive than either of them mentions. Bruce's official bio mentions that he's one of the eight smartest people on the face of the Earth; Tony Stark is indubitably one of the other seven. (Other people on the list, off the top of my head, would be Reed Richards, Hank Pym, Victor von Doom, and a bunch of others I'm not bringing up at the moment -- possibly Beast is on there, but don't quote me on that.) He's known as probably the top mind in gamma physics, although this would be more helpful to people if they ever knew where he goddamn was.

Pretty much all of the basic elements they drew on for the movie are there. Tony assesses Bruce point-blank as a good, trustworthy guy, and is not particularly perturbed by the Hulk. Bruce is somewhat less sure of Tony in general, but mostly to the extent that he's not sure of anyone anymore, and has a lot of well-documented issues believing anyone actually gives a damn about him.

The Hulk's ability to access Banner's intelligence and be articulate are, as a general rule, directly proportional to how much warning Banner has and how good an idea he thinks being big, green, and functionally indestructible is at that particular moment. Even when it's a total panicked surprise, he only puts Stark through the wall a couple of times, rather than turning him into extremely expensive pâté. (Tony's aware of the significance. Also thankful to still have his skeleton unpulverized.) Stark is correspondingly reckless, and starts a mock-fight for the benefit of any remaining spies without explicitly warning Banner first; Bruce does not seem particularly worried about Hulking out over it and doing any serious damage to Tony, not to mention ruining his shiny new suit.

The ending also makes it clear that Bruce is kind of scary-good at following Tony's brain down the rabbit hole. Not an unobservant man, Bruce -- Tony banks on it about as often as he runs afoul of it. He can't be too annoyed, I suppose, as it does tend to save his life.

In short, they play the smart-kid game on paper, too. This particular example dates from approximately the time the first Iron Man movie came out; if you want others, you'll just have to dig around on questionable Russian file-hosting sites like I did.


  1. If you haven't yet, you might be interested in the "Ultimate Human" mini-series.

    1. I opened the Wiki article and saw "Warren Ellis". I don't know what happens in this thing, but I do know that no one involved is going to be having a good week.

    2. ...christ. I forgot that I should never read anything Ellis writes about people I normally have sympathy for. He's dark and cold and brilliantly funny when he's allowed to make up his own crew, but his Stark and Banner make me queasy, very briefly, right before I totally stop caring if the Hulk eats everyone in the book, up to and including random secretaries who are unlucky enough to be working in the building that day.

      Admittedly, Tony can be a thoughtless, manipulative dick, sometimes, but I'm pretty sure the one in the main universe wouldn't have just chucked Banner into the test chamber without at some point saying, "So, Bruce, buddy. This might get kind of uncomfortable. You sure you wanna do this? Okay, take a few deep breaths..." The beginning was pretty bitter, but that was too much for me. Plus they all suffer from the same thing most of Ellis' characters suffer from, which is that there isn't a lot of interesting character interplay when everyone's 'voice' sounds exactly like the author's.

      I think I'll give Ultimates a miss from now on.

  2. Something to balance out the Ultimates bad experience: Captain America rides Iron Man like a pony

    ...yes, it's an actual panel from Avengers v1 #215. It never stops being hilarious and slashtastic.

    (I found it via this list of slashy Steve/Tony moments in comics. While I think some of them are just a case of really thick slash goggles, others are, um, yeah I don't know what they were thinking if they weren't trying to write them as gay. Like this: I swear I've read cheesy slash fic that had nearly identical dialogue.)

    Also, there is a reason Ultimates is apparently known to the slash fen as "the one where everyone is an asshole".

    1. The thing about slash goggles is that they make pretty much any moment of high emotion into potential foreplay. You and I think the enormity of that list is amusing, because we recognize that only a few of those panels are really suggestive -- most are ambiguous, poorly-planned, or just out of context. I don't have any particular objection if someone else wishes to believe Cap and Tony are sneaking off to do terrible things to each other in the broom closets, and I also don't care if someone else doesn't see where that comes from. Other people... are more unbalanced. In either direction.

      Warren Ellis, when he's writing established characters, does the same thing, except instead of "homoerotic", he substitutes "soulless, heartless, inhuman monster". When he's allowed to establish a setting where everyone is intentionally a complete dick for comic effect, he's awesome (read Nextwave, it's fantastic). But he's lousy at writing human beings. Stark and Banner, whatever their addictions, demons, and neuroses, are very human, and always have been. Cap wasn't even in the one I read, and frankly, I don't want to know.

      For what it's worth, I've been through something like thirty years of Iron Man and Hulk now, and this is basically a recurring pattern with the two of them. Whenever Tony runs into Bruce all Hulked-out and getting into trouble again, sans the other Avengers, honest-to-Og his first reaction is always, "Welp. Good thing I have a guest room and enough money to make the police fuck off for a while." When Bruce comes to, he starts tinkering with whatever science toys Tony left lying around, and invariably scares the bejeezus out of someone on the staff, because Tony has totally forgotten to tell anyone that he's there. Sometimes the fact that other people can't read his mind kind of eludes him.


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