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Dissociative Identity Disorder in Immortal Hulk

AlexC's picture

Dissociative identity disorder (DID) is an often-misunderstood mental disorder caused by overwhelming childhood abuse. To survive the abuse, the child will adopt different identities/personalities that protect their 'main' identity from having to experience it all at once. In popular media, DID is usually a simple 'multiple personalities' shtick, used for horror, with most of the causes not being discussed. 

Probably the most well-known character with DID--or often written as having DID--is Bruce Banner (AKA, the Hulk), who transforms into different monstrous personalities depending on his emotional state. In the Immortal Hulk, Banner's DID falls into the 'exotic' narrative most often, with Banner's  transformations being depicted increasingly gruesomely on the comic page and his monstrous forms (Savage Hulk, Devil/Immortal Hulk, and Joe Fixit) looking completely inhuman. Even Joe Fixit, the one alter who theoretically has the same human body as Banner, looks half-starved and sinewy compared to Banner. In one issue, Devil Hulk is captured and dissected by a team of scientists, but remains alive and mobile (before killing scientists, of course). Banner's DID also somewhat falls into the 'wondrous' narrative. As the Hulk, Banner is the strongest thing there is.

But for all that Immortal Hulk exploits Banner's DID for these disability narrative, it takes the most time and effort out of any Hulk comic to explore Banner's DID in a non-magical sense. Banner's childhood abuse at the hands of his father, culminating in his mother's murder, are thoroughly discussed. In fact, the major villain of the first arc is his (long-dead) abusive father, who literally lives in Hell. Later, Joe Fixit talks about how he came from a night where child Banner saw adults on the television after being beaten up and his mind formed a personality that could "take it like a man". Banner routinely talks to his therapist and is trying to make his system (a DID term) of personalities work together. Immortal Hulk falls into the 'exotic' disability narrative, but it does not deny Banner dignity nor shy away from the reality of DID.