Tuesday, October 21, 2014

The Superhero Theme Project: She-Hulk and the Lamp

Before the Little One was born, we envisioned her room as a post-modern landscape in which ladybugs and superheroes co-existed. Perhaps ill-advisedly, we agreed on a retro She-Hulk lamp, arguably with the intent of displaying one of the few explicitly strong female superhero characters. In truth, we thought it looked cool. As she became more aware and her imagination began to blossom, however, she concluded that due to the She-Hulk's raging facial expression, she was “not very nice.” For a while, the lamp got moved to the upstairs room, and only recently got moved back in once she was convinced that She-Hulk was a “good guy” (and, admittedly, after the purple teddy bear lamp broke).

In the big scheme of things, She-Hulk is actually a pretty marginal character in the Marvel universe, but because of the situation with the lamp, she warranted positive representation in this phase of the Superhero Theme Project. It would, however, have to be delicately handled from all angles. To start with, finding a picture of She-Hulk that isn’t threatening or near-pornographic took more research than you might think.  I settled on the one below to the right here.  She is smiling, showing off her muscles, and is also reasonably dressed.  Winner.

The music was even trickier. She-Hulk was not known for having uncontrolled rages like her gamma-powered cousin, nor did she have the same struggles as Banner did in controlling the monster within. She was able to retain quite a bit of control over her green identity, and actually embraced it as a coping mechanism for her own insecurities. She enjoyed being a superhero, so it did not seem appropriate to render her with the same menacing introspection of the Hulk.

She is strong, though, and not without her own struggles with the characteristic Hulk rage. I had nothing in my catalog that I found satisfying. For several days I streamed a broad variety of soundtracks - everything from Godzilla to Cosmos – looking for something that made musical sense. I get apprehensive about finding music for the playlist this way. Without some time to simmer I have to really be attentive to hear structure, which is the hallmark of a substantial theme. One hasty choice and I am stuck listening to meandering noodles for the next few months.

One of the great, unending resources for distinctive soundtrack music is anime. There is so much of it out there and so much of it is done well that once you start down that path, it can be overwhelming. I was fortunate to stumble across the soundtrack to Blood+. I own the DVD for Blood: the Last Vampire, and I would not have thought that the music from a series spun off from that hyperviolent anime would suit the She-Hulk so well. The minute I heard it, however, I knew that I was onto something. A process of elimination brought me to the track Chasing Thru Time.

It was immediately dark, triumphant, exciting, and not too scary. It was also unified by incredibly strong theme and variation and featured an electronically enhanced section towards the end that could, with a little stretching, tie in to Craig Armstrong’s Hulk Theme.

I put both The Hulk and She-Hulk on the playlist at the same time, so she was introduced to both tracks on the same commute. We had already had an interesting discussion about The Hulk, and we were sitting in the driveway when She-Hulk came on. She gasped when she saw the picture pop up on the screen, and sat in rapt attention as the song played out. After it was over, we had another interesting discussion about The Hulk and She-Hulk being cousins.  You never know what is going to end up being important.  Certainly, She-Hulk is far more interesting, and less threatening, now that she has been included in the playlist.

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