Steamshovel Press


Nick Nolte The Incredible Hulk

"Comic Book Conspiracy"
by Kenn Thomas

      I originally thought Nick Nolte accomplished a great feat of public image engineering for himself in the summer comic book hero movie, The Hulk, while at the same time delivering again the Hollywood stereotype of the conspiracy theorist. Nolte's last impression on the public was in an extremely messed up looking police mug shot. The police had arrested him for drunk driving and apparently he was drunk on the club drug GHB. Although he had not been beaten by the cops, he certainly looked like it. After The Hulk and as this image receded into the past, people would associate that ignominious visage with his Hulk role as a crazy scientist with an equally messed up face.

      In the movie, Nolte-who once starred as the great Beat personality Neal Cassady in a 1980 film called Heartbeat-plays an obsessed madman. Ranting at the soon-to-be transformed big green King Kong, he tirades against the military terror state. That's a common enough phenomenon in the post-9/11, post-Patriot Act, post-Afghanistan and Iraq Wars, and a thing worthy of common sense discussion. Nolte, however, made it sound like the crazed rantings of the totally insane.

      Hollywood presents this picture all of the time, most notably in Mel Gibson's Conspiracy Theory movie. Anyone who has any of the facts about conspiratorial politics and manipulation and tries to talk about it with others is a nut.

      Or, as Lobster's Robin Ramsay once put it: " of the bedrocks of the ideology of liberal democracies like ours is that conspiracy theories are always wrong, and those who believe them are mental incompetents at best. This unquestioned belief manifests itself in phrases like, 'As usual the cock-up theory of politics turned out to be true.' Belief in the cock-up theory of history and politics is at the heart of what passes for political and intellectual sophistication in liberal democracies like ours. Public genuflection before the cock-up theory of history shows that one is serious - sound; aware of the inevitable incompetence of human beings. The subtext here is: only the ignorant simpletons believe the world can be explained by conspiracies."

      Simpletons--and the mentally unstable. I have pointed out many times that watching Mel Gibson or Nick Nolte, or even the dorky threesome in the old Lone Gunmen series, in these kinds of roles must be what it's like for African Americans to see Steppin' Fetchit on the screen. (Interestingly, one black actor, Will Smith, has a cultivated public relations perception as being part "conspiracy theorist", but also wraps the laughter curtain around the topic.) Only this time the stereotype is a cartoon of everyday people, who should and most often do have an opinion, a speculation or some little known facts about public events and their parapolitical underpinnings.

      The cock-up theory in The Hulk, of course, is that mad scientist Nolte has no rational gripe against the world, just a "cocked up" genetic experiment. Then Parade magazine ran this Q&A over the last weekend:

      Q: Has Nick Nolte cleaned up his act since the paparazzi got that shocking photo of him being hauled out of his car by cops?

      A: Yes. Nolte, 63, is out of rehab and in the new film, The Hulk, in which he plays the hero's dad. The actor admits being under the influence of a drug when photographed last September but also claims he was still inhabiting his slovenly Hulk character a week after the film wrapped. Preposterous? Perhaps, but it's common for actors--especially those as intense as Nolte.

      It does sound like a lame excuse for a GHB binge, but I can no more dismiss it than I can what his character is actually saying in that movie. Perhaps Nolte got carried away by the verisimilitude of the role. The Hulk has another conspiracy attached to it, however. It concerns creator rights and falls under the category of "conspiracy as usual" - i.e. the daily corporate theft and exploitation of the creative work of others. Jack Kirby is the comic book artist who created the Hulk. He also created the X Men and Spiderman and any number of other comic book characters that turned Marvel Comics into a corporate entertainment bureaucracy. Kirby labored under work-for-hire, page rate conditions as an artist and did not get even a microscopic fraction of the billions of dollars his creations made in decades of merchandising, especially now with these blockbuster movies.

      Kirby died in 1994 and his estate seems to have little interest in correcting this enormous wrong. Even Stan Lee, who had an at-best nebulous connection to Jack Kirby's work in the 1960s, has sued Marvel for a bigger share of the Spiderman movie profits, complaining on 60 Minutes about the same work-for-hire contracts that left Kirby shut out, although Marvel pays Lee a salary that makes him a millionaire.

      On that same 60 Minutes broadcast Lee claimed falsely that he thought up Spiderman while watching a fly climbing a wall. "I've told that story so many times," said the admittedly charismatic Lee, "that it might even be true." It isn't, of course, and 60 Minutes leaving it unchallenged is another "conspiracy as usual" by that bastion of in-depth investigative reporting.

      Kirby's artwork also factored in on a spy and conspiracy story surrounding the 1980 hostage crisis in Iran. That story is told in the current issue of Steamshovel Press. Readers will be happy to learn that the issue is in the mail. In addition to the Kirby conspiracy, the issue includes a new interview with John Judge; Jim Martin on Wilhelm Reich's connection to the MJ12 UFO group; satire from Len Bracken; Acharya S untangling more lies of Christianity; more from me about Jim Keith and the Octopus; Chica Bruce on the Philadelphia Experiment; and much more. Jack Kirby's art graces the cover.

      There's some crazy stuff in that issue. Readers should be forewarned that they may walk away from it ranting deliriously about the world it exposes.

Previous From the Editor Michael Kelly and the Conspiracy Fusion
Previous From the Editor Penn, Teller and Bullshit
Previous From the Editor Media Monotone
Previous From the Editor Zevonfest 2002

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