"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: "...one
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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