The Incredible Sulk

Local studio owner blames testosterone

"How do his pants never come off?" Kathleen Thomas says with a laugh as, onscreen at the Arizona Center, pent-up microbiologist Bruce Banner makes his second transformation into The Hulk.

Time and again, the brooding scientist burst through his clothes on his way to becoming a house-sized bundle of green muscle, popping through shoes and socks and ripping away his shirt (you'd think the man would eventually learn to wear really baggy stuff made of Lycra) but his pants had an uncanny knack for staying firmly on the Hulk's mighty loins.

On the other hand, maybe that's where all the big guy's aggression was coming from: skivvies 10 sizes too small.

Seeing green: Studio LoDo owner Kathleen Thomas releases  her opinion of the Hulk.
Emily Piraino
Seeing green: Studio LoDo owner Kathleen Thomas releases her opinion of the Hulk.

Thomas had another theory. "It's testosterone, that's all I kept thinking," the art gallery owner said after the film, pondering the source of the Hulk's rage. "The whole movie they talked about DNA. But I wondered, when are they going to talk about testosterone?"

She wasn't kidding about the part about DNA. If you've ever wondered what it might be like to audit a bioengineering class at your local college, save yourself the registration fees and head to The Hulk. From the first moment, you'll be taken on an extended tour of the nucleic molecule and the implications of tinkering with it in the name of progress. So much so, you could almost hear the action-flick fans in the theater tapping their fingers and wondering, "When's the big green dude gonna show up and smash stuff?"

But Thomas didn't mind the long non-action sequences so much. Calling the movie "entertaining," she professed to enjoy director Ang Lee's dark, sulking mixture of comic book violence, mad science, deep philosophizing, and father-son mythmaking.

"It was very Greek tragedy," said the owner of Studio LoDo, a downtown art gallery that lies in the shadow of America West Arena.

Just 31, Thomas is already on her third job running an art studio, and this time it's her own. She'd started out in her native Tennessee in the medical field, but got fed up with that kind of work after two years in an emergency room. Switching to a focus in art, she completed a degree in sculpting and then came to Arizona, where her parents live, and was offered a job overseeing a Scottsdale studio, The Cultural Exchange. That led to another director's job at another Scottsdale showplace, the Bentley Gallery. But by then, she says, she was ready to open her own place, and longed for the edgier feel of Phoenix's downtown art scene. (LoDo is short for "lower downtown," an appellation Thomas had hoped would catch on to describe the entire area -- until she realized that a part of Denver had already made the name famous. Oh well.)

"Modified Arts and Holga's had just got going. There was a much more real arts community down here," she says. "Downtown could handle the attitude" that comes with art-types on a mission. But on the other hand, she says, working with a bunch of local creative minds has its sideshow moments.

"So many of the artists I deal with are like comic book characters," she says. Watching the film, "I kept thinking about Colin, this artist. He kind of looks like the Hulk."

Not that the painter is 10 feet tall and green all over. But all the jumping, growling and out-of-control attitude? Colin to a tee, she says. But that just comes with being an artist, which, she points out, comes with a lot of expectations.

"People give you space to be a freak," she says.

Thomas herself, on the other hand, isn't freaky at all. Tall and attractive, she wore a black dress that was all business, and an attitude that matched. You got the feeling she was normally pretty harsh on movies and the people in them. Despite enjoying The Hulk, she managed to snipe about a few of the film's qualities. Lead actor Eric Bana, for example.

"He was a strange choice. Sometimes he was really good looking, other times he was kind of disgusting. He looked pasty and was really unattractive," Thomas said. "He had really bad pockmarks!" she then exclaimed, and we wondered why that was such a sin, especially for an Aussie actor who'd done such a convincing job sounding American. Who cared about his skin?

But Thomas pointed out that we weren't paying close enough attention. See, Bana's character, Bruce Banner, was the child of mad scientist David Banner, who had injected a dangerous brew of jellyfish DNA and starfish goo into his own veins to try and give himself the power of regeneration. The experiment hadn't seemed to do anything for the guy -- it sure didn't get rid of his bad 1960s mustache -- but he'd inadvertently passed on the genetic legacy to his newborn son, Bruce. Crazy dad is sort of pleased and horrified about that fact at the same time -- his son's a freak, but the kid's hereditary gift should give him a superior immune system and, who knows, maybe even the ability to regenerate a missing limb. But Dad disappears, and Bruce grows up not knowing that he's a walking Science Fair exhibit.

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