The Hulk, often called The Incredible Hulk, is a Marvel Comics superhero. Created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, he first appeared in Incredible Hulk #1 (1962)
Personality and behavior
The Hulk is the alter ego of Dr. Robert Bruce Banner. As a result of exposure to gamma radiation, Banner often becomes one of a number of large, superhumanly strong, green or grey creatures.
Although the Hulk is classified as a superhero, he and Banner share a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde-like relationship. In his most common incarnation, the Hulk has little intelligence and self-control and can cause great destruction. As a result, he has been hunted by the military and other superheroes and Banner considers the Hulk a curse.
Although an atypical superhero, the Hulk has consistently been one of Marvel’s most popular. In recent decades, comic book writers have portrayed the character as a symbol of inner rage and Freudian repression. The Hulk's existence has been explained as an aftereffect of child abuse and latent multiple personality disorder.
The Hulk has been featured in several mediums, most notably a popular late 1970s/early 1980s television series and a 2003 film.
The Hulk was inspired by the story of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, the dichotomy usually consisting of the simple minded and emotional brute who springs from a quiet intellectual. Indeed, in contrast to the quiet Banner, the most famous version of the Hulk is as a childlike persona who just wants to be left alone, but is continually forced to battle foes determined to hunt him down. This is somewhat similar to that of Universal Studios's 1931 film, Frankenstein, another major influence on the character.
In the first issue of The Incredible Hulk, the Hulk was supposed to be gray. However, the publishers of the time had difficulties with printing a consistent and clear shade of gray, so after the first issue they decided to make him green and that color stuck. For a period later in the series, the Hulk reverted to a gray color.
In the origin story of the Hulk, Dr. Bruce Banner is a military scientist who has developed a new type of weapon called the "Gamma Bomb." As the bomb is being tested (in a fashion reminiscent of the Trinity atomic bomb test), Dr. Banner notices that teenager Rick Jones has driven his car onto the test site. Banner races out into the open to bring the young man to safety, but the bomb explodes before he can reach safety himself. Banner is subjected to an incredible dose of gamma rays, and this is what causes him to transform into the rampaging Hulk. At first he becomes the Hulk when the sun goes down, but soon the more familiar transformation occurs whenever Dr. Banner becomes angry or emotional. This story has a strong Cold War subtext to it: in addition to the Gamma Bomb test, the Hulk is promptly captured in the first issue of the book and brought to a country which is presumably the Soviet Union (though the name "Soviet Union" was never used in the book, the story ended with a statement about the end of "Red tyranny"). Later revisions of the Hulk's origin (especially for the TV series of the 1970s and the animated TV cartoons of the 1980s and 1990s) remove the military subtext and make Banner a non-military scientist.
The plots of many of the earliest Hulk stories involve General Thunderbolt Ross continually pursuing the Hulk, with his "Hulkbuster" U.S. Army group at his side. Ross's daughter Betty is a love interest for Bruce Banner and often criticizes her father for going after the Hulk so relentlessly without regard to her feelings for the Hulk's alternate identity. General Ross's right-hand-man, Major Glenn Talbot, is also in love with Betty but is an honorable man and is torn between pursuing the Hulk and gaining Betty's love in an honest way. Teenager Rick Jones is the Hulk's first and only friend for a time. Later on, another teenager named Jim Wilson becomes the Hulk's friend.
The Hulk appeared in the premiere run of his own comic book series created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby during the early 1960s, at the same time as other famous Marvel characters including the Fantastic Four, Thor and Spider-Man. The initial The Incredible Hulk series only ran for six issues before being cancelled by Marvel, due to low sales and the limited number of titles Marvel was then allowed to publish - to give Spider-Man his own comic, The Incredible Hulk was cancelled. However, the character's brief run was popular enough to be noticed by creators Kirby and Lee. In interviews, Kirby stated that shortly after the official cancellation notice for the book was issued, he received a letter from a college dormitory stating that the Hulk had been chosen as its mascot. Kirby and Lee realized that their character had found an audience in college-age readers -- a demographic that had been entirely ignored by comic books until that time. This inspired them to keep the Hulk alive through numerous guest appearances in other comic books, and by adding him to the founding ranks of the Avengers.. The Hulk was then given a regular backup feature in Marvel's ongoing series Tales To Astonish. After several years, the Hulk's popularity was enough to cause the book to be renamed The Incredible Hulk, where its run continued until March 1999. The third and current Hulk series premiered in April 1999, with the title being returned to The Incredible Hulk with issue 12. The Hulk also was a long time member of The Defenders.
Cover of The Incredible Hulk
The Hulk's personality and intelligence level has varied wildly over the years, even from his earliest days. In his very first issue, he is easily confused, and rather brutish. In his second, as well as assuming his trademark green skin color, he acts almost as an outright villain. In the third, he becomes the mindless thrall of Rick Jones, and in the fourth, Bruce Banner gains the ability to impose his personality over the Hulk - although this is short-lived, as the personality which later becomes associated with the Grey Hulk emerges in issue 5 and 6 (and this remains his dominant personality in many of the guest appearances he makes in other comics between cancellation of his series, and his reappearance in his own strip inTales to Astonish. Despite what some sources say, the personality of the Grey Hulk of Incredible Hulk #1 bears only a minor resemblance to the Grey Hulk/"Joe Fixit" of later years, showing none of the guile which would define that incarnation of the character.) The most famous incarnation of the character was the "Savage Hulk", who constantly spoke in the third person, would only appear gradually over the run in Tales to Astonish, with the trademark speech pattern finally appearing in TTA #66.
Later, due to a side-effect of a teleportation beam, Bruce Banner gained control of the Hulk's body, and the ability to transform at will. Gradually, though, he again cycled downward, losing intelligence and gaining aggression in Hulk form. Finally, due to the interference of Nightmare, Banner eventually committed "psychic suicide," causing the Hulk to become a truly mindless, rampaging monster, which Doctor Strange banished to an inter-dimensional "Crossroads." While there, the "Savage Hulk" personality gradually reasserted itself, and finally Banner himself reemerged.
When he/they finally returned to Earth, though, Doc Samson, a green-haired scientist whose strength had been enhanced by a controlled dose of gamma radiation some years before, managed to capture the Hulk and split Banner and the Hulk into two separate beings by the use of a "nutrient bath". While Banner, finally free of his curse, wed Betty Ross, however, Samson rebelled at plans to execute the again-mindless Hulk and accidentally freed the violent brute. After much rampaging, it was discovered that Banner and the Hulk were dying from the separation, before the Vision managed to reunite them. This merger proved unstable, with Banner's head emerging from the Hulk's torso while the Hulk's personality flicked back and forth from "Savage" to "Grey" (although his color remained green). Finally, they got the Hulk back into the nutrient bath to stabilize him... but Rick Jones also fell in, emerging as a green, Savage Hulk-like creature, while Banner briefly emerged as a gray Hulk until the sun hit his skin, reverting him back to Banner.
The Grey Hulk as "Joe Fixit"
Shortly after this, however, writer Peter David took on the mantle of writing the Incredible Hulk, a role he would hold for ten years. David had the craftily intelligent Grey Hulk ally with the Leader to restore the Leader's intelligence by draining Rick Jones' gamma power, in return for the Leader making it possible to allow him to remain the Hulk in both day and night (since the Grey Hulk now appeared during the night, and Banner during the day). While the first step was accomplished, an explosion meant the Leader escaped without having to make good on his promise. Soon after, the Hulk apparently died in a Leader-induced gamma bomb explosion, but actually escaped and took a job as a Las Vegas casino enforcer named "Mr. Fixit," working for Michael Berengetti, with no Banner to trouble him. For a time, he lived a hedonistic life, including a brief relationship with Marlo Chandler. When Banner reemerged, however, "Joe Fixit"'s life began to fall apart, since he could no longer appear in the daytime, and helped along by the well-meaning Glorian, whose desire to turn the Hulk into a "noble, self-sacrificing individual" led him to a deal with the demon Cloot, and the destruction of the Hulk's life, terrifying Marlo into dumping him and Berengetti into firing him. Finally, with the Hulk realizing that he'd go to the same Hell as Glorian was being dragged down to too, eventually, it boiled down to him and Cloot playing Craps for his & Glorian's souls - if the Hulk won, Cloot could never take him or Glorian. If he lost, Cloot got them both immediately. The Hulk rolled the pair of 12 foot (4 m) tall dice, and jumped to land as they bounced, to make them roll a double-6. As Cloot complained about the Hulk's "cheating" and tried to take Glorian anyway, Glorian's master, the Shaper of Worlds intervened, saying that with Cloot's deal broken, he had no power. Cloot vanished, swearing to get Glorian and the Hulk someday, and the Shaper warning the Hulk to think about his future life... "and after."
Later, David expanded on an earlier story that established that Banner had an abused childhood which fostered a great deal of repressed anger which triggered a latent case of multiple personality disorder. The three dominant personalities are the quiet intellectual Banner, the Grey Hulk which embodies his more antisocial cunning side, and the Savage Hulk which embodies his inner child and repressed rage. Eventually, Doc Samson managed to prompt the merger of Banner's personalities into one apparently healthy personality which embodied Banner's intellect and conscience, the Grey's cunning and confidence and the Savage's color and strength (Doc Samson would later claim, when something resembling the Merged Hulk emerged alongside his apparent component parts, that this was just another personality released from Banner's mind, who became known as the "Professor." However, since it was shown at the time of the merger that Samson had little control over the process, exactly how much truth there is to this remains unknown). This "Merged Hulk" shortly thereafter joined up with the group known as the Pantheon, all of whom took their names from Greco-Roman mythology. The immortal leader and patriarch of the family, Agamemnon (from whom all of the other members were descended, some directly), and Ulysses convinced the Hulk to join them between his desire to do good in the world, and his desire to stick it to the US Government for years of hounding him by taking down a US-supported government with an abominable human rights record, among other things. As he joined, however, Delphi, the Pantheon's prophetess, saw "violence, death and pain, and a soul no longer sane" in the future - the Hulk laughing manically, while covered in blood...
The Merged Hulk, surrounded by other Pantheon members
The Hulk spent some time with the Pantheon. After he killed the Leader, the merger of personalities began to destabilize, and, as the Pantheon's Mount HQ crumbled around him and Delphi's vision of insane anger came true, the Savage Hulk came out... in Banner's body, thanks to a psychic failsafe. When this "Savage Banner" managed to force his way out of a plane at high altitude, Banner's fractured mind formed a personality similar to the Merged Hulk (and also had a similar physical appearance and strength level), which became known as the Professor, to enable him to survive. After this, the Hulk went into hiding for some time, hampered by the "Savage Banner" coming out whenever he got angry. Finally, in battle with Onslaught, he was once more physically separated into two beings - Hulk and Banner. Banner went on to be teleported to the Heroes Reborn universe, and the Hulk left behind - not mindless, but a mixture of Fixit & Savage - became a conduit of energy between the two universes, growing physically stronger, but coming ever closer to dying (While Banner relived his life, becoming a Hulk similar to the Savage Hulk again, in the other universe). Eventually Banner (along with the others who ended up in the other universe) returned home, and Banner was reunited with the (main) Hulk in the process, although the Hulk's personality was not not significantly changed.
Finally, just as Banner looked like he was about to settle down with Betty, she died of gamma radiation poisoning.
After David was forced off the comic series in the mid-1990s, two issues after killing off Betty Banner (although his last issue contained a summary of what he would have done), other writers reverted the Hulk back to a green-skinned, rampaging behemoth.
In addition, Bruce Banner has a cousin, Jennifer Walters, whom he once had to give an emergency blood transfusion when she was critically wounded. As a result, she takes on the Hulk condition as the She-Hulk. However, her form allows her to keep most of her original personality albeit with more assertiveness and self-confidence.
The Incredible Hulk's main supervillain enemies include:
- The Leader: A villain whose own exposure to gamma radiation makes him a super-intelligent genius with an over-sized brain.
- The Abomination: A Soviet spy who deliberately exposes himself to gamma radiation to become a reptilian version of the Hulk with his original personality and intelligence intact.
- The U-Foes: A quartet of villains who participate in an attempt to recreate the same accident that created the Fantastic Four. When Banner discover them in the middle of their foolhardy scheme, he interferes with it to successfully save their lives. Although they survive and gain superpowers, they swear revenge on Banner for supposedly cheating them of the chance to gain even more power.
The four main Hulk incarnations. Clockwise from top left: Bruce Banner, the Savage Hulk, the Grey Hulk ("Joe Fixit") and the Merged Hulk ("the Professor")
Banner's Multiple Personality Disorder has spawned several distinguishable Hulks:
The core personality. Although he has, on occasion, been able to usurp the Savage Hulk's body, he has generally been limited to human form, and human strength.
Defining Characteristics: Genius-level IQ. Has often been emotionally repressed throughout his history, interspersed with periods of depression and acceptance of the Hulks.
Normally depicted as: A caucasian male of average height.
- When Banner was usurp control of the Savage Hulk's body, his inability to get as angry as the Hulk(s) limited the strength level he could achieve.
The best known of the comic Hulks and generally considered the strongest of all incarnations. This Hulk also was the one with the longest consistant tenure - despite not appearing for more than a year in a row since the early 1980s.
Divergence from Banner: Early childhood, from the time when Brian Banner used to beat his son.
Defining Characteristics: The IQ and temprement of a young child. Talks in the third person, and often claims that he wants to be left alone in an attention-seeking way, and has frequent "Hulk [will] smash" temper tantrums. Generally triggered by Banner's anger.
Normally depicted as: Green-skinned and heavily-muscled with an ape-like gait. The mouth area of his face is greatly enlarged, and his nose is extremely short as a result. Rarely wears upper body clothes (which are ripped off in transformation), but usually wears the remnants of Banner's trousers.
- The Savage Hulk manifested in Banner's body three times - once while he was the "main" Hulk, a technique was tried to prevent Banner becoming the Hulk, but it backfired, causing the Savage Hulk to manifest in Banner's body. Later, when he twice broke free from the Merged Hulk, a psychic failsafe that the Merged Hulk subconsciously created caused similar results.
- When Banner was pulled from the main Hulk into the Heroes Reborn universe, he became a Hulk which resembled the Savage Hulk there due to Franklin Richards reverting the heroes he placed there to the forms he was most familiar with, but this was not the true Savage Hulk persona.
Grey Hulk ("Joe Fixit")
Briefly appeared (with green skin) towards the end of the Hulk's original series, before re-emerging in the mid-80s (with the grey skin which would become associated with this incarnation) just prior to the start of the lengthy Peter David run, with the character's most notable spell being as a Las Vegas "legbreaker" called "Joe Fixit".
Contrary to occasional belief, the "Joe Fixit" Grey Hulk has little in common with the Hulk from Incredible Hulk (vol. 1) #1 beyond the skin colour, and they are not the same version of the character.
Divergence from Banner: Late adolesence, as the repressed Banner attempted to deny his sex drive.
Defining Characteristics: Average IQ. Crafty, hedonistic, arrogant and hard-to-reach, although he has a conscience he often tries to hide. The only Hulk who has both manipulated and actually attempted to be rid of Banner, as Banner has often attempted to "cure" himself of being a Hulk. Generally appears only at night.
Normally depicted as: Grey-skinned for all but his earliest appearances, the smallest and weakest of the Hulks (very much relative terms). Otherwise, looks like a less extreme version of the Savage Hulk, with normal length arms and less of a hunch. Dresses in made to measure suits when he can. When left in Banner's clothes after a transformation, the upper body clothes are often partially left on.
Merged Hulk ("The Professor")
Created by the merger of Banner and the two above Hulks (a later story would attempt to retcon this, with Doc Samson claiming that he just released another incarnation from Banner's mind. The veracity of this is in doubt, however, as Samson had been shown to have had little control over the merger process). This Hulk's most notable spell was as associate and, later, leader to the Pantheon.
Divergence from Banner: When Banner was apparently merged with the Savage and Grey Hulks. But it seems that this form is just another incarnation from Banner's mind. This form is the ideal version of Banner that is devoid of Banner's emotional hang-ups. He is the embodiement of everything that Banner wants to be.
Defining characteristics: As smart as Banner, almost as arrogant as Fixit and as strong as the Savage Hulk (Even though his analytical behavior stopped the phenomenon of his strength increasing power. He can be infinitely strong like the Savage Hulk, but he restrains himself too much.)
Normally depicted as: Green skinned, the tallest of the "main" Hulks - partially because, despite his exaggerated muscleature, he looks basically like a scaled-up human and walks normally. Has Banner's face, and always dresses in clothes appropriately sized for him (although occasionally forgoes upper body clothing).
This is a loose term, defining a number of periods where the Hulk presented was neither of the Savage nor Grey (Fixit) Hulks, but showed clear traits of both, usually with green skin. Notable instances of these include:
- Unleashed Hulk, during a fight with the villian Onslaught, Banner's persona was separated from the Hulks. As Banner went missing this Hulk became a nexus gateway to the "Heroes Reborn Universe" created by Franklin Richard's. This Hulk had a deteriorating physical condition and his strength levels were very erratic.
- Post Heroes Reborn Hulk, When Banner and the Unleashed Hulk were remerged, Banner's influence moderated the above Hulk somewhat.
Other incarnations are:
- Original Hulk - The first Hulk to walk the Earth. A comparitively malevolent and unintelligent creature who talked without using contractions, and who only appeared twice - once in Incredible Hulk (vol 1) #1 with grey skin, and the following issue with green skin, although something impersonating this incarnation appeared recently in Incredible Hulk (vol 3) #77 and #78.
- Mindless Hulk, created twice in quick sucession when Banner was removed from the equation - first with a "psychic suicide", whereby Banner retreated deep into his mind, leaving the Hulk that remained violent, animalistic and incapable of speech, and secondly when Banner was physically removed by use of a "nutrient bath" with similar results.
- Suppressed Rage Hulk, an incarnation that represents the guilt and rage that resulted from Banner's traumatic experiances, which never gained physical form.
- Devil Hulk, a malevolent personality who attempted to usurp control during a period where Banner and all three primary Hulk personalities were active.
- Monster Hulk, for a time, through the practices of yoga and mediation, Banner gained a measure of control over the Hulk. During this "bleeding of the minds", Banner could impose his will and mind over the Hulk to a certain extent, and used use some of the Hulk's physical strength in human form.
Main article: Hulk (comics) - powers
- Incredible physical strength
- Anatomical augmentation
- Immune to disease
- Enhanced Skin
- Lung Capacity
- Leg & Arm power
- Astral sight
- Mind control resistance
Movies and television
Lou Ferrigno in the 1978 Incredible Hulk TV series episode "Married"
There have been numerable adaptations of the character. They include several animated television series in the 60's, 80's, and 90's.
However, the most famous TV adaptation was the live 70's action The Incredible Hulk TV series starring Bill Bixby and Lou Ferrigno. This series, which took on the format of The Fugitive, was widely acclaimed and, in turn, spawned several made-for-TV movies, the last of which killed off the character. There were plans to bring him back from the dead when Bixby himself died and no further Hulk reunion films were considered.
In 2003, Ang Lee directed a film on the Hulk, which was released on June 20, 2003 to mixed reviews.
Due to the Hulk's popularity (especially with kids), various Hulk themed products have emerged over the years including; action figures, clothes, jewlery, video games, cards, pins, posters, cars, games, lunchboxes, toys, pinball machines, all types of collectibles and even a Hulk rollercoaster in Orlando Florida. The Hulk is truly a pop culture icon and one of the most popular characters in the world today.
- The Incredible Hulk (1962 Series) #1-6 (Marvel Comics, May 1962 - March 1963)
- Tales to Astonish #59-101 (Marvel Comics, September 1964 - March 1968)
- The Incredible Hulk #102-474 (Marvel Comics, April 1968 - March 1999)
- The Incredible Hulk Annual #1-20 (Marvel Comics, 1968 - 1994)
- The Incredible Hulk #-1 (Marvel Comics, July 1997, ISSN 0274-5275)
- Hulk #1-11 (Marvel Comics, April 1999 - February 2000)
- The Incredible Hulk #12-76, #77- (Marvel Comics, March 2000 - September 2004, January 2005 -)
- Official webpage at Marvel.com (http://www.marvel.com/publishing/showcomic.htm?id=3)
- Hulk's Blog (http://incrediblehulk.blogspot.com/)
- Inflatable Incredible Hulk (http://www.komar.org/hulk/)
- A fan site with extensive Hulk information (http://www.incrediblehulk.com/)