The Hulk (often called "The Incredible Hulk") is a fictional character, a protagonist that appears in comic books published by Marvel Comics. Created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, the character first appeared in The Incredible Hulk #1 in May 1962. As one of the most prolific and longstanding personas for the company, Wizard magazine named the Hulk Marvel Comics' 7th "Greatest Character of All Time" in 2008.
The Hulk is cast as an emotional and impulsive alter ego of the withdrawn and reserved physicist Dr. Bruce Banner. The Hulk appears shortly after Banner was accidentally exposed to the blast of a test detonation of a gamma bomb he invented. Subsequently, Banner will often involuntarily transform into the Hulk, depicted as a giant, raging monster, leading to extreme complications in Banner's life. In Hulk: The Incredible Guide, Stan Lee revealed that the Hulk was a combination of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and Frankenstein.
While the coloration of the character's skin varies during the course of its publication history, the Hulk is most often depicted as green. As the Hulk, Banner is capable of immense feats of strength, which increases with his feelings of rage and anger. Anger is a common trigger of Banner's transformation. A common storyline is the pursuit of both Banner and the Hulk by the police or the armed forces, due to the destruction he causes.
The Hulk character has since been depicted in various other media, most notably by Lou Ferrigno as the Hulk in a television series and six television movies, by CGI in Hulk (2003), and in The Incredible Hulk (2008), as well as in three animated series and various video games.
The Hulk debuted in The Incredible Hulk #1 (May 1962), by writer Stan Lee, penciller and co-plotter Jack Kirby, and inker Paul Reinman. In the first issue, the Hulk was grey. Writer and Marvel editor-in-chief Lee had wanted a color that did not suggest any particular ethnic group. Colorist Stan Goldberg, however, had problems with the grey coloring, resulting in different shades of grey, and even green, in the issue. Stan Lee picked the uncommon color, green. From issue #2 (July 1962) on, Goldberg colored the big brute's skin green. Green was used in retellings of the origin, even to the point of reprints of the original story being re-colored, for the next two decades. The Incredible Hulk vol. 2, #302 (Dec. 1984), reintroduced the grey Hulk in flashbacks set close to the origin story. This was reaffirmed in vol. 2, #318 (April 1986), which showed the Hulk was grey at the time of his creation. Since then, reprints of the first issue have displayed the original grey coloring.
The original series was canceled after six issues, with the finale cover-dated March 1963. Lee had written each story, with Kirby penciling the first five issues and Steve Ditko penciling and inking the sixth. The character immediately guest-starred in Fantastic Four #12 (March 1963), and months later became a founding member of the Avengers appearing in just the first two issues of that superhero team's eponymous series (Sept. & Nov. 1963), and returning as an antagonist in issues #3 and #5 (Jan. & May 1964). He then guest-starred in The Amazing Spider-Man #14 (July 1964).
Around this time, co-creator Jack Kirby received a letter from a college dormitory stating the Hulk had been chosen as its official mascot. Kirby and Lee realized their character had found an audience in college-age readers.
A year and a half after the series was canceled, the Hulk became the backup feature in Tales to Astonish in issue #60 (Oct. 1964). In the previous issue, he appeared as the antagonist for Giant-Man, star of the book. These new stories were initially scripted by Lee and illustrated by the team of penciller Steve Ditko and inker George Roussos. Other artists later in this run included Jack Kirby from #68-84 (June 1965 - Oct. 1966), doing full pencils or, more often, layouts for other artists; Gil Kane, credited as "Scott Edwards", in #76 (Feb. 1966); Bill Everett (inking Kirby in #78-84, April-Oct. 1966); and John Buscema. Marie Severin finished out the Hulk’s run in Tales to Astonish; beginning with issue #102 (Apr. 1968) the book was retitled The Incredible Hulk, and ran until March 1999, when Marvel canceled the series, and then restarted the title with a new issue #1.
This run of stories introduced readers to recurring villains such as the Leader. and the Abomination, another gamma-irradiated being, but stronger than the Hulk; they would become the Hulk's arch-nemeses. In issue #77 (March 1966), the Hulk's identity became publicly known.
Writers changed numerous times during the decade. At times, the creative staff included Archie Goodwin, Chris Claremont, and Tony Isabella, Len Wein handled many of the stories through the 1970s, working first with Herb Trimpe, then in 1975, with Sal Buscema, who was the regular artist for 10 years. Harlan Ellison plotted a story, scripted by Roy Thomas, for issue #140 (Jun 1971), "The Brute that Shouted Love at the Heart of the Atom".
In 1977, Marvel (under its Curtis Magazines imprint) launched a second title, The Rampaging Hulk, a black-and-white comics magazine. The Hulk stories here were editorially stated to be set between the end of his original, short-lived solo title and the beginning of his feature in Tales to Astonish. After nine issues, the magazine was retitled The Hulk! and printed in full color. Near the end of the magazine's run, it went back to black-and-white. Back-up features included Bloodstone during the Rampaging Hulk issues, and later Moon Knight and Dominic Fortune.
David became the writer of the series with issue #331 (May 1987), marking the start of a 12-year tenure. David's run altered Banner's pre-Hulk characterization and the nature of Banner and the Hulk's relationship. David returned to the Stern and Mantlo abuse storylines, expanding the damage caused, and depicting Banner as suffering dissociative identity disorder (DID). David's stories showed that Banner had serious mental problems long before he became the Hulk. David revamped his personality significantly, giving the Grey Hulk the alias 'Joe Fixit', and setting him up as a morally ambiguous Vegas enforcer and tough guy. David worked with numerous artists over his run on the series, including Dale Keown, Todd McFarlane, Gary Frank, Liam Sharp, Terry Dodson, Mike Deodato, Jr., George Pérez, and Adam Kubert..
In issue #377 (Jan 1991), David revamped the Hulk again, using a storyline involving hypnosis to have the splintered personalities of Banner and Hulk synthesize into a new Hulk who has the vast power of the Savage Hulk, the cunning of the Grey Hulk, and the intelligence of Bruce Banner. In the 1993 Future Imperfect miniseries, writer David and penciller George Pérez introduced readers to the Hulk of a dystopian future. Calling himself the Maestro, the Hulk rules over a world where most of the heroes have been killed, and only Rick Jones and a small band of rebels fight against The Maestro’s rule. Although The Maestro seemed to be destroyed by the end, he returned in The Incredible Hulk #460 (Jan 1998), also written by David.
In 1998, David followed editor Bobbie Chase's suggestion to kill Betty Ross. In the introduction to the Hulk trade paperback Beauty and the Behemoth, David said that his wife had recently left him, providing inspiration for the storyline. Marvel executives used Ross' death as an opportunity to push the idea of bringing back the Savage Hulk. David disagreed, leading to his parting ways with Marvel. His last issue of Hulk was #467 (Aug 1998), his 137th.
Also in 1998, Marvel relaunched The Rampaging Hulk, this time as a standard comic book rather than as a comics magazine.
Jenkins wrote a story arc in which Banner and the three Hulks (Savage Hulk, Grey Hulk, and the Merged Hulk, now considered a separate personality and referred to as the Professor) are able to mentally interact with one another, each personality taking over their shared body. During this, the four personalities (including Banner) confront yet another submerged Hulk, a sadistic Hulk intent on attacking the world for revenge. Jenkins also created John Ryker in issue #14 (May 2000), a ruthless military general in charge of the original gamma bomb test responsible for the Hulk's creation, and who plans to create similar creatures. Ryker's actions briefly result in Banner becoming the sadistic Hulk before the four other personae subdue the beast.
Bruce Jones followed as the series' writer, and his run features Banner using yoga to take control of the Hulk while he is pursued by a secret conspiracy and aided by the mysterious Mr. Blue. Jones appended his 43-issue Incredible Hulk run with the limited series Hulk/Thing: Hard Knocks #1-4 (Nov. 2004 - Feb. 2005) , which Marvel published after putting the ongoing series on hiatus.
Peter David, who had initially signed a contract for the six-issue Tempest Fugit limited series, returned as writer when it was decided to make the story, now only five parts, part of the ongoing series instead. David contracted to complete a year on the title. Tempest Fugit revealed that Nightmare has manipulated the Hulk for years, tormenting him in various ways for "inconveniences" that the Hulk had caused him, including the sadistic Hulk Jenkins had introduced. After a four-part tie-in to the House of M crossover and a one-issue epilogue, David left the series once more, citing the need to do non-Hulk work for his career's sake.
In the 2006 crossover storyline Planet Hulk by writer Greg Pak, a secret group of superhero leaders, the Illuminati, consider the Hulk an unacceptable potential risk to Earth, and rocket him into space to live a peaceful existence on a planet uninhabited by intelligent life. After a trajectory malfunction, the Hulk crashes on the violent planet Sakaar. Weakened by his journey, he is captured and eventually becomes a gladiator who scars the face of Sakaar's tyrannical emperor. The Hulk becomes a rebel leader and later usurps Sakaar's throne through combat with the red king and his armies.
After Hulk's rise to emperor, the vessel used to send Hulk to Sakaar explodes, killing millions in Sakaar's capital, including his pregnant queen, Caiera. The damage to the tectonic plates destroys the planet and kills most of its population.
The Hulk, enraged, returns to Earth with the remnants of Sakaar's citizens, and his allies, the Warbound, seeking retribution against the Illuminati. After laying siege to Manhattan, the Hulk learns one of his allies was responsible for the explosion. He reverts to his Bruce Banner form and is taken into S.H.I.E.L.D. custody.
Marvel also launched a new volume of Hulk, written by Jeph Loeb and drawn by Ed McGuiness. The series opens with an investigation into the appearance of a new, red Hulk, and reveals that Bruce Banner is no longer comatose, and is imprisoned by the U.S. military until he transforms and escapes and confronts the Red Hulk.
Throughout the Hulk's published history, writers have continued to frame Bruce Banner in these themes. Under different writers, his fractured personality led to transformations into different versions of the Hulk. These transformations are usually involuntary, and often writers have tied the transformation to emotional triggers, such as rage and fear. As the series has progressed, different writers have adapted the Hulk, changing Hulk's personality to reflect changes in Banner's physiology or psyche. Writers have also refined and changed some aspects of Banner's personality, showing him as emotionally repressed, but capable of deep love for Betty Ross, and for solving problems posed to him. Under the writing of Paul Jenkins, Banner was shown to be a capable fugitive, applying deductive reasoning and observation to figure out the events transpiring around him. On the occasions that Banner has controlled the Hulk's body, he has applied principles of physics to problems and challenges and used deductive reasoning.
The original version of the Hulk was often shown as simple and quick to anger. His first transformations were triggered by sundown, and his return to Banner by dawn. However, in Incredible Hulk #4, Banner started using a Gamma ray device to transform at will. In more recent Hulk stories, emotions trigger the change. Although grey in his debut, difficulties for the printer led to a change in his color to green. In the origin tale, the Hulk divorces his identity from Banner’s, decrying Banner as "that puny weakling in the picture". From his earliest stories, the Hulk has been concerned with finding sanctuary and quiet, and often is shown reacting emotionally to situations quickly. Grest and Weinberg call Hulk the "...dark, primordial side of [Banner's] psyche.". Even in the earliest appearances, Hulk spoke in the third person. The Hulk retains a modest intelligence, thinking and talking in full sentences, and Lee even gives the Hulk expository dialogue in issue six, allowing readers to learn just what capabilities the Hulk has, when the Hulk says, “But these muscles ain't just for show! All I gotta do is spring up and just keep goin'!" In Marvel: Five Fabulous Decades of the World's Greatest Comics, Les Daniels addresses the Hulk as an embodiment of cultural fears of radiation and nuclear science. He quotes Jack Kirby thus: "As long as we're experimenting with radioactivity there's no telling what may happen, or how much our advancements may cost us." Daniels continues "The Hulk became Marvel's most disturbing embodiment of the perils inherent in the atomic age."
Fantastic Four #12 (March 1963), featured the Hulk's first battle with the Thing. Although many early Hulk stories involve General Thaddeus "Thunderbolt" Ross trying to capture or destroy the Hulk, the main villain is often, like Hulk, a radiation based character, like the Gargoyle or the Leader, along with other foes such as the Toad Men, or Asian warlord General Fang. Ross' daughter, Betty, loves Banner and criticizes her father for pursuing the Hulk. General Ross' right-hand man, Major Glenn Talbot, also loves Betty and is torn between pursuing the Hulk and trying to gain Betty's love more honorably. Rick Jones serves as the Hulk's friend and sidekick in these early tales.
Stan Lee and others have compared The Hulk in these early tales to the misunderstood creature Frankenstein's Monster, a concept Lee had wanted to explore. Lee remembers, "I had always loved the old movie Frankenstein. And it seemed to me that the monster, played by Boris Karloff, wasn't really a bad guy. He was the good guy. He didn't want to hurt anybody. It's just those idiots with torches kept running up and down the mountains, chasing him and getting him angry. And I thought, 'Wouldn't it be fun to create a monster and make him the good guy?'". Wondering how to bring a new twist to Mary Shelley's classic character as imagined by director James Whale in 1931, Lee recalled another favorite from his childhood: Robert Louis Stevenson's half-man/half-monster, depicted in director Rouben Mamoulian's 1931 classic, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. "I combined Jekyll and Hyde with Frankenstein," Lee tells, "and I got myself the monster I wanted, who was really good, but nobody knew it. He was also somebody who could change from a normal man into a monster, and lo, a legend was born. Lee also compared Hulk to the Golem of Jewish myth. In The Science of Superheroes, Gresh and Weinberg see the Hulk as a reaction to the Cold War and the threat of nuclear attack, an interpretation shared by Weinstein in Up, Up, and Oy Vey. Kaplan calls Hulk ‘schizophrenic’. Jack Kirby has also commented upon his influences in drawing the character, recalling as inspiration the tale of a mother who rescues her child who is trapped beneath a car.
In the 1970s, Hulk was shown as more prone to anger and rage, and less talkative. Writers played with the nature of his transformations, briefly giving Banner control over the change, and the ability to maintain control of his Hulk form.
Hulk stories began to involve other dimensions, and in one, Hulk met the empress Jarella. Jarella used magic to bring Banner’s intelligence to Hulk, and came to love him, asking him to become her mate. Though Hulk returned to Earth before he could become her king, he would return to Jarella's kingdom of K'ai again.
When Bill Mantlo took on writing duties, he led the character into the arena of political commentary when Hulk traveled to Tel Aviv, Israel, encountering both the violence of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and the Jewish Israeli heroine Sabra. Soon after, Hulk encountered the Arabian Knight, a Bedouin superhero.
Under Mantlo's writing, a mindless Hulk was sent to the "Crossroads of Eternity", where Banner was revealed to have suffered childhood traumas which engendered Bruce's repressed rage.
Having come to terms with his issues, at least for a time, Hulk and Banner physically separated under John Byrne's writing. Separated from the Hulk by Doc Samson, Banner was recruited by the U.S. government to create the Hulkbusters, a government team dedicated to catching Hulk. Banner and Ross married, but Byrne's change in the character was reversed by Al Milgrom, who reunited the two personas, and with issue #324, returned the Hulk to his grey coloration after a second visit to K'ai and his one time love, Jarella.
Shortly after returning to Earth, Hulk took on the identity of "Joe Fixit," a shadowy behind the scenes figure, working in Las Vegas on behalf of a casino owner, Michael Berengetti. For months, Banner was repressed in Hulk’s mind, but slowly began to reappear. Hulk and Banner began to change back and forth again at dusk and dawn, as the character initially had, but this time, they worked together to advance both their goals, using written notes as communication as well as meeting on a mental plane to have conversations. In The Incredible Hulk #333, the Leader describes the Grey Hulk persona as strongest during the night of the new moon and weakest during the full moon. Eventually, the green Hulk began to re-emerge.
In issue #377, David revamped the Hulk again. Doctor Leonard Samson engages the Ringmaster's services to hypnotize Bruce Banner and force him, the Savage Hulk (Green Hulk) and Mr. Fixit (Grey Hulk) to confront Banner's past abuse at the hands of his father, Brian Banner. During the session, the three identities confront a ‘Guilt Hulk’, which sadistically torments the three with the abuse of Banner’s father. Facing down this abuse, a new, larger and smarter Hulk emerges and completely replaces the "human" Bruce Banner and Hulk personae. This Hulk is a culmination of the three aspects of Banner. He has the vast power of the Savage Hulk, the cunning of the grey Hulk and the intelligence of Bruce Banner.
Peter David then introduces the Hulk to the Pantheon, a secretive organization built around an extended family of super-powered people. The family members, mostly distant cousins to each other, had codenames based in the mythos of the Trojan War, and were descendants of the founder of the group, Agamemnon. When Agamemnon leaves, he puts the Hulk in charge of the organization. The storyline ends when it is revealed Agamemnon has traded his offspring to an alien race to gain power. The Hulk leads the Pantheon against the aliens, and then moves on.
Shortly after, Hulk encounters a depraved version of himself from the future, called Maestro. Thrown into the future, Hulk finds himself allied with Rick Jones, now an old man, in an effort to destroy the tyrant Maestro. Unable to stop him in any other manner, Hulk uses the time machine that brought him to the future to send the Maestro back into the heart of the very Gamma Bomb test that spawned the Hulk.
In 1998, David followed Editor Bobbie Chase's suggestion, and wrote a storyline centering on the death of Betty Ross. Betty has radiation poisoning, and desperate to save her, General Thunderbolt Ross worked with Banner, hoping to save her, but they fail, and Betty dies. Following this, David left Marvel, following a conflict about the direction of the series.
In 2006 Greg Pak introduced the Planet Hulk story arc, which opened with a cabal of Earth’s superpowers, called Illuminati, sending Hulk into deep space to protect the Earth from his destructive rampages after his involvement in the destruction of the Godseye Satellite orbiting Earth. Hulk’s rocket, intended for a desolate, empty planet, instead crashed onto Sakaar. On Sakaar, Hulk rises from slave to king leading a rebellion, and finds love with a wife, Caiera. Shortly after, the rocket that brought Hulk to Sakaar malfunctions and explodes, setting off the planet’s destruction. Following the death of his wife, unborn child, and hundreds of millions of innocents, Hulk gathers some survivors and heads to Earth to exact revenge.
In World War Hulk, Hulk along with an alien invasion force, confronts and defeats the members of the Illuminati and several of Marvel's major superhero teams, but he later surrenders and is captured. Bruce Banner is later seen in custody in a military facility where General Ross and Doc Samson seek out Bruce Banner's help with the emerging mystery of a new Red Hulk.
Artistically, the character has been depicted as progressively more muscular in the years since his debut.
As Bruce Banner (and the Merged/Professor Hulk), he is considered one of the greatest minds on Earth. He has developed expertise in the fields of biology, chemistry, engineering, and physiology, and holds a Ph.D. in nuclear physics. He possesses "a mind so brilliant it cannot be measured on any known intelligence test".
In The Science of Superheroes, Lois Grest and Robert Weinberg examined Hulk’s powers, explaining the scientific flaws in them. Most notably, they point out that the level of gamma radiation Banner is exposed to at the initial blast would induce radiation sickness and kill him, or if not, create significant cancer risks for Banner, because hard radiation strips cells of their ability to function. They go on to offer up an alternate origin, in which a Hulk might be created by biological experimentation with adrenal glands and GFP.
Charles Q. Choi from LiveScience.com further explains that unlike the Incredible Hulk, gamma rays are not green - existing as they do beyond the visible spectrum, gamma rays have no color at all that we can describe. He also explains that gamma rays are so powerful (the highest form of light and 10,000 times more powerful than visible light) that they can even create matter- a possible explanation for the increased mass that Bruce Banner takes on during transformations. "Just as the Incredible Hulk 'is the strongest one there is,' as he says himself, so too are gamma ray bursts the most powerful explosions known.
Over the long publication history of the Hulk's adventures, many recurring characters have featured prominently, including his sidekick, Rick Jones, love interest Betty Ross, and her father, the often adversarial General Thunderbolt Ross.
The Hulk character and the concepts behind it have been raised to the level of iconic status by many within and outside the comic book industry. In 2003 the Official PlayStation magazine claimed the character had "stood the test of time as a genuine icon of American pop culture."
The Hulk is often viewed as a reaction to war. As well as being a reaction to the Cold War, the character has been a cipher for the frustrations the Vietnam War raised, and Ang Lee said that the Iraq War influenced his direction. In the Michael Nyman edited edition of The Guardian, Stefanie Diekmann explored Marvel Comics' reaction to the September 11, 2001 attacks. Diekmann discussed The Hulk's appearance in the comic book Heroes, claiming that his greater prominence, alongside Captain America, aided in "stressing the connection between anger and justified violence without having to depict anything more than a well-known and well-respected protagonist. Asked by Naomi Klein if a new Cold War was imminent, Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez cryptically replied: "The geopolitics of the world will be like the Incredible Hulk comics, where he tenses himself before the transformation.
In Comic Book Nation, Wright alludes to Hulk's counterculture status, referring to a 1965 Esquire magazine poll amongst college students which "revealed that student radicals ranked Spider-Man and the Hulk alongside the likes of Bob Dylan and Che Guevara as their favorite revolutionary icons." Wright goes on to cite examples of his anti-authority symbol status. Two of the most notable are "The Ballad of the Hulk" by Jerry Jeff Walker, and the Rolling Stone cover for 30 September 1971, a full color Herb Trimpe piece commissioned for the magazine. The Hulk has been caricatured in such animated television series as The Simpsons Robot Chicken and Family Guy, and such sketch comedy TV series as The Young Ones. The character is also used a cultural reference point for someone displaying anger or agitation. For example, in a 2008 Daily Mirror review of an EastEnders episode, a character is described as going "into Incredible Hulk mode, smashing up his flat".
The 2003 Ang Lee directed Hulk film saw discussion of the character's appeal to Asian-Americans. The Taiwanese born Ang Lee commented on the "subcurrent of repression" that underscored the character of The Hulk, and how that mirrored his own experience: "Growing up, my artistic leanings were always repressed -- there was always pressure to do something 'useful,' like being a doctor." Jeff Yang, writing for SF Gate extended this self identification to Asian-American culture, arguing that "the passive-aggressive streak runs deep among Asian Americans -- especially those who have entered creative careers, often against their parents' wishes.
Over the decades that Marvel has published Hulk, the company has featured versions of the Hulk set in alternate realities and histories, as well as other forms of art, such as the manga style.