The Incredible Hulk

Retro Staff Comments

The Hulk Mega MagnetThe Hulk was introduced to the world in May of 1962 by way of the comic book, The Incredible Hulk, created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby and published by Marvel Comics.

Hulk is the alter ego of Bruce Banner, a mild mannered scientist who invented the gamma bomb.  During an experimental detonation, Banner is exposed to massive doses of radiation.  That night, he transforms into a hugely muscular “hulk” of a man.  At first, Hulk was grey to avoid association with any ethnicity.  After the first issue, he was shown with green skin.

Surprisingly, the comic book series was cancelled after just six issues (March ’63), though Hulk made several appearances in other Marvel comic books, such as The Fantastic Four and The Amazing Spider-Man. Hulk wound up ona 1964 cover of Tales to Astonish. In 1968 that comic was retitled The Incredible Hulk.

In the comic book series, the personalities and abilities of both Bruce Banner and Hulk are explored in depth.  Banner is a brilliant scientist with expertise in biology, chemistry, engineering, and physiology, and holds a Ph.D. in nuclear physics.  He is depicted as emotionally withdrawn; tortured by the fact that he can’t control his transformations into Hulk.  He never knows when he will change, so it is hard for Banner to become close to anyone.  When he turns into the monster, he is capable of superhuman feats of strength, which increase with anger or emotional stress.

Hulk does not possess the level of intelligence his counterpart does.  Instead, he is driven by emotion and adrenaline.  Hulk is stronger than most beings, and he also has healing regenerative powers.  In the comic book, he even has the ability to breathe underwater, survive in outer space with no air, and his legs are powerful enough to jump across the oceans.

In the late ’70s, The Incredible Hulk TV series premiered on CBS.  Starring Bill Bixby as Banner and Lou Ferrigno as Hulk, the show was a hit, lasting until 1982.  Many changes to the story were made, including how Banner became Hulk.  Instead of being radiated by a gamma bomb explosion, Banner was affected by experiments he was conducting with adrenaline on human strength.  Also, Banner’s first name was changed to David.  Another difference was with the enemies of Hulk.  In the comic book, he is chased after by other superhuman beings and the United States Army heralded by General Ross.  In the television series, his main antagonist is Jack McGee, a tabloid reporter bent on getting proof that Hulk is real.  Other differences were that the TV Hulk did not speak, and he was vulnerable to being hurt by weapons.

Watch the first transformation on The Incredible Hulk (TV, 1978):


Did you know? Ferrigno did not provide the growls and snarls for his Hulk character? Ted Cassidy (Lurch in The Addams Family) did voiceovers for the first two years, followed by Charles Napier. In real life, Ferrigno has a vocal slur as a result of hearing loss.

And… Arnold Schwarzenegger was considered for the Hulk role, but was deemed not tall enough. Schwarzenegger stood 6′ 2″, Ferrigno stood 6′ 5″.

Despite the differences, the main point of the stories stayed the same.  A human tortured by the monster inside of himself desperately tries to keep his transformations under control.  The Incredible Hulk embodies the human life in all of us.  Do we resist temptation?  Do we fight that which is evil in all of us?  Does love trump all and triumph in the face of adversity?  These are the questions David Banner asks, and these are the struggles he goes through as the Incredible Hulk.  There are raw human emotions and struggles most people can relate to, although not usually of superhuman proportions, that created a story that many were interested in, and still are today.

The comic book series is still in publication, and Hulk’s popularity continues to grow.  A whole new generation was introduced to him with 2008’s movie, The Incredible Hulk, starring Edward Norton.  Over the years, and through the variations of comic books, movies, television series, and animated series, Hulk has remained in the public eye and is a popular character.  Merchandise such as action figures, clothing, and videogames are still big sellers, made even more so by the recent film.  It seems as if Hulk does have super human powers to be able to remain so popular for so many years.

Last updated: Jan 07, 2009
Filed under: Retro Characters Tagged with: comic books, Retro Characters, Superheroes