Thor: Ragnorok is coming. And with it moviegoers will finally get to see the Incredible Hulk… in space! But before we find out exactly what he’s up to out there, this is as good a time as any to brush up on some of the lesser known facts of one of Earth’s mightiest heroes.
Created in 1962 by comic legends Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, this iconic character has held a unique place in Marvel’s many universes. Not really a hero, antihero or villain, he’s a too often misunderstood superhero who is perhaps best left labeled simply as the Hulk. And if we’re to believe Mark Ruffalo (which we do) he’s about to get a whole lot hulk-ier when he teams up with Thor this coming Fall for their intergalactic buddy road-trip flick.
But there’s far more to Bruce Banner’s alter ego than just smashing things, getting angry and wearing purple pants, like procreating and Puppy Bombs. Here are 14 Things You Didn’t Know About the Hulk.
14. Wolverine First Appeared in the Incredible Hulk
The world’s first and greatest Canadian superhero made his comic debut in the pages of The Incredible Hulk #180 when Hulk wanders into Canada and the government there instantly mobilizes Weapon X to kick him out. But it’s not until the last panel, after the Hulk runs into some Canadian occultists and destroys a sizable chunk of wilderness in an epic brawl with the massive, fur covered cannibal-cursed Wendigo, that we get our first glimpse of the Wolverine.
Following this in The Incredible Hulk #181 Wolverine gets his first cover and full story where he takes on both the Hulk and Wendigo. As an anonymous agent of the Canadian government and glorified forest ranger, Wolverine’s entry into the Marvel Universe is pretty unspectacular. Especially considering he’s knocked unconscious by occult magic mid-fight only to reawaken and get knocked unconscious again by the Hulk, then replaced by the Canadian government for being a failure.
Though alls well that ends well since Wolverine would go on to become one of Marvel’s coolest characters. Not mention have some awesome (and grotesque) rematches with the Hulk.
13. Hulk’s Original Comic Run Was Cancelled After Only Six Issues
It might be hard to believe now, but there was a time when fans really did not like it when the Hulk got angry. In fact, when the world was first introduced to Bruce Banner and his “enormous green rage monster,” most could care less.
Primarily due to the writers having yet to fully flesh out the character, readers didn’t quite know what to make of the strangest man of all time. Turning into a lumbering monster werewolf-style whenever night falls, the Hulk in one moment wants to save the world and in the next kill his friends along with the rest of humanity. As a result, the initial run of The Incredible Hulk only lasted six issues.
But you can’t keep a good Hulk down. After several popular guest appearances, a brief membership in The Avengers and a recurring stint in Tales to Astonish so overpowering that the latter was renamed The Incredible Hulk, Earth’s mightiest mortal would get a second chance to smash our hearts.
12. Thor and Daredevil Made Their Live-Action Debuts on the Hulk TV Series
For anyone who thought Daredevil and Thor got their starts with Ben Affleck and Chris Hemsworth, obviously never saw The Incredible Hulk in the ’80s. In two made-for-TV movies based off the popular television series, both Marvel characters made their live-action debuts (as did Stan Lee in his first of many cameos).
In The Incredible Hulk Returns, Thor turns up to to help Lou Ferrigno’s bulking brute fight crime in an intended pilot for a future television series starring the Norse god that never came to fruition. Similarly, in The Trial of the Incredible Hulk, the Hulk teams up with Daredevil to takedown the Kingpin in another failed launch of a series meant to feature the Man without Fear.
11. He Was Not the First Hulk
The Hulk’s name was inspired by a 1940s comic book called The Heap, which featured a nearly indestructible large, green swamp monster fighting Nazis and traveling the world helping those in need. The comic’s unusual name struck a chord with Stan Lee and it was repurposed as “the Hulk.”
But the Incredible Hulk wasn’t the first (or second) to go by that name. In the early ’60s Mr. Lee and Jack Kirby developed a one-shot story about a short scientist, who after several failed attempts to create a formula to make himself taller, builds a giant robotic armor named “the Mighty Hulk.” Unfortunately the scientist forgets the keys and permanently locks himself inside. To avoid confusion later on, the armor’s name was changed to “Grutan” in future reprintings.
The name would be recycled several more times. The alien criminal/Abominable Snowman lookalike, Xemnu the Living Hulk, tried to make it his own in Journey into Mystery #62. His epithet would change to “the Titan” when he became a recurring adversary of Banner’s Hulk. In Tales to Astonish #21, the Hulk moniker was bestowed upon a blubbering orange monster who in an infinite loop story repeatedly steps out of a movie screen to terrorize audiences. He was renamed “the Glop” to make way for bigger and greener things, because as the saying goes – the fourth time’s the charm.
10. Hulk is Angry Because He Was Abused as a Child
It’s a tale as old as time. A nerdy scientist gets blown away by a massive dose of gamma radiation and ends up transforming into the living personification of rage and pure physical strength. However, anyone hoping they too can become the Hulk by wandering onto a nuclear testing facility has another thing coming. There’s a lot more to Bruce Banner’s tragic transformation than just some puny gamma rays.
The real reason why the Hulk is the Hulk is because Bruce Banner was abused as a kid. The Incredible Hulk #312 revealed Bruce’s alcoholic father, Brian Banner, beat him as a child because he was scared of his son’s uncanny intelligence. When Bruce’s mother intervened, his father kills her. Years later, after Brian is released from prison, Bruce confronts him at his mother’s grave. The two get in a fight, which ends with Bruce in turn killing his father. The young Banner immediately represses the incident until by chance one day he gets blown up by a gamma bomb and all that bottled up anger takes the form of the Hulk.
9. Hulk Has Kids
Although this may not be news to avid readers of the comics, it may come as a surprise to most to learn that the Hulk is a father, or that he can even have sex at all without obliterating his partner. Enter Caiera the Oldstrong in Planet Hulk – a comic storyline many consider to be Hulk’s greatest and one that is rumored to be a major influence for Thor: Ragnarok. Not only did Hulk marry the powerful alien, but she provided him with twin sons – Skaar and Hiro-Kala.
There’s also Lyra, the offspring of Hulk and Thundra, who time travelled from an alternate future to grab some of the green giant’s DNA and use it to artificially conceive a genetically modified Hulkette. Speaking of genetic engineering there’s also speculation that chemically-conceived super spy Carmilla Black aka Scorpion is also his daughter. Of course if you consider other alternate universes, outside Marvel’s primary continuity, there are plenty of little Hulks raging around. In the Old Man Logan storyline (which is rumored to become Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine 3), Hulk has an incestuous relationship with his first cousin She-Hulk which produces a brood of hillbilly Hulklings, though perhaps that’s best left to discuss another time.
8. Lou Ferrigno Has Appeared in Every Live-Action Adaptation
While Hugh Jackman’s tenure as Wolverine is commendable, it doesn’t come close to former bodybuilder Lou Ferrigno’s 35 plus years of playing the Hulk. When producers were casting the live-action Hulk TV show in the ’70s, both Richard Kiel (Jaws from the James Bond movies) and Arnold Schwarzenegger (who was deemed too short for the role) were considered. Despite Kiel briefly getting the part, the show’s creators swapped him out for the more massive Ferrigno, who has today become synonymous with the character and can now be spotted (or heard) in every movie featuring the Green Goliath.
In both 2003’s Hulk and 2008’s The Incredible Hulk, Ferrigno cameos as a security guard and, in the latter, delivers all six of the words spoken by Hulk. In The Avengers and The Avengers: Age of Ultron when the Hulk grunts and says awesome things like “Puny Gods” – that’s Lou we’re hearing. Anything said in the late ’90s Incredible Hulk animated series, that’s him too. But wait, there’s more. In an episode of Steven Spielberg’s short lived Amazing Stories, Lou Ferrigno is credited as appearing as the Hulk, along with some odd reason 2014’s Mom’s Night Out. Be rest assured that when the Hulk hits screens in Thor: Ragnarok, Lou Ferrigno won’t be far behind.
7. Hulk Was Originally Meant to Be Grey
Hulk’s different hues have played a large part in distinguishing his various personalities over the years, but it actually all started out as a printing error. When the Hulk first premiered in the ’60s, he was originally intended to be grey, which is how he (sort of) appeared in the premiere issue. However, by the second issue he had turned green for no apparent reason Why? Printers at the time were unable to keep his color a consistent shade, resulting in the Hulk being a pasty silver in one panel and charcoal black in the next. To compensate, Stan Lee made the executive decision to change his color to the much easier to print green, which at that point wasn’t being used by any other major Marvel characters.
Grey Hulk would return. Around the same time Rick James took a stab at being the Hulk (yes, that actually happened), Bruce Banner went through a transformation that left him as a wise-cracking, granite-hued Hulk with the alias Joe Fixit who passed his time as a Las Vegas enforcer (yes, that also actually happened).
6. Johnny Depp, Tom Cruise and Steve Buscemi Were Considered to Play Hulk
The Hulk has gone through his fair share of actors but just imagine how those movies wold have turned out if filmmakers had gone with their original choices. When the first feature was in development Johnny Depp was the top choice for Bruce Banner but eventually passed. Later, when Ang Lee took the helm, Watchmen‘s Doctor Manhattan, Billy Crudup, was offered the role but also declined, as did Tom Cruise (who subsequently would also turn down the role of Iron Man). It was only after a string of Hollywood stars including Jeff Goldblum and for some wonderful reason Steve Buscemi tested for the role that Eric Bana was finally cast.
Following Lee’s film, David Duchovny nearly played the Hulk in a proposed straight-to-DVD sequel that was thankfully scrapped. And when Edward Norton departed, Joaquin Phoenix considered postponing his career as a rapper to join The Avengers in his stead.
No worries though, we’ll always have the Internet to show what could have been with a Steve Buscemi Hulk.
5. He Can See Ghosts
Did you know the Hulk can see dead people? Well he can, thanks to his messed up aforementioned relationship with his father. As a result, Bruce Banner has such an overwhelming fear of being haunted by his dad, that he unconsciously provided the Hulk with the ability to see and interact with paranormal apparitions. Fortunately, the Hulk eventually overcomes this fear when he visits Hell and beats up his father’s ghost.
Similarly, the Hulk is drawn back to the original bomb site of his gamma induced creation by the ghostly spirit of Maestro – a villainous future counterpart who seeks resurrection by absorbing the Hulk’s radiation. These same senses are also what gives Hulk the power to see Dr. Strange in his astral state, which normally leaves him invisible to the naked eye.
This last one would make for a pretty awesome post-credit sequence in the upcoming Dr. Strange movie.
4. Bruce Banner’s Name Was Deemed Too Gay for TV
From the start, Hulk’s mild-mannered scientist alter-ego Bruce Banner ran into problems with his first name. It’s no surprise that given all the characters he was penning at the time, Stan Lee might forget one or two, which is why he used so many alliterative names. However, with the Hulk this backfired when Mr. Lee accidentally started referring to Bruce Banner in the comics as Bob Banner. In response to the criticism over the inexplicable change, he decided there was only one thing to do. “From now on his name is Robert Bruce Banner – so we can’t go wrong no matter what we call him!” And that folks, is why Stan Lee is Stan Lee.
Far more inexcusable was the time the creators of the 1978 Hulk TV series decided to rename their lead character (played by Bill Bixby) to David Banner. The show’s producers claimed various reasons for the change including that it was unrealistic to have a character with an alliterative name (sorry Bill), that they didn’t want the show perceived as a comic book series and that it was a way for one producer to honor his son. However, according to Stan Lee and Lou Ferrigno, two people we trust explicitly when it comes to all things Hulk, the name was in reality changed because studio bigwigs thought “Bruce” sounded too gay.
3. Hulk Once Joined the Circus as a Clown
While 2012’s The Avengers was a pretty cool cinematic introduction to Marvel’s ultimate superhero team, it didn’t come close to the compelling storytelling of their debut issue in 1963’s The Avengers #1. Fresh off having his own solo title cancelled, the Hulk had nothing better do than roam around and help people. Leave it to Loki to screw up a good thing when he tricks Thor, Iron Man, Wasp and Ant-Man into believing Hulk is on yet another murderous rampage instead. Tired of being unfairly picked on, Hulk flees in the best way possible – by joining a traveling circus.
Instead of watching Mark Ruffalo’s Hulk take down a Chitauri warship or use Loki like a rag doll, we get an image of Hulk weighing his options by putting on clown makeup and pretending to be a robot. Really, it’s a match made in heaven as the Hulk uses his incredible strength to juggle some confused circus animals. But once again his fun is ruined when the superheroes appear on the scene, attack him with a steel cylinder and try to catch him in a net. The Hulk is left with no choice but to flee from fleeing to the circus. Eventually Hulk is tracked down to a Detroit auto factory, some tires get thrown around, Thor captures Loki, forces him to clear the Hulk’s good name and then Loki falls through a trap door. Everyone celebrates and the Wasp suggests they do this again sometime. And that my friends is how the Avengers were assembled.
2. He Hates Freddie Prinze Jr.
There was a time at the start of the millennium when it was pretty hard to ignore Freddie Prinze Jr. Even for the Hulk. Which is probably why a few years prior to writing Civil War, Mark Millar brought us The Ultimates. In that story, Nick Fury establishes a strike force of some of the world’s greatest heroes as a super villain deterrent at the government’s expense. The only problem was there were no villains around to fight. Cue Bruce Banner. By injecting himself with a mixture of Captain America’s super soldier serum and the Hulk formula, Banner provides the team someone to publicly defeat so as to prove the government’s money wasn’t wasted. Of course, there was one thing no one counted on – just how much the Incredible Hulk hates Freddie Prinze Jr.
At the very moment he injects himself, Banner’s ex Betty Ross is on a date with the actor Freddie Prinze Jr. When he tries to warn her that he’s about to Hulk out, she tells him she’s having dinner with FPJ. Banner collapses in jealously, transforms and the result is a murderous rampage through New York in which the Hulk tries to eat Freddie Prinze. Luckily the Ultimates suit up and are able to stop the Hulk after he only kills a couple hundred innocent people and says things like, “Hulk horny for Betty” and “Freddie Prinze can’t love you like Banner.”
1. He Loves Puppies
The Incredible Hulk is nearly unstoppable. That is unless you happen to have a litter of tiny adorable puppies on hand to throw at him. In 2013’s Indestructible Hulk Special #1, Bruce Banner advises S.H.I.E.L.D that, “the Hulk loves puppies,” in an attempt to help mitigate any threat his alter ego might pose in the future. Taking this into serious consideration the super spy organization makes a “Puppy Bomb” to be unleashed whenever needed. Lucky for us, it’s needed. And it turns out, the Hulk really does love puppies.
It works like this. When Banner transforms into Hulk the “weapon” is deployed and much to the Green Goliath’s delight, a bunch of puppies crawl all over him. The Hulk is instantly reduced to terrifying childish giggling before calmly reverting back to his human state. Maybe the Abomination should try that next time.