Concept Art from Never-Produced 1997 ‘Hulk’ Film Revealed

2 years ago by  

In less than ten years, we’ve seen three different cinematic incarnations of Bruce Banner and his very big, very angry, and very green counterpart, the Hulk. The character, who was originally created in the 1960s by Marvel legends Jack Kirby and Stan Lee, was first brought to the big screen in 2003 by Eric Bana in Ang Lee in 2003′s Hulk. Five years later, Edward Norton took on the role in Louis Leterrier’s adaptation, The Incredible Hulk.

Both films had similar budgets and did more or less equally well at the box office (which film was better is largely a matter of personal taste), but the Hulk’s most successful role of the 21st century was as part of the ensemble cast of The Avengers, where he was played by a soft-spoken Mark Ruffalo and given liberty to wreak havoc on an entire invading alien army.

One of the storyboard artists for Leterrier’s film was Benton Jew, chosen largely because he’d already had a great deal of practice drawing the versions of the Hulk that we never had the chance to see. Jew uploaded a series of sketches and storyboards from the various Hulk projects that he’d worked on – which include not only both Leterrier and Lee’s films, but also the 1997 Hulk film from Jonathan Hensleigh that never got made – to his personal blog in 2011, and Comic Book Movie discovered them and posted the images yesterday.

Jew was first asked to draw the Hulk by effects company Industrial Light & Magic, who made a bid to work on Hensleigh’s 1997 film, and eventually got their wish when they were tasked with creating the Hulk by Ang Lee several years later. According to the artist, Hensleigh’s film was going to feature The Absorbing Man, along with several other monster types, as an antagonist. Here are the pencil sketches, “expressions chart” and Photoshop composition that Jew created for the pitch (click images to see full-size versions):


Hensleigh’s film, for better or worse, fizzled out before ever reaching the production stage, but it was not the last time that Jew would be called upon to draw Bruce Banner’s inner demon. When Ang Lee’s adaptation of the comics went into development, ILM asked Jew, once again, to help them bid for the project by drawing new sketches of the Hulk, this time incorporating the face of the actor that Lee wanted for the role: Billy Crudup.

The actor eventually declined the offer, though he would go on to play another superhuman scientist as Jon Osterman/Dr. Manhattan in Zack Snyder’s Watchmen. Before Eric Bana was cast in the role, however, Jew produced a Photoshop image of a Crudupified Hulk for Lee’s project. He also created two hand-drawn versions of a more “neanderthal-ish” Hulk with a jutting lower jaw, the idea being that the difference between Banner and the Hulk should be more or less analogous to a kitten and a lion:

In 2007, Jew was hired once more to draw the iconic figure, not simply as part of an art pitch for ILM, but as a storyboard artist for The Incredible Hulk. Reflecting on the his involvement, Jew recalls:

“Oddly, most of the sequences I worked on [mainly the favela sequence] involved Bruce Banner and not the Hulk.”

Check out one such sequence below:

That wasn’t quite the last that Jew saw of the Hulk. Though he wasn’t involved with the design or storyboarding for The Avengers, the artist did work as a penciller and inker for the comic books Hulk Family: Green Genes, Hulk: Broken Worlds and Savage She-Hulk in 2009. By now, the man has probably spent a small fortune on green pencils and ink. There’s always a chance, of course, that his talents will be called upon once more if the Avengers Hulk spin-off movie with Mark Ruffalo ever gets off the ground.

Are you sorry that you never got to see Crudup-Hulk, Neanderthal-Hulk, or battles with The Absorbing Man on the big screen (Nick Nolte doesn’t count)? Let us know what you think of this freshly rediscovered concept art in the comments.


Source: Benton Jew [via Comic Book Movie]

FIND OUT MORE ABOUT: the incredible hulk


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  1. Huh. Interesting stuff but I’m glad neanderthal hulk didn’t make the cut. I don’t mind Ang Lee’s Hulk but its so forgetable for me. I really dig Incredible Hulk but obviously Avengers got it right. Hopefully the Planet Hulk thing does well, if thats what Marvels planning. Marvel needs to inject Punisher into the Avengers to make him cool again. He’s had three films and failed on all fronts.

    • It’s extremely unlikely that Marvel will make Planet Hulk/World War Hulk film. The main reason that Hulk was so popular in the Avengers (aside from great writing and effects) was due to the fact that Mark Ruffalo was great at Bruce Banner. They balanced the Banner/Hulk screen time perfectly. With a PH/WWH film there would be no Banner, it would just be the Hulk on screen for the majority of the movie, which is why the other Hulk films didn’t fare so well.

      • The previous two Hulk films also failed because they focused on a soulless, characterless Hulk: he was a brute without any personality other than rage incarnate. PH/WWH at least focuses on an intelligent Hulk who has a purpose that everyone can relate to: revenge. I believe a PH/WWH could work. But so much has to happen in the shared universe before a movie like this would even be possible (if they try to preserve a majority of Marvel history).

        • I agree to a point, but I don’t think an intelligent Hulk would work in the MCU. In my opinion, Banner is the smart one, and Hulk is the dumb brute: it’s the Jekyl/Hyde situation. I agree that the smart hulk would be better on screen because it would give him more of a story and a character arc, but it’s an incredible risk to change the essence of a character who the mainstream (non-comic reading) population already have a pretty solid notion of.

          And to set this movie up they’d have to get the Hulk to screw up big time in one of the movies (and it doesnt look like hes appearing again until avengers 2). You’d also have to take into account that of the 4 characters who shoot him into space (Iron Man, Mr Fantastic, Dr Strange and Black Bolt), only Iron Man has been established in the MCU. Of course, they could alter that for the big screen and we know that Dr Strange is showing up after Avengers 2.

          At the end of WWH, he comes back to earth and attacks and enslaves all the superheros, but I don’t think enough characters have been established for that plot yet: even up until avengers 2 and with the characters they have now.

          So there’s 2 ways the final battle could go: either at the end of the Hulk movie or it would be the main plot of Avengers 3. If it was at the end of WWH, it would be pretty much pointless in terms of continued story arcs in the MCU, apart from the fact that the Hulk would still basically be out of the way, but on Earth. If they choose to make it a part of A3, then we’d have to be under the impression that the Hulk is more of a threat than Thanos (who will be behind the plot of Avengers 2).

          Its so much effort for such a risky plot that may not pay off, which is why I doubt that Marvel would choose to go down that road.

          • I agree. I think WWH is one of those ideas which works way better in comics then in movie treatments.

            • They should do an animated WWH as a follow up to the animated Planet Hulk. I could go for that.

        • I don’t think you watched the Norton Hulk film if you think that version was soul-less or character-less. In point of fact, that version was FAR superior, in BOTH respects, to the Avengers Hulk.

    • Sorry but the avengers failed with they’re version of the hulk.
      They only got the strength right.
      The avengers hulk sucked, the avengers movie was great but it’s not because of the hulk.
      The avengers hulk looked too bulky with a ridiculous face that looked far to nice instead of an unstable angry rampaging monster & it moved like an ape.
      Mark Ruffalo was good nerd but a bad banner, they were only likable because the avengers itself was great so those that loved it won’t admit to it having any flaws.
      And Mark Ruffalo/Hulk was the biggest flaw.

      • @VampireWicked

        Personally, I thought Ruffalo’s Banner was a little too cocky, sarcastic and confident and I still prefer the constantly on edge and nervous Banner that Norton played.

        That and the fact that while Ruffalo isn’t fat, he’s a lot bigger than Banner ought to be. Norton looks like the kind of guy who you take one look at him and think “I could easily take him in a fight”. Ruffalo never gave me that impression and the point with Hulk is that he is the tough brute and Banner is the weak but intelligent side.

        Ruffalo really didn’t impress me much at all and Hulk himself was barely on screen long enough to make an impression on me so I really have no idea why people think he’s the highlight of The Avengers (although if we’re being honest, Avengers wasn’t that good anyway so the few bright spots like Hulk saving Stark would outshine a majority of the movie).

        That and the convenient rage control to quick change just when the plot called for it. That annoyed me. Which maintains my belief that Whedon can write some decent dialog on occasion but on the whole isn’t that great a writer.

        • @Dazz
          I totally agree with you on what you’ve said.
          The convenient rage control to quick change, i was like NO no way.
          I do think The Avengers is a fantastic comic movie (second to Watch Men), however it pretty much went through The Hulk’s personality & summed it up & gave us cliff notes.
          In other words we got the Banner controllable play with others friendly Hulk.

          The Hulk i was hoping to see, The personality Banner/Hulk Norton played was what should’ve been in The Avengers.
          The Hulk should’ve fought The Avengers every step of the way, not the Ruffalo leashed version.
          The Thor Hulk fight & how Hulk was done felt more like fanservice instead of something true to the Hulk character.

          2008 Hulk would’ve been perfect because he was unstable & would’ve been so much of a problem for Nick Furry & The Avengers that they would’ve had so many second thoughts as to having Banner with them. The Avengers movie, i didn’t get that.

          Whedon brought in the controllable Hulk far too soon.

    • The Punisher thing reminds of a conversation I had the other day with my wife about how to reintroduce the Punisher.

      Throw him into The Amazing Spider-Man as the villain he was first introduced as and play out that arc.

  2. First pic looks like a cave man Hulk.

  3. What is this… Gorilla Hulk or something?

      • The incredible ape

        • The Green Grape Ape?

  4. I’m sorry but my immaturity got the best of me while reading this. I LOL’d way too many times when I probably shouldn’t have. Hahaha…

    • Laugh away….

  5. I liked the black and white 8 “facial expressions” artwork. I much rather have seen a movie hulk that had “levels of transformation” like the old comics instead of the grandiose cgi ones in the latest movies. I really hated in the Avengers when Banner instantly morphed in 3 seconds after making a “cool” remark that he’s always angry. Bah.

    • I always felt the speed of the transformation was related to how hard Banner and Hulk struggled for dominance. I absolutely loved the rapid transformation because I thought it captured perfectly Banner embracing the Hulk.

      • I hated it myself. He changed way too quickly and conveniently for my liking and even if he embraced the Hulk, it was still a bit of a cop out.

        • It went along with the IH lead-in. If he hulks out voluntarily he can kind of aim it.

  6. I’m still waiting for an “inspired” interpretation for She-Hulk.

  7. “that jew”? Is that like an inside joke or just racist. Im a fan of both hahaha

    • …not too bright, are you?

    • Epic facepalm.

  8. 2008 The Incredible Hulk is still the best version, they should use that CG Hulk as all Hulk references for the future comic movies versions.

      • Hulk no like having pointy Ed Norton nose!

      • @Jim  
        I totally agree with you.
        I love the 2008 Hulk but i said the same thing, he wasn’t as strong as he should’ve been.
        And his healing factor was slowed too.
        The 2003 Hulk looked like a stretch armstrong doll lol.
        The Avengers Hulk did look like a caveman.
        And i’m with TheWalkingDude, i wanna see a She-Hulk too.

        I wanna see the 2008 Hulk vs Wolverine 1st.
        That’s what’ll get me back in the theaters for sure.

        The Wolverine should end with Wolverine standing facing the camera, the camera pans down, he pops his claws & you see the 2008 Hulk’s face in Wolverine’s claws reflection, & then credits roll.

        I’d totally be waiting.

  9. The problem with the Hulk as far as transferring him to movies is that he is a different kind of monster (see what I did there??) then other heroes. In the ensemble of the Avengers, Bruce Banner/Hulk complimented the other characters so well that he was fine in the two portions of the movie he was a green rage machine. It worked, a compliment to Joss Whedon and his control of the movie.

    But in a solo movie, the problem is shown over and over again- the movie makers do not understand what makes Hulk so freaking popular. With other heroes, the person inside the suit makes the role or the character- Tony Stark’s personality makes Iron Man interesting, Peter Parker makes Spider-Man, so on and so forth.

    But the Hulk is WAY more interesting then Bruce Banner. The Hulk is Marvel’s Frankenstein Monster- who is more interesting in the novel then Dr. Frankenstein. The Hulk’s war with himself, his longing to find his place, his desire to do good- even when it doesn’t work out- his struggle with his sense of right and wrong, which is way more basic and actually way more moral then most other characters. To Hulk, there isn’t any gray area. Black is bad, white is good, Hulk smash bad.

    I loved “The Incredible Hulk”, and enjoyed “Hulk” when the Hulk was on the screen (I thought it was a jumbled mess when he wasn’t). But neither movie got it right- Hulk talks, Hulk struggles, Hulk decides, THEN Hulk smashes.

    Just too much Banner.

    • The Incredible Hulk got the Banner/Hulk balance perfectly though. Here was a guy trying desperately not to turn into Hulk and so fearful of it that he started learning breathing exercises to keep himself calm and peaceful as much as possible.

      • @Dazz 
        Right, Edward Norton’s Hulk he was just learning how to manage his rage & not turn, The Avengers Hulk, Banner had already gave into it, he just points & cues up the Hulk when needed.

        Edward Norton: Banner didn’t want it to happen period & was the Hulk gone from him. He didn’t cue The Hulk, he would do something like place himself somewhere he’d thought would be no casualties & hoped for the best.

        • actually at the end of TIH, banner seems to have embraced the monster when he smiles while starting a change

  10. Quite uninspired work. Avengers Hulk is by far the best.

    • …not really. The Norton film hit many more “right” points with the character. Personally, I also found it a much BETTER (although not nearly as EXCITING) film.

      • not to nitpick, but you are stating your OPINION as if it were a FACT. that’s how it reads to me anyway.

        • Ummm, you know that most of the people who wrote on this thread (or any other, for that matter) have made their points in exactly the same manner, right?

          In fact, Hogan (the person to whom I was responding) commented in a very matter-of-fact way; THAT is why I responded the way I did. Of course, I’m expressing my opinion…are other people?

        • Oh, and I, unlike so many of the other commenters, DID use the word “personally” expressing the fact that I’m giving my opinion.

  11. is that an ape? wtf? thats not Hulk. -.-

    • tl;dr

    • Totally agree Blastaar, spot on analysis. For me this was a proper brute Hulk as originally intended in the comics, pure rage. I thought the rapid transformation was a highlight of the movie

      • @Andy thanks, people go on about the rapid transformation but forget that it was shown at the end of The Incredible Hulk(with Ed Norton), that he began to learn how to willingly channel the Hulk. Now people need to think; the Avengers takes place YEARS later AFTER the events of The Incredible Hulk, after a while of learning how to control the Hulk he WOULD know how to HULK OUT intentionally but quite the opposite would be more difficult and THAT is what Banner is afraid of. And yes, The Incredible Hulk and Avengers ARE in the same continuity, just a different actor, for those who don’t know.

        • Exactly the point Blastaar, Norton’s banner had learnt to change at will, a point some people seem to forget. This didn’t get introduced in the Avengers, it was in TIH, as you say, at the end. The rapid transformation achieved by what was a few years of having learnt this ability to control, either way. As the line went ‘I am always angry’ suggesting the control comes from preventing a Hulk out maybe? If it wasn’t for Norton falling out with Marvel (or whatever), he would have been Banner in the Avengers, and this continuity would have been more obvious. The fact it was a different actor shouldn’t get in the way of that. BTW I love all takes on the Hulk films for different reasons; for instance I thought Eric Bana was excellent as a screwed up version. But also thought Ruffalo played a great menacing version. I am not arguing one against the other, just glad to see any Hulk incarnation and choose not to look too deeply into analyzing plots, shade of green skin, who plays Banner etc, I just wanna enjoy them

    • You might want to look again at those old comics you’re using as your defense of the superiority of the Avengers Hulk. Although I disagree with you on this issue for several reasons, I’ll just focus on the fact that the original manifestation of the Hulk looked NOTHING like Banner (color and size, of course, being negligible factors in this particular comparison). Thus, “The Avengers” actually did NOT hit the mark on being the closest to the original.

      • @Archaeon, IN THE COMICS, quite naturally they weren’t going to make The Hulk’s facial features exactly like Banner’s that’s too much unneeded detail that people wouldn’t pay attention to in the comics anyway but in a live action movie it makes all the difference, because it makes more sense and is more realistic ESPECIALLY for conveying emotion why? BECAUSE IT’S STILL BANNER’S BODY. This Hulk does indeed look like Kirby’s Hulk, waaaaaay more so than the previous versions so YOU need to go back and take a look. Kirby’s Hulk looked a little more like Frankenstein in the face and head but they weren’t going for exactly THAT in Avengers because they wanted more and a more closer resemblance to the actor’s face for continuity within the movie for people to see that yes, this is still Banner’s body but transformed, not to look TOTALLY different. Marvel Studios WETA and ILM did an excellent job.

        • Blastaar…

          No one is saying WETA, ILM, and Marvel Studios didn’t do a great job in crafting the visual of the Hulk in “The Avengers”. However, Kirby’s Hulk did NOT look like Banner (and no, I do not mean in the smartass way you decided to express my point in your response…obviously, comics and films are different visual mediums and apply different levels and types of details to what each medium shows). The Norton Hulk kept that basic aesthetic, so BY YOUR OWN DEFINITION of what is better, it was a better representation of the original Hulk.

          Furthermore, I went back and compared close-up photos of the Kirby, Norton, and Ruffalo versions of the character. The Kirby Hulk had a savage, “caveman” look. The Norton Hulk also had such a look, though not quite as “caveman-ish”. The Ruffalo Hulk had a “cleaner” look that will work well if they ever decide to come out with the Smart Hulk, although they’ll want, perhaps, to give him a haircut. As for behavior, the Norton Hulk was MUCH more in line with original presentation of the character…more emotionally exaggerated, more savage. The Ruffalo Hulk seemed much less spontaneous, much more directed (other than the quickness of the transformation…the speed, not the choice to transform).

          Finally, the Norton Hulk was, for all intents and purposes, the television Hulk put on the big screen (and, of course, made bigger and more comic-book accurate). THAT version, you are correct, was very beloved by fans of the character; thus, the Norton version captured, quite handily, the essence of the character and his history. The Ruffalo Hulk, while entertaining and cool, was simply a modernizing of the character, a fitting of a puzzle piece into a film made specifically for the current generation, NOT a throwback to, or celebration of the classic Hulk.

          • I stand by what I said before.

  12. ^THIS Hulk meaning in the Avengers.

  13. well, it’s ALL a matter of opinion on which ever version of the hulk one likes. for me, i’d rate them in the order of: the avengers, norton’s version, bixby/ferrigno tv version, lee’s hulk.