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):
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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:
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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:
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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.