Throughout the history of Marvel comics, one of the most popular recurring characters is Doctor Robert Bruce Banner a.k.a. The Hulk. An intelligent scientist who, through exposure to gamma radiation, becomes an enormous, green goliath whenever he becomes angry.
The character first appeared in The Incredible Hulk, in May 1962, created by acclaimed writer Stan Lee and artist Jack Kirby.
The creative team produced what would seem to be a modern retelling of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, as Doctor Banner would often lose control of his actions, as the more aggressive Hulk persona would take over their shared body.
Since the creation of the pair, they’ve been a member of the Avengers, the Defenders, the Fantastic Four, and an agent of the Supreme Military Agency of Super Humans, or S.M.A.S.H. for short.
They’ve also paired with characters such as Spider-Man, Iron Man and Captain America - not just in comics, but in cartoons, and probably most notable in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU).
Over time, the character of the Hulk has changed and developed into a variety of different forms and taken on many different names.
That’s why we’re going to break down some of the more notable iterations of the Hulk, from different points of time, and what makes them quite so incredible.
While Bruce Banner has struggled over the years to gain control of his Hulk persona, the big green was not always the only dominant form of the Hulk to take over Bruce’s body.
A number of variations on the original recipe have been created throughout the years, and with the vast number of alternate timelines and universes present in comic books, Bruce Banner is one of the most dynamic characters in Marvel History.
In the comic “Future Imperfect” from 1992, Bruce Banner has become a new persona of the Hulk known as the Maestro.
The Maestro possesses both Bruce Banner’s intelligence, whilst having succumbed to the Hulk’s more aggressive and brutish nature. Driven insane by grief after a nuclear doomsday event, the Hulk adopted the Maestro persona, as he became the tyrannical ruler of Earth.
Surprisingly, there is a fairly similar iteration of the character in writer Mark Millar’s widely popular “Old Man Logan” story. Here an insane Hulk rules over a post-apocalyptic version of California, and leads a gang of inbred Hulk children.
While most people would associate the Hulk with the colour green, the Hulk’s earlier appearances in fact showed his skin as a grey color.
Stan Lee and Jack Kirby would later change the Hulk to green, due to poor ink quality, but this hasn’t stopped modern writers from going back to those roots.
After using a radiated chemical bath, the Hulk regained his original grey coloring, and took on the name Joe Fixit. He became slightly weaker than his green form, but vastly more intelligent, deciding to move to Las Vegas to become a mob enforcer.
Emil Blonsky is one of the Hulk’s most notable enemies. Portrayed by Tim Roth in 2008’s The Incredible Hulk and 2021’s Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, he was designed to be “bigger and stronger than the Hulk” by writer Stan Lee.
Blonsky was initially introduced in Tales to Astonish, as a KGB agent and spy, who purposefully exposed himself to a larger quantity of the same gamma radiation that gave Bruce Banner his Hulk persona.
General Thaddeus “Thunderbolt” Ross was a United States military officer, portrayed by William Hurt in several MCU appearances.
The father of Bruce Banner’s long-time love interest Betty Ross, and head of the gamma bomb project that turned Bruce into the Hulk, the pair have quite the complicated history.
After making it his life’s mission to hunt and eliminate the Hulk, the general became the Red Hulk to better combat his nemesis.
The only differences between them being that the general retained his usual personality even when in Hulk form, and could change between his Hulk and human form at will.
Although using his newfound power to continue his hunt for the Hulk, he later realised how obsessed he had become, and turned to use his abilities for good, later even becoming an Avenger himself.
Jennifer Walters, a New York resident and lawyer, became the She-Hulk after receiving an emergency blood transfusion from her cousin, Bruce Banner.
Although only acquiring a milder version of the Hulk affliction, Jennifer was trapped in her She-Hulk form, this being a larger and more green skinned version of herself.
Like Red Hulk, however, she retained most of her intelligence and original personality, even when in Hulk form.
Despite this, she can become susceptible to fits of rage, in which her strength becomes greatly increased. She is also quite widely known for breaking the fourth wall, being one of Marvel’s many characters to be aware they are in a comic book.
Jennifer is set to make her live action debut in 2022’s She-Hulk on Disney+, played by Tatiana Maslany of Orphan Black fame. She is set to star in the series, alongside recurring actors Mark Ruffalo (as Bruce Banner) and Tim Roth (as Emil Blonsky).
Skaar, also known as the Son of Hulk, debuted in 2007’s What If? Planet Hulk #1. As his name might suggest, he is the son of the Hulk and Caiera, an alien warrior from the planet Sakaar, to which Skaar owes his name.
After arriving on the planet Sakaar, the Hulk became a gladiator turned peacekeeper, in the much acclaimed “Planet Hulk” storyline. Although not immediate allies, Caiera would eventually aid the Hulk in a coup against the Red King, the tyrannical ruler of Sakaar.
Assuming Caiera’s death, following an explosion on the Hulk spacecraft that would claim most of the planet, the Hulk returned to Earth, unaware that Caiera had posthumously given birth.
Skaar would eventually join his father on Earth, although it was not exactly a joyous reunion. He next appeared canonical in “World War Hulk”, and subsequently in his own series “Skaar: Son of Hulk”, which ran for 12 issues between 2008 and 2009.
Amadeus Cho, also known as Brawn, is a Korean American genius, and one of the smartest people in Marvel’s Earth. Cho succeeded Bruce Banner, after removing the Hulk from Bruce and placing it into his own body, becoming “The Totally Awesome Hulk”.
Unlike Bruce, who often considers his Hulk abilities to be a hindrance, Cho is a confident character who enjoys and thrives in his newfound power.
He even goes on to join The Champions, a teenage superhero team consisting of Spider-Man (Miles Morales), Cyclops (Scott Summers, Ms. Marvel (Kamala Khan), Nova (Sam Alexander) and Viv Vision.
Rick Jones was a longtime sidekick and friend of Bruce Banner. After accepting a dare from friends at a young age, Rick drove out to a bomb testing ground in New Mexico.
Coincidentally, this was the same time and place of the gamma experiments being conducted by Bruce Banner. Bruce pushes Rick into a protective wrench, saving Rick’s life, but at the risk of his own. It was this fateful encounter that led to Bruce becoming the Incredible Hulk.
Rick Jones would gain powers after he fell into a chemical bath intended to cure Bruce Banner’s affliction, the same bath that gave Bruce his Mr. Fixit persona.
Unlike Bruce, however, Rick would only transform at night, during his sleep.
Rick eventually loses his Hulk powers, but at a later point, he even becomes a creature known as A-Bomb, a blue creature resembling the Abomination, with size and strength comparable to the Hulk’s longtime enemy.