Don’t make me angry. You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry – David Bruce Banner
Stan Lee was a rarified genius who could use his intellect and imagination to draw attention to, and focus on almost any topic, and he often used his creative and professional outlets to rally against the injustices of the world at large.
While the X-Men were, and are, an allegory for the insidious nature of racism, and Spider-Man was the avatar that he used to muse about the complexities of individual power and the best way in which to use it, the Incredible Hulk was the character that Lee created to warn the world about the devastating consequences of the arms race and nuclear warfare.
In nineteen sixty-two, Lee introduced his readers to Bruce Banner, the human alter-ego of the Hulk and a brilliant scientist who, while begrudgingly working for the military on a top-secret base in the desert spies a young Rick Jones (who in turn, would later become A-Bomb, a character “gifted” with a similar power set to the Hulk) straying into a bomb test area, having paid no attention to the multitude of warning signs.
The whole Rick Jones as a catalyst for Banner’s transformation was also Stan’s thinly veiled jab at the generation gap that had started to manifest in earnest at the tail end of the nineteen fifties, and still exists today.
As Stan would say, the more things change, the more they stay the same.
Where were we? That’s right, Bruce Banner and Rick Jones In an attempt to make Rick aware of the imminent danger he’s facing, Banner rushes out to warn him, only to be caught in the blast wave of the bomb that’s being tested.
Even though he manages to save Rick, Bruce is exposed to a supposedly lethal level of Gamma radiation.
But instead of slowly frying his synapses and liquifying his organs, the radiation causes Banners’ body to undergo an incredible change and irreparably alters him at a cellular level.
It doesn’t kill him, it just makes him stronger, and from that point on, whenever Bruce Banner becomes angry or is subjected to severe emotional duress, he changes into the Hulk.
Interestingly, the Hulk was actually gray for the first three issues of his book, and depending on which “truth” you choose to believe, he only became green because of a print issue with ink color or because the publisher thought that the original gray was too bland and they wanted the character to jump off the pages of the book and immediately grab the attention and interest of readers.
And just as his color changes, so does the Hulk’s size according to the medium that he appears in. So, just how big does the Hulk get?
For the duration of his print history, the Hulk hasn’t really got much bigger than he was when he first appeared. He tends to stand somewhere between seven and nine feet tall and weighs anything from one thousand to sixteen hundred pounds, which is a lot of muscle mass.
And, the angrier he gets, and let’s face it it isn’t hard to make the Hulk angry, the stronger and more powerful he becomes.
But even when he’s dialed his aggression all the way up to eleven, he never seems to get any bigger, and even in his guise as the ‘World Breaker’ (during the Planet Hulk and World War Hulk arcs), he didn’t push past the same height, and weight that he’s always been.
Just because something is part and parcel of canon in comics, it doesn’t necessarily follow that the same will be true on screen. In Ang Lee’s underappreciated Hulk, he gets noticeably bigger every time he appears, with his rage being directly proportional to his size.
The first time that Banner changes into the Hulk, he stands around nine feet tall, but during his last appearance, he’s closer to fourteen feet tall, which follows the idea that the angrier the Hulk gets, the bigger he becomes.
When Edward Norton took on the role of Bruce Banner for 2008’s The Incredible Hulk, during his transformation scenes, and when he changed from Banner into the “monster”, his height and weight didn’t seem to change throughout the film, and he stood somewhere around nine feet tall and weighed (an estimated) twelve hundred pounds.
As much fun as both of those films were, and are, the only cinematic version of the Hulk that most of us think about when the not so jolly green giant becomes the central topic of any conversation is Mark Ruffalo’s portrayal of him in all four Avengers movies and Thor: Ragnarok.
Because it was slightly harder to try and estimate how big the Hulk actually was when Ruffalo took over the role, a professor of physics at a university in Louisiana and Wired writer, Rhett Allain did a frame by frame analysis of the films and discovered that the Hulk is around eight and a half feet tall in the MCU, which makes the same sort of size that he is in the comic books.
On The Small Screen
In the Hulk’s only live-action outing on television, The Incredible Hulk, a series that ran for five seasons between 1977 and 1982, the size of the Hulk was determined by the size of the actor who portrayed him on screen.
While David Bruce Banner was played by Bill Bixby, the man charged with playing the Hulk when Banner became angry was Lou Ferrigno who was six foot five and weighed close to three hundred pounds.
And after seeing Ferrigno in the green make-up, we were, and still are inclined to believe David Banner when he told people “Don’t make me angry, you wouldn’t like me when I’m angry”.
How big does the Hulk get? It depends entirely on how angry he is and which medium he’s appearing in, but even at his smallest television-friendly size, he’s still a terrifying and awe-inspiring behemoth.