How The Hulk became The Hulk
The Hulk has been one of the most enigmatic characters in Marvel, and we dwell deeper to find out how The Hulk became The Hulk. Credits: Marvel Studios

How The Hulk became The Hulk – The Hulk has been one of the most enigmatic characters in Marvel, even before the inception of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and saw a host of different actors taking on the role of the mean, green, smashing machine before finally getting it right with Mark Ruffalo.

There were questions and speculation about The Hulk even being capable of defeating Thanos by himself in Avengers: Infinity War if he was angry enough (his power is directly proportionate to his anger; meaning the angrier he is, the more powerful he becomes).



The Hulk was conceptualized by creators Stan Lee and Jack Kirby as a fusion of two popular comic book genres, monsters and superheroes, and was introduced in The Incredible Hulk in May of 1962.

Stan Lee cited the public’s tendency to favor someone who was less than perfect and he shared that he was influenced by Frankenstein as well as Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde when he created the character and that during the then-recently published Fantastic Four comic (in 1961), The Thing was the most popular character among the quartet.

Lee revealed that he had a soft spot for the Frankenstein monster who “never wanted to hurt anyone” and only tried to come to terms with those who wanted to destroy him, and so he (Lee) decided to borrow elements from the characters and thus The Hulk was born.

Actors who have played The Hulk

Bill Bixby and Lou Ferrigno

How The Hulk became The Hulk
Credits: Universal Television and Marvel Comics

Bill Bixby and Lou Ferrigno took on the roles of Bruce Banner and The Hulk respectively and made their first television appearance in the 1978 series, The Incredible Hulk, which culminated in the TV movie The Incredible Hulk Returns (1990).

Back in the 1970s, the only way to portray the character in a realistic way without CGI and on a tight TV budget was to switch between the two actors, with the gargantuan Lou Ferrigno (who was a bodybuilder back in the day) playing the role by having his muscular body painted green.

Eric Bana

How The Hulk became The Hulk
Credits: Universal Pictures, Marvel Studios

Australian actor Eric Bana then took on the role of Bruce Banner in Ang Lee’s Hulk (2003), with the studios now armed with CGI capabilities and utilizing it for the first time on the character. His portrayal was pretty decent, but critics lamented the lack of things being smashed in the movie, which was seen as more of an introspective drama.

Eric Bana’s Hulk made audiences sympathize with Bruce Banner who had that emotional turmoil of having an abusive father, and all the rage that he held back over the years eventually culminated itself into the Hulk.

Edward Norton

How The Hulk became The Hulk
Credits: Marvel Studios

The then-recently created Marvel Studios kicked off their plans for Phase 1 of the MCU with The Incredible Hulk (2008) and Edward Norton was then cast as Bruce Banner in their first-ever MCU movie – Norton was an acclaimed actor at the time and the move to cast him was quite sensible seeing as Marvel wanted to start off the MCU on the right foot.

And his performance was reasonably quality work, although he was then apparently fired after a rumored dispute with the studio – Kevin Feige released a statement saying that they had parted ways with Norton and the decision was not monetary in nature, they wanted someone who embodies the creativity and collaborative spirit of the other cast members. Norton then fired back with a statement of his own and called Feige’s comments offensive and purposefully misleading.

Mark Ruffalo

Mark Ruffalo in Avengers
Credits: Marvel Studios

Perhaps the most famous actor to take on the role of The Hulk, Mark Ruffalo was brought in to replace Edward Norton following the latter’s dispute with the studio and he has never looked back since.

Although he doesn’t have a standalone movie (it was supposed to be 2008’s The Incredible Hulk), his performances in The Avengers, Avengers: Age of Ultron, Avengers: Infinity War, Avengers: Endgame, and most notably Thor: Ragnarok, have been scintillating, to say the least – his portrayal brought a different feel to Bruce Banner, with the character being portrayed as more socially awkward than intense and has that sprinkle of humor about it.

His appearance in Thor: Ragnarok is the closest thing to a movie focusing on Hulk that fans can get – The Hulk gets a little bit more screentime as he bonds with his God of Thunder buddy.

Hulk (2003)

Eric Bana famously helmed the role of the titular character in the 2003 movie The Hulk, which was directed by Ang Lee, and the movie starred actors like Jennifer Connelly, Sam Elliot, Nick Nolte, and Josh Lucas. He was the first actor to play the titular character since the 70s and 80s television series. However, Eric Bana has since gone on record to say that he had no plans to return to the superhero genre because he couldn’t see himself doing that type of movie anymore.

The movie attempted to philosophize The Hulk, with the story focusing on the anguish of having powers that one doesn’t seek nor desire, it isn’t about fighting evil villains and bad guys, but more of him trying to hit back at his tormentors. It is arguably a contrast of The Hulk in the MCU that we see today.

Expectations and anticipation were high when the movie was released and it couldn’t have gotten off to a better start, with the movie taking in over $245 million worldwide and doubling the production budget. Fans were therefore excited for a sequel but it ultimately never came to fruition.

The sequel was supposed to see the introduction of Hulk’s nemeses; Abomination and Grey Hulk; and after a year of production delays following Marvel’s takeover of the film, the deadline for principal production was missed and Marvel Studios decided to cancel all production in favor of a reboot instead.

Hulk’s power level

The Hulk’s primary (and mainstream) power is his inhuman, godly strength that is driven by his rage and anger. Bruce Banner himself possesses the strength of a normal human his age and size. The Hulk on the other hand, when calm, can lift up to 100 tonnes; but when he is angry (depending on how angry he is), his strength has no limits – he can lift mountains, whole islands, and even entire planets if he is angry enough.

In issue #4 of Marvel’s Secret Wars, Hulk was seen lifting an entire mountain to free Iron-Man, Spider-Man, Captain America, and a host of other superheroes trapped under it – the mountain was said to be over 150 billion tonnes and he held it over his head for the stricken heroes to get out.

He also once destroyed an entire asteroid that was twice the size of earth with a single punch in Marvel Comics Presents issue #52; he even used his super strength to clap an entire dimension out of existence in Hulk issue #126

Other notable powers include his lesser mentioned speed, impenetrable skin, regeneration, and of course intelligence; although his intelligence only comes to the fore after Bruce Banner fused his intelligence with Hulk’s body, as seen in Avengers: Endgame.

The only weakness of The Hulk that we can think of is Black Widow…

How The Hulk became The Hulk

Bruce Banner was a scientist who was working at a federal nuclear research facility located at a missile base in New Mexico and was working on a bomb that was utilizing a high amount of gamma radiation.

A teenager, Rick Jones, then wandered into the bomb testing ground as part of a dare by his friends, just as Bruce Banner started the countdown for the bomb’s detonation test – Banner rushed into the bomb area to save Jones and the bomb then exploded with him still inside, resulting in his body being bathed in the radiation.

He miraculously survived the explosion but later transformed into the large, green creature that the soldiers at the base dubbed Hulk.

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