The Hulk is a fictional superhero character created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby for the Marvel Comics Universe. The character debuted in The Incredible Hulk in May 1962. Creator Lee explained that the character was based mainly as a combination of the character-changing Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and the Frankenstein monster. Dr. Bruce Banner is behind The Hulk’s character, a physicist by profession and known for his reserved and withdrawn character.
Banner was working on a test detonation of a gamma bomb when it suddenly exploded, exposing him to a burst of gamma radiation. As a result of this he changed into The Hulk – a giant, raging, humanoid monster. Since then, Dr. Banner’s life became completely changed, both physically and emotionally. Anger triggers him to change into the emotional and impulsive green monster – the angrier he gets, the stronger he becomes, although both terror and grief could also bring out the hidden character within.
Stan Lee tells why he created this different kind of superhero: being a lover of the old movie Frankenstein, he wanted to create a “good guy” out of a monster. According to him, Frankenstein’s creation was innately good, it being only circumstances around him that forced him to hurt people. Lee wanted to create an innately good character that could also wreak immense destruction, and he succeeded with The Hulk.
In the first appearance of The Hulk, Lee wanted to use grey as the color in order to avoid any ethnicity problems. However, the colorist, Stan Goldberg, had problems with expressing grey and it turned out to be a mix of various grey shades and some even green. When Lee saw the final product, he liked the look of the character in green, and so it was the beginning of the “green” monsterâs adventures.
Lee and Kirby had collaborated on The Hulk for some time, up to the fifth issue. Steve Ditko then took over the penciling work from Kirby in the sixth issue, after which the series was cancelled, and the character then appearing with several other superheroes. The Hulk appeared as a guest in The Fantastic Four #12 in 1963, and became a founding member of The Avengers in the same year. The Hulk also did antagonist roles the Avengers in its January to May issues in 1964. In his second guest appearance in The Fantastic Four in 1964, he was introduced with his first name and was named Robert Bruce Banner. Until Ditko, The Hulk had predominantly been a loner, rarely appearing with other characters.
Then came the Tales to Astonish features. This was a year and a half after the original series was cancelled in March 1963. This time, The Hulk appeared when he Banner experienced extreme emotional stress. For this feature, Stan Lee did the writing, while Steve Ditko and George Roussos teamed up as artists. The feature ran with different artists taking their stint until the end of the series. During this period, the super-villains, The Leader and the Abomination, were introduced. In April 1968, the book’s title was changed to The Incredible Hulk. This continued to run until March 1999 when Marvel decided to restart from the beginning with issue #1.
The Incredible Hulk title ran through the 70s, with Banner appearing as a guest in various other titles. It was during this period that the She-Hulk was introduced as Banner’s cousin, Jennifer Walters. She was introduced in the first issue with her own title, with Banner giving her some of his blood through a transfusion. This resulted in her transformation to the new character the She-Hulk.
Another comics-magazine in black-and-white, titled The Rampaging Hulk, was introduced by Marvel in 1977. There was an attempt to focus on stories that happened after the cancellation of the original series and before the Tales to Astonish. However, only nine issues were published until the title was changed to The Hulk!, this time in full color. After a period in color, it reverted to black-and-white.
The early part of the 1980s stories explored the “Crossroads of Eternity”, with Bill Mantlo as writer. These stories focused on Banner with the suggestion that he had suffered child abuse, something that influenced Peter David and Greg Pak in his characterizations when they took over writing. Mantlo eventually left with artist Mike Mignola, both going to Alpha Flight after writing The Hulk for five years
Peter David took over as writer in 1987 and remained there for twelve years, developing the characters of both Banner and The Hulk. He used Mantloâs child abuse storyline, and made significant explanations of Bannerâs past and of his being The Hulk. It was he who depicted Banner as suffering dissociative identity disorder (DID), and his stories also portrayed Banner as having suffered from mental problems prior to his “transformation” as The Hulk.
The next decade opened with David continuing as writer. In 1991 he made some changes in The Hulk’s storyline, and explained hypnosis to be the cause of Banner’s “dual” personality, between the intelligent Robert Bruce Banner combined with the power and cunning of The Hulk. In 1993, David characterized him as the Maestro at the time when only a few of the heroes remained. That was in the miniseries called Future Imperfect which ran until 1997, and then David brought back The Incredible Hulk in 1998.
David left the title in August 1998, after a disagreement with the Marvel executives over the killing of Betty Ross remaining unsolved. It was also during 1998 that the standard comic book, The Rampaging Hulk, was launched.
The following years saw frequent changes in writers and artists, Joe Caseyâs stint being short-lived, while John Byrne’s approach was not positively accepted by readers. Different writers took over: Erik Larsen, Jerry Ordway, and finally Paul Jenkins in March 2000. It was Jenkins who tried to present the four personalities in Banner, including the Savage Hulk, grey Hulk, the Merged Hulk and the sadistic Hulk.
Later Hulk writers in the 2000s still used similar storylines to those previously published, although Greg Pak created a different storyline when he transported The Hulk to another planet. He was considered a threat by the group Illuminati. In the Planet Hulk storyline, Banner crashed on the planet Sakaar and eventually becomes the emperor there. He then returns to earth for revenge, finally ending up in the custody of S.H.I.E.L.D.
Different writers took different approaches in portraying The Hulk and Banner, although one common character of Banner was common to them all – his genius. The Hulk, on the other hand, is a loner who is always quick to anger and enrage. Readers find the character different from other superheroes, but he possesses his own particular set of powers and abilities that make him likeable.