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Characters / The Incredible Hulk (1977)

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     David Banner 

Dr. David Bruce Banner
Click to see him angry. Though, you might not like him that way... 
Played by: Bill Bixby
A widowed physician/scientist who was studying the phenomenon of human beings being capable of incredible strength during moments of duress. Haunted by his inability to save his wife from a deadly car accident and obsessed with finding out why, David deduced that high levels of gamma radiation is the contributing key to superhuman strength. Thus, David decided to inject himself with an extra dose of gamma rays to help increase his power. However, unbeknownst to him, the machine had been tampered with and it instead gives him a massive overdose.

As a result, whenever David gets angry or outraged, he transforms into a gigantic, savage green monster. Later on, a lab accident occurred and it took the life of his research partner, Dr. Elaina Marks and the incident was blamed on his alter-ego, with the side effect of causing others to believe that Dr. Banner was killed as well. David is forced to let the world believe he is dead as he travels across the country, looking for a cure for his condition and evading investigative reporter Jack McGee.

  • Adaptation Name Change: Sort-of. Bruce is still his middle name, but Banner goes by his first name, which was changed from "Robert" to "David."
  • Age Lift: While Bruce Banner in the comics is one of those characters kept eternally in their early 30s by Comic-Book Time, Bill Bixby was 44 when he took the role of David Banner, and in his mid 50s by the last TV movie.
  • Almighty Janitor: David typically took on menial jobs such as janitor, dishwasher, and manual labor. In Death of the Incredible Hulk, he actually secretly corrected a scientist's formulas overnight while posing as a mentally handicapped janitor.
  • Blessed with Suck: See Cursed with Awesome below. If his condition hadn't wrecked his life, he'd be living quietly as a research scientist, and wouldn't be getting into trouble to begin with. He also has no memory of Hulking Out, leaving him worried about just what he did and who he might have hurt (or killed).
  • Butt-Monkey: David, of course. Some people go their whole lives without getting into a violent confrontation. He can't walk ten feet down the street.
    • Interestingly, Bill Bixby was a former Marine and therefore fairly adept at hand-to-hand combat. However, having the fighting skills of a Marine wasn't exactly something that could fit with Banner's background.
  • Cartwright Curse: Goes with David's status as a Cosmic Plaything. He loses two wives and later joins them.
  • The Casanova / Clueless Chick Magnet: David stands somewhere between the two with a little bit of Covert Pervert thrown in.
  • Chronic Hero Syndrome: For a man who's supposed to be in hiding David really gets involved in people's business.
  • Cursed with Awesome: As much as his condition has made David's life a complete shambles as a fugitive, the only reason he survives his adventures, or recovers from paralysis, is by transforming into the Hulk in times of need.
  • Death by Adaptation: David dies at the end of The Death of the Incredible Hulk and, due to the planned sequel movies being cancelled, it sticks.
  • Eye Awaken/ Eye Color Change: As in the Hulk is waking up. Whenever David crossed the threshold for the Hulk to manifest, he would close or cover his eyes for a moment, and when they were shown again, the irises would have changed from brown to pale, bright green as the transformation sound/music started. This particular Eye Take became so iconic that the 2008 theatrical movie used it as well.
  • Friend to All Children: David, even as the Hulk, bonds well with kids and will always help them if they need it.
  • Heroic BSoD: David goes into one in "The Psychic" when he sees that a teenager the Hulk had attacked died in the hospital. David, who had always clung to the belief that the Hulk would not kill anyone, is driven to the brink of suicide until he finds out the Hulk didn't do it.
  • Hidden in Plain Sight: The main reason David avoided Jack as long as he did was because when not hulked-out he's such a Generic Guy nobody could ever give a good description of him. Lampshaded by Jack in "Proof Positive."
    Dock Foreman: This guy you're trying to find, what's he look like?
    Jack: (Sheepishly) Medium height, medium build, brown hair, brown eyes.
    Dock Foreman: You just described half the guys on this dock.
  • The Lost Lenore: Banner's wife Laura, who was the whole reason he went into studying how humans become stronger in times of danger (and, more importantly, why he didn't when he needed to save her), which ultimately led to his "curse." He still has nightmares about her death, even years later (which always triggers a transformation).
  • Nice Guy: Goes without saying, David is a good man who, whenever he sees someone in trouble, will always do everything he can to help despite the fact that it'll often put him in danger and, worse, bring the Hulk out.
  • Obfuscating Stupidity: Sometimes David felt it best to hide his education. Not everyone was fooled.
  • Themed Aliases: David Banner always used a last name that started with a B. David Banner to David Bradley, etc. The only time he didn't use that was when he ran in to his Identical Stranger, a mobster named Mike Cassidy, and he tried to use that to get out of a scrape. Banner uses the Mike Cassidy alias when he comes face-to-face with his personal Inspector Javert, Jack McGee, who up until the moment he sees him thinks Banner is dead. Banner uses one of his usual aliases when running into the mobsters looking for Cassidy, but they don't believe him.
  • Seers: In "Deep Shock", David temporarily gains the power to see into the near future after an electrical shock.
  • Took a Level in Badass: In the climax of Trial of the Incredible Hulk, it's David who successfully saves the day, not the Hulk. The Hulk doesn't show up at all.
  • Vague Age: David is supposedly in his early 30s when the series starts (Bill Bixby was 43 at the time of the original movie so it's an extreme case of Dawson Casting). When given descriptions of said "John Doe," he is most often described as about 34. Given that he was already a renowned researcher, he might have been older than that, since for a physician/scientist, being in his early 30s wouldn't make him that far removed from his medical school/residency days. At the time of the first TV movie, seven years had passed for him as in realtime. Add to the number of years that the series lasted, that would make him about eleven years older, so mid forties by 1988. Don Blake is said to be a contemporary of David, having been in the same class but he clearly looks like he would have still been in undergraduate college when David was already established in his career.
  • Voice of the Legion: Another sign of him transforming; his voice often deepens to a monstrous bass when he speaks as he's Hulking out.
  • Walking the Earth: Looking for a cure.

     Jack McGee
Played by: Jack Colvin
A reporter working for the National Register, a tabloid paper. He was originally investigating David's experiments, but soon caught wind of the Hulk and was now suspicious of David and Dr. Marks' connection to the creature. He accidentally caused the lab accident that killed Dr. Marks due to his snooping, but believes that the Hulk was responsible for the deaths of both her and Dr. Banner (unaware that Banner and the Hulk are the one and same). Thus, McGee resolves to hunt the Hulk down, both to prevent further violence and to prove to a disbelieving public that he is real.

  • And Starring: He's billed after Bill Bixby with "Also Starring JACK COLVIN" in the opening credits. He also shares this title with Lou Ferrigno.
  • Canon Immigrant: More than four decades after the TV show premiered, a younger, Gender Flipped, and Race Lifted version of McGee named "Jackie McGee", made her comic debut in 2018's Immortal Hulk.
  • Flanderization: In The Incredible Hulk Returns, he's stripped of all his Character Development and reduced to a comedic buffoon. Even his leitmotif is played on a tuba.
  • Hero Antagonist: Jack genuinely thinks the Hulk is a threat to society but, despite that, won't let others kill him, for the sake of the Hulk's alter-ego. He could be considered a Hero of Another Story if his presence didn't constantly make David's situation worse. Some of that is David's fault: Jack becomes a far more sympathetic character as the series goes on, and is more than willing to help the man who becomes the Hulk find a cure, but David doesn't know this and only sees him as a threat rather than a potential ally.
    • In at least two episodes ("Hulk Breaks Las Vegas" and "Prometheus"), Jack almost succeeded in having a calm conversation with Hulk/David, but, in both occasions, other people ruined these attempts.
  • Inspector Javert: He's not an officer of the law, but Jack does believe that the Hulk must face justice for what he (allegedly) did to Drs. Marks and Banner and will not rest until he is captured.
  • Intrepid Reporter: He is a complicated example. McGee may be chasing a tabloid-like tale of a giant green monster (and gets mocked for it by his colleagues), but he's keen on reporting the truth. On occasion he reports on other breaking news and scandals that deserve coverage. Furthermore, when a hunter offers to kill the Hulk, McGee is the most adamant against that for the sake of the human containing the creature. He starts out as an Inspector Javert, but by the end of the series, he's a much more sympathetic Hero Antagonist.
  • Interrupted Cooldown Hug: In his more sympathetic moments, Jack actually tries to calmly talk to Hulk at least twice, but both attempts are ruined by other people, who tried a more violent approach to the protagonist:
    • In the episode “Hulk Breaks Las Vegas,” although not quite understanding Jack’s words, Hulk was calm enough in his presence to start reverting to Banner. The episode’s Big Bad, however, was hidden nearby and shot Hulk’s shoulder, interrupting the transformation (which was in the very beginning) and making him flee.
    • In “Prometheus,” David was locked in mid-transformation. This time, he was able to understand McGee’s words and was almost trusting him. But then, the guys near Jack decided to take a more violent approach, shooting David with tranquilizers and harassing a female friend near him. This completed his transformation into Hulk, then he saved the woman and fought the guys, fleeing with her afterwards.
  • Tranquilizer Dart: At one point, Jack has a tranq gun to use on the Hulk. Sure enough, the Hulk shows up and McGee shoots him, to seemingly no effect even though he uses several darts. After the Hulk grabs & destroys the gun and runs off, he starts being affected, in an aversion of Instant Sedation. McGee accidentally shoots himself too, but he's able to chase the Hulk for a little while before he falls unconscious.

     The Hulk 

The Incredible Hulk (a.k.a "The Creature")
Played by: Lou Ferrigno (on-set actor), Ted Cassidy (voice; pilots, seasons 1-2), Charles Napier (voice; seasons 3-5)
David's alter-ego, a rage-filled, primitive, green skinned man-monster capable of great feats of superhuman strength. However, despite his violent and destructive outbursts, the creature is capable of heroism (as in, protecting people close to David), is generally child-like and refuses to take a life due to David's good nature. Unfortunately, he is considered a dangerous threat to humanity due to being blamed for a lab accident that killed two scientists (unaware that one of them is the creature's true form) and is hunted by an investigative reporter and various law enforcement.

  • Adaptational Heroism: The show tones down Hulk's disdain for "Puny Humans" (unless the puny human in question is Banner) and is much more willing to help them out. The Hulk still dimly retains Banner's immediate memories, and usually immediately sets off to do with physical force what Banner couldn't do with words.
  • And Starring: Shares this with Jack Colvin in the opening credits.
  • Barehanded Bar Bending: The Hulk does this all the time, to remind the TV audience just how strong he is.
  • Bench Breaker: From time to time, David gets tied to a chair and then Hulks out, breaking the chair more or less automatically.
  • Comic-Book Movies Don't Use Codenames: You can literally count on one hand (maybe two) the amount of times most people use the name "the Hulk." Almost everyone, including David, calls him some variation of "the creature" (or "that green thing"). Jack is the only one who calls him "the Hulk" regularly (since he created the name for his newspaper), but even he calls him "the creature" as often as not.
  • Extra-Strength Masquerade: The Hulk is treated as an urban myth for far longer that should be considered possible considering he has been seen by large crowds in public quite a few times. He appeared at a rodeo, at a professional football game, in televised boxing and wrestling matches, and even running down the street in broad daylight...through Times Square, no less. His existence was acknowledged by police in many cities, and there were clear pictures of him published in various big-city newspapers (not just the tabloid McGee worked for). Yet somehow, the next town over, nobody had ever heard of this green creature before.
  • Friend to All Children: Hulk loves kids and vice versa, although kids are generally told to stay away from him. The only exception is the child in the original pilot episode during the Hulk's very first transformation, who was terrified upon seeing him and begged her father to shoot him.
  • Friend to All Living Things: Along with kids, animals are also effective in making the Hulk show his more gentle side. Helps that they (particularly smaller creatures, like rabbits) seem like him a lot. Of course, even he has his limits; if the animal is as big as he is and attack him (or rather David pre-hulkout), then they get a good smashing. A bear (Death in the Family), a gorilla (The Beast Within), and a bull (Jake) learn that the hard way, though the animals are still mostly unharmed afterwards.
  • Gentle Giant: The show strictly follows the "just wants to be left alone and will only attack if provoked" characterization of the Hulk and almost always gives him a Pet the Dog moment before he turns back.
  • Healing Factor: While not as dramatic as in the original comics, the Hulk can recover from nearly any injury and with incredible speed. Also unlike the original comics, most of the healing seems to take place during the transformation itself. However, one transformation is not always enough for more serious injuries.
    • In "The Harder They Fall," where Banner was paralyzed and later transforms, the Hulk initially flops around and pounds his numb legs, but after a few seconds he's capable of at least standing and hobbling along. When he changes back, David is able to trade his wheelchair for leg braces and crutches. Later, a second transformation fully restores his ability to walk.
    • Another example is the first-season episode "Life and Death," where David is given a lethal injection of poison. The first transformation only partially gets rid of the poison, leaving both the Hulk and David groggy and dizzy, until the second transformation purges the rest.
    • Another example: in "Two Godmothers," David's right hand is completely crushed by a boulder, triggering his first transformation, and his hand is still broken after he transforms and reverts. It's not until the second transformation that it's fully healed.
  • Hulk Speak: Mostly averted in this version, where he only growls and roars. The Demi-Hulk that David is stuck as in "Prometheus" is the closest the series comes, but even then he still uses full sentences and proper pronouns, he just uses shorter and simpler words (like calling a meteor "a rock from the sky").
  • Informed Attribute: Hulk is repeatedly described as being a monster over seven feet tall. While Lou Ferrigno is pretty tall at 6'4", it's obvious he isn't over seven feet with how he is always standing next to people.
  • Magic Pants: Goes without saying that this is in place; what is of note is when this trope is defied…
  • Mistaken for Murderer: The Hulk is suspected in Elaina Marks' death, even though he was just trying to save her from the fire that did kill her.
  • Mistaken for Own Murderer: The Hulk is also suspected in David Banner's death because almost no one knows his secret.
  • Misunderstood Loner with a Heart of Gold: The Hulk is very animalistic and most people are terrified of him, but he's still David Banner under it all.
  • Roar Before Beating: It is the Hulk, after all.
  • Super Strength: David wanted to tap into "the hidden strength that all humans have." Needless to say, he succeeded in his goal and then some! The Hulk's feats of strength are not quite as epic as his comic book counterpart (due to being made on a 1970s TV budget), but on the other hand, he seems to have no upper limits, either. In his most impressive feat, he easily (if unintentionally) destroys an entire government facility by overloading the hydraulics.
  • Thou Shalt Not Kill: Elaina Marks assures David in the pilot that the Hulk won't kill, "because David Banner won't kill." David isn't entirely convinced, and he constantly frets that the Hulk might eventually cross the line. Of course, if those crooks weren't all Made of Iron, then surely one of the countless thugs the Hulk launches through walls would have died sooner or later.
  • Unstoppable Rage: It's what the Hulk is. Being balked just makes him angrier, which just makes him stronger.
  • Wrongly Accused: The creature is wanted for two murders he didn't commit: Elaina Marks and David Banner.
  • Wouldn't Hurt a Child: In many instances whenever he Hulks out, he never hurts a child. However, he does hurt one child's father for attacking him. The mother, on the other hand, he just either stares at or runs away. Most times, children aren't even scared of him, the young girl in the Pilot episode who the Hulk tries to save from drowning being a rare exception.

Other Characters

    Elaina Marks 

Dr. Elaina Harding Marks

Played by: Susan Sullivan
David's research partner at the Culver Institute and long-time friend. She was killed in an accidental lab fire, but was carried away by the Hulk before she died.

  • Dying Declaration of Love: As she was dying in the Hulk's arms, Elaina managed to admit to the creature that she had always loved David.
    Elaina: Oh, God. My poor David. Who will take care of you now? It's okay, it's okay. I don't know if you can understand me, but I want you to know something. Dear David, I have loved you for a very long time. And I always will. (weakly) And I always will...
  • Secret-Keeper: She was the first to know and experience David's strange condition firsthand, and ended up keeping that secret to the grave.

    Dr. Carolyn Fields 
Played by: Mariette Hartley
First appearing in the 2-hour second season premiere "Married", she was a psychiatrist who was stricken by a terminal illness and tried to treat it through hypnosis. David came across her, hoping to that she could help treat his condition through her hypnotherapy. They fell in love and got married, but it ended tragically as she eventually succumbed to her disease.

  • Dying Declaration of Love: Only the second one the Hulk ever heard:
    Dr. Fields: At least we never stopped trying. (embracing the Hulk with the last of her strength) Oh, I'll miss you, David...
  • Ill Girl: She suffered a undescribed illness that caused her to have terrible seizures.
  • Secret-Keeper: One of very few people who know that David's alive and of David's secret affliction.

    Li Sung 
Played by: Mako

First appearing in the second season episode, "Another Path", he is a blind Chinese philosopher and martial arts expert who tried to help David control his condition.

  • Back for the Dead: He dies in "The Disciple."
  • Handicapped Badass: He's old and blind, but a very skilled martial artist, easily defeating the villain of his first episode alone, along with many of his mooks. Even the Hulk was just cleaning up after him rather than defusing the threat himself.
  • Secret-Keeper: One of the few who know David's secret; in fact, he figured it out just through hearing him transform.

    DW Banner 
Played by: John Marley

David's estranged father, a farmer from Treverton, Colorado.

  • Canon Immigrant: The comic version of Banner's father appeared three years after this version, with a different name (Brian) and personality.
  • Secret-Keeper: Not only does he know his son's condition, but he and his daughter are among the very few people who know he's actually alive.

    Helen Banner 
Played by: Diana Muldaur

David's sister.

  • Canon Foreigner: She was created for the TV show; in the comics, Bruce was an only child.
  • Secret-Keeper: Not only does she know her brother's condition, but she and her father are among the very few people who know he's actually alive.

    Michael Sutton 
Played by: Bradford Dillman

First appearing in the season three episode, "The Snare", he's a deranged millionaire game-hunter who trapped David on his private island.

  • Blood Knight: He's an insane game hunter who loves the thrill of the hunt and killing his "prey", especially when said prey gives him an interesting challenge.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: He accidentally hits himself with the tip of one of his poisonous arrows. It led to his Karmic Death.
  • Hunting the Most Dangerous Game: He had already upgraded to hunting down and killing human beings, but he becomes delighted when he first sees David's transformation:
    "I saw that beast you turned into David, unbelievable! What was it, how do you do it? It was magnificent, David, magnificent! Make it come back? You hear me, David! Make it come back!"

    Del Frye 
Played by: Harry Townes (human form), Dick Durock (Hulk form)

First appearing in the season four two-parter, "The First", he was a bitter old man who once transformed into a creature similar to the Hulk long ago and desired to reclaim that power.

  • Drunk on the Dark Side: Del revels in transforming into a murderous beast who can eliminate all his enemies and is dying to get that ability back at any cost in the first part.
  • Evil Counterpart: Unlike David, who is a good, heroic man in both his human and Hulk forms, Del is selfish, paranoid, and a murderer even before his transformation. In fact, these traits are exacerbated after he transforms into his Hulk.
  • No-Sell: He receives one of these when he transforms into a hulk and tries to attack the Hulk. Even transformed, he's much smaller and weaker than the Hulk. The Hulk simply ignores his attacks at first...until he gets pissed off enough to deliver a beatdown that Del's hulk can't No-Sell.
  • You Wouldn't Like Me When I'm Angry!: Del delivers a darker version of David's usual speech to the man himself.
    Del: I'm not looking for trouble.
    David: You might not have to.
    Del: I'll take the risk. But you'd better not do anything against me.... because you know, when I get mad, what I can do.

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