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Comic Book / The Incredible Hulk

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"Is he man or monster? Or… is he both?"



The Green Goliath. The Jade Giant. Ol' Jade Jaws. The Creature. The Big Guy. The Worldbreaker.

The Jekyll & Hyde Superhero. The Unstoppable Rage Superhero. The Hulking Out Superhero.

The Strongest One There Is.

The Incredible Hulk is a Marvel Comics character, the embodiment of Super-Strength, Unstoppable Rage and, of course, You Wouldn't Like Me When I'm Angry!. Emotionally-repressed scientific genius Dr. Bruce Banner, while employed as a weapons designer for the US Army, is exposed to a massive dose of gamma radiation in the process of saving teenager Rick Jones from a bomb test, and as a result now changes into a gigantic green musclebound personification of his own agitated emotional state whenever he loses his cool.

He first appeared in "The Incredible Hulk" Vol. 1 #1 (May, 1962), created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. This original series was unsuccessful and was cancelled by issue #6 (March, 1963), but by then Lee had taken a shine to the character and he was used as a guest star in various series for the next few years. The Hulk got his second chance at solo stardom as one of the two features of "Tales to Astonish", issues #60-101 (October, 1964-March, 1968). The title was then renamed to "The Incredible Hulk" Vol. 2. He appeared in issues #102-474 (April, 1968-March, 1999). Since then he has starred in several relatively short-lived titles.

The premise has undergone some considerable tweaking over the years, but the basic idea is simple enough: Hulk is super-strong, and his strength and durability increase exponentially the angrier he gets, making his power potentially limitless. He has handled the core of a black hole, held apart spheres of matter and anti-matter (never mind that Hulk himself is made of matter...), held together a collapsing planet, punched through barriers of spatial or temporal dimensions and occasionally overpowered cosmic entities.

Needless to say, all this complicates Dr. Banner's life quite a bit — it sure doesn't help that his great love Betty is the daughter of the Hulk's premier nemesis, General Thaddeus "Thunderbolt" Ross — and writers have generally run with that, famously playing with the idea of the Super Hero to great dramatic effect. While Banner is a good and conscientious man, the Hulk (in the iconic incarnation) is a creature of pure emotion who lacks his alter-ego's finer reasoning skills and thus cannot consciously choose to side with either good or evil, only recognize and defend those who've befriended him in turn. Thus while he gets into a lot of very violent fights, in the process running up the biggest Hero Insurance bill in the whole Marvel Universe, most of the people he beats up had it coming or otherwise provoked him in some way. He doesn't actively seek out trouble, but the Marvel Universe being the Crapsack World that it is, trouble often finds him, for which he is inevitably blamed. This doesn't do much to improve his disposition, as you might expect.

As probably the most physically powerful hero in the Marvel universe, the Hulk is normally matched up against Superman in Marvel/DC crossover events as he's one of the few Marvel characters who can go toe to toe with him on an even footing.

Other powers include:

  • Healing Factor
  • Resistance to Psychic Powers — like his physical strength, the degree corresponds roughly with his level of rage
  • Ability to see ghosts, astral projections, etc.
  • The ability to sense the exact spot where he was irradiated, and unerringly find his way back to the area. This was later revealed to be the Hulk sensing the corpse of his evil future self, the Maestro, who, in a clash with the modern-day Hulk, was sent back through time to the original gamma bomb detonation in a last-ditch effort to kill him.
  • Bruce Banner is the premier human expert on radiation - specifically, gamma radiation - in the Marvel universe, with Reed Richards, Doctor Octopus and even Doctor "Insufferable Genius" Doom admitting his superiority in that field. Not a power as such but still pretty impressive, given that Richards discovers new universes regularly and Doom invented time travel. Bruce invented a time machine by accident, back when he was still employed as a weapons designer. One of the places his intelligence is taken advantage of is in the Lighter and Softer Marvel Adventures continuity, where he and Tony Stark are the scientific minds of the Avengers. It has also been emphasized during Greg Pak's Hulk run where Banner (temporarily) lost the ability to transform and made up for it with a bag full of gadgets.
    • This is often pointed out at a time where Banner is not available. "We need Banner." "Banner not home, can Hulk take message?"
    • The Indestructible Hulk series uses this as its driving plot point — accepting that the Hulk is just a part of his life, like a chronic condition, Banner is using his newfound time to work as a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent and develop new technologies.

Usually, Betty Ross, Rick Jones, or his cousin Jennifer can pull off a Cooldown Hug to calm him down. However, it's more often the case that General Ross attacks before he returns to his human form. This is so common, it has a trope of its own on this wiki that was previously named Hulk's Cooldown Hug Corollary.
The Hulk rarely teams up, but when he does he always plays the role of The Big Guy, as on both The Avengers and The Defenders. Later with The Pantheon and his Warbound, Hulk got promoted to The Hero, with Ajax and living stone alien Korg taking over the roles of the big guy in their respective teams.
Many of the modern characteristics of the Hulk were created by writer Peter David during his ten-year-long stint on the title. For instance, Banner's abusive father and multiple-personality disorder were explored in greater depth during David's run (elements that were originally introduced in a Bill Mantlo story), which also elevated Rick Jones from perpetual sidekick to a Crazy-Prepared Badass Normal.

The two-year-long series Planet Hulk by Greg Pak was a major game-changer. A secret superhuman council called The Illuminati decide to send the Hulk away, to a planet with no sentient life but plenty of plant and animal life. The Hulk is tricked into boarding a spaceship that will automatically travel to, and crash-land on, this place of exile. However, the ship goes off-course, and the planet he lands on is most decidedly not devoid of sentient life. It is a savage world, where slavery is common: the Hulk is put to work as a gladiator. With this as his jumping-off point, he soon ends up ruling the world, with a group of fellow freaks and exiles at his side and a beautiful warrior woman as his queen. However, this is Marvel - and even more so, the Hulk: happiness is transitory. Soon after his victory, the ship that brought him to the world self-destructs, killing the Hulk's wife and causing widespread ecological damage that will destroy the planet's ecosystem. Unknown to the Hulk, his unborn son survives (and his wife manages to come back from the dead for a while). The enraged Hulk and his surviving allies prepare another spaceship - intending to return to Earth to destroy the Illuminati. This part of the story is called Planet Hulk, and took place during the Civil War (conveniently leaving the Hulk out of the registration debate.)

The stage is set for the next major Hulk story: World War Hulk, where the Hulk arrives on Earth with a mind to punish the Illuminati for not only sending him away, not only miscalculating and screwing up their own plan, but through their incompetence, ruining him and his adopted world even after he'd found some peace and done so much good. He learned a lot while on his world, and his rage was possibly the most perfect it's ever been, with even the mightiest telepaths unable to affect him. The promise of this setup led to an Internet meme, taken from one for Civil War where fans could declare which side they were on: "Civil War: You're all fucked when Hulk gets back." In the end, however, Hulk's destruction was largely confined to New York City, and he didn't end up killing anyone, "just" causing a few billion in property damage and beating up some of the more prominent superheroes in the area. Which is hardly a "World War" for the Hulk, more like Tuesday.

This eventually led to Banner taking a level in Badass and the next event — Fall of the Hulks. Afterwards, inspired by the positive reception of the character in The Avengers, the Hulk was given a new, more heroic direction in Indestructible Hulk, working for S.H.I.E.L.D. in exchange for using his Hulk persona to attack enemies, and once again a member of the Avengers. It ended on a cliffhanger with Banner getting shot in the head, leading into the next relaunch, Hulk, as Tony Stark's attempt to cure Banner resulted in the creation of a new Hulk incarnation, Doc Green, intent on "curing" the other Hulks, whether they wanted it or not.

For the 2015 All-New, All-Different Marvel initiative Hulk was relaunched again as Totally Awesome Hulk, with Amadeus Cho taking on the role of his favorite hero following Banner's death in Civil War II.

However, Hulk/Banner's deaths never stick... and it turns out there's a reason for that beyond just the Healing Factor. Banner returned in Avengers: No Surrender with a new dimension to his eternal curse, and a new ongoing spinning out of the event, The Immortal Hulk.

One of Marvel's most iconic characters, the Hulk has appeared in a number of adaptations in various media. He is perhaps best remembered for the 70's live-action series The Incredible Hulk (1977), which starred Bill Bixby as Dr. David Banner and Lou Ferrigno as the Hulk.

Please note that this page covers plot tropes in The Incredible Hulk comics only. For tropes pertaining to the character and his personality traits or those of his supporting characters, see the character sheet.

Please note that this page covers The Incredible Hulk comics only. For tropes pertaining to all The Incredible Hulk media, and a list of comic storylines and other works in the franchise, see the franchise page.

The Incredible Hulk provides examples of:

In General

Tropes found in Skaar: Son of Hulk
  • Anti-Villain: Axeman Bone may be a brutal warrior but, as he makes a point of expressing, at least he knows what he's doing (trying to unite his people and re-establish formal society on Sakaar) and when to stop, unlike the aimless and animalistic Skaar.

Hulk... tired...

* "The Lonely Man" begins playing as Banner starts hitchhiking on the road*


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Hulk, The Hulk, Incredible Hulk


The Hulk's Pants

MatPat explains an eternal trope that the Hulk has been a constant example of for years, using his more modern adaptation to showcase it. It's also an example of MatPat reacting to his own dad jokes.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (17 votes)

Example of:

Main / MagicPants

Media sources: