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YMMV / The Incredible Hulk

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  • Alternative Character Interpretation:
    • Re-reading the original Lee-Kirby issues of Hulk from a certain point of view, it can be easy to interpret Banner as being gay, and the Hulk as straight. Banner's heterosexuality has been firmly established in the decades since, but still. This illuminates the way General Ross keeps calling him a milksop, why Banner seems indifferent to Betty but the Hulk is obsessed with her, and why Banner really hates being transformed into a caricature of he-man heterosexuality.
    • Where does the Hulk's hatred of humans come from? Is it because he hates Banner, either for containing him or being weak, and sees humanity as an extension of him? Is it because of the mistreatment Banner suffered throughout his life? Is it just because he is different from them? Or is there a more specific reason stemming from his origin story? note 
      • In Immortal Hulk, Rick Jones raises the possibility that the Hulk hates even being human, that he's something non-human forced into human form (which also raises the question of why he's in human form in the first place, given what gamma mutation can do - does he blame Banner for viewing him that way?).
  • Arc Fatigue: The mystery of who Red Hulk was dragged on for roughly two years; by the point the arc was finished, nobody really cared.
  • Audience-Alienating Era: See the Marvel Comics page.
  • Base-Breaking Character: Considering all the different incarnations of the Hulk, who in Real Life terms would be very different separate types of people, those who first came into contact with a particular aspect of one incarnation recurrently strongly dislike very contradictory versions.
  • Big-Lipped Alligator Moment:
    • An early issue has the Hulk getting sent to a Bad Future by a ray-gun, whereupon he's attacked by a futuristic army working for someone. After a brief fight he's transported back to the past, and this strange sequence of events is never mentioned again.
    • When the Hulk was infected by a Wendigo and became the Wendi-Hulk.
  • Broken Base: The fandom generally falls into two camps. The first group likes the Earth's Mightiest Mortal aspect of the character, and like stories which concentrate on the Hulk fighting enemies that only he can defeat, and using his physiology to perform near-impossible feats (for instance, the Hulk can get anywhere on Earth by jumping there). The second group likes the character of Bruce Banner and how the Hulk represents his shattered psyche. There aren't a lot of writers skilled enough to do both ideas justice at the same time. The broken base is best exemplified by the two Hulk films that were made in the 2000s. The Ang Lee one was made by and for people in the second group; The Incredible Hulk, on the other hand, was made for people in the first.
    • Also Bruce Jones's run as writer. Some love it for being wonderfully atmospheric, others hate it for its disregard for previous continuity. Peter David all but removed it from canon when he returned as writer by announcing Nightmare had been messing with Bruce / the Hulk's perceptions during that time.
    • And finally, which version of the Hulk do you like best? Savage Hulk, Devil Hulk, Smart Hulk, and Joe Fixit are usually the top contenders.
  • Can't Un-Hear It:
  • Character Rerailment: The Immortal Hulk was created as a return to form for the original characterization of the Hulk, as a character framed more like the monster in a horror story rather than a superhero.
  • Complete Monster: See here.
  • Creator's Pet: The Red Hulk under Jeph Loeb. Shortly after being introduced he beat Odin-forced Thor with his own hammer, punched out the Watcher, killed the Grandmaster (who is immortal), casually killed off the whole Defenders (including the Silver Surfer!) and much more. Luckily, he got depowered when Parker took over, and every hero that has been beaten by him before returned to return the favor in some very satisfying ways.
  • Damsel Scrappy: Rick Jones was this from his first appearance, in which he stupidly drove out into an active military testing site, causing Bruce Banner being subjected to Gamma radiation while saving him, turning him into the Hulk. This tendency tends to annoy the Hulk, especially during his grey, intelligent phases, and is lampshaded by Rick himself in one issue where he manages to beat his captor and escape on his own.
  • Ensemble Dark Horse:
    • Rick Jones, after Peter David made him into a Nice Guy who worked perfectly as Hulk's best friend.
    • The Devil Hulk. He only appears once in a blue moon, but whenever he does, it's horrifyingly memorable. He's frequently mentioned as one of the Hulk's most terrifying enemies. He even ended up getting his own new ongoing in Immortal Hulk and his portrayal in there only made him even more popular.
    • The Gray Hulk/Joe Fixit.
    • Jim Wilson. Although he's been dead and rarely mentioned for decades, his death storyline and his friendship with the Hulk is well-remembered to this day.
    • Gamma mutated rattlesnake Rattilore only appears in one issue, but is well-liked for leading a tribe of animals affected by the gamma rays in cool ways, and for being a kind but wise leader who knows to Opt Out of the conflict between Hulk and the military to save his tribe from bloodshed.
  • Escapist Character: Hulk is a mix between This Loser Is You and this. Most people can relate to feeling like poor, downtrodden Bruce Banner at least once in their life and he can provide wish fulfillment by turning into an unstoppable rage monster that can curbstomp almost anything that pisses him off. Less so in later storylines, as his Hulk persona wrecked his personal and professional life.
  • Fan Nickname: "Rulk" for the "Red Hulk." It eventually became Ascended Fanon.
  • Genre Turning Point: The Hulk got a lot of attention as an ambiguous hero who was neither entirely a superhero nor entirely a monster, and his series pushed the boundaries of the Comics Code Authority by depicting the United States military as antagonists (the Code stipulated that comic books couldn't portray respected organizations in a negative light). With his anger, his inherently flawed nature, and his troubled relationship with authority figures, he also went on to become a counterculture icon, showing the potential for superheroes to act as a voice for the youth.
  • Growing the Beard: The original six issue run of Incredible Hulk is, in all honesty, not some of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby's best works by... well, any metric. (Thrill as the unstoppable Hulk faces the savage might of, er, the Toad Men! Or the Ringmaster and his Circus of CRIME!) Not helping is that the Hulk's nature and powers shift wildly from issue to issue. A guest appearance in Tales to Astonish establishes the "hulks out when angry" part, and then the Hulk's following feature in that title goes on to establish all the things usually associated with Big Green (foes like The Leader and the Abomination, Bruce's status as a fugitive from the world, and Hulk's lack of intelligence and simple desire to be left alone).
  • Hilarious in Hindsight:
    • Issue #418 featured Marlo selling her soul to Mephisto (she thought it was just a dream) in order to have a perfect wedding day. Over a decade later Spider-Man: One More Day comes out, a story which involves Mephisto convincing Peter Parker to sell his marriage to him.
    • Issue #1 declared, as General Ross named the Hulk, that it was a name that was destined to become immortal. Fast forward decades later, and Hulk's latest title is... Immortal Hulk.
    • Related to that, a Clue from Ed. in What If? Issue #2 ("What if the Hulk retained the mind of Bruce Banner?") said that the original events were chronicled in "the immortal Hulk #1", which is... confusing now.
    • In 2011, Colbert joked about the possibility of a Chinese/Asian Hulk (while commenting on Miles Morales). And guess what? A couple of years afterwards, Marvel announced Amadeus Cho as the new Hulk!
    • The Hulk series has a tendency of introducing characters who are basically prototype versions of future ones. The Metal Master was one for Magneto and somewhat Molecule Man, while Blossom from issue 217 was one for Big Bertha, the Blob's Spear Counterpart.
    • The Red Hulk, despite not being... well, red, made his debut as a What If? story. Here, have a laugh.
  • Ho Yay:
    • There are some instances between Banner and Namor, and the exchanges between them at times look like Slap-Slap-Kiss. In one issue of the PAD series Namor complimented Banner on being muscular.
    • During the "Circle of Four" arc in Venom, Red Hulk and Agent Venom (Flash Thompson) quickly found common ground because of their military background.
    Ghost Rider: I swear, you two are just a hair away from kissing each other.
    Venom: Don't ask; don't tell.
  • Inferred Holocaust: Although the Hulk is ostensibly a hero, many of his Unstoppable Rage rampages have caused enormous and widespread destruction, which raises the question of exactly how many innocents have lost their lives as collateral damage. As it stands, only a single Hulk rampage (Incredible Hulk #300, which in Hulk's defense, was the result of Hulk being Mind Raped by Nightmare, and all of Earth's heroes knew this) led to deaths (the number varies but as of Civil War, the count is 26 dead men and women and one dog). Lampshading this is Amadeus Cho hypothesizing that the lack of carnage in every other Hulk rampage save the one from Hulk #300 is because underneath it all, the Hulk still retains Banner's super-math skills, maybe even to a greater degree than Banner, and so he's able to predict the trajectory of all the debris he sends flying and make sure it never hits anybody (Cho himself has a similar ability to instantly calculate trajectories). Even so, the Hulk's rampages still ruin people's lives, as shown by Jackie McGee's backstory in Immortal Hulk — her father worked himself to death trying to rebuild their lives after the Hulk destroyed their neighbourhood. How many more like Jackie's father the Hulk's left in his wake is unknown, and probably unknowable.
  • Informed Wrongness: Writers have a habit of painting anyone who reacts negatively to the Hulk's destructive temper as being in the wrong. Thaddeus Ross is the most frequent victim of this but even other superheroes aren't immune:
    • World War Hulk: The decision of the Illuminati (Iron Man, Mr Fantastic, Blackbolt, Charles Xavier and Dr. Strange) to shoot the Hulk into outer space is treated as an unforgivable crime and a terrible betrayal of a close friend, ally and hero. Except the impetus for the Illuminati's decision was the Hulk going on a rampage which killed 26 people. This was also a period in which anti-superhero political forces were just LOOKING for an excuse to enact registration laws. Exiling him was being pretty lenient and arguably doing him a favor since "Leave Hulk alone" is one of the Hulk's catchphrases. That's not even getting into the fact that the Illuminati were innocent of planting a bomb in the ship Hulk was in which was the reason for the Hulk's Roaring Rampage of Revenge in the first place.
    • Giant-Size Hulk #1: The story "Green Pieces" has the Champions of Los-Angeles (Black Widow, Iceman, Hercules, Darkstar, Ghost Rider and Angel) about to be recommended for freeing the U.S from the mind control of Dr Doom in an older story when they receive word that Banner is back in town. Knowing what tends to happen when the Hulk is around, they scout the city for him. Angel encounters him first when Banner hulks out in the middle of a traffic jam. The Hulk throws a car door at Angel who has to intercept it from hitting a nearby couple. The other Champions arrive and engage the Hulk until he decides to leave for a hospital and turn over a woman who was in the car to the doctors. This woman turns out to be Jennifer Walters, Banner's cousin and after her surgery she explains that Bruce was trying to get her to the hospital after her appendix burst. When Hercules asks why the Hulk did not simply explain his troubles, Jen responds that the Champions never tried to ask him what his problem was. The story tries to make it look like the Champions jumped to conclusions and attacked the Hulk without cause but the Hulk did not make himself look sympathetic by attacking the first person who approached him and endangering nearby civilians. Hell, considering that Jen was in the car when Banner hulked out, it's a miracle she was still alive when he got her to the hospital.
    • Skarr, Son Of The Hulk, was hit with this really hard throughout his entire miniseries. The narration and tone constantly informed us that he was pure evil. And while he certainly did a few morally dubious things in his quest to stop the slavers and slaughterers rampaging across the planet, they were phrased in such overblown ways to make them seem worse than they were that it just seemed melodramatic (with one of his "worst" offenses being a bluff of Pay Evil unto Evil). This culminated in Skarr being wrong for not wanting Galactus to eat his planet because, apparently, Galactus eating the planet was for the greater good... keep in mind, Earth superheroes regularly bluff Galactus with destroying the entire universe to make him leave Earth alone, which means he just goes off and eats someone else's planet.
  • Iron Woobie:
    • Bruce Banner was abused as a child, turned into a green monster, endured the death of three wives, chased around the world by the Army, shot into space, enslaved by an alien empire, loses the empire once he conquers it, has his Roaring Rampage of Revenge crushed by a Heel Realization, and fails to save one of his troubled sons. Man it SUCKS to be a big green badass.
    • How bad does Banner's life suck? In Immortal Hulk one issue of the series draws direct parallels between Bruce and Job. You know, the guy in The Bible whose life God absolutely and completely destroyed (Home destroyed, livelihood destroyed, family destroyed, riddled with ailments, etc.) as a test proposed by Satan to prove Job's loyalty to God was not bought. Yes, Bruce's life is so awful and absolutely f*#@ed that he can be compared to a guy who is the posterchild for human misery and being a Cosmic Play Thing.
    • And, oddly enough, the Hulk himself, as depicted in Hulk: The End.
      Hulk: For years... forever... Hulk has listened to Banner, and Banner's friends, talking about how Hulk ruined Banner's life! Hulk made Banner's life! Banner was nothing before Hulk... nothing!...Hulk doesn't want friends, because friends will hurt him. Everyone hurts him. Everyone hurts Hulk.
  • Like You Would Really Do It: Banner being permanently rid of the Hulk and his subsequent death at the hands of Hawkeye were immediately undone when The Hand brought him back to life.
  • Memetic Badass:
    • In the Fall of 2013, a website, Famous Monsters of Filmland, held a tournament between various comic characters from DC and Marvel where fans would vote to determine the outcome. In the final match, Hulk defeated Batman.
    • It's generally accepted by fans, that like Batman and his prep-time, given enough time for the Hulk to get mad enough, he could take down a huge amount of characters.
  • Memetic Mutation:
    • Hulk Speak good for Dumb Muscle, show lack of smarts while still making point.
    • "Hulking Out" describes someone driven to rise up and wail on everyone, especially if one wouldn't expect them to have it in them.
    • "Puny X!", borrowing Hulk's oft-phrased reference to humans as "Puny humans!" This meme was elderly until The Avengers rejuvenated it with the Hulk's only line of dialogue.
    Hulk (flinging Loki's unconscious, battered body to the floor): Puny god.
    • A good one was during Civil War, where fans would state "I'm with Tony" or "I'm with Steve". A third camp popped up, stating "You're all fucked when the Hulk gets back!", a reference to Hulk's imminent return from the then-ongoing Planet Hulk storyline.
    • Ross' mustache and its incredible abilities.
  • Misaimed Marketing: A children's book series has Hulk going around making friends and helping people. He's never angry and always huge and green. A sweet, silent guy.
  • Moral Event Horizon:
    • The Abomination almost murdering Betty Ross by giving her cancer.
    • The Leader detonating a gamma bomb in the middle of a small town of five thousand people in an attempt to create more gamma-powered superhumans. This worked for about one in a thousand. The rest were ashes.
  • My Real Daddy:
    • Peter David wrote the book for over 12 years and pretty much single-handedly shaped the mythos, cast, and central traits of the Hulk. Like Chris Claremont for the X-Men, nearly every run of the Hulk builds off what PAD started.
    • Thanks to his seminal run, Al Ewing now competes with David for the title of being considered THE Hulk writer.
    • Jeff Parker, the writer on the Red Hulk's solo title, has done an amazing job of rebuilding and redeeming the character.
  • Never Live It Down: Umar will, understandably, never live down the fact she once raped the Hulk. It doesn't help that this instance was played for laughs when Hulk had been the victim of both an attempted and a successful rape before, and they were rightfully shown to be the horrible, traumatizing events they were.
  • Older Than They Think:
    • The coloration of the Red Hulk is hardly anything new. The Bill Bixby and Lou Ferrigno Hulk series has a What Could Have Been of changing the Hulk to red instead of green since red is more associated with anger than green is.
    • 1963 Hulk-based character N-Man is red in color as well.
  • Rescued from the Scrappy Heap: Once Jeff Parker replaced Loeb as the Red Hulk's writer.
  • Rooting for the Empire: Zeus gained quite a lot of Memetic Badass Internet credibility due to beating the Hulk, despite hardly being the best person himself. Most of it stemmed from fans being afraid that Hulk was getting a little too strong for his own good, so Zeus setting a hard limit on the Jade Giant's power level and driving home that he is far from unbeatable was really appreciated.
  • Seasonal Rot: While most of Peter David's run on the book is pretty iconic, readers agree that 1995-1996, the first two years after the "Pantheon" era ended, were the low point with David not at his best. The book took a darker turn mostly shifting away from the balanced comedy-drama writing David was known for, the artwork started to get real hit or miss, and then it got mixed up in the whole Onslaught and Heroes Reborn business which resulted in Hulk and Bruce Banner getting separated. It got back on track in 1997 around the time Adam Kubert took over as artist, with the title shifting back to its "dramedy" style and Banner returning a few months later.
  • Strawman Has a Point: In World War Hulk, the Illuminati get a number of "What the Hell, Hero?" speeches from other characters for shooting the Hulk into outer space and allegedly planting a bomb in his ship that killed Hulk's wife and child. The latter is unforgivable but the former can be excused by the impetus for the decision being Hulk's rampage in Las Vegas which got about 22 people killed. This was also a period in which anti-superhero political forces were just LOOKING for an excuse to enact registration laws. Exiling him was being pretty lenient and arguably doing him a favor since "Leave Hulk alone" is one of the Hulk's catchphrases. And the Illuminati only end up looking even more like designated villains when it is revealed that the bomb that killed Hulk's wife was not planted by them but by loyalists of the Red King who wanted revenge against the Hulk for overthrowing their leader and that Miek, one of Hulk's new friends, knew about this but didn't tell Hulk because he wanted him to become the Worldbreaker.
  • Take That, Scrappy!: Once the Red Hulk makes a Heel–Face Turn, Thor, Iron Man and Namor decide to beat him up in retaliation. The moment where Red Hulk wields Mjolnir is handwaved in that he picked it up in space where there is no gravity and turns out he can't lift it on the surfaces of planets.
  • They Wasted a Perfectly Good Plot:
    • Regarding Jim Wilson's death from AIDS, one letter regarding the issue felt that the subplot ultimately amounted to this, as right after Jim was revealed to have the disease he was injured and hospitalized thanks to the supervillain Speedfreak, and then wasn't even mentioned in over thirty issues (outside a cameo at Rick Jones' wedding) before finally showing up again where his death occurred. As they stated, "It's not enough to ask us to feel for Jim Wilson because he had AIDS, especially when we could (and should) have felt for him because he was a three-dimensional character we had grown to love."
    • After establishing Amadeus as Hulk in 616, showing Banner accepting his new state of being Hulkless in issues 7 & 8 of Totally Awesome Hulk and potentially becoming the Zen Survivor mentor to Amadeus, he's promptly and brutally executed in Civil War II.
  • Wangst: Sometimes his whole 'Leave Hulk alone' shtick can get quite tedious, especially at times where he actually manages to be left alone, but then starts crying about how he has nobody close to him.
  • The Woobie:
    • In some ways Bruce Banner is very unfortunate, given all of the abuse, isolation, and mental illness he has suffered from.
    • The Planet Hulk storyline proves that neither the Hulk nor Banner are allowed to have a happy life. He's exiled all the way to another planet, where he manages to overthrow the corrupt government and become a hero and the new king, finally finding a place where he can belong. He even manages to find a wife, and has a child on the way. Then the shuttle that brought him to the planet explodes, killing her and destroying the entire city.
    • Before that, there was Jarella, a Warrior Princess from the Microverse who was not only an ideal mate for the Hulk and Banner, but loved them both equally and unconditionally. Every time it seems like they would be able to be together, Hulk was forcibly pulled back to the macroscopic world, until finally, Jarella was brought to Earth with him, and they looked set to have an idyllic, carefree life together. Their very first day out as a couple, she was crushed by falling rubble. Jesus.
    • Betty Ross's life has not been a happy one either. Her relationship with Bruce has been repeatedly beset by obstacles caused her father and Bruce's enemies, she has suffered a miscarriage and has been mutated three times against her will.

Alternative Title(s): Incredible Hulk