Promotional art for "The Incredible Hulk" vol. 3, #92
(April 2006) by Bryan Hitch
|First appearance||The Incredible Hulk #1 (May 1962)|
|Created by||Stan Lee
|Alter ego||Robert Bruce Banner|
|Place of origin||Earth|
Horsemen of Apocalypse
The Mighty Avengers
New Fantastic Four
|Notable aliases||Joe Fixit, War, Green Scar, World-Breaker, Sakaarson|
The Hulk is a superhero that appears in comic books published by Marvel Comics. The character was created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, and first appeared in The Incredible Hulk #1 (May 1962). Throughout his comic book appearances, the Hulk is portrayed as a large green humanoid that possesses near limitless superhuman strength and great invulnerability, attributes that grow more potent the angrier he becomes. Hulk is the alter ego of Bruce Banner, a socially withdrawn and emotionally reserved physicist who physically transforms into the Hulk under emotional stress and other specific circumstances at will or against it; these involuntary transformations lead to many complications in Banner's life. When transformed, the Hulk often acts as a disassociated personality separate from Banner. Over the decades of Hulk stories, the Hulk has been represented with several personalities based on Hulk and Banner's fractured psyche, ranging from mindless savage to brilliant warrior, and Banner has taken control of the Hulk's form on occasion. Banner first transforms into the Hulk after being caught in the blast of the gamma bomb he invented while saving Rick Jones, a youth who had wandered onto the testing range.
Lee said that the Hulk's creation was inspired by a combination of Frankenstein and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Although the Hulk's coloration has varied throughout the character's publication history, the most usual color is green. As a child, Banner's father Brian Banner often got mad and physically abused his mother Rebecca, creating the psychological complex of fear, anger, and the fear of anger and the destruction it can cause that underlies the character. A common storyline is the pursuit of both Banner and the Hulk by the U.S. armed forces, because of all the destruction that he causes. He has two main catchphrases: "Hulk is strongest one there is!" and the better-known "HULK SMASH!", which has founded the basis for a number of pop culture memes.
The character has been depicted in various other media including television series and major film adaptations. Other depictions have appeared in novels, video games and many other types of merchandise. In 2011, the Hulk placed No. 9 on IGN's list of Top 100 Comic Book Heroes.
- 1 Publication history
- 2 Fictional character biography
- 3 Personality
- 4 Powers and abilities
- 5 Supporting characters
- 6 Other characters named Hulk
- 7 Other versions
- 8 Cultural impact
- 9 References
- 10 External links
Concept and creation
The Hulk first appeared in The Incredible Hulk #1 (cover dated May 1962), written by writer-editor Stan Lee, penciled and co-plotted by Jack Kirby, and inked by Paul Reinman. Lee cites influence from Frankenstein and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde in the Hulk's creation:
It was patently apparent that [the monstrous character the] Thing was the most popular character in [Marvel's recently created superhero team the] Fantastic Four.... For a long time I'd been aware of the fact that people were more likely to favor someone who was less than perfect.... It's a safe bet that you remember Quasimodo, but how easily can you name any of the heroic, handsomer, more glamorous characters in The Hunchback of Notre Dame? And then there's Frankenstein... I've always had a soft spot in my heart for the Frankenstein monster. No one could ever convince me that he was the bad guy.... He never wanted to hurt anyone; he merely groped his torturous way through a second life trying to defend himself, trying to come to terms with those who sought to destroy him. ... I decided I might as well borrow from Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde as well — our protagonist would constantly change from his normal identity to his superhuman alter ego and back again.
Lee also compared Hulk to the Golem of Jewish myth. In The Science of Superheroes, Gresh and Weinberg see the Hulk as a reaction to the Cold War and the threat of nuclear attack, an interpretation shared by Weinstein in Up, Up and Oy Vey. This interpretation corresponds well when taken into account alongside other popularized fictional media created during this time period, which took advantage of the prevailing sense among Americans that nuclear power could produce monsters and mutants. Arie Kaplan calls Hulk "schizophrenic." Jack Kirby has also commented upon his influences in drawing the character, recalling as inspiration the tale of a mother who rescues her child who is trapped beneath a car.
In the debut, Lee chose gray for the Hulk because he wanted a color that did not suggest any particular ethnic group. Colorist Stan Goldberg, however, had problems with the gray coloring, resulting in different shades of grey, and even green, in the issue. After seeing the first published issue, Lee chose to change the skin color to green. Green was used in retellings of the origin, with even reprints of the original story being recolored for the next two decades, until The Incredible Hulk vol. 2, #302 (December 1984) reintroduced the gray Hulk in flashbacks set close to the origin story. Since then, reprints of the first issue have displayed the original gray coloring, with the fictional canon specifying that the Hulk's skin had initially been grey. An exception is the early trade paperback, Origins of Marvel Comics, from 1974, which explains the difficulties in keeping the gray color consistent in a Stan Lee written prologue, and reprints the origin story keeping the gray coloration.
Lee gave the Hulk's alter ego the alliterative name Bruce Banner because he found he had less difficulty remembering alliterative names. Despite this, in later stories he misremembered the character's name and referred to him as "Bob Banner", an error which readers quickly picked up on. The discrepancy was resolved by giving the character the official full name of Robert Bruce Banner.
The Hulk's original series was canceled with issue #6 (March 1963). Lee had written each story, with Kirby penciling the first five issues and Steve Ditko penciling and inking the sixth. The character immediately guest-starred in The Fantastic Four #12 (March 1963), and months later became a founding member of the superhero team the Avengers, appearing in the first two issues of the team's eponymous series (Sept. and Nov. 1963), and returning as an antagonist in issue #3 and as an ally in #5 (Jan.–May 1964). He then guest-starred in Fantastic Four #25–26 (April–May 1964), which revealed Banner's full name as Robert Bruce Banner, and The Amazing Spider-Man #14 (July 1964).
Around this time, co-creator Kirby received a letter from a college dormitory stating the Hulk had been chosen as its official mascot. Kirby and Lee realized their character had found an audience in college-age readers.
This new Hulk feature was initially scripted by Lee, with pencils by Steve Ditko and inks by George Roussos. Other artists later in this run included Jack Kirby (#68–87, June 1965 – Oct. 1966); Gil Kane (credited as "Scott Edwards", #76, (Feb. 1966)); Bill Everett (#78–84, April–Oct. 1966); John Buscema (#85–87); and Marie Severin. The Tales to Astonish run introduced the super-villains the Leader, who would become the Hulk's nemesis, and the Abomination, another gamma-irradiated being. Marie Severin finished out the Hulk's run in Tales to Astonish. Beginning with issue #102 (April 1968) the book was retitled The Incredible Hulk vol. 2, and ran until 1999, when Marvel canceled the series and launched Hulk #1.
Len Wein wrote the series from 1974 through 1978, working first with Herb Trimpe, then, as of issue #194 (December 1975), with Sal Buscema, who was the regular artist for ten years. Issues #180–181 (Oct.–Nov. 1974) introduced the character Wolverine as an antagonist, who would go on to become one of Marvel Comics' most popular. In 1977, Marvel launched a second title, The Rampaging Hulk, a black-and-white comics magazine. This was originally conceived as a flashback series, set between the end of his original, short-lived solo title and the beginning of his feature in Tales to Astonish. After nine issues, the magazine was retitled The Hulk! and printed in color.
In 1977 two Hulk television films were aired to strong ratings, leading to an Incredible Hulk TV series which aired from 1978 to 1982. A huge ratings success, the series introduced the popular Hulk catchphrase, "Don't make me angry. You wouldn't like me when I'm angry," and broadened the character's popularity from a niche comic book readership into the mainstream consciousness.
Bill Mantlo became the series' writer for five years beginning with issue #245 (March 1980). Mantlo's "Crossroads of Eternity" stories (#300–313, Oct. 1984 – Nov. 1985) explored the idea that Banner had suffered child abuse. Later Hulk writers Peter David and Greg Pak have called these stories an influence on their approaches to the character. Mantlo left the series for Alpha Flight and that series' writer John Byrne took over The Incredible Hulk. The final issue of Byrne's six issue run featured the wedding of Bruce Banner and Betty Ross. Writer Peter David began a twelve-year run with issue #331 (May 1987). He returned to the Roger Stern and Mantlo abuse storylines, expanding the damage caused, and depicting Banner as suffering dissociative identity disorder (DID).
In 1998, David killed off Banner's long-time love Betty Ross. Marvel executives used Ross' death as an opportunity to pursue the return of the Savage Hulk. David disagreed, leading to his parting ways with Marvel. Also in 1998, Marvel relaunched The Rampaging Hulk as a standard comic book rather than as a comics magazine. The Incredible Hulk was again cancelled with issue #474 of its second volume in March 1999 and was replaced with new series, Hulk the following month, with returning writer Byrne and art by Ron Garney. By issue #12 (March 2000), Hulk was retitled as The Incredible Hulk vol. 3 New series writer Paul Jenkins developed the Hulk's multiple personalities, and his run was followed by Bruce Jones with his run featuring Banner being pursued by a secret conspiracy and aided by the mysterious Mr. Blue. Jones appended his 43-issue Incredible Hulk run with the limited series Hulk/Thing: Hard Knocks #1–4 (Nov. 2004 – Feb. 2005), which Marvel published after putting the ongoing series on hiatus. Peter David, who had initially signed a contract for the six-issue Tempest Fugit limited series, returned as writer when it was decided to make that story the first five parts of the revived volume three. After a four-part tie-in to the House of M crossover and a one-issue epilogue, David left the series once more, citing the need to do non-Hulk work for the sake of his career.
Writer Greg Pak took over the series in 2006, leading the Hulk through several crossover storylines including "Planet Hulk" and "World War Hulk", which left the Hulk temporarily incapacitated and replaced as the series' title character by the demigod Hercules (Marvel Comics) in the retitled The Incredible Hercules (Feb. 2008). The Hulk returned periodically in Hulk, which then starred the new Red Hulk. In September 2009, The Incredible Hulk was relaunched as The Incredible Hulk vol. 2, #600. The series was retitled The Incredible Hulks with issue #612 (Nov. 2010) to encompass the Hulk's expanded family, and ran until issue #635 (Oct. 2011) when it was replaced with The Incredible Hulk vol. 4, (15 issues, Dec. 2011 – Dec. 2012) written by Jason Aaron with art by Marc Silvestri. As part of Marvel's Marvel NOW! relaunch, the Hulk's new title was The Indestructible Hulk (Nov. 2012) under the creative team of Mark Waid and Leinil Yu. This series was replaced in 2014 with The Hulk by Waid and artist Mark Bagley.
Fictional character biography
During the experimental detonation of a gamma bomb, scientist Bruce Banner rushes to save teenager Rick Jones who has driven onto the testing field; Banner pushes Jones into a trench to save him, but is himself hit with the blast, absorbing massive amounts of gamma radiation. He awakens later in an infirmary, seeming relatively unscathed, but that night transforms into a lumbering grey form that breaks through the wall and escapes. A soldier in the ensuing search party dubs the otherwise unidentified creature a "hulk". The original incarnation of Banner transformed into the Hulk at sunset and reverted at sunrise. Banner was cured in The Incredible Hulk #4, but chose to restore Hulk's powers with Banner's intelligence. The gamma-ray machine needed to affect the transformation-induced side effects that made Banner temporarily sick and weak when returned to his normal state.
In The Avengers #1 (September 1963), the Hulk became a founding member of the title's eponymous superhero team. However, by The Avengers #3, overuse of the gamma ray machine rendered the Hulk as an uncontrollable, rampaging monster, subject to spontaneous changing. In Tales to Astonish #59 (September 1964) the Hulk appeared as an antagonist for Giant-Man. The series established stress as the trigger for Banner turning into the Hulk and vice versa. It was during this time that the Hulk developed a more savage and childlike personality, shifting from the brutish figure who spoke in complete sentences and his memory, both long-term and short-term, was markedly impaired in his Hulk state. In Tales to Astonish #77 (March 1966), Banner's and the Hulk's dual identity became publicly known when Glenn Talbot, Banner's romantic rival for Betty Ross, witnessed his transformation, turning Banner into a wanted fugitive.
The 1970s saw Banner and Betty nearly marry in The Incredible Hulk #124 (Feb. 1970). Betty ultimately married Talbot in issue #158 (Dec. 1972). Hulk also traveled to other dimensions, one of which had him meet empress Jarella, who used magic to bring Banner’s intelligence to Hulk, and came to love him. Hulk helped to form the Defenders.
In the 1980s, Banner finally married Betty in The Incredible Hulk #319 (May 1986) following Talbot's death in 1981. It was also established that Banner had serious mental problems even before he became the Hulk, having suffered childhood traumas that engendered Bruce's repressed rage. Banner comes to terms with his issues for a time, and Hulk and Banner were physically separated by Doc Samson. Banner is recruited by the U.S. government to create the Hulkbusters, a government team dedicated to catching Hulk. Banner and Hulk were reunited in The Incredible Hulk #323 (Sep. 1986) and with issue #324, returned the Hulk to his grey coloration, with his transformations once again occurring at night, regardless of Banner's emotional state. In issue #347 the grey Hulk persona "Joe Fixit" was introduced, a morally ambiguous Las Vegas enforcer and tough guy. Banner remained repressed in Hulk's mind for months, but slowly began to reappear.
The 1990s saw the Green Hulk return. In issue #377 (Jan. 1991), the Hulk was revamped in a storyline that saw the personalities of Banner, Grey Hulk, and Savage Hulk confront Banner's past abuse at the hands of his father Brian and a new "Guilt Hulk" persona. Overcoming the trauma, the intelligent Banner, cunning Grey Hulk, and powerful Savage Hulk personalities merge into a new single entity possessing the traits of all three. The Hulk also joined the Pantheon, a secretive organization of superpowered individuals. His tenure with the organization brought Hulk into conflict with a tyrannical alternate future version of himself called the Maestro in the 1993 Future Imperfect miniseries, who rules over a world where many heroes are dead.
In 2000, Banner and the three Hulks (Savage Hulk, Grey Hulk, and the "Merged Hulk", now considered a separate personality and referred to as the Professor) become able to mentally interact with one another, each personality taking over the shared body as Banner began to weaken due to him suffering from Lou Gehrig's disease. During this, the four personalities (including Banner) confronted yet another submerged personality, a sadistic "Devil" intent on attacking the world and attempting to break out of Banner's fracturing psyche, but the Devil was eventually locked away again when the Leader was able to devise a cure for the disease using genes taken from the corpse of Brian Banner. In 2005, it is revealed that the supernatural character Nightmare has manipulated the Hulk for years, and it is implied that some or all of the Hulk's adventures written by Bruce Jones may have been just illusion. In 2006, the Illuminati decide the Hulk is too dangerous to remain on Earth and send him away by rocket ship which crashes on Planet Sakaar ushering in the Planet Hulk storyline that saw Hulk find allies in the Warbound, and marry alien queen Caiera, a relationship that was later revealed to have born him two sons: Skaar and Hiro-Kala. After the Illuminati's ship explodes and kills Caiera, Hulk returns to Earth with his superhero group Warbound and declares war on the planet in World War Hulk (2007).
In the 2010s Hiro-Kala traveled to Earth to destroy the OldStrong Power wielded by Skaar, forcing Skaar and the Hulk to defeat and imprison him within his home planet. Banner also willingly joined the spy organization S.H.I.E.L.D., allowing them to use Hulk as a weapon in exchange for providing him with the means and funding to create a lasting legacy for himself.
During the Original Sin storyline, Bruce Banner confronted by the eye of the murdered Uatu the Watcher. Bruce temporarily experienced some of Tony Stark's memories of their first meeting before either of them became the Hulk or Iron Man. During this vision, Bruce witnessed Tony modifying the gamma bomb to be more effective prompting Bruce to realize that Tony was essentially responsible for him becoming the Hulk in the first place. Subsequent research reveals that Tony's tampering had actually refined the bomb's explosive potential so that it would not disintegrate everyone within the blast radius, with the result that Tony's actions had actually saved Bruce's life.
In the wake of the conclusion of World War Hate as seen in the AXIS storyline, when a mistake made by the Scarlet Witch caused various heroes and villains to experience a moral inversion, Bruce Banner attended a meeting between Nick Fury Jr. and Maria Hill of S.H.I.E.L.D. and the Avengers who refused to turn over Red Skull. Later when he sided with Edwin Jarvis and tried to prevent his teammates from executing Red Skull, the Hulk was thrown aside by Luke Cage. Hulk's sorrow at his friends' betrayal awakened a new persona known as the bloodthirsty Kluh—described as the Hulk's Hulk, being the ruthless part of himself that even the Hulk repressed—with this new version easily defeating the Avengers, sneering that the Hulk they knew was nothing more than a "sad piece of 'Doc Green's' ID." Kluh then leaves to wreak havoc, with Nova attempting to stop him after witnessing his rampage with the remaining good heroes.
During his decades of publication, Banner has been portrayed differently, but common themes persist. Banner, a physicist, is sarcastic and seemingly very self-assured when he first appears in Incredible Hulk #1, but is also emotionally withdrawn in most fashions. Banner designed the gamma bomb which caused his affliction, and the ironic twist of his self-inflicted fate has been one of the most persistent common themes. Arie Kaplan describes the character thus: "Bruce Banner lives in a constant state of panic, always wary that the monster inside him will erupt, and therefore he can’t form meaningful bonds with anyone." As a child, Banner's father Brian often got mad and physically abused both Banner and his mother, creating the psychological complex of fear, anger, and the fear of anger and the destruction it can cause that underlies the character.
His fractured personality led to transformations into different versions of the Hulk. These transformations are usually involuntary, and often writers have tied the transformation to emotional triggers, such as rage and fear. Writers have adapted the Hulk, changing Hulk's personality to reflect changes in Banner's physiology or psyche. Banner has been shown to be emotionally repressed, but capable of deep love for Betty Ross, and for solving problems posed to him. Under the writing of Paul Jenkins, Banner was shown to be a capable fugitive, applying deductive reasoning and observation to figure out the events transpiring around him. On the occasions that Banner has controlled the Hulk's body, he has applied principles of physics to problems and challenges and used deductive reasoning. It was shown after his ability to turn into the Hulk was taken away by the Red Hulk that Banner has been extremely versatile as well as cunning when dealing with the many situations that followed. When he was briefly separated from the Hulk by Doom, Banner became criminally insane, driven by his desire to regain the power of the Hulk, but once the two recombined he came to accept that he was a better person with the Hulk to provide something for him to focus on controlling rather than allowing his intellect to run without restraint against the world.
The original version of Hulk was often shown as simple and quick to anger. The Hulk generally divorces his identity from Banner’s, decrying Banner as "that puny weakling in the picture." From his earliest stories, the Hulk has been concerned with finding sanctuary and quiet and often is shown reacting emotionally to situations quickly. Grest and Weinberg call Hulk the "dark, primordial side of Banner's psyche." Even in the earliest appearances, Hulk spoke in the third person. Hulk retains a modest intelligence, thinking and talking in full sentences, and Lee even gives the Hulk expository dialogue in issue six, allowing readers to learn just what capabilities Hulk has, when the Hulk says, "But these muscles ain't just for show! All I gotta do is spring up and just keep goin'!"
In the 1970s, Hulk was shown as more prone to anger and rage, and less talkative. Writers played with the nature of his transformations, briefly giving Banner control over the change, and the ability to maintain control of his Hulk form.
Artistically and conceptually, the character has become progressively more muscular and powerful in the years since his debut.
Powers and abilities
As Bruce Banner
Banner is considered one of the greatest scientific minds on Earth, possessing "a mind so brilliant it cannot be measured on any known intelligence test." He holds expertise in biology, chemistry, engineering, physiology, and nuclear physics. Using this knowledge, Banner creates advanced technology dubbed "Bannertech", which is on par with technological development from Tony Stark or Doctor Doom. Some of these technologies include a force field that can protect him from the attacks of Hulk-level entities, and a teleporter.
The Hulk possesses the potential for limitless physical strength depending directly on his emotional state, particularly his anger. This has been reflected in the repeated comment, "The madder Hulk gets, the stronger Hulk gets." The cosmically-powerful entity known as the Beyonder once analyzed the Hulk's physiology, and claimed that the Hulk's potential strength had "no finite element inside." Hulk's strength has been depicted as sometimes limited by Banner's subconscious influence; when Jean Grey psionically "shut Banner off", Hulk became strong enough to overpower and destroy the physical form of the villain Onslaught. Writer Greg Pak described the Worldbreaker Hulk shown during World War Hulk as having a level of physical power where "Hulk was stronger than any mortal—and most immortals—who ever walked the Earth." His strength allows him to leap into lower Earth orbit or across continents, and he has displayed superhuman speed.
His durability, regeneration, and endurance also increase in proportion to his temper. Hulk is resistant to injury or damage, though the degree to which varies between interpretations, but he has withstood the equivalent of solar temperatures, nuclear explosions, and planet-shattering impacts. Despite his remarkable resiliency, continuous barrages of high-caliber gunfire can hinder his movement to some degree while he can be temporarily subdued with intense attacks with chemical weapons such as anesthetic gases, although any interruption of such dosages will allow him to quickly recover. He has been shown to have both regenerative and adaptive healing abilities, including growing tissues to allow him to breathe underwater, surviving unprotected in space for extended periods, and when injured, healing from most wounds within seconds, including, on one occasion, the complete destruction of most of his body mass. As an effect, he has an extremely prolonged lifespan.
He also possesses less commonly described powers, including abilities allowing him to "home in" to his place of origin in New Mexico; resist psychic control, or unwilling transformation; grow stronger from radiation or dark magic; punch his way between separate temporal or spatial dimensions; and to see and interact with astral forms. Some of these abilities were in later years explained as being related; his ability to home in on the New Mexico bomb site was due to his latent ability to sense astral forms and ghosts, since the bomb site was also the place where the Maestro's skeleton was and Maestro's spirit was calling out to him in order to absorb his radiation. The Hulk is also able to generate omnidirectional bursts of kinetic energy that are powerful enough to completely destroy the planet he is standing on.
In the first Hulk comic series, "massive" doses of gamma rays would cause the Hulk to transform back to Banner, although this ability was written out of the character by the 1970s.
Over the long publication history of the Hulk's adventures, many recurring characters have featured prominently, including his best friend and sidekick Rick Jones, love interest and wife Betty Ross and her father, the often adversarial General "Thunderbolt" Ross. Both Banner and Hulk have families created in their respective personas. Banner is son to Brian, an abusive father who killed Banner's mother while she tried to protect her son from his father's delusional attacks, and cousin to Jennifer Walters, the She-Hulk, who serves as his frequent ally. Banner had a stillborn child with Betty, while the Hulk has two sons with his deceased second wife Caiera Oldstrong, Skaar and Hiro-Kala, and his DNA was used to create a daughter named Lyra with Thundra the warrior woman.
The Fantastic Four #12 (March 1963), featured the Hulk's first battle with the Thing. Although many early Hulk stories involve General Thaddeus "Thunderbolt" Ross trying to capture or destroy the Hulk, the main villain is often a radiation-based character, like the Gargoyle or the Leader, along with other foes such as the Toad Men, or Asian warlord General Fang. Ross' daughter Betty loves Banner and criticizes her father for pursuing the Hulk. General Ross' right-hand man, Major Glenn Talbot, also loves Betty and is torn between pursuing Hulk and trying to gain Betty's love more honorably. Rick Jones serves as the Hulk's friend and sidekick in these early tales. The Hulk's archenemies are the Abomination and the Leader. The Abomination is more monstrous and wreaks havoc for fun and pleasure. The Leader is a super-genius who has tried plan after plan to take over the world.
Other characters named Hulk
Prior to the debut of the Hulk in May 1962, Marvel had earlier monster characters that used the name "Hulk", but had no direct relation.
- Debuting in Strange Tales #75 (June 1960), was a huge robot built by Albert Poole called the Hulk, which was actually armor that Poole would wear. In modern day reprints the character's name was changed to Grutan.
- First appearing in Journey Into Mystery #62 (Nov. 1960) was Xemnu the Living Hulk, a huge, furry alien monster. The character reappeared in issue #66 (March 1961). Since then the character has been a mainstay in the Marvel Universe, and was renamed Xemnu the Titan.
- A huge, orange, slimy monster was featured in a movie called The Hulk in Tales to Astonish #21 (July 1961). In modern-day reprints the character's name was changed to the Glop.
In addition to his mainstream incarnation, Hulk has also been depicted in other fictional universes, in which Bruce Banner's transformation, behavior, or circumstances vary from the mainstream setting. In some stories, someone other than Bruce Banner is the Hulk.
The Hulk character and the concepts behind it have been raised to the level of iconic status by many within and outside the comic book industry. In 2003, Official U.S. PlayStation Magazine claimed the character had "stood the test of time as a genuine icon of American pop culture." In 2008, Wizard magazine named the Hulk as the seventh-greatest Marvel Comics character. Empire magazine named him as the 14th-greatest comic-book character and the fifth-greatest Marvel character.
The Hulk is often viewed as a reaction to war. As well as being a reaction to the Cold War, the character has been a cipher for the frustrations the Vietnam War raised, and Ang Lee said that the Iraq War influenced his direction. In the Michael Nyman edited edition of The Guardian, Stefanie Diekmann explored Marvel Comics' reaction to the September 11 attacks. Diekmann discussed The Hulk's appearance in the 9/11 tribute comic Heroes, claiming that his greater prominence, alongside Captain America, aided in "stressing the connection between anger and justified violence without having to depict anything more than a well-known and well-respected protagonist." In Marvel: Five Fabulous Decades of the World's Greatest Comics, Les Daniels addresses the Hulk as an embodiment of cultural fears of radiation and nuclear science. He quotes Jack Kirby thus: "As long as we're experimenting with radioactivity, there's no telling what may happen, or how much our advancements in science may cost us." Daniels continues, "The Hulk became Marvel's most disturbing embodiment of the perils inherent in the atomic age."
In Comic Book Nation, Bradford Wright alludes to Hulk's counterculture status, referring to a 1965 Esquire magazine poll amongst college students which "revealed that student radicals ranked Spider-Man and the Hulk alongside the likes of Bob Dylan and Che Guevara as their favorite revolutionary icons." Wright goes on to cite examples of his anti-authority symbol status. Two of these are "The Ballad of the Hulk" by Jerry Jeff Walker, and the Rolling Stone cover for September 30, 1971, a full color Herb Trimpe piece commissioned for the magazine. The Hulk has been caricatured in such animated television series as The Simpsons, Robot Chicken, and Family Guy, and such comedy TV series as The Young Ones. The character is also used as a cultural reference point for someone displaying anger or agitation. For example, in a 2008 Daily Mirror review of an EastEnders episode, a character is described as going "into Incredible Hulk mode, smashing up his flat." The Hulk, especially his alter-ego Bruce Banner, is also a common reference in rap music. The term was represented as an analogue to marijuana in Dr. Dre's 2001, while more conventional references are made in Ludacris and Jermaine Dupri's popular single "Welcome to Atlanta".
The 2003 Ang Lee directed Hulk film saw discussion of the character's appeal to Asian Americans. The Taiwanese-born Ang Lee commented on the "subcurrent of repression" that underscored the character of The Hulk, and how that mirrored his own experience: "Growing up, my artistic leanings were always repressed—there was always pressure to do something 'useful,' like being a doctor." Jeff Yang, writing for the San Francisco Chronicle, extended this self-identification to Asian American culture, arguing that "the passive-aggressive streak runs deep among Asian Americans—especially those who have entered creative careers, often against their parents' wishes."
There have been explorations about the real world possibility of Hulk's gamma-radiation based origin. In The Science of Superheroes, Lois Grest and Robert Weinberg examined Hulk’s powers, explaining the scientific flaws in them. Most notably, they point out that the level of gamma radiation Banner is exposed to at the initial blast would induce radiation sickness and kill him, or if not, create significant cancer risks for Banner, because hard radiation strips cells of their ability to function. They go on to offer up an alternate origin, in which a Hulk might be created by biological experimentation with adrenal glands and GFP. Charles Q. Choi from LiveScience.com further explains that unlike the Hulk, gamma rays are not green; existing as they do beyond the visible spectrum, gamma rays have no color at all that we can describe. He also explains that gamma rays are so powerful (the most powerful form of electromagnetic radiation and 10,000 times more powerful than visible light) that they can even convert energy into matter – a possible explanation for the increased mass that Bruce Banner takes on during transformations. "Just as the Incredible Hulk 'is the strongest one there is,' as he says himself, so too are gamma ray bursts the most powerful explosions known."
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Another important character entered Spider-Man's life in Amazing Spider-Man #14. Hiding in the same cavern that Spider-Man entered during his fight with the Enforcers and the [Green] Goblin, Totally paranoic now, the Hulk attacked the web-slinger.
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