The Incredible Hulk (1996 TV series)
|The Incredible Hulk (1996 TV series)|
|Created by||Stan Lee|
|Developed by||UPN Studios|
|Narrated by||Richie Johnson|
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of episodes||21 (List of episodes)|
|Executive producer(s)||Stan Lee|
|Running time||22 minutes|
|Production company(s)||Marvel Entertainment Group/Marvel Films in association with Saban Entertainment|
|Original run||September 8, 1996– November 23, 1997|
|Preceded by||The Incredible Hulk (1982 animated TV series)|
The Incredible Hulk is an American animated television series starring the Marvel Comics character the Hulk. It ran two seasons, for 21 episodes, on the television network UPN from 1996 to 1997. Lou Ferrigno, who portrayed Universal's version of the Hulk on the 1970s live-action TV series, provided the Hulk's voice.
The show often featured cameo appearances by characters from other Marvel cartoons of the period. In the second season, the show's format, after UPN decided that Season 1 was too dark, was changed, and to give "female viewers a chance", the network ordered that She-Hulk be made a regular co-star. As a result, the series was officially renamed The Incredible Hulk and She-Hulk. The second season also featured the Grey Hulk.
The first season begins with Dr. Robert Bruce Banner already established as the Hulk and on the run, captured by the military after another attempt at ridding himself of the beast within goes awry. He eventually escapes, and falls into the hands of The Leader (this version of him is very much like the comic books except is served by Gargoyle and the Gamma Warriors, such as Abomination, he created from Hulk's DNA), but the intervention of mutated cave dwelling gamma creatures, Banner's loyal friend Rick Jones, and the love of his life Betty Ross (like in many comic book incarnations, Betty along with Doc Samson is seen here trying to find a cure for Bruce Banner, who becomes the Hulk whenever enraged), is enough to liberate The Hulk and he becomes a fugitive again, with a more aggressive General Ross, Betty's father, continuing his pursuit. However, in "And the Wind Cries...Wendigo!", Hulk and General Ross had to work together to save Betty after the Wendigo (a curse placed upon an Indian) captured her.
As in the comics, Thunderbolt Ross is a 3-star general who sends Army forces and Hulkbusters (Dr. Craig Saunders, Jr. and Dr. Samuel J. La Roquette (later Rock and Redeemer) were also mentioned as members) to capture or destroy the Hulk. He also fights the Hulk personally, using a laser gun Bruce Banner created against the creature in "Return of the Beast, part 1 and 2", and again in "Darkness and Light part 3". Glenn Talbot was shown acting as the right hand man of General Ross. He is also shown to have a romantic interest in Betty Ross, but she constantly rejects him because he doesn't do a good job of hiding his disdain for either Bruce Banner or the Hulk.
Traveling across the nation and beyond, even venturing into the coldest depths of Canada, Banner meets kindred spirits also battling similar problems, fights beings of pure energy, and must endure an alliance with the Gargoyle to provide the antidote to a viral epidemic that nearly takes Betty's life and countless others. Not even his family is safe from the terror his hidden powers bring, as his best friend and cousin Jennifer Walters is critically injured by Doctor Doom, forcing Banner to give her a blood transfusion that transforms her into the She-Hulk. Jennifer takes immediate delight in her transformed body (in the model of Sensational She-Hulk) and chooses to remain in her She-Hulk form full-time.
Dorian Harewood reprises his role of War Machine from the solo Iron Man animated series in the episode "Helping Hand, Iron Fist". He originally stops Rick Jones from seeing Tony Stark (voiced by Robert Hays, who was also reprising his Iron Man role) at Stark Enterprises, but takes him to Stark after Jones explained that he needed Stark's help to find Bruce Banner. He later alerts Stark of the arrival of General Ross, S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Gabriel Jones, and a squad of Hulkbusters. War Machine fights some of the Hulkbusters alongside Jones and Iron Man.
Sasquatch appeared in episode "Man to Man, Beast to Beast" voiced by Peter Strauss (Walter Langkowski) and Clancy Brown (Sasquatch). In that episode, Bruce Banner comes to Canada hoping to find his old friend, Dr. Walter Langkowski (Sasquatch) to get a cure for himself and get rid of Hulk forever, only to find that Walter has developed a bestial alter ego while using himself as a test subject to make a breakthrough in gamma radiation. After battling the Hulk, Walter/Sasquatch exiles himself to the wilderness when his actions put Hulk's friend, a small boy, in danger.
Simon Templeman reprised his role of Doctor Doom (who as previously mentioned, critically injured Jennifer Walters/She-Hulk) for guest appearances in two episodes, in which Doom held Washington, D.C. captive, only to be defeated by She-Hulk, whom he later attempted to claim revenge upon. With his appearance on this show, it can be assumed that Doom survived the fate he met on the Fantastic Four series, if both shows are to be considered within the same continuity.
Following Doctor Doom's first appearance (he would appear again in the second season episode "Hollywood Rocks"), came the episode "Fantastic Fortitude" featuring his arch nemesis, the Fantastic Four. The episode seems to place this show in the same continuity with the Fantastic Four cartoon of the same decade as this episode plays off the Hulk's appearance in the other show. More to the point, Beau Weaver (Reed Richards/Mister Fantastic) and Chuck McCann (Ben Grimm/The Thing) reprised their roles from the Fantastic Four series. In the episode, Mister Fantastic and the other Fantastic Four take their vacation prior to Hulk, She-Hulk, and Thing fighting Leader's Gamma Soldiers. Meanwhile, She-Hulk flirted with Thing, but Ben chose to rekindle his relationship with Alicia Masters. And while the Yancy Street Gang did not appear in the solo Fantastic Four cartoon itself, they did appear "Fantastic Fortitude", where they pull a prank on the Thing. After being defeated by the villain Ogress, the Gang, always off camera, distributes leaflets marked "The Thing Beat by a Woman!"
Also reprising his role from Fantastic Four was John Rhys-Davies as Thor in "Mortal Bounds", while Mark L. Taylor voiced his alter ego Donald Blake. Donald as Thor brought Hulk to Detroit so that Bruce Banner can help cure a gamma-based outbreak unknowingly caused by Gargoyle (in his search to cure his disfigurement).
Over the course of the season running sub-plots gradually unfold, centering mostly on several of the supporting cast, the season slowly covers the following:
- Betty's attempts to construct a Gamma Nutrient Bath that will separate Banner from the Hulk with the aid of Doc Samson.
- The Leader's fragile association with The Gargoyle slowly breaking down, shattering completely before eventually reforming before the finale. This Gargoyle is the Yuri Topolov version who was always trying to find a cure for his mutation, even allying himself with The Leader. In "Mortal Bounds," he accidentally released a gamma virus (infecting amongst others Betty Ross) in his search for a cure. When Ross was dying from the virus, Gargoyle gave Bruce Banner the antidote, warning that the next time they met he would not be so favorable. His position with The Leader was one of grudging subservience, although he did become the dominant member when The Leader temporarily lost his powers at the beginning of the second season. From then on, like MODOK in the Iron Man cartoon, he became the bumbling comic relief, with a crush on She-Hulk.
- The Leader succeeding in bringing to life obedient mutant Gamma Warriors.
- General Ross' tempered alliance with Agent Gabriel Jones of S.H.I.E.L.D., a ruthless covert operative whose orders were to destroy the creature completely upon capture. In the series finale, "Mission: Incredible", it was revealed that Jones was partially responsible for the accident that turned a double agent named Diana into the Hybrid when she fell into a tank of newly-discovered organisms (which S.H.I.E.L.D. was experimenting on) at a S.H.I.E.L.D. Sea Base when she was hired to steal one of those organism. Also in that episode, he starts hitting on She-Hulk.
These plot threads converge in the three-part season finale "Darkness and Light", where Betty's gamble pays off and the Hulk and Banner are separated. The Hulk emerges virtually mindless and unrestrained. Banner feels responsible and confronts the creature in an armored battle suit. The Leader finally gains the power of the Hulk, but the strength drives him mad, forcing him to abandon the power and restore it to the creature. At the beginning of Season 2 the Leader turned back in Samuel Sterns and is degraded by Gargoyle in the same way as before. With the help of Grey Hulk, the Leader went back to his old form.
Also in the season finale of the first season, Rick Jones falls into the radiation-saturated Nutrient Bath, (which had been used to separate Hulk and Bruce Banner, and was at that moment being used to fuse them back together), Rick soaks up enough of the gamma radiation to become his own teenaged version of the Hulk. Rick is later cured after The Leader absorbed his power in order to restore his own with the help of the Gargoyle.
Meanwhile, General Ross, betrayed by Agent Jones during the finale, breaks down. Though hospitalized and in critical condition, Ross interrupts Banner's wedding ceremony and threatens to kill Banner, who suffers a cardiac arrest, the separation from the Hulk finally taking its toll. This leads Banner's friends into concluding that he and the Hulk must be merged again, or both will perish.
Ross flees, but later returns in an attempt to sabotage the re-merge experiment. He is interrupted by Rick, whom he hurls into the vat containing Banner and the Hulk. The experiment malfunctions, and the vat erupts; from it emerges a gamma-powered, hulk-like Jones, who escapes into the night, as the grieving but healthy Banner transforms into the Grey Hulk.
The Incredible Hulk and She-Hulk begins where the first season concluded, with the Grey Hulk in the mountains, solely pursued by the still insane Ross. An altercation between the two results in an avalanche that puts Ross in a coma, and knocks out Banner. When Banner comes to, he is arrested and placed on trial, whilst Rick Jones, almost an afterthought, continues his own reign of terror.
Banner's cousin Jennifer, the She-Hulk, tries to help him out in court. After defending the entire court house from an attack by the Leader and successfully locating and restoring Rick to normalcy, both Banner and Jennifer travel together, lying low.
Aside from a small continuation of the premiere episode, the season featured very little ongoing arcs, the only ones of note were the following:
- General Ross hospitalized.
- The Gargoyle displaying strong affections for She-Hulk.
- Betty Ross playing no active role anymore (except in Bruce's memories).
- Banner become more quick-witted and serene, no longer hunted by the army.
- The Grey Hulk fight the Green Hulk about control in Banner's Mind. Sometimes winning the Grey Hulk and breaks out, then vice versa.
The remainder of the season saw Banner and Jennifer either team-up with characters such as Doctor Strange, battle Doctor Doom once more, or participate in a fight during Jennifer's high school reunion party (where She-Hulk temporarily changed back to Jennifer). The episode "Mind Over Anti-Matter" features Doctor Strange and She-Hulk journeying into the mind of Bruce Banner when Banner is possessed by an evil demon alien. Banner in the process turns into a monstrous Dark Hulk. She-Hulk provides levity at the sorcerer's expense by referring to him as Doctor Peculiar and other variations of his name. The Grey Hulk's mob persona of "Mr. Fixit" surfaced for a brief appearance.
The series concluded on a heavily rushed and happier note than the previous one, with Ross emerging from his coma and deciding to end his hostility towards Bruce, but little else was resolved, including Banner's inner conflicts with his green and grey Hulk transformations.
This season won an Emmy award for "best audio editing" for the work on the episode "The Lost Village."
Season 1 vs. Season 2
The first season was exceptionally dark in storytelling, with endings either bittersweet or downbeat with a few noticeable exceptions. These exceptions came in the form of the episode "Doomed" where in the end Jen embraces and jokes about her new state, and "Fantastic Fortiude" where it ends with a honeymooners reference by The Thing. The Darker tone however was reflected in situations like the demonic, supernatural motorcyclist Ghost Rider, who appeared in the episode "Innocent Blood," still a relatively popular character on comic book stands at the time. After Glenn Talbot met the Ghost Rider (he used the penance stare so it is more than likely to be the Daniel Ketch version), he reflected his own bad side and become more serious and selfless.
As previously mentioned, a lighter tone was introduced during the second season, reportedly at the request of the network UPN. Doc Samson was nowhere to be seen and Rick Jones gradually vanished, as did the Gamma cave dwellers. Betty Ross even became less of an important character. The Leader, the series' most prominent adversary, made his final appearance alongside the Gargoyle during "Fashion Warriors," in which Betty and Jennifer Walters lead a group of female scientists clad in bathing suits to battle The Leader's Gamma Mutant Warriors. The second season is regarded by many fans as inferior to the first season; following these changes the series' popularity dropped and it was eventually cancelled.
Following the series' cancellation, the character returned to animation in the Ultimate Avengers series of direct-to-DVD movies, and both Hulk and She-Hulk guest-starred in episodes of Fantastic Four: World's Greatest Heroes. He would also later appear in Wolverine and the X-Men and with Rick in Iron Man: Armored Adventures and is also the one the main characters Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes.
Reruns and DVD releases
The show was briefly aired on ABC Family following the release of the live-action movie in 2003, as well as a DVD release. The show also aired on Toon Disney as a part of their prime time block, Jetix. The show also became the last program to air on Toon Disney. The series previously aired on Disney XD from 2009 to 2012.
An episode of the show was released on the DVD with issue 17 of Jetix Magazine.
In 2008, the series was released on Region 2 DVD in the UK in by Liberation Entertainment as part of a release schedule of Marvel animated series. Currently only two volumes which contain the entire first season were released. Since then the rights then went to Lace International, following Liberation Entertainment's closure. The rights have since been re-acquired by Clear Vision, who re-released the set on the 5th of July 2010, Season 2 (Incredible Hulk and She-Hulk) was released in the UK on the 6th of September 2010.
All 21 episodes are currently available for streaming on Marvel.com and Netflix.
- Neal McDonough - Bruce Banner
- Lou Ferrigno - Hulk
- Genie Francis - Betty Ross (1996)
- Philece Sampler - Betty Ross (1997)
- Michael Donovan - Grey Hulk
- Luke Perry - Rick Jones
- John Vernon - General Thunderbolt Ross
- Kevin Schon - Major Glenn Talbot, Abomination (1996), Samuel Laroquette, Zzzax
- Matt Frewer - Leader
- Mark Hamill - Gargoyle
- Kathy Ireland - Ogress
- Richard Moll - Abomination (1996–1997)
- Thom Barry - Agent Gabriel Jones
- Shadoe Stevens - Dr. Leonard Samson
- Lisa Zane - Jennifer Walters/She-Hulk
- Cree Summer - Jennifer Walters/She-Hulk (Season Two)
- Leigh Baker Bailey - Taylor
- Michael Bell - Zzzax
- Clancy Brown - Sasquatch
- Jim Cummings - Absorbing Man
- Richard Grieco - Dan Ketch/Ghost Rider
- Jennifer Hale - Miss Allure
- Dorian Harewood - Jim Rhodes/War Machine
- Robert Hays - Tony Stark/Iron Man
- Michael Horse - Jefferson Whitedeer
- Tom Kane - H.O.M.E.R., Scimitar
- Maurice LaMarche - Doctor Strange
- Stan Lee - Mr. Walters
- Dawnn Lewis - The Hybrid
- Chuck McCann - Thing
- Leeza Miller McGee - Wendigo, Zzzax
- John Rhys-Davies - Thor
- Kevin Michael Richardson - Evil Being/Dark Hulk
- Peter Strauss - Dr. Walter Langkowski
- Mark L. Taylor - Dr. Donald Blake
- Simon Templeman - Doctor Doom
- Eric Vesbit - John
- Beau Weaver - Mister Fantastic
- The Incredible Hulk (1996 TV series) at the Internet Movie Database
- The Incredible Hulk (1996 TV series) at TV.com
- DRG4's The Incredible Hulk: The Animated Series Page
- epguides.com - Titles and Air Dates Guide
- International Catalogue of Superheroes
- Pazsaz Entertainment Network: The Incredible Hulk
- Marvel Animation Age - The Incredible Hulk
- Incredible Hulk 1996 Cartoon Series - Synopses and screenshots