The Incredible Hulk Returns

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The Incredible Hulk Returns
The Incredible Hulk Returns.jpg
Genre Action-Adventure
Superhero fiction
Based on Characters created by Stan Lee
Jack Kirby (uncredited)
Written by Stan Lee
Nicholas J. Corea
Directed by Nicholas Corea
Bill Bixby (uncredited)
Starring Bill Bixby
Lou Ferrigno
Steve Levitt
Eric Kramer
Jack Colvin
Charles Napier
Lee Purcell
Tim Thomerson
Theme music composer Lance Rubin
Country of origin United States
Original language(s) English
Producer(s) Bill Bixby (executive producer)
Nicholas Corea (executive producer)
Daniel McPhee (supervising producer)
Editor(s) Janet Ashikaga
Briana London
Cinematography Chuck Colwell
Running time 100 minutes
Production company(s) Bixby-Brandon Productions
New World Television
Distributor NBC
Original network NBC
Original release May 22, 1988
Preceded by The Incredible Hulk (series)
Followed by The Trial of the Incredible Hulk

The Incredible Hulk Returns is a 1988 television film based on the Marvel Comics character the Hulk, which serves as a continuation of the Incredible Hulk television series.

In The Incredible Hulk Returns, Dr. David Banner, a scientist who transforms into a green monster when enraged, believes that he has found a potential cure, but he is interrupted by the arrival of the arrogant warrior-god Thor, who has been banished from Valhalla. The two then team-up to battle a rising criminal organisation.[1] Bill Bixby returns as Banner and Lou Ferrigno reprises his role of the Hulk. Eric Kramer makes his first and only appearance of Thor and Steve Levitt stars as Donald Blake. This was also Jack Colvin's last appearance as Jack McGee.[2][3]

This television movie acted as a backdoor pilot for an unproduced television series featuring The Mighty Thor, another Marvel Comics character created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby based on the mythological deity of the same name. Much like the television treatment of the Hulk, Thor's backstory has been altered from his original comic book appearance: while in the comics Donald Blake and Thor shared the same body and could transform by use of an enchanted cane, Thor is here depicted as being a servant of Blake and they are two separate entities, though he is still depicted as having been banished on Earth by Odin for being an arrogant and irresponsible warrior. His status as the "god of thunder" is unmentioned (though he does once claim to be the "son of Odin"), his powers are heavily limited and his hammer is not restricted by the "worthiness enchantment".

This is the first time another character or element from the Marvel Universe appeared in the milieu of the TV series, the first live-action depiction of Thor until 2011's Thor and the first time that the Hulk and Thor appeared together in live-action before 2012's The Avengers. This is the first and only time that any genuinely supernatural or otherworldly elements have been used in the universe of the Incredible Hulk TV series.[4]


Donald Blake and Thor

Two years after the episode "A Minor Problem", Dr. David Banner has been gainfully employed at the Joshua-Lambert Research Institute (as David Bannion) where he and a team of scientists are putting the final touches on a Gamma Transponder, which he intends to use to cure him of his ability to turn into the Hulk. He has not changed into the Hulk for two years since he met a young widow, Maggie Shaw, with whom he is romantically involved. By chance, he is recognized by a former student of his, Donald Blake. Blake claims that, on an expedition in the Norwegian mountains, he found an enchanted hammer containing the soul of Thor, an immortal Norse warrior banished by Odin to Earth to earn worthiness into Valhalla. Thor is reluctantly compelled to serve Blake, who is unnerved by this. Banner does not believe him, so Blake summons Thor into Banner's laboratory. Thor damages equipment and angers Banner until he turns into the Hulk, who easily fights him off and leaves.

In the morning, Banner scolds Blake for setting back his experiment and demands that he and Thor make amends. Journalist Jack McGee, who once spent years chasing the Hulk, hears about the sightings of the Hulk and Thor and vows to expose them. Thor laments the misery of his banishment and he and Blake attend a tavern where he can fight, drink and embrace the company of women as he would do so in Valhalla. The two become friends and briefly entertain the possibility of Thor using his powers to fight crime. A criminal organisation within the Joshua-Lambert Institute seek to kidnap Banner and the Transponder, but the Hulk effortlessly dispatches them. The mob leader LeBeau targets Dr. Shaw instead of Banner. Mob members disguised as police officers ambush Banner and Shaw and kidnap Shaw despite the combined efforts of the Hulk and Thor.

LeBeau blackmails Banner into handing over the Transponder in return for Shaw's life. Banner sabotages the Transponder so it cannot be used as a weapon, essentially destroying his chance of curing his condition. Lambert, a mob informant within the company, outlives his usefulness and is shot, but asks to see Banner, revealing where Shaw is being held, in an abandoned warehouse. Hulk, Blake and Thor ambush the warehouse and fight off a small army of gunmen to rescue Shaw. McGee is once again the subject of ridicule for his obsession with the Hulk and now Thor. Blake and Banner both agree that Shaw has likely figured out that Banner and the Hulk are one and the same and that Banner should leave to protect her. Thor and Blake, now at peace with each other, say their goodbyes to Banner. Banner is forced to end his relationship with Shaw and, as ever, walks alone into the distance.



Unlike the preceding series which was produced by MCA/Universal, this film and the following two sequels were produced by New World Television (New World was Marvel's owner at the time) and Bill Bixby's production outfit, which, in association with NBC, took over the Hulk television franchise from former broadcaster CBS.

Bill Bixby recruited Nicholas Corea, who wrote and/or directed many episodes of the Incredible Hulk TV series, to write and direct The Incredible Hulk Returns. Stan Lee was a consultant on the film. Kenneth Johnson, the creator/executive producer (and sometimes writer/director) of the TV series, was not invited to contribute to the film.[5]


The Incredible Hulk Returns was a major ratings success, outdoing even the high expectations directed to it as a reunion of the Incredible Hulk TV series.[5]

Home media[edit]

This television film was released by Anchor Bay Entertainment on May 13, 2008 along with The Trial of the Incredible Hulk as a DVD double feature. They were re-released by Image Entertainment on October 11, 2011.


  1. ^ Harmetz, Aljean (1988-10-11). "Superheroes' Battleground: Prime Time". New York Times. Retrieved 2010-08-12. 
  2. ^ "F.O.O.M. (Flashbacks of Ol' Marvel) #16: "I'm Free Now – The Incredible Hulk (1988-1990)"". Comic Bulletin. Retrieved 2010-09-09. 
  3. ^ "Hulk Smash Television!". IGN. Retrieved 2010-09-09. 
  4. ^ O'Connor, John J. (1988-05-20). "TV Weekend; Incredible Hulk Meets Mighty Thor". New York Times. Retrieved 2010-08-10. 
  5. ^ a b Glenn, Greenberg (February 2014). "The Televised Hulk". Back Issue! (TwoMorrows Publishing) (70): 25. 

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