Art by John Romita Jr.
|First appearance||As Thunderbolt Ross:|
The Incredible Hulk #1 (May 1962)
As Red Hulk:
Hulk #1 (January 2008)
|Created by||Thunderbolt Ross:|
|Alter ego||Thaddeus E. "Thunderbolt" Ross|
United States Air Force
|Notable aliases||General Ross, Red Hulk, Rulk, The Thing (Future Imperfect)|
|Abilities||As Thunderbolt Ross:|
Expert military strategist
Access to advanced technology and weapons
Commanding officer with access to many soldiers and armies
As Red Hulk:
Immense superhuman strength, stamina and durability
General Thaddeus E. "Thunderbolt" Ross (also known as Red Hulk) is a fictional character who appears in comic books published by Marvel Comics. Ross, the archenemy of the Hulk, is a United States military officer, the father of Betty Ross, ex-father-in-law of Glenn Talbot, father-in-law of Dr. Bruce Banner, and was head of the Gamma Bomb Project that turned Banner into the Hulk. After the creation of the Hulk, Ross pursues the creature with a growing obsession, and after learning that Banner and the Hulk are one and the same, Ross hunts Banner as well. In 2008, Ross was transformed into the Red Hulk in order to better combat his nemesis.
The character has been merchandized in various products, such as toys and statues, and appeared in numerous media adaptations, including animated television series, video games and live action feature films. He was portrayed by Sam Elliott in the 2003 film Hulk and by William Hurt in The Incredible Hulk (2008), Captain America: Civil War (2016), Avengers: Infinity War (2018) and Avengers: Endgame (2019) in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
This section needs expansion. You can help by adding to it. (August 2012)
Thunderbolt Ross first appeared in The Incredible Hulk #1 (May 1962), and was created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby as a nemesis for the Hulk. He was a reappearing character throughout this series. His character origin was revealed in The Incredible Hulk #291. The Red Hulk first appeared in Hulk vol. 1 #1 (January 2008) where he was created by Jeph Loeb and Ed McGuiness, but his identity as Ross was not revealed until later. He starred in this full series of 5 volumes. The origin of Red Hulk was revealed in Hulk #23.
Red Hulk began appearing as a regular character in Avengers vol. 4, from issue #7 (January 2011) through its final issue #34 (January 2013). His popularity resulted him starring as a main character in the 2012 Thunderbolts series by Daniel Way and Steve Dillon. He also guest starred in the issues #1-3 of the 2011 series, The Avenging Spider-Man (November 2008) by Zeb Wells and Joe Madureira as a team-up character for the main character Spider-Man.
Fictional character biography
Ross grew up in a military environment with both his father and paternal grandfather in the military.
Ross is a General in the Air Force who is in charge of Bruce Banner's gamma bomb project. His daughter, Betty, takes a liking to the young scientist, a fact which only enhances the dislike the rough Ross has for the "weakling" scientist Banner. After Banner's transformation into the Hulk, Ross spends years chasing the monster, becoming obsessed enough with it to commit treason by allying himself with the Leader, MODOK and the Abomination in order to destroy the Hulk. Dismissed from the military, he shows up at Betty and Bruce's wedding with a gun, and shoots Rick Jones. He is recruited by S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Clay Quartermain to merge with the electric creature Zzzax, a process that gives Ross superpowers, but also makes him mentally unstable. He is later restored to human form but retains some residual energy-generating powers.
Finally the Nevermind, a mutant who drains people of their life energy, attacks Gamma Base in search for a strong host, in this case the Hulk. After witnessing Rick Jones (who was the Hulk at that time) and Banner heroically engaging the mutant, Ross, realizing that he has been wrong about the Hulk being a mindless monster, saves his daughter from being slain by allowing the mutant to latch onto him, and discharging the energy resources he retained from Zzzax. Giving his blessing to Bruce and Betty, he dies in his daughter's arms.
Ross' body is later stolen by the Leader, who uses the powers of one of his followers to resurrect Ross. He turns him into a mindless replacement for his fallen soldier Redeemer. Ross is eventually recovered and revived by agents of the alien Troyjan, and returns to the Air Force. He would later come up with a more cost-effective method of confronting the Hulk when he is in his childlike stage: active non-resistance. He and his men simply do not fire on or engage the Hulk in any way. The Hulk, confused, does not smash and leaps away.[volume & issue needed]
Ross would make friends with Banner, but when Betty is seemingly killed due to what both Ross and Banner believed to have been Banner's gamma-irradiated DNA interacting with hers, he once more pursues the Hulk with a vendetta.[volume & issue needed]
Around this time, General Ryker takes over the pursuit of the Hulk. Ross is indirectly involved, observing when Ryker mentally tortures Banner to try to figure out how the Hulk works. The Hulk escapes from Ryker's control and after several adventures, is lost in space.[volume & issue needed]
After the Hulk returns from exile and initiates "World War Hulk", General Ross, now wearing the stars of a full general, makes his own return, electing to bring the fight to his nemesis once more after Iron Man is felled by the goliath. After a failed assault on the Hulk, Ross and his men are captured and placed in chains under the watch of Hulk's Warbound, the army he has brought back from space. The Hulk is eventually defeated via satellite weapons that fire upon him, reverting him to human form.
Ross' military affiliation has been inconsistently portrayed in the comics. Many early Hulk stories depicted Ross as an Army general trying to capture or destroy the Hulk with his U.S. Army battalion, called the "Hulkbusters". However, he is also frequently seen in an Air Force uniform, as in his first appearance in Incredible Hulk #1. However, stories about his service during World War II portray him as an Army officer in the U.S. Army Air Corps, as the Air Force was not a separate branch of the Armed Forces until September 18, 1947. In a November 2010 Q&A column, then-Marvel editor-in-chief Joe Quesada clarified that Ross is a member of the U.S. Air Force, and that inconsistencies in his uniform can be explained via the artistic license with which artists attempt to present a more dramatic-looking uniform, and that Ross may be a part of a special unit of the U.S. Air Force, or the Marvel Universe's version of it, which has its own unique dress code.
The Army continuity is also followed in various Hulk adaptations, such as in the original 1966 and 1996–1998 cartoon versions of the Hulk, as well as the 2003 Ang Lee movie, Hulk in which he is portrayed by Sam Elliott, and in the 2008 superhero movie The Incredible Hulk, in which he is played by William Hurt. The Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe: Hulk 2004 issue officially indicates Ross to be a three-star lieutenant general in the U.S. Air Force.
Red Hulk (also known as Rulk or The IncREDible Hulk) was introduced in 2008 in Hulk #1. The Red Hulk was created to be an uninhibited, tactically intelligent adversary to the Hulk. Although Kenneth Johnson, the creator of the 1970s TV series The Incredible Hulk, had suggested a red Hulk for that adaptation decades earlier, Marvel Editor-in-Chief Joe Quesada proposed the idea for the comics to debut a red version of the character, whose human identity was a secret. Initially, Red Hulk's identity was unknown both to the characters in the story and to the reading audience.
The opening story arc of the Hulk series that premiered in 2008 established that the character is very aggressive, as the Red Hulk murders Hulk foes the Wendigo and Abomination; destroys the Helicarrier of the spy organization S.H.I.E.L.D.; defeats several Marvel heroes and, after causing an earthquake in San Francisco, is finally defeated by the combined efforts of the Hulk and the thunder god Thor. In a subsequent storyline, the Collector teams the character with other villains in a team called the Offenders, an evil version of superhero team the Defenders, in a bid to prevent the original Hulk from reuniting with past love Jarella. In this story Red Hulk siphons the Power Cosmic from the Silver Surfer seemingly killing him, steals his board along with Terrax' cosmic axe, and uses the power to go on a killing spree offing Namor, Tiger Shark, Dr. Strange, Baron Mordo, the Grandmaster and before that Terrax, a time displaced Hulk, and Psycho Man. However, when Red Hulk reveals this to Galactus the deity swiftly takes back the Power Cosmic from him. Subsequently, almost everyone he killed is brought back to life with no memory of the event.
It is later revealed that the Red Hulk was created as part of a Super Soldier program by persons including Doc Samson, and the criminal think tank Intelligencia, headed by the Hulk foe MODOK. The 2009 "Code Red" story arc also made allusions to Red Hulk's real identity, and introduced a Red She-Hulk character, when Domino identifies Red Hulk before his transformation.
In the 2010 storyline "Fall of the Hulks: Gamma", Red Hulk is related in flashback to have killed General Ross at the behest of Bruce Banner, with whom he has formed an alliance. However, the 2010 "World War Hulks" storyline reveals that Red Hulk is Thunderbolt Ross himself, the Red She-Hulk his daughter Betty, and that the Ross who was "killed" was a Life Model Decoy used to convince the world that he had died. Red Hulk then thwarts the Intelligencia's plan to take over the United States with a Life Model Decoy of Glenn Talbot by destroying the Talbot LMD, and attempts to take over the country himself. He is thwarted by a restored Hulk (in possession of Banner's intelligence) who beats Red Hulk mostly due to Red's exhaustion and from overheating. Hulk tells Red Hulk that it was his idea to fake Ross' death and that he can never again resume that identity. After imprisoning Red Hulk in the Gamma Base, Banner makes arrangements with Captain Steve Rogers for Red Hulk to join the Avengers.
After Captain Steve Rogers recruits Red Hulk, Red Hulk manages to stop Intelligencia's failsafe plan, "Scorched Earth." Although Banner had claimed that he removed Red Hulk's energy-draining ability from him because it was killing Red Hulk, Red Hulk is shown to still possess this ability. After the events of the Scorched Earth program, Red Hulk is paired up with a female Life Model Decoy named Annie. Red Hulk is occasionally assaulted by Thunderbolt Ross' former protege General Reginald Fortean, a former scientist given superhuman mutations by MODOK named Zero/One, and the Indian serial killer Black Fog (a serial killer from India.
Red Hulk plays a vital role in the Infinity Gem crisis of the "Heroic Age" storyline. During the 2011 "Fear Itself" storyline, Red Hulk attempts unsuccessfully to stop the Thing (in the form of Angrir: Breaker of Souls) from destroying the Avengers Tower, as MODOK Superior and Black Fog converge on both combatants during the fight. Angrir dispatches Red Hulk by knocking him out of the city and into Vermont.
As part of the 2012 Marvel NOW! relaunch, Red Hulk leads a non-government sponsored version of the Thunderbolts. This incarnation is a strike team that cleans up the messes left by Ross' military career, but the team later decides on a new arrangement in which the team will do one mission for Ross, then a mission for a random member.
After Hulk takes away Rick Jones, Skaar and Betty Ross's powers, Thunderbolt Ross starts monitoring Hulk's movements. This eventually leads to a furious battle, in which Doc Green subdues Red Hulk and inject him with a formula that reverts him to Thunderbolt Ross. The Army is alerted to the confrontation. When they arrive, the Army arrests Ross for deserting his country.
In 2018's FCBD Captain America issue indicates that Ross is no longer incarcerated. Subsequently, in the premiere issue of that year's Captain America series, it is revealed that Ross was paroled for helping a resistance cell during the "Secret Empire" storyline and appointed as head of the investigation into the attack. However, he was later killed by a unknown killer, while Captain America was framed for his murder.
Powers and abilities
Marvel editor Mark Paniccia has described the Red Hulk as "absolutely uninhibited, tactically intelligent", while writer Jeph Loeb states "The Red Hulk is the kind of Hulk we haven't seen before—a thinking, calculating, brutal weapon-toting kind of Hulk." To further distance the character away from the original: "Everything the Green Hulk isn't, the Red Hulk is. Except, of course, for his powers which are identical. And he looks the same, except he's red. And he's the same size. But other than that, they're complete opposites." The character has abilities almost identical to those of the current Hulk. The character can also emit heat at will from his eyes during non-enraged periods, and can augment power levels by absorbing various types of energy, such as gamma radiation (in one instance causing the Hulk to revert to alter ego Bruce Banner) and the Power Cosmic. When infected with Cable's techno-organic virus during the "X-Sanction" storyline, he was able to control this heat to burn the virus out of his system. Red Hulk was created through a combination of gamma radiation and cosmic rays. The satellites used to revert the Hulk to human form at the end of World War Hulk were used to power the device used to turn Ross into the Red Hulk. Unlike the green Hulk, the Red Hulk does not revert to human form when rendered unconscious, and his blood is a fluorescent yellow instead of green, remaining that color even in human form. Unlike the green Hulk, who gets stronger as his rage increases, Red Hulk's body temperature rises with his anger. Though the heat is intense enough to melt desert sand into glass, it causes him to weaken when it becomes too intense, as his physiology lacks a cooling mechanism to deal with the excess heat. Red Hulk has also been shown to have a weakness to Negative Zone energy, which caused him burning pain and drained him when he attempted to absorb it.
Red Hulk reception
Comics featuring the Red Hulk have sold well, but received mixed reviews. The first five issues of the Hulk title sold out, and second printings featured new covers. Issue #6 was the second best-selling title of September 2008, and issue #10 was sixth in February 2009.
Augie De Blieck Jr. of Comic Book Resources gave the first six issues a positive review, describing it as a "silly fun action romp" and a "popcorn comic". De Blieck liked Loeb's lack of subtlety when giving out clues, saying "this is a book where anytime someone is about reveal the solution to the big mystery, they get knocked out by a slap in the face from the Red Hulk or a machine gun to the gut". His one criticism was that, although he liked the artwork, he would have preferred Dale Keown as the artist.
Red Hulk was listed as #41 on IGN's "Top 50 Avengers". IGN reviewer Jesse Schedeen was generally critical of the series, citing a lack of character development and the emphasis on continuous action sequences over the ongoing question of Red Hulk's identity. Schedeen also derided the treatment of other mainstream Marvel characters within the pages of Hulk, saying about issue #5 "The series has already treated She-Hulk and Iron Man like ragdolls who crumple under the awesome might of Red Hulk. Now it's Thor's turn". Claiming bad dialogue, poor pacing and maltreated characters, Schedeen stated that Ed McGuinness' artwork was the only saving grace for the title.
- In the Marvel 1602 sequel 1602: New World, an Admiral Ross of the Royal Navy captains a vessel sent to Roanoke to quell the "Witchbreed", including the 1602 version of the Hulk.
- In the 1995–1996 crossover "Age of Apocalypse", General "Thunderbolt" Ross is a member of the Human High Council, a movement dedicated to protecting humans from the murderous rampages of Apocalypse.
- In Amalgam Comics, Ross appears as the head of Project Cadmus. He is depicted far more sympathetically, as he adopts Spider-Boy and gives him the name Pete Ross after feeling sorry for the clone. He plays a role similar to Uncle Ben, as he is called "Uncle Gen" by Pete. After he is killed by a mugger, Pete decides to become a hero.
- In the alternate world of newuniversal, General Thad Ross is Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He comes under criticism for his use of nuclear weapons on superhumans.
- In the Ultimate Marvel universe, General Ross (clearly identified in Ultimate FF #1 as an Army general) is the head of S.H.I.E.L.D.. He later retires from that role and becomes a government liaison to the think tank that runs the Fantastic Four, with General Glenn Talbot assisting him.
- In Chris Giarrusso's all-ages series Mini Marvels, Thunderbolt Ross' Red Hulk form is depicted as a friendlier character with limited intelligence, and a friend of the Mini Marvel Green Hulk and Blue Hulk. His human form is seen in the "Hulk Date" story letting Betty go on a date with the Hulk but sends a Hulkbuster robot after him to keep him from trying any "funny stuff."
- In the "Marvel Noir" universe, a man named Ross is mentioned by Edwin Jarvis as a person he knew in World War I.
- In the 1996–1997 "Heroes Reborn" storyline, Ross was present during World War II, and was present as Captain America protested the use of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima when meeting with U.S. President Harry S. Truman. This would prompt Ross to put Nick Fury in charge of the new S.H.I.E.L.D. agency to deal with Captain America. Decades later, Ross was made the Chief of Staff for the United States military. At the time of his first recorded appearance, he was in the hospital recovering from a heart attack. He was visited by his daughter Liz Ross, who was then security chief at Stark International.
- In Marvel Mangaverse, General Ross commands an armed space station that unsuccessfully attempts to destroy the planet-consuming alien Galactus, but is instead destroyed by him.
In other media
- Thunderbolt Ross' first animated appearance was on The Marvel Super Heroes, voiced by Paul Kligman.
- Thunderbolt Ross appeared in the 1980s NBC animated series The Incredible Hulk, voiced by Robert Ridgely.
- Thunderbolt Ross appeared in the 1990s UPN animated series The Incredible Hulk, voiced by John Vernon.
- Thunderbolt Ross has a non-voiced cameo appearance in Fantastic Four: World's Greatest Heroes. In the episode "Hard Knocks", he is seen when the United States Army is arresting Agent Pratt after the Hulk goes loose in the Badlands.
- Thunderbolt Ross and his Red Hulk form appear in the animated series The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes, with Ross voiced by Keith Ferguson, and Red Hulk's animated debut voiced by Fred Tatasciore.
- General Ross is featured in Iron Man: Armored Adventures, voiced by Eric Bauza. He appears in the episodes "Heavy Mettle" and "Rage of the Hulk".
- Thunderbolt Ross/Red Hulk appears in various animated Marvel cartoons seen on Disney XD, voiced by Clancy Brown. He is one of the main characters in Hulk and the Agents of S.M.A.S.H. as the Red Hulk. The character has also appeared in Ultimate Spider-Man and on Avengers Assemble; as Red Hulk in Ultimate Spider-Man: Web Warriors, Avengers: Ultron Revolution and Avengers: Secret Wars, and in his human form in Ultimate Spider-Man vs The Sinister Six.
- Sam Elliott plays General Ross in the 2003 film Hulk directed by Ang Lee. In this version, General Ross is a four star administrator of Desert Base/later known as Gamma Base in the 1970s and was colleagues with David Banner.
- William Hurt portrays General Thunderbolt Ross in the Marvel Cinematic Universe films. He first appears in The Incredible Hulk (2008), in which he hunts down Bruce Banner/Hulk after an experiment in super-soldier genetics leads him to become the Hulk. He later encourages Captain Emil Blonsky to become a volunteer for the Super-Soldier Serum to track down Banner, which later becomes Abomination through Dr. Samuel Sterns mixing in Banner's blood. After Abomination is arrested, a sullen Ross is visited by Tony Stark about "putting a team together". Ross then appears in the Marvel One-Shot "The Consultant". His next feature film appearance is Captain America: Civil War (2016), where he is the U.S. Secretary of State who is a driving force the United States' signing of the Sokovia Accords, which requires all super-powered crime-fighters to register with the government as its operatives, an act that splits the Avengers into two factions (pro-registration and anti-registration). This results in the anti-registration side imprisoned in a maximum security prison called the Raft for violation until there was a breakout. Director Joe Russo revealed the character's transformation into the Red Hulk was considered during the film's production, but it was decided that there was not enough room in the narrative to substantiate that development. Hurt reprises the role in Avengers: Infinity War (2018), in which he wants to arrest the fugitive Avengers despite Thanos' invasion of Earth. Hurt reprises his role in Avengers: Endgame, in which he is seen attending Tony Stark's funeral.
- General John Ryker is seen speaking on the phone with General Ross in the 2003 Hulk video game while at Gamma Base, reporting to him about Bruce Banner's capture and Betty Ross' safety.
- General Ross appears in The Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction, voiced by Dave Thomas.
- General Ross appears in the 2008 The Incredible Hulk video game, voiced by William Hurt. The Red Hulk is also a playable character in GameStop's exclusive Xbox 360 version.
- Red Hulk is available as an alternate costume for the Hulk in Marvel: Ultimate Alliance 2, Marvel Super Hero Squad, Marvel vs. Capcom 3: Fate of Two Worlds and Marvel Super Hero Squad: The Infinity Gauntlet.
- Red Hulk appears as a playable character in Marvel Super Hero Squad Online, voiced by Tom Kenny.
- Red Hulk appears as an unlockable character in Marvel: Avengers Alliance.
- Thunderbolt Ross/Red Hulk appears as playable character in Lego Marvel Super Heroes, with Thunderbolt Ross voiced by John DiMaggio and Red Hulk once again voiced by Fred Tatasciore.
- Red Hulk is playable character in Marvel: Contest of Champions.
- Red Hulk is a playable character in Marvel: Future Fight.
- Thunderbolt Ross/Red Hulk appears as a playable character in Lego Marvel's Avengers.
- Red Hulk is a playable character in the match-three mobile game Marvel Puzzle Quest. He was added to the game as part of its second anniversary event in October 2015.
- Red Hulk appears as a palette swap for the Hulk in Marvel vs Capcom 3: Fate of Two Worlds, Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3, and Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite.
- Thunderbolt Ross/Red Hulk appears in Lego Marvel Super Heroes 2. In story mode, Red Hulk appears on Sakaar as one of the "World Breakers" alongside Hulk, Maestro and Greenskyn Smashtroll.
|Title||Material collected||Publication date||ISBN|
|Hulk Vol. 1: Red Hulk||Hulk vol. 2 #1–6||February 2009||0-7851-2882-4|
|Hulk Vol. 2: Red & Green||Hulk vol. 2 #7–9; King-Size Hulk #1||July 2009||0-7851-2884-0|
|Hulk Vol. 3: Hulk No More||Hulk vol. 2 #10–13; Incredible Hulk #600||February 2010||0-7851-4052-2|
|Hulk: Fall of the Hulks Prelude||Hulk vol. 2 #2, 16; Skaar: Son of Hulk #1; Hulk: Raging Thunder; Planet Skaar Prologue; All-New Savage She-Hulk #4;||February 2010||0-7851-4315-7|
|Hulk Vol. 4: Hulk vs. X-Force||Hulk vol. 2 #14–18||June 2010||0-7851-4053-0|
|Hulk: Fall of the Hulks – Red Hulk||Fall of the Hulks: Red Hulk #1–4||August 2010||0-7851-4795-0|
|Hulk Vol. 5: Fall of the Hulks||Hulk vol. 2 #19–21; Fall of the Hulks: Gamma||November 2010||0-7851-4054-9|
|Hulk Vol. 6: World War Hulks||Hulk vol. 2 #22–24||March 2011||0-7851-4267-3|
|Red Hulk: Scorched Earth||Hulk vol. 2 #25–30||May 2011||0-7851-4896-5|
|Planet Red Hulk||Hulk vol. 2 #30.1, 31–36||October 2011||0-7851-5578-3|
|Fear Itself: Hulk||Hulk vol. 2 #37–41||February 2012||0-7851-5579-1|
|Hulk: Hulk of Arabia||Hulk vol. 2 #42–46||April 2012||0-7851-6095-7|
|Hulk: Haunted Hulk||Hulk vol. 2 #47–52||August 2012||978-0-7851-6099-1|
|Red Hulk: Mayan Rule||Hulk vol. 2 #53–57||November 2012||0-7851-6097-3|
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Each issue provides about 30 seconds of plot development, which usually centers around heaping more layers of mystery atop the Red Hulk's identity. The rest involves smashing, being smashed, or a bit of both.
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