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The evolution of the 'Hulk' on television and film.

Updated on March 19, 2013


Comic book fans know him, and movie and television watchers have most likely heard of him before. He's the alter ego of Dr. Bruce Banner. He's the "HULK". The Hulk is a superhero/anti-hero that has appeared in various editions Marvel Comic publications over the years. He is known for his uncontrollable rage, superhuman strength, and his green skin. Throughout the years, the Hulk has been shown in various television and movie formats. This hub is going to show the Hulk's evolution in television and cinema, and showcase the men that have portrayed him.

Lou Ferrigno as the Hulk, and Bill Bixby as Dr. David Banner.


"The Incredible Hulk" television series.

The first version of the Hulk was shown in a 2 hour pilot movie in November of 1977. This series would be called "The Incredible Hulk", and starred Bill Bixby as Dr. David Banner. Bodybuilder, Lou Ferrigno played the Hulk himself. Ferrigno is the only human to ever play the Hulk himself on screen. "The Incredible Hulk" series lasted five seasons(1978-1982), and aired 82 total episodes. After being purchased by NBC from CBS in 1988, threemade-for-television films were aired. They were titled: "The Incredible Hulk Returns", "The Trial of the Incredible Hulk", and "The Death of the Incredible Hulk". Although the Hulk appeared to die in the final movie, there were more Hulk movies planned. Another movie titled "The Revenge of the Incredible Hulk" was supposed to have shown a revived Hulk return with the ability to talk. However, plans for this were cancelled when Bill Bixby's health began to decline. Bixby died from cancer in 1993.

Hulk in the 2003 movie "Hulk".


Eric Bana as Dr. Bruce Banner.


"Hulk" (2003).

"Hulk" was released in 2003, and was directed by Ang Lee. This was the first live-action Hulk film to show the Hulk in CGI. Besides animated versions that had been previously shown, this movie was the closet to how the Hulk was based on versions of him in the comic books. This movie starred Eric Bana as Dr. Bruce Banner. It also explained and explored the origins of the Hulk in greater detail. This film version of the Hulk also featured Dr. David Banner as the father of Bruce Banner. The role of David Banner was portrayed by Nick Nolte. Lou Ferrigno, who played the Hulk in the television series, makes a cameo in this movie as a security guard. I recall being extremely excited to see this movie when I heard about it. I remember going to the theater to see it a day or two after it came out. However, I was not too impressed with this film. I felt it was fairly bland, and extremely too dark for a comic book movie. Also, as great as the CGI was in this movie, the Hulk looked a bit too green and cartoonish.

The Hulk in "The Incredible Hulk" (2008).


Edward Norton as Dr. Bruce Banner.


"The Incredible Hulk" (2008).

"The Incredible Hulk" was a reboot of the Hulk series, that was released in 2008. This time the movie starred Edward Norton as Dr. Bruce Banner. Due to the mixed reception received from it's predecessor "Hulk", a new story was establish that reflected the comic books and the television series more than the 2003 movie. "The Incredible Hulk" shows a different backstory as to how Banner became the Hulk. Banner is a pawn of a super soldier program that attempts to make humans immune through gamma radiation. Unfortunately the experiment fails, and Banner now has the monster inside of him. This film bore the same name as the television series from the late 70's and 80's, and follows a similar storyline as the series. The film shows Banner as a man living on the run, and attempting to cure himself before being captured by General Thaddeus "Thunderbold" Ross. Lou Ferrigno once again makes a cameo as a security guard in this film. He also plays the voice of the Hulk in this film. I recall the first time I saw this movie in a theater. I left the theater very impressed. I felt it was way better than the 2003 Hulk movie. In my opinion, the Hulk himself looked more realistic in this movie. I also felt his rage was more authentic and believable in this film. He still maintains his trademark skin tone, however it's more of a darker tone of green. He also has veins that visibly show. I also enjoyed Norton's portrayal of Bruce Banner more than I did Bana's.

Hulk in "Marvels: The Avengers".


Mark Ruffalo as Dr. Bruce Banner.


"Marvels: The Avengers".

The Hulk appears live action again in "Marvels: The Avengers". This movie was released in May of 2012. This time the character of Dr. Bruce Banner is portrayed by actor Mark Ruffalo. Edward Norton was set to reprise the role of Banner, but negotiations between Norton and Marvel broke down. If you look carefully at Ruffalo and the Hulk, you'll notice how much Ruffalo looks like the Hulk. This was the first film that the Hulk is in where the actor actually plays the Hulk. This film used stop-motion capture, and stop action(similar to Avatar) to give the impression that Ruffalo was actually the Hulk. I was so impressed with Norton in "The Incredible Hulk", that was I disappointed when I found out that he wouldn't be playing the character. However, after seeing "Marvels: The Avengers" in the theater, I was very impressed with Ruffalo's portrayal of both the Hulk and Dr. Banner. In most critic's eyes, Ruffalo's performance surpassed both Eric Bana and Edward Norton as Bruce Banner.


I can't speak for anyone else, but I think it's safe to say that the character of Hulk has evolved for the better over the years. With CGI in film getting better over time, the Hulk has become more realistic as time goes on. There are apparently more Hulk films to come in the future, and I think there's nothing but great things to look forward to. Thanks for reading.



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    • prospectboy profile image

      Bradrick H. 4 years ago from Texas

      @Geekdom, Thanks a lot for stopping by. Yea I enjoyed watching the television show as a child too. I have a few episodes on DVD too. I think that the Hulk was portrayed well in 'The Incredible Hulk' movie, and in 'The Avengers'. I personally didn't care much for the 2003 'Hulk' movie. Thanks again for stopping by.

    • Geekdom profile image

      Geekdom 4 years ago

      I loved the Hulk television show. It is dated, but the plots still hold up. I was glad to see Avengers finally do the Hulk right.

    • prospectboy profile image

      Bradrick H. 5 years ago from Texas

      @Kasman, Gotta love the Hulk man. As a kid, I loved the series with Bill Bixby and Lou Ferrigno. After watching 'The Avengers' several times, I think I'll personally give a slight edge to Ruffalo over Norton, although I loved Norton's portrayal. Like you, I would have loved a continuation, but Ruffalo done the role a lot of justice. Thanks a lot brother for reading, and sharing. I appreciate it a lot!

    • Kasman profile image

      Kas 5 years ago from Bartlett, Tennessee

      One of my all time favorite comic book characters is the Hulk. I also agree with your assessment, however I'm still on the fence over who portrayed Bruce Banner, say that 3 times real fast, Norton or Ruffalo. It's kind of a toss-up for me. I think in the Avengers movie, Ruffalo was definitely amazing, I still would've liked to see a continuation of the same actor in Norton though. Great hub brother, voting this bad boy up and sharing!

    • prospectboy profile image

      Bradrick H. 5 years ago from Texas

      @LauraD093, Hello there. I appreciate the kind words. I thought Edward Norton was great as Bruce Banner, and 'The Incredible Hulk' movie that starred him was my favorite as well. Hope you friend enjoys the read. Thanks again :)

    • LauraD093 profile image

      Laura Tykarski 5 years ago from Pittsburgh PA

      Great back-ground hub on the Hulk. I have a close friend deep into The Hulk will have to e-mail this hub to him -he will love it. I love Edward Norton so he would have to be my film favorite Hulk lol

    • prospectboy profile image

      Bradrick H. 5 years ago from Texas

      Hey there Allison. The Hulk definitely is one of the most recognizable figures in Marvel comics. Glad to hear he is one of your favorites. Thank you for taking out the time to read :)

    • profile image

      Allison Jae 5 years ago

      the hulk has always been one of my favorites. thanks for posting.

    • prospectboy profile image

      Bradrick H. 5 years ago from Texas

      Hi Domenick Dicce. Thanks a lot for viewing. I'm a lot like you, I'm a sucker for superhero shows and movies. I'm so excited about "The Dark Knight Rises" coming out soon. Anyway, thanks again for your feedback.

    • profile image

      Domenick Dicce 5 years ago

      That was a nice little break down of the Hulk. I am a sucker for live action superhero shows.


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