5712 in-depth character profiles from comics, games, movies

Hulk (Lou Ferrigno / Bill Bixby TV show) - Hulk being muscular

Incredible Hulk

(Bill Bixby & Lou Ferrigno version) (Doug's profile)


Power Level:
Game system: DC Heroes Role-Playing Game

“Within each of us, ofttimes, there dwells a mighty and raging fury.”
-Screen credit in the pilot movie


Context

The Incredible Hulk was a TV show that ran from 1978 to 1982. It focused on the travels of David Banner, forced into the life of a fugitive after an experiment gone awry made him turn into the inhuman-looking, super-strong Hulk whenever anger made his heart race.

The show was notable for treating its subject seriously rather than in a camp manner, and was important in introducing the broader public to the concept of the Hulk. Bill Bixby’s performance as Banner is well-regarded, and though the Ferrigno version of the Hulk was incomparably less powerful than the comic book one it was fun.

This profile is a more modern, much more extensive take than our older TV Hulk profile.


Background

  • Real Name: Dr. David Bruce Banner
  • Other Aliases: Almost without exception, David used his real first name but, from episode to episode, he gave a false last name. The exception was Earthquake’s Happen in which he was impersonating a specific “real” (within the world setting) person, Dr. Robert Patterson. In the second television movie, Death in the Family, he used “David Benton”. When visiting the radiology unit at a hospital in the same episode, he introduced himself as “David Benchley”. There were episodes where a last name was not mentioned. But, over the course of the two made for television movies, the series and the three post-series movies, he used the following names, all with the first name, David: Benton (four times including the 2nd television movie), Benchley, Benson, Bradburn, Blaine, Blake (twice), Brown (three times), Bernard, Barton (three times), Bishop (twice), Baxter, Braemer, Burnett (twice), Blakeman, Bailey, Butler, Barrett (twice), Baron, Beeman, Ballen, Brennan, Blair, Barnes (twice), Burns (twice), Barker, Brayward, Bennet, Bowman, Bannister, Becker (twice), Brent, Braynard, Belden, Breck, Barnard, Bedford, Brendan, Benedict, Beckwith, Barr (twice), Blackwell, Butler, Benley, Benson, Bedecker, Beller (twice), Bradshaw, Banyon, Belsen/ Belson and Bellamy.
  • Marital Status: Widower (twice as of the episode, “Married”)
  • Known Relatives: Laura Banner (wife, deceased), Dr. Caroline Fields (second wife, deceased), D.W. Banner (father), Elizabeth Banner (mother, deceased), Dr. Helen Banner (sister)
  • Group Affiliation: None
  • Base Of Operations: The United States
  • Height: 5’9” Weight: 160 lbs
  • Eyes: Brown Hair: Dark Brown/ almost black (as David Banner)
  • Height: 6’5”-7’2” Weight: 320-430 lbs
  • Eyes: White Hair: Green (as the Creature)


Powers & Abilities

“We got the tissue sample, David… The cellular growth rate is phenomenal. The metabolism is at least six times what would normally be expected – six times.”
– Caroline

As a human being, Dr. David Banner possesses no superhuman powers or abilities. However, extreme anger triggers a metamorphosis into a massively powerful and primitive creature known as the Hulk.

In that form, he wields superhuman strength, durability and regenerative abilities.


Video

Fan-made trailer summarizing the creation of the Incredible Hulk.


History

David Banner was born in the small town of Trevorton, Colorado in 1937. He and his sister, Helen, were very close although she was four years younger. David was not very close to his father, largely because their interests were vastly different.

D.W. Banner (what the initials stand for is never stated) wanted his son to go to an Agricultural college but David was drawn to Biology, Genetics and Physics as well as Medicine. The Banner family had owned the farm they lived on since before the Civil War so David and his sister were probably the fifth generation.

He was very close to his mother, however. She had been born in 1917. By 1949, when David was 12, she had been very sick for a couple of years though the precise disease was never stated. When she died, it was David that discovered it first.

The loss of his mother as a mitigating influence widened the gap with his father even more. While his sister wanted to go to an Agricultural school, D.W. had the old world mentality that it should be his son who followed in his footsteps and took over the farm.

He had been a farmer all his life. He was not highly educated and he wanted more for his children but wanted it to be in an area that would continue the family tradition. He simply would not accept that David had no interest in farming or agriculture and was driven to greatness in other areas.

The Incredible Hulk (Lou Ferrigno) amidst flame

During his childhood, one of David’s closest friends was Elaina Marks. She once mentioned she had known and liked David’s mother which means she had to have known him by or before he was 12 years old. They probably were united by their interest in the biological sciences and she encouraged him to stick to his guns and do what interested him in his life.

They ended up going to different colleges. They both went to medical school but David was a genius almost beyond compare. He successfully majored in Pre-Med, Genetics and Physics, earning Bachelor of Science degrees in all of them.

After going to medical school and interning, he went on to simultaneously earn Doctorates in Genetics, Biochemistry and Physics, becoming the world’s leading expert on gamma radiation.

He later claimed to have been in Việt Nam as a medic. It is possible that this could fit into his timeline if it was a 2-year stint, especially considering how fast he probably breezed through his studies.

However, as he said this after becoming the Hulk and said it to explain his medical knowledge by claiming to have been a medic in the military, it is possible he was just making it up. Once or twice, he got into chats with people, sharing common military experiences so there is no certainty one way or the other.

One of the reasons David and Elaina never became romantically involved although the interest was there was that they were separated by their educational choices at 18. It was likely only his small town upbringing and his father’s attitude about his interests that resulted in David being held back and not starting college long before 18 considering his inherent abilities. While in college, he met a woman named Laura and they fell in love, eventually getting married.

By 1968, David was good friends with a man named Ted Morrow. He was the godfather of Ted’s daughter, Alice, then 6 years old. He often read her stories from Alice in Wonderland and other books.

When Ted died, Alice’s mother, Rosalyn, having inherited her late husband’s money, left for Europe to get away, taking Alice with her and he would not see Alice again for about 10 years.

A mighty and raging fury

On December 5, 1976, his wife, Laura, was killed in a car accident. Thrown clear himself, David saw that only one door was in a position to be opened. He tried and tried but just was not strong enough to force it open. As the car was on fire, the implication is that she died in the fire, not exclusively due to the crash.

After that, his life took on other priorities. Abandoning gamma ray research, he was reunited with Elaina Marks, now Dr. Elaina Marks, as he threw himself into medical research.

He knew there were people who suddenly displayed strength that could be defined as superhuman under stress, especially when a loved one’s life was at stake. He became obsessed with discovering why some people displayed such strength and saved their loved ones and others, including and especially himself, did not.

Then he made two breakthrough discoveries.

The Incredible Hulk (Lou Ferrigno) in a devastated house

First, those people who displayed superhuman strength had a rare quality to their genetics. Secondly, there was an extremely high amount of gamma radiation bombarding the Earth in every instance where people displayed superhuman strength under stress.

He had the rare genetics to a higher degree than most of the people who had displayed great strength. But the amount of gamma radiation bombarding the Earth on the day of his wife’s death was extremely low.

Driven by his obsession, on the night of Friday November 4, 1977, David went to a lab in the Culver Institute where he worked and intentionally saturated himself with a dose of gamma radiation. What he did not know was that a fellow researcher had recalibrated the machine he used.

What he thought was a dose equivalent to a high amount of radiation bombarding the Earth was really a dose that should have been fatal.

Enraged when he saw that it seemed to have no effect on his strength, David set out for home. There was a lightning storm raging and then he got a flat tire, simulating what happened when his wife died.

As he fixed the tire in the rain, all of the anger and frustrations of the past year flooded him and triggered the first metamorphosis into the Hulk. The Creature smashed the car and wandered away into the woods.

An encounter with campers resulted in the Creature being shot with a bullet from a rifle. Ironically, the first time the Hulk was ever shot also resulted in a lucky shot for the gunman.

The bullet struck just right to penetrate completely through the arm as blood was clearly visible on both sides of the arm where the bullet entered and where it exited. This may have marked the only time a bullet did more than superficial damage.

Birth of the raging spirit

After changing back while out in the woods, David made his way to Elaina’s apartment. Even now, any romantic interest had been suppressed as David was far from over Laura’s death. In fact, he had still been wearing his Wedding ring, a ring that, perhaps ironically, was lost when it finally burst off his finger during his first transformation.

The two of them headed for an isolated lab outside the city to determine what had happened. They tried to recreate whatever it was that triggered the change but it was David dreaming about his wife’s death that triggered it, which Elaina witnessed.

They deduced that it was anger that caused him to become the Creature. But also they realized the basic personality was still David and so, the Creature would not intentionally kill anyone.

David’s car was discovered destroyed near where the Hulk had been sighted, leading reporter Jack McGee to suspect a connection to Banner. McGee already wanted an interview for his newspaper, The National Register, a supermarket tabloid, because of the research into strength that Banner was doing.

He managed to get into the isolated lab while David and Elaina were gone and discovered the damage caused by the Hulk. He inadvertently spilled some chemicals which began seeping into some equipment and interacting with other chemicals in a storage room when David and Elaina returned and confronted him.

While David escorted McGee from the building, Elaina noticed a strange smell of burning. She called to David just as the chemicals exploded. McGee was knocked unconscious and Banner was stunned. He recovered but the spreading fire prevented him from getting into the lab. Frantic at not knowing if Elaina was alive and unable to reach her, his rage overcame him.

The Incredible Hulk (Lou Ferrigno) over a black background

The Hulk smashed into the lab and carried Elaina out. The reporter recovered just in time to see him carrying her away. In the nearby woods, Elaina tried to calm the Creature down but she died in his arms, her last words poignant in that they were spoken to David but as he was the Creature at the time, he could not understand them and would never remember them as David.

David was presumed to have run back into the building and perished though the body was never found. At the funeral for David and Elaina, McGee informed their colleague, Ben, that there was now a warrant for murder out on the Hulk for the murder of Elaina and possibly of David.

After everyone else left, David visited Elaina’s grave. He knew he would be incarcerated if it were known that he turned into such a creature. He had to allow people to believe he was dead until he found a way to free himself of the transformations. And so, he walked away, beginning his wanderings as a fugitive.

The Fugitive

David’s journeys took on a predictable pattern after that, at least most of the time. He would get a job and discover that something untoward was going on. It might be that his boss was involved in drug smuggling or being threatened by a protection racket.

It was almost as if there were forces putting him in the path of one situation after another. The creature he became could defeat and right the wrongs because David always chose to involve himself and to care where many others might have walked away or just gone about their business.

He was always seeking a cure for his condition. However, he was being followed by Jack McGee who cared only that the Hulk could be the story of his career that would put him above the level of reporting he was doing and give him real recognition.

McGee coined the name “Hulk” in the first story he wrote about it for his newspaper. The name caught on with the public whether they believed such a creature existed or not. David seldom referred to “the Hulk”.

Most of the time, he referred to his other self as “the Creature”. He could not bring himself to humanize him by giving him a proper name, even one like “Hulk”. Not remembering what he did as the creature, it was easy to disassociate himself from his other form.

David then traveled from one city to another all over the country. He encountered and helped all sorts of people ranging from boxers dreaming of becoming the next “Rocky” to underconfident scientists allowing their work to be suppressed.

Bride of the Incredible Hulk

Several months later, one of the most significant events in David’s life occurred. He traveled to Hawaii to meet Dr. Caroline Fields, suspecting her radical hypnotherapy techniques might be precisely what he needed.

But she was going on sabbatical and it turned out it was because she had a disease similar to Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis  or “Lou Gehrig disease.”

She had only six to eight weeks to live. As they spoke, his knowledge and a chance remark gave away to her who he really was. He explained about his “affliction” and decided to help her to cure her disease and then there might be time for her to help him with his.

His scientific help vastly increased her chances of finding a cure, finding in days what would have taken weeks or months of research to achieve. Thinking she had a lot more time to live thanks to him, she decided to use her hypnotherapy techniques to help him.

In his mind, he confronted the Hulk in various scenarios involving trying to trap and control him, striving for a point where he could stop the transformations. For the first time, he was able to remember things that happened while he was the Hulk, albeit only a few seconds worth.

But Caroline believed he could eventually learn to remember everything and even maintain conscious control as the Creature. However, one morning on the beach outside her home, a boy was drowning and she dove into the ocean to save him. The exertion and cold accelerated her symptoms.

The Incredible Hulk (Lou Ferrigno) lifts a bear

They both realized that Caroline’s disease was precisely the opposite of David’s problem. She suffered from cellular degeneration while the Creature regenerated far faster than a normal human. They suspected the means of curing her might be to get a cell sample from the Hulk.

Then, incubated properly, it might produce a cure that could be injected into her. Caroline was able to get a cell sample from the Hulk when David had a nightmare one night in bed.

In the meantime, they had grown closer and closer until they fell in love. They were married on Friday September 22, 1978 [the day that the episode originally aired]. Interestingly enough, on the marriage certificate, David signed his real name, “David Bruce Banner”, a rather courageous risk to take with Jack McGee nosing around.

They found a culture that the cells successfully incubated in and prepared to head for the hospital, suspecting a cure could quickly be prepared and injected under proper lab conditions. They knew there was a hurricane coming but Caroline’s condition was becoming critical and they knew she would not make it to the next morning.

On the way, Caroline’s pain became unbearable and she jumped from the car. David jumped out and ran after her. Injured along the way, he transformed into the Hulk who held Caroline as she died as had happened with Elaina. In the morning, as the storm abated, David was still holding her.

After the funeral and before departing, David sat on the beach at her house. The boy she had saved told David he wanted to become a doctor someday himself and knew he would never have gotten the chance if she had not saved him.

He said he realized she and David had not been married for very long to which David replied, “It never would have been long enough”.

Of blind men and looking glasses

After that, David continued his travels and his attempts to find a cure. One of his most “uncomfortable” encounters was when he helped a boy who was being beaten by his father. The boy’s mother was also being abused.

”Uncomfortable” because it dealt with issues of child and spousal abuse that were intensely “real world”. (Of course, it was also one of his best adventures from a story viewpoint.)

David then met Li Sung, an elderly, blind martial arts master with mystical abilities whose meditation techniques were starting to help him but when the Hulk did come out, he had to move on.

David then encountered Alice Morrow, now 16 years old. She had spent the last several years running away from home every time she was brought back and had become an alcoholic. She was also an accomplished dancer. When David saw her, he recognized immediately who she was although she did not recognize him.

After the Hulk rescued her from a harrowing situation, David helped her get her life back and she even revealed she still kept the copy of Alice in Wonderland he had given her years ago.

She gave it back to him because he needed it more than she did now, though she still did not realize the irony that he was the David who gave it to her a decade earlier.

The Incredible Hulk (Lou Ferrigno) on a vintage mock computer

A recurring theme was David meeting other people who had a duality to their nature, a sort of “Hulk” inside of them. Sometimes, it was just suppressed rage but sometimes it ran far deeper.

Perhaps the most extreme case occurred when David met a young woman named Renee who returned to the house in a small town she grew up in and began to be haunted by the ghost of her identical twin sister, Becky, who had died in an accident when they were children.

He even heard a child’s voice talking to Renee. It turned out to be a split personality, which he could relate to. Becky had always been a risk-taker while Renee was more easy-going. Becky had dared Renee to go into an old water mill with her.

Becky had drowned and Renee lived. But it was finally revealed that it was Renee who died.

Becky felt her parents would never stop blaming her as she was the one who was always causing trouble. So she let them think she was Renee and it became self-perpetuating. Slowly, her entire persona became Renee’s until she lost herself.

But returning to the house forced her to confront those dim memories and the reality that she was the other twin. Her real self came out, at first as a split personality. David’s own experience with another persona helped resolve the situation.

The man behind the Hulk

A pivotal point in his adventures occurred when David, while hitchhiking, was in a car accident which resulted in amnesia. He transformed into the Hulk to escape the car and was seen running into the woods. He was found with his face burned from the car having caught on fire and suffering from Amnesia.

In the hospital, with his face bandaged, he was visited by Jack McGee. The reporter took him across country by a privately chartered plane to see a specialist in Amnesia cases. But a storm caused the plane to crash in the wilderness.

The pilot was killed and McGee got a broken leg. Using the plane’s wing as a stretcher and the seatbelts as a harness, the amnesiac David began pulling McGee to the nearest town, about 50 miles through the mountains.

This resulted in the two of them getting to talk and McGee explaining the desire to make something of his life that drove him. But then they realized they were being surrounded by a forest fire and all of their ambitions might be for nothing.

The Incredible Hulk under a giant steel dome

While fighting off hungry wolves, David Hulked out while McGee was unconscious and saved them. This healed his face and his memories started returning, including flashes of things he did as the Hulk. He confronted McGee about why he hunted the Hulk and McGee said you have to make a choice between yourself and the other guy and McGee chose himself.

He called David an idealistic fool who would save his worst enemy even if he doomed himself, not realizing who the bandaged man was. Indeed, trying to save McGee, David Hulked out again. By the time the bandages were gone and McGee could see his face, he was the Hulk.

Carrying McGee to a road and leaving him with people, the Hulk ran off. But McGee now knew it was a man who became the Hulk.

David then revisited Li Sung, whose meditation techniques had come closer than anything else to preventing his transformations. But Li Sung was dying and David helped him prepare his successor to take over. The Hulk went up against a professional assassin.

He walked through trip-wires and got hit by explosives. Li Sung’s apprentice deactivated one trap though it seemed meaningless since the Hulk had already barreled through several explosions and shrugged them off. He also shrugged off a spray from a submachine gun.

(It is really debatable if the explosions were close enough or if the spray hit him although it seems absurd that a professional hit-man would miss at such close range with a weapon that can spray an entire area with bullets. As for the explosions, the shrapnel could not help but hit him. For the sake of this write up, it all hit the Hulk. This episode was the first and only episode of the series, not counting the later television movies, that was a pilot for a spinoff. In this case, starring Li Sung’s apprentice, a “super” martial arts master. But it never went anywhere.)

David then joined an archaeological dig that had discovered the remains of a man of 30,000 years ago who had undergone a Hulk-like transformation perhaps due to solar flares or a gamma-irradiated meteorite that crashed. It had spawned Native American folktales in the area.

(The idea of a prehistoric man becoming a prehistoric Hulk fascinated me and still does although the execution of the story does not make it anywhere near the best of the series)

David Banner versus the Hulk

David then helped a young rock star cope with her guilt over a girl at one of her concerts being crippled in a riot. The only thing that makes this one noteworthy was when someone slipped drugs into his drink. He hallucinated being attacked by the Hulk.

More interesting, when he transformed, the Hulk hallucinated seeing David Banner and tried to attack him with a rage rarely seen. Although clearly not understanding who this person was, the Hulk instinctively felt rage towards him arguably beyond any anger seen from the Creature before.

While it was previously thought the awareness of David was not in the Hulk’s mind at all, he clearly had some subconscious awareness of his other self and despised him, perhaps because David’s existence ended the Hulk’s existence for a time or because this primitive side of his persona understood this other being wanted to end his existence.

Bruce Banner (Bill Bixby) about to turn into the Hulk

Between these pivotal events, David went through endless “ordinary” adventures. This is not to say they were not enjoyable because they were, the “human” angle often far more interesting than any monster or super fight.

But he was finally driven to go home when he was in Colorado and saw a newscast where his hometown and his sister and father were mentioned.

Homesick at Thanksgiving time, he traveled to his hometown and revealed his presence to his sister, Helen. She was now Dr. Banner too, holding a degree in Agriculture. He did not intend to reveal his presence to his father but circumstances caused it to happen.

The old wounds quickly reopened. His father seemed oblivious to all that he had accomplished, that he had become one of the World’s greatest scientists, and only resented that David had not become what he had wanted him to be.

One suspects that on previous visits, Laura Banner had become a mitigating influence preventing father and son from going at it but, as with David’s mother before her, Laura being gone allowed all the issues to be unleashed.

Both David’s sister and father discovered that he was the Hulk. David faced the fact that things were partly his fault too as he had felt resentment towards his father almost to the point of wishing he could switch things and make his father the one who died young instead of his mother.

He had never completely gotten past those feelings but they finally began to reconcile just before David had to leave. Alas, he was never to return home again.

And now, Kraven the Hunter – sort of

Immediately after that, David was in an airport waiting for a delayed flight when he met Michael Sutton, a billionaire who had made his money in the stock market and who owned his own island, 30 miles off the mainland. He had turned it into a Game preserve.

On the strength of David’s besting him in a game of chess, Sutton invited him to the island with the promise that he would have his pilot take him to his destination the next day. They arrived on the island, ate and drank, and played chess.

The next morning, David awoke from a drugged stupor in the jungle with a tape recorder on him. The message explained that Sutton was a big game hunter but he had become bored with hunting animals and now preferred to hunt humans.

The Incredible Hulk (Lou Ferrigno) with a ripped shirt

While being chased, David fell into a pit trap and the Creature emerged, witnessed by Sutton who now became obsessed with killing David as the Hulk.

David eluded him for most of the day, even reversed one trap on him and taunted him with the fact he was a coward who stacked the deck entirely in his favor so he thought he had no chance to lose because the challenge was not what he wanted. All he cared about was winning.

At one point, sneaking back into Sutton’s house, David saw a photo Sutton had taken of him posted on a board with 5 other men implying Sutton had hunted and killed several men before David.

Sutton cornered him on a cliff. Armed with a crossbow with the bolt-heads dipped in poison, Sutton admitted David had gotten further than anyone else. David’s only remaining card to play was Sutton’s desire to kill him as the Creature. Sutton began using a whip on him in the belief that anger or fear or pain would trigger the change.

As the whip wrapped around him, David fell back and yanked, causing Sutton to fall. As David began changing, Sutton realized the fall had caused one of his poison-tipped bolts to scratch his leg. Already dying, he missed his shot and fell off the cliff as the Hulk arose. Ironically, David beat him as the Hulk was not even there until Sutton was already finished.

Going to the dock to leave the island by boat, David found another tape recorder. He hit “Play” and then quickly pushed off and rowed away as the recorded message from Sutton congratulated him because, if he was hearing this, Sutton was clearly dead and David had won. Sutton said there were no hard feelings.

Then, as David watched from out on the lake, the tape recorder exploded, blowing up the dock.

Psychics and Meteorites

It is generally accepted that, with one or two exceptions, David never ran into anything beyond reality as we know it. In fact, he did quite often – but it was subtle.

A doctor who could perform brain surgery vastly beyond what is possible in the real world. That surgery could even be undone by the conventional surgeons of his world. A teenage girl who was a genius perhaps even beyond Banner and built an Artificial Intelligence computer. The radiation technology of his world was also well beyond reality.

But then he encountered Annie Cassidy. She first introduced herself as Annie Caplan and it was meant to be a parallel to David as she had used a dozen last names, all starting with C, while always using her real first name.

She had psychic powers. When she touched someone, she got insights into who they were and even precognitive flashes of their possible futures. Because of that, she tried to avoid people, wearing gloves and long-sleeved shirts.

When she brushed against David, even with the gloves on, she saw a vision of him transforming into the Hulk. She thought she had gone crazy at first but then contacted Jack McGee. A boy had been found mortally wounded near where the Creature was and it was assumed the Hulk did it.

But further “contact” caused her to have insights into who David was and she befriended him. When the boy died, David was going to commit suicide to insure it could never happen again but when she met McGee, Annie had a vision of McGee being killed by the real murderer of the boy.

David got there in time for the Hulk to save McGee again. When she touched the Hulk, she simply saw David Banner. Annie went home and began working with the police to solve crimes. Her last contact with David caused an anguished look on her face as if she was seeing his final fate.

Bruce Banner (Bill Bixby) faces the Hulk in a desert

While David was in a forest in Utah, a heavily gamma irradiated meteorite crashed near him, causing him to become the Creature. Even when he moved some distance from it, he only changed back to a mid-transformation form. He and a woman were captured by a secret military project codenamed Prometheus and taken to a secret base inside of a mountain in Colorado.

The extremely close proximity to the meteorite which was also taken there kept him in the full Hulk form for a prolonged period of time. He broke out in a fit of rage when exposed to a chunk of the meteor which was possibly also making him even stronger and enhancing his powers.

For instance, where normally one tranquilizer dart slowed him down considerably, he took 8 and they did not slow him down at all. Also, a barrier that at first seemed beyond his ability to lift yielded as he became more and more angry, indicating at least the possibility that anger enhanced his strength though this is the only example of it.

Once out of the vicinity of the meteorite, he reverted fully to David. Even in the mid-form, he had trouble remembering a woman he had met the day before, indicating that the Creature has a very short-term memory and recalls little or nothing of past events.

(Alas, the nature of episodic television being what it was, the writers also had short-term memory and there were never any future consequences from these events and the military’s knowledge of his existence.)

One of his most bizarre adventures occurred when David injected himself with chemicals he had designed to inhibit aggression but they had the reverse effect, bringing out aggression and the most primitive aspects of the human mind.

This David reveled in becoming the Hulk and wanted to kill. Luckily, he shifted personalities and was able to prepare an antidote, injecting himself before he killed someone. It was interesting to see a story where the decent people he left behind thought he was a psychopath.

An electrical accident temporarily caused David to experience precognitive visions that allowed him to avert a catastrophe. Interestingly, as the Hulk, he had visions that allowed him to do things he normally could never have done as the Creature.

While there were references to another case of a man gaining psychic powers from an electrical accident, David never thought about Annie Cassidy, the psychic he met a few months earlier, though she was born with her powers.

Kraven worked so let’s try the Punisher

A professional mercenary targeted the Hulk. He gauged a number of men who might potentially be the Creature and setting up a dummy lab designed to draw men who would seek such work, men who worked in the sorts of science labs the Hulk had been sighted in at times.

Trapped in a fire, one of the men, David of course, became the Hulk. Just as the merc was about to kill him with a bazooka, McGee, who had tracked him down, drove a car between the Hulk and the rocket, for once saving the Hulk’s life. The Hulk then defeated the mercenary but did not kill him.

Bruce Banner (Bill Bixby) about to transform, as seen on a surveillance monitor

David then helped a young bodybuilder win a contest and gain confidence.

(This is notable only because Lou Ferrigno played a dual role as the Hulk and as bodybuilder Carl Molino. Ironically, Molino looked more muscular or at least more defined than the Hulk as he did not have the handicap of wearing green body paint. This episode had the scene where Molino and the Hulk face each other, the Hulk looking half a foot taller. It sounded like David went by the last name “Benner” in this episode but the subtitles say “Banner”.)

David then went up against someone that had the raw power to be a real threat to him for the first time when he read an article about a creature like the Hulk who had appeared in a small town 30 years earlier.

Going there, he met the man who secretly had been the creature and was tricked into giving him back the power to become the creature, leading to a huge battle of Hulk vs. Hulk.

(This two-parter is detailed in the profile for “Dell Frye’s Creature”.)

David then had several more adventures before walking down that long road into the sunset for the final time, forever hitchhiking to new towns where the Creature defeated injustice while pursued by an investigative reporter.

Interlude in the real world

The series was abruptly canceled while in the midst of filming the seventh episode of the fifth season. Kenneth Johnson, Executive Producer, Head Writer, Creator and often Director of the show, was given no chance to do the two hour finale he envisioned should the show be canceled or if they finally chose to end it.

Since they were allowed to finish the episode they were already filming, all he had time to do was a slightly extra long end scene with the camera panning back and showing a long, long road stretching endlessly into the distance, an endless journey ahead for David Banner and his alter ego, the Hulk.

David Banner’s final words, spoken to someone he helped but also to the audience, were, “We’re all going to make it.”

Gods and Heroes

It was 1988, roughly 6 years since we last saw David Banner. He had been working in a science lab for 2 years perfecting a “Gamma Transponder” that he hoped would cure him. He had not undergone a transformation to the Hulk for those two years.

But the arrival of an old student, Dr. Donald Blake, postponed his attempt to cure himself. Then an attempt to steal the Transponder damaged the equipment.

Blake had undergone an extraordinary experience. He had met Thor, Norse God of Thunder, whom he could summon with the mystical hammer Mjolnir [It was never actually called by name and Thor was implied to be more a demigod than a full god in this version].

Working together, they saved David’s girlfriend/fiancée when she was kidnapped by mercenaries trying to get the device. But once the Hulk was seen again, reporter Jack McGee soon showed up and David was forced to move on again.

The Incredible Hulk (Lou Ferrigno) raging

About a year passed and David had relocated to another city. There he was falsely accused of a crime when he tried to save a woman from attackers and was imprisoned. As the Hulk, he soon escaped but he met attorney Matt Murdock whom he later discovered was also a costumed hero stalking the nights as Daredevil.

David helped him rescue the woman David had originally helped and then to defeat the Kingpin of Crime in the city, Wilson Fisk.

In his final adventure, in 1990, David was working in a scientific facility, pretending to be mentally handicapped but using the labs to find a cure. Just as a fellow scientist was helping him to do so, Soviet spies targeted the facility to steal information.

This led to David’s involvement with Jasmine, a Soviet operative. Battling police and spies, the Hulk climbed into an escaping airplane to stop the leader of the Spy ring. When a gun was fired at him in the plane, it hit the fuel and the plane exploded.

The combination of the explosion and hitting the pavement at possibly terminal velocity was enough damage to kill even the Creature before he could regenerate. As Jasmine cried that she had wanted them to be free, David’s last words were, “I am free.”


Description

Dr. David Banner is a man of average build, considered handsome though charming might be the better word. Fit but not muscular, he wears a variety of different clothing, whatever is appropriate to the situation. Bluejeans and cotton shirts are common. Though it is not certain, I do not believe he has ever worn a pair of purple trousers.

The Hulk is massively muscular and large. But there are vastly conflicting descriptions of his height. Granted witness reports always conflict somewhat but there are reports from people who swear he stood seven to seven and a half feet tall. Others swear he was closer to eight feet. Others say he was close to but under seven feet tall.

Still others noted that, though massively muscular, he was no taller than a tall man. It gets even better. Some folks say he was so naturally large and so muscular that no man could be that big or that muscular. It could not possibly be a guy in a costume.

He once or twice left a footprint that had to be a size 24. Other people have thought he was exactly a guy in a great costume and clearly thought his size was within reason that it could be a man.

The Incredible Hulk (Lou Ferrigno) throws back some dudes

Also, his weight was once recorded as 320 pounds but an expert judged that, based on his height and build at the time he saw him, he had to be at least around 430 pounds. The very process of David becoming the Hulk and changing back is a change of mass, muscularity and size.

The trick is that all of the reports are true. Depending upon the level of anger that triggers the change or various unknown factors, he is not always the same height or weight.

The Chart

This was a chart made by a mercenary and big game hunter, estimating the Hulk’s dimensions. But it was based on the specific photos he had seen and the information he had, which was probably when the Hulk was at his largest. It was in metric. The conversions are mine and I rounded.

Height: 219 cm (7’2”)
Weight: 195 kg (429 lbs.)
Biceps: 78 cm (30”)
Chest: 192 cm (75”)
Waist: 98.5 cm (38”)
Thighs: 101.8 cm (39”)
Hair: Green
Eyes: White
Sex: Male
Aspect: Feral Human


Personality

David is normally calm and peaceful, thoughtful. He is the sort who, when someone snaps at him, does not have the standard reaction of snapping back or getting mad. He is more likely to try deducing the source of their bitterness and helping them.

Quite fortunately, it takes a lot for him to get really mad. He is very compassionate, a fact that often gets him into trouble on his journeys because he feels compelled to help where many people would walk away.

His intelligence and capacity to notice fine details also cause him to suspect something is going on where most people would never even notice there was anything to be suspicious of.

As the Creature, he is angry at first since anger triggers the transformation. In essence, however, he is David Banner with David’s personality except operating on a primitive level of mind. He is always a bit angry except during the last minute or so because, once his anger is completely gone, he changes back to David.

But the Creature is also smart in a “Native” way, repeatedly making use of his environment in creative ways such as breaking off a steam pipe and spraying men about to shoot at him or using methods to extend his reach. Although he cannot speak, he is basically the childlike Hulk.


Quotes

Dr. Elaina Marks: “David, when did you say you were shot ?”
David: “I don’t know. Sometime early this morning.”
Elaina: “Well, I’ll tell you, this wound looks like it’s been healing for about three days.”

Elaina: “Listen to me David. David Banner is not a killer.”
David: “We’re not talking about David Banner.”
Elaina: “Yes we are. Now it’s the same thing as if someone is under hypnosis. Unless they are a potential killer, you cannot hypnotize them and make them kill. Now, now this creature, it’s an outgrowth of David Banner. It’s his primitive emotions run wild. It’s undisciplined. It may tear the hell out of a pressure chamber. But it won’t kill because David Banner won’t kill.”

“I want to be Dr. Banner, not Dr. Jekyll”.

“Mr. McGee, don’t make me angry. You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry.”

Elaina (as she dies in the Creature’s arms): “I don’t know if you can understand me but I want you to know something. Dear David, I have loved you for such a very long time and I always will – and I always will.”

(As he stands by Elaina’s grave after everyone else has left the funeral, before beginning his journeys as a wanderer): “I love you Elaina. I think you loved me too, although you never said it.”

“I really have to buy shirts that stretch.”

Dr. Caroline Fields: “Why haven’t you told people you’re alive ?”
David: “Have you read much of Robert Louis Stevenson ?”
Caroline: “Treasure Island.”
David: “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.”

“I shouted with pain and anger. I felt a chill rushing through my body. Something was happening. I had a feeling inside me like a hundred people shouting all at once, like a locomotive beginning to roll. I felt a surging infusion of strength, my muscles vibrating with a strange life of their own. I could feel a force welling up inside me…”

“Mine is not a happy life. All I want to do is get rid of the creature.”


Alternate Histories, Marvel and DCU too

Kenneth Johnson, Creator, Executive Producer, Head Writer and often Director of the television show, stated he had a basic idea for how he would end the series if it was ever canceled or they decided it was time to end it.

David Banner would finally find a cure. The reporter, Jack McGee, would never precisely get his big story but he at least would discover what was really going on- but only as David cured himself. So there would be a sense of closure for all of the characters.

However, the show was canceled abruptly and Johnson was not allowed to film his finale. It may also have been standard policy in those days to never do a finale that would prevent a show from being brought back.

Johnson had nothing to do with the three television movies that followed the series. But he later said he had rethought his ending and that, even given a choice, he would not have had an official ending. He preferred to think of David Banner existing in a timeless realm, forever on the road, helping people as himself and as the Hulk and pursued by an investigative reporter.

In a sense, it sounds like a comic book world, forever updated but forever the same and never ending.

The Incredible Hulk (Lou Ferrigno) sitting on a couch

Had the series continued, he stated (in DVD commentaries) that the Sixth season would have begun with David going home again only to find that his sister, Helen, had a terminal blood disease. Perhaps with suggestions from Stan Lee, since the She-Hulk already existed in the comics by this time, a blood transfusion would cause her to become a female Hulk.

Aside from all of this, in the continuity as it exists, the world of Dr. David Banner, according to the Marvel Comics Database, is Earth-400005. It is considered a non-interference realm meaning that, for ordinary dimensional travelers, it is impossible to go there though it may be observed (sort of like watching it on television).

In addition to having its version of Banner/ Hulk, Thor and Donald Blake are known to exist there as separate entities and Matt Murdock/ Daredevil is known to exist there. Though it is sheer speculation, it may well be that a number of other characters exist there.

There were a number of Marvel made for television movies in the late 1970s. These included two Captain America movies featuring a character who was the son of the original Cap. There was also a Dr. Strange movie and a live action Spider-Man television series.

While none of these characters were presented as being in the same reality as any of the others, there is nothing showing that they were not either. It is quite reasonable that, over the course of time, they would be drawn together and- who knows?- form some sort of team.

Also, there had been plans for another “Hulk” movie, The Rebirth of the Incredible Hulk, in which he either regenerated even from death or simply had not died or was revived by medical help. The plan was for new movies in which he could become the Hulk but with David Banner retaining his mind.

Sadly, Bill Bixby’s death ended such a possibility and it was decided it was far more fitting to end it there.

The Incredible Hulk (Lou Ferrigno) and Caroline Fields (Mariette Hartley)

However, it is easy to conceive of a reality where the Hulk did survive. However, badly injured, David Banner’s identity was discovered. Jack McGee finally got his story but David found he could control the Creature.

This might well lead to a team as mentioned above and one with the Hulk on it. Nor is there any reason it would have to be restricted to Marvel characters.

While the Marvel television characters of that era were less prolific and less powerful than their comic book counterparts, so were many DC television characters.

The 1950s George Reeves Superman would be way too powerful and make the other characters a bit useless (though he is actually far less powerful than the Christopher Reeve Superman, the “Lois and Clark” version or “Smallville Clark” and could work if we ignored his most extreme feats) and the 1960s television Batman would just be ridiculous, there were characters that could work.

The 1960s Green Hornet and Kato (in their own show, not the crossovers with Batman) were presented as being serious and not nearly as campy as Batman. Likewise, the television Wonder Woman (Lynda Carter), though powerful, could work in such a team.

The television Flash, while fast, was nowhere near his comic book levels and had a tendency to have his speed shut off at bad times. It is conceivable that all of these characters might drift to forming a loose alliance or even a team.


DCU History Proper

The show tended to be “grounded in reality”. That is to say, the only fantasy element in the average episode was the existence of the Hulk. To that end, his power level was kept minimal compared to his comic book counterpart.

The problem is that, in the DCU or any comic setting, super beings are going to show up when these reports of this creature come in. To make it in the DCU, he would need to be more powerful and that means a greater level of destruction and more super fights.

It might still be possible to keep the feeling of almost being the real world but it would be more difficult.

Perhaps Dr. David Banner worked for S.T.A.R. Labs instead of the Culver Institute. His personal motives were the same but the interests of Star Labs was profit. Human beings would pay to have super strength like their heroes even if it was minimal by comparison.

Or maybe LexCorps was doing such research. Angered at the fact that an adrenaline surge did not augment his strength enough to save his wife, he decided to use an experimental machine designed to drastically enhance strength. It did so but only with horrible side effects.

The adventures we saw on television could still happen but either contrived to throw in a super fight or with “super fight” episodes mixed in between the normal adventures. Also, David Banner is not Bruce Banner. Where Bruce might have more in common with Reed Richards, David may have more in common with Superman in terms of how he thinks and feels.


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Game Stats — DC Heroes RPG Print Friendly

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Dr. David Banner

Dex: 03 Str: 02 Bod: 02 Motivation: Unwanted Power/ Upholding the Good
Int: 09 Wil: 05 Min: 06 Occupation: Physician/ Scientist/ Wandering Itinerant Worker/ Reluctant Hero
Inf: 05 Aur: 04 Spi: 07 Resources {or Wealth}: 004
Init: 017 HP: 005

Skills:
Charisma (Persuasion)*: 05, Detective: 04, Medicine: 07, Scientist: 07, Thief (Locks and Safes, Stealth)*: 03, Vehicles (Land)*: 03

Advantages
Attractive, Familiarity (High-tech gadgets), Scholar (Knowledge of Gamma Radiation), Scholar (Classics of Literature including Classic Children’s stories)

Drawbacks:
Dark Secret (He is the man who becomes the Hulk), Dark Secret (He is believed to be dead), Foe/ Enemy (Jack McGee), Guilt, Traumatic Flashbacks


The Creature (Hulk)

Dex: 05 Str: 09 Bod: 08 Motivation: Upholding the Good
Int: 03 Wil: 03 Min: 06 Occupation: Raging Spirit
Inf: 08 Aur: 04 Spi: 07 Resources {or Wealth}: NA
Init: 018 HP: 050

Powers:
Density Increase: 02, Jumping: 02, Regeneration: 03, Regeneration: 15, Running: 05

Bonuses and Limitations:

  • Density Increase adds to Strength and is already factored in (FC +3), is Power Always On (FC -1) and is already factored into Dex.
  • Regeneration includes the ability to heal from things that normally could not be healed such as spinal damage and growing back lost body parts (No FC assigned as it is not clear whether or not “Regeneration” inherently works this way),
  • Regeneration above :03 only applies during the transformation to and from Banner which allows for an immediate recovery check whether it’s changing from Banner to the Hulk or from the Hulk to Banner (FC -1)

Advantages
Iron Nerves, Lightning Reflexes, Luck

Drawbacks:
Alter Ego (Uncontrollable), Mistrust, Secret Identity, Serious Physical Restriction (Mute), Strange Appearance


Design choices for this writeup

Wealth

David Banner might be considered destitute but he is usually portrayed as being able to afford an apartment without needing a roommate to share the rent and utilities. He also seems to be able to acquire the scientific and technological equipment he needs.

While his wealth varies from episode to episode, ranging from penniless to pretty good, he usually has a job and enough money to afford such things as mentioned. Based upon these events occurring at a 1970s/ 1980s cost of living, I felt a Wealth of 4 was sufficient as an average.

Bruce Banner (Bill Bixby) and Caroline Fields (Mariette Hartley)

Hulk’s Strength

I rated it at 9. His casual, everyday strength was on the level of overturning cars and smashing through brick walls. But he once resisted a pressure of 3000 pounds per square inch from a car crusher. The platform was exactly the length and width to crush a standard-sized car which means it was over 10,000 square inches and he was holding up over 15000 tons.

One could argue that this would require a Strength of 10 (20 with HP). However, holding something up when it is already over your head and slowly descending is not as hard as lifting it over your head to begin with (and I am told that resisting pressure is not the same as lifting or holding the same amount of mass) so a strength of 9 (18 with HP) sounds exactly right to me as it appeared this feat of strength was pushing him to his absolute limits.

Hulk’s Body

The Television Hulk was one of those characters whose durability was inconsistent. He was badly wounded by bullets and even broken glass cut him but he shrugged off things that should have been far worse. Giving him a Body of 8, I just assume bullets penetrate the outer layers of skin but the dense muscles and bones prevent deep penetration.

Hulk’s Regeneration

I thought that Myers giving him an immediate Recovery Check when he transformed was brilliant. I had noticed that he seemed to undergo an immediate “burst” of Regeneration when he changed forms but was not sure how to convey it in the game system.

Giving him the ability to grow back lost body parts is a judgment call but in keeping with his ability to heal from damage that normally could not be healed such as spinal and optic nerve damage.

Hulk’s Rage

I did away with the Rage Drawback because he never killed anybody (hence never ever missed a roll) in over 80 episodes. He got mad but it never went that far.

Hulk’s Height and Weight

Under “Description”, I gave an “in-story” justification for the varying reports of his size. Meanwhile, back in the real world, Richard Kiel, 7’2”, was originally cast as the Hulk but Executive Producer/ Head Writer Kenneth Johnson quickly realized he should have cast a bodybuilder. He did so and redid the first few days of shooting.

Lou Ferrigno was 6’5”. They constantly used camera angles to make him look taller. In one episode, Lou played a dual role as the Hulk and a young bodybuilder. A split screen was used to have both characters face each other and the Hulk towered over the other character.

But these sorts of things have to be compared to other scenes where the Hulk is clearly only a few inches taller than other people. I went with the idea that his size fluctuates.

Lou Ferrigno faces the Incredible Hulk

Continuity

One of the amusing examples of “rewritten continuity” in the series was that, in the Pilot movie, Banner was not presented as an expert on Gamma radiation.

Once he made the connection between Gamma rays and extraordinary displays of strength under stress, which he made by sheer luck, he even had to ask someone else a couple of very basic questions about gamma rays such as whether or not they were known to interfere with biological activities in the body.

He even had to have someone explain to him how to read a chart showing the amount of Gamma radiation bombarding the Earth. There was also an episode in the first season where he went into a Nuclear plant pretending to be a Nuclear Physicist and was tripped up by his only rudimentary knowledge of Nuclear radiation and how a Nuclear power plant works.

But these episodes were interspersed with others where he was stated to be one of the leading, and possibly the leading, authorities on Gamma radiation. By the second season, the continuity was solidly established. He was originally a Medical doctor and a physicist who was a leading expert on Gamma radiation.

When his wife was killed, he went into pure medical research and, ironically, that took him back to Gamma radiation.

Names

Finally, there was endless speculation about why Banner’s name was changed to David. We know Executive Producer and Head writer Kenneth Johnson named him after his eldest son. But why not just keep “Bruce Banner”?

There were all sorts of speculations. But, according to Johnson, they were all nonsense. The reason was that he wanted to get away from those alliterative “comic book” names: Peter Parker, Bruce Banner, Reed Richards, J. Jonah Jameson, Lex Luthor, Lois Lane, Stephen Strange, and so on.

Ironically, the actor he cast as Banner (his first and only choice) was Bill Bixby. The female lead, as Elaina in the pilot, was Susan Sullivan. So the very actor he chose to play David Banner had an alliterative comic book sounding name as did the lead actress in the pilot.

By Doug Mertaugh

Source of Character: The television series The Incredible Hulk which aired from 1977-1981. Based upon the character created by Stan “the Man” Lee and Jack “King” Kirby, adapted for television by Kenneth Johnson and starring Bill Bixby as Dr. David Banner and Lou Ferrigno as “The Creature”. Also starring Jack Colvin as Jack McGee.

Helper(s): The write up by Bil and Jay Myers was very useful as a guideline. Sébastien Andrivet and William Chamberlin + Jay Myers provided useful information.

Writeup completed on the 6th of July, 2013.

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