Incredible Hulk turns 30

Published March 6, 1992|Updated Oct. 11, 2005

Thirty years ago, timid scientist Dr. Bruce Banner picked up a pair of binoculars, looked out of his protective bunker and saw a wayward teen-ager driving onto the test area of his project _ the Gamma Bomb _ seconds before detonation. Ordering a fellow scientist to delay the countdown, Banner rushes out to save the teen.

Although he manages to get the teen into a "safe" trench in time, his jealous colleague presses the fire button, catching Banner in the radiation blast. Thus, Banner first transformed into a modern-day comics legend _ the Incredible Hulk.

The Hulk, created in 1962 by Dick Ayers and Jack "King" Kirby, became another success story for Marvel Comics, which _ in a two-year span surrounding the character's introduction _ created such other comics legends as the Fantastic Four, Spider-Man, Thor and Dr. Strange.

The character of the Hulk, a super-strong, nearly invulnerable mass of green rage, was inspired by Frankenstein, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and Marvel's already existing Fantastic Four character, the Thing. Although a brutish monster, the Hulk was designed as a tragic hero.

The circumstances have changed over the character's 30-year run, but Banner first changed into the Hulk only at night _ changing back to himself each morning.

As time went on, the character's creative teams would tinker with the world/life of the Hulk/Banner. The character went from being green and stupid to gray and intelligent, then green, gray, and green again. Banner eventually married and today is a green, somewhat intelligent, Hulk.

The Hulk went on to guest star in other Marvel titles, from the The Avengers to the Infinity Gauntlet, battling both heroes and villains. "Hulk smash!" would become his signature battle cry.

In the '60s, the Hulk first was brought to the small screen in a short-lived cartoon. His biggest television success would come much later on CBS' live action The Incredible Hulk. Although his origin was changed, the series remained true to the spirit of the character. The show starred Bill Bixby and Lou Ferrigno, and lasted from 1978 to 1982. It was followed by several made-for-television films.

Although other Marvel characters _ including Spider-Man and Captain America _ have been adapted for both the big and small screens, The Incredible Hulk remains the company's only success story.

The Sensational She-Hulk, the character's only real spinoff series, recently become a hotter selling title than the The Incredible Hulk. Remarkably, she could also be Marvel's first movie success. Her story (starring Brigitte Neilsen) is slated for filming.

The Hulk has been a merchandising bonanza as well. The character's likeness has appeared on computer games, candy dispensers, T-shirts, Halloween costumes, dolls and more.

Marvel will celebrate the character's 30th anniversary in several ways: a 30th anniversary logo will appear on the bottom left hand corner of many Marvel titles throughout the year; The Incredible Hulk _ Milestone Edition No. 1, to be published in March, reprints the first edition of The Incredible Hulk; and a 90-card Incredible Hulk Trading Card Set has been announced.

Fans of the character can find the emerald brute in the graphic novels Secret Wars, Ground Zero and the classic Big Change (with the Thing).

AN ENDURING CHARACTER: Dr. Bruce Banner hulked out for the first time in this landmark issue 30 years ago. Since, the character has seen life on everything from Halloween costumes to network television.