Not Easy Being Green

Bioscience genius Dr. Bruce Banner focused his major studies on the effects of gamma radiation on humans, working alongside Dr. Betty Ross at a Virginia University lab. Dr. Ross’ father, General “Thunderbolt” Ross of the U.S. Army, channeled Banner’s work into a program to develop weapons for the military, unbeknownst to both doctors. When Banner decided to test what he learned on himself, he triggered a fantastic transformation in himself that resulted in an immense, hulking figure fueled by his own rage.

Having destroyed his lab as the creature, and inadvertently harming Ross in the process, Banner slipped away to avoid capture and study by the Army and began a desperate quest for a cure to his bizarre affliction.

Nobody Stronger

As intelligent and cerebral as Bruce Banner is, his alter-ego the Hulk is a completely physical phenomenon. The green behemoth possesses the greatest raw strength of any natural being on Earth, with an upper limit that has yet to be fully tested. His leg muscles allow him to leap great distances and land without harm, and his skin can resist damage from heavy weaponry, as well as the natural elements and even unnatural ones.

The Hulk has grown somewhat more intelligent over the years, beginning with the mind of nearly an infant and progressing to what might be described as the personality of a toddler. His speech has increased from growls and roars, to one or two words at a time, to full sentences, albeit broken and naïve. Banner recognizes the Hulk as himself, but often refers to him as “the other guy,” while his alter-ego seems to have little love or respect for the mild scientist and may not even be cognizant that Banner is himself.

Dr. Bruce Banner

The doctor transforms into the Hulk during moments of stress, anxiety, and most of all anger. The change can reverse itself if the Hulk reaches a state of calm, either by himself or through a special mantra utilized by his fellow Avengers, most notably Natasha Romanoff, the Black Widow.

Hulk Smash!

Since his battle with the Abomination on the streets of Harlem, New York, the Hulk has tested his mettle against a crop of powerful opponents while as an Avenger and on his own. These include the alien Chitauri forces and their flying leviathans, the Asgardian trickster Loki, the high-tech soldiers of Hydra, Iron Man’s powerful “Hulkbuster” armor, the robotic despot Ultron, and Thor himself in the Sakaarian arenas of the Grandmaster.

While no physical match for the green giant, one might view General “Thunderbolt” Ross as the Hulk’s strongest and most persistent foe, in the sense of the man’s dogged pursuit of Banner and his alter-ego and his casual willingness to subvert the doctor’s life’s work into weaponry for the U. S. military. In terms of sheer power, the tyrant Thanos has given the Hulk a run for his money and bested him in direct combat.

While the Hulk has faced strong foes before, none so definitively beat him in combat as Thanos, who was able to quickly subdue the jade giant when they fought. Hulk’s subsequent refusal to physical manifest himself may be due to that encounter, even as Bruce Banner continues the fight against Thanos and his followers.


Hulk Make Friend!

While at the university at which he did his initial gamma research, Bruce Banner was romantically involved with his partner, Dr. Betty Ross. After becoming the Hulk, he seemed to maintain his memory and knowledge of the relationship and gravitated toward Betty to protect her from harm. After the Hulk’s first real battle with another creature nearly as strong as himself, he was prevented from killing his foe by Betty and fled the area without her, which seems to have been the last time they were in contact.

After allying himself with the Avengers, Banner entered into a complex romantic relationship with Natasha Romanoff, the master spy called the Black Widow. At first, Banner resisted his feelings for Romanoff, citing his inability to live a normal life as a reason to maintain a platonic partnership with her. The Black Widow convinced him otherwise and for a brief moment it seemed the two might find happiness together, before the Hulk decided to leave, likely reflecting Banner’s own concerns.

Both Banner and the Hulk have witnessed a friendship flourish with the Asgardian Thor, a fellow Avenger. At first, the two struggled through violent clashes and petty arguments over who was the strongest, but these contests led to camaraderie during their time as enslaved gladiators on the planet Sakaar. In Thor, the Hulk may have finally found his truest companion.

Bruce Banner and Thor establish a friendship on Sakaar

Tony Stark has also reached out to Bruce Banner as a peer in the realm of science, and as a man who suffers from a debilitation much like he himself once did. Together, the two have worked together on projects seemingly as one mind, though Banner has raised objections to what he feels are moral and ethical gaps in Stark’s push to advance technology.

Evergreen Adventures

Bruce Banner spent five years hiding from Ross and the army, until finally settling in Brazil to focus his search for a cure in plant research and mind-relaxing techniques. During this time, he communicated with cellular biologist Doctor Samuel Sterns back in the U.S., but the unintended transportation of Banner’s irradiated blood to a man in Milwaukee exposed his whereabouts to “Thunderbolt” Ross and his operative, Emil Blonsky. Banner reentered the country to try and recover his original research data from Culver University, but that meant the Hulk came with him and not even a reunion with Betty Ross could quell the angered beast.

After making his way first to Smoky Mountains National Forest and then the steel canyons of New York, Bruce Banner was forced to pit his alter-ego against a gamma-transformed Blonsky, the duplicity of Dr. Sterns, and the ever-looming “Thunderbolt” Ross. The Hulk defeated Blonsky and moved in for the kill, but Betty Ross stopped him from crossing this line and he fled once again. Soon after, in seclusion, Banner began to try and gain more control over the Hulk.

Sometime later, S.H.I.E.L.D.’s Nick Fury dispatched his operative Natasha Romanoff, the Black Widow, to approach Banner in India and convince him to join the so-called Avengers Initiative. Unfortunately, the team’s first mission, to prevent Loki’s despoiling of the planet with the mystical Tesseract device, brought the Hulk and his other potential teammates into the trickster’s crosshairs, resulting in a furious battle onboard the S.H.I.E.L.D. Helicarrier between Hulk and Thor. During that fight, the Hulk crashed down to Earth and transformed back into Banner, and then made his way back to New York. Explaining to his fellow Avengers that he was in fact always, on some level, angry, he was able to consciously transform into the Hulk to assist the Avengers in their fight against aliens brought to Earth by Loki’s machinations, and the would-be conquerors were ultimately defeated.

Black Widow calms The Hulk

Following the Avengers’ first victory, Banner spent time with Tony Stark for scientific pursuits and even acted as a sounding board for Stark to share his troubles with, after the billionaire suffered through post-traumatic stress disorder. With somewhat more say in the Hulk’s appearances, Banner joined the Avengers on missions to root out the terrorist organization Hydra around the globe, though he remained wary of his changes into the beast. The Avengers found that a certain lullaby, typically said by the Black Widow, was able to calm the Hulk and help him revert back to Banner, when the Hulk’s strength was no longer needed. During this time, Banner developed feelings for Natasha Romanoff, though he was also hesitant about beginning a romantic relationship, fearful of its potential pitfalls, given his situation.

Hulk takes the Quinjet

Banner initially expressed disapproval for Tony Stark’s desire to use a power source found in Loki’s scepter to develop a planet-wide security system. Those doubts were unfortunately proven right when he agreed to aid Stark in the project, only for the destructive robot known as Ultron to be born as a result. The situation brought even more challenges for Banner when a young woman named Wanda Maximoff, working with Ultron at the time, used her mind-warping abilities to send the Hulk on another, even more mindless rampage in South Africa, prompting Iron Man to utilize a special suit of armor crafted specifically for halting the green giant’s anger-fueled attack. Hiding out with the Avengers at Clint Barton AKA Hawkeye’s farm home after the South African incident, Banner and Romanoff discussed their burgeoning feelings and the possibility of leaving the team and going off together. However, after the Avengers defeated Ultron with the Hulk’s help, the Hulk himself, seemingly guided by Banner’s own regretful wishes, chose to remove himself from further harming his friends and the world around him. He refused to return to the team, including Natasha, and flew off in a Quinjet.

Hulk teams up with Thor, Valkyrie and Loki

Subsequently, a wormhole brought the Quinjet containing the Hulk to the far-off planet Sakaar. There he found what seemed a fitting place for a being such as himself—as a fighter in the Grandmaster’s gladiator arena. Besting all others in battle, he soon became the Grandmaster’s beloved champion and remained the Hulk at all times, never changing back into Bruce Banner. When his fellow Avenger Thor arrived on the planet and was forced into the arena as well, the Hulk was pitted against him. The fight that ensued ended somewhat indecisively for the satisfaction of either. In the aftermath of their fight, the Hulk, while bonding more with Thor, initially didn’t want to help his fellow Avenger in his plan to escape. When the Hulk attempted to stop Thor from using the Avengers Quinjet to leave Sakaar, a recording of Romanoff onboard made the creature transform back into Banner for the first time in two years.

The Hulk had damaged the Quinjet beyond repair. So, Thor, aided by Loki, found another ship to leave Sakaar and return to his native Asgard to reclaim the throne from his older sister Hela, with Banner and the warrior Valkyrie accompanying him. Overcoming his concerns that transforming back into the Hulk could result in never returning to his human form, Banner chose to allow his alter-ego to resurface after Hela unleashed her giant wolf, Fenris, against the surviving Asgardians. As the Hulk, he defeated the huge animal. In the meantime, Thor put an end to Hela, albeit at the cost of Asgard itself. Upon Asgard’s destruction, the Hulk—still having not changed back into Banner—joined the remaining Asgardians on a space ship launched into the cosmos to find a new home. He was present as Thor accepted his new role as the leader of his people.

Hulk Battles Thanos

The ship was discovered by the space tyrant Thanos soon after and he decimated the Asgardians to find the Infinity Stone Loki harbored. The Hulk attacked Thanos, but was bested by him in combat and then transported back to Earth by Heimdall’s last action.

Crashing into Doctor Strange’s Sanctum in New York City, the Hulk changed back to Bruce Banner, who informed Strange, Wong, and Tony Stark of the tyrant’s intention to come to Earth to claim the Infinity Stones that were on the planet. When two of Thanos’ followers arrived to try and take the Infinity Stone in the possession of Doctor Strange, Banner found himself now unable to transform back into the Hulk at all—with the Hulk outright resisting any attempt to get him to manifest.

Bruce Banner in Wakanda

When Iron Man was taken off planet, Banner called in Steve Rogers for help, and in doing so was reunited with Natasha Romanoff, along with several of his Avengers teammates. Banner then traveled with Cap and his crew to Wakanda to protect the Infinity Stone that gave the android Vision artificial life. There, he conferred with the brilliant inventor Shuri on how to remove the Stone and destroy it without harming Vision. To give Shuri time to perform the operation, Banner donned Stark’s “Hulkbuster” armor to fight alongside the Black Panther and his Wakandan army, along with his fellow Avengers, against an army of Thanos’ followers. However, when Thanos himself arrived and successfully claimed the last of the six Stones, the battle was lost. Half of all life in the universe disintegrated when the tyrant willed it to happen, leaving Banner and only a few remaining Avengers and allies to try to make sense of the tragedy.