Dr. Bruce Banner was a scientist with a dark secret. While rescuing wayward teenager Rick Jones from the site where Banner was testing his new gamma bomb, Banner was bombarded by gamma rays. The result was that every time Banner would grow angry or outraged, he’d transform into a massively strong green behemoth known as the Hulk.
|The origin of the Hulk.|
Seeing how popular the Thing was in the then-recently launched Fantastic Four series, Marvel Comics writer-editor Stan Lee took inspiration from Frankenstein and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde to create the Hulk with artist Jack Kirby. The Hulk debuted in The Incredible Hulk #1 (1962) and was initially depicted as gray to avoid portraying any specific ethnic group. The printer’s inability to easily render that color forced his skin be changed to green with the next issue, which is what it has remained for the majority of the character’s life. The initial series was cancelled with #6, but the Hulk would go on to guest-star in several other Marvel titles as well as co-found the Avengers before gaining a permanent feature in Tales to Astonish with issue #60, where most of his principle villains would be introduced. The character’s popularity with college-aged readers led to the book to become retitled The Incredible Hulk with #102, and the Hulk had a series in one form or another ever since.
With Universal Studios’ very successful and popular live-action The Incredible Hulk starring Bill Bixby and Lou Ferrigno winding down, the time had come to return Hulk to his animated roots after giving audiences a taste with his appearance in an episode of Spider-Man and his Amazing Friends. Produced by Marvel Productions, the series closely followed the comics with Banner (Michael Bell) trying to stay ahead of the military while finding a cure to free himself of the Hulk (Bob Holt). However, only Rick Jones (Michael Horton) knew that Banner was actually the Hulk, in a change from the comics where it is widely known. Another difference was that whenever Hulk reverted back to Banner, his missing clothing, torn away in the transformation, would miraculously return, albeit in a disheveled state.
The character designs were inspired by the artwork of Sal Buscema, who had worked on the comic during the 70s and 80s. The fluid animation was a big step-up from the extremely limited movement of the earlier Hulk cartoon that aired as part of 1966’s The Marvel Super Heroes, despite utilizing stock footage whenever Banner Hulked-out. Hulk’s sidekick Rick Jones was modified slightly by being given blonde hair and always shown wearing a cowboy hat. Banner’s girlfriend, Betty Ross (B.J. Ward), was made a research scientist who worked alongside Banner. Hulk’s principal antagonist was renamed Ned Talbot (Pat Fraley) rather than Glenn like in the comics, and was changed into a cowardly klutz. In order to avoid censorship issues with a younger audience, many of the weapons featured on the show were done in futuristic sci-fi styles.
|Rick Jones and the Hulk.|
Other characters to appear on the show from the Hulk books were his super-smart arch-enemy, The Leader (Stan Jones), and General Thunderbolt Ross (Robert Ridgely), who headed up the task force dedicated to stopping the Hulk. Hulk’s cousin Jennifer Walters made her first appearance outside of comics since being introduced only two years prior as the Savage She-Hulk (Victoria Carroll, who happened to be the wife of Bell); the result of needing a blood transfusion from her cousin when she was injured and his gamma-irradiated blood mutating hers. The mechanical-limbed Dr. Octopus (Bell) made an appearance from Spider-Man’s rogue gallery along with the Fantastic Four’s foe Puppet Master (Holt), who could control anyone by molding their shape with radioactive clay. New characters introduced in the series were Rio (Roberto Cruz) and his daughter Rita (Susan Blu), who served as comic relief and Rick’s girlfriend, respectively. Stan Lee served as the series’ narrator.
The Incredible Hulk debuted on NBC on September 18, 1982. It was broadcast alongside the second season and reruns of Spider-Man and his Amazing Friends in an hour-long block under the blanket title The Incredible Hulk and the Amazing Spider-Man. The second season of Amazing Friends ended up being only 3-episodes long due to Marvel Productions dedicating all of their resources towards Hulk. The series was written by Michael Reaves, Dennis Marks, Arthur Browne Jr., Fred Ladd, Martin Pasko, Misty Stewart-Taggart, Paul Dini and Marc Scott Zicree, with Marks serving as story editor. The series was animated by Dong Seo Animation and XAM! Productions. Johnny Douglas provided the music.
Hulk only lasted a single season of 13 episodes. It was rerun for an additional season alongside new episodes of Amazing Friends with the block retitled The Amazing Spider-Man and the Incredible Hulk, and later as part of the Marvel Action Universe, which served as a showcase of Marvel Productions programs. The episode “When Monsters Meet” was adapted into comic form by Marvel as The Incredible Hulk vs. Quasimodo in 1983, by regular Hulk contributors Bill Mantlo and Sal Buscema. Then-series editor Al Milgrom, dressed as the Hulk, appeared in a one-page back-up feature explaining the origin of the story.
Two episodes were released to VHS as part of Prism Entertainment’s Marvel Comics Video Library, as well as two volumes containing three-episodes each. The first episode was released by Best Film & Video Corp. on the second volume of their Marvel Matinee series. Starting in 2012, scenes from the show, as well as Amazing Friends, were cut, edited ad re-dubbed into comical shorts as part of the Marvel Mash-Up segments of Disney XD’s Marvel Universe on Disney XD programming block. They were shown between episodes of Ultimate Spider-Man and Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, which also starred the Hulk with voices provided by Gabriel Mann and Fred Tatasciore. The series was made available to stream on Prime Video and Google Play.
Originally posted in 2015. Updated in 2022.