The Incredible Hulk In Animation - A Retrospective

Part One - Part Two - Part Three - Part Four - Part Five - Part Six - Part Seven

The TV movies came years after the show had ended however, and due to the popularity of the character, Marvel wanted him back on the small screen as soon as possible, only this time, in animation. Having finally managed to get a Spider-Man cartoon on network TV in the early 80ís with Spider-Man And His Amazing Friends, Marvel productions decided that a back door pilot for The Hulk was the best way to fly.

So, in an episode somewhat based upon Amazing Spider-Man #14, dubbed ďSpidey Goes HollywoodĒ, The Incredible Hulk and Spider-Man met on the small screen for the first time. To date, itís actually the only time the two have ever appeared in a cartoon together!

Despite the episode being perfectly enjoyable (Iím sorry, I just find it hard to bash anything that has Mysterio in it), The Hulk was probably the least entertaining part of the episode. The design was a little lacklustre (pink pants? What the deuce!) and the voices for both Banner and The Hulk werenít terribly brilliant either. To me, it was strictly a no frills affair, as it feels like The Hulk was shoe horned into the episode, rather than having the episode revolve around him, like most of the guest stars did on the show. Truth be told, The Hulk needed a lot of work if he was going to be made into his own cartoon.

Marvelís plan worked, however. The following fall, Stan 'The Man' Lee would utter the worlds children with taste in the 80's would come to love;

Who's the worlds greatest monster? Who's the world's mightiest creature? Who's the world's strongest superhero? Here's a hint - his skin is green, and man, he's mean!

The Hulk appeared in his own cartoon, The Incredible Hulk, and to me, itís still the very best representation of the character. Iíve no doubt that most of this is nostalgia speaking, but to me, there are few things finer than the 1980ís Incredible Hulk cartoon.

They managed to fix the problems found in the Spider-Man And His Amazing Friends version. Firstly, both Banner and The Hulk were recast. Voice acting veteran Michael Bell brought the mild mannered scientist to life and made the character seem so likeable, and we as an audience sympathised with so much due to his curse. Despite the fact this was an 80ís cartoon, and 80ís shows are usually squeaky clean, wholesome fun, the show had a very dark underlay, as Banner truly hated being The Hulk, and Hulk hated puny Banner.

The late Bob Holt took over voicing duties for The Hulk in this show, and provided a voice like no other. If I had to pick one voice in all of Marvel animation that absolutely perfectly nailed their character to a T, I would probably pick Bob Holt. No one will ever, ever perform a mighty roar like Bob Holt. He managed to capture the slow-witted nature of The Hulk perfectly, and really, thereís only so much mere text can say about his performances.

The designs also receive a much needed updating. The Hulk himself looks great Ė a ruff face with muscles everywhere and he actually looks scary, compared to the Amazing Friends version. This is a Hulk you wouldnít want to mess around with.

The show itself is very faithful to the comics. Scientist Bruce Banner is bombarded by Gamma Rays after attempting to save Rick Jonesí life after he unwittingly drove onto the Gamma test field and the bomb exploded. Banner awakens hours later and transforms into The Hulk, with only Rick knowing that Banner and the monster are one and the same. Some scoff at the characterís secret identity, as Bannerís clothes magically revert back to normal when he changes back, but I thought it added another layer to the show Ė not only did Banner have to stop the bad guy, he and Rick had an enormous secret to keep!

The show was also the first to include Betty Ross as a scientist, rather than just Bannerís girlfriend and Thunderbolt Rossí Daughter. It actually presented her as an interesting, intelligent character, rather than a mere damsel in distress. There was defiantly some chemistry between Banner and Ross, and it only made you feel more for Bannerís quest for a cure. Itís especially saddening in one episode to see that in the episode where Bruce is cured, the first thing he does is ask Rick if he would like to be his best man. Considering they were together for the entire length of the season, itís amazing they managed to keep the romance as interesting as they did. When most cartoon couples are actually together, itís more fun watching paint dry. Heroes work best when they canít get the girl because of their other lives Ė but Betty and Bruce pulled it off magnificently. Kudos!

The rest of the supporting cast is nothing to sneeze at either. Rick Jones proves loveable in the best friend role and manages to churn out a few one-liners, which his voice actor, Michael Horton, managed to deliver perfectly. As an odd coincidence, Horton also played John Jameson in Spider-Man: The Animated Series. Despite watching both shows dozens of times, Iíd never put the two together.

Most of the series comedy moments came from Major Talbot. He would later be used to great effect as a ruthless solider in the 1990ís cartoons, but here, he was strictly used for fits and giggles, and boy did he excel at it. The clueless ĎNoodleheadí Ned was mocked by everyone Ė General Ross, Betty and Bruce, even Rick refused to take him seriously. Patrick Fraley, his voice actor deserves much of the credit. This show had such a fantastic cast!

The music is also some of the best stuff Iíve ever heard in cartoons. It was all so powerful, it really did help add to The Hulkís presence. When the Hulk was updated in the 1990ís version, I found the music was the thing I missed about the old show.

On the other end of the scale, some of the villains werenít quite as good as youíd have hoped. Very few of The Hulkís comics villains showed up. Absorbing Man, Abomination and Gargoyle failed to appear, and the show concentrated on original villains, some of whom were good, like Quasimodo in When Monsters Meet, and others were just bad, like the yellow blob in It Lives! It Grows! It Destroys!

All in all though, it truly does stand as one of Marvelís best cartoons. If youíre willing to accept when it was made and who it was made for, youíll probably love this show. The main real problem for me is that it all ended too soon. It seems that ending the best cartoon of the decade (in my opinion) in order to make more room for The Smurfs is criminal. From the sounds of things, the networks were never sure on action cartoons at the time anyway, and Hulk was an apparent victim of time, more than anything else.