The Incredible Hulk In Animation - A Retrospective

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

Cue to over a decade later, when action cartoons where not only welcomed on Saturday mornings, they had overtaken comedies and proved to be most popular with the kids of the era, with the likes of Batman, Spider-Man and The X-Men leading the way. Realising that a hell of a lot of money could be made from animation, Marvel did what they could to get the majority of their major characters on the small screen, beginning with X-Men. Once the merry mutants proved to be a phenomenal success, Spider-Man, Iron Man and The Fantastic Four followed in 1994. Whilst Spider-Man went onto become arguably Marvelís most successful venture into animation (and in my own opinion, itís best) Iron Man and The Fantastic Four were mocked for being approximately 20 years behind the times, featuring laughably bad stories, non-existent characterisation and lacklustre visuals and villains, the shows were panned by all who saw them.

Rather than admit defeat or tell the current crew to work harder, Marvel simply started again, replacing all the crew, hiring a new animation studio and the quality of both shows improved exponentially. Rather than ignoring the first season, both crews worked around it and made each show very, very entertaining.

But this is a Hulk thread, so where does olí Jade Jaws fit into all this? Where else but those accursed back door pilots!

Our not so jolly green giant first appeared on Fantastic Four in Nightmare In Green and had took part in some great fight scenes with the ever loviní blue eyed idol of millions, which ranks highly on the list of Marvelís best animated fights, especially in the 90ís era where most Marvel cartoons lacked violence. Due to The Marvel Action Hour being syndicated, Iron Man and Fantastic Four got away with more on the physical side of things. Thereís one kick ass moment where Iron Man actually stabs Crimson Dynamo with Wolverine like claws in one episode!

The story of the episode isnít anything remarkable, Dr. Doom tricks The Hulk into attacking The Fantastic Four when he believes they have stolen Rick Jonesí friendship from him. Bonus points for using Rick, but like the Spider-Man And His Amazing Friends version, I felt this version of Hulk was a little lacking. The episode itself is probably one of the better episodes of the show, but there was somethingÖ iffy about their version of The Hulk.

The design looked a little too goofy for my liking. Iím not exactly sure why, but I thought The Hulk looked a little too much like a child. He was big and muscular, sure, but he still looked really soft. The voice didnít quite fit either. Rather than have different actors portray the roles, Ron Pearlman supplied both Banner and Hulkís lines and to me, didnít fit either of them especially well. His Hulk didnít sound scary enough and his Banner didnít soundÖ anything like Banner should. I think the dialogue didnít necessarily help, but of all the roles Iíve heard Pearlman portray, I thought The Hulk was the most disappointing. Ironically enough, he would later go on to play The Abomination, one of the biggest Hulk villains from the comics in the recent The Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction video game, and he was fantastic.

Luckily, this season has pretty much a spot on version of The Thing. Of all the things the first season managed to screw up (which believe, is too numerous to mention), they managed to cast The Thing very well. Whenever I read a Fantastic Four comic, itís Chuck McCannís voice I hear whenever Thing speaks. They managed to fix his horrendous first season design too, and basically crafted a much more entertaining, much more likeable character, with a great sense of humour, a lot of which comes in abundance in this episode.

It was a solid episode overall, but much like Spider-Man And His Amazing Friends, The Hulk would need a lot of work if he was to become the star of his own show.

He would get a second chance on the small screen over in the other half of Marvel Action Hour in Iron Man. Thankfully, he appeared in a much superior episode, Hulkbuster. The crew kept Pearlman as the voice for both characters, but offered a much better design that personally reminded me of legendary Amazing Spider-Man/Ultimate Spider-Man artist Mark Bagleyís depiction of the character. Itís worth noting that the Bruce Banner design was pretty terrible. For some reason, Banner was blonde!

This episode didnít have Ben Grimm to save the day, but it really helped further the romance between Iron Man and Julia, which is Marvel Modís Arsenalís personal favourite, according to his lengthy list. Itís a time travelling story, and it features Iron Man and The Hulk pounding the crap out of each other in several different time settings, whilst olí shellhead races to save his girl. Thereís few other ways to describe it other than just great fun. We also saw the debut of the Hulkbuster armour to animation, and see Hulk rip Iron Manís arm off, completely battering his armour. The episode does feature the worst line in the season though. As Banner transforms into Hulk, Rhoadie makes a really stupid comment about how Banner is looking ďgreen at the gillsĒ, which still makes me cringe to this day. I utterly love this show, and would recommend it to anyone who likes a good cartoon, whether youíre a Marvel fan or not. I would also place Hulkbuster in the showís top 5 episodes, itís simply great fun to watch.

So, with two backdoor pilots completed in late 1995/early 1996, Marvel was hoping that The Hulk would be given his own show in the fall, and much like the Spider-Man And His Amazing Friends guest spot did, it worked. In the fall of 1996, The Incredible Hulk joined UPNís Sunday morning line up.