The Incredible Hulk In Animation - A Retrospective

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

Once the season got started, we ran into a formula that most episodes would follow. Banner wakes up in a strange place and does whatever he can to help him find his cure. Occasionally he’ll intend to end up at his final destination, but more often than not, Bruce is the victim of a severe hangover – he’s ended up in some strange place and has no recollection of how he got there. Oh, and he is shirtless, more often than not.

The third season introduces another mediocre villain, but gets major points because it features Michael Bell, one of the finest voice actors ever and of course, the man who portrayed Bruce Banner back in the 80’s. The rest of the episode is nothing special, however, things pick up in a big way by the time episode four premiered.

I’ve often stated that this episode is my personal favourite team up episode in all of Marvel animation, as Iron Man makes his triumphant return to the TV in an episode that is every bit as entertaining as his own spectacular animated series.

It’s very much a follow up to the Iron Man backdoor pilot, but it adds so much more to it. It’s revealed that Stark is the one who funded Bruce’s original gamma reactor experiment that turned him into The Hulk to begin with, and Banner travels to LA in hopes of a helping hand with his cure.

The first thing that struck out to me was the fight scenes – Iron Man and Hulk really go at it here! As Hulk is amnesic in the episode, he doesn’t know who Rick is and attacks him, causing Iron Man to rush to Rick’s rescue and promptly fears an ass kicking, in his usual weary way. This version was such an interesting character – I’m glad they kept him exactly the same as he was in his own show. If I ever get around to an Iron Man retrospective, expect me to gush on and on about the show!

They really added another layer to the Tony/Bruce relationship, and Tony gets a great line. “It wasn’t until I started failing miserably that I really got serious. How about we put our eggheads together and take another crack at that cure?”

The thing that really makes this episode stand out amongst the others is the music. This show had a really flat score that never really captured the rage of neither the Hulk nor the sympathy for Banner and generally, had a forgettable score.

Except this episode.

Here, the mighty Iron Man is played like never before, and practically has you singing “I am Iron Man!” whilst you watch him and Hulk pound the crap out of each other. The guitar riffs are in full force here – it’s simply awesome to listen to. The episode is just so much fun, it’s too hard to find anything negative to say about it. There’s an especially badass scene between Iron Man and General Ross. It’s a perfect “Bite my shiny metal ass!” moment!

With the next episode, The Incredible Hulk returned the favour and Ghost Rider had his own backdoor pilot which Marvel was hoping to get on UPN. Hulk had an astonishing amount of team ups in this first season, and most of them were done to a very, very high level. Some where characters making their debut in the loose continuity of the 1990’s, others were characters who’d previously appeared on Fantastic Four/Iron Man. This episode nearly matches the quality of the previous one, but doesn’t fair as well. Ghost Rider was pretty cool though. Considering I have absolutely no interest or in fact, knowledge of the comic character, I found that both his animated appearances so far have kicked ass!

One of the things I liked most about the episode wasn’t actually shown. It’s said that Banner is on the run in this episode because the Hulk decimated a small town in one of his rampages, which spilled innocent blood, which of course called Ghost Rider to the scene. It’s also worth noting that the fantastic casting continues in this episode - Richard Grieco is absolutely perfect as The Ghost Rider. I’m actually pretty disappointed that the show didn’t get picked up, but then again given the characters origins I’m not surprised it didn’t fly on Saturday mornings. Given how well Ghost Rider action figures sell, it’ll be interested to see if Marvel considers giving him his own show after his movie is released in February. Providing it doesn’t tank, of course.

The next episode doesn’t feature a guest star, but continues the string of quality episodes from Hulk. Much like Helping Hand, Iron Fist, Banner attempts to find one of his old colleagues, who he believes will be able to help him cure the beast within. Lankowski was eerily similar to Banner in that he too had cured himself with gamma radiation and whilst Banner had to move from place to place in hopes of his cure, Lankowski isolated himself and no one was aware he and the Sasquatch were one and the same. You could practically see the frustration seething from Bruce when he learned of Lankowski’s illness and this was one of the lighter episodes. I usually abhor kiddies in animation, but Taylor proved to be likeable and again, brought a bit of humour and fun into a show that was really, really dark. I think people often underestimate, for lack of a better term just how dark this show was. There’s no question about it, this show was pretty ballsy for Saturday morning, which pretty much killed it off a lot earlier than most would’ve predicted. The stellar casting comes in once again, as Clancy Brown, Lex Luthor himself, portrays Sasquatch here. He does a damn good job of it too, it took me years to figure out it actually was Clancy Brown!

After that, we enter She Hulk. Now, before you start groaning about how much She Hulk sucks remember – she doesn’t always suck. In this episode (not so much the next one) she’s actually entertaining. She’s perfectly likeable before she becomes transformed, and even remains tolerable afterwards. One thing I never did like about She Hulk is how she constantly boasts about how great it is to be She Hulk around Bruce who is cursed with condition. Rub it in why don’t you? It was odd to see in the first season, but by the time it got to season two, you have to wonder what the hell is wrong with her. I suppose by that time, the question most people were asking is “The hell am I still watching this for?”

Still, she’s not too bad here, but the highlight is Dr. Doom. I was never too impressed with him in Fantastic Four, but he was a lot more ruthless and entertaining. He was still lumbered with an mediocre design, but he was written much better and Simon Templeman seemed to be having a lot more fun this around. Despite the fact he’s a Fantastic Four villain, he was probably the best Hulk got when it came to rouges. The lameness of The Leader, and making Abomination a lackey and the fact everyone else only had a single episode devoted to them make for yet another Hulk show with uninteresting villains. The series manages to get past it however – the Bruce/Hulk complex is more than entertaining enough to keep you coming back for more next week.

The Thing and The Hulk bury their hatchet in yet another guest starring episode as The Leader strikes. The episode is probably best remembered for a scene I’d really, really like to forget – She Hulk hitting on The Thing. At this point I’d thought She Hulk had worn out her welcome, 2 appearances in. It was after this and a forgettable Wendigo appearance that the season really came to it’s boiling point, in it’s three part finale – Darkness And Light.