The Incredible Hulk In Animation - A Retrospective

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

Three part episodes are a difficult thing to produce. The story needs to be great enough to warrant an entire quarter of your season and to keep the story entertaining and engaging for an entire hour is a difficult task to accomplish. Spider-Man excelled at it, with The Alien Costume being the crowning jewel in an outstanding first season, and again with the Morbius/Six Armed Spider-Man/Man-Spider arc in the middle of The Neogenic Nightmare being widely regarded as one of the show’s finest moments. Ignoring Fantastic Four’s The Mask Of Doom (trust me, I’ve tried) Marvel has had great success with 3 part stories, and this one ranks among the best of them.

Everything came to a boiling point here in this finale as we finally get to see the cure Betty and Samson have been working on completed, and The Hulk finally leans that he is Banner when he sees himself mid transformation. These episodes are simply a fantastic ‘nightmare’ tale where everybody’s worst nightmare comes to fruition – a mindless Hulk on the rampage and no one is able to stop him. The final line in the first part says it best, as Doc Samson proclaims;

“What have I done? What nightmare have I unleashed upon the world?”

It goes to pot slightly as The Leader takes centre stage as he finally realises his dream of having the Hulk’s strength but realises that it’s draining his intelligence and he’s becoming just as savage as The Hulk once was, even going as far as attacking the gamma reactor that created him in the first place!

Part two ends in a dramatic confrontation between Banner in some Hulkbusting armour and the green goliath himself, which is pretty much what the series had been building up to since it began. After burning The Hulk by making him madder than ever before, they both return to Gamma base and a cured Bruce and Betty get this close to tying the knot before her looney father gets involved which results in Rick Jones falling into the Nutrient Bath and him becoming The Hulk, as Bruce watches on in horror and finally breaks down and transforms into a grey Hulk as everyone realises that despite all their best intentions, they’ve only made everything even worse.

As the title suggests, it was dark. There was no happy ending for anyone in this finale, and simply put, we had a hell of a cliffhanger on our hands. Who wouldn’t want to see where this was all heading after that ass-kicking finale?

Unfortunately for all of us, the answer to the above is “The network”. A new producer/director was brought in and the network demanded the show be more accessible to girls, and to tone down the darkness, which meant no Banner/Hulk internal conflict. Hulk without Banner/Hulk misses the point of the character entirely, but the network decided that a boys action cartoon needed to have more fashion in it and She Hulk too, apparently.

And thus, The Incredible Hulk and She Hulk was born. The show had turned from a dark fugitive to a buddy show featuring Hulk and his wacky cousin.

The results were horrifying.

The season premiered with A Hulk Of A Different Colour to wrap up all those pesky first season plots and the audience was left wondering what we’d done to deserve such tripe. The entire thing was a rushed catastrophe, which frankly stands as an insult to the fans that had tuned in every week in season one. After some utterly daft plot about stealing Hulk’s powers once again, Banner is once again cursed with both Hulk and now grey Hulk – who are constantly battling inside of him. Whoever happens to be the one winning at the time of the fight is the one Banner will transform into whenever he’s annoyed. The stupidity continues as She Hulk tries to get her cousin out of jail time by telling the world he’s The Hulk! This seasons version of She Hulk is a bimbo who is constantly rattling on about how utterly brilliant she is which earned the distinguished title of being the most annoying character in all of Marvel animation. She’s not Jubilee bad. She’s much, much worse.

Sadly enough, the aforementioned sin against nature of an episode is one of the seasons best. The rest of it is simply an excuse to turn Hulk into a joke and to have She Hulk constantly complimenting herself whilst the audience groans in agony. It was finally put out of it’s misery after only eight episodes, thank God. For those who never managed to make it to the end of the show, Banner and General Ross reconciled, and the Green Hulk triumphed over the grey one. No idea if Bruce found his cure or not as in the final episode, we had to see Bruce do his impression of Ethan Hunt from Mission: Impossible which was deemed to be far more important than a real ending.

It would be 6 whole years before we would see The Hulk again on the screen, and this time, it wasn’t the small one. 2003 saw the debut of Ang Lee’s “Hulk” with Eric Bana playing the troubled scientist whilst a CG creature was created to bring The Hulk to life. A lot of people diss the CG monster, but I thought it was great. I don't think a bodybuilder painted green or a The Thing like suit would work here - The Hulk is supposed to be the biggest thing we've ever seen, the strongest one there is. I think they made a great choice by going the CG route, and I hope they continue it for the sequel.

The film received mixed reviews and was average at the box office, but it’s nowhere near as bad as a lot of people make it out to be. The problems are plentiful – the pace is off, the story is too convoluted for it’s own good and his Father didn’t need to be shown beyond the flashback stage, never mind turning him into the Absorbing Man. The much mocked Hulk poodle wasn’t needed either, especially as the fight with the other, non ridiculous dogs was quite cool. The main problem with the fights in the movie I found was that they were too hard to see! The lighting for both the dogfight and the finale was beyond poor – I didn’t even know what the hell happened when I watched it in the theatre. I went to see it twice to make sense of it all! I'm personally convinced there's a great movie in there somewhere - it just needed another draft and better pacing. Have to admit, it's fun watching Hulk smash the crap out of stuff!

A cartoon spin off was rumoured to follow, much to the chargrin of Hulk fans as it was rumoured to be going to Kids Wb! Which meant teenagers in high school and in this case meant Hulk… and son. Hulks, as it would later become known never made it to actual production, but James Marsden was cast as Bruce’s son Bryce. We never saw or heard anything beyond that but this piece from X-Men: Evolution character designer/director may have been a proposed design for the series.

With no cartoon on the horizon and a sequel still years away from getting green light, any hope of seeing Hulk back on the screen seemed silly. Until Lions Gates saved the day and announced that they were teaming with Marvel to produce a series of Direct-to-DVD animated movies, and later followed it up with the announcement that The Ultimates would be the first to receive the DTV treatment and Hulk would be joining this. This time however, he would be a villain...