Every Hulk movie misses the roughest part of its origin story

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While Hulk fans may feel they understand his power, the ugly truth about his origins shows that Bruce Banner has more secrets than his film adaptations are willing to admit. First appearing in the 1962 film The Incredible Hulk #1, Bruce Banner’s gamma irradiation turned him into what Marvel called “the strangest man of all time!!”. It is the origin of the Hulk that shows how true this boast was.

While Marvel has researched and expanded the knowledge surrounding gamma mutation- recently linking it to a cosmic being known as The One Who is the Lowest-the original adventures of the Hulk came up with the rules for his transformation on the fly. Bruce Banner transformed into the Hulk at night and regained his human form during the day, later causing his changes with the help of gamma radiation, before finally settling into the modern status quo, where strong emotions prompt him to “leave the Hulk”. However, in those early days, not only the method of transformation was unpredictable.

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While Hulk has always been strong and tough, his abilities were initially much less consistent. The Hulk’s body will react to threats in a new way, and his monstrous form and distorted personality will present countless surprises. In the first six issues from Stan Lee, Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko, the Hulk becomes super-suggestible, changes character and colors, and even transforms everything except his head. The idea of the Hulk as a beast that grows stronger from rage has not yet been established, and the stories focus on the disturbing idea of awakening a monstrous and truly unpredictable inner self. These bodily horror abilities remain part of the Marvel sequel and are best explained by Bruce Banner in The New Avengers: Ultron Forever #1 (from Al Ewing, Alan Davis, Mark Farmer, Rachelle Rosenberg and Travis Lanham). After the Hulk is beheaded, Banner’s head grows out of his chest. to replace him, Bruce explains to his time-traveling allies:

The curse of the Hulk… deforms my body. It changes every day, every month. It’s like a monster is looking for who to be. … Maybe in the future the Hulk will be something predictable, but right now… I’m afraid it’s not an abnormality.

These foundational stories played an important role in making the Hulk something more than just a super-strong brawler, adding a deep metaphysical context to the forms the Hulk takes and what he can and cannot do. While film adaptations tend to portray the classic “Wild” Hulk, this is not the original version of the hero, but the simplest iteration. There were very few eras in the history of Hulk publications when the creators ignored the infinite potential of Hulk transformations, although the modern highlight is the “Immortal Hulk” by Al Ewing and Joe Bennett, who completely returned to the origins of the Hulk’s body as an incomprehensible source of horror. It’s the Hulk’s ability to do and be anything that makes him so terrifying to Bruce Banner, providing the necessary context for their acrimonious relationship, even when the Hulk is at his most stable and heroic.

The Hulk was an artifact of the pop culture of very real fears about the possibility of radiation changing the human form, and the unstable period immediately following his origin is the purest expression of this idea. While the Hulk is the big, angry musculature of the Avengers, he is also a distorted expression of Bruce Banner’s repressed trauma and rage, and the rude, disturbing things his body can do are important to this aspect of the character.