Welcome to the four hundred and ninety-seventh in a series of examinations of comic book legends and whether they are true or false. Click here for an archive of the previous four hundred and ninety-six. This week, did a personal tragedy lead to the death of the Hulk’s wife? Discover the secret Teen Titans crossover! Finally, did Marvel almost spoil the classic Thunderbolts reveal before the first issue even came out?
NOTE: The column is on three pages, a page for each legend. There’s a little “next” button on the top of the page and the bottom of the page to take you to the next page (and you can navigate between each page by just clicking on the little 1, 2 and 3 on the top and the bottom, as well).
COMIC LEGEND: Peter David killed off Betty Banner because someone close to him passed away.
Reader Ahmed S. wrote in a few years back to ask:
Hello, I’ve been reading your Legends revealed and really enjoying the stuff you’ve been writing about, and I had some questions I wanted to ask though ATM I can only remember one- Is it true that Peter David killed off Betty in the Hulk comic, during his run in the 90s, because someone close to him died?
Ahmed is referring to Incredible Hulk #465 and Incredible Hulk #466, the third and second to last issues of Peter David’s twelve-year run on Incredible Hulk.
After things seemingly were going well with Bruce and Betty Banner in #465, things took a sudden turn for the worse…
And they did not get better in #466…
So was David influenced by the death of someone he was close to?
I’ll let David explain the story himself, via an essay he wrote for Entertainment Weekly a couple of years ago:
I actually didn’t know I was going to be leaving The Incredible Hulk when I did go. What happened was that my editor at the time, Bobbie Chase…had suggested — when we were kicking around future plot directions — that I kill off the Hulk’s wife, Betty Banner. Betty had always been my wife’s favorite character and because of that I’d always sworn nothing bad would happen to her. But then my wife left me so that she could go off and do other things like, I dunno, not be married to me. On that basis, Betty’s safety measure was gone. When Bobbie suggested we plug her, I said, “Sure, why not?” So I killed her off. This got Marvel all excited. See, when I’d started on the book and, over years, doubled sales on it, it caused people to suddenly start paying attention. With the death of Betty, this prompted Marvel to have a Brilliant Idea. Mourning the loss of his wife, the Hulk would now go dead silent, stop talking to anyone, and run around the Marvel universe smashing everything in sight.
When I was told the new plan, I objected. I told them it was out of character with the psychologically complex giant I’d created over the years. I said I wouldn’t write that. And the editorial higher-ups (none of whom still work for the company) said that I shouldn’t hesitate to avoid having the door hit me on the way out.
And that was that. After twelve years, I was gone.
So not only wasn’t it because of a death in his life, I think it is not necessarily fair to say (as I have also seen it said) that Peter David killed off Betty Banner because of his own divorce. As he notes, it was not HIS idea to kill off Betty period.
Anyhow, there ya go, Ahmed! Thanks for the question and thanks to Peter David for the info!
Check out my latest Movie Legends Revealed at Spinoff Online: Did Superman Returns use CGI to reduce the size of Brandon Routh’s crotch when he was in his Superman costume?
On the next page, learn about a secret Teen Titans crossover!
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