One of the most creative new additions to the world of superheroes in the 1960s was the Incredible Hulk by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, about a scientist who was transformed by an experiment gone wrong into a hulking monster. Initially, Doctor Bruce Banner transformed into the Hulk simply at night, but over time he adopted the more iconic set-up where he would transform any time the otherwise mild-mannered doctor became angry.
The concept was clever enough that other comic book companies have been sure to make their own versions of the character over the years. Do note, however, that Lee and Kirby obviously based the character on the classic Robert Louis Stevenson novella, The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. So we shouldn’t give other companies too much of a hard time for doing basically what Lee and Kirby did themselves. So with that in mind, here are 15 knock-off of the Hulk by other comic book companies (in chronological order)!
In the early 1960s, sales on Batman and Detective Comics were getting dangerously low. DC decided to shake things up and brought in editor Julius Schwartz and their star artist of the time, Carmine Infantino, to give the Batman titles a boost, with Infantino doing covers and frequent interior work on Detective Comics. Batman got a new costume (with a yellow oval around his bat symbol on his chest) and the stories were updated to match the era better.
Sales increased and soon, this era would inspire the massively successful Batman TV series. Before that, though, we had Detective Comics #345 (by Gardner Fox and Carmine Infantino) that introduced the Hulk-inspired Blockbuster, a simple-minded but powerful creature (complete with Hulk-esque torn pants!) who was manipulated by his brother into attacking Batman.
Something that is true not only for comic book companies but for pretty much any entertainment entity out there is that whenever something becomes successful, everyone else is going to try to copy it. The amount of Star Wars knockoffs at the end of the 1970s, for instance, was staggering. Therefore, when MLJ Comics had so much success with their teen hero, Archie Andrews, that they even re-named their company after him, other companies took notice and did their own versions of Archie.
In 1966, DC Comics introduced an Archie-esque book, but in a twist, they also tried to cash in on Beatle-mania by making their Archie-style hero, Scooter, a British musician with a Beatles-inspired haircut. In Swing with Scooter #2 (by Barbara Friedlander, Jack Miller, Joe Orlando and Mike Esposito), Scooter and his friends encountered a Hulk-like monster named Zekefreak, on the beach.
One of the things that made Bob Haney such a fascinating comic book writer was the fact that he just didn’t care about the conventions of modern comic book writing at all. He had no time for the idea of coordinating his books with the works of others, nor did he care about keeping characters consistent from other titles when he had them team-up with Batman in Brave and the Bold. He just did whatever he wanted, to the point where it seemed like he had his own little “Haney-verse” in Brave and the Bold.
Meanwhile, he also liked to poke fun at DC Comics’ upstart rival, Marvel Comics, like having Batman swing into action bragging about how much better he is at swinging from buildings than Spider-Man. Similarly, in Brave and the Bold #68 (by Haney, Mike Sekowsky and Mike Esposito), he had Batman transform into, literally, Bat-Hulk!!
There have been four distinct “boom” periods in comic book history: the Golden Age, when superhero comics exploded onto the comic book marketplace; the early 1980s, when the success of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles caused a ton of small independent comic books to launch; the early 1990s, when the speculator boom was driving comic book sales to unheard of heights; and following the success of the Batman TV series in 1966, when “Bat-mania” caused superhero comic book sales to explode.
One of the companies that tried to cash in was the toy company, Wham-O, which released a giant-sized comic book in 1967 that was mostly a giant ad for Wham-O toys, but had short stories by a number of top creators, including Wallace Wood and the great Lou Fine, who contributed the caveman Hulk knock-off, Tor (not to be confused with Joe Kubert’s caveman character of the same name).
The success of the campy Batman TV series not only led to a superhero comic book boom, but also to an increase in doing campy versions of superhero comics, as well. One of these attempts was DC’s Inferior Five, about the incompetent superhero offspring of the greatest comic book superheroes of all-time (their parents were riffs on DC and Marvel’s most famous characters).
Writer E. Nelson Bridwell would also use the series to make fun of other comic book characters. The series only lasted 10 issues between 1967-68 at first, but then had a brief revival in 1972 and Inferior Five #12 (by Bridwell, Joe Orlando and Mike Esposito) introduced us to their riff on the Hulk as the Man-Mountain (the issue also had an Avengers parody).
You might have noticed that we did not mention the mid-1970s when we previously listed “boom” periods in comics, and yet, the former owner and publisher of Marvel Comics, Martin Goodman, tried to launch a brand-new comic book company in late 1974 after selling off Marvel. Goodman was upset that his son, Chip, had either been let go by Marvel or was forced to quit. So Goodman decided to start a new company where he could work with his son.
They offered good rates, but few comic creators wanted to risk leaving Marvel for an upstart company that was going to have a hard time surviving, no matter the quality (it’s just hard to launch new companies period). One of the creators who was hired was veteran artist Mike Sekowsky, who drew the Hulk knock-off, the Brute, with writer Mike Fleischer. Imagine the Hulk, only murdering multiple teenagers in just the first issue!
In 1987, DC launched its first brand-new Superman ongoing series (not counting DC Comics Presents) since 1939! John Byrne wrote and drew the series (with inks by Karl Kesel). In the seventh issue, he introduced a gender-swapped riff on the Hulk, as mild-mannered S.T.A.R. Labs scientist Kitty Faulkner found herself transformed into the hot-tempered hulking monster known as Rampage (as in “The Rampaging Hulk”).
Faulkner became a love interest for the 1980s version of Starman in his series. Rampage was an interesting character since, back in the days when creators were not free to make plain references to characters’ sexualities, there sure were a lot of hints that Faulkner might be bisexual in the S.T.A.R. Corps series that followed her Starman appearances, but it was never outright stated and then the character entered into comic book limbo.
Upon co-founding Image Comics in the early 1990s, Jim Lee launched his own series, WildC.A.T.s, along with his co-writer Brandon Choi and his longtime inker, Scott Williams. Like a few of the early Image superhero teams, a lot of the characters in WildC.A.T.s seemed to be riffs on established characters. That makes sense, of course, as when you’re suddenly launching an entire team filled with characters, there are bound to be some characters less developed than others (especially when some of the Image creators based their teams on pitches they had for Marvel and DC characters).
Lee’s Maul was an interesting riff on the Hulk concept, as Maul was a scientist who transformed into a hulk-like creature, but the larger he grew, the less intelligence he retained. So rather than “the angrier he gets, the stronger he gets,” it was “the bigger he gets, the dumber he gets!”
After the initial success of Image Comics under the original creators, the founders decided to cast a wide net in bringing in other creators to do series at Image, as well, to help expand the line. This ended up becoming too fast of an expansion and many of the titles by these new creators were dropped soon after they launched. A notable exception was Dale Keown’s Pitt.
Keown was fresh off of an acclaimed run on The Incredible Hulk with writer Peter David (David later recalled that he found out that Keown was leaving literally the day that they won an award for best creative team) when he launched Pitt, about a human/alien hybrid that had been stolen from his parents and mutated into a killing machine. Now he was back on Earth, with a connection to his brother, Timmy. Pitt was sort of a Hulk/Wolverine riff.
6. LOOSE CANNON
In 1993, one of the great comic book coincidences took place, where DC and Marvel both came up with the idea to do annuals that year where each annual would introduce a brand-new character. Marvel’s Annuals had no over-arching plot, while the DC books were part of a story called “Bloodlines” about an alien invasion of Earth where a handful of the people attacked by the aliens had their dormant metagene activated, turning them into superheroes.
One of the more successful characters was Loose Cannon, a rogue cop (a “loose cannon”) who was left permanently handicapped after a car accident. He was depressed and considered suicide, but then was assigned an investigation of the murders caused by the aliens. He tracked the killers down but was attacked himself. He was transformed into a Hulk-like creature who would change colors based on his mood. He only transformed at night.
Following their continuity being ravaged following Crisis on Infinite Earths, DC decided to just reboot the Legion of Super-Heroes entirely following Zero Hour (although, amazingly enough, they did not re-number the two Legion series of the time, Legion of Super-Heroes and Legionnaires). Since they had a whole new continuity, they were freer to add some off-kilter heroes to the group, and one of these heroes was Monstress.
She was a larger than life character, a super strong “monster” who embraced her life as a superhero in a way unlike most other characters. She seemed to be introduced as a one-off, which was likely why they were willing to have her be green like the Hulk. When she became a member of the Legion, they quickly changed her skin color to orange.
Smash was the result of a problem between Liefeld and Marvel Comics during Liefeld’s run on Captain America and Avengers for Heroes Reborn. Whatever the reason, Liefeld ended up splitting from Marvel with a good deal of pages already created for the next issue of Captain America by himself and writer Jeph Loeb. In the original story, Captain America was going to clash with the Hulk. So, Liefeld revamped these pages into a new series, Agent America, and the Hulk became Smash. So it wasn’t that Liefeld was going out of his way to create a Hulk knock-off (which many fans seem to think is the case), he just happened to have some Hulk pages already finished and he didn’t want them to go to waste.
In their final story arc together on Superman/Batman, Jeph Loeb and Ed McGuinness went out with a bang with an epic tale where the Joker and Mister Mxyzptlk seemingly teamed up to wreak havoc not only on Batman and Superman but on the Multiverse itself! The Joker was enthralled with the idea of killing off every version of Batman that existed!
So Joker and Mxyzptlk created the Maximums, an alternate version of Marvel’s then-popular Ultimates characters, with the Hulk stand-in called Monster. Monster was then possessed by the Kryptonite Man to fight Superman. In the end, it turned out just to be a plot by Mxy to rescue his old friend, Bat-Mite (Mxyzptlk was barred from saving him himself, so he had to trick the Joker into doing it). The Maximums then ceased to exist.
In the early 1970s, Justice League of America writer Mike Friedrich and Avengers writer Roy Thomas had a surreptitious crossover between the two titles where Friedrich had the League fight the Champions of Angor, who were stand-ins for the Avengers, while the Avengers fought the Squadron Sinister, who were stand-ins for the Justice League. However, that initial team did not have a Hulk on it.
Years later, in Multiversity, Grant Morrison revamped the concept of the Champions and re-named them the Retaliators and made Earth-8 basically the “Marvel” world, where superheroes are constantly fighting against each other (sometimes due to a “secret invasion” of shapeshifting aliens). The Hulk stand-in was the Behemoth, who was, in effect, basically a guy who transforms into a giant angry baby.
Following the Superman crossover event, “Doomed,” there was an alien spore that basically infected Metropolis University college student Reiser with a virus that transformed him into a version of Superman’s deadly foe, Doomsday. Doomsday himself is almost a bit of a Hulk-like creature, but the setup for the short-lived series, Doomed (by Scott Lobdell and Javier Fernandez) was even more so.
When Reiser transforms into Doomsday, he loses control of himself (and cannot communicate with others) but he still gets to see the destruction that Doomsday causes, which can be a real problem for Reiser, as he is just your average college student trying to get by without drawing much attention to himself. He wants to be a superhero, if he can, but people keep presuming that he’s a villain. Doomed was a funny approach to the Hulk concept.
Marvel, of course, has plenty of their own versions of the Hulk. Who is your favorite version of the Hulk? Let us know in the comments section!