You know Bruce Banner. You know that when he gets angry he transforms into a giant green rage monster known as the Incredible Hulk. It’s a condition he’s dealt with for years after being caught in the blast of a gamma bomb that irradiated his body. While he’s done some good as the Hulk, Banner’s alter ego has been more curse than blessing.
Recently that curse was lifted when Amadeus Cho, the world’s sixth-smartest man, used nanites to transfer the Hulk from Banner to himself. That led to Cho’s tenure as the “Totally Awesome Hulk,” but there’s just one major problem. At the end of “Civil War II” #2, a collection of heroes were showed a vision of the future by the Inhuman Ulysses depicting Banner — as the Hulk — killing all of the other heroes.
Marvel’s heroes will decide in “Civil War II” #3 (on sale July 13) whether they can actually trust that Banner is cured. And if they can’t, then what will they do with him? With that major turning point in the character’s life coming up fast, CBR looks back at the 13 times Banner has been cured of being the Hulk, and how each one eventually played out.
NOTE: We’re not counting times when Banner took control of the Hulk’s body, like we saw during Peter David’s classic run on “Incredible Hulk.” Rather, we’re focusing on those times Banner literally could stop being the Hulk — period.
13. 1. The original ending of the Hulk’s first series
In “The Incredible Hulk”#4 (by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby and Dick Ayers), Bruce Banner developed a gamma ray machine that could turn him from the Hulk into Banner (perennial superhero sidekick Rick Jones operated the machine when Banner was in Hulk form). However, while he could be cured permanently at this point, Banner decided there were times the Hulk was needed. Thus, he continued to use the machine to turn himself back into the Hulk, with Banner maintaining some semblance of control over the Hulk’s actions. However, the longer he remained the Hulk, the more he wanted to remain the Hulk. Additionally, the gamma ray machine took longer to turn him back, and became more and more painful, with each use.
In “Incredible Hulk” #6, the final issue of the original “Hulk” series (it’s always interesting to think that the Hulk’s first series only lasted six issues!), Lee and artist Steve Ditko saw Banner use the gamma ray machine one last time. It didn’t work at first, kicking in after a delay, and Bruce ended the issue with a vow never to become the Hulk again.
That did not last long, of course. The Hulk soon appeared in “The Avengers” #1-4, “Fantastic Four” #25-26 and “Amazing Spider-Man” #14, and those issues all pretty much ignored the change in Hulk’s status quo. When the Hulk began his run as a featured character in “Tales to Astonish” #59 by Lee, Ayers and Paul Reinman (a year and a half after his first series ended), it was explained that Banner just eventually lost the ability to prevent himself from turning into the Hulk.
12. 2. “Reed Richards finishes Bruce Banner’s work”
In “Incredible Hulk” #105 (by Stan Lee, Bill Everett, Roy Thomas, Marie Severin and George Tuska), the Hulk encountered a radioactive ogre known as the Missing Link who transformed the Hulk back into Bruce Banner by absorbing the Hulk’s radiation. This turned out to be a temporary change, of course, as Banner transformed into the Hulk again later in the issue. However, Reed Richards was given notes Bruce Banner had written, providing the germ of an idea for a device that could turn the Hulk back into Bruce Banner. The problem was, the device had a chance of killing Banner, as well. Colonel Glenn Talbot convinced Reed that the Hulk’s fight with the ogre proved it was worth the risk to Banner’s life, and Reed delivered the finished device, which was used to turn Hulk back into Banner. In the very next issue (by Thomas, Severin and Tuska), the Missing Link grabbed Banner and turned him into the Hulk again.
11. 3. “Bruce Banner then improves on Reed’s work”
Whatever Reed came up with in “Incredible Hulk” #105 must not have been up to Bruce’s standards, because in #122 (by Roy Thomas and Herb Trimpe), Banner tried to deliver to the Fantastic Four corrections to Reed’s formula. He managed to get to the Baxter Building, but then the Hulk took over and battled the Fantastic Four. During the fight, Sue Richards discovered the paper with Banner’s notes on it and gave it to Reed, who used it create another device, which he used on the Hulk in #123 (by Thomas and Trimpe). It turned the Hulk back into Bruce Banner, and gave Banner the ability to control his transformation. He vowed never to turn into the Hulk again and basically retired to a life with his love, Betty Ross.
Bruce was about to propose to Betty when her father, General Thaddeus “Thunderbolt” Ross sent a special request — he needed Bruce to turn into the Hulk to stop a plot by the Hulk’s gamma-powered genius enemy, the Leader. Banner agreed to do this one last mission, and in the process nearly lost control and murdered the Leader. He once again vowed to never again turn into the Hulk.
He might have even kept that promise, but we will never know, for in the very next issue (by Thomas, Sal Buscema and Trimpe), the Leader decided to get his revenge by blasting Banner with a special gamma ray device at Banner’s wedding to Ross, turning Banner into the Hulk once again. Banner was right back where he started, with anger or anxiety turning him into the Hulk.
10. 4. “With friends like these…”
In “Incredible Hulk” #130 (by Thomas and Trimpe), the second-most famous expert in the field of radiation research, Dr Raoul Stoddard, developed an idea on how to cure Banner of being the Hulk. Banner’s old classmate, Stoddard developed a machine called the Gammatron. He used it on Banner and it seemingly erased the Hulk, but in reality, he had actually split Hulk from Banner! You could argue that this one doesn’t count as a “cure,” since Banner eventually realized that the Hulk was still connected to him — even though they were separated, killing the Hulk would kill Banner, as well. However, Betty Ross theorized that they could keep the Hulk captured, allowing Banner to live his normal life. Banner wouldn’t trust that, so he tried to trick the Hulk into merging back into him; there was even a chance that the merger would erase the Hulk’s personality. Stoddard, realizing that that would mean Banner would once again be the top dog in the world of radiation research, tried to kill Banner instead. He failed to do so before the Hulk showed up and smacked him around, and in the next issue, with the help of Iron Man, Banner re-merged with the Hulk.
9. 5. “The Green locks of Samson”
In “Incredible Hulk” #141 (by Thomas, Trimpe and John Severin), Dr. Leonard Samson found a way of killing two birds with one stone. He developed a device that could take away the Hulk’s “libidinal” energy and transfer it into Betty Ross, who had been transformed into glass via a blood transfusion from the Sandman (really!) in “Incredible Hulk” #138. Bruce Banner was no longer the Hulk, and Betty was saved.
Realizing controlled exposure to gamma radiation could give someone powers like the Hulk without becoming unhinged, Samson experimented on himself, becoming the super-powered Doc Samson. Consumed by his ego, Samson then began to woo Betty Ross. Banner was green with envy as he watched his erstwhile fiancee be romanced by Samson. Eventually, Banner decided to reverse the “libidinal” energy procedure and become the Hulk once again. The Hulk defeated Samson in combat, and his newfound humility, as both a superhero and as a doctor, led to Samson becoming a true hero and a close ally to both Banner and the Hulk.
8. 6. “A Cure Through Time”
In “Incredible Hulk” #204 (by Len Wein, Herb Trimpe and Joe Staton), Professor Kerwin Kronus proposed a particularly novel approach to curing the Hulk. He suggested that Bruce Banner travel through time to his own body back at the day of the Gamma Bomb test, to ensure he took cover before the explosion. They put together a time travel device and send Banner back in time. Bruce actually succeeds saving himself, but this time around, Rick Jones does not make it to safety and dies in the blast. Banner returns to the altered present where he is a successful, well-respected scientist and happily married to Betty Ross. However, his guilt over Rick’s death haunts him too much. He travels through time once again, reverting things to the way they were before, with Rick alive, and the Hulk a part of Banner’s life.
7. 7. “And Then it Just Happened…”
In “Incredible Hulk” #223 (by Roger Stern, Sal Buscema and Joe Rubinstein — whose inks look amazing on Buscema), the Hulk was just walking through the woods when he ran into a couple of teens. Abruptly, he began to transform into Bruce Banner. As it turned out, Banner’s body had finally expunged all of the Gamma radiation it had collected over the years, and the Hulk was no more!
Tragically, the change happened just as the Leader captured Doc Samson and Thunderbolt Ross, so he captured Banner as well. The three men escaped, leaving the now-cured Banner to find a way to stop the Leader that didn’t involve becoming the Hulk again. His first idea was to use an old Hulk robot to fight the Leader. However, the mental connection Banner used to control the robot led to it overloading Banner’s system when the Leader destroyed the machine. Banner, seemingly dead, was bombarded with enough Gamma radiation by Samson in “Incredible Hulk” #225 to bring Banner back, along with, sadly, the Hulk.
6. 8. “The Power Cosmic Lends a Hand”
In “Tales to Astonish” #93 (by Stan Lee, Marie Severin and Frank Giacoia), the Silver Surfer was about to use his Power Cosmic to cure Bruce Banner, but the Hulk attacked him before he could do so. The Surfer essentially said, “Well, forget you, then” and left.
The Surfer gave it another try in “Incredible Hulk” #250 (by Bill Mantlo and Sal Buscema), successfully curing Banner by siphoning off his gamma radiation. He then asked Banner to provide him with an infusion of gamma radiation, so that he would have enough power to break the barrier Galactus had placed around Earth to prevent the Surfer from leaving the planet’s atmosphere. Banner agreed to do so, but the gamma infusion drove the Surfer mad. Banner had to siphon the energy from the Surfer to himself, becoming the Hulk once again.
The two battled high in the sky aboard the Surfer’s surfboard. The Surfer re-siphoned the energy and finally broke free of the barrier, leaving the now cured Banner to plummet to his death. Surfer swooped down and rescued the almost lifeless Banner by once again re-infusing him with the gamma radiation. The Surfer then explained that he wouldn’t bother curing Banner again, because Banner had come to terms with his life as the Hulk. Huh?! The issue ends with a distraught Banner bemoaning the fact that he had a taste of being cured, only to have it pulled away from him.
5. 9. “He Has a Real Presence”
In “Incredible Hulk” #258 (by Mantlo and Buscema), the Hulk ended up in the Soviet Union in an attempt to find a place where puny humans would leave him alone. While there, he accidentally ran into the Soviet Super-Soldiers, including a new member, Ursa Major, who had a similar situation to Bruce Banner, in that he transformed into a giant, uncontrollable bear. The team’s mission was to take down the super powerful being known as the Presence, who the Hulk had run into during his time with the Defenders. The Super-Soldiers and the Hulk started to fight, and Ursa Major, in particular, brawled heavily with the jade giant. The Presence interrupted, using his great powers to remove their abilities to turn into a bear and the Hulk, respectively. This particular cure did not last long, as the Presence simply changed his mind and gave them their abilities back the next issue.
4. 10. “The Banner as Hulk Saga”
In “Incredible Hulk” #272 (by Mantlo and Buscema), after an adventure in outer space, Banner was exposed twice to significant doses of gamma radiation, allowing him to control the change into the Hulk while maintaining his intellect while in Hulk form. Though Banner could have chosen never to become the Hulk again (as he vowed when he was in a similar situation at the end of his original series), he instead decided to use the Hulk’s power as a force for good. Tragically, the Hulk slowly grew more and more savage, and Banner had less and less control until finally, in “Incredible Hulk” #299 (by Mantlo, Buscema and Gerry Talaoc), Banner’s personality was completely consumed by the Hulk’s, and the Hulk became a savage, mindless beast.
3. 11. “Banner and Hulk Split”
In “Incredible Hulk” #315, writer/artist John Byrne (along with inker Keith Williams) had Doc Samson successfully separate Bruce Banner from the Hulk. The now mindless Hulk soon escaped and went on a rampage. Samson naturally blamed himself for the Hulk’s rampage and soon formed a Hulkbusters team with Banner. During their hunt for the Hulk, Banner proposed to Betty Ross; she accepted and they were married.
However, as it happens, the separation did not go as smoothly as it initially seemed. Banner’s molecules were misaligned, as were the savage Hulk’s, who was at the time beating up the combined might of both branches of the Avengers. In “Incredible Hulk” #323 (by writer/artist Al Milgrom and inkers Dell Barras & Danny Bulanadi), the Hulk and Banner were re-merged. The resultant Hulk soon reverted to his original gray appearance from the very first issue of “Incredible Hulk” back in 1962.
2. 12. “The Red Hulk Steps In”
After writer Peter David’s long stint with the Hulk having Bruce Banner’s personality ended, the Hulk reverted to his best-known the status quo for nearly a decade. Things changed when the Illuminati (a group of superheroes who regularly met to share information and use their might to affect change) decided to send the Hulk into outer space as a precautionary measure. Sadly, the superhero Civil War then broke out and the heroes were too busy to notice that Hulk’s rocket suffered a collision and was sent off course to a dangerous planet instead. The Hulk slowly conquered that world and found some measure of peace — peace torn from him when the rocket he was sent in exploded, killing his queen.
Not realizing it was caused by one of his new enemies, Hulk returned to Earth for his revenge and, in a rage, nearly destroyed the whole planet. Luckily, Earth’s heroes managed to knock Hulk out in “World War Hulk” #5 (by Greg Pak, John Romita Jr. and Klaus Janson), and he went back to being Banner. Banner remained in S.H.I.E.L.D. custody until the new Red Hulk (who turned out to be Thunderbolt Ross) showed up to break him out in “Incredible Hulk” #600 (by Jeph Loeb, Ed McGuinness and Mark Farmer), using his unique power-siphoning abilities to take all of the gamma radiation from Banner, leaving him unable to turn into the Hulk again.
Banner remained Hulk-free for nearly a year until, in “World War Hulks,” the villain group known as the Intelligencia used a great deal of gamma radiation to transform a bunch of superheroes into Hulks. Banner gathered all of the energy and absorbed it himself, becoming the Hulk once more.
1. 13. “Banner and Hulk Split, Part Two”
In 2012’s “Incredible Hulk” #1 (by Jason Aaron, Marc Silvestri, Michael Broussard, Joe Weems, Rick Basaldua and Sal Regla), the Hulk is recruited to face off against a mad scientist — none other than Bruce Banner!
As revealed in “Incredible Hulk” #5 (by Aaron, While Portacio, Allen Martin, Rick Ketchum and Scott Hanna), the Hulk had made a deal with Doctor Doom to separate the Hulk and Banner’s minds, placing Banner’s in a cloned body. The deal was that Doom would get the use of Banner as his science slave, but Hulk betrayed him and took Banner away and imprisoned him. Banner escaped, but it turned out that the separation process had unhinged him (perhaps making it a stretch to call this a “cure”). The Hulk and Banner fought against each other, until a gamma bomb seemingly killed Banner. In reality, the explosion had re-merged the two, with Banner now trying to actively mess with the Hulk by putting him into terrible positions while in control of their shared body. Ultimately, they hashed out their issues with each other and agreed to work together once again, entering into some measure of balance. For a time, at least.
What’s your favorite Hulk cure? Will this time stick?
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