Just as soon as the gamma bomb in “Incredible Hulk” #1 transformed Doctor Bruce Banner into the incredible Hulk, Stan Lee and Jack Kirby had presented the notion that, in the Marvel Universe at least, exposure to gamma radiation could, in fact, transform you from a normal person into a superhuman being. With that in mind, Lee and later writers continued to go back to the gamma radiation well to come up with new characters with different powers due to their exposure.
For this list, we’re going to stick to strictly characters who exhibited Hulk-like traits, so no Leader (gamma radiation made him super-intelligent) or Doc Samson (gamma radiation gave him super-strength permanently, but he retained a relatively normal human appearance, except for his hair turning green)
The first example of “Hulking out” another character was the Abomination, who was also a fascinating example in quickly backtracking a concept. You see, when he conceived the character, Stan Lee just thought two things. The first was, “Wow, ‘The Abomination’ is a cool name” and the second was “What if the Hulk fought someone bigger and stronger than him?” With those two ideas in mind, he told Gil Kane (who had only recently begun to work for Marvel at the time) to come up with something like that for “Tales of Suspense” #90 and Kane came up with the monstrous beast known as the Abomination, who was formerly a Russian spy.
We say this was backtracking because Lee quickly realized that it wouldn’t really work to have a villain who was stronger than Hulk since Hulk’s whole shtick was that he was “the strongest one there is,” so Abomination’s powers were quickly reduced so that he was roughly the same power level as the Hulk, although the Abomination maintained his intelligence, so he was crafty. Years later, Abomination almost killed Bruce Banner’s wife, Betty; when the Hulk found out, he captured him and then forced him to be tortured by home videos of the wife who had left the Abomination when she realized he was evil. Dark stuff.
It is interesting to look at Spider-Woman and She-Hulk, two examples of Marvel coming up with female heroes just to acquire the trademarks on the female derivations of their famous characters’ names, and see how quickly they were created. In both cases, the initial versions of the characters bear little resemblance to the more modern versions of the characters. In Spider-Woman’s case, she was originally a mutated spider! In She-Hulk’s case, she was just a female version of the Hulk; a mousy woman who turned into She-Hulk when she got angry. She would later permanently stay in her Hulk form.
Under Roger Stern’s pen, she gained a more outgoing personality. That was carried over to John Byrne’s classic run on “Sensational She-Hulk,” where she would now frequently break the fourth wall as part of meta-humor. Humor, of course, became a defining characteristic for She-Hulk, including her acclaimed Dan Slott-written series where her status as a lawyer played a bigger role. Currently, she is starring in “Hulk,” dealing with both the death of her cousin, Bruce Banner and the nearly fatal injuries she suffered during “Civil War II.”
13. RICK JONES HULK
The reason that Bruce Banner ran out on to the gamma bomb test site in the first place is because a reckless teenager named Rick Jones had been dared by his friends to go out on to the test site. Banner managed to get Jones to safety before the bomb went off. Jones felt so much guilt about what happened to Banner that he soon became the Hulk’s closest friend and ally. Over time, though, they parted ways and Rick became involved with Captain America, serving as his new sidekick for a time. Rick then became partners with the Kree Captain Marvel.
Years later, Rick would become the Hulk temporarily while Bruce Banner was seemingly totally human. That did not last long, but it got Rick back into the Hulk’s life and they became friends again. Recently, Rick re-gained his gamma powers, turning himself into a version of the Abomination, only referring to himself as A-Bomb. Most recently, the Hulk took away Rick’s gamma powers, so he’s back to being plain ol’ Rick again.
For a short period of time, Thomas Fireheart, who was secretly the Puma, owed a debt to Spider-Man. He tried to pay it off by purchasing the Daily Bugle and then insisting that the coverage become overly complimentary to Spider-Man, as Fireheart figured that one way to pay off his debt was to make Spider-Man beloved in New York City. It was working all right, but then Spider-Man had an experience with the Hulk that pretty much ruined his name once again. After fighting the Hulk in “Web of Spider-Man” #69, Spider-Man was zapped with a bio-electric transference blast.
Therefore, in “Web of Spider-Man” #70 (by Gerry Conway, David Michelinie, Alex Saviuk and Keith Williams), Spider-Man began to transform into a Hulk version of himself! Spider-Hulk ended up causing damage to Grand Central Terminal before Spider-Man found a way to reverse the effects of the machine and then destroy it so that no one would ever get turned into a Hulk again (though it wouldn’t be the last time that he would be turned into a Hulk).
11. HULK 2099
An interesting aspect of Marvel’s 2099 universe is that much of the stories in the series were centralized around certain locations, mostly Nueva York. With “Hulk 2099,” this was changed a bit. Created by Gerard Jones and Dwayne Turner, John Eisenhart was an executive for the biggest film studio in the country. He was following around a cult devoted to the Hulk called The Knights of Banner, even though they refused to sell their film rights to him; so , in retaliation, he called the cops on them. When the cops showed up and started attacking the defenseless knights, Eisenhart felt terrible and tried to save them. One of the Knights then tried to stop the cops by setting off a gamma bomb. The bomb instead bathed Eisenhart with radiation and he became a new version of the Hulk.
Eisenhart/Hulk would travel the country, ostensibly looking for stories for his film studio, but also searching for the Knight of Banner, who he felt responsible for getting arrested. His story began in “2099 Unlimited” and moved to his own solo series, “Hulk 2099,” but it all came to an end when Doom 2099 conquered the United States. Doom’s new S.H.I.E.L.D. agents had Hulk killed.
10. RED HULK
For years, General Thunderbolt Ross hunted down the Hulk. His obsession grew so severe that he even turned away from his own country when he was given a chance by MODOK to take the Hulk down. Eventually, his willingness to do whatever it took to stop the Hulk ended with him cutting a deal with another MODOK group, the Intelligencia, to be turned into a Hulk himself! As the Red Hulk, Ross maintained his intelligence, making him the first Hulk to ever have an expert military mind. As you might expect, he was thus able to cause a lot of trouble.
In addition, his powers were slightly different, in that he could drain the power of other beings, so he was able to fight beings he normally would not be able to handle, including the normal Hulk (he could sap away the gamma radiation powering the green Hulk). Eventually, Ross turned on the Intelligencia and went to jail. He was released to work alongside the Avengers, to use his powers for good. Ultimately, the green Hulk took his powers away… at least for now. However, there is another version of the Red Hulk in the pages of “U.S.Avengers.”
9. RED SHE-HULK
One of the reasons that Ross was willing to work with the Intelligencia in the first place is because the Leader promised him that they would be able to help Ross’ daughter, Betty, who had been in a coma for some time after nearly dying (she’d been poisoned by the Abomination). Betty had been mutated by gamma radiation in the past, turning into the monstrous Harpy, so the Leader was able to use that radiation to kick-start Betty’s recovery by transforming her into a Red She-Hulk.
As the Red She-Hulk, Betty’s wild side took over, as she was brainwashed by the Intelligencia to act differently than she had in the past, which made it difficult at first for people to guess who she really was in her human form (both the Red Hulk and the Red She-Hulk were originally mysteries). Eventually, Betty regained control of her Red She-Hulk side and became a superhero, serving with the Defenders for a time using a special sword from “Fear Itself.” Ultimately, though, she too lost her powers to the Hulk when he decided to cut down on the amount of Hulks.
After they grew tired of him causing rampages all over the place, the Illuminati tricked Hulk into a space ship and sent it off to a peaceful planet where he could live out the rest of his life. However, the ship was knocked off course and they were all too busy in the “Civil War” event to notice. Hulk landed on a gladiator planet instead, taking over the planet and getting married. His wife, however, was murdered and the planet destroyed.
As it turned out, however, his wife gave birth to two sons. One of these was Skaar, who had both his mother’s “Old Power” and his father’s Hulk abilities. Skaar went to Earth to get revenge on his father, who he blamed for the death of his mother. When he got to Earth, though, Hulk was stuck in his Banner form and Skaar had no beef with Banner. The two became traveling companions for a time, while Skaar waited for Hulk to return so he could kill him. By the time that actually happened, he realized that the Hulk was a hero and decided not to kill him. He was a regular ally for a time until he was one of the many Hulks who were de-powered by the original.
7. SAVAGE SHE-HULK
The daughter of Thundra and Hulk from an alternate future, Lyra came to our timeline to find the greatest hero on Earth to mate with so that her Femizon race could continue to propagate. Instead, she ended up stranded in our time. She became friends with Jennifer Walters, who sort of took her in as a surrogate daughter. Lyra’s hook is that she is only super strong when she is calm. The angrier she gets, the weaker she gets.
She traveled the world for a time with her father, as well as Red She-Hulk and Skaar, before briefly enrolling at Avengers Academy. When the Hulk began to cut down on Hulks, he tried to send her back to her timeline, but she ended up in the wrong dimension. She was rescued from that one, but she had actually already conquered it. Most recently, she has reunited with her mother, Thundra, on Weirdworld, which is an amalgamation of a number of different realities.
When the Intelligencia’s plans were finally coming to fruition, the Red Hulk enlisted the help of Deadpool as a back-up plan against the group. However, the Red Hulk was not prepared for a side plan that the Intelligencia had. They fired a special radiation ray that transformed people into Hulks, like Deadpoool for example. As Hulkpool, Wade decided to travel back in time. He then ended up in an early adventure of the Fantastic Four where the Thing was undercover as a pirate.
Hulkpool and Pirate Thing teamed up and traveled through history, stopping Hitler and other bad guys, but at the same time, they fixed every superhero’s origin, so Spider-Man was never bitten by a spider, the Fantastic Four never crashed a shuttle, etc. So in the end, Hulkpool caused a new timeline where there were no superheroes in the world! Hulkpool even went to a timeline where he killed his earliest self, because he realized that his earlier self was bad because he killed (Hulkpool does not get irony).
The main effects of the Intelligencia’s plans were felt on the Avengers, who had shown up in Washington D.C. along with the other heroes to stop the Intelligencia and the Red Hulk. The Avengers received a pair of miniseries that dealt with the side effects of them being turned into Hulks. Being transformed into Hulks changed their thought processes a lot, and they were greatly motivated by past traumas.
Therefore, in “World War Hulks: Spider-Man vs. Thor,” Spider-Hulk and Thor fought against each other thanks to different triggers. Spider-Man was reminded of his past when he was picked on by bullies that reminded him of Thor; Thor, meanwhile, thought back and realized how much Spider-Hulk reminded him of Loki. Meanwhile, over in “World War Hulks: Captain America vs. Wolverine,” the whole “Captain America killed Wolverine’s wife back when he was still the Winter Soldier” thing played out in a battle between the two (this was during the time that Bucky was Captain America).
The X-Men also showed up for “World War Hulks,” and when it came to re-living past traumas, Hulkclops and Ice-Hulk recalled their times when they were students together at Xavier’s and how much they fought. During those formative years, Cyclops always wanted Iceman to be more serious, while Iceman felt super isolated and alone as the youngest member of the team. He was also dealing with the realization that his parents really didn’t want him around anymore.
In the end, Cyclops related to Iceman due to the fact that he was an orphan and they made up. Those old memories surfaced in the Hulk versions of the pair and they agreed to work together against the Red Hulk. In the end, though, the Red Hulk was able to use the X-Men’s powers against each other and ultimately used Hulclops’ power blasts to take down the Helicarrier as part of his assault on the Intelligencia.
3. FANTASTIC FOUR
Another aspect of the Intelligencia’s plan was to collect the smartest beings in the world and suck away their brain power. Of course Reed Richards was one of those people who were captured, along with Beast, Hank Pym, Doctor Doom and Black Panther (Bruce Banner and Amadeus Cho were also added to the group later on). Therefore, the other members of the Fantastic Four were in town to rescue Reed when the radiation hit them and transformed them into Hulks.
After “No-Thing” fought against a few of the mutated Avengers, he was driven by past memories of his squabbles with the “Hulking Torch” and the two had a gigantic brawl (as the caption says “When one too many pies to the face tore the world asunder”) before finally coming to terms with each other, just like Hulkclops and Ice-Hulk did in their story. They turned their attention back on the Red Hulk, but soon the Hulks had saved the day and everyone turned back to normal and Reed returned to his family.
During “Avengers vs. X-Men,” a team of Avengers were sent to the Jean Grey School to lock things down. They ran into Rogue and she ended up fighting She-Hulk. In the fight, she absorbed She-Hulk’s powers, but also her rage. She went off on the rest of the Avengers and kicked all of their butts very easily. She then turned to Ms. Marvel, who Rogue had a very complicated relationship with due to Rogue stealing her powers oh so many years ago (that was why it was also so weird for her to fight the Avengers again, as that was how she got her start).
Ultimately, Rogue saw that her own teammates were getting too evil, now that they were possessed by the Phoenix Force, so she changed sides. Her teammates, the Phoenix-possessed Magik, then punished her by sending her to another planet where Rogue had to claw her way back, Planet Hulk-style.
1. TOTALLY AWESOME HULK
One of the smartest people on the Earth, Amadeus Cho always had a bit of a soft spot for misunderstood monsters, so he became an ally of the Hulk and helped defend him even when he returned to Earth in “World War Hulk” to wreak havoc on the planet. When that storyline ended with the Hulk going back into custody, Cho ended up teaming with a friend of the Hulk, Hercules. The two became good friends and had many adventures together.
Most recently, Bruce Banner was in a situation where he accidentally absorbed a lethal dose of radiation. While other heroes debated how to deal with Banner’s situation (mostly “how do we contain him when he explodes?”), Cho leaped into action and absorbed the radiation into himself, thereby temporarily curing Banner of being the Hulk and also transforming Cho into the new Hulk, which he dubbed “The Totally Awesome Hulk.” Now teamed up with his similarly brilliant sister, Cho travels the world collecting other misunderstood monsters and protecting them, while also doing some good whenever he can as one of the founding members of The Champions.
Who is your favorite non-Bruce Banner Hulk? Let us know in the comments section!
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