Professor Hulk: Who is He and Why Do Fans Think He's in Avengers: Endgame?

A brand-new promotional photo recently revealed the main heroes from Avengers: Endgame. As the photo shows, the original Avengers team is still intact following Thanos' snap, and are ready to take the fight back to the Mad Titan.

However, take a close look at the photo and something seems off. Iron Man is there, for example, despite being lost in space when the movie presumably starts. Hawkeye also has his quiver, despite that at some point, according to the first trailer, he has been operating as Ronin.

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However, perhaps the most intriguing element of the reveal is the new look for "the strongest Avenger," The Hulk. He looks nothing like he does in any movie heretofore, including Thor: Ragnarok, where he actually started talking -- albeit like a petulant child.

Admittedly, his appearance in that film, and during his brief beat-down in Infinity War, showed something of an evolution of his form and face, leaning slightly more Banner than previously. This, however, could have been more thanks to the evolution of cinematic technology than a purposeful change on the part of the writers and directors. This image, however, seems to point to a much more important paradigm shift for the character, and could point to a version we've thus far only seen in the comics: the Professor Hulk.

Created during Peter David and Dale Keown's run, the so-called Professor Hulk first appeared in Incredible Hulk #377, a book that started with an interesting premise. Dr. Leonard Samson was holding a meeting in the mind of Bruce Banner, which also hosted the original "savage" Hulk and Joe Fixit, the more brutish but slightly more intelligent grey version.

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The book deals with the childhood trauma that Banner dealt with from an abusive father. When Samson helped Banner defeat the demons within and battle back against the fear of his father, the two Hulk's merged into one and the new version was Professor Hulk -- the monster with the mind of Banner.

Also known as the Merged Hulk, this version wasn't so much a combination of the three individual personalities as it was a distinct fourth personality for Banner -- one that he considered the ideal state of mind. He had Banner's intelligence, the cunning and arrogance of Mr. Fixit and the strength and power of The Incredible Hulk -- a heady gamma cocktail, indeed.

Head over to Avengers: Infinity War. Following the events of Thor: Ragnarok, Hulk had developed the ability to speak and exist in a relative state of calm. Bruce Banner also admitted that he was trapped inside Hulk for two years and was afraid to go away again, lost within the consciousness of what he considered a beast.

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That made Hulk's refusal to come out and fight when Earth needed him curious. Banner had to use a Hulk Buster Iron Man suit in the fight and Hulk actually said "NO!" when Banner tried to summon him. Could Hulk be tiring of being used only when it comes time to fight? That is the prevailing theory. More importantly going forward, though, is the question of whether Hulk and Banner would be willing to finally merge in the MCU in order to end both of their suffering.

When the photos hit of Hulk in his sleek costume, slimmer frame and much more Banner-like appearance, it looked like he would be less the rage-fuelled monster and more his smarter, brainier self. Fans on Twitter quickly took notice.

There have been rumors that Hulk has a character arc that will be completed by the end of Avengers: Endgame. He started out as a rage-filled monster hunted by the government and military before becoming a hero in The Avengers. He then went wild in Avengers: Age of Ultron and fled Earth to protect it from himself, only to have Thor find him -- smarter and more content.

The Russo brothers touched on this in an interview on the Happy Sad Confused podcast (via Cinema Blend). Joe Russo said Hulk is tired of being used as muscle:

"I think that it's really reflective of the journey from Ragnarok. These two characters are constantly in conflict with each other over control, and I think that if the Hulk were to say why, it'd be [that] Banner only wants Hulk for fighting. I think he's had enough of saving Banner's ass."

Could Avengers: Endgame finally wrap up the story and give Bruce Banner and The Hulk the inner peace that both man and monster deserve? Banner did say that the two needed to work things out, and at least aesthetically, it certainly seems that they have found that middle ground. As always, and especially with this movie, time will tell.

Directed by Joe and Anthony Russo, Avengers: Endgame stars Robert Downey Jr., Josh Brolin, Mark Ruffalo, Tom Hiddleston, Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Jeremy Renner, Chris Pratt, Elizabeth Olsen, Chadwick Boseman, Sebastian Stan, Benedict Cumberbatch, Paul Bettany, Samuel L. Jackson, Cobie Smulders, Benedict Wong, Zoe Saldana, Karen Gillan, Vin Diesel, Dave Bautista, Pom Klementieff, Scarlett Johansson, Tom Holland and Anthony Mackie. The film arrives on April 26.

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