Comicdom is filled with plenty of iconic costumes, but you might be hard pressed to think of too many heroes that managed to become iconic in simple street clothing. And yet, that is just what the Incredible Hulk managed to do: clad in just a simple pair of torn-up purple pants, the Hulk was cemented as one of the most fearsome heroes in the Marvel Universe. Throughout the years, the Hulk has undergone plenty of changes, having experienced skin color shifts and haircuts, but there has always been one constant for the Green Goliath: those iconic purple trousers.
As one of the most famous pair of pants in comic history, you better believe those busted-up britches have gone through plenty of experiences over the years. What’s more, as one of the most preeminent pair of pants in comicdom, these purple slacks have given rise to their fair share of questions: Why don’t they rip when Bruce Banner transforms? Why are they always purple? CBR brings you answers to these questions, along with plenty of trivia and oddball factoids about everyone’s favorite tattered pantaloons in a list we like to call 15 weird (and gross) secrets about the Hulk’s pants!
15. THESE ARE SOME FANTASTIC PANTS
The Hulk is a big man, and he requires some big pants. Problem is, when your whole shtick is going from a meek 180-pound man to a towering mountain of muscle, it can be hard to find pants that always work. After all, you could shell out for a nice pair of slacks that fit Bruce Banner, but as soon as The Hulk comes out to play, those pants are toast. Thankfully, Reed Richards was able to devise a pretty low-tech solution for the Jade Giant. At least, that’s what Stan Lee thinks happened.
While Marvel has never offered a canon answer to Hulk’s pants conundrum, the legendary Lee stated in an interview, “I just figured that Bruce Banner had probably been a friend of Reed Richards, and Reed had given him some elastic trousers.” That’s right, true believers: Hulk is rocking superheroic sweat pants.
14. ON WHOSE AUTHORITY?
These days, it’s not unusual for a comic to contain salty language, extreme violence, and more than its fair share of nudity. But back in the day, the Comics Code Authority ruled the comic industry with an iron fist, and it ensured that nothing “objectionable” made its way into comic books. While Marvel would ditch the Comics Code Authority in 2001, it was thanks to the CCA that we got Hulk’s iconic purple pants.
On the color spectrum, green and purple sit on opposite sides, leading to a pleasant contrast between the two colors. As the CCA was vehemently anti-nudity, and would often come down hard on comic publishers that event hinted at nudity, Marvel opted to make Hulk’s pants purple, which not only looked good on the character, but allowed the comic company to prove to the CCA that the Hulk was always clothed, ensuring controversy was avoided.
13. THE BATTLE FOR PANTS
We’ve all had that nightmare before: you’re out in public, minding your own business, when you look down in horror and realize that you’re naked! To most people, this would be embarrassing, but for Ultimate Hulk, it’s no big deal. In fact, one of Ultimate Hulk’s most memorable battles erupted over his refusal to put on pants.
In Ultimate Hulk Annual #1, Ultimate Hulk encounters Power Princess in a diner in the middle of nowhere. Ultimate Hulk wants to purchase pancakes, but the staff refuses to serve the nude hero. Ultimate Hulk becomes irate, and Power Princess is forced to step up to protect the staff. As thunderous blows are traded by the two super powerful heroes, Power Princess insists Hulk clothe himself, but Hulk refuses. Ultimately, Power Princess wins the battle, takes Hulk shopping for a pair of pants, and then takes the brutish bruiser to a skeezy motel for a night of fun. Yeah, this was a weird issue.
12. WHO GETS THE PANTS?
Alright, here’s a real brain teaser for you: if the Hulk were to be separated from Bruce Banner, who would get to keep the pants? Would Hulk spring forth in the buff? Would puny Banner lose his puny pants? Thankfully, a Marvel animated film was able to provide an answer to this oddball question.
In the 2009 straight-to-DVD animated film Hulk Versus, the Green Goliath squares off with both Thor and Wolverine. In Thor’s half of the story, Banner finds himself targeted by the mischievous Loki, who hopes to use the monstrous Hulk against his brother Thor. With the help of the insidious Enchantress, Loki manages to separate the Hulk from Banner. When all is said and done, both the Hulk and Banner emerge from the magical split in identical pants.
11. DYED IN THE WOOL
While we’re on the subject of weird questions, here’s one that has bugged comic fans for ages: How does the Hulk always end up in purple pants? After all, Bruce Banner doesn’t always wear purple pants; the man likes to switch things up every now and again, and has been known to sport everything from brown slacks to blue jeans. Well, one very dedicated fan earned himself a nod from Marvel for devising the answer to this burning question.
In a letter to Marvel, one super fan outlined his theory about Hulk’s pants. The fan stated that he believed when Bruce hulked out, Banner’s body emitted high levels of gamma radiation. This gamma radiation would be so strong that it would dye fabric it came into contact with, thus turning Banner’s pants purple. Marvel agreed with the fan, and awarded the letter writer the coveted Marvel No-Prize for their dedication to this weird question.
10. PANTS MAGIC PANTS
Listen, we all hold beliefs that might not always make logical sense. There are people that believe in ghosts, there are people that believe celebrities are actually lizard-people, and there are people who believe Pepsi is better than Coke. We get it; when it comes to beliefs, sometimes logic just doesn’t enter the picture. Enter Deadpool, and his unwavering belief in Hulk’s magical pants.
In Deadpool #66, our motor-mouthed hero is hired to procure the horn of the Spider-Man villain Rhino, as the buyer hopes to grind up the horn and use it to improve his, er, “performance.” During the ensuing battle with the rampaging Rhino, Deadpool makes his way to a gym filled with superhero memorabilia. Hoping to use the trinkets to get the upper hand in the fight, Deadpool dons an old pair of the Hulk’s pants and attempts to “activate” the pants by yelling various magical words. Spoiler: It doesn’t work. But never stop believing, Deadpool.
9. SHE-HULK VS THE COMICS CODE AUTHORITY
Remember earlier when we discussed how Marvel made Hulk’s pants purple to pop against his green skin, ensuring the comic company could prove to the Comics Code Authority that Hulk definitely wasn’t nakers? Good times. Turns out, Hulk wasn’t the only character the CCA was worried about baring too much skin; in fact, Bruce Banner’s cousin had the same problem, and openly mocked the situation in her own comic book.
Jennifer Walters, aka She-Hulk, was breaking the fourth wall way before Deadpool made it cool. In a particularly memorable issue of The Sensational She-Hulk, She-Hulk finds herself down to her skivvies after a tough fight. Noticing that her underwear remains intact despite her costume getting shredded, a character asks She-Hulk what her underwear is made of, to which the sassy hero flippantly responds “the Comics Code Authority.” Hulk might be the strongest there is, but She-Hulk is definitely the most savage there is.
8. IS THAT A SUB-ATOMIC KINGDOM IN YOUR PANTS?
Love can bloom from the most peculiar of places. Maybe your hands brush in the checkout line at the grocery store. Maybe you reach for the same comic at the comic store. Or maybe you get shrunken to sub-atomic levels and meet the princess of a world that resides within the atoms in your pants. You know, that old story.
All the way back in Incredible Hulk #140, the villainous Psyklop uses a shrink ray on the Hulk, shrinking the Jade Giant to sub-atomic levels. The Hulk then embarks upon an adventure in the microverse, eventually meeting the princess Jarella, who rules the kingdom of K’ai, which exists on a speck of dust on the Hulk’s famous purple pants. The pair fall in love, but Psyklop brings the Hulk back to Earth, leaving the hero heartbroken that he can never return to the kingdom on his pants.
7. ‘NUFF SAID
Remember earlier when we were discussing Stan Lee’s theory on how the Hulk manages to retain his pants when transforming? Well, as the creator of the Hulk, Lee would be the final answer when it comes to the character. And while Lee’s theory on Hulk’s elastic pants could be treated as canon, having come from the mouth of the guy who created the characters and all, Stan The Man has also admitted that he isn’t one hundred percent certain how the Hulk’s pants work.
Lee has said in interviews that he also strove to incorporate believable science into the creation of his characters, and it is this practice that Lee credits to the success of the characters. But the affable comic creator conceded that science didn’t really enter into the picture when it came to Hulk’s pants. While Lee has offered his theory on how Hulk’s pants work, Stan The Man seems perfectly content never giving an official answer and simply allowing fan debate to continue.
6. ARNIM ZOLA’S PANTS POSSE
The Avengers have tussled with plenty of weird foes through their storied career. Glorified walking television set/all-around evil Nazi Arnim Zola definitely ranks high on the list of strangest Avengers baddies. Leave it to Zola to subject the Avengers to one of the worst villain plots in all of comic history, and leave it to Zola to base said awful plan around Hulk’s pants.
All the way back in 1984’s Avengers Annual #13, Zola managed to grow a team of “Psuedo-Hulks” from the Hulk’s cells. Not content to let the Psuedo-Hulks run wild, Zola devises a head scratching solution to controlling the creatures: living pants. Resembling the Hulk’s famous purple garments, the living pants allowed Zola to keep tabs on the creatures. Oh, and the living pants could morph and project Zola’s face. Yeah, sentient Hulk pants definitely weren’t Zola’s best scheme.
5. IN THE BUFF
While debate has raged over the years about the physics behind the Hulk’s pants, the non-fun answer is pretty simple: the Hulk’s pants stay on because Marvel doesn’t want the Hulk to be constantly naked. But over in the dearly departed Ultimate Universe, Marvel was a little more flexible with its characters, leading to a Hulk that spent most of his time in the buff.
Yes, the Ultimate Hulk didn’t have the fortune to always have those handy purple pants; in fact, when Banner would turn into the Hulk in the Ultimate Universe, the monster was regularly shown to be totally naked, having shredded his clothes in the transformation. But when the Hulk did want to slip into something a little more comfortable, this unhinged monster wasn’t above killing a larger man and taking his pants. A naked Hulk that killed plus-sized people to take their pants? We’re beginning to understand why Marvel got rid of the Ultimate Universe.
4. THINKING AHEAD
We’ve all been there: you heard that it was going to rain, but you forgot to grab your umbrella, leading to you getting caught in the downpour. Bruce Banner has been in a situation just like that, but sub out “umbrella” for “specially designed elastic pants” and “rain” for “turning into a musclebound monster.” So what’s a guy to do when he knows a Hulk-out is coming and he doesn’t have his fantasti-pants? Easy: just buy some bigger ones.
As shown in both the comics and in the 2008 film The Incredible Hulk, Banner has fallen into the habit of buying stretchy pants several sizes larger than the size he wears to ensure he is prepared for the Hulk. Sure, Banner probably looks ridiculous in these baggy clothes, but we should just be happy that he hasn’t taken to buying muumuus for his changes. Not that he wouldn’t look smashing in them.
3. S.H.I.E.L.D. YOUR EYES
So, as one of the strongest creatures on the planet, Hulk doesn’t seem like the kind of guy who would need armor. But the same can’t be said for Bruce Banner. After all, Banner is 150 pounds of meager man, and he definitely couldn’t survive the kind of punishment Hulk shrugs off. So S.H.I.E.L.D. devises a set of armor to keep both Banner and Hulk happy.
In Indestructible Hulk #1, Banner signed up with S.H.I.E.L.D., vowing to better the world through science while allowing Hulk out whenever his services were needed by the covert agency. To ensure their new agent is protected in the field, S.H.I.E.L.D. gives Banner a set of power armor. The armor features shields that will protect the all-too-human Banner, and would expand to accommodate the massive Hulk. Banner has since ditched the armor, but let us never forget the time Hulk rocked government-sanctioned pants.
2. HULK IS BIGGEST BABY THERE IS
How’s that old joke go? Where does a 500 pound gorilla sit? Answer: wherever he wants. Well, the same kind of logic applies to the Hulk. As one of the strongest mortals in the Marvel Universe, the Hulk could get away with wearing just about anything. Well, make that just about anything. Even the Hulk would have a hard time looking intimidating in a giant diaper. Or would he?
In the Jim Krueger-penned alternate reality epic Earth X, the Marvel Universe is quite different from the MU fans know and love. A big change found the Hulk’s gamma radiation causing the creature to continue to mutate, eventually splitting Bruce Banner and the Hulk into two distinct creatures: Banner became a blind 10 year old, and the Hulk became a brutish, simian-esque creature. Working in tandem, the pair would fight to survive in this war-torn alternate future. It just so happened Hulk would do all of his fighting in a diaper.
1. THE HARDEST WORKING BOXERS IN THE MARVEL UNIVERSE
Leave it to comic book fans to seek answers for the most ridiculous of questions. Case in point: it has long been a topic of hot debate to determine just how the Hulk avoids accidentally having, er, “Little Hulk” pop out in battle. After all, if the big guy is shredding clothes in his transformation, what’s stopping his underoos from doing the same? Well, leave it to comics to devise an answer to this ridiculous question.
In one particularly intense fight, the Hulk found himself with a pair of thoroughly destroyed pants. When the battered pants finally fell off of the Hulk, it revealed that the Hulk was rocking a stylish pair of indestructible orange-and-yellow boxers, totally devoid of damage. We’re thankful he does, because we might never recover if we were to witness a Hulk-sized wardrobe malfunction.
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