Ranking the Hulks

Wednesday, July 6, 2016 - 07:00

Hulk Smash!

As we're airing both Hulk (2003) and The Incredible Hulk (2008) on July 9 starting at 6:30/5:30c, we thought we'd rank some of the most memorable incarnations of the Angry Man from throughout the years, appearing in comics, animation, television and, of course, the big screen. Hulk is strongest there is!

10. Old Hulk (Wolverine: Old Man Logan, 2008-09)

This eight-issue miniseries written by Mark Millar and drawn by Steve McNiven imagines a nightmarish alternate universe in which the bad guys have won, divvying up what used to be the United States amongst them. One of those bad guys is a now completely cuckoo Bruce Banner, who runs what used to be California with his incestuous hillbilly family (courtesy of copulating with his first cousin, She-Hulk). At one point, Old Hulk actually eats Wolverine, and … well, it's gross. Everything about this is gross.

9. Red Hulk (first appearing in Hulk Vol. 2 #1, 2008)

Otherwise known as Rulk or The IncREDible Hulk, Red Hulk was created to be a brutally powerful yet intelligent adversary to the Hulk. In his very first story arc, Red Hulk murders both the Wendigo and Abomination, smashes a Helicarrier, beats the crap out of several Marvel superheroes and causes an earthquake in San Francisco before finally being defeated by both Hulk and Thor. Who is this guy? The identity of Red Hulk was later revealed to be longtime Hulk foe General Thaddeus 'Thunderbolt' Ross, with his daughter Betty even becoming Red She-Hulk. Eh.

8. Grey Hulk/Joe Fixit (first appearing in The Incredible Hulk Vol. 1 #324, 1986)

Did you know the Hulk was meant to be grey from the start? Colorist Stan Goldberg had problems with the grey coloring, resulting in different shades of grey and green in the character's very first appearance, The Incredible Hulk #1 (May 1962). Later, Grey Hulk was reimagined as a 'smarter' version of the Hulk, often going by the alias Joe Fixit, a manipulative and none too nice Las Vegas enforcer.

7. The Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction (Radical Entertainment/Vivendi Games, 2005)

Without a doubt one of the most cathartic video games of all time, Hulk: Ultimate Destruction pretty much has only one playing strategy: SMASH!! Really, you could spend hours laying waste to the endless parade of tanks, trucks, helicopters, buildings and even the occasional supervillain that just keep coming at you, puny as they are. It's cheaper than going to a bar after a bad day at work, just sayin'.  

6. She-Hulk (first appearing in Savage She-Hulk #1, 1980)

She's the Hulk's cousin! And she's awesome. Y'see, Jennifer Walters once needed an emergency blood transfusion, which was provided by Bruce Banner, and … well, you can probably guess what happened after that. Unlike her cousin, she retains her intelligence and emotional control when she transforms (which became permanent in later issues); she also retains her law practice, serving as legal counsel to various superheroes over the years.

5. The Incredible Hulk (played by Edward Norton, 2008)

While The Incredible Hulk wasn't quite the character-defining reboot that Marvel Studios was hoping for, there's still a lot to like in this second chapter of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (following the original Iron Man), not the least of which is Edward Norton's rather excellent performance as Bruce Banner. Norton underplays wonderfully, bringing sensitivity and humanity to a story that often goes way over the top (Tim Roth's monstrous Abomination is just kind of silly).

4. Planet Hulk (voiced by Rick D. Wasserman, 2010)

Arguably the best animated Marvel film to date, Planet Hulk adapts the Marvel Comics storyline by Greg Pak (as told in The Incredible Hulk #92-105 and Giant Sized Hulk #1, April 2006-2007) in which the Hulk is deemed too dangerous to stay and Earth and is sent into outer space to live out the rest of his days. He ends up on the distant planet Sakaar, where he's taken into slavery and forced to fight as a gladiator for the amusement of the Red King; later, he joins a group of insurgents and is eventually crowned the new King. Hulk Smash puny aliens!

3. Hulk (played by Eric Bana and Ang Lee, 2003)

We're big fans of Ang Lee's Hulk, in which the Oscar-winning filmmaker got to explore his favorite themes — dysfunctional families, psychological damage — in the context of HULK SMASH! Some complained that there wan't enough SMASH, but when it arrives (and boy, does it), it's immensely satisfying. Eric Bana is fine as Bruce Banner, but we especially enjoy the mo-cap work done on the big green giant … performed by Lee himself.

2. The Incredible Hulk (played by Lou Ferrigno, first appearing in the pilot movie, November 1977)

While we dig the mo-cap work of later screen incarnations, you can't quite beat a bodybuilder covered in green paint. Lou Ferrigno definitely had the physicality to pull off the character, but it was his incredibly expressive face that gave the TV hulk a whole range of emotions: rage, sadness, compassion, confusion … and, more often than not, a sly sense of humor. Look for Ferrigno's cameos in both Ang Lee's Hulk (2003) and The Incredible Hulk (2008).

1. Marvel's The Avengers (played by Mark Ruffalo, 2012)

Mark's just the best, bringing charm and nerd-sexy to the role of Bruce Banner and striking intensity to "the other guy." And he seems to be the big-screen Hulk that Marvel is sticking with, having reprised the role in Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015) and set to return in both Thor: Ragnarok (2017) and the two-part Avengers: Infinity War (2018-19).