Bruce Banner breathed science, perhaps too much; his father Brian Banner worked for the government with radioactive materials and hated his son because he thought that his work had turned him into a mutant. He was wrong – Bruce Banner is born totally normal and healthy, and even though he receives love from his mother, the hatred emanating from his father will mark him for his whole life.
However, as if it were a self-fulfilling prophecy, Bruce himself becomes a monster thanks to the radiation. As a brilliant scientist (he was in classes with Tony Stark at university) and living in the age of the cold war, Dr. Banner cannot work on anything but military weapons, specifically on the production of a gamma ray bomb. During one of the tests, a civilian called Rick Jones accidentally gets into the firing range and Bruce heroically comes to the rescue, but his colleague Igor Starsky, who is secretly a Soviet spy, doesn’t stop the experiment and Bruce is bombarded with millions of gamma rays. Even though miraculously this doesn’t affect his appearance, at the cellular level it leaves him with the curse of the colour green: every time he gets angry, he becomes Hulk – an incontrollable beast with the power to devastate a whole city like New York with his punches.
And so, a magnificent intellect and a weapon of mass destruction coexist in the same body, and only the toss of a coin can decide who you’re going to meet. Sometimes, Hulk is the final hope to kill off enemies like Thanos or one of the many invading armies that have laid their eyes on Earth. But at other times, when Bruce loses control, Hulk is a huge threat to humanity. So much so, that the most powerful group of superheroes in the universe, the Illuminati, decide to exile him from Earth.
Sometimes, Hulk gets tired of being alone as a result of being put down and expelled, and so he turns New York into a circus and the other superheroes into his gladiators. In any case, Hulk is one of the oldest superheroes in the Marvel universe and represents the archetype of the fragility of power: he is capable of anything, both physically and intellectually, but he carries his worst enemy with him.
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It’s not easy to be the latest incarnation of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Bruce is compassionate, extremely intelligent and very aware of the risk endured by those around him. In fact, everything he does and says has a tragic hue, given that he knows that all his scientific contributions and all his efforts to save humanity will be forgotten and won’t have achieved anything when the time comes, as he knows it will, that he loses control.
At the end of the day, he doesn’t want the epitaph of one of the greatest minds of his generation to read only the well-known phrase “Hulk crushes”, but he knows that he will be remembered more for what he does when he’s green than for what he achieves in the laboratory.
Friends and Enemies
The life of a genius can become very lonely, and even more so when this genius has the habit of turning into a green giant capable of using helicopters as baseball bats. Even so, Bruce Banner has great friends like Tony Stark and Reed Richards, who are not only understanding – sometimes – of his situation but have also sought out ways of making up for or reducing the impact of his transformations. However, Hulk continues to be a time bomb, and both Tony and Mr. Fantastic are part of the Illuminati and agree with the decision to exile him from the planet.
These ups and downs, together with Hulk’s spectacular nature in comics and on cinema and TV screens, have led to Hulk on the one hand being part of The Avengers and taking on villains like Dormammu, Dr. Death and Loki, and on the other hand fighting against many of the superheroes of the Marvel Universe whether because he was angry with them, or because they wanted to control him, albeit without much success.
Marvel Cinematic Universe
Hulk’s situation in the Marvel Cinematic Universe is rather tricky. This is because the green giant’s rights are not the sole property of Marvel and Disney, but rather Universal holds the rights for his “solo” films. This means that, following the lukewarm reception of The Incredible Hulk, where Bruce is played by Edward Norton, we’ve only seen the Hulk of Mark Ruffalo in the Avengers 1 and 2, and now in Thor Ragnarok!
Despite having less screen time than other characters, Mark Ruffalo has managed to become one of the fans’ favourite characters thanks to his complex interpretation, some of the best lines in the script, like “I am always angry”, and his spectacular destructive force. His relationship with Natasha Romanoff (Scarlet Johansson) humanised the green giant. However, the most spectacular thing is to see him fighting whether it be with Loki and his Chitauri army, with Iron Man in his Hulkbuster armour, or, this November, against Thor in Ragnarok. This film will adapt parts of the comic Planet Hulk, and while seeing Hulk turned into a gladiator may not be the greatest wish of Bruce Banner, for sure it is in the Top 3 of any true Marvel fan.
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The gamma ray exposure didn’t leave any visible effects on the scientist Bruce Banner, however his life could not have changed more. The radiation caused changes in his DNA which are activated when he gets angry.
His size, strength and resistance increase to almost invincible levels and his skin takes on its characteristic green tone. On the flip side, when Bruce transforms, he becomes an incontrollable beast with a reduced intellect and as such he struggles to distinguish between friends and enemies. All this turns him into the strongest man in the world, but also the most unstable and unpredictable one.
The story of Bruce Banner is in some ways rather tragic. Condemned to a life of loneliness by his fear of harming those he loves, he sometimes avoids all human contact, when in fact it is precisely his relationship with others that can help him control the beast inside.
Even so, he cannot renounce what he is entirely, with the good and the bad that this may bring. In the worst-case scenario, it could all abruptly end for him in one encounter with the defence forces of humanity, but in the best-case scenario he might be humanity’s only hope. They – whoever they may be, but there are always some – always have an army capable of conquering Earth, but we have Hulk.
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