After two team-ups/backdoor pilots, The Incredible Hulk finally made his (90’s) animated debut. Incredible Hulk ran from 1996-1997 and was notable for being one of the first couple of kid-friendly shows to air on UPN (alongside repeats of Fantastic Four), as part of its UPN Kids programing block.
So, the origin goes as such, Dr. Robert Bruce Banner was in the middle of testing a gamma Bomb, Bruce notices a teenager named Rick Jones. Hoping to reach him before the bomb goes off, Banner rushes to save Rick, but he was too late and Banner was infected with large amounts of gamma rays and transformed into the Hulk (the Iron Man team-up established that The Leader was affected by gamma bomb at the same time).
Season 1, starts off with The Hulk (played once again by Lou Ferrigno) already established and Bruce Banner (now played by Neal McDonough) going on the run from the army. As in the comics, Thunderbolt Ross is a 3-star general who sends Army forces and Hulkbusters to capture or destroy the Hulk. He also fights the Hulk personally, using a laser gun Bruce Banner created against the creature. S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Glenn Talbot was shown acting as the right hand man of General Ross. He is also shown to have a romantic interest in Betty Ross, but she constantly rejects him because he doesn’t do a good job of hiding his disdain for either Bruce Banner or the Hulk.
Every episode features traveling across the nation and beyond, even venturing into the coldest depths of Canada, Banner meets kindred spirits also battling similar problems, fights beings of pure energy, and must endure an alliance with the Gargoyle to provide the antidote to a viral epidemic that nearly takes Betty’s life and countless others. Not even his family is safe from the terror his hidden powers bring, as his best friend and cousin Jennifer Walters is critically injured by Doctor Doom, forcing Banner to give her a blood transfusion that transforms her into the She-Hulk. Jennifer takes immediate delight in her transformed body (in the model of Sensational She-Hulk) and chooses to remain in her She-Hulk form full-time.
An interesting change in this show was that instead of waiting a season to do crossovers they went right to it, starting with the third episode “Helping Hand, Iron Fist”, where Robert Hays and Dorian Harewood reprised their roles as Iron Man and War machine, Next episode featured Ghost Rider (Ketch version) and two episodes featured Dr. Doom as the villain and The Thing helping the Hulk. (Mr. Fantastic showed up for a cameo in The Thing episode). The ninth episode featured Thor and Hulk trying to stop a gamma virus. The season ended in the three-parter “Darkness and Light” where Banner’s love interest Betty Ross and Doc Samson (a hero infected with a small dose of gamma rays) created a Nutrient Bath that could separate banner and The Hulk. The separation was a complete success, but The Hulk’s goes on a murderous rampage. Leader captures The Hulk and switches bodies with him. Hulk uses his thinking against Leader and they switch back. in part three, Hulk and Banner face off but we soon learn that neither one of the two can survive without the other so the Nutrient Bath is reversed and the Grey Hulk is born!
Season 2, now called The Incredible Hulk And She-Hulk (for both the good and the bad) picks up right where Season 1 left off, with the Grey Hulk in the mountains, solely pursued by Gen. Ross (who seemed to have lost his mind). The fight results in an avalanche that puts Ross in a coma, and knocks out Banner. When Banner comes to, he is arrested and placed on trial, whilst Rick Jones, almost an afterthought, continues his own reign of terror.
Banner’s cousin Jennifer, the She-Hulk, tries to help him out in court. After defending the entire court house from an attack by the Leader and successfully locating and restoring Rick to normalcy, both Banner and Jennifer travel together, lying low.
The series concluded on a heavily rushed and happier note than the previous one, with Ross emerging from his coma and deciding to end his hostility towards Bruce, but little else was resolved, including Banner’s inner conflicts with his green and grey Hulk transformations.
Dr. Doom made another appearance, but the episode wasn’t that good, there was also a team-up with Dr. Strange and She-Hulk journeying into the mind of Bruce Banner when Banner is possessed by an evil force. Banner in the process turns into a monstrous Dark Hulk. She-Hulk provides levity at the sorcerer’s expense by referring to him as Dr. Peculiar and other variations of his name. The Grey Hulk’s mob persona of “Mr. Fixit” surfaced for a brief appearance.
The series ended in both a cliffhanger and in a heavily rushed and happier note than the previous one, with Ross emerging from his coma and deciding to end his hostility towards Bruce, but little else was resolved, including Banner’s inner conflicts with his green and grey Hulk transformations.
The Incredible Hulk doesn’t hold up as well as Spider-Man or any of the other Marvel shows, but the show did have a couple of good ideas Season 1 would have worked if we had an origin story instead of just jumping in to plot. Season 2 had a much better story when She-Hulk wasn’t involved (with the acception of the Dr. Strange episode) plus this season won an Emmy award for “best audio editing” for work on the episode “The Lost Village.”
This, however, is not the worst series in the Marvel Animated Universe as we’ll find out tomorrow when we take a look at Spider-Man Unlimited.
CORRECTION: SILVER SURFER! SPIDER-MAN UNLIMITED IS NEXT WEEK!
Speaking of Spider-Man, I meant to do this last week…
RANK: 3 out of 5