The Incredible Hulk has been one of the most popular characters in comic books since his creation by Jack Kirby and Stan Lee in 1963. Lee and Kirby have said the Hulk was inspired by the duality of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, the sad loneliness inherent in the story of Frankenstein, and the mythical strength of the Golem of Jewish folklore. As most 13-year-old boys could likely tell you. Hulk was created when gamma physicist Dr. Bruce Banner ran out to the middle of an atomic test range to rescue Rick Jones, a teenager who wandered on to the test site moments before the top-secret gamma bomb was slated to explode.
Banner’s body was bombarded with enough gamma radiation to kill him instantly. However, as is often the case when comic book superheroes are created, the thing that would kill a person in real life might give you some sort of superpower in this medium. Though no immediately harmful effects are discovered, it is soon revealed that Banner becomes a massive, gray-skinned Hulk at sunset, and reverted back to Banner at sunrise. He immediately becomes the target of the United States military and is hounded by General Thunderbolt Ross and his Hulkbusters for much of the Hulk’s illustrious career until Banner himself, then separated from the Hulk, was chosen to head a newer incarnation of the Hulkbusters during one of many instances where he had been separated from his alter ego.
Eventually the Hulk was made green by his Marvel Comics creators, and the catalyst for his transformation would become anger. Banner was a withdrawn, socially awkward genius who was the epitome of the term 90 pound weakling. But the Hulk is described as having the intellect of a child while possessing unimaginable strength which only grew more monstrous as his anger inflamed.
From the very beginning, the Incredible Hulk has gone from being a hero held in high regard as a member of the Avengers and the Defenders alongside such Marvel mainstays as Captain America, Iron Man, Dr. Strange and the Silver Surfer, to the a misunderstood cause for concern who was attacked by almost every superpowered hero he came across in his early years.
Fans later find that Bruce Banner has actually been victimized by the tampering of others from the very beginning when it is revealed during the "Original Sin" story arc that a drunken Tony Starks actually tampered with the gamma bomb experiment the day before that fateful event that changed Banner.
Bruce Banner’s father was Dr. Brian Banner, a brilliant nuclear scientist who believed his experiments altered the genes of his young son, who was exhibiting intelligence which surpassed his grade level. It is later revealed his father has been the catalyst for much of Banner’s internalized anger and volatility that manifests as the Hulk.
The senior Banner was an abusive alcoholic who beat his mother and terrorized young Bruce as a child. His mother fawned over him and showered the child in affection. But this only fanned the flames of anger for the elder Banner. Brian Banner eventually kills his wife and ends up in a psychiatric institute. Young Bruce withdraws into a shell and it is alluded that he developed a split personality to mentally adjust for the pain and anger that boiled inside of him due to his circumstances.
During a moment of clarity in which he was able to control his alter ego, Banner would marry longtime friend and supporter Betty Ross, daughter of General Thaddeus “Thunderbolt” Ross. But that was short lived as arch nemesis the Abomination, also a gamma-irradiated monstrosity, would inject his radioactive blood into Betty, which would ultimately kill her. The Hulk would return the favor by nearly beating the Abomination to death in a mournful rage. But it was quickly retconned that she would become the Red She-Hulk who wants nothing to do with Banner or Hulk after the transformation.
Eventually, the Incredible Hulk’s dangerous and expensive tantrums, many of which were the result of him being manipulated or antagonized by nefarious forces and other heroes who feared the Hulk’s potential for destruction, become a constant source of concern for world powers.
After years of saving the world and vanquishing foes, the most brilliant minds of Marvel’s Earth 616 decided that he was the living embodiment of an extinction level event. So the world’s greatest minds, many of whom were former allies, conspired to send him away by tricking him into boarding a deep space transport in orbit by telling him he was there to destroy a superweapon called Godseye. Following his success in destroying the orbiting weapon, S.H.I.E.L.D. sent a space shuttle to return him to Earth.
However, the Illuminati, which consisted of Reed Richards of the Fantastic Four, Black Bolt of the Inhumans, T’Chala aka Black Panther, Charles Xavier of the X-Men, Prince Namor aka the Sub-Mariner, Doctor Strange and Tony Stark aka Iron Man, believed that the Hulk was too much of a danger to be allowed to remain on Earth after an incident that pulverizes Las Vegas, despite his status as a hero who saved them all many times. The Sub-Mariner is the lone dissenter. He warns that the Hulk would eventually return and make them all regret it. His warning goes unheeded. They plan on sending him to a peaceful planet to live out his life unbothered, but the vessel is caught in the gravity field of a worm hole and he is transported to the war-hardened Planet Sakaar.
Backstabbed, misunderstood, feared, easily driven to anger by friends and enemies alike, the Hulk’s tale mirrors the real life attributes of an individual who is steeped in a mental disability and depression. It would seem that art has imitated life once again in these illustrated pages.
Following his expulsion from Earth by the Illuminati, the Hulk lands on a planet light years away that is steeped in gladiatorial combat and headed by a corrupt regime ruled by the Red King. These affairs are explained in detail in the pages of Planet Hulk. After defeating the regime and being named the Green King, it appears that the Hulk will finally get the peace writers had seen fit not to allow him to have. After all, conflict drives a story forward. He has a beautiful queen named Caiera who will bare him a son named Skaar and the population of the entire planet Sakaar worships and adores him. But one of the Hulk’s former allies sabotages the warp drive of the nearby interstellar vessel that brought the Hulk to Sakaar, causing it to explode. The vast majority of the population is incinerated immediately, and the Hulk’s queen is killed- or so it seems.
Angrier than he has ever been, the Hulk blamed the Illuminati for this holocaust and makes his way to Earth to exact revenge on his former allies. It isn’t until he has bested and embarrassed all of those responsible for sending him away that it's revealed that Miek, one of his Warbound allies, observed the Red King’s followers load an unstable warp core on his ship but did nothing. Thus he was indirectly responsible for ruining the Hulk’s dream life because he could only fathom the Hulk as a warrior and not a peaceful king. It’s reminiscent of how some friends would rather we not evolve into our better selves, preferring to see us steeped in a life of reaction, emotions and negativity.
Again, art borrowing from life.
After the Hulk left planet Sakaar to return to Earth it is revealed that his son had already been born as Skaar emerged from the ashes of the decimated Crown City. He would blame the Hulk for the abandoning him and his planet to return home and he would eventually fight the Hulk, but by that time Banner had suppressed his Planet Hulk persona and the then prominent Savage Hulk had no memory of Skaar. Yes, more Daddy issues. However, judging by Bruce Banner’s own past, that kind of had to happen.
A telling element in the life of comic book’s ultimate tragic figure. We Marvel at his feats, debate who he can best in combat, and silently cheer at his redemption when he is recognized for who he is; a complex individual struggling to combat his demons.
However, Banner’s demon isn’t alcohol, a drug or another abusive habit; rather, it's the Hulk himself. It walks, talks and smashes. The Hulk has manifested himself in a myriad of different forms due in large part to Banner’s fractured psyche being made even more vulnerable by attempts to separate himself from the Hulk; Joe Fixit, World Breaker Hulk, Savage Hulk, regular Hulk and other incarnations.
A split personality disorder for all the ages.
Though he is the most powerful, he is also the most vulnerable. The Incredible Hulk is easily the most human of all Marvel Comics characters. He teaches us that our demons never go away; we simply have to reconcile our guilt and learn to live with them. The Hulk has Daddy issues, can't seem to find a woman that doesn't die on him and has a son with Daddy issues as well. To top it all off, Banner will do anything to permanently rid himself his affliction, but there is an army of individuals who have lined up to become a facsimile of the Hulk. What’s more human than that? At the end of the day, Hulk just wants to be left alone.
So cue the music and watch Bill Bixby hitchhike to the next town for another shot at a quiet life.