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It’s Lou Ferrigno’s birthday today — the bodybuilder and actor turns 63, and still remains as able to punch anyone reading through a wall as he ever was. While his on-screen roles include such wide-ranging projects as Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, The King of Queens and Adventure Time, there’s one role in particular that he’ll be forever linked to: Marvel’s incredible Hulk.
However, there’s more to the Hulk’s on-screen career than Ferrigno and Mark Ruffalo telling us that he’s always angry. More, even, than the we-try-not-to-think-about-it Ang Lee-directed feature from 2003. In celebration of Ferrigno’s birthday and his most well-known role, here is a chance to revisit the other jolly green giant’s greatest TV and cinematic moments (and maybe a couple of his worst, too).
The Marvel Super Heroes (1966)
The Hulk’s first break outside of comics came just four years after his creation, as part of the Grantray-Lawrence Animation series The Marvel Super-Heroes, which faithfully adapted the first Stan Lee and Jack Kirby stories for the screen. And by “faithfully,” I mean, “pretty much just put the comic on the screen with some voiceovers.”
The Incredible Hulk (1978-1982)
Still, for many people, the archetypal portrayal of the Hulk onscreen, the CBS series starred Bill Bixby as Dr. David Banner — “Bruce” having been deemed an unsuitable name for a hero by network executives — and Lou Ferrigno as his emerald-skinned alter ego. Breaking with comic book tradition, Ferrigno’s Hulk had no dialogue, but somehow his grunts told the audience everything they wanted to know. Well, aside from how his clothes would magically repair themselves when he turned back to Banner again. (Bixby and Ferrigno reprised their roles in three TV movies in the late 1980s: The Incredible Hulk Returns, Trial of the Incredible Hulk and The Death of the Incredible Hulk.)
The Incredible Hulk (1982-1983)
Avoiding the tone of the live-action series, the second animated outing for the Hulk saw a return to the comic book status quo (and supporting cast) for the character, setting him against the U.S. Army as well as familiar villains the Leader, the Puppet Master and Spider-Man bad guy Doctor Octopus. It only lasted one 13-episode season, although the show it was initially paired with (Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends) continued for another couple of years. Apparently, it really wasn’t easy being green.
The Marvel Action Hour / X-Men / The Incredible Hulk (1994-1997)
When Marvel restarted its animation program in the mid-1990s, the Hulk got to play guest-star in episodes of the two strands of the Marvel Action Hour series, Fantastic Four and Iron Man. He also showed up in an episode of X-Men, albeit only as a robot. All of this was just an audition for his return to the big time, as The Incredible Hulk saw the character restored to leading role status for a two-season show that saw Lou Ferrigno return to voice the Hulk one more time, and team up with She-Hulk for much of its second year. (If you’re wondering about the Grey Hulk in the video above, it’s because the green Hulk is just one of a number of Hulks that Banner can turn into. Looking for more detail may lead you down a rabbit hole of Hulk ephemera.)
What can be said about the Hulk’s first big-screen outing, aside from “No, really, what was with the Hulk Dogs?” and “Did Nick Nolte really become a cloud of electricity in the end? What just happened?” Eric Bana played Bruce Banner, and while the Hulk himself was a CGI creation, it’s worth noting that Lou Ferrigno was back one more time to cameo as a security guard in one scene. Take that, Stan Lee — oh, you also cameoed as a security guard? Never mind, then.
Fantastic Four: World’s Greatest Heroes / Wolverine and the X-Men / Iron Man: Armored Adventures (2006-2010)
Again reduced to guest starring in other characters’ cartoons, the Hulk made appearances throughout Marvel’s animated series for awhile, reveling in his short-lived status as Marvel’s second-biggest cinema star that isn’t Spider-Man. Sadly, each time he was generally a problem that the other heroes had to deal with.
The Hulk’s Direct-To-DVD Career (2006-2010)
While the character was struggling on television, he was going from strength to strength in a number of animated features, starting with lead roles in Ultimate Avengers: The Movie and Ultimate Avengers 2: Rise of the Panther (both released in 2006). He then showed up in 2008’s Next Avengers: Heroes of Tomorrow before getting two solo projects, Hulk Versus and Planet Hulk. Each time, he was voiced by Fred Tatsciore.
The Marvel Cinematic Universe (2008-?)
Beginning with 2008’s The Incredible Hulk and continuing in 2012’s Marvel’s The Avengers and next year’s Avengers: Age of Ultron, Marvel Studios took control of the character and in the process made him bigger than ever before. While Edward Norton’s Bruce Banner is already a thing of distant memory in the wake of Mark Ruffalo’s take, it should be pointed out that the 2008 movie did one thing very, very right in its casting: Lou Ferrigno provided the voice of the Hulk, proving once and for all that he really is that character’s lucky charm.
The Super Hero Squad Show (2009-2011)
Oddly enough, the most successful animated series starring the Hulk is this kid-friendly comedy that ran for 52 episodes on Cartoon Network. Essentially The Avengers with added cute, it remade the Hulk into a giant kid with anger issues and, as can be seen in the clip above, problems with his body odor. Big green dude, we’re sorry that you had to go through that. Really.
The Marvel Animated Universe (2010-?)
Launching with 2010’s The Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes and following up with both Avengers Assemble and Hulk and the Agents of SMASH, Fred Tatsciore has played the Hulk in a number of Marvel animated projects all loosely connected in continuity, including guest-shots in Ultimate Spider-Man. (He’s also made Hulk-shaped cameos in some non-Marvel shows including Phineas and Ferb and Lego Marvel Super Heroes: Maximum Overload during this period. You can’t keep a good gamma monster down.)
Read more What if Tony Stark Created the Hulk?
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