What's big, green and knows how to throw his weight around?
The Incredible Hulk.
However, beneath the emerald veneer, muscles and anger of the Hulk lies reserved scientist Bruce Banner. Described by the character's co-creator Stan Lee as a combination of Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde and Frankenstein's Monster, the Hulk has muscled into the mainstream public's eye as the prototypical brute who is powered by uncontrollable force. Rarely a team player, the Hulk was both the impetus for the founding of the Avengers and also one of the team's earliest members.
His story is simple: a quiet scientist named Bruce Banner is accidentally exposed to gamma radiation from one of his own experiments while trying to get an innocent bystander out of harms way. This radiation reveals an angry, impulsive and emotional side to Banner's mind, and turns this "id" into a green-skinned behemoth lashing out against anyone who would oppose him. As one of the strongest beings in comic books, the Hulk's nature, both animalistic and child-like, proves to be a potent mix and has placed him on both sides of the law at one time or another.
Although at times he's driven into more superheroic territory for his stories, the monstrous nature of the Hulk has given comics creators the opportunity to explore numerous other types of tales with the character, taking him to far-off planets, psychiatrist's chairs and the far future. The dichotomy of a brutish monster and scientific sharing one body – and one mind – has proven to be fertile ground to tell stories of a character tortured by themselves and competing urges.
Spurred by the success of the Hulk, Marvel Comics has introduced other characters in his family throughout the years. In the early 80s, Banner's cousin, Jennifer Walters, was given the Hulk treatment, turning her into She-Hulk, a super-strong woman whose body changes but who's mind remains intact. In recent years, the Hulk family has grown by leaps and bounds, with the recent introduction of an opposing entity known as the Red Hulk, as well as a son named Skaar from one of the Hulk's adventures on a barbaric planet profiled in the successful Planet Hulk story arc. There is also Lyra, the Hulk's daughter from the future, and another son from Planet Hulk who has not yet made his way to Earth or to his father's life.
Over the course of the character's history, the Hulk has gone through changes of his own – from his skin tone (he has, at times, maintained a grey hue) down to his emotional states that go with it. Artist Jack Kirby's simple design of a green-skinned muscled man in shredded clothes makes the Hulk stand apart from the superheroes he stands with, while ensuring that he remains recognizable to comics fans and the general public alike. Although his big screen adventures to date have proven less than blockbuster when compared to those of his Marvel cohorts, the Hulk remains one of the most popular characters in fiction today, thanks in no small part to the long-running television series in the late 70s and early 80s starring the late Bill Bixby as Bruce Banner and bodybuilder Lou Ferrigno as his emerald counterpart. Fans of the character can expect to see more of his silver screen exploits in the near future, as he is rumored to be one of the central characters of Marvel's announce Avengers movie, scheduled for release in 2012. - Chris Arrant