|The green goliath returned to his old Saturday morning stomping grounds in 1996 with the debut of an all-new The Incredible Hulk. The Stan Lee/Jack Kirby character had graced the small screen several times before-as part of 1966’s animated The Marvel Superheroes, in his own live-action primetime series from 1978-82, and as half of the Saturday morning powerhouse The Incredible Hulk and the Amazing Spider-Man.
This Incredible Hulk kept the origin the same: Dr. Robert Bruce Banner developed a powerful gamma bomb for the U.S. military. During the countdown to a test detonation, Banner spotted teen Rick Jones driving across the fenced-off testing range on a dare. Banner rushed out and pushed Jones to safety in a ditch, but the doctor himself was caught in the gamma blast. The radiation mutated Banner into the enormously muscular, mean-tempered Incredible Hulk.
The Hulk turned back into Banner, but the doctor found he had no control over further transformations. When he got angry, the beast came out, and the doctor’s brains and personality gave way to the simple, angry Hulk. It made his love life especially rough, since his girlfriend Betty was the daughter of hard-nosed (and Hulk hating) General Thaddeus “Thunderbolt” Ross. A guilty Rick Jones stuck around to help the doc out, but there was no real cure…yet.
Most episodes of The Incredible Hulk focused on Banner’s attempts to rid himself of his unwanted alter ego. Chemistry, technology, and mysticism were all tried, with varying degrees of success. Several experiments went awry, one resulting in the creation of a separate Hulk form and personality, the tough-talking grey Hulk. Other experiments were foiled by General Ross, his underling Major Talbot, or the gamma-enhanced braniac The Leader and his henchman, The Gargoyle.
Since Hulk was “strongest of them all,” the writers had to come up with a string of super-muscular sparring partners to keep it from being a one-sided fight. Over the show’s 21-episode run, the Hulk went mano a mano with Abomination, Sasquatch, Wendigo, The Absorbing Man, and other pumped-up pugilists.
After two seasons of new episodes, The Incredible Hulk went into repeats as The Incredible Hulk and Friends for another season. The big guy continued to make cameo appearances on other Marvel shows like The Silver Surfer and Spider-Man.