Bruce Banner’s alter ego used to love saying “Hulk is the strongest one there is!” That may be true, but Bruce is not the only Hulk there is. He was simply the first. It sure seems like almost everyone important in Bruce’s life has become a Hulk at one point. His wife, Betty Ross, his father-in-law, General “Thunderbolt” Ross, his cousin, Jennifer Walters, and even his best friend, Rick Jones, have all Hulked out and gone green…or red as the case may be.
Fortunately, there’s a very simple way to break down the Hulk family and how they’re related to each other. There are also a handful of friends and associates like Amadeus Cho and Doc Samson who have their own Hulk or gamma powers. So, let’s start at the top of the tree and work our way down.
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There would be no Hulk without Bruce’s father, Brian Banner. Brian was a gifted nuclear scientist in his own right. But as seen in the landmark INCREDIBLE HULK (1968) #312, Brian became deeply disturbed and obsessed with the idea that his radiation research had turned his son, Bruce, into a monster. Brian abused Bruce and his mother, Rebecca, before he ultimately murdered his wife as she tried to escape from him. That trauma shook Bruce so deeply that it led him to develop alter identities as the Hulk.
Years later during the CHAOS WAR, Brian actually emerged on Earth as a fearsome Hulk of his own before he was defeated and returned to the afterlife. More recently, Brian made a lot of trouble for Bruce and his friends in IMMORTAL HULK as a servant of the One Below All. He even gained the ability to possess gamma-infected humans.
INCREDIBLE HULK (1962) #1 introduced Dr. Robert Bruce Banner to the Marvel Universe as the inventor of the Gamma Bomb. During a routine test, Bruce spotted a teenager named Rick Jones in the blast radius and he took it upon himself to save Rick’s life. He succeeded, but Bruce’s exposure to the gamma radiation transformed him into the savage gray Hulk.
Over time, Hulk’s skin turned green and he became more childlike. In INCREDIBLE HULK (1968) #377, the green and gray Hulks merged with Bruce to become a new incarnation: Professor Hulk. However, no version of the Hulk has permanently maintained its dominance. Those are just some of the personalities that live in Bruce’s mind. And not all of them are benevolent.
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JENNIFER WALTERS, AKA SHE-HULK
By an incredible twist of fate, Bruce was seeking legal counsel from his cousin, Jennifer Walters, on the day she was mortally wounded in an assassination attempt in SAVAGE SHE-HULK (1980) #1. Bruce saved Jen’s life with an emergency blood transfusion, but this also turned her into the She-Hulk. Although she was initially just as savage as the Hulk, Jen’s personality eventually became dominant when she was in her gamma incarnation. In fact, she actually prefers being She-Hulk and put her skills to use as an Avenger and member of the Fantastic Four.
Although Jennifer has had a rough patch during the last few years, she is once again in control of her Hulk persona and working as both a hero and a lawyer.
M.O.D.O.K. was the first villain to realize that Betty Ross’ prolonged exposure to Bruce’s gamma radiation made her an ideal subject to become a new Hulk under his control. But in INCREDIBLE HULK (1968) #168, Betty was not transformed into a She-Hulk. Instead, she became the fearsome Harpy who hated Hulk because she blamed him for the death of her then husband, Glenn Talbot.
Betty was soon cured of her Harpy persona, but she was ultimately murdered by exposure to excess gamma radiation by the Abomination. Perhaps remembering his earlier success, M.O.D.O.K. and his fellow members of the Intelligencia resurrected Betty. And as recounted in INCREDIBLE HULKS (2010) #610, she became the Red She-Hulk.
Within the pages of the IMMORTAL HULK series, Betty has once again been transformed. Now, she is the Red Harpy.
GENERAL “THUNDERBOLT” ROSS
No one hated Bruce Banner more than Betty’s father, General “Thunderbolt” Thaddeus Ross. That’s why everyone was shocked when Ross turned out to be the Red Hulk! Ross made the mistake of partnering with the Intelligencia, but he embraced his newfound Hulk powers. In fact, he was quite a jerk about using them! He even punched the Watcher for no good reason.
Months later, Bruce and Ross made an alliance to take down the Intelligencia, and Red Hulk was actually invited to join the Avengers. Ross was eventually depowered, but as of CAPTAIN AMERICA (2018) #26, he is once again the Red Hulk.
If not for Bruce’s timely rescue, Rick Jones could have been the first Hulk. Instead, he was spared from that fate until INCREDIBLE HULK (1962) #325 when he fell into a chemical pool that was being used to merge Bruce and the Hulk back into a single being again. Rick emerged as a Hulk, but he was cured a few chapters later in issue #332.
But, thanks to the meddling of the Intelligencia, Rick was mutated into a new Abomination in HULK (2008) #2. However, Rick retained most of his personality and renamed himself “A-Bomb” so he would have a more heroic codename.
Rick was also grotesquely mutated in IMMORTAL HULK before his humanity was finally restored in limited series GAMMA FLIGHT (2021).
During the event WORLD WAR HULK, Amadeus Cho was one of the few heroes who stood by the Hulk in his battle against the Illuminati. This was powered by Amadeus’ unshakable assertion that the Hulk is a hero. Years later in TOTALLY AWESOME HULK (2015) #1, Amadeus got his wish to become a Hulk as well. As revealed in issue #4, Amadeus absorbed the excess gamma radiation from Bruce, saving his life, while transforming Amadeus in the process. It was a burden that he was more than happy to accept.
However, not even Amadeus’ intellect and personality could keep the negative aspects of being a Hulk at bay forever. After briefly losing control of his other self, Amadeus willingly depowered himself. But he still retains a significant amount of gamma powers as the Agent of Atlas Brawn.
Doc Samson is one of the few members of the Hulk family who willingly transformed themselves with gamma radiation. It happened in INCREDIBLE HULK (1962) #141, when Bruce Banner was temporarily “cured” by removing the excess radiation from his body. Samson couldn’t resist taking that power for himself, but he wasn’t turned into a full Hulk. Instead, he was given superhuman strength and a striking head of green hair.
Despite his great strength, Samson’s greatest contribution to the Marvel Universe has been as a therapist for heroes and villains in need.
THE CHILDREN OF THE HULK
Bruce Banner has had three children since he was transformed into the Hulk. His daughter, Lyra, is the second She-Hulk, and she comes from an alternate future. Her mother, Thundra, came to the past and obtained a DNA sample from Hulk which was used to create Lyra. When Lyra was a teenager, she journeyed back to the present and fought alongside her father and her namesake, Jennifer Walters.
Bruce’s sons, Skaar and Hiro-Kala, were the result of his brief marriage to Caiera the Oldstrong during the PLANET HULK event. Before Caiera was killed in the destruction of Sakaar, she and Bruce conceived their children. Caiera reclaimed her physical form long enough for her children to be born. But her two sons went in radically different directions.
Skaar became a mighty warrior with a vendetta against his father. Fortunately, Skaar and Bruce reconciled before becoming a formidable father-and-son team. Sadly, the same could not be said of Hiro-Kala. This son of Hulk was corrupted by his great power, and he nearly destroyed the Earth in INCREDIBLE HULKS #617 before his brother helped seal Hiro-Kala within the center of an alien world.
What’s next for the Hulk family? Keep up with their adventures every month on Marvel Unlimited!
By Blair Marnell