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Captain America: Civil War was packed full with characters, and not just the heroes participating in the eponymous conflict. There were plenty of folks participating on the sidelines, including Secretary of State Thaddeus "Thunderbolt" Ross. The former general was last seen in The Incredible Hulk hunting down the Green Goliath, but in Civil War, his "white whale" was absent, and Ross instead served as the government figure who tells the Avengers about the Sokovia Accords. However, had things gone a little differently, moviegoers might also have got to seen him turn into his monstrous alter-ego, Red Hulk.
Along with mulling over giving Spider-Man his Iron Spider suit (i.e. the Tony Stark-constructed costume he wore in the original Civil War storyline), directors Joe and Anthony Russo told Comicbook.com that they considered transforming Thunderbolt Ross into Red Hulk in Captain America: Civil War, but had they done that, it would have added too many complications to the story. Joe Russo explained:
We consider everything, obviously, but with so many characters in that movie as it was to try and entertain adding another character and to get to the Red Hulk, you have to add a back story. You have to substantiate the narrative to get to that. [Thaddeus Ross], on our list of priorities, he was there sort of as the government's agenda and not to add another complicated super powered character to the mix.
For decades in the comics, Thunderbolt Ross hunted down the Hulk primarily with his military resources. Then in 2008, the Red Hulk was introduced, but a year would pass before readers learned that Ross was the beast, choosing to become the very thing he hated to defeat the Green Goliath. In the years after that introduction, Red Hulk became more of a traditional superhero, but Ross recently had his powers taken away.
Given how crowded Captain America: Civil War was, it's probably for the best that Thunderbolt Ross never became Red Hulk, especially since if a Hulk had been involved in the conflict, whichever side he was on would have immediately won. However, there's still a chance that Red Hulk could appear in the MCU some day. Joe Russo added:
We had a board when we started this process of the movies with these Avengers characters that have ever graced the screen in a Marvel film and a list of characters that we have at our disposal that haven't graced the screen. We spent the last six to eight months crafting stories around the cornucopia of characters at our disposal so anything is possible.
There are still no plans right now to make another standalone Hulk movie, but considering Ross' prominence in the U.S. government, there's certainly enough foundation to bring him back and put him through that Red Hulk transformation. Maybe Avengers: Infinity War could use some extra muscle.
Captain America: Civil War will be available digitally on September 2, while the Blu-ray/DVD release will follow on September 13.