While the Marvel Cinematic Universe has already introduced a lot of what's in store for this world the coming years, there's still a big question mark surrounding one of its biggest characters. We know Hulk is alive, and while he was definitely in some rough shape at the end of Avengers: Endgame, the character is feasibly available for future adventures should Marvel want to pursue that, beyond his already confirmed appearance in Disney+'s upcoming She-Hulk series, of course.
With that in mind, I feel now is as good a time as any to evaluate what we've seen of the MCU's Hulk/Bruce Banner so far, and the differences in which he's been portrayed in Marvel Comics. In doing that, I found one key element of the character that the MCU hasn't touched on and could drastically deepen and enhance his stories if at all possible. There's a deep treasure trove of stories in exploring the character's multiple personalities, and yet, the movies have barely touched on them.
How The MCU Has Portrayed The Hulk's Personalities
To this point, the MCU has presented a more simplified version of Bruce Banner and his personalities, with The Hulk, Bruce Banner and their merger as "Professor Hulk" (or "Smart Hulk," if you prefer) being the gist of what we've seen. The Hulk is his own person, Banner is his own person, and both go through growth and change throughout the Infinity Saga. By Avengers: Endgame, the two have merged into one being, with Banner's personality existing within Hulk's body.
It's a simplistic way to tell The Hulk's story, though perhaps the most effective way given Marvel's limited way it could use the character. Since Universal owns the distribution rights to Hulk movies and hasn't agreed to a standalone movie since The Incredible Hulk, Marvel can only use the character in movies where he's either part of an ensemble or not the main character. This means since The Incredible Hulk, his story has only been able to be told in Avengers movies and Thor: Ragnarok, and the character could only be so much of the focal point.
I certainly understand the reasoning for how the MCU has handled Hulk to this point, but now that audiences have had over a decade of cinematic stories about the character, I think even in this limited capacity, Hulk's story can get a little more nuanced.
How Marvel Comics Has Portrayed The Hulk's Personalities
Marvel Comics has a more complex approach to Bruce Banner, The Hulk, and their respective personalities. In many tellings, Bruce suffers from dissociative identity disorder, which was brought on by the actions of his abusive father, David. The abuse, paired with the gamma radiation experimentation, ultimately created The Hulk. Bruce's disassociation traveled onto The Hulk, who took on distinctly different personalities over time that affected everything from his overall demeanor to innate power level.
Marvel Comics' Hulk has far more personalities than the MCU Hulk, which is somewhere in the ballpark of 12 different personalities at this point. Most of these personalities have only come about in specific circumstances, typically to reflect the kind of person Bruce Banner needs to be. Some of them protect Banner from the world he doesn't wish to face, while others trap him and demand their time out in the world to do what they've been created to do.
The advantages of these personalities are clear in comparison to what a story can do with The Hulk of the MCU. Many of these personalities are more eloquent than the standard Hulk and would give the Bruce alter ego more depth than we've gotten in past movies. Currently, we only have Bruce Banner speaking his own thoughts through Hulk, which is kind of limited.
Few personalities are also limiting on Bruce Banner's character, whose arc in the MCU has ranged from being angry to scared to at peace. The Marvel Comics version of Bruce Banner is far more disturbed than the MCU's, and I would say much of the time, he's far less popular amongst heroes and the general public. His view of the world is shaped by his complicated existence, and thus far more complex than how the Banner of the MCU has been shown.
Why Now Is The Best Time For The MCU To Introduce Hulk's Personalities
When it comes to The Hulk, the good times never last. Like all of us in life, the character goes through ups and downs, and the MCU has already spent its first decade on Hulk reckoning with his most basic alter ego. I think we can all be happy that Hulk found some peace, but I also agree that Professor Hulk was arguably the least entertaining Hulk we've seen on screen.
Sure, the Avengers have an opening for an inventor/man of science with Tony Stark dead, but there's no shortage of Marvel characters who can fill that void. Hulk is known for his brute strength, his destructive capability and, of course, his anger. I (and I'm assuming many others) would sooner see "Hulk smash" than anything else. That's hard to do with a Hulk at peace with himself, which is where a new personality to throw him off his game would help.
For anyone assuming Hulk can't smash anytime soon after his hand was obliterated by the Infinity Gauntlet, don't sell the green guy so short. The Hulk's regenerative ability is nothing to sniff at, and while his injury could be a permanent thing in his current state, a personality shift could augment the regenerative capabilities and get him smashing in a big way sooner than later. There's just no limit to the ways more personalities could really deepen Hulk's story. All the MCU has to do is make it happen.
And even if Universal is still against making another Hulk movie, a new personality is something that can be explained and played out over the course of any kind of movie. It's my hope, though, that Universal will eventually play nice with Marvel and start to want to cash in on the character in the same way Sony has with loaning Spider-Man to Marvel. It would be incredible to see a whole movie diving into the full scope of Hulk's personalities. Maybe we could get one where Hulk inexplicably went missing and was found in Vegas? I really need Joe Fixit in the MCU, or whatever some talented MCU screenwriter can dream up.
Do you think the MCU's Hulk is fine as he is, or would you like to see his alternate personalities on the big screen? Let us know in the poll below, and for more on where Mark Ruffalo's Hulk will end up next, check out the latest on his role in the She-Hulk series.
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Mick likes good television, but also reality television. He grew up on Star Wars, DC, Marvel, and pro wrestling and loves to discuss and dissect most of it. He’s been writing online for over a decade and never dreamed he’d be in the position he is today.
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