By Jim Beard
He could reasonably be labeled the Incredible Hulk's first true enemy, and undeniably his most tenacious.
General Thaddeus E. "Thunderbolt" Ross witnessed the very genesis of the Hulk and from that moment has made it his personal mission to dog the gamma-spawned alter-ego of Dr. Bruce Banner with every step. Only two things ever really mattered to Gen. Ross: his love for his daughter, Betty, and his hatred for the Hulk. The eventual collision of the two brought about some of the greatest battles between man and monster ever seen on Earth.
Hitting the big screen as part of the "Incredible Hulk" film on June 13 and played by actor William Hurt, "Thunderbolt" Ross' legend will take on even greater significance. In honor of this, we now take a brief look back at some of the events that shaped the cigar-chewing military man's life and that of his sworn enemy, the Hulk!
INCREDIBLE HULK v1 #1 (1962)
General Ross hated Bruce Banner at the outset, calling him a "milksop" and rushing the scientist headlong to disaster. One Gamma Bomb explosion later and Banner transformed into the Hulk and barreled straight into pretty Betty Ross, the General's daughter. After her horrifying encounter with Bruce's curse, Ross held his quaking offspring, saying, "I swear
to you, my child, I'll find him and destroy him! If it takes an eternity
, I'll find that monster!"
INCREDIBLE HULK v1 #159 (1973)
After two years in suspended animation, the Abomination fell to Earth and into the eager hands of "Thunderbolt" Ross. The General struck new ground in one of his most heinous acts to date, entering into a pact with the villain; for the capture of the Hulk the Abomination would be cured and freed. Lying to fool his cat's paw into submission, Ross watched him clash with the Hulk and ultimately be defeated. This only intensified the General's determination to rid Betty's life of Banner forever.
INCREDIBLE HULK v1 #319 (1986)
Now physically separated from the Hulk after years on the run, Bruce Banner proposed to Betty Ross and wedding bells chimed. As the final vows issued forth, a disheveled, wild-eyed General Ross appeared, wielding a gun. The beaten old man then compounded his misbegotten existence by shooting Rick Jones, Bruce's closest friend. Betty's rage cowed her father and when she dared him to shoot her, he slumped to the floor, deflated—and the two lovers became man and wife.
INCREDIBLE HULK v1 #327 (1987)
Having joined mind and body with the Hulk's old adversary the electrical beast known as Zzzax, General Ross found himself a literal "thunderbolt." Confused at the change, Ross attacked Rick Jones, who had transformed into a Hulk-like creature, and their battle spilled into a small town. Struggling with control over the Zzzax form, Ross's own mind began to recede in favor of the original creature, but being called a "monster" by a small child brought focus to the General. Unable to cope with what he'd become, Ross ashamedly deserted the scene of destruction.
WORLD WAR HULK #3 (2007)
Called in by the President of the United States to stem the tide of the Hulk's desecration of New York City and its heroes, General "Thunderbolt" Ross returned to his comfortable old role as the Man In Charge. Sick of the roller coaster ride of the Hulk's ascensions to and falls from grace, Ross led a wicked, all-out weaponized assault on the now-intelligent monster. Drawing Hulk blood but ultimately overpowered, Ross went down fighting and wound up captured, head still held high.
Need to catch up on your Hulk reading? Looking for the perfect stories starring the Jade Giant? Check out our list of the 10 Collections marked as required reading by any Hulk fan!
Read classic Hulk stories in Marvel Digital Comics Unlimited! Take pictures with a life-size Hulk statue at select theaters nationwide! Visit the official "The Incredible Hulk" movie site! Remember, "The Incredible Hulk" comes to a theater near you on June 13!