By Jim Beard
Photos courtesy Universal Studios Home Entertainment
As we eagerly count the days to June 13 and the new "The Incredible Hulk" feature film, let's take a moment to reflect upon one of its strongest inspirations, the classic "Incredible Hulk" TV series of the 1970s and 1980s.
Successful in its time and fondly remembered today, the show strived to balance the human drama with the incredible idea of a radiation-spawned creature - not unlike the balance struck in the new film. Fans agree that the series' true impact derived from the careful attentions of its producers and the dedication of its actors.
Bill Bixby as David
Banner and Lou
Ferrigno as the Hulk
For the next four weeks, we thought we'd celebrate the "Incredible Hulk" TV show with a series of articles highlighting everything that made it fun and involving. So, let's Hulk-out together!
Starting Off with a Roar
The "Hulk" show began with two separate "TV movies" in November 1977 before the actual series kicked off. Everything you'd need to know about the premise appeared in the two movies: Dr. David Banner, seeking to unlock the inner strength all humans possessed, pelted himself with Gamma radiation and "got green" decades before it was popular. Believed dead, Banner took to the road with an annoying investigative reporter hot on the trail of his Hulk-ish alter-ego, and the famous line, "Don't make me angry. You wouldn't like me when I'm angry," was born!
A Theme Ran Through It
Themes of isolation and persecution materialized as important components of the first two seasons of the show, of course, but there was also - disco! And truckers! And an earthquake! Hey, you expected something else from the 1970s? Banner encountered just about every theme existent in TV shows of the time, but always with that Incredible Hulk twist. That's right; no boxing or horse race or car wash episode of any other series could boast an appearance by a snarling, green man-mountain!
In his first two seasons the Hulk found himself embroiled in union disputes, child abuse, diamond smuggling, alcoholism, and even the Mafia. Young, unhappy kids with family problems also loomed large, as well as a curious trend towards skirmishes between old Jade Jaws and large animals, like bears and gorillas. In fact, one of the only things that David Banner wasn't getting enough of happened to be...love. Oh, there was a scant few close brushes with amore, a couple of winsome looks, but other than a popular two-parter with a terminally-ill Mariette Hartley, Banner more than not found the open road was to be his one and only constant companion.
Get a Job!
Yes, David Banner had a job; he had several of them, in fact. To be even more precise, he was gainfully employed in a different job every single week. It's rumored that the unemployment rate from 1977 to 1983 was mostly due to Banner. This boy tried his hand at everything
: sparring partner, lab assistant, game arcade worker, casino clerk, safety expert (!), bartender, race car pit crew, groundskeeper, car wash attendant, and the ever-popular hitchhiker. That
one he really worked hard at.
Me & My Shadow
Bill Bixby as
Seasons 1 and 2 very clearly illustrated the reason for Banner's flight: Jack McGee, crusading reporter. McGee dogged the poor unfortunate David at every turn, always hoping to catch a glimpse of the Hulk or snap a picture. Some episodes would bring him this close
to connect the supposed-to-be-dead Banner with his monstrous alter-ego, only to have the carpet yanked out from under him. These "near-McGees" constituted a definite vicarious thrill for regular viewers.
Lou Ferrigno as
When the Hulk visited Las Vegas, McGee showed up, too, and the near-McGees in that episode border on insanity. McGee's trips around the countryside brought him back to home base occasionally - but even there he had close calls with Banner. Remember, when the Hulk growls, "Stop the presses!" you stop the presses
! With Season Two came the ultimate near-McGee when David's face is obscured in an accident and his memory lost, throwing him into the very lap of Reporter McGee. One disastrous plane crash later and the annoying journalist tumbles on a surprising fact: the monster is actually a man! Now with his teeth firmly in the story, our man looks ahead to future seasons and the elusive identity of his prey.
And of course, no discussion of the "Incredible Hulk" TV show would be complete without Hulk-outs. Never enough of them to satisfy eager, young viewers with a taste for destruction, David's changes could turn a mediocre episode into gold. Most times it came down to stupid people doing stupid things that brought about the necessary rage for the change-like the idiotic phone operator that insisted on twenty-five more cents. Other times the transformation depended upon the whims of fate, like a flat tire, or a barn fire, or a pesky dog; always something
But, in the end, Banner usually wound up on the wrong side of a fist. Continuously beaten up, his Hulk-outs became the little man's answer to the injustices of bullies. And there have never been so many bullies in one TV series. They punched him here, they punched him there, they punched him for the most inane reasons - and David Banner Hulked-out and a legion of fans cheered.
To Be Continued Friday, May 30...
Join us in seven short days as we head into the 1980s with more jobs for David, more heavy socio-political themes, more near-McGees, and of course, more Hulk-outs!
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!