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By Christina Pham & Marc Strom
Is the Hulk a monster, a creature, or both? Or is he a super hero that simply doesn’t fit the conventional definition of the term?
Visual Development Supervisors Ryan Meinerding and Charlie Wen teamed up to put an end to the confusion surrounding the nature of Bruce Banner’s alter ego in “Marvel’s The Avengers,” after having studied the Green Goliath’s anatomy and physiology in “Hulk” and “The Incredible Hulk.”
Learn more about the science behind creating the mighty Hulk in our sit-down with Meinerding and Wen!
|"Marvel's The Avengers" concept art featuring the Hulk by Charlie Wen|
Marvel.com: People may not realize how much design has to go into the Hulk, but he does look markedly different in “Marvel’s The Avengers” than any other version in the past. What was your starting point with the Hulk and how did you add your own touches to all of it?
Ryan Meinerding: The touches would have come from Joss [Whedon]--very early on, he talked about wanting the Hulk to look like Mark Ruffalo, so that’s the starting point. Charlie Wen and I both worked on the Hulk, and I would work on some aspects while he worked on others. For me, it was one of the [only] designs that I have ever half-designed, along with someone else. It’s a really cool collaboration from my point of view.
We had taken what Joss had said and had that on one part of the spectrum. On the other end, we had Jack Kirby’s [Hulk] or some of the early ‘60s or ‘70s Hulks that felt more monstrous, a little less heroic and not as ripped. It was a face that could be on a regular guy, only with a larger body, and something I had always wanted to do with the Hulk, because it isn’t his movie, is make him into a monster. With his own movie, you have to ride the line of creating a monster that is the hero as well. The previous two Hulk movies have tried to do that as their primary design challenge. Our primary design challenge was to take Mark Ruffalo’s Hulk and mix it with the more Kirby-driven versions--wider face, bigger brow and generally sort of scarier.
|Hulk concept art from "Marvel's The Avengers" by Charlie Wen|
Marvel.com: What details did you add to make the Hulk more menacing, in terms of his profile and anatomy?
Ryan Meinerding: I really focused on the head and Charlie focused on the body, but what Joss had talked about with the body was to try and do something that was more [like a] strongman from the early-1900s, where he feels like he’s not ripped all the time--he just feels like a big, solid guy. And, of course, we made him 10 feet tall as well. The fact that he has a little bit of flab makes him seem [reminiscent] of a body builder.
The primary challenge with us was making him feel more real. A lot of the difficulty of these characters is they’re going to be CG, so you’re already starting from a place that’s sort of unreal and trying to add some reality back into the concept, and hopefully you won’t push it beyond what reality is.
The hallmarks to me as a Hulk designer are the large upper lip, small nose, big brow, messy hair and wide face. Some of the previous movie Hulks have hit some of those notes, but not really all of them, and again, it’s because they’re trying to make him into a hero, and I think what we try to do is hit all of them as much as possible and then mix all of that with Ruffalo’s face.
Marvel.com: From the very beginning, you knew Joss wanted to incorporate Ruffalo’s look into the Hulk. How did you go about accomplishing that?
|The Incredible Hulk in "Marvel's The Avengers"|
Ryan Meinerding: We had a digital 3D output of Mark Ruffalo’s head scanned, so Charlie had sculpted the body and I started to use the 3D from Ruffalo’s head to sculpt a head. I tried to sculpt as close as I could on the production timelines we had. From there, I took that sculpt and tried to Hulkify it. We ended up presenting three or four options, from mostly Ruffalo to mostly Hulk. We gave the head I made and Charlie’s body to Legacy Effects, and they basically tightened it up, made it prettier, added detail, and they output that into a maquette.
The maquette is painted and used on set for color reference, but that model was shipped up to Industrial Light and Magic, and when they got it it went through a pretty lengthy process. When it came out the other end, it ended up looking more like Ruffalo than what we had sent out. I think whatever information they were adding to it definitely added more Ruffalo, so we can’t take complete credit for making it look like Mark.
Marvel.com: Charlie, Ryan mentioned that you really took point on designing the Hulk’s body. Can you elaborate on how you went about making it more monstrous? How did you achieve that look through his physique?
Charlie Wen: We were really trying to do that with him this time around because we learned from the past attempts on film. There were parts [from the first film] that were really cool. There was a more naturalistic feel about the body that I really wanted to keep. “The Incredible Hulk” seemed similar to the comic book, which I enjoyed more, so everything was taken into account.
|Hulk in "Marvel's The Avengers"|
We wanted a Hulk that was more monstrous, not so much creature-like. We were really trying to define those things--monster being like the Frankenstein-monster, rather than a creature from “The Black Lagoon.”
For his physique, I wanted to get the power of his back into the film again. That was where Joss wanted to go with it as well, so it was a good thing to be able to do that version. I emphasized his back more so he would feel like a body builder--more of a worker’s body--somebody that got there because of what he does. It goes to where his muscles are built on. We wanted to have him mostly built around the back, but trying to return to the naturalistic body as well.
Marvel.com: It sounds like it’s almost scientific how you approached the design of his body and muscle structure.
Charlie Wen: In terms of designing something like that, it’s such a key part to make him feel believable and I think that’s why it didn’t always work in the past. We wanted something that would read more like what the Hulk would be in the comics, yet in a realistic way. A lot of that came down to the biology of his body and what can or cannot happen with it. Certain fakes we can get away with, but for others, it was physically impossible, or it felt wrong.
The Hulk was the first thing I worked on when I got onto Avengers, so the initial thing we did was a zebra-ish model of the Hulk in a position where he stepped out with one foot with both arms coming forwards--it’s a bit of a triumphant Hulk, with enough back arch that he still has this kind of monstrous feel to him, so it’s trying to capture the monster-aspect, yet it still needs to feel like he can fit in with his heroes.