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David Banner (Johnson series)

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Bruce Banner
Alias(es) Hulk
Appeared in The Incredible Hulk
The Incredible Hulk Returns
The Trial of the Incredible Hulk
The Death of the Incredible Hulk
Status Deceased
Actor Bill Bixby

Dr. David Bruce Banner is a genius scientist and physician who, due to high-levels exposure to gamma radiation, transforms into The Hulk when stressed or enraged.


The Incredible Hulk

David Bruce Banner, M.D., Ph.D. , is a physician and scientist employed at the fictitious "Culver Institute"—presumably headed by Dr. Benjamin Culver —who is traumatized by the car accident that killed his beloved wife Laura. Haunted by his inability to save her, Dr. Banner, in partnership with Dr. Elaina Harding Marks, who also works at the Culver Institute, studies a total of 78 incidents of people who, while in danger, somehow managed to summon superhuman strength in order to save their loved ones. Dr. Banner concludes that high levels of gamma radiation from sunspots are the cause, and the emotional stress experienced in these situations combined with the gamma radiation altered the body chemistry to cause an increase in strength. In a tragic twist, it is revealed that while Dr. Banner's own body would have been the most receptive to the sunspot-based gamma augmentation, the car accident that claimed his wife had occurred on a day with the least sunspot-based gamma activity. To test his theory, Dr. Banner bombards his own body with gamma radiation. Unknown to Dr. Banner, his equipment has been upgraded, causing him to administer a far higher dose of gamma radiation to himself than he had intended. Dr. Banner attempts to lift a heavy object to test his strength, but is unable to, so he leaves the lab in disgust, thinking the experiment failed.

Driving home in a heavy rainstorm, Dr. Banner's car has a flat tire and he injures himself while trying to change it. The anger resulting from the pain triggers his first transformation into the Incredible Hulk, a 7-foot-tall (2.1 m), 330 pound, green-skinned savage creature, with a sub-human mind and superhuman strength. The Hulk/Dr. Banner destroys his car and wanders off into the nearby woods. The next morning, the Hulk stumbles upon a girl who is camping with her father, and attempts to befriend her (a la The Monster inFrankenstein). In the ensuing confusion, the Hulk is shot by the girl's father, but manages to escape. Once calm and unharrassed, Hulk eventually transforms back into Dr. Banner, who has no memory of the tire-changing incident or the events thereafter. Unsure of how to proceed, Dr. Banner seeks out his research partner, Dr. Marks. Her amazement at Dr. Banner's healing powers (his gunshot wound is nearly healed) is replaced by shock and horror when Dr. Banner tells her that he bombarded himself with gamma radiation.

Dr. Banner and Dr. Marks relocate to a laboratory isolated from the rest of the Culver Institute but still on its grounds, locking him in an experimental pressure chamber designed for deep underwater use; they hope that if Dr. Banner metamorphoses again, it will hold the creature. Dr. Banner initially suspects that his transformation had been caused by the lightning and/or rain, both of which he was experiencing at the time, and they simulate analogous conditions in the chamber. When this fails to induce a transformation, Dr. Banner lies down to get some sleep. Dr. Banner then has his recurring nightmare of the accident that killed his wife, which causes him to transform and the creature violently escapes from the chamber. Dr. Marks takes a blood sample from the Hulk's wounded hands and guides him to a couch, where he calms down and returns to normal. They then realize that the Hulk has a very high metabolism and healing rate and that the transformation is caused by strong negative emotions, such as anger. Banner summarizes the implications by saying, "That means it's uncontrollable but..."

While Dr. Banner and Dr. Marks try to reverse the process, a reporter for a fictitious tabloid called the National Register named Jack McGee, who was previously investigating Dr. Banner's research but is now investigating the reported sighting of the Hulk, intrudes on the lab. When the scientists refuse to speak to him, McGee suspects they know more than they are letting on and sneaks into the lab, hiding in a cupboard where he accidentally knocks over a chemical container. Dr. Banner catches McGee hiding and removes him from the premises, warning McGee with a smile, "Mr. McGee, don't make me angry. You wouldn't like me when I'm angry." (Dr. Banner, of course, was implying his transformation into the Hulk when he is angered.) But as Dr. Banner confronts McGee outside, the spilled chemicals (unseen by Dr. Banner) result in the lab catching fire. Dr. Banner rushes back into the lab to save Dr. Marks, and the stress of the smoke fumes triggers another transformation into the Hulk. The Hulk carries Dr. Marks away from the inferno into nearby woods. Dr. Marks reveals her love for Dr. Banner before she dies from injuries she sustained in the explosion. McGee witnesses the Hulk carrying her away, and surmises that the Hulk started the fire and killed both Dr. Banner and Dr. Marks. Although the authorities are skeptical of the existence of the creature McGee tells them about, he reports the creature to the police and publishes a front-page headline in the National Register that proclaims, "Incredible 'Hulk' Kills 2" before vowing to track down the creature so he can catch it and bring it to the law's attention. It is at this point the series begins—McGee vows to capture Dr. Marks' and Dr. Banner's killer. Dr. Banner, now presumed dead, is forced to go into hiding while trying to find a cure for his condition.

In a manner vaguely similar to the popular series The Fugitive, this forms the basis of the TV series: Dr. Banner endlessly drifts from place to place, assuming different identities and odd jobs to support himself and sometimes to enable his research. Along the way, Dr. Banner finds himself feeling obliged to help the people he meets out of whatever troubles have befallen them. Often Dr. Banner's inner struggle is paralleled by the dilemmas of the people he encounters, who find in Dr. Banner a sympathetic helper. As Kenneth Johnson stated, "What we were constantly doing was looking for thematic ways to touch [-on] the various ways that the Hulk sort of manifested itself in everyone. In Bixby and his character, Dr. David Banner, it happened to be anger. In someone else, it might be obsession, or it might be fear, or it might be jealousy or alcoholism! The Hulk comes in many shapes and sizes. That's what we tried to delve into in the individual episodes."[6] Despite his attempts to stay calm no matter how badly he is treated, Dr. Banner inevitably finds himself in dangerous situations that trigger his transformations into the Hulk.

Meanwhile, McGee continues to pursue the incredible story of the mysterious monster, whom he believes got away with a double murder. Ultimately, Dr. Banner changes someone's life for the better or even saves a person's life. Nonetheless, Dr. Banner almost always flees the town, scared that publicity over the Hulk's rampages will eventually bring unwanted scrutiny of him from the local authorities and/or McGee. The episodes usually end with Dr. Banner hitch-hiking down some outbound highway or road, with a strikingly haunting and sad piano solo version of the series theme music playing as the ending credits visualize. The mood conveys Dr. Banner's inner sense of hopelessness: the quest of a man desperate to one day find the cure that will bring him peace, an end to his endless running, and the ability to reclaim a normal life.

The Incredible Hulk Returns

To be added

The Trial of the Incredible Hulk

To be added

The Death of the Incredible Hulk

To be added



  • Non-Canon (5 films)

Behind the scenes

  • In the television series, the name was changed by the producers to "David Banner" as they did not want the series to be perceived as a comic book series, so he wanted to change what he felt was a staple of comic books, and Stan Lee's comics in particular, that major characters frequently had alliterative names.


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