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Updated: August 19, 2021

THE INCREDIBLE HULK, for those who may not know, was a popular television series that aired on CBS from 1977 until 1982. It was based on a Marvel Comic Book about a research scientist who is exposed to an extreme amount of gamma radiation while rescuing a teenager from a nuclear testing ground. The first time he loses his temper, Dr. Bruce Banner is transformed from a mild-mannered scientist to a seven foot, green-skinned, raging creature with limited intelligence and enormous strength. This creature was dubbed, "The Incredible Hulk."

THE INCREDIBLE HULK comic book series, which originally premiered in 1962, was not well received during its initial run and was canceled after only six issues. However, the Hulk began appearing in other Marvel comic books which garnered a new level of popularity for the character. The Hulk and his adventures soon became part of Marvel's "Tales To Astonish" comic book, which he shared with other popular Marvel characters such as Giant Man and the Submariner. Readers became so entranced with the tale of this tortured soul in his battles against the military, other super heroes and other creatures, that the Hulk was eventually returned to his own comic series in the late 1960's with THE INCREDIBLE HULK issue #102.

In 1977, Marvel Comics was entering television with the help of CBS. Spider-Man, Dr. Strange and Captain America had all been featured in live action television movies to varying degrees of success. CBS purchased the rights to THE INCREDIBLE HULK and decided that the great green monster was to make his live action television debut. Hired to produce the project was television veteran, Kenneth Johnson. Johnson, who had been a chief writer on The Six Million Dollar Man and producer of its spinoff series, The Bionic Woman, set about the daunting task of taking the Hulk from the pages of Marvel Comics to the television screen.

In order for a show which involved a man changing into a giant green monster to survive in a competitive prime time television market, Johnson recognized that the story of the Hulk would have to be adapted considerably. Johnson wanted the series to appeal to adults as well as children and made many changes which surprised longtime readers of the comic. Bruce Banner's name was changed to David Banner because "Bruce" sounded too stereotypically gay and because Johnson disliked the alternating name sequences so often used in comic books (Clark Kent, Lois Lane, Matt Murdock, Peter Parker etc.). Also ousted was the notion of Banner getting exposed to radiation when a missile explodes on a nuclear testing ground. In its place was a shoreline involving Banner researching the effects of adrenaline on human strength - an interest which consumes him after he is unable to free his wife from a burning vehicle. One of Banner's experiments with radiation goes horribly wrong and results in his affliction. The antagonist of the story was changed too. In the comic book, Banner and his green-skinned alter-ego were pursued largely by other Super Beings and the United States army, commanded by a crazy General. In the television series, the Hulk's main nemesis was a struggling tabloid reporter bent on convincing the world that a raging creature was out and about causing havoc, in order to use the story to revive his stagnating career. Modeled after the character of Javert from Victor Hugo's Les Miserables, Jack McGee pursued David Banner and the creature relentlessly throughout the series' run.

The Hulk himself was only seen for a few minutes during each episode while the rest of the shoreline involved Banner working his way through whatever dilemma faced him, trying desperately to control his transformations. Unlike the comic character, the television Hulk never spoke and was somewhat more vulnerable to what his attackers could throw at him. For example, the comic book Hulk regularly shrugged off tank shells while the television Hulk could be injured by bullets, knives and other weapons.

In casting the show, Johnson called in Bill Bixby for the role of Dr. David Banner. Bixby was a veteran actor who had appeared in numerous films and television shows, including the television series' The Courtship Of Eddie's Father, The Magician, and My Favorite Martian. The role of Jack McGee was played by Jack Colvin, who had, until that point, been a character actor in numerous films and television shows. The most difficult task lay in finding an actor large enough to play the role of a giant rampaging monster. Initially Richard Kiel ("Jaws" from the James Bond series of movies) was cast as the Hulk but after a few weeks of shooting, it became apparent that Kiel was not bulky enough to achieve what Johnson wanted to convey.

Johnson finally found his creature in the form of bodybuilder Lou Ferrigno. Standing 6'5" tall and weighing nearly 300 albs, the enormous Ferrigno seemed a perfect choice for the role. Ferrigno had won considerable acclaim for his victories in various body building competitions and was featured opposite Arnold Schwarzenneger (then a fledgling actor and allegedly considered too short to play the Hulk) in the popular bodybuilding documentary, Pumping Iron.

In November 1977, the two hour television movie, THE INCREDIBLE HULK, appeared on North American television. Viewers were enthralled by the tale of David Banner and his desperate attempts to control his adrenaline induced strength. Critics, expecting the campiness of the old Bat-Man television series and similar shows, were surprised at the sophistication of the film: David's struggles in dealing with his wife's death; his relationship to his assistant Dr. Elaina Marks; his research failures; the innocence of the Incredible Hulk; and the disaster at the end of the film which finds a dying Elaina Marks lying in the Hulk's arms, professing her love for David. The movie received high ratings and and also earned significant box-office returns when it was released theatrically in other parts of the world. The open-ending of the film suggested that David Banner would be returning to the screen soon.

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