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Avengers: Endgame’s take on the Hulk, explained

The final film in Marvel’s Phase 3 brings Bruce Banner full circle

smart hulk in avengers: endgame Marvel Studios

Avengers: Endgame is bringing closure to the heroes of the Marvel Cinematic Universe — or the first generation of them, anyway: Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, Hawkeye, Black Widow, and, of course, the Hulk. The strongest Avenger has been through a lot lately, from the arena on Sakaar to getting his butt kicked by Thanos. How do you wrap up the story of the not-so-jolly green giant?

“[Hulk] is ... a very smart man,” Endgame screenwriter Christopher Markus told Polygon, “This Stan Lee/Marvel character, this incredibly smart man in this incredibly powerful body. Where do you go with that? The man who hates himself?”

Now that Endgame has hit theaters, we know. Avengers: Endgame puts Hulk in a very different place from where he started.

[Ed. note: This post contains major spoilers for Avengers: Endgame.]

Marvel Studios’ AVENGERS: ENDGAME..Bruce Banner/Hulk (Mark Ruffalo)..Photo: Film Frame..©Marvel Studios 2019 Marvel Studios

While the Hulk did have “the vocab of a two-year-old” in Thor: Ragnarok, Endgame takes Bruce Banner and his testy alter-ego a step further. Hulk speaks in full sentences. He wears shirts, and even glasses. (They actually look good on him.) When asked to take a selfie with some adoring fans, Hulk dabs. Hulk dabs!

In the five years after the Snap, Bruce Banner and the Hulk are no longer enemies — they’re sharing one body and mind. And that’s a move rooted in the weird, psychological backstory that the Hulk has in Marvel Comics. On the internet, he’s become known as Hipster Hulk. Comic readers may know him as...

Professor Hulk

Over the decades, there have been many Hulks — both in the literal sense, and the metaphorical. In the comics, Bruce Banner’s traumas fractured his mind before he ever became the Hulk, leaving Hulk with different identities, all of which stemmed from when the Green Giant took control for long stretches of time. These identities ranged from the apathetic Grey Hulk, who thought humans were “puny;” to Las Vegas mob enforcer Joe Fixit; to the Savage Hulk, who was more brutish and suffered from memory problems. And then there was … the Professor.

Yes, there is indeed a Professor Hulk, or Merged Hulk, if you will. He’s armed with Banner’s brains and eloquence, Grey’s snark, and some of Savage’s strength, with a dash of Joe Fixit’s cunning. First debuting in 1991’s Incredible Hulk #377, Professor Hulk was born from Banner’s personality merging with that of Grey and Savage and is meant to be the ultimate ideal of the Hulk.

“Merged” or “Professor” Hulk in Incredible Hulk #390, Marvel Comics (1992).
“Merged” Hulk in Incredible Hulk #390.
Peter David, Dale Keown/Marvel Comics

There is a catch, though. If he gets too angry, he’ll transform back into Bruce Banner but with the mind and personality of the Savage Hulk (which doesn’t seem to be a problem for Endgame’s Hulk). What this means is that despite his size, he’s the weakest Hulk personality around, and not terribly handy in a brawl — which might be why get kitted himself out with all these guns during a crossover with X-Factor. Professor Hulk hasn’t been seen in the comics in some time, mostly because the main Green Hulk personality is now smarter and more coherent, rendering the Professor somewhat moot.

Endgame brings Banner and Hulk’s narrative arc full circle in the MCU, a tricky proposition, since Marvel is disinclined to produce a solo Hulk movie. Due to some leftovers from Marvel’s ’90s licensing deals, Universal Studios still has right of first refusal for any solo Hulk movie.

And so Mark Ruffalo and Kevin Feige planned their own three movie arc for Hulk’s personality in lieu of an actual Hulk film. Now we know what they were getting at — over a handful of years, Hulk and Banner have gone from wrestling for control and despising one another, to being able to cooperate and even merge.

Justin is a Kansas City, Missouri, freelance writer and is on Twitter often, @GigawattConduit. He also is an avid lover of M&M McFlurries from McDonald’s, and accepts that he has an addiction to them.

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