Writer Stan Lee and artist Jack Kirby created the iconic Marvel superhero, the Hulk, in 1962. In the comics, the green giant would speak in short, to-the-point phrases. But when the comic book was adapted for its first live-action project, The Incredible Hulk, Lee believed it would be better if the Hulk didn’t speak.
Stan Lee created the Hulk to speak short phrases in Marvel Comics
In 1962, Lee’s publisher asked him to create a new superhero. So, inspired by works like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and Frankenstein, the writer came up with the idea of the Hulk. The appeal, he felt, was that as a monster, the Hulk is strong and powerful. But at his core, he’s a protector.
“Why not get a guy who looks like a monster and really doesn’t want to cause any harm,” Lee told Rolling Stone in 2015. “Everybody wishes they were super-strong, and here’s a guy who’s so powerful he can do almost anything. It was easy to identify with him, except he wasn’t that bright.”
But because the Hulk wasn’t as articulate as his counterpart, Dr. Bruce Banner, Lee wrote his dialogue in short phrases. “I thought that a guy who looked like that wouldn’t exactly sound like Laurence Olivier,” the Marvel legend explained. “I thought it would be a good idea to let him talk like ‘Hulk smash! Hulk angry!’ That type of thing.”
But Stan Lee didn’t think Hulk’s dialogue would work for ‘The Incredible Hulk’
In 1977, Kenneth Johnson developed and produced The Incredible Hulk series and accompanying TV movies for CBS. But in an effort to make the show less campy, Johnson suggested Banner should be the only part of the Hulk to speak. He brought the idea to Lee, who heartily agreed.
“As far as the Hulk goes in the comic books, I had him talking because a panel without any
dialogue balloons — and I couldn’t give him thought balloons because he was too dumb — it can get a little uninteresting,” Lee said in an interview with the Television Academy.
“The minute [Kenneth Jones] said it, I knew he was right because in the beginning, I had the Hulk talking like this, ‘Hulk crush! Hulk get him!’” he continued. “I could get away with it in a comic, but that would have sounded so silly if he spoke that way in a television show. So by having him not talk at all, I think he made it more like a real monster. More frightening than that silly pidgin dialogue.”
He thought ‘The Incredible Hulk’ turned out ‘wonderful’
The Hulk has been adapted into several live-action projects over the years. But as different as it was from his original concept, Lee truly believed The Incredible Hulk captured the essence of the superhero.
“The Hulk television show I thought was wonderful,” Lee told the Television Academy. “[Kenneth Johnson] was so smart, he took a character which in live-action television might have been unbearably foolish-looking with nonsensical stories, and he made it as palatable for grown-ups as for kids.”
“Because what he did, if you remember that series, it was an hour [long] show, and in the course of the hour, you only actually saw the Hulk (Lou Ferrigno) for five or six minutes,” he added. “The rest of the time, it was Bruce Banner, played by Bill Bixby, as a very human empathetic character that you cared about. So it was really an adult show about an interesting complex hero with a lot of personal problems.”
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