The untold truth of Professor Hulk

With Avengers: Endgame, audiences met a version of the Hulk referred to as “Professor Hulk.” After some of the surviving Avengers are initially rebuffed when they ask Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) to help them achieve time travel, they turn to Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo), who’s very different from when we last saw him. The Avengers meet Bruce in a diner where they learn he’s big and green all the time now, but with Bruce Banner’s mind in control.

While the Hulk we meet in Endgame is closer to the Professor Hulk than anything seen previously in the MCU, the character in the comics is a much more complex animal. The Endgame version seems to basically be Hulk’s body plus Banner’s brain, but describing the Professor Hulk of the source material that way would be an oversimplification.


Originally referred to as the Merged Hulk, the Professor first appeared in 1991. Like the version we meet in Endgame, he possesses Banner’s intelligence and remains big and green all the time, but he’s far from the calm, good-natured, gentle giant we see in the film. The Professor Hulk is arrogant, emotionally unstable, and just as violent as his less educated predecessors. He harbors grudges against just about every other Marvel hero, and is eventually shown to have all the makings of a tyrant. If you’re interested in how the character was originally portrayed, read on for the untold truth of Professor Hulk.

The merging

The fractured pieces of Banner's psyche battling the memory of early trauma in 1991's Incredible Hulk #377

The Professor is born in 1991’s Incredible Hulk #377 with the help of longtime Hulk frenemy Leonard Samson and an old school Marvel villain named the Ringmaster.

For the five years leading up to this storyline — since 1986’s Incredible Hulk #324 — Bruce Banner has been a bit like a werewolf. At night he changes into a gray, thuggish, but smarter and more cunning version of the Hulk often referred to as “Joe Fixit.” At dawn, Banner returns. In 1990’s Incredible Hulk #372, the old-school savage green Hulk emerges with no immediate explanation, and shortly afterward in Banner’s mind, a battle commences between the warring personalities of Banner, Fixit, and the savage Hulk. Leonard Samson — a gamma-powered hero who is also a famous psychiatrist — tries to end this conflict through hypnosis, digging up Banner’s repressed memories of abuse.

With the Ringmaster using his hypnosis-inducing hat to help the process, Samson guides Banner and the other personalities through memories of Banner being beaten by his father Brian and eventually witnessing his mother’s brutal death at his father’s hands. On this psychic plane, we learn Banner created both versions of the Hulk to protect himself from trauma. With all three personalities finally facing their past, they are shown merging together. The comic book ends in the physical world, where Bruce’s wife Betty is confronted by a green-skinned Hulk who smiles at her devilishly and says, “Honey… I’m home.” This is the first appearance of Professor Hulk.

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