Retcons are a part of comics, something that can’t be avoided when you’ve been telling stories with the same characters for 50+ years. It’s the same reason there have been two relaunches in DC in the past decade alone. You need ways to freshen up characters, make them new and appealing after all these years.
These retcons can range all over the place, going to the heights of Bucky being the Winter Soldier to the lows of Captain America being an undercover Hydra agent in one of the worst storylines Marvel has ever put out. Those affecting the Hulk fall into the same category, some good and some bad.
10 Hated: Changing The Hulk’s Origin
This is one of the more recent retcons on the character, happening in the Immortal Hulk series. The comic itself isn’t bad and does truly offer up an interesting take on the character, but messing with the character’s long-standing origins is never going to be seen positively.
It’d be like saying Bruce Wayne’s parents didn’t die and were actually time travelers who brought Bruce here to be the protector this era needed. It could lead to an interesting story, but still, it sort of ruins the core of the character. A hero’s origin is one of the most important parts of their persona.
9 Liked: Two Separate Entities
The Hulk and Bruce were never meant to be two separate entities in the literal sense. Sure, Hulk was supposed to represent Bruce’s inner anger, something he had no control over, but never were they planned to be pulled away from each other.
Once that changed, it opened up with some very interesting avenues to tell stories. You could explore their need for one another as well as give The Hulk some characterization away from Banner. It led to some of his most iconic stories as a result.
8 Hated: The End Of World War Hulk
World War Hulk was a fitting caper to the storyline that started with Hulk being sent off into space by the Illuminati. While it isn’t quite as good as Planet Hulk, it showed why he’s one of the most destructive forces on earth.
While having his defeat serve the motives of a faction of villains was a cool turn to take, having it lead to the creation of Red Hulk was awful. Even worse, it led to Red Hulk being the leading man in a comic that was supposed to be about big green.
7 Loved: Making Him Green
This one isn’t so much a story retcon as a smart decision by Stan Lee. Originally The Hulk was going to be grey, Stan not wanting his color to suggest any sort of ethnic group. The color scale also worked well when you consider Hulk is more a shade of grey character rather than your standard hero.
The grey lasted one issue before the decision to turn him green, a quick about-face due to how the grey looked once printed. It was a smart choice as the character wouldn’t have had the same impact if he were such a dull color.
6 Hated: Betty’s Resurrections
Resurrections are apart of comics, those that die bound to show back up at some point or the other. Betty coming back isn’t so much an issue, more how it happened. She came back once prior, before writers finally settled on her true revival, being that of the Red She-Hulk.
Her first revival was just hand waved away by Nightmare, an issue that will come up again on this list. Unlike Red Hulk, the Red She-Hulk wasn’t a horrible character, but it felt like a waste tying her to Betty when the reveal of who she was didn’t shock anyone.
5 Loved: Different Versions Of Hulk
This is probably the best change given to Hulk and by extension Bruce Banner. It gave writers leeway to tone down Hulk if the story called for it, as well as pump him up when it did. That flexibility helps open up so many different story angles and allows villains who aren’t Hulk level in strength to hold their own.
In total there’s Savage Hulk, World Breaker Hulk, Joe Fixit, Professor Hulk, Guilt Hulk, and the new Devil Hulk. Having all of these different forms in Banner’s head makes him one of the most interesting characters in Marvel when written right.
4 Hated: Amadeus Cho
Change is needed in comics, successors to the heroes we all know and love should be welcomed with open arms, giving us fresh stories. For comics to survive, there needs to be a move to a more continuous story format than what’s done. That said, certain characters don’t make sense in the hands of another person.
Much like Thor, Hulk is one of those creations that can’t just be passed down to whoever wants it. Bucky picking up Cap’s shield is quite a bit different than taking on the task of housing Hulk. It didn’t help that Cho’s stories didn’t pack the same seriousness that Banner did.
3 Loved: Immortality
While changing the origin to Hulk and Banner is a bit iffy, many of the ideas in Immortal Hulk are refreshing, taking the character away from the status quo. Immortality is one of those things, helping explain why the Hulk always kept coming back, Banner by extension.
Hulk being able to heal any wounds Banner received makes plenty of sense considering how high his healing factor has been shown in the past. More than anything, it gives the character more depth, something that’s always a good thing.
2 Hated: Illusionary Bruce Jones Run
Bruce Jones’s run had its ups and downs, starting fairly strong with Bruce on the run and really deep-diving into his psyche and character. It tapered out towards the end and wasn’t a comic for those who are a fan of Hulk smashing things, but it did right by Bruce Banner.
The issue isn’t if you loved or hated his run though, it’s that Nightmare just popped up, and admits to messing with Bruce’s mind for years, making you wonder if anything in Jones’s run even happened. Tempest Fugit as a whole was one of the worst Hulk stories to date.
1 Loved: Bruce Needing Hulk
For as long as the character has existed, Bruce has been trying to find ways to either coexist with Hulk or rid himself of the strongest there is. It’s a plot point that makes its way into every movie for a reason.
What’s interesting is that once it happens, that entire desire gets flipped on its axis, Bruce learning he needs the Hulk more than Hulk ever needed him. It’s a great change to the character that shows how dependent Bruce is.
Since making his way unto the pages, The Hulk has been subject to a lot of changes. Let's look at some of his most memorable retcons.