Warning: This article contains full spoilers for Avengers: Endgame!
During this period, Hulk began to take new forms in addition to his traditional savage persona. For instance, there was the more brutish Grey Hulk (a.k.a. Joe Fixit), who moonlighted as an enforcer for the Las Vegas mob. This is where Professor Hulk made his debut. With help from psychologist and occasional superhero Doc Samson, Banner managed to come to terms with his alter ego and create a new persona called Professor Hulk, one that merged Banner’s brain with that of the classic, savage Hulk and the brutish Grey Hulk.
Initially known as “Merged Hulk,” this hybrid being seemed to be the answer to Banner’s years-long quest to save the world from his own inner monster. This new persona had all of Banner’s intelligence and all of Hulk’s strength, making him the best of both worlds.
Unfortunately, this evolution didn’t solve all of Banner’s problems. As he grew to better understand this new Hulk manifestation, Banner realized that Professor Hulk isn’t actually the genuine merging of Banner and Hulk, but merely another alternate, idealized and ultimately temporary personality. And following the death of Betty Ross, Marvel took the opportunity to restore Hulk to a more traditional, savage status quo. (The good news is that Betty got better.)
In the years since, Hulk has continued to evolve alongside Banner. There have been other intelligent, Professor Hulk-esque incarnations of the character, including Worldbreaker Hulk and Doc Green. But even now, Banner seems no closer to truly making peace with his inner monster in the comics.
The MCU’s Professor Hulk: What’s Next?
It’s difficult to say how much the MCU is actually drawing from the comics when it comes to Hulk’s evolution. The movies have essentially depicted Hulk as a mindless child who’s slowly become more intelligent the longer he’s existed. Hulk gained rudimentary speech in Thor: Ragnarok after spending two Banner-free years on Sakaar. And in Endgame, Hulk has been around long enough that he and Banner are now indistinguishable from one another in terms of intelligence and personality.
However, we don’t know whether the current incarnation of Hulk in the MCU truly is a perfect merging of Banner and Hulk or if, like in the comics, he’s simply a new offshoot personality. There’s a lot we don’t know about how Hulk came to be in this state in those missing five years between Infinity War and Endgame. How did Banner convince Hulk to come back after his defeat in Infinity War? Does Hulk ever revert to human form now? Is this professor Hulk subject to the same limitations as the comic book version in that he devolves into a savage, puny human when he grows too angry?
We get the impression from Endgame that, unlike Iron Man and Captain America, Hulk’s story in the MCU is far from done. We expect some of these questions will be answered in future movies, as Banner helps spearhead a new team of Avengers and comes to better understand his unique condition.
For more on the latest MCU film, check out all the Endgame Easter Eggs we found, our Avengers: Endgame Explained story, are attempt at figuring out Endgame’s time travel rules, our biggest Avengers: Endgame questions, who that kid was from Tony Stark’s funeral, or how Captain Marvel rescued Iron Man in space.
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Jesse is a mild-mannered writer for IGN. Allow him to lend a machete to your intellectual thicket by following @jschedeen on Twitter, or Kicksplode on MyIGN.
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