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All Of The Hulk's 'Alters,' Explained

The Hulk is the strongest there is. Everyone knows it, and he’s not shy about saying it. But answering the question of which Hulk is the strongest is decidedly more difficult.

Though Moon Knight is the superhero most commonly associated with dissociative identity disorder, Bruce Banner is also afflicted. He’s been developing alternate personality states, or “alters,” from a very young age, and following his exposure to gamma radiation, those personas have manifested in the real world in the form of various Hulks. Each alter, though they share the same mind, is a distinct individual with its own emotions, desires, and memories. 

Banner’s DID is somewhat unique in that appearances by his alters are usually triggered by a specific emotion - and in that they usually involve a monstrous physical transformation.

That’s why the Hulk is sometimes a different color - each Hulk persona has its own unique look to go along with its own unique personality and power set. Overall, the Hulk may be immortal, but his individual personalities come and go, save for the classics, which never seem to go out of style. 

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  • Bruce Banner - The Scientist

    Bruce Banner was born an ordinary child to an unhappy household. His parents were Rebecca and Dr. Brian Banner, and his father’s work in nuclear physics would prove crucial to his eventual transformation into the Incredible Hulk - but not in the way one might suspect.

    Brian became obsessed with the idea that his son had been corrupted by the radiation Brian had taken in on the job. When Rebecca didn’t see the precocious Bruce as a monster, and instead treated their son with unconditional love, Brian grew insanely jealous. His jealousy turned to violence, and eventually escalated to the point that he beat Rebecca to death in front of Bruce. Brian was incarcerated for decades for the crime.

    The trauma of witnessing one parent take the life of another had a demonstrable effect on Bruce. He developed dissociative identity disorder, and began to populate different personality states or “alters” within his own mind. Despite this challenge, Bruce still grew up to be a brilliant nuclear scientist in his own right. But when his experimentation with gamma bombs literally blew up in his face, Bruce’s alters were given physical shape in the form of several Hulks.

  • Savage Hulk - The Inner Child

    The Savage Hulk is the inner child of Bruce Banner manifested in physical form. Alternatively known as the “Green Hulk” or the “Classic Hulk,” this is the face that most people think of when they think of the jade giant. The Savage Hulk has a limited vocabulary and a child-like understanding of the world, because he first came into existence while young Bruce was undergoing massive trauma at the tender age of 6. It’s the side of Bruce that was never allowed to experience a full childhood due to the violence he was forced to face. 

    But young Bruce was also suppressing a lot of rage, and if there’s one thing the Savage Hulk understands, it’s anger. The Savage Hulk gets stronger the angrier he gets, and he theoretically has no upper limit to his incredible strength. This is the Hulk who gained fame as a founding member of the Avengers, but he mostly just wants to be left alone - and to be loved. 

    Even at his angriest, the Savage Hulk goes out of his way not to hurt anyone. He used to have it out for “Puny Banner,” but the two have gotten on much better terms over the years. 

  • Devil Hulk - The Monster

    The Devil Hulk might not be a household name, but he does hold the distinction of being one of the first alters Bruce Banner ever developed, and the first Hulk to make regular appearances in the real world. Bruce created the Devil Hulk in his mind while being abused by his father, and Devil initially served as an imaginary protector and an alternate father figure. But because of Bruce’s complicated feelings about his own father, Devil Hulk also took on several aspects of Bruce’s fear - including an appearance inspired by the biblical snake that tempted Adam and Eve. The Devil Hulk represents Bruce’s inability to imagine love without pain.

    When Banner was first irradiated by the gamma bomb, he often transformed into a manifestation of the Devil Hulk. That’s why, in some of the Hulk’s earliest comic book appearances, he spoke intelligently - even cruelly - and only came out at night, which is a trademark of the Devil Hulk. Like the Savage Hulk, the Devil Hulk only really wants to protect Bruce from harm, but unlike the Savage Hulk, he doesn’t care who he has to hurt to do so. He’s among the more powerful Hulks, and his healing factor is beyond parallel.

    The Devil Hulk is clever, ruthless, and cunning, but he’s not necessarily evil, though Bruce has thought as much in the past and tried to bury the Devil. The Devil Hulk has doled out an enormous amount of violence - once breaking Thor’s skull - and professed a desire to wipe out all humans, but that’s kind of understandable given Bruce’s experiences. Nothing makes the Devil Hulk angrier than people who hurt other people, and you definitely wouldn’t like him when he’s angry. 

  • Joe Fixit - The Wise Guy

    Known as the “Gray Hulk,” the Joe Fixit personality was originally introduced into canon to fix a publishing error. Stan Lee had always intended the Hulk to be gray, but green ink was easier to work with, so Bruce Banner became a jade giant instead. A few earlier appearances of a gray Hulk - including the first ever in 1962’s The Incredible Hulk #1 - were explained away as an alternate personality state battling for control inside Banner’s mind alongside the Savage Hulk and Devil Hulk - and for many years, it was left at that.

    Then the Hulk spent some time in a sub-atomic realm, and when he returned, he was ready for a new lease on life. The gray persona became dominant for a time, took on the name Joe Fixit, and moved to Las Vegas, where he found work as a casino enforcer.

    This made sense, as the Joe Fixit personality state was first developed as young Bruce watched gangster movies, wishing he could be as tough and manipulative as the characters he saw. And that’s what Joe Fixit became - a means for Bruce to act a little less morally than he, or his other Hulk personas, typically display. Unlike Bruce, Joe Fixit only looks out for No. 1. Unlike most Hulks, Joe Fixit wears clothes, and nice ones at that. 

    There’s a trade-off to be had for this moral flexibility, however, and it’s in a lack of strength. Joe Fixit is usually thought of as the weakest Hulk, and though he does get stronger the angrier he gets, it’s at a much slower rate than the other Hulks. This helps explain why Joe was able to mete out casino justice in Vegas without shattering the foundations of the city itself, and also why Joe has gotten used to using his brain, and not his brawn, to get out of trouble. 

    Some believe there to be a separate Gray Hulk in the mix, known as the Savage Gray Hulk. Others believe that’s just what happens when Joe Fixit gets really, really angry. That hypothesis is supported by the recent appearance of a calm, human-shaped version of Joe.

  • Mindless Hulk - The Nightmare

    The Mindless Hulk is the first of Bruce Banner’s personality states with an origin outside of Bruce’s mind. The alter came as a result of the machinations of the demon Nightmare, and was specifically designed to cause maximum chaos and destruction.

    The Mindless Hulk is exactly what he sounds like. Absent of any thought, other than a desire to destroy, the Mindless Hulk cannot be reasoned with. The only emotion he feels is rage, and he feels it all the time. As such, the Mindless Hulk is incredibly strong, but he cannot be controlled - though he can be pointed in a certain direction.

    Nightmare used Banner’s own fear of what the Hulk might do and brought those fears to life. He set the Mindless Hulk loose on the public, resulting in a massacre and a vicious battle with the Avengers thereafter. Thankfully, Doctor Strange - whom Nightmare was targeting with the entire scheme - was able to guide Banner through the inner work required to eliminate the Mindless Hulk persona, and it has not been seen again. 

    Some have even speculated that the Mindless Hulk, and some other personas, were more Nightmare-induced hallucinations than true alters.

  • Merged Hulk - The Gun-Toting Professor

    Eventually, through his work with gamma-powered psychiatrist Dr. Leonard Samson and other mental health professionals, Bruce Banner was able to do some work on his goal of bringing his many personality states together. What this actually resulted in, however, was a brand-new alter known alternatively as the Merged Hulk or the Professor - a persona that represented the best aspects of Bruce, the Savage Hulk, and Joe Fixit. 

    The Merged Hulk has a greater base strength and a larger size than most other Hulks, but he also retains Banner’s vast intelligence. When he was the dominant personality, he led his own superhero team, the Pantheon, and took several steps to make the world a better place.

    But the Professor is far from perfect. Subconsciously fearing that such a combined personality would be too powerful, Banner unwittingly built a safeguard that would cause the Merged Hulk to revert back to Bruce form, but with the mind of the Savage Hulk, whenever he got too angry. When he’s calm, Merged Hulk is far stronger than any other calm Hulk, but he doesn’t get stronger when he gets madder, and that’s to his disadvantage. 

    The Professor feels he is Banner’s ideal self. The other alters don’t quite see it that way.