Long before the words ‘Marvel Cinematic Universe‘ had ever been uttered, the comic label made its first big splash in live action entertainment with The Incredible Hulk. The hit TV series ran from 1977 to 1982, spawned a number of TV movie sequels, and has lived on for generations in re-runs. Here are some facts about the show that you might not have known.

20. The producers insisted on changing Bruce Banner’s name

Today, everyone knows that the human alter-ego of the Hulk is Dr Bruce Banner. However, when work first began on TV series The Incredible Hulk, the first name ‘Bruce’ was a problem for producer Kenneth Johnson. The alliterative names of comic book characters (others including Peter Parker, J Jonah Jameson and Matt Murdock) were considered a corny cliche at the time.

With this in mind, Johnson insisted on renaming the character David Banner, for fear of putting off a broader audience. Under the circumstances, the producer must have appreciated the irony that the actor playing the role was Bill Bixby, notable for having an alliterative name himself.

19. The producer wanted to make the Hulk red, but creator Stan Lee refused

Back in the late 70s, Marvel Comics writer and editor Stan Lee wasn’t quite the household name he later became. Even so, Lee (who co-created the Hulk with artist Jack Kirby) was closely involved with the Incredible Hulk TV show’s early development. Lee agreed to certain changes from the source material, such as renaming Bruce Banner ‘David’ and making the Hulk himself mute.

However, there was one factor that Lee considered something of a deal-breaker: the colour of the Hulk’s skin. Producer Kenneth Johnson had suggested making the Hulk red instead of green, arguing red represents rage, but Lee insisted it simply wouldn’t be the Hulk if he wasn’t green.

18. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Richard Kiel were considered for the Hulk before Lou Ferrigno

Whilst developing the series, the producers instead set about casting the biggest muscleman they could find to play the Hulk. When Arnold Schwarzengger was deemed too short (reports vary on Schwarzenegger’s height: somewhere between 5’11” and 6’2″), the role initially went to Richard Kiel, famed as Bond villain Jaws.

At 7’2″, Kiel had the height, but when shooting began on the pilot the show runners realised he just wasn’t muscular enough. Finally, Schwarzenegger’s old bodybuilding rival Lou Ferrigno (6’5″ and around 285 pounds at the time) was cast as the Hulk, and proved to be the perfect choice for the role.

17. Bill Bixby was the first and only choice for Banner

Whilst Lou Ferrigno’s casting was of course vital, it was arguably even more important that The Incredible Hulk had a compelling actor in the role of the Hulk’s troubled human alter ego Banner. Producer Kenneth Johnson apparently felt there was only man for the part, and that was the man he ultimately cast: seasoned TV actor Bill Bixby.

Aged 44 at the time, Bixby came to the part of David Banner with dozens of small screen credits to his name dating back to the early 60s. Bixby had been one of the leads in sci-fi sitcom My Favorite Martian, and closer to the time he headlined the short-lived 70s drama The Magician.

16. Ferrigno was given green slippers to make him appear barefoot

Playing the Hulk put a lot of physical demands on bodybuilder-turned-actor Lou Ferrigno. On top of conveying the character, Ferrigno had to keep himself in peak physical condition, and perform no small number of dramatic physical feats on camera week after week – and all whilst wearing nothing more than torn jeans.

Worst of all was the fact that the Hulk was always barefoot. As most of his scenes were shot outdoors, this could prove hazardous for the actor. For this reason, in certain shots Ferrigno was given green slippers, which blended in with the make-up, in order to protect his feet.

15. Jack McGee was almost written out of the show, until Bixby and Ferrigno protested

Aside from Banner/the Hulk, the one key recurring character in The Incredible Hulk is Jack McGee, the newspaper reporter hot on the Hulk’s trail. This character is on the receiving end of the show’s most famous line, repeated in the opening credits sequence: “Mr. McGee, don’t make me angry. You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry.”

Actor Jack Colvin played McGee, but as the series went on the producers began to question McGee’s importance and considered firing him to save some money. Fortunately for Colvin, Bill Bixby and Lou Ferrigno said they would refuse to work if Colvin was fired, and the producers ultimately relented.

14. Ferrigno had to stay in a heavily air-conditioned trailer between shots

Playing the not-so-jolly green giant meant that Lou Ferrigno had to spend hours caked in green body paint, as well as wearing a specially made green wig. What made this even more challenging was that Ferrigno had to wear all this whilst out in the streets under the hot sun of California.

This of course proved an issue at times, because whenever Ferrigno started to get hot, even the slightest amount of sweat would inevitably ruin his make-up job. For this reason, producers had to find ways to keep Ferrigno cool, and so he was given a specially refrigerated trailer in which to sit between takes.

13. Bixby and Ferrigno wouldn’t allow themselves to be seen in public together

Bixby and Ferrigno were both keen to avoid shattering the illusion that they were the same person, particularly given how many children were fans of the show. To this end, during The Incredible Hulk’s initial run the two actors made a point of avoiding being out in public at the same time, and for a time they refused to pose for photographs together.

On top of this, Ferrigno would never be present on set whilst Bixby was shooting his scenes as Banner, nor would Bixby be present during Ferrigno’s Hulk scenes. The actors agreed that maintaining a distance on set would facilitate the psychological distance between Banner and the Hulk, the two sides of the same personality.

12. The Hulk TV movies featured the first live action appearances of Thor, Daredevil and Kingpin

In the late 80s, the makers of The Incredible Hulk made the first attempt at bringing the Marvel universe to the screen with a series of TV movies featuring other characters from the comic books. 1988 TV movie The Incredible Hulk Returns co-starred Eric Kramer as Thor, giving the character his first live action appearance.

Follow-up The Trial of the Incredible Hulk sported two other Marvel characters since seen in film and TV: Daredevil, played by Rex Smith (TV’s Street Hawk) and The Kingpin, played by John Rhys-Davies (of the Indiana Jones and The Lord of the Rings movies). It was hoped this would kickstart Thor and Daredevil TV shows, but these failed to take flight.

11. In the pilot episode, Ferrigno flips a car over for real

In the pilot episode, when Bill Bixby’s Banner is caught out in the rain with car trouble and loses his temper, he does what we would soon come to expect of him whenever he gets angry and transforms into the Hulk, who then flips the car over to vent his frustration. This eye-catching moment (which became part of the show’s opening credits sequence) was not entirely staged.

The special effects team weren’t yet ready with the cable that was intended to flip the car, but after a long day of shooting Lou Ferrigno was sick of waiting. So, proving those mighty muscles weren’t just for show, Ferrigno simply flipped the car over himself, completely unassisted.

10. The Hulk’s wig was specially designed to cover Lou Ferrigno’s hearing aid

One minor difference between the Hulk of the comics and Lou Ferrigno’s incarnation of the character is the longer hair that flops down over his ears. You may have just assumed this was an aesthetic choice appropriate to the late 70s, but there was also a practical reason for this hairstyle: to conceal Lou Ferrigno’s hearing aid.

Ferrigno has been largely deaf for most of his life, after suffering a number of severe ear infections as a small child. This was also in part why the Hulk has no dialogue in the show, as growing up deaf also affected Ferrigno’s speech, so there were concerns that viewers wouldn’t be able to clearly understand the actor.

9. Bill Bixby attempted to make a Spider-Man crossover TV movie

While The Incredible Hulk is the best remembered live-action TV show based on a Marvel comic to have emerged in the late 70s, it wasn’t the only one. Less well remembered is The Amazing Spider-Man, which starred The Sound of Music actor Nicholas Hammond in the title role and ran for 13 episodes before being cancelled by network CBS.

In 1984, Bill Bixby had contacted Hammond to pitch an Amazing Spider-Man/Incredible Hulk crossover film for television, but this never got beyond the planning stages. It was claimed by the network that this was due to Lou Ferrigno’s unavailability, but Ferrigno says no one ever contacted him about it.

8. Bill Bixby had to miss one episode because he was busy with his divorce hearings

Including the feature-length pilot episode, The Incredible Hulk ran for a grand total of 80 episodes produced between 1978 and 1982. Bill Bixby, Lou Ferrigno and Jack Colvin were the only credited recurring cast members for the duration of the series – but in truth, only Ferrigno appeared in every single episode.

Bixby was forced to sit out 1980 episode Proof Positive, as he was going through a divorce at the time and was required to be present at court hearings which clashed with production. For this reason, the episode featured recycled Bixby footage from earlier episodes, plus Bixby’s stand-in disguised as the actor.

7. The show indirectly helped create She-Hulk

After seeing the success of The Six Million Dollar Man spin-off series The Bionic Woman, producer Kenneth Johnson was apparently keen to do something similar with The Incredible Hulk. Rumour has it that the show runners intended to take an original character they had already introduced, David Banner’s sister Helen (Diana Muldaur), and make her a female Hulk.

When these rumours made their way back to the offices of Marvel Comics, Stan Lee was concerned about such an embellishment on their intellectual property. As such, Lee and artist John Buscema introduced She-Hulk in her own comic book in 1980, beating the TV producers to the punch.

6. An unfilmed series finale would have seen Banner cured of the Hulk

Despite the popularity of The Incredible Hulk, the show was fighting a constant battle to stay on the air. Network CBS, apparently anxious over how expensive it was to make, had been keen to pull the plug for some time, and finally did so during the fifth season. The news came as a shock to the cast and crew, who had only completed work on the season’s first seven episodes when they heard.

Producer Kenneth Johnson tried without success to persuade the network to let them shoot some more episodes in order to bring the series to a more satisfactory conclusion. It had been hoped that they would bring things to a definitive end by finally curing Banner of the Hulk in a series finale – but they never got the chance to do this.

5. Two different actors provided the Hulk’s voice

Although Lou Ferrigno’s voice would later be used for the Hulk in several Marvel Studios movies, Ferrigno was never allowed to perform that duty on TV’s The Incredible Hulk. Initially, the green goliath’s guttural growls were provided by Ted Cassidy (best known as Lurch from TV’s The Addams Family), the same actor who provides the narration over the show’s opening title sequence.

When Cassidy passed away in January 1979, the Hulk’s vocal duties were given to Charles Napier, another prolific character actor seen in such hit films as Rambo: First Blood Part II and The Silence of the Lambs. Napier would voice the Hulk without credit in 49 episodes, as well as playing a few on-camera roles in the series.

4. Tragedies in Bill Bixby’s life impacted the later episodes

David Banner was a man constantly battling with his own personal demons, and sadly the same was true of actor Bill Bixby himself. Toward the end of the show’s run, Bixby suffered a number of real-life tragedies which took their toll on the actor, and his co-star Lou Ferrigno believes Bixby’s heart simply wasn’t in the show afterwards.

Several months after Bixby’s divorce from his first wife Brenda Benet, their six-year-old son Christopher fell ill and died whilst on vacation with his mother. Just over a year later, the grief-stricken Benet took her own life. These events naturally hit Bixby hard and may have impacted his personal investment in what proved to be the show’s final two years.

3. The Hulk’s co-creator Jack Kirby made a rare cameo appearance on the show

These days, everybody knows about the late, great Stan Lee, particularly as the comics writer and editor was immortalised in a slew of cameo appearances in almost every Marvel movie before he passed away in November 2018 aged 95. Less familiar to the wider audience is artist Jack Kirby.

Kirby co-created the Hulk and a number of other beloved characters with Lee, as well as creating many properties on his own including the Eternals. The Incredible Hulk gave Kirby one of his few on-camera appearances, as a police sketch artist in season two, episode seven.

2. Bixby himself directed two of the Incredible Hulk TV movies

The Incredible Hulk concluded its small screen run in May 1982 after five seasons. However, this was not the end of the franchise. In the mid-80s, entertainment company New World owned Marvel, and were keen to exploit these properties. Through reruns, The Incredible Hulk remained popular enough in the 80s for it to warrant a revival.

Bill Bixby, Lou Ferrigno and Jack Colvin all reprised their roles in 1989 TV movie The Incredible Hulk Returns, followed by 1989’s The Trial of the Incredible Hulk and 1990’s The Death of the Incredible Hulk, both of which Bill Bixby also directed. Despite the title of the trilogy closer, there had been plans for more TV movies, but these were scrapped when Bixby died of cancer in 1993.

1. Lou Ferrigno has made uncredited appearances in the recent Hulk movies

David Banner actor Bill Bixby is sadly missed, but Lou Ferrigno has remained closely associated with the Hulk. As well as lending his vocals to the Incredible Hulk animated series of the late 90s, Ferrigno has also made uncredited contributions to most of the Hulk’s more recent big screen appearances, starting with a brief on-camera cameo in 2003’s Hulk as a security guard, alongside Stan Lee.

Later, 2008’s The Incredible Hulk saw Ferrigno have a few lines opposite that film’s Banner, Edward Norton, who informs Ferrigno, “You are the man.” In addition, Ferrigno’s vocals were used for Mark Ruffalo’s Hulk in The Avengers, Avengers: Age of Ultron and Thor: Raganrok.