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All Of Red Hulk's Powers And Abilities, Explained

The news that Harrison Ford signed on to play General Thunderbolt Ross in the Marvel Universe set the internet chattering. He's replacing William Hurt, who's terrorized Marvel's superheroes for years. However, what's really exciting people is the prospect that Ford might also be playing a certain scarlet-hued Hulk.

As the tale goes, Hulk's original intended color was gray. Unfortunately, as discussed in Starlog, the printing process couldn't quite nail the color Marvel wanted. Upon seeing the print version of his and Jack Kirby's creation, Stan Lee opted to have the monster go full green in "Incredible Hulk" #2 (volume 1). Besides a return to gray in the late '80s with the emergence of Mr. Fixit and a one-issue flirtation with blue, Hulk has been the color of grass for quite some time. However, writer Jeph Loeb and artist Ed McGuinness were the ones who wanted Hulk to start seeing red, at least in the mirror.

While Bruce Banner would eventually go crimson in "Immortal Hulk," the Red Hulk identity, began with an unlikely alter ego. World's number one Hulk hater, General Thunderbolt Ross, allowed his anger toward Bruce to overwhelm his good senses. He let Advanced Idea Mechanics (A.I.M) and the Intelligencia turn him into the powerful red Hulk to better battle the original Hulk.General Robert Maverick later received a similar treatment, becoming the second Red Hulk and a member of the U.S. Avengers.

Does Red Hulk differ from Banner in any way besides hue? This is the article to find out!

All the rage, none of the waiting

Bruce Banner's ability to change into his smashing alter ego has varied over the years. The most common and well-known trigger is, of course, anger. When Banner's mad meter goes too high, the Hulk emerges to confront the issue. Other triggers include pain, risk of death, and, for a time, the dark of night, according to Marvel.com. What all these things have in common is that Banner was often at the mercy of his emotions, physical sensation, or time of day. He could sometimes manage to hold back the rage beast under his skin, but he couldn't conjure the Hulk at will for years.

In contrast, General Ross hit the ground running. For Thunderbolt, the change into Red Hulk requires as much effort as an average person might need to put on a hat. A mere thought fires a series of electrons, leading to a physical change moments later. This allows Thunderbolt to change to Red Hulk at the drop of that aforementioned hat and change back just as quickly. Before his secret identity was revealed, Ross used this ability to conceal any connection with Rulk (a common nickname for the Red Hulk), nevermind that they were, in fact, one and the same.

Plug it in, plug it in!

The second Red Hulk, General Robert Maverick, further operationalized the change. General Thunderbolt Ross' need to only think about becoming Rulk to make it so is certainly the height of convenience. However, as anyone who has ever experienced intrusive thoughts can tell you, you are not always entirely in control of the ideas that flit through your brain. One minute, you're all tucked into bed, ready for a well-earned rest. The next minute, your brain is nudging you to remember that time you messed up your own name in front of the entire class because you got distracted.

While not a specific storyline in the comics, it isn't hard to imagine that Thunderbolt Ross needing to occasionally think himself out of a transformation when his mind started to wander at the wrong time.

Maverick's incarnation into the Red Hulk solved that issue while simultaneously introducing new issues. The Hulk plug-in, as it was known, was a literal switch that Maverick needed to flip to trigger his transformation. It made calling upon the Red Hulk nearly as easy as a thought, but without the same worry that a daydream could send your skin toward vermillion at the wrong moment's notice. 

A master of secret identity

General Thunderbolt Ross' road to Rulk involved a controversial procedure provided by organizations with, shall we say, dubious histories in the eyes of the United States government. Additionally, he did so without permission from anyone above him on the chain of command. Ross likely anticipated that his daughter Betty would not be too thrilled with his choices, considering his plans to become a Hulk involved using that power to target Bruce once again. So, Ross was fairly invested in keeping the people around him in the dark about his scarlet alter ego.

Red Hulk provided him with cover in a couple of ways. On the surface, it eliminated Ross' signature, bristly white mustache. In the same way that Hulk's hairstyle typically differed from Banner's, Rulk's facial hair did not match Ross'. Intriguingly, Red Hulk II did sport a mustache similar to his alter ego, General Robert Maverick, but that could have just come down to personal preference.

The second bit of identity protection Red Hulk offered Ross came in handy if the monster ever lost consciousness. While most incarnations of Banner's Hulk would revert to human form while unconscious or asleep, Rulk would maintain the form. Therefore, even if an enemy managed to knock Ross' proverbial block off, he needn't worry about a lack of consciousness giving him up. Instead, he needed to think himself into being a Hulk, and he also needed to consciously think himself out of it, too.

These aren't just gym muscles

Hulk has long been referred to as "the strongest there is." Unfortunately, Rulk is not quite that strong, but he can still give Ole Jade Jaws a run for his money. In fact, in their first encounter, Red Hulk gets the upper hand and sends Bruce Banner off the Golden Gate Bridge, tumbling into the water below.

In his first several appearances, Rulk busts up Wendigo's guts, does a number on Iron Man's armor, cripples a Helicarrier, takes down A-Bomb, knocks Thor out, and slugs the Watcher right in his enormous mug. Even a team of superheroes, including the likes of She-Hulk, Storm, Thundra, Invisible Woman, and Valkyrie, struggle against him. They needed to bring the skills and abilities of nine members together before they finally could take down Rulk.

While Banner takes round two against Red Hulk pretty definitively, it is nonetheless very clear that his crimson counterpart is a physical force to be reckoned with, not one to be dismissed as a lesser knock-off.

More durability than a Hefty bag

While things may happen fast in the superhero business, it tends to be more of a marathon than a sprint. That means a hero's best chance at survival lies not in resolving things quickly, but in being able to hang when things take much longer than expected.

General Thunderbolt Ross' Red Hulk clearly has incredible stamina and durability when it comes to superpowered brawls. He's the Timex of the superhero set — he "takes a licking and keeps on ticking." This is perhaps best exemplified by the first several issues of "Hulk" volume 2. In a series of encounters that unfold over the course of a few days, Rulk takes A-Bomb, the Lady Liberators, Thor, the original Hulk, Wendigo, and more. Normal human beings, by contrast, might run three errands in a day before needing some serious relaxation.

He didn't win all of those fights. In fact, he lost several of them. However, he still was able to continue forward, moving from one violent conflict to the next, usually with no discernible loss of energy or physical dexterity.

General Robert Maverick's incarnation of Rulk is similarly durable. However, as his change into Red Hulk only lasts an hour, he never truly has an opportunity to demonstrate the same kind of stamina as the Red Hulk of General Ross often does.

A military mind

Like the so-called Professor Hulk – or Smart Hulk for the MCU fans out there — General Thunderbolt Ross and General Robert Maverick can retain their intelligence while in Red Hulk form. As a result, both have certain advantages that come from years of service in the United States Armed Services.

While Bruce Banner might be a certifiable genius who worked on weapons for years, he was never a true military man. Ross and Maverick, on the other hand, had years of experience in uniform. Moreover, they fought battles as enlisted men and directed other enlisted men to do the same as officers. Therefore, they possessed a kind of strategic mind that makes them very dangerous opponents.

Additionally, they have the charisma and leadership knowledge needed to rally others to their side. While the Banner Hulk frequently found himself as an outcast, unable to make others understand him or what he needed, both Maverick and Ross are able to command others to support them and fight by their sides, even when they've turned huge and red. Even though both Red Hulks are capable of taking on most enemies all by their lonesome, they have the skills to ensure they will never have to fight alone, unless that's what they wanted.

Red Hulk makes it go boom

A lifetime of military service brings an advantage: knowing about weapons.

A Hulk with a boulder is a terrifying prospect. A Hulk with a gun that is capable of firing enormous, depleted uranium shells is a step beyond terrifying. A Hulk with a firearm capable of firing massive depleted uranium shells who knows that weapon intimately is several steps beyond terrifying into a territory better described as paralyzingly panic-inducing.

That's what Red Hulk brings to the table. He has fists that can shatter concrete. If, somehow, his enemy is still standing after that, Rulk can hoist up a gun the size of a motorcycle and wield it with a sharpshooter's precision. That's only after he's encircled the battlefield with a series of explosive booby traps, making any sort of escape a dicey proposition at best.

A Hulk's strength alone makes one nearly impossible to beat. Pair that with a familiarity of military grade weaponry and the threat posed grows astronomically high.

Like a sponge, but for energy

The Hulk was created, in part, by Bruce Banner absorbing a tremendous amount of gamma radiation into his cells, irrevocably changing his body on a molecular level. As a result, he tends to emit a safe but nonetheless registerable amount of radiation as he moves through the world.

Red Hulk, by contrast, does not give off radiation. This is because both versions of the Red Hulk continue to absorb energy from the world around them. That's the secret weapon Thunderbolt Ross brought into battle against Thor — the longer the God of Thunder battled him, the more Red Hulk was able to siphon off his godly power. As a result, Thor grew subtly weaker as Rulk grew proportionally stronger. This is also why, once Ross abandons Thor on the Moon, the Avenger rallies and recovers. Without the scarlet smasher in his proximity, his energy can fully return.

Rulk employs this ability multiple times. One time, he stole portions of the Power Cosmic from the Silver Surfer, a feat so rare that it put Ross in the company of Doctor Doom. He then turned that power on the likes of the Defenders and Dormammu, not just beating them, but killing them. Only the combined efforts of Galactus and the Grandmaster stopped Rulk's rampage and restored those he murdered to the realm of the living.

Rulk is...the hottest there is?

What made the Hulk such a consistently dangerous figure is that the more you hurt him, the angrier he became. And the angrier he became, the stronger he grew. So going toe-to-toe with Green Genes meant every punch you landed, every rocket strike you commanded, only made him that much more powerful. Short of knocking him out before his unique physiology could react to his growing rage, any fight with him guaranteed you'd get tired, lose resources, and take damage. At the same time, he'd become increasingly energized and even more impossible to beat.

Neither Generals Robert Maverick nor General Thunderbolt Ross benefitted from this particular feature. Instead of "Hulk gets mad, Hulk gets strong, Hulk will smash," it is "Rulk gets mad, Rulk heats up, Rulk cooks the environment around him." In one battle, his heat reached such heights that his flash transformed the sand he was fighting on into glass. That ability still made Red Hulk dangerous, just in a very different way.

This power, unfortunately, was a double-edged sword. While able to withstand temperatures higher than almost any other living being could, Rulk could still create a hot enough pocket around him that he'd overwhelm himself. As a result, he passed out more than once from, essentially, a self-induced heat stroke.

Red Hulk makes it go boom, part 2

One might reasonably wonder if the Red Hulk can absorb energy, and if he can reach such astronomical heights, how does he manage to process it all? The heat portion is somewhat answered by the fact that he sometimes grows so hot with anger he overheats himself. However, what about that energy?

It turns out, Rulk does have an upper threshold for absorption. Once it's reached, he has to expel the energy, and fast. Thus, this military general and munitions expert doesn't just know his way around a bomb. He can become a living bomb all on his own.

Before one grosses themselves out imagining Rulk bursting and spewing his innards across the panels, it should be noted that the monster's "explosions" do not involve his physical body literally bursting apart from within. Instead, his energy just bursts forth from his skin and eyes, essentially creating a bomb blast in thin air, leaving his body, but little else in the blast radius, intact.

Gamma powered monster, heal thyself!

Even if you are incredibly powerful, things like overheating, taking it on the chin from Hulk, and getting run through the chest with Valkyrie's sword are bound to take their toll. Red Hulk isn't immortal, and he can be hurt. So how does he do things like create a massive explosion in the air around him and still manage to continue fighting hours, if not minutes, later? 

Simply put, Hulks heal fast, and that's including the original and the red-colored counterparts. While not quite on-par with Wolverine's healing factor — capable of giving Logan the record for all-time fastest healing — or Deadpool's rapid recoveries, Hulks still heal far quicker and from far more dire wounds than should be humanly possible.

Therefore, Red Hulk can take risks in fights and choose opponents that might seem intimidating to anyone else. When you know you can heal from almost any wound and do it as quickly as Rulk, why bother with caution?

Leaping over tall buildings in a single bound is nothing

An often underestimated ability of Hulks, including Red Hulks, is their ability to move through the world via gigantic leaps. Flight might be the sexier superpower, with high-priced jets like the Blackbird being more efficient for groups of heroes. Still, there is something undeniably powerful about a Hulk's ability to leap into the air and land miles away, with seemingly a minimal amount of effort.

Red Hulk, in particular, set a record of sorts even amongst the Hulks. After his battle with Thor takes the two titans to the Moon, the crimson crusher manages to knock the God of Thunder unconscious. It's a victory worth celebrating, but it also means Thunderbolt Ross has stranded himself on the Moon, some 238,900 miles from Earth.

Rulk knows that if he waits around for a ride home from Thor, chances are he'll get hit with Mjolnir several more times before it's all said and done. Deciding to solve the problem himself, Rulk leaps off the Moon and somehow propels himself back to Earth, smashing into Monument Valley. Even compared to Bruce Banner, a leap of that length must make Ross the new world record holder for distance travelled in a single leap.