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Captain America: Civil War Might Have Teased Red Hulk

For every iconic good guy, there must also be an equal and opposite iconic bad guy, usually with a different color palette and angrier eyebrows. This is one of a few indelible comic book truths. Shazam has Black Adam. The Green Lantern has Sinestro and his Corps. Spider-Man has Venom, Superman has Bizarro, and the Hulk, who is green, has Red Hulk, who — and this is true — is not.

Considering the fish-in-a-barrel nature of coming up with "Hulk but a different color," it might come as a surprise to learn that Red Hulk is a relatively recent addition to the Marvel stable of characters. Originating as professional Hulk-hounder General Thadeus "Thunderbolt" Ross, the antagonist wouldn't make the upgrade to gamma monster until 2008. Still, the crimson behemoth has made a serious impression on fans in his short tenure as a Hulk nemesis, with his theoretical big, red arrival in the MCU seeming more like an inevitability with every new project that's announced.

Still, some fans are convinced that we've already had our first taste of Red Hulk in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. These movie sleuths seem positive that the radioactively pumped-up version of Ross made an uncharacteristically subtle debut back in 2016.

Has General Ross been hulking out since Civil War?

The thought process goes something like this: In 2016's "Captain America: Civil War," we learn that General "Thunderbolt" Ross (William Hurt) had suffered a catastrophic heart attack, dropping him to the ground mid-swing during what must have been a particularly stressful round of golf. A second heart attack allegedly floored the General sometime before the events of "Black Widow," with Natasha (Scarlett Johansson) playfully chiding him about it in a good-spirited game of "tease the guy with a heart condition."

What's interesting to fans is that, in spite of undergoing triple bypass surgery, Ross looks fit as a fiddle in both of these appearances. More than that, to some viewers' eyes, he actually looks younger and healthier in "Black Widow" than he did before. Is this just the work of a solid lighting crew and a vanity-preserving post-production process (or, perhaps, just actor William Hurt looking spry in the years before his 2022 death)?

"No," devotees theorize. There's something else going on. The theory, shared on Reddit's r/marvelstudios board by u/f-th-we, posits that Ross actually looks as healthy as he does because he'd already started experimenting on himself with gamma radiation around the time of "Civil War," back when he experienced his first heart attack and walked away seemingly good as new. It's not a lot to go off, but fans won't have to wait long to see what's in store for Ross. Now played by Harrison Ford, his next confirmed appearance will be in "Captain America: New World Order," scheduled for release in 2024. Hopefully, fans will finally get to see what happens to Ross when he's angry.