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Why Is Thunderbolt Ross' Hulk Red?

Of every hero to join the Marvel Comics pantheon, few have become as iconic as Hulk. Since making his print debut in May 1962's "The Incredible Hulk" #1, he's gone on to feature in countless legendary stories, join fan-favorite teams, and build quite the sizable rogues' gallery. Not to mention, he's made the jump to film and television on several occasions, broadening his fanbase outside of the world of comics. Of course, this is just the Bruce Banner iteration. He's far from the only Hulk to enter the pop culture zeitgeist over the years.

From Skaar to Jennifer "She-Hulk" Walters to "The Totally Awesome Hulk" Amadeus Cho, there are numerous beings in the Marvel Universe with similar abilities to Dr. Banner. While many of them have decided to become forces for good, others haven't taken their new forms in moral, upstanding directions. For instance, there's the gruff military man General Thaddeus "Thunderbolt" Ross, who becomes one of the Banner Hulk's most fearsome rivals. That's not because of his military training, though. It's because he too gains a massive, strong, and durable Hulk form.

Unlike most Marvel Hulks, General Ross doesn't take on a green hue when he transforms. Instead, he turns red, and here's why.

Ross becomes a Hulk by different means than others

We all know the story of Bruce Banner's Hulk. Exposure to gamma radiation leads him to become the Jade Giant. As for General Ross' Red Hulk, though, his origin story is a bit different. The supervillains MODOK and the Leader met with Ross after Banner was exiled off-world, warning that he could return as Hulk and seek revenge. Begrudgingly, he joins forces with them, and when Hulk did inevitably return for the "World War Hulk" storyline, the villains — along with Doc Samson — used satellites to take energy from him and later transfer it to Ross. A mix of gamma and cosmic energy would turn his skin red and blood fluorescent orange-yellow when he became a Hulk.

Also, from a design standpoint, Ross' Hulk is red because it sets him apart from Bruce Banner's green Hulk. It makes their battles more visually engaging and labels him as the bad guy since red is often a color reserved for villains. But how did Marvel Comics readers feel about Ross' new look? Well, if Reddit user u/morgansdoor's thread is of any indication, fans were pretty critical starting out. The conversation is loaded with comments expressing disappointment in his appearance, referring to him as a lazy Hulk palette swap. The original post and other commenters even posit that Ross could've become an entirely different monster once transformed.

Regardless of where you stand on General Ross' Red Hulk, he has undeniably become a staple of Marvel Comics in the years since his introduction. Surely with Harrison Ford now cast as Ross for "Captain America: New World Order," we'll see him take on his Hulk form in Marvel Cinematic Universe in due time as well.