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Will Bruce Banner Be In The Disney+ She-Hulk Series?

Avengers: Endgame left the stories of many of our favorite heroes up in the air, but perhaps none so much as Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo). Having successfully merged his mind with the body of his monstrous green alter-ego, "Professor Hulk" played one of the most crucial roles in the film: it was he who wielded Tony Stark's Infinity Gauntlet 2.0, laden with all six Infinity Stones, and used it to snap back into existence all of the heroes who were dusted by Thanos at the conclusion of Avengers: Infinity War.

It was as if he were made for the task, he said, and he could just as well have been talking about how he as a character has been used in the overarching narrative of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. He'll probably never get another MCU-set solo movie (more on that shortly), but the Green Goliath has been used wisely as a supporting character in the Avengers movies and Thor: Ragnarok, and the way in which his arc concluded in Endgame was just as thoughtful and fitting as the endings given to the likes of Stark and Steve Rogers, each of whom had the benefit of multi-film franchises to help flesh out their characters. 

Banner's Decimation-reversing snap caused permanent physical damage, meaning that it's unlikely we'll see the Hulk doing what he does best — smashing — anytime soon, if ever. But the announcement that streamer Disney+ has in the works a limited series based on Banner's cousin Jennifer Walters, the savage She-Hulk, has raised the question of whether Banner will continue to be a key supporting player in other characters' stories. Specifically, fans would love to know: is Banner going to play a part in the She-Hulk series, or what?

Well, we have no way of knowing for sure, but the short answer is: it's pretty likely. Not only would it make narrative sense, but it would give Marvel Studios the opportunity to capitalize on the Hulk and his ancillary characters in a way they haven't yet been able to, due to the stake in the Jolly Green Giant's film rights which have long been held by Universal.

It's well-known that in the '90s, at a time when Marvel Comics was in serious financial jeopardy, the publisher sold off the film rights to many of its most beloved characters: Spider-Man went to Sony Pictures, while the X-Men, the Fantastic Four, and many of their associated characters wound up at Fox Studios. Obviously, those deals have had a profound effect on the MCU as we've come to know it; Spider-Man had a five-film run during the brief period of time that Marvel and Sony were able to play ball, while the Fox-owned properties are only now being prepped for entry into the franchise following the acquisition of Fox by Marvel's parent company, Disney.

But many casual fans are unaware that the MCU had been impacted from the very beginning by a third deal: the one that Marvel made with Universal for the Hulk's film rights. It was as a result of this deal that Ang Lee's 2003 picture Hulk was made, and the agreement is also the reason why 2008's The Incredible Hulk was distributed by Universal while Iron Man, Iron Man 2, Thor, and Captain America: The First Avenger were distributed by Paramount.

You see, it's hard to get our heads around now, but when Marvel Studios launched the MCU, they did so with very little financial margin for error. Until the studio was acquired by Disney in 2009, Marvel couldn't afford to distribute its own films, so they struck a deal with Paramount to handle that. 

When it came to The Incredible Hulk, however, Universal stepped in. The studio had secured the film rights to the Green Goliath in the early '00s — but only for the 2003 film. Following that, the studio retained "right of first refusal" to distribute, not produce, any solo Hulk picture (with "solo" being the key word). 

Once Disney bought Marvel Studios, a deal was quickly reached to buy Paramount out of the final two films of its six-picture distribution deal, and the House of Mouse took over beginning with 2012's The Avengers. The deal with Universal, however, has no cap — the studio simply retains the right to distribute any future Hulk movie, from now until the end of time, and as far as Disney is concerned, this simply won't do. Nothing in that deal, though, says that Marvel can't use the Hulk as a supporting character — which is why Bruce Banner has been featured only in team-up films since the Disney acquisition.

So, considering this history, it seems quite likely that Marvel Studios can use Banner as a supporting character in She-Hulk if they wish to do so. It's unclear whether Universal's deal with Marvel covered the character's television rights at all, but — considering that Universal has not even attempted to field a Hulk TV project in the last couple of decades — we're thinking that it did not. Heck, Marvel Studios could probably offer up a Hulk TV series if they wanted to, so why aren't they?

Well, in case you haven't noticed, virtually all of the original Avengers have either finished their runs in the MCU, or are preparing to. Iron Man sacrificed himself to save the universe, Black Widow essentially did the same, Captain America is an old man now, and Hawkeye is preparing to hand his heroic mantle over to Kate Bishop in his own Disney+ limited series. Thor's story will continue in 2021's Thor: Love and Thunder, but Avengers: Endgame wrapped up Bruce Banner's arc pretty tidily.

But he'd make a pretty great mentor, wouldn't he? He's been a misunderstood monster, he participated in the Battle of New York, he's been to space, he struggled with and ultimately reconciled the two halves of his identity. Walters is probably going to need a little help adjusting to her new size, strength, and hue, and Cousin Bruce would make a valuable repository of knowledge on the finer points of being a Hulk.

Of course, if Banner weren't involved, She-Hulk's origin would need a complete revamping. In the comics, Walters' condition arose from a blood transfusion given to her by her cousin after the young, crusading attorney was shot and grievously wounded by gangsters. Obviously, this scenario will need at least some rejiggering (the Bruce Banner we know from the MCU wouldn't be so thick as to offer up his blood for this purpose, we're pretty sure), but coming up with an origin for She-Hulk which totally excludes the Green Goliath would be a neat trick.

Including Banner in the events of She-Hulk would also help to tie up several narrative loose ends, including those left dangling by The Incredible Hulk. Is Emil Blonsky, AKA the Abomination, still sitting in the Raft plotting his revenge? Did Samuel Stearns become the Leader, or did that weird mutation going on with his head just kind of peter out? Does Thaddeus "Thunderbolt" Ross still have it in for Banner, or did the whole "brought half the universe back to life" thing mellow him out on his daughter's former flame? Oh, yeah, speaking of which: did Betty Ross just step off the face of the Earth?

We also submit that, although Banner's arc was indeed wrapped up pretty satisfactorily by the events of Endgame, he didn't exactly get an tear-jerking, iconic sendoff like Stark and Rogers did. It's be nice if he could be given a proper goodbye, while at the same time passing the torch to a new Green Goliath — Walters, an awesome character in her own right, and one that fans have been clamoring to see in the MCU for years. 

At any rate, we'll all just have to stay tuned for an official announcement — but we've got a crisp $20 dollar bill that says yes, Ruffalo's Bruce Banner will figure prominently in the She-Hulk Disney+ series. Of course, we'll be keeping an eye out for any news to come down the pike, and we'll keep you up to speed.