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Will We Ever See Red Hulk In A Marvel Movie?

It ain't easy being green, and maybe that's why the Hulk comes in multiple colors. He's also been gray, and one of the most popular incarnations of the Hulk is red. In fact, from the late 2000s to the late 2010s, a scarlet-hued Hulk rampaged through Marvel's comics. Sometimes working on the side of the angels and other times having less pure motives, Red Hulk — or Rulk as he's sometimes known — has been a member of multiple superhero teams and even got brief mentions in the first season of NBC's Heroes via guest star Seth Green.

Unlike Hulks both green and gray, the alter ego of the Red Hulk isn't Bruce Banner but Banner's longtime enemy Thaddeus "Thunderbolt" Ross. William Hurt played Ross in 2008's The Incredible Hulk, and since then, he's proven to be one of the few stars of that film to reprise his role throughout the franchise. With every subsequent appearance, the potential has been there for Ross' ruby-skinned alter ego to make an appearance, but so far, it hasn't happened in spite of rumors, speculation, and even the early plans of some of the filmmakers. 

Will we ever see a Red Hulk on the big screen? We don't know for sure, but for fans of the character waiting to see him in live action, there are reasons to be hopeful. What follows is our thoughts on whether or not we'll ever see Red Hulk in a Marvel movie.

Who is the Red Hulk?

So if you're not as familiar with Hulks beyond the more familiar green Goliath, you might need a bit of an introduction to Red Hulk. 

The Red Hulk first appeared in a new volume of the Hulk comic book that launched in 2008. With bright red skin and orange, glowing eyes, the Red Hulk was a striking figure who grew in popularity quickly. Unlike the green Hulk, Red Hulk could absorb energy, which continued to increase his strength beyond those of many of Marvel's most powerful heroes. Shortly after his introduction, Red Hulk had wiped the floor with the original Hulk, She-Hulk, Iron Man, and Thor, among others. His identity was kept a secret for two years, and many fans speculated longtime Hulk frenemy Doc Samson was the most likely culprit. Finally in 2010's Hulk #23, it was revealed that the old soldier Thaddeus Ross made a deal with a group of brainy supervillains calling itself the Intelligencia to become the Red Hulk. 

Red Hulk is eventually defeated by the original green Hulk after Ross invades and takes over the White House. In spite of his treason, Ross gets a shot at redemption when Steve Rogers recruits him to help stop the Intelligencia's destructive contingency plan code-named "Scorched Earth." After that, the Red Hulk would get the opportunity to play both hero and villain on multiple occasions.

He was almost in Civil War

William Hurt first reprised the role of Thaddeus Ross in 2016's Captain America: Civil War. No longer an army general but appointed to secretary of state, it's Ross who comes to the Avengers with the news of the Sokovia Accords, and he does his best to get them play ball. As soon as fans learned Ross would show up in Civil War, speculation began that the film would see him become the Red Hulk. 

According to the Russo brothers, the crimson Goliath actually was considered for the film. Sadly — like the Wasp and the Iron Spider suit — he didn't make the cut. Joe Russo explained, "We had so many characters in that movie as it was. We consider everything, obviously, but with so many characters in that movie as it was, to try and entertain adding another character and to get to the Red Hulk, you have to add a back story. You have to substantiate the narrative to get to that." Indeed, it's difficult to imagine how to fit Ross' Hulk into a movie so packed with characters. Not to mention that beside all of the established MCU heroes, Civil War already had two new heroes on the menu, Spider-Man and Black Panther.

In spite of Red Hulk's absence in Civil War, it's hopeful to note they were also considering Wasp and Iron Spider, both of which eventually made it into the narrative. So maybe there's hope for Red Hulk yet.

Red Hulk almost made an appearance in Avengers: Endgame

In August 2019, fans learned the Red Hulk almost made an appearance in the film that ended the Infinity Saga — Avengers: Endgame. Speaking with Backstory Magazine (via Metro), Endgame co-writer Christopher Markus said he briefly considered adding Red Hulk to an already crowded field of super powered characters. "I entertained the idea for about a day," Markus told Backstory

However, from the sound of it, the version of the Red Hulk Markus considered wouldn't exactly have been true to the source material. Markus said, "Red Hulk is a completely different thing in the comics. It wound up being, well, really we're just saying he changes color." So it sounds like Markus wasn't thinking of introducing Ross as the Red Hulk but simply making the Professor Hulk turn red for some reason. 

He doesn't get into any detail about how, storywise, this might've been achieved. Assuming the plot was going to be similar to the finished product, maybe a likely moment would've been when the Hulk uses the Infinity Stones to bring everyone back? Perhaps somehow the power of the stones would make him change from green to red? Your guess is as good as ours. 

William Hurt is up for it

If nothing else makes Red Hulk fans feel hopeful they might see the character on the big screen, the fact that William Hurt seems interested in playing the role should lift their spirits. Or at least, back during the filming of Civil War, Hurt seemed like he wanted to play the unpredictable monster. 

While speaking to The Wall Street Journal about AMC's Humans in 2015, Hurt was asked if fans were going to see Red Hulk in Civil War. "I don't know," Hurt answered. "I wouldn't mind feeling I had that much power." Hurt went on to say that he meant for his version of Thaddeus Ross to have "an ego the same size as the monsters, with the same degree of messed-upness. Yeah, I'd love to have a shot at it."

So at the very least, Hurt seems eager to take on the role. Considering most of his appearances since The Incredible Hulk have been relatively brief, becoming the rampaging Rulk is probably his best chance at landing a more weighty part in a future MCU addition.

Will Red Hulk be in Black Widow?

We know William Hurt will be reprising the role of Thaddeus Ross in Black Widow. He appears briefly in the movie's very first trailer and even provides some of the voiceover. This has some fans speculating that Ross could finally be turning red with Black Widow

Anything's possible, especially for Marvel movies and the tight lock they have on plot details before their films' releases. The one thing that makes it seem doubtful this could be the film where Red Hulk finally shows up is that it's set in the past. The events of Black Widow are meant to take place mostly between Captain America: Civil War and Avengers: Infinity War. Since there's no mention of Red Hulk in either Infinity War or Endgame — and Ross appears in both films — it would seem strange turning into a giant red monster didn't make him ineligible to be secretary of state in those later films. 

On the other hand, there's always the chance that — just as he does for two years in the comics — Ross becomes the Red Hulk without letting anyone know it's him. Of course, that would raise the question of why he doesn't intervene during the events of Infinity War

Could he show up in She-Hulk?

In August 2019, Marvel Studios confirmed one of its upcoming Disney+ series would follow the adventures of Bruce Banner's cousin, Jennifer Walters, aka She-Hulk. There's precious little info released about the series, including the casting of its titular hero or the story details. There are reports that Mark Ruffalo will reprise the role of the Hulk, but so far, it isn't confirmed. 

Almost as soon as the series was announced, speculation ran rampant about different Hulk villains who might appear in She-Hulk. Red Hulk, naturally, is one of names that's been batted around the internet. It's hard to take any rumors seriously yet, but there are definitely reasons to think Red Hulk would make a good fit. She-Hulk is one of the first heroes Red Hulk fights in the comics, and without a Hulk movie or TV series on the horizon, She-Hulk might be the best or only chance for a lot of Hulk-related characters to be adapted. 

One thing to consider, however, is the budget. If the reports of Ruffalo's involvement are true — and if we can assume that She-Hulk, like her cousin, will be a CGI character — then that makes three CGI Hulks in the same show. That's a lot of time and a lot of money for a single TV series.

An MCU Red Hulk would be fitting

Comic book characters adapted to the big screen tend to work best when, at the very least, the spirit of the source material is kept intact. Ironically, when it comes to the Red Hulk, it could be argued that the character makes way more sense in the MCU than it ever did in the comics because of the difference between the Thaddeus Ross of the source material and how he's portrayed in the movies. 

For most of his time in the comics before his transformation into the Red Hulk, Thunderbolt Ross wants to destroy the Hulk. Particularly, once it's revealed Banner and the Hulk are the same person, Ross is determined to defeat the monster and keep it away from his daughter Betty. When the Betty of the comics was killed off for a long stretch of time, Ross' quest to protect becomes one for vengeance. 

But the Ross of The Incredible Hulk has different goals. He wants to protect his daughter, but more importantly, he wants to harness the Hulk's power. He certainly doesn't care if he destroys Banner in the process, but it isn't his priority. In a deleted scene for The Incredible Hulk, Ross refers to witnessing the Hulk in action as seeing "the back part of God." So for the Ross of the MCU to become a Hulk himself would make far much more sense for his character. For him, it would mean he'd achieved what he'd always wanted.

Would an MCU Red Hulk be a hero or a villain?

The Red Hulk begins his comic book life as a fairly vicious bad guy. He trashes a Helicarrier, killing a bunch of S.H.I.E.L.D. agents, including longtime agent Clay Quartermain. He temporarily forms the Offenders — a group of villains made specifically to fight the more heroic Defenders — which includes Baron Mordo, Tiger Shark, and the former Galactus herald Terrax the Tamer. 

However, Ross doesn't stay a villain. After he starts working for Steve Rogers, Red Hulk becomes an important heroic figure in major line-wide events like Avengers vs. X-MenFear Itself, and Age of Ultron. But left to his own devices, he's generally a darker hero like the Punisher or Wolverine. 

We're guessing if Red Hulk does appear in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, at least initially it will be as an antagonist. Even without gamma-powered destruction, Ross has been a thorn in the heroes' side in almost every movie appearance he's made. It doesn't seem like getting godlike super powers would make him any more agreeable. 

Could the Red Hulk be an Avenger?

After Red Hulk deals with the Intelligencia's contingency plans and helps the Avengers take down the Hood, Steve Rogers invites Red Hulk into the ranks of the Avengers. The addition doesn't please the other Avengers, who tolerate his presence only because of Rogers' word. 

So would an MCU Red Hulk be an Avenger? Maybe. Nothing we could say at this point would be anything but speculation. Regardless, it would seem difficult to imagine the Avengers trusting Red Hulk, particularly if they know he's Thaddeus Ross. The secretary of state has been nothing but an impediment to the Avengers, and the Captain America of the MCU isn't around anymore to vouch for him. 

Of course, anything's possible. If and when the Red Hulk appears in Marvel's movies, a lot will have happened between now and then. It could be that — if they even exist anymore in the MCU — the Avengers will be made up of heroes who've never even heard of Thaddeus Ross and the role he played either in hounding Bruce Banner or enforcing the Sokovia Accords. If the filmmakers think the Red Hulk as an Avenger will help make a good story, it will happen. 

Red Hulk could help introduce the Thunderbolts

One of the loudest rumors that's been making its way around the net is that the Red Hulk will be used to introduce a new MCU team — the Thunderbolts. 

The Thunderbolts have had a few incarnations. Originally Baron Zemo forms the group out of members of the Masters of Evil, with the plan of fooling the world into thinking they're heroes. Unfortunately for Zemo, along the way, some of his teammates discover they like being heroes, turn on him, and continue trying to be good guys. When Thunderbolts relaunched in 2013, it was a bit different. In the comic, Ross brings together more violent, lethally minded heroes like himself — initially Elektra, Deadpool, Punisher, and Venom — to deal with bad guys without kid gloves. 

An MCU Thunderbolts is an intriguing idea and it's something James Gunn has been wanting to do for a while. But it's tough to imagine something like Ross' version of the team existing as protagonists in Marvel Studios' narrative. So far, the MCU films have stayed decidedly family friendly, and a whole team of superheroes subscribing to Dirty Harry morality wouldn't exactly fit the house style. If Red Hulk does help to introduce the Thunderbolts, it might be more realistic to expect something along the lines of the original concept — reformed villains working toward redemption. Or they could stick with how Red Hulk's team worked in the comics, but instead, the MCU could use them as antagonists. 

We almost got a live-action Red Hulk in the '70s

Believe it or not, about 30 years before writer Jeph Loeb and artist Ed McGuinness brought us the Red Hulk in 2008's Hulk #1, someone already wanted to bring us a crimson version of Earth's mightiest mortal. 

In 1977, the Incredible Hulk show premiered, starring Bill Bixby as David Banner and bodybuilder Lou Ferrigno as his green-skinned alter ego. The series ran until 1982 and spawned three television movies in the late '80s and early '90s. And in 2006, The Incredible Hulk showrunner Kenneth Johnson said it never made sense to him that the Hulk was green. He wanted the Hulk to be red. 

Johnson told IGN"I called Stan Lee, and I said, man, what's the logic of green? Is he the envious Hulk? Is he green with envy or jealousy? The color of rage is red." Lee reportedly explained to Johnson how and why the monster's color had changed from gray to green (because of printing issues). Johnson fought to have the color changed to red for the television show, but Lee put his foot down. As Johnson explained, "That was a battle I could not win ... he was just too iconic already in the comic books."