In the late 1970s, a comic book star came to the small screen with the debut of The Incredible Hulk.
Created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby for Marvel Comics, The Hulk was developed by Kenneth Johnson for Universal Television, inspired by the French novel Les Miserables.
Starring Bill Bixby (Dr. David Banner) and Lou Ferrigno (alter ego The Hulk), the TV series started with the origin story, a physician whose wife has died in a car accident is left shattered and questioning why he couldn’t save his wife.
Banner decides to start studying other accidents to discover why and how some people had survived. During his research he discovers that gamma radiation may have an influence on human strength during a stressful moment and he decides to test the theory by dosing himself with radiation.
Not seeing any difference, Banner is frustrated and when he drives home, has to stop because his car has a flat tire. His anger at the flat tire transforms him into the The Hulk, and his altered state, is confronted by two people who are camping, one who shoots him.
The duo relate their story to local reporter Jack McGee while Hulk transforms back into Banner and realizes what has happened to him. He confesses his story to his fellow scientist Dr. Marks, who tries to figure out how to help him.
When Dr. Marks tries to simulate conditions to transform Banner at the laboratory, it doesn’t work. But Banner falls asleep, dreaming of his late wife and transforms. In his rage, he discovers McGee has snuck into the laboratory and in his haste to escape, knocks over chemicals creating a fire.
The laboratory is destroyed and Hulk/Banner rescues Marks, but she dies of her injuries. McGee reports that Marks and Banner have been killed by this unknown creature, and Banner goes into hiding.
The Incredible Hulk debuted on CBS Television in November 1977, with a two-hour tv movie revealing the story of Dr. Banner & The Hulk. Each week, viewers would see how Banner helps people and tries to discover how to transform himself permanently back to just being Dr. Banner with the help of various new friends and scientists, as the reporter keeps trying to find The Incredible Hulk.
For five seasons the show was a ratings success, with viewers tuning in weekly to see who was helped by Banner and what triggered the appearance of The Hulk.
At the end of five seasons, NBC TV took over the rights and produced three television movies, continuing the fan devotion to this character. There were rumours that another television film would be made, but it never happened, and Bixby died a few years later of cancer.