Why Is Hulk Green (Surprising Reason)


Being a comic book designer seems to be a job where you can really let your imagination run free.

All those amazing characters and superpowers.

But I was wondering the other day whether there is any sort of rules that designers have to follow.

Have you noticed how the colors of the characters vary so much?

The Hulk is green in most standard comic books and movies – how did they decide on Green?

The Hulk was originally planned to be gray and in the first issue he was, but then they realized that with the printing equipment at the time, it would be almost impossible to keep to a consistent shade of gray between pages. The solution was to change the Hulk’s skin color to green.

The Change from Gray to Green

Whilst gray would be all over the place and very confusing for the reader, it was possible to get a consistent shade of green.

That was why the color was chosen, but if you think about it, the obvious color for the Hulk was always going to be green.

We know that when Bruce Banner transforms, because of his anger, he releases a lot of gamma radiation, and in popular fiction, radiation is always shown as green.

It was therefore surprising that the green only happened because of a technical issue.

So, we know that the original color was gray.

This was a color chosen by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby.

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Why did they choose gray instead of any other color?

Was it just a random decision, or were there any other factors involved?

Interviews with the designer explained the logic behind his thinking.

He was greatly inspired by two characters when he designed the Hulk, and these characters were Frankenstein’s Monster and Mr. Hyde, and he felt that gray would give a creepy appearance.

Once Gray was out of the question because of the printing issues, it just became a matter of choosing a new color.

The initial preference was orange, but not long before Marvel had already launched a new “musclebound” character with orange skin, so orange was rejected as well.

Later, when asked about the color green, Stan Lee said:

“By making him green, I was able to give him nicknames like The Jolly Green Giant.”

Purple Pants

So, there we have the explanation why the Hulk’s skin color was green.

The other associated question that I wondered about was why does he wear purple pants?

In the series “Immortal Hulk”, the question of why the Hulk wears Purple pants was covered.

In an interview with a reporter named Jacqueline McGee, she asks Bruce Banner’s old college room-mate what he was like at college.

In answering the question he revealed that while Banner was at college, Banner decided that purple suits represented the ultimate, timeless, style and would never go out of date.

Banner threw out all his old clothes and bought ten identical purple suits, so that, “He would never have to waste time deciding what to wear again.”

Indestructible Pants

Of course, when the Hulk transformation takes place all that remains of the suit is the remnants of the purple pants.

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Hence, the “uniform” of the Hulk became purple.

Talking of which, why is it, the Hulk’s pants survive his transformation and the rest of his clothes do not?

Well, the truth is actually quite mundane.

Initially, it was to do with the “Comics Code Authority” which was a self-regulatory authority from the 2000s.

But even after that organization ceased to exist, Marvel wanted its comics to be family-friendly and retained the indestructible trousers effect.

I think most of us are eternally grateful for that decision.

Actually, it was not just modesty that resulted in the indestructible pants concept, but also the fact that “All superheroes have to have a uniform.”

There have been slight variances over time but the Hulk always gravitates back to ripped purple pants.

Attempts at Explanations of How the Pants Survive

There have been occasional explanations to justify why only the pants survive.

These have included:

  • Stretchy materials built into that section of the trousers
  • Sweat pants
  • Pants with special unstable molecules that are self-healing and designed by Richard Green of the Fantastic Four.

The last explanation was endorsed by Stan Lee (who designed the Hulk) in an interview.

However, this leads to the (unanswered) question,

If Richard Green can make infinitely stretching sections of the pants, why does he not provide a whole suit that will stretch and can be reused?

Stylist Todd Hanshaw was once asked if there was any real-world solution that would work the way the Hulk’s pants function.

He said that a fabric like stretchable denim, with a very high proportion of “Elastane” woven in, would work, but at the time the Hulk was drawn, only women’s jeans had Elastane woven in.

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The stretchable material has to mean that for the earlier part of his career, the Hulk had to be wearing women’s pants!

Have There Ever Been Hulks in Other Colors?

Yes, there have been other colors of the Hulk, in alternative storylines.

Blue Hulk

Captain Universe/Incredible Hulk #1, features a blue Hulk.

His color had changed because he had bonded with the Uni-Power of Captain Universe.

This blue Hulk did not stick around long, but he was written with even greater powers than the green Hulk and remains the strongest ever Hulk.

Purple Hulk

The Purple Hulk is one of the scariest hulks ever, and he appears in Incredible Hulk #371.

His color change is connected with his possession at the “Hangs of Shanzar.”

Red Hulk

General Thaddeus E. “Thunderbolt” Ross was the boss of the research facility where the accident happened that turned Bruce Banner into the Hulk.

After the accident, Ross pursues the Hulk (and later Banner himself) and in an effort to capture the Hulk, Ross is transformed into the Red Hulk.

This concept was later adapted with the Red Hulk, known as the Rulk (or The IncREDible Hulk), who was designed to be a tactically skilled, uninhibited opponent of the Hulk.

Final Thoughts

As you can see, the Hulk has many secrets to be explored on various levels.

The true reason why the Hulk is green was a true surprise for me.

Mojmir Trefulka

Fascinated with Superheroes since childhood. I'm 35 years old and I'm from the Czech Republic – a small country in the middle of Europe. I love comic books and superhero movies. Superheroes are my passion for a very long time and I love writing about them – let's have fun together.

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