The Hulk has always felt like a bit of an outlier. After all, the character — who Mark Ruffalo plays in the Marvel Cinematic Universe — is the only of the four major original Avengers who didn’t receive his own movie trilogy. Now Avengers: Endgame has left Ruffalo with an uncertain future in the MCU. His best bet? A role in the upcoming Disney+ show She-Hulk.
That series is currently in development, with rumors circling Alison Brie for the lead. For most viewers, the show will be their first exposure to the character. After all, Jennifer Walters aka She-Hulk has never made the jump to live action before. But that almost wasn’t the case. In fact, a She-Hulk movie nearly came together decades ago.
She-Hulk was supposed to spin off from ‘The Incredible Hulk’ TV show
The Incredible Hulk began a successful five-season run over at CBS in 1978. But even when the Bill Bixby-Lou Ferrigno show ended, the franchise continued. The actors reprised their roles in three made-for-TV movies. 1988’s The Incredible Hulk Returns and 1989’s The Trial of the Incredible Hulk introduced live-action versions of Thor and Daredevil, respectively.
And the third and final film, 1990’s The Death of the Incredible Hulk, was supposed to add She-Hulk into the mix. Considering the movie’s ending (it’s right there in the title, folks), this seems like an effort to kickstart a She-Hulk franchise. Alas, it never came to pass. And after repeated efforts to get a She-Hulk TV show off the ground, the focus turned to the big screen.
Fans almost got a She-Hulk movie from the writer of ‘Maniac Cop’
In the early 1990s, Marvel heroes like Captain America and the Fantastic Four headlined low-budget film adaptations. And She-Hulk nearly joined that list. According to reports, B-movie icon Larry Cohen was attached to write and direct the She-Hulk movie. Cohen is perhaps best known as the screenwriter behind the 1988 cult classic Maniac Cop and its sequels.
She-Hulk got so far into production that Brigitte Nielsen officially signed on for the role. In the mid and late-1980s, Nielsen appeared in films such as Red Sonja, Rocky IV, and Beverly Hills Cop 2. Although she often played a villain, Nielsen’s star was arguably still at its peak when she signed on for She-Hulk. Alas, all fans can see of the film are its star’s promotional shots.
Marvel probably dodged a bullet by deciding not to make the movie
There’s little indication why She-Hulk fell apart. Perhaps financing went dry, or maybe Cohen couldn’t quite crack the script. After all, that was a particularly dark time for comic book properties. Only the Batman franchise was consistently churning out sequels in the 1980s and 1990s.
Whatever the case may be, Marvel likely lucked out. Before the advent of the MCU, the company licensed its characters’ movie rights. So it had no creative input on embarrassments like 1990’s Captain America, Roger Corman’s unreleased Fantastic Four, and Dolph Lundgren’s 1989 version of The Punisher.
Marvel has since revamped countless characters, with X-Men and the Fantastic Four next in line. So the lack of a She-Hulk movie means the forthcoming Disney+ show has one less hurdle to overcome. The Fantastic Four have had a particularly rough time, leading Marvel to tread carefully.
If rumors about the She-Hulk show are true, it could still stick to the apparent plan for The Death of the Incredible Hulk. Ruffalo’s Hulk then might not survive to the end of the series, leaving She-Hulk to carry the story forward. So fans might want to start preparing themselves for that.