‘She-Hulk’: Will Mark Ruffalo Have a Significant Role in the Series?

Disney/Marvel recently announced that they had found their She-Hulk in the form of Tatiana Maslany of Orphan Black fame. So that leads fans to wonder if the OG Hulk will be making an appearance in some way. 

The answer turns out to be yes – sort of. Reports have surfaced that Marvel is looking for a “young Bruce Banner” for the show. So where does that leave Mark Ruffalo, who played him in the Avengers movies? Is the Hulk adrift again?

How is Bruce Banner connected to She-Hulk?

Mark Ruffalo
Mark Ruffalo | Daniel Boczarski/Getty Images

The She-Hulk first came along in the early 1980s, making her one of the latter-day creations of Marvel legend Stan Lee. It turns out Bruce Banner had a cousin named Jennifer Walters, who was an attorney.

They had been close in childhood but had drifted apart after Bruce began Hulking out. Bruce reconnects with her to confide his troubles and find a way to control the Hulk.

Unfortunately, Jennifer is shot by crime figures she had been prosecuting in court. Bruce is with her during the attack, and her injuries are serious enough that there is no time to wait for medical help, so Bruce gives Jennifer a blood transfusion, which gives her his gamma-irradiated blood.

At first, Jennifer becomes She-Hulk when she is angered, as she was when the mobsters who shot her try to finish her off in the hospital. Eventually, however, there is a key difference between her and the Hulk  – she can become She-Hulk whenever she wants, and when she does, she maintains her intelligence. In the comics and animated TV shows, she joins both the Fantastic Four and the Avengers.  

How does ‘young Bruce Banner’ figure in the show? 

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According to The Direct, Marvel, having cast their She-Hulk, is now looking for a young Bruce Banner – very young, around 10, so this would rule out Ruffalo, since the de-aging process Marvel has used on Michael Douglas and Samuel L. Jackson doesn’t go back quite that far. This suggests that the show will depict Jennifer and Bruce when they were close as children. 

The Direct also speculates that the show might depict something not yet explored in the MCU – Bruce’s relationship with his abusive father, which plays into his anger issues.

This was explored in the 2003 Hulk movie with Eric Bana, five years before the MCU came into being. As the site notes, “By exploring Bruce’s past through Jennifer Walters’ story, it gives the franchise a chance to flesh out his character and build on the overarching theme of what’s already been presented in past MCU films.”

On Reddit, fans took to this news with quite a few jokes, such as, “Is he gonna look like a young Ed Norton?”

Another fan responded with, “Actually he’s just gonna look like a current-day Ed Norton. Since Ed Norton was Bruce Banner before Mark Ruffalo, any time you show Norton as Banner, it’s automatically a young Banner, even if it’s old Norton, since he’s not Ruffalo yet.”

What is to become of the Hulk if he’s not in the show?

The fact that fans make these jokes is indicative of how the MCU has struggled with the Hulk. Their first attempt at the character, The Incredible Hulk with Edward Norton, is generally regarded as among the weakest of Marvel movies. Mark Ruffalo took over for The Avengers, and at first, his portrayal went over very well with fans.

As the MCU progressed, however, Marvel seemed to regress with the Hulk, never knowing quite what to do with him. A romance with Black Widow seemed to be over before it started.

His appearance in Thor: Ragnarok was cheered, but many fans complained about the Professor Hulk take in Avengers: Endgame, which ironically seemed like the male version of what the She-Hulk was – brains to match brawn. 

Although it has not been confirmed, speculation is high that Ruffalo has to appear in the She-Hulk series, given that Bruce Banner is so closely connected to She-Hulk’s origin. An appearance on She-Hulk might be the best way to showcase the original Hulk, since rights issues with Universal have precluded a second solo Hulk movie from the MCU.