Sunday, October 17, 2010

The Hulk Gets Downsized

In our first inkling of the kind of corporate synergy that we'll likely see a whole lot more of thanks to last year's Marvel-Disney merger, word came out this past week that Disney-owned ABC TV will be bringing Marvel's Jolly Green Giant back to the medium that (arguably) gave him his widest exposure to date.  That's right, The Incredible Hulk is going to be a TV show -- again.  While it's extremely early in the development cycle, The Hollywood Reporter notes that the producers (including Marvel TV honcho Jeph Loeb, who himself penned a recent Hulk comic book run) are already seeking a showrunner, which means that this is at least far enough along to not be just a hypothetical.

I have to admit, given all the time I spent this past summer chronicling the various ups-and-downs of the big screen Hulk franchise, this one came out of left field. In fact, just a few days ago I was a gauging the potential for a sequel starring newly-minted movie Hulk Mark Ruffalo, and based on recent comments concluded that it was fairly likely.  That was before this news broke, of course, and Spinoff echoes my thoughts that this can't help but seem like a demotion for the character.  Indeed, for all of Marvel's efforts to create a unified movie universe via their various Avengers productions, it seems counter-intuitive to trumpet Ruffalo's signing in one breath, and then (implicitly) say the part is so disposable that another actor can play it on TV at the same time with no problem.

If there's anything Bill Bixby demonstrated repeatedly on the '70s-'80s TV show, it's that the Dr. Banner role is a fairly crucial one on which the entire appeal of the Hulk character hangs, and to approach it with a "any warm body will do" philosophy does the property longterm damage.  It might have been worth it to simply hold off on the "big name" they were seeking when first approaching Ruffalo to replace Edward Norton, and instead used whichever actor they end up selecting for the TV show to also play Banner in the Avengers and related flicks.  That would have clarified the series' role as a direct part of the overall Marvel movie-verse, and also allowed for some neat corporate synergy à la Universal's recently-announced, highly-ambitious Dark Tower multimedia platform (based on Stephen King's novel series).

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