With but a cry of the name of Odin, Dru and Dave return this week to do battle with not one, but two of Marvel’s core heroes in the 1988 television movie The Incredible Hulk Returns!
We already took a look at the history of Marvel’s green goliath, the Hulk, in our “Angry Green Men” series of episodes, so I’ll just guide you towards that preview page for most of the character’s history. What is immediately relevant is the fact that The Incredible Hulk Returns is a follow up to the hit television series which ran from 1978-1982, and was intended to be used as a back door pilot for a series based on the Marvel Comics character Thor.
Drawing from Norse mythology, Marvel’s Thor first appeared in Journey Into Mystery #83 in 1962. The creation of Stan Lee, Jack Kirby and Larry Lieber, the story of Thor is one of a god needing to learn humility. Wiping his son of his memories, Odin binds Thor to a medical doctor named Donald Blake. During a trip to Norway, Blake stumbles across a cave possessing Mjolnir, the hammer of Thor after he witnesses the landing of a hostile alien scouting party. The hammer transforms Blake into Thor and, after successfully defeating the alien threat, the duo continued to share an existence for quite some time afterwards. The pair are eventually split apart, but have been bound together again in recent years.
Unlike many of Marvel’s characters, Thor’s appearances in other media are rather limited until about the past ten years. Like most of Marvel’s other characters though, Thor made his animated debut in the 1966 series The Marvel Super Heroes. While the series provided Captain America, Iron Man and the Hulk with catchy theme songs most still remember, Thor ended up with this less-than-stellar number:
It would not be until the 1980s that Thor would again appear outside of comics. Outside of The Incredible Hulk Returns, Thor mainly made guest appearances in other animated series, such as Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends:
Thor continued to fill the role of guest star in the shows of other heroes well into the 1990s, including appearing in The Fantastic Four and The Incredible Hulk, where the character is voiced by John Rhys-Davies (Raiders of the Lost Ark, Lord of the Rings):
In 2009, Thor and the Hulk would yet again appear with one another in Hulk Vs. Thor, the second animated short film which comprise the Hulk Vs. DTV release...
...while a young version of Thor appears in the 2011 animated DTV release Thor: Tales of Asgard…
…but most people are probably more familiar with the live action 2011 film Thor, directed by Kenneth Branagh and featuring Chris Hemsworth in the title role:
Hemsworth is reprising the role in the 2012 film The Avengers, to be released May 4th of this year:
Still, the first live action appearance of Thor is in The Incredible Hulk Returns, featuring Eric Kramer as Thor and Steve Levitt as Donald Blake. The film is written and directed by the late Nicholas Corea, a producer and director on the original Incredible Hulk television series. After The Incredible Hulk, Corea worked on various television programs as both writer and director, including the most legendary program of all, Walker: Texas Ranger:
Unlike Captain America star Reb Brown, Eric Kramer did manage to score a number of roles in high profile Hollywood films, including the role of Little John in Mel Brooks’ underrated Robin Hood: Men in Tights (1993):
But do Kramer’s comedic chops work in his favour in The Incredible Hulk Returns? Tune into our next episode and find out!