Warning: this article deals with themes of suicide.
The Incredible Hulk has led a difficult life; so difficult, in fact, that Banner has contemplated suicide more than once. Bruce’s misery has even jumped outside the comics, and a deleted scene in the MCU movie The Incredible Hulk shows Banner attempt to shoot himself – something referenced in The Avengers, indicating he has tried to end his suffering in extreme ways. Still, Bruce somehow manages to not only survive but also find new reasons to live. In the comics, Hulk explains to another suicidal man how he’s managed to hold on to life for so long. Unfortunately, his talk ends up coming uncomfortably close to pushing that man into ending his life.
This occurred in the short story “Free Will” by Peter David, Ron Lim, and Bill Anderson, from the 1993 Marvel Holiday Special. During this time, Banner’s multiple Hulk personalities had finally merged into an intelligent, swaggering Hulk popularly known as the “Professor Hulk” or “Smart Hulk.” Recruited by the Pantheon, an independent think tank with its own views on how to save the world, Hulk finally appeared to have it all. Unfortunately, his wife Betty was so disturbed by her husband’s new appearance and personality that she refused to see him.
Disturbed, Banner spent most of his time at the Pantheon’s desert base. While leaping around the cliffs on Christmas Eve, he came across a technician standing at the edge of a ridge and accidentally caused him to stumble over the edge when he landed next to him. Hulk apologized and rushed to pull the man to safety, but the tech – who had managed to hold onto the edge of the cliff – told him to stay back, since he’d been trying to kill himself. Not wanting to make a bad situation worse, Hulk kept his distance but asked the man to introduce himself. The man, William Jenkins, explained that he had lost his wife and daughter the previous Christmas to a drunk driver. Unable to cope, he made a tragic decision after the Pantheon’s oracle informed him that his mourning would end at the cliff. While the Hulk had unintentionally helped him along his self-destructive path, Banner couldn’t help but notice Jenkins was clinging very tightly to the cliff’s edge.
Professor Hulk then decided to inform Jenkins that he was an idiot, claiming he wanted to die while clinging to life figuratively and literally. Claiming Jenkins wasn’t a tragic figure but a pitiful man without any real courage, Hulk sneered at the hapless technician. Enraged, Jenkins claimed Hulk didn’t know how difficult life was since he had so much power. In response, Banner revealed he had been contemplating suicide since the day the gamma bomb mutated him. While he was in an arguably better place for the moment, he acknowledged all the power in the world couldn’t get his wife to want to see him and that “the will to survive doesn’t come from strength of your arms. It comes from strength of character… of which you have none.”
Hulk went so far as to dare Jenkins to let go of the cliff’s edge and end his life. When Jenkins stalled, Banner offered to step on Jenkins’ hands to make him let go of the cliff, finally getting Jenkins to admit he wanted to live. Unfortunately, just as Hulk pulled Jenkins to safety, his weight caused the entire edge of the cliff to crumble and Hulk had to shield Jenkins from certain death as both men fell hundreds of feet. While Hulk’s reverse psychology proved successful, it’s very possible the situation could have gone sour if Jenkins had been in a different mental state. Banner may have unique insights when it comes to suicide, but when it comes to talking people out of ending their lives, The Incredible Hulk should hand the job over to a qualified counselor like ally Doc Samson. To anyone having negative thoughts, reaching out to loved ones or calling the Suicide Prevention Lifeline can be incredibly helpful resources.
Next: The Daughter of the Hulk Has the Opposite Version of His Power