Marvel Studios' AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR..Hulk (Mark Ruffalo)..Photo: Film Frame..©Marvel Studios 2018

For ten years in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Hulk was allowed to believe he was “The strongest one there is.” Then Thanos showed up, put a beating on the Hulk, and the Green Goliath hasn’t come out since. This had many assuming Hulk fears The Mad Titan, but there is another who scares the Hulk even more.

Avengers: Infinity War directors Joe and Anthony Russo have previously clarified that fear of Thanos was not the reason Hulk refused to show up again after the film’s first scene. Instead, Hulk was simply tired of only being called upon to clean up Banner’s mess.

Hulk had his own life for two years from Avengers: Age of Ultron to Thor: Ragnarok. He had a nice place to live and all the glory and admiration he could crave as the Grandmaster’s champion on Sakaar. The idea of going back to being a big, green lifeguard on part-time duty is understandably unappealing and it actually points to the one person who scares Hulk more than Thanos ever could, even with all six Infinity Stones.

Mark Ruffalo, who plays the warring personalities of Banner and Hulk, explains the Hulk’s true fear on a recent episode of The Marvelists podcast. “There’s a conflict brewing between Banner and Hulk that’s been going on since the beginning. And it all came out of sort of this question that Joss Whedon asked me when Hulk gets the fairy dust from Scarlet Witch sprinkled on him in [Avengers: Age of Ultron], Joss asked ‘What is Hulk afraid of?'”

Ruffalo continues, “And that was a hard thing for me to answer because what is the strongest, fiercest thing in the universe afraid of? And then I realized it’s Banner. The only thing Hulk is afraid of is Banner and so that’s become something that we’ve been riffing on since [Age of Ultron]. We played with it a lot in [Thor:Ragnarok and it continues to be teased out in [Avengers:Infinity War and [Avengers 4].”

Ruffalo stops short of saying exactly what he wants to see next for Banner and Hulk in Avengers 4, mainly because he is apparently getting what he wants and he’s not looking to spoil anything (this time, at least). He does, however, discuss it in vague terms before outlining a potential scenario that we probably will not see.

“I want to see this conflict carried out and see where that takes us,” Ruffalo says. “Can they come to terms with it? Do they ever get a moment? I always thought it’d be great to see the two of them in some sort of subspace where they get to battle it out with Banner’s brains as its own superpower, like some psych weaponry, against Hulk’s brute strength and have these two characters battle it out. I always thought that would be the ultimate comic book ending or opening to these characters.”

Another thing that would be cool to see is the personalities of Banner and Hulk merging into the Professor Hulk from Marvel Comics. I’m pretty sure we’re going to see this in Avengers 4, though Ruffalo offers no hint that it will happen other than acknowledging the existence of Professor Hulk in the source material.

“They’ve done it in the comics, the Professor,” Ruffalo says. “They’ve actually melded the two of them together in Marvel. There’s infinite ways you can go with it and then the beauty is, we can change it at any point. That’s the beauty of these comics. That’s the beauty of what Kevin [Feige] has created with letting each director have his own vision and idea and twist it and turn it and bring people back to life, or not bring them back to life.”

Professor Hulk feels like one of two natural conclusions to the arc Banner and Hulk have been on. These two have been fighting for space and time within the same body, so it’s not hard to see them finally compromising and finding a way to live together as one. The other option would be splitting their personalities into separate bodies, which has also been done in the comics.

Still, I’m pulling for the Professor and it sounds like Ruffalo might be as well.

SOURCE: The Marvelists