The Avengers hits this Friday after having already debuted in many international territories. While the response to writer-director Joss Whedon's Marvel mega-movie has been pretty uniformly positive, one of the elements singled out for praise by critics and nerdlingers alike has been Hulk. Ruffalo's said to capture a likable Banner who is withdrawn but not too morose, and the big Hulk setpieces and action beats are reputedly amongst the best in the film.
In an Avengers piece at Forbes, Paul Gitter, Marvel Entertainment's President of Consumer Products, said that the Hulk enthusiasm is reflected in sales of Hulk-related merch, explaining, “His sales are up in a major way. We repositioned him from where he was always misunderstood to now depicting him in a more heroic and aspirational manner."
Naturally, he said, Marvel is “pleasantly surprised by the phenomenal response” to the character, and there's a faint possibility of turning Hulk into a "corporate icon" along the lines of Mr. Peanut.
More importantly, Gitter referred to the long in-development Hulk television series, saying Marvel will, “will spin him off to a stand-alone program next year," followed by another theatrical endeavor in 2015. There's no exact quotation from Gitter on the second assertion, and he may very well have been speaking out of turn or getting ahead of himself, but we do that the Hulk show is still in the works at ABC, under Guillermo del Toro, David Eick, and Marvel Television's Jeph Loeb. That version wouldn't involve Ruffalo, but would instead follow a younger Bruce Banner.
Marvel's immediate post-The Avengers plans are pretty clear, with Iron Man 3 and Thor 2 set to hit theaters in May and November of next year, followed by Captain America and an unspecified mystery feature scheduled in 2014. Beyond that, though, we don't really know. There's been discussions of a SHIELD-based movie, as well as possible spin-offs for Black Widow and Hawkeye. Then there are Ant-Man, Dr. Strange, and Guardians of the Galaxy in development. And The Runaways, which Marvel tabled before production last year in order to focus on The Avengers.
Kevin Feige, the Marvel Studios head honcho who calls the creative shots, hasn't committed to the notion of another standalone Hulk film, instead focusing attention on this new ensemble.
Regardless of whether or not he gets his own Hulk-centric movie, Mark Ruffalo signed on to appear in several Marvel movies. He's the third actor to play Banner in the movies. Eric Bana first starred in Ang Lee's oddly cerebral 2003 Hulk, and when Marvel Studios rebooted the franchise with Louis Leterrier's The Incredible Hulk in 2008, Edward Norton played the rage-prone doctor. Apparently Ruffalo and Whedon knock it out of the park though, so perhaps Hulk will have yet another chance at the spotlight.