Nerd Factor: Hulk Smashed

By Michael Robinson ~ PhD

Picture (above) of Hulk flexing as it is about to enter a battle. Photo retrieved from on Aug. 17, 2021.

Many activities pose a challenge for superheroes, particularly social drinking. The Human Torch needs to be careful because alcohol is flammable. The Flash metabolizes alcohol so quickly that it has no affect on him. Of course, any metahuman runs the risk of harming another should they become drunk. One particular superhero though runs into a surprising risk. 

When Dr. Robert Bruce Banner was exposed to a massive dose of gamma rays, his body was transformed dramatically. If certain conditions are met, then Banner becomes the Incredible Hulk. As we know, the Hulk has vast levels of strength, endurance, and invulnerability. However, there are some important questions about the Hulk that need to be considered. Can the Hulk become intoxicated? And what happens if a drunken Hulk turns back into Banner?

Typically, we think of anger as the trigger for Banner’s metamorphosis into the Hulk. Fans of the late 1970s/early 1980s live-action TV show might remember star Bill Bixby warning a reporter: “Mr. McGhee, don’t make me angry. You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry.” And many fans of the Marvel Cinematic Universe quote Mark Ruffalo’s great line from The Avengers: “That’s my secret Captain. I’m always angry.” However, the initiating factor has been different over time. In his original comic book appearances, for example, Banner changed into the Hulk when the sun went down. 

Photo of cover “The Incredible Hulk”. Photo retrieved from on Aug. 17, 2021. 

The Hulk has also undergone a variety of forms over the nearly six decades since his creation. He was initially gray, but printing issues forced a turn to the more familiar green. Still, Gray Hulk shows up every now and then. And while Ol’ Greenskin typically demonstrates a certain child-like quality and an almost innocent mentality, at other times Hulk and Banner are one and the same. Hulk has also manifested other personalities. In the comics, these different states have been linked to child abuse Banner suffered at the hands of his brutal father. 

No matter what color he is and no matter how much Banner remains in the mental driving seat, the Hulk is typically much larger than Banner, weighing in anywhere from half to three-quarters of a ton. That’s a lot of body mass and that body mass needs more blood. 

Here’s where the danger starts for Banner. Most ordinary people have a little over a gallon to half-a-gallon of blood in them. When Banner changes into the Hulk, he gains mass from someplace (it’s never been clearly defined so let’s just blame gamma radiation somehow) and that mass needs more blood. By way of comparison, horses have about ten to twelve gallons of blood in them.

If Hulk becomes inebriated, perhaps by someone playing upon his more naïve persona, then we can infer a lot of alcohol was involved to achieve this blotto state. If the Hulk is sedated enough that he relaxes and turns back into Banner, then the good doctor instantly has much more booze in his system than an ordinary person ever should. Banner is suddenly twelve times drunk, a certainly fatal dose of alcohol poisoning.

There are many things that are incredible about the Hulk, especially his regenerative capabilities. Anger makes him “the strongest one there is” and it also restores body mass. A few years ago, the Hulk even managed to completely reassemble after a thorough dissection. Hopefully Hulk’s liver is gamma-charged enough to scrub all poisons out of his system as well and hopefully it’s the last power active before Banner returns. Otherwise, Banner is a goner. 

key words: Hulk, Comics, Marvel 

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