Giving Mark Ruffalo's Hulk his own solo movie is a problematic notion.
For starters, the last time Marvel tried to do a Hulk movie, Ed Norton fought Tim Roth and nobody was all that into it. (It's still Marvel Studios' one and only flop.) Before that was the oddball Ang Lee flick, which was... interesting. And not in a good way.
The lesson learned from these two features is that Hulk is hard to get right on film. Joss Whedon succeeded in The Avengers because Hulk was surrounded by other heroes, all serving a larger story — and he showed up in only two parts of the movie. Ruffalo has proven terrific in the role, but are audiences ready for a Hulk-only outing?
If Marvel were to give it a shot, here are five stories that would make for fascinating big-screen fodder.
Future Imperfect (1993)
Hulk travels a century into the future, to a time when nuclear war has devastated the planet. He discovers an evil version of himself called the Maestro, who is still alive, though driven mad by absorbing radiation. The Maestro rules Earth with no real opposition since the Avengers and all other heroes are dead — leaving no one but "our" Hulk to take him on. Maestro was such an interesting villain that he still shows up in comics today.
Peter David's Run (1991)
The prolific Peter David wrote an incredible body of work for The Incredible Hulk, starting in 1987. His many fascinating storylines included a memorable return to the gray-hued Hulk, and later, a new character called Professor Hulk, who was basically the gray Hulk, savage Hulk and Bruce Banner's personalities all merged into one.
Return of the Monster (2001)
When Bruce Jones took over as writer of The Incredible Hulk in 2001, he brought the series into a direction it had never gone before: creepy/supernatural stories with a hint of noir-esque crime fiction. Jones also had an affinity for big monsters, and never shied away from spotlighting Abomination, Absorbing Man and the like. For that reason – and his sparing use of Hulk – Jones' run remains controversial to fans. But there's no denying it was original.
The Indestructible Hulk (2012)
Mark Waid took over the title in 2012, giving it a whole new mission statement that saw Bruce Banner given a S.H.I.E.L.D. lab and his own team to cook up scientific innovations — as long as he allowed S.H.I.E.L.D. to use the Hulk as a weapon. So instead of a monster smashing everything in blind rage, he's a government agent who uses his strength and invulnerability to take down enemies of freedom. Not a bad deal.
Planet Hulk (2006)
Greg Pak wrote what was probably the best remembered and most frequently referenced Hulk storyline in Hulk history: the Illuminati, fearful of what Hulk's rage might do to Earth's citizens if left unchecked, jettison him into space. But things go wrong and he crashes on a gladiatorial planet where he's forced to fight, falls in love, becomes ruler and much more. It ends badly — but hey, when did Hulk ever get a happy ending?