No one ever expected the Hulk to become the standout character of Avengers. After two commercial failures with 2003's Hulk and 2008's The Incredible Hulk, it was starting to look like Bruce Banner just wasn't fit for the silver screen.
Of course, that's all changed now: the character quickly became a fan favorite when Mark Ruffalo took over for Edward Norton, and his appearances in the Avengers films have brought the character into the public eye like never before.
However, with the next Avengers film still three years out, it'll likely be some time before fans get another chance to see the Hulk in action. Without spoiling anything, Marvel's made it clear that Bruce Banner probably won't be back anytime soon — leaving the Marvel Cinematic Universe without one of its most popular characters.
Thankfully, there are alternatives: the Marvel Universe is full of different irradiated superheroes, any of which could help fill the Hulk-sized gap in the MCU. In fact, if the latest rumors are true, it might not be long before fans get to see one of Banner's gamma-fueled allies hit theaters.
According to We Are Wakanda (a fansite dedicated to the Black Panther), a new Hulk may make an appearance as early as Captain America: Civil War. The site claims to have a source directly on set, and while a rumor like this would usually be easy to blow off, there's actually a possibility that the rumor isn't just speculation.
Marvel has made it clear that Captain America: Civil War is going to greatly expanded its Cinematic Universe. Spider-Man is set to make his big return to the screen, as will the Black Panther, Helmut Zero and Crossbones. Is it really so hard to imagine yet another Marvel hero making his (or her) debut?
If a new Hulk is set to make their debut during Civil War, it's probably going to be Jennifer Walters, also known as She-Hulk. The character played a major role in the comic book version of the same story — and with Marvel's increasing focus on female superheroes and Walter's relatively simple origin story, it's easy to assume that She-Hulk would be the first to debut.
That being said, General Thaddeus "Thunderbolt" Ross — who eventually became the Red Hulk in the comics — has already made an appearance in a Marvel Cinematic movie. Back in 2008's The Incredible Hulk, Ross was played by William Hurt — not only that, but Hurt is scheduled to reprise his role in Civil War.
Granted, this is all still speculation: the rumor doesn't have a lot of evidence to back it up, so everything should be taken with a huge grain of salt. Then again — would anyone really mind if another Hulk joined the Marvel Cinematic Universe?
At this point, fans will just have to wait and find out; Captain America: Civil War won't hit theaters until May 6, 2016.