At the end of the recently released trailer for Marvel’s forthcoming TV show She-Hulk: Attorney at Law, we see a rapid-fire montage of She-Hulk, Esq., swiping through suitors on an app, going on a series of dates, and then carrying one of them into her bedroom, knocking over a lamp in the process. The scene represents a major development for the largely sexless Marvel Cinematic Universe, and especially for its Hulks. In Avengers: Age of Ultron, after all, Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) suggests to Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson) that he can never have sex because when he gets too excited, he transforms into an uncontrollably violent, 1,200-pound monster: “I can’t have this—kids. Do the math. I physically can’t.” It’s a variation on the problem laid out by Larry Niven in his 1969 essay “Man of Steel, Woman of Kleenex”: a superstrong being’s involuntary muscle contractions could do some real damage to a mere mortal partner. So She-Hulk’s Tinder success raises an important question: How does a Hulk smash?
Fortunately, there are 60 years’ worth of Hulk comic books to provide some possible answers and salacious gossip, and I’ve read all of them, so now is the moment for me to present my findings. (Disclaimer: I’m only considering the main Marvel Comics universe here, not alternate-universe or possible-future versions of the Hulk. My apologies to fans of the semi-incestuous pairing of Hulk and She-Hulk, who are cousins, in the “Old Man Logan” timeline.)
Before we can get into the Hulk’s relationship history, it’s essential to note that the basic concept of the Hulk in the MCU as well as in the old Incredible Hulk TV show—that Bruce Banner is a brilliant but twitchy scientist who turns into the big, dumb green guy when he gets angry—has only rarely been the case in the comics of the past four decades. And when Banner’s had liaisons with women, it’s almost always been at times when his own consciousness could control the Hulk—something along the lines of the zen, glasses-wearing “Professor Hulk” seen in Avengers: Endgame.
In the comics, things are much weirder. Bruce, it turns out, has a complicated variation on dissociative identity disorder, and many of his alters are Hulks: some childlike, some brutish, some cunning. From 1988–90, for instance, his dominant identity was a sharp but vicious gray Hulk form, smaller than the familiar green one who called himself “Joe Fixit” and worked as an enforcer for a Las Vegas casino. He had a girlfriend then, too: Marlo Chandler, an aerobics instructor (who subsequently became the human host for the personification of Death, because comics are like that).
The Banner side of him seems to be drawn to dangerous women. His ex-wife Betty Ross is now a savage gamma-enhanced creature called Harpy. He had a doomed romance with his enemy the Abomination’s also-doomed ex-wife Nadia Dornova. And he revisited his collegiate fling with biochemist Monica Rappaccini after she became the leader of the terrorist science organization Advanced Idea Mechanics. The Abomination and A.I.M. had, in fact, earlier teamed up to turn Banner’s circa-1983 girlfriend, the undercover S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Kate Waynesboro, into the monstrous cyborg Ms. M.O.D.O.K.
Still, the only nonsuperpowered, nonalien woman who pretty definitely had sex with Banner at a time when anger turned him into the dumb green Hulk appears to have been Dawn Michaels, an undercover Daily Bugle reporter who appeared in one issue ever, 1978’s The Hulk! No. 10. She died, but not as a result of the dalliance: She was murdered by corrupt mine owners after spending a single night with Banner. (In that story, we see Bruce and Dawn start kissing by the fireplace in her cabin and then cut to the two of them investigating the mine the next morning. Later, he’s surprised when she implies that she knows he’s also the Hulk, so apparently an elevated pulse rate isn’t enough to turn him green.)
The big green guy, on the other hand, definitely gets around, and is particularly popular with royalty and aliens. Not that Hulk and these lovers were any less star-crossed. Jarella, the princess of a subatomic sword-and-sorcery-type kingdom, was his girlfriend for a while in the ’70s, before her tragic demise. Another alien, Bereet, a “techno-artist” from the planet Krylor, made a documentary about Hulk in the early ’80s, and in keeping with the age-old sexist trope about fictional female journalists, she slept with her subject. (Or tried to, at any rate: As soon as they got to Banner’s hotel room, she was kidnapped by his old enemy the Leader.) The documentary was a hit, but perhaps too much so: She was tragically lured away by Hollywood. And, in the 2006–07 Planet Hulk sequence, the Hulk became king of the planet Sakaar and took a woman called Caiera as his queen. She bore two of his sons, but also met a tragic demise.
Hulk’s most infamous assignation, though, has to have been Umar the Unrelenting, occasional ruler of the Dark Dimension and twin sister of Doctor Strange’s nemesis Dormammu. Having seduced the (dumb) Hulk in the 2005 Defenders miniseries, she gets unusually explicit, describing him as “inordinately well-endowed.” Before any readers get too excited, she also notes that he’s “just like the rest of them. Six minutes and they’re out like a light.” Still, the Hulk alter who gets a rematch with Umar in 2011’s Incredible Hulks No. 633 apparently has more stamina: “He’s already lasted three hours,” observes a demon within hearing range.
She-Hulk, aka Jennifer Walters, introduced in comics in 1979, is much less tortured about sex and generally has better taste in partners. A lawyer who got gamma powers from a lifesaving blood transfusion from her cousin Bruce, she can usually change between Jen and She-Hulk at will but almost always prefers to stay big and green. She likes herself better that way, and she has considerably better luck with men, too. In 2007’s She-Hulk No. 19, Walters is made to list, under oath, everyone she’s slept with in either form. To the regret of nosy historians, we don’t get the whole catalog of her lovers as She-Hulk, but the court stenographer is pictured wrestling with a very long scroll of paper. The list for when she’s been human, meanwhile, is much briefer: “Colonel John Jameson, Richard Rory, and a guy from college named ‘Gary.’ ”
If you thought that first name rang a bell, you’re right. Col. John Jameson is Spider-Man nemesis J. Jonah Jameson’s son, an astronaut, and also a werewolf, because (again) comics are like that. He was married to Walters for a while too—they eloped in 2006’s She-Hulk No. 9—but the marriage was annulled within a year when she discovered that Starfox had used his powers to make her fall in love with Jameson.
Wait—Starfox? Yes: the sometime superhero also known as Eros, the brother of Thanos, played by Harry Styles in last year’s Eternals film, who has what can only be described as extremely horny powers. She-Hulk hooked up with him once too, back in 1983, when they were both in the Avengers, and she later defended him in court against sexual assault charges. (Starfox’s accuser, Christina Garvey, claimed he had nonconsensually made her irresistibly attracted to him.) Interestingly, Starfox also tried to use his powers on a rampaging Hulk in 1984’s Incredible Hulk No. 300, “by overwhelming his anger in waves of … pleasure!” (It didn’t work.)
Beyond the aforementioned Richard Rory (a radio DJ who had debuted in the less-saucy-than-it-sounds series Man-Thing) and a hematologist named Zapper who appeared in her early stories, She-Hulk has mostly preferred to date within or adjacent to the superhuman community. Her longest-running relationship was with Wyatt Wingfoot, the 6-foot-5 college roommate of the Human Torch, but she’s also been involved with S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Clay Quartermain, Tony Stark (aka Iron Man), Hercules, and Luke Cage, the last of whom has apparently slept with so many superheroines that he has a reputation as a “cape chaser.” In the last couple of years’ Avengers comics, She-Hulk has often been found in the equally muscular arms of Thor (the male one). And her current solo series, written by young-adult novelist Rainbow Rowell, hints at an incipient romance with the minor superhero Jack of Hearts.
Walters’ most recent attempt in comics to date a normal human—or as a normal human—appeared in 2017’s Hulk No. 11, during a period when she was dealing with some severe trauma and avoiding her She-Hulk form, which was then gray and triggered by rage. She snaps back at a terrible Tinder date who’s asked her to come up for a nightcap: “Let’s just say I’m at a time in my life where me being really annoyed by someone like you could be fatal. And I don’t want to risk jail time.” In other words, in the comics, it’s not the Hulks’ desire that’s the real source of peril. To paraphrase what might be Banner’s most famous line from the movies, it’s always anger.