Is Bruce Banner a mutant?

Answer by Thaddeus Howze:

Officially, No. But it's more complicated than that.

the Celestials by ZurdoM

I already know what you're thinking. Your first question is: What do the Celestials have to do with the Bruce Banner/Hulk? Patience, young grasshopper, you need a primer on the untold history of the Marvel Universe.

Who you calling 'mutate'?

Back in a more innocent time, Marvel Comics early creators were fond of what has been dubbed in comic literature as 'the radiation accident'.

  • Many early superheroes were created or transformed when they were exposed to radioactivity in one form or another.
  • Since science literacy was at a low during that period and most people had no real idea of what radiation was beyond what they saw in 1950 era science fiction films such as 'Attack of the Crab Monsters' or 'Them' where exposure to radiation made fantastic mutations impossible to be found in nature.
  • Since comics were trying to reinvent themselves, they decided to create superheroes with the same basic formula. Insert ordinary man (a common Marvel theme) + mysterious and unknown radiation and poof, a new and fantastic hero would be created.

Some of Marvel's greatest creations utilize this origin including:

The Fantastic Four: Exposed to cosmic rays on an early spaceflight in a poorly shielded ship, the four explorers develop superhuman abilities due to the interaction with said radiation. The radiation mysteriously transforms each one of them into a different elemental expression of nature and makes three of them really hot and sexy and one of them appealing only to stonemasons and sculptors. First Appearance: The Fantastic Four #1 (cover dated Nov. 1961)

The Amazing Spider-Man: On a science excursion to a poorly-run and scientifically inept laboratory, hapless Peter Parker, chew toy and science geek is bitten by a spider which had been exposed to radiation (without immediately dying) and bites Parker, transferring its 'spidery essence' and powers requiring great responsibility to utilize (as we are reminded in every film). First Appearance: Amazing Fantasy #15 (Aug. 1962)

Daredevil: Young Matt Murdock was unfortunate enough to be on a street corner when a truck bearing, unshielded, improperly stored, unmarked radioactive waste. In an effort to save a man about to be killed Matt somehow avoids being run over and instead is splashed in the face with said toxic waste. Instead of dying a slow cancer-riddled death, he is blinded and then gifted by having his other senses become superhuman compared to a normal man's. He also gains a 360 degree awareness he calls his radar sense. Instead of retiring to the life of a gentle scholar, he emuates his failed father's boxing career and heads out to the gym, bulks up and becomes the Devil of Hell's Kitchen fighting criminals by night and helping people 'lawyer up' during the day in his secret identity as Matt Murdock, attorney at law. First Appearance: Daredevil #1 (April 1964)

The Incredible Hulk: The most powerful human/menace/hero in the Marvel Universe, the Hulk gained his powers by being at ground zero of the text of an experimental nuclear device called the 'gamma bomb'. Supposedly the next evolution in nuclear warfare, the test center was poorly policed and a young protester, Rick Jones found himself at ground zero. Intrepid Bruce Banner rushes to save Jones and instead is exposed to the terrible radiation of the bomb. (Jones is pushed into some kind of ditch by Banner which protects him from the blast.) First appearance, The Incredible Hulk #1 (May 1962)

In those early days, such superheroes were dubbed 'mutates' meaning they were altered in some way by an outside influence, whether it be radiation (see above), mutagen (Captain America), or alien super-science (Captain Marvel/Carol Danvers).

Radiation, the stuff heroes are made of…or not.

On our Earth, if you are exposed to radiation in any of its primary forms, alpha particles, beta particles or more energetic radiations such as X-rays or gamma rays, if your exposure is significant, you will DIE from radiation poisoning or acute radiation syndrome.

The radiation one typically encounters is one of four types: alpha radiation, beta radiation, gamma radiation, and x radiation. Neutron radiation is also encountered in nuclear power plants and high-altitude flight and emitted from some industrial radioactive sources.

  1. Alpha Radiation: Alpha radiation is a heavy, very short-range particle and is actually an ejected helium nucleus. Some characteristics of alpha radiation are:
    • Most alpha radiation is not able to penetrate human skin.
    • Alpha-emitting materials can be harmful to humans if the materials are inhaled, swallowed, or absorbed through open wounds.
    • Alpha radiation is not able to penetrate clothing.

    Examples of some alpha emitters: radium, radon, uranium, thorium.

  2. Beta Radiation: Beta radiation is a light, short-range particle and is actually an ejected electron. Some characteristics of beta radiation are:
    • Beta radiation may travel several feet in air and is moderately penetrating.
    • Beta radiation can penetrate human skin to the "germinal layer," where new skin cells are produced. If high levels of beta-emitting contaminants are allowed to remain on the skin for a prolonged period of time, they may cause skin injury.
    • Beta-emitting contaminants may be harmful if deposited internally.
    • Clothing provides some protection against beta radiation.

    Examples of some pure beta emitters: strontium-90, carbon-14, tritium, and sulfur-35.

  3. Gamma and X Radiation: Gamma radiation and x rays are highly penetrating electromagnetic radiation. Some characteristics of these radiations are:
    • Gamma radiation or x rays are able to travel many feet in air and many inches in human tissue. They readily penetrate most materials and are sometimes called "penetrating" radiation.
    • X rays are like gamma rays. X rays, too, are penetrating radiation. Sealed radioactive sources and machines that emit gamma radiation and x rays respectively constitute mainly an external hazard to humans.
    • Gamma radiation and x rays are electromagnetic radiation like visible light, radiowaves, and ultraviolet light. These electromagnetic radiations differ only in the amount of energy they have. Gamma rays and x rays are the most energetic of these.
    • Dense materials are needed for shielding from gamma radiation. Clothing provides little shielding from penetrating radiation, but will prevent contamination of the skin by gamma-emitting radioactive materials.

    Examples of some gamma emitters: iodine-131, cesium-137, cobalt-60, radium-226, and technetium-99m.

Baes, Fred. "What Types of Radiation Are There?." hps.org. N.p. Web. 22 Jul. 2015. <hps.org>

In the Marvel Universe, if you are exposed to radiation (or other mutagens) there is the spontaneous possibility you will gain superpowers! How is that possible? The staggering revelation is this:

  • The power to have metahuman capacity is not innately human. It does not exist normally in the Human genome. This capacity is due to the genetic manipulation and alterations made by the Celestials.
  • Humans without the genetic tampering would die when exposed to radiation in all its many forms, simple as that.

The Eternals (homo immortalis): a subgroup of Humanity with distinctive, consistently inherited, genetically-derived superhuman capabilities. Despite their vast power and superhuman capability, they are considered a failure by the Celestials.

In the Marvel Universe, all metahuman potential is the result of scientific manipulations of the Celestials upon the Human genome. Experiments which have led to the development of a variety of superhuman groups on the Marvel Earth including:

  • The Deviants and the Eternals: The first such "successful" genetic experiments upon Humanity and its subspecies. Each group developed a variety of capacities seen in subsequent metahumans on Marvel Earth today. Deemed a failure by the Celestials due to the consistency of their metahuman abilities (Eternals) or the staggering variability and power levels (Deviants).
  • The Inhumans: The second major genetic experiment on Humans carried out by the alien militarists, the Kree, in order to extract said metahuman potential and weaponize it for their miltary uses against their shape-shifting enemies, the Skrulls. Their experiments required the use of the mutagen called the Terrigen Mists.
  • Mutants (homo superior): A randomly occurring genetic event where when genetic markers dubbed the X-gene come together in an as-yet-undefined manner, metahuman potential is released, usually in puberty. The underlying nature of most mutant powers is psionic, giving them the ability to manipulate environmental conditions or change some aspect of their physical body. In the rare case, both. See: Proteus: Kevin MacTaggert (Earth-616).
  • Mutates: Beings whose genetic capacity would not have lent itself to the formation of the X-gene but somehow has sufficient metahuman potential that with an external mutagen e.g. radiation, a human being will spontaneously develop superhuman potential. Mutates can (and often do) give birth to mutants.

Franklin Richards is the mutant son of Reed Richards and Susan Richards. His mutant ability has been deemed the greatest expression of such abilities to have ever existed on Marvel Earth. His powers of energy manipulation and reality alteration have no equals. His powers make him a contemporary to the mighty Galactus and may be the desired result of the Celestial experiments millions of years ago.

VERDICT: The Hulk is NOT a mutant.

He would be considered a mutate. His powers, or to be specific, his ability to have metahuman capacity, released by exposure to radiation, is inherent in all Human DNA in the Marvel Universe. He is an unhappy accident at best.

See Also:

Outside the Marvel Universe:

The word 'mutant' is a loaded term in the comic universe, but not just for the reasons you might think. The Hulk would never be classified a mutant for various reasons, the most important being financial ones:

  • Marvel has trademarked the word 'mutant'. This word has such a distinction, it is the primary reason you don't see any 'mutants' in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Understand, when you say the word 'mutant' it stands for money in the comic industry.
  • This was such an issue that when Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch were slated to be in the Avengers: Age of Ultron, their origins were changed both in the comics and in the movies removing them from their previous mutant origins.
  • Mutants are part of the film contract for the 20th Century Fox which produces the never-ending line of questionable quality X-men movies.  That last statement is only my opinion, not necessarily a fact. The X-Men film series is the 13th highest grossing movie franchise in history.

With seven films released, the X-Men film series is the 13th highest-grossing film franchise of all-time, having grossed over US$3 billion worldwide. It is set to continue in 2016 with two spin-off films, Deadpool and Gambit, and a sequel to X-Men: Days of Future Past entitled X-Men: Apocalypse, with a third Wolverine film following in 2017.

Is Bruce Banner a mutant?

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