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Off My Mind: The Separation of the Incredible Hulk and Bruce Banner

It's been done before. What happens when the Hulk is separated from Banner?

The Hulk isn't normally a happy person. He just wants to be left alone yet he's constantly being bothered and chased by others. Over the years, he's tried several times to be left alone. No matter where he goes, others are soon to follow. If there's one person he might actually hate over the others, it's Bruce Banner.

Banner and the Hulk are the same person but different personas. You would think that saying Hulk hates Banner is like saying someone hates themself. They are the same person, yet they are two different people at the same time. How can this be? We have seen Banner and the Hulk separated before.

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Separating Hulk and Banner can't be an easy task. Yet in the final pages of FEAR ITSELF #7, we saw this actually happen. Banner and Hulk were 'talking' in their shared mind and Hulk finally had enough. He told Banner he wanted to be alone and somehow made it happen. There were some bad results before when they were separated so the chances are they will be bad again. Should it be possible for the two to be separated?

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Somehow, Hulk managed to do what he never could over the years on his own. While we're bound to get an answer to the how, this wasn't exactly an easy thing to do before. The incident that comes to mind was from back in Incredible Hulk #315. This was when Doc Samson was a nice guy, he spent a lot of time working with Banner and Hulk.

Samson confronted Hulk and was surprised to find him able to talk (this version previously was the savage, non-talking one). Hulk reacted strongly to Samson's mention of Banner. The two began fighting but Samson was knocked unconscious and Hulk found himself fighting phantoms of his old enemies. When Samson recovered, he surmised that Banner was making Hulk see hallucinations because Hulk was swinging at the air. Hulk soon realized the phantoms couldn't hurt him and this gave Samson the opening he needed to suckerpunch Hulk and knock him out. Samson, being the super-psychiatrist he was, figured if Banner was able to make the hallucinations, he must be more of a conscious entity within Hulk than he was before and thus, could be separated from the Hullk.

How could this be done?

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Samson was able to convince the government to refinance the gamma base and pay for the procedure to separate the two. Hulk was placed in a giant nutrient bath. The idea was to edit Banner out of Hulk's body while trying to make sure Banner's intellect went into the new body.

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Where did this leave Hulk? He no longer had a mind because Banner had been removed. Before Samson could turn his focus on molding Hulk into a functioning human, S.H.I.E.L.D. agents came to claim his body, due to the the dangers of Hulk's existence. Hulk escaped (with a little help) and went on a rampage. Iron Man, Namor, Hercules and Wonder Man tried to stop him but were unable. Stark understood that Hulk still got stronger the madder he got. Without Banner to moderate and influence the Hulk, there was simply no limit to his rage.

It took Banner a little while to recuperate as his body was still weak but he then made his move to form a new team of Hulkbusters to take down Hulk. Of course, Banner and Hulk were reunited and became one and we've seen many different versions of Hulk since.

Now we're seeing Hulk and Banner separated again...only this time it's a little different.

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This isn't the savage mindless Hulk we saw in the 80s when they were separated. Hulk still wants to be left alone and appears to be very much at peace with himself. Could it be that this version of a separated Hulk is actually better off without Banner?

The big question that remains is how did this happen? Did I miss something in FEAR ITSELF that allowed Hulk so easily to separate the one 'person' he hated more than anyone else? We all know Hulk isn't going to find peace permanently and there's also the question of what will be Banner's fate. This is why the new Incredible Hulk series is off to a great start.

Whatever happens in the next few months, we need to have Banner and Hulk back together eventually. Sure they might both deserve some time away from each other but are they really separate entities or are they different facets of the same person? Having Banner and Hulk separated is like eating peanut butter without jelly or an Oreo cookie without the creamy center. You can eat them that way but it's just not the same.