Thunderbolt Ross is a male character who features in Marvel Comics.
Thaddeus Ross was a male human who was the son of career military officer Alexander Ross and his wife Elizabeth Ross. (Defenders: Strange Heroes v1 #1) The young Thaddeus was born around sixty seven years ago where he was part of a long and proud military tradition in the United States. (Incredible Hulk v1 #291) He was born at the family farm and raised by his mother as his father worked as a career military officer leading to Thaddeus never seeing his father much. At some point, he came to learn that his mother had an affair with a man named Mr. Garvin who had taught Thaddeus many things in his childhood such as playing baseball. The affair was a temporary state but upon finding out about it he came to resent his mother and Garvin for a time. Thaddeus came to lose interest in life in the army and instead dreamed of being a pilot just like his friend Henry's father. (Hulk v2 #41) From a young age, he learnt to be a pilot where he first flew solo when he was 10 years old. When he was 13 years old, he flew his first aerial show and when he was 16 years old he began to conduct such performances in three towns leading to him earning well for his acts. This was until one day when his bi-plane crashed and he was badly wounded with him having to be pulled out of the wreckage. A carnival doctor examined him and pronounced him dead on the spot though the young Ross regained consciousness in the ambulance where it was discovered that he had broken his back in three places where the diagnosis was he would never walk again. For the next year, he was in a body cast on braces and crutches where through sheer force of will he made himself walk as well as recover. (Hulk v2 #23)
Upon enlisting, he was accepted into West Point and shared the news with Henry but his friend had been mentally broken by the loss of his father. (Hulk v2 #41) As a young man, Thaddeus graduated first in his class and when he was a military cadet he came to meet the Captain's daughter Karen Lee with the two falling in love and marrying. During the peacetime, he came to be promoted with him being considered a promising officer though he long desired a chance to prove himself. (Incredible Hulk v1 #291)
When his daughter Betty was a toddler, he and his wife moved to his grandfathers farm and stayed there for a time. (Hulk v2 #39) Twelve years later, his wife Karen developed cancer and died leaving Thaddeus to raise their daughter alone. (Hulk v2 #41)
To free a Rigellian Recorder, Howard Stark assembled the Stark Seven that consisted of Jimmy Woo, the Bear, Nessa the Kitten, Dum Dum Dugan and Thunderbolt Ross. Together, they helped free the Recorder from his captivity in a Grey crime family. (Iron Man v5 #10)
The U.S. military later spearheaded a new weapon creation initiative and sought to pair high ranking Generals with key scientists in the creation of new armaments. At first, General Ross was partnered with Dr. Abel Stack who proposed autonomous robots but Thaddeus was unable to appreciate the concept. Thus, the partnership ended and instead Ross was paired with a young scientist named Bruce Banner who proposed the development of a Gamma Bomb. (Hulk v2 #44)
During the Civil War, Ross came to see discontent and chaos ravage his country which was when he was approached by the Leader and M.O.D.O.K. who warned on the Hulk's return. The Leader offered to even resurrect Ross's daughter Betty with improvements to his technology. As they had warned, the Hulk did return from his exile where the Jade Giant initiated the events of World War Hulk with General Ross participating in the fight against him. It was the work of the Intelligencia that secretly helped in the defeat of the Hulk where L.M.D.s disguised as S.H.I.E.L.D. agents were responsible for taking away the Jade Giant. He was then taken to Gamma Base that was under the control of the Leader with General Ross and Doc Samson working with him. Sterns made use of siphoned energy from the Hulk in experiments that transformed Thunderbolt Ross into the Red Hulk along with the promise of resurrecting his daughter in exchange for him working for the Intelligencia as their operative. (Hulk v2 #23) He then went to Dimitri, Russia where the Red Hulk ambushed the Abomination who was brutally beaten before being executed with a specially made gamma pistol. Ross in his normal form then arrived to investigate the sighting of the mysterious new Red Hulk. (Hulk v2 #1) The Red Hulk then struck at the S.H.I.E.L.D. Helicarrier in a seemingly mindless assault that was actually tactically planned to allow him to use a sophisticated virus to erase the agency's files on the Hulk. The copy of General Ross was present on the ship that was used to keep the Red Hulk's identity a mystery to his enemies. (Hulk v2 #2) The Red Hulk then arrived back near Gamma Base where he attacked the passing Rick Jones who transformed into a gamma-powered A-Bomb with the two battling. Despite A-Bomb's power, he was swiftly and easily defeated by the Red Hulk with their battle being interrupted by the original Hulk who emerged from the damage to the Gamma Base. (Hulk v2 #3) The Watcher came to witness the event with the Red Hulk attacking him before he resumed his battle with the Hulk. Despite the Hulk's rage, the Red Hulk managed to get a tactical advantage over his foe and broke his arm. He then made sure that the Hulk did not fall unconscious and revert to Banner as he intended to publically execute his foe above the Golden Gate Bridge using his special gun. The Hulk bit off the weapon and their fight was interrupted by the arrival of Thor who prepared to fight the Red Hulk. (Hulk v2 #4) Despite the Asgardian's skill, he was effortlessly beaten by the Red Hulk who left him defeated on the Moon. (Hulk v2 #5) He survived a return from the Moon to Earth's surface where he battled Hulk once again and got an advantage over his foe only to be struck by Thor. The Hulk decided to battle the Red Hulk on his own and managed to defeat his foe. The Red Hulk managed to evade capture but was informed by Doc Samson that he was now on his own for his failure. (Hulk v2 #6) He was next at a bar at the top of Mount Rushmore when he came under attack from She-Hulk, Thundra and Valkyrie with him overpowering his pursuers with apparent ease. (Hulk v2 #7) The pair were able to use trickery to get the advantage over him and freed She-Hulk whereupon they received aid from other female superheroes to battle the Red Hulk. (Hulk v2 #8) He fought the various female superheroes only to be defeated and rendered unconscious. The heroes waited to see him revert to his true identity but the Rulk was only pretending to be knocked out. He bidded his time before knocking out the two flyers and taking Thundra hostage when he escaped. However, he revealed to Thundra that he had no intention of killing her but simply wanted to recruit her for a mission in the future as she showed the desre to kill him. He then departed and left her unharmed allowing him to evade capture. (Hulk v2 #9)
He was next taken by the Collector who desired the Red Hulk to be his champion in a contest against his fellow Elder of the Universe the Grandmaster. The Red Hulk was allowed to bring together a team of fellow warriors consisting of Terrax, Tiger Shark and Baron Mordo who formed the Offenders to battle the Grandmaster’s champions who were the Defenders. Rulk fought against the Hulk in the city of Atlantis where he seemingly got the upper hand over the Jade Giant. (Hulk v2 #11) After killing the Hulk, Rulk proceeded with arriving at the battlefields of his team mates where he killed both his allies and their foes. This saw him also steal the Power Cosmic from Terrax and the Silver Surfer before confronting Galactus over Zenn-La. Galactus easily overpowered the Red Hulk and from his mind learnt that the Elders were responsible for the events where the World Devourer stated he would next target Earth before he confronted those cosmic beings. This led to Grandmaster and Collector calling off their game with them restoring the participants who were all returned to their respective times. The Red Hulk was angered at this and attacked the Grandmaster as a result. He then brutally murdered the Grandmaster but was then was stopped by the Hulk who demanded from the Collector that his love Jarella be restored with the Elder only bringing her back as she died. Upon seeing this, Rulk was pleased at seeing his foe in a heartbroken state and departed the area. (Hulk v2 #12) He then went into the field in his human form and transformed only for Domino to be present at the time. This led to the Red Hulk believing his identity was compromised and he attempted to kill the Mutant mercenary but she escaped. Samson then decided for Rulk to form a team of mercenaries to aid him in finding and killing Domino who had gone into hiding. Thus, he brought together Deadpool, the Punisher, Crimson Dynamo, Thundra, and Elektra for a mission to find Domino. (Hulk v2 #14) During the mission, Ross was blinded by Wolverine when X-Force arrived to support Domino where in the midst of the fighting a mysterious Red She-Hulk emerged in the battle. (Hulk v2 #15) He was taken to safety by the Red She-Hulk but was betrayed by her as she had been sent to capture Rulk as part of a plot by Doc Samson who had turned against his former ally. (Hulk v2 #16) He barely managed to survive the trap made for him with Rulk coming to realise that he was going to need allies to fight against his former business associates that had betrayed him. (Hulk v2 #17)
During the battle with the Redeemer Armor, the Red Hulk destroyed his foe and seemingly killed 'Ross' who was declared dead to the world. A funeral was held for General Ross whilst the Red Hulk allied himself with Bruce Banner in ordering to battle his former allies among the Intelligencia. (Fall of the Hulks: Gamma v1 #1)
Upon arriving at the White House, he destroyed the L.M.D. Talbot thus revealing the deception of the Intelligencia to the world. (Hulk v2 #23) It was then that he was confronted by the Hulk leading to a battle between the pair where Ross was determined to finally kill his old foe but was defeated and arrested with him taken to Banner's Gamma Base. Officially, General Ross was considered dead and held as a hero thus forcing him to remain as the Red Hulk or risk being exposed by Banner. The Hulk then asked Steve Rogers to consider taking on the Red Hulk as an asset and giving him a second chance to redeem himself. (Hulk v2 #24) He had to prove himself to Steve Rogers where he acted as an operative to stop the Scorched Earth doomsday protocols set up by the Intelligencia in case their plans were thwarted. (Hulk v2 #25) He was instrumental in helping Rogers battle the Hood who was looking to claim the power of the Infinity Gems. After the Hood's defeat, Commander Rogers offered the Red Hulk a place on the Avengers with him accepting as it gave him a chance at redemption. (Avengers v4 #12)
He was next attacked by his old subordinate Reginald Fortean who believed that the Red Hulk had killed his mentor and sought revenge against him. Through careful planning, he managed to infect the Red Hulk with nanites that would explode if he ever returned to human form thus forcing Ross to remain as the Red Hulk or risk dying. (Hulk v2 #30)
Ross later learnt that one of his former subordinates named Will Krugauer had been killed in a conflict in the Middle East at the hands of a man named Dagan Shah. Thus, the Red Hulk sought revenge with Captain America sending Machine Man to ensure that Ross did not go on a rampage as the fighting involved a new nation forming called Sharzhad that was ruled by Shah. (Hulk v2 #43)
Thunderbolt Ross then looked to help eliminate threats to the world and began enlisting military men to serve as part of an elite team for the task. This led to him approaching the Punisher, Mercy, Agent Venom, Deadpool and Elektra with all of them accepting the offer. (Thunderbolts v2 #1)
He went to the offices of Nelson and Murdock in San Francisco as he confronted Matt Murdock who he believed was the Hulk's lawyer and who the Jade Giant had just visited. Ross wanted the location of the Hulk but came to realise that the encounter was a trap set up by his quarry with the Hulk arriving on the scene in order to forcibly depower him. This led to a battle as Ross became the Red Hulk and came to battle the Hulk who was operating under a new personality called Doc Green. Doc Green had attempted to use a syringe to remove the power of the Red Hulk from Ross but he was prepared with him wounding the Hulk who attempted to escape through a teleportation door back to his base. Red Hulk pursued him and they next battled him within Doc Green's headquarters in the Beehive where he continued to badly wound his opponent until Hulk's allies used a teleportation door to drop Ross above a volcano thus giving them a reprieve from further fighting. (Hulk v3 #10) Ross then decided to dictate his environment and camped out at a volcano in the Yucatan where he used the Red Hulk's ability to absorb radiation as an advantage for the next fight with Doc Green. Eventually, Doc Green arrived and the two battled though the Hulk had hired the services of Deadpool to use a special bullet that nullified the Red Hulk's power to absorb radiation. In the resultant battle, the Red Hulk was defeated and Doc Green injected him with the serum that stripped him of his gamma mutation. He also informed the U.S. military about Ross's past who arrived to arrest Ross for violating of the Uniform Code of Military Justice. (Hulk v3 #15)
After his arrest he was kept at a classified military prison where he learnt that the Hulk was killed in the events of Civil War II. His daughter came to visit him where Ross expressed that he was glad that the Hulk was slain as he was a monster. (Civil War II: The Fallen v1 #1) During the Secret Empire, Ross led a resistance cell against Hydra where afterwards he was paroled with him being given a clean slate allowing his return to the military. (Captain America v9 #1) He later met with Captain America where he expressed the dissatisfaction the American government had over Steve Rogers and the Avengers close ties with the Wakandan government. This led to him concluding that the Avengers were not looking after U.S. interests and thus he called on the expertise of the Agent who had brought together the Squadron Supreme of America as the nation's own superhuman team. (Avengers v8 #10)
Personality and attributes
After his transformation by the Intelligencia, he came to take the identity of the Red Hulk. (Hulk v2 #23) S.H.I.E.L.D. was known to had given a code name to this form as the Rulk. (Hulk v2 #7) After his defeat, the Red Hulk was designated as Patient #413 whilst at Banner's Gamma Base. (Hulk v2 #24) Whilst working as a special operative for Steve Rogers, the Red Hulk was given the codename Thunderbolt. (Hulk v2 #27)
From his teenage years, he suffered injuries where multiple doctors stated that he would never walk again. However, through sheer force of will, he managed to recover and make himself walk once more. Since that time, he earned what he described as a healthy amount of disrespect for any individual that was a doctor. (Hulk v2 #23) Ross felt that any form of excess was a weakness that could be exploited and did not tolerate such traits among those under his charge including his own daughter. To Thaddeus, weakness was not something that could be taught but rather it showed a flaw in a person's character. He demonstrated this by forcing Betty to finish a carton of cigarettes after learning that she was secretly smoking until she was weeded off the habit. (Hulk v2 #16)
Something he never admitted to anyone was that during his first encounter with the Hulk that he came to covet the sheer raw destructive power of the creature. (Hulk v2 #23)
Ross’s reasoning to becoming the Red Hulk was because he felt that his country was being threatened as superheroes had turned against one another, Captain America was assassinated and the Hulk had brought an army from space to turn New York into a battlefield. Thus, felt that something had to be done to protect the nation and only he could achieve this feat. It was this reason that he made deals with criminals and risked death in order to transform himself into the Red Hulk. As such, he accepted the power to become a Hulk-like creature despite never wanting it but came to determine that he deserved this strength. He reasoned that he retained his mental faculties as the Red Hulk was because he desired the role similar to how Jennifer Walters like being She-Hulk and it was this trait that meant his transformation did not lead to him being a dumb brute like the original Hulk. (Hulk v2 #14)
Thaddeus had long interest in the military where he read stories and tales of valor that soothed him to sleep. Since childhood, he came to immerse himself in military history. (Incredible Hulk v1 #291) He stated that he hated Russians and felt that they had no respect for human life. (Hulk v2 #14)
Ross was part of a long tradition of military service in his family with his grandfather being a hero in the Union army under Sherman. Thaddeus's own father had risen to the rank of General in the trenches of Argonne. Whilst he was a cadet, he came to marry the Captain's pretty daughter Karen Lee who became the mother of his child Betty Ross. (Incredible Hulk v1 #291) His grandfather came to retire from the army and became a farmer thus leading to them owning farmland. (Hulk v2 #39)
One of his subordinates in the military was Reginald Fortean who he saw as a protégé and came to mentor. Fortean was deeply devoted to Ross and after believing him killed he sought to avenge him. (Hulk v2 #30)
Powers and abilities
Through the experiments of the Intelligencia, he came to be artificially transformed into a creature similar to the Hulk with a distinctive red skin. (Hulk v2 #23)
He was shown to had survived a sword through his chest which he pulled out without any issue. (Hulk v2 #8) Similar to the Hulk, the Red Hulk had a healing factor allowing him to recover from injuries but it took time for it to repair wounds. (Hulk v2 #15) A unique trait for the Red Hulk was that the angrier he got then he could radiate heat around his body. (Hulk v2 #6) Though he primarily absorbed Gamma energy, he was also able to take cosmic energy as well such as those of the Power Cosmic. (Hulk v2 #12)
The ability to absorb biopower was later removed by Banner as a failsafe made by M.O.D.O.K. meant that a further year of using this ability would have burnt Ross out. (Hulk v2 #25)
His family owned farm that was originally set up by his grandfather with this being considered a family home that he never sold. (Hulk v2 #39)
- Thaddeus 'Thunderbolt' Ross was created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby where he made his first appearance in the Incredible Hulk v1 #1 (May, 1962).
- The character was turned into the Red Hulk by Jeph Loeb and Ed McGuiness where he made his first appearance in this identity in Hulk v2 #1 (March 2008) though his identity was unknown until Hulk v2 #22 (July, 2010).
- In a Cup O' Q&A, Joe Quesada noted in response about conflicting variations of Ross's military uniform that, "In the case of Ross, he has to be over the top, so as an artist, I would look at what was the official uniform and I’d elaborate on that to make it a Marvel U version of what this Hulkbusting General would look like. Also, one could argue that Ross belongs to a unit of the Air Force that has it’s own special dress code and uniforms."
- In Future Imperfect (2015), one version of Ross appeared on Battleworld where he was Dystopia's version of the Thing. His past was shown where he was an astronaut with fellow pilot John Talbot who were exposed to cosmic rays before crashing back to the surface. Talbot was killed and Ross was transformed into the rock-like Thing where he became an enemy of Baron Maestro.
In other media
- In The Marvel Super Heroes, General Ross appeared in the animated television series "Incredible Hulk" segments where he was voiced by actor Paul Kligman.
- In The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes, Thunderbolt Ross made a number of appearances where he was voiced by actor Keith Ferguson whilst actor Fred Tatasciore voiced him in his Red Hulk persona.
- In Hulk and the Agents of S.M.A.S.H., Thunderbolt Ross as the Red Hulk appeared in the animated television series where he was voiced by actor Clancy Brown.
- In Hulk, General Ross appeared in the 2003 live-action film where he was portrayed by actor Sam Elliott.
- In the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Thunderbolt Ross made a number of appearances in the shared live-action setting.
- In Captain America: Civil War, Thunderbolt Ross made an appearance in the live-action film where he was portrayed by actor William Hurt.
- In The Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction, Thunderbolt Ross appeared in the setting of the video game where he was voiced by actor Dave Thomas.
- In Marvel: Avengers Alliance, Thunderbolt Ross as the Red Hulk appeared as an unlockable character in the Facebook video game.
- In Marvel: Contest of Champions, Thunderbolt Ross as the Red Hulk appeared as a playable character in the mobile phone game.
- In Marvel: Future Fight, Thunderbolt Ross as the Red Hulk appeared as a playable character in the mobile phone game.
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