Of all the major Marvel characters to survive Avengers: Endgame, Hulk is the one who has no clear path forward. With his solo film rights tied up at Universal Studios and no confirmed guest appearances in the pipeline, the future may seem bleak for fans of the angriest Avenger.
But don't despair just yet because Hulk actor Mark Ruffalo has expressed a desire to return to the role, and we've got some ideas for where he could show up next...
1. Professor Hulk as a mentor figure
As seen in Avengers: Endgame, Hulk has finally overcome his catastrophic anger problems, adopting a new persona that fans have affectionately nicknamed Professor Hulk.
This opens up a whole new world of potential stories for the character, with Ruffalo himself mentioning where he wants the character to go in an interview with Entertainment Tonight: "I'd like to see him hang out with some of the new folks, maybe be like a guru to some of the new [heroes], the younger ones, you know?"
The obvious hero for him to take under his wing would be She-Hulk, a character who is soon to be getting her very own MCU series on Disney+. In the comic books, She-Hulk is Jennifer Walters, who requires a blood transfusion from her cousin, Bruce Banner, after a life-threatening shooting.
2. Will Mark Ruffalo's Hulk appear in She-Hulk on Disney+?
It's yet to be confirmed whether Ruffalo will make an appearance, but if Marvel Studios want a faithful adaptation of She-Hulk's origin story then he'll need to factor in to some extent.
With five MCU appearances under his belt so far (not counting his short cameo at the end of Iron Man 3), the actor has one film left before fulfilling his Marvel contract.
It's possible that She-Hulk could complete his obligation, but the Disney+ TV shows are such new territory for Marvel that they could fall under a separate deal altogether, which would free up that final appearance for a big screen outing.
It should be noted that She-Hulk may not need Banner as a mentor given that she doesn't share the same rage issues as her cousin, often being able to carry out her day job as a lawyer while in Hulk form. Perhaps a tad distracting for the jury, but residents of the Marvel Universe have probably seen stranger.
Nonetheless, it's quite likely that Walters would need some guidance adjusting to her new life. It's not easy being green, after all.
3. Return of The Incredible Hulk villains
Remember when Edward Norton played the Hulk? While not one of the MCU's most shining moments, it is technically still canon and there's certainly scope to tie up some loose threads from his outing as the character.
William Hurt has already returned as General Ross for Civil War and Infinity War, a role he originally portrayed in 2008's The Incredible Hulk, while Liv Tyler has also been rumoured to reprise her role as Betty Ross for the upcoming She-Hulk series on Disney+.
Why not go one further and bring back two classic Hulk villains that were also introduced in the film? Tim Roth as Abomination and Tim Blake Nelson as The Leader, both of whom were signed for multi-picture deals many moons ago?
Marvel Studios have been reluctant to pursue a new Hulk film on the big screen as it would require some kind of deal with Universal Pictures (much like how a deal has to be struck with Sony to make new Spider-Man films) but the characters could conceivably reappear to oppose She-Hulk in her upcoming streaming show - which would also give Banner a good reason to stick around for the full series.
4. The Immortal Hulk
Of course, there's also the possibility they could go in a new direction altogether. In the comics, Hulk is a character that has been subject to vastly different interpretations depending on who is writing him, and the latest one has garnered much attention and critical acclaim.
His current solo series, The Immortal Hulk, is a horror spin on the character which sees a more sinister version of the Hulk released every time Bruce Banner is killed.
It would be a big departure from the character as we know him now, but Marvel Studios have shown a willingness to shake up the status quo and adapt recent comic book storylines, such as Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) taking on the mantle of Thor in 2021's Love and Thunder.
The main issue holding up such a project would be the aforementioned rights issue with Universal, but given the unexpected Spider-Man deal now back in place with Sony Pictures, you never know what other tricks Marvel could have up their sleeve.