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"Thunderbolt" Ross

Real Name: General Thaddeus E. Ross
Occupation: Lieutenant general, U.S. Air Force
Identity: Publicly known
Legal status: Citizen of the United States with no criminal record
Other aliases: Zzzax
Place of birth: Unrevealed
Place of death: Gamma Base, New Mexico
Marital status: Widower
Known relatives: Karen Lee Ross (wife, deceased), Elizabeth "Betty" Ross Banner (formerly Talbot, daughter), Glenn Talbot (son-in-law, deceased), Robert Bruce Banner (son-in-law)
Group affiliation: United States Air Force Mobile Combat Force One ("Hulkbusters")
Base of operations: Desert Base, New Mexico; later Gamma Base (originally named "Hulkbuster Base"), New Mexico, later the Pentagon, later Project Earthfall
First appearance: HULK # 1
Final appearance: INCREDIBLE HULK #330

History: General Thaddeus E. "Thunderbolt" Ross, who became the most frequent nemesis of the superhuman monster called the incredible Hulk, was born into a family with a proud tradition of military service. Ross's grandfather served heroically under General Sherman in the Union army during the Civil War; Ross's father became a general while fighting in the Argonne during World War I. As a boy Thaddeus Ross immersed himself in the study of military history. Later he learned how to fly by barnstorming at country fairs.

As a young man Ross enlisted in the military and graduated first in his class at West Point. He married Karen Lee, the daughter of the captain who was his commanding officer at the time.

Ross rapidly rose in rank and was a captain when he went to fight World War II in the Pacific theater of operations. It was during the war that Ross made his great reputation as a leader in combat. His troops during the war in the Pacific gave him the nickname "Thunderbolt," since, they said he "struck like a thunderbolt" when leading them into action. Ross also served for a time in Europe during World War II and was present at the liberation of the prisoners of the infamous concentration camp at Auschwitz. By the end of World War II Ross had become a major.

Between World War II and Korea Ross was stationed at the nuclear research facility at Los Alamos, New Mexico. It was here that he met nuclear physicist Brian Banner, the father of Robert Bruce Banner, with whom Ross worked years later.

Ross bad risen to the rank of colonel by the time that he was sent to fight in the Korean War. It was during this war that Ross finally became a general in the U.S. Air Force. (Ross never rose beyond the rank of three-star general.)

"Thunderbolt" Ross gloried in combat, so he was dissatisfied with the "desk jobs" he was given before and after the Korean War.

Ross's wife, Karen, bore him only one child, his daughter Betty. Karen Ross died when Betty was in her early teens. General Ross, now in command of Desert Base, new Mexico, a missile base and nuclear research site, believed that it was not the right place to raise a young girl and sent her off to boarding school. After completing her education, Betty, devoted to her sole surviving parent, returned to Desert Base to live near her father.

Robert Bruce Banner, a genius in nuclear physics, was sent by the United States government to Desert Base to oversee construction and test his invention, the "gamma bomb," or "G-bomb," a nuclear weapon that had a high radiation output.

General Ross resented the fact that Banner, a civilian, was supervisor of the project. Moreover, the general had contempt for the unathletic, intellectual Banner for failing to live up to Ross's own vision of true manhood. Making matters worse for Ross was the growing attraction developing between Banner and Betty, whom he hoped would marry a military officer.

During the initial test of the gamma bomb, Banner was exposed to intense, massive gamma radiation, which, due to an unknown genetic factor in his body did not kill him but instead caused him to transform repeatedly into the superhumanly strong monster called the Hulk. Usually the Hulk possessed little of Banner's memories and intelligence and was easily enraged. Hence, the Hulk was a menace, and Ross began his long career of hunting the Hulk down to capture or destroy him.

(Especially in earlier texts, the troops Ross commanded are erroneously described as members of the U.S. Army. Ross was a general in the United States Air Force and commanded Air Force troops. It is possible, though, that on occasion during his pursuit of the Hulk over the years, that Ross was sometimes allowed to make use of forces from the Army as well.)

At first Banner managed to keep secret the fact that he was the Hulk; his sole confidant was his young friend Rick Jones. Indeed, since the Hulk looked radically different from Banner, there was no reason for anyone to suspect that Banner physically transformed into the Hulk. However, Banner's mysterious disappearances and reappearances under strange circumstances, all due to his recurring transformations, led Ross to suspect Banner of treasonous activities and of a possible alliance with the Hulk himself. To prove his suspicions about Banner, Ross brought Major Glenn Talbot to Desert Base as its new security chief. Talbot soon took an intense dislike to Banner as well and shared Ross's suspicions of him. Talbot also became attracted to Betty Ross, and the general hoped that she would shift her affections from Banner to the major. The Pentagon designated Ross as head of "Operation Hulk," the project to find, kill, or capture the powerful menace.

Eventually, wrongly convinced that the Hulk was dead, Rick Jones revealed to Talbot and to Betty Ross that Bruce Banner was the Hulk. Shortly afterwards, Betty and Talbot witnessed Banner's transformation, and Ross and the general populace learned of Banner's dual identity.

Ross nonetheless continued his pursuit of the Hulk, and Banner became a hunted fugitive. Ross contended that he could not be certain whether or not Banner could control his actions as the Hulk, and that hence Banner might be an intentional menace to national security. (In fact, Banner had virtually no control over his transformations or over his actions as the Hulk.)

Ross enjoyed his hunt of the Hulk since it meant he had returned to combat, which he preferred to his "desk job" the Air Force had given him. At times over the years Ross succeeded in capturing the Hulk or Banner, but more often the Hulk thwarted the general's attempts to capture or kill him, or, even if captured, the Hulk soon managed to escape. Embittered by these failures, Ross grew even more determined to put an end to the menace of the Hulk. The general's determination eventually became a fanatical obsession.

Also, over the years, Ross found himself in conflict with other superhuman foes, perhaps most notably the Leader and the Abomination, the latter being another human being given superhuman strength and monstrous form by gamma radiation. Invariably, Banner defeated such menaces, either in his human identity or as the Hulk. Although Ross continued to regard the Hulk as a menace, he gained a grudging respect for Banner.

At one point Banner gained the ability to turn into the Hulk while retaining his own personality, intelligence, and memory. No longer considered a menace, Banner succeeded in winning General Ross's reluctant approval for his intention to marry Betty. However, the wedding ceremony, held at the house where Betty was born, was disrupted by the Leader and his ally, the Rhino. Before Bruce and Betty could be pronounced man and wife, the Leader used his technology to transform Banner back into a Hulk with a savage personality.

Subsequently, the United States government constructed a special site for operations to kill or capture the Hulk, "Hulkbuster Base," located in the New Mexico desert. As the man most experienced with directing military operations against the Hulk, General Ross was given command of the base and to the troops assigned to it, known as United States Air Force Mobile Combat Force One, more familiarly called the "Hulkbusters." The overall military operation to capture the Hulk was now known as "Operation Greenskin," after the color of the Hulk's body. Neither Ross nor the U.S. government now wished to kill the Hulk, if possible, Operation Greenskin's mandate was to capture the Hulk and to find a means to cure him, returning Banner permanently to human form. Ross contended that by studying the Hulk, scientists would learn a great deal about the effects of radiation upon the human body, which would bring about major medical breakthroughs for normal human beings as well.

Although Ross claimed he still wanted a cured Banner as his son-in-law, he was greatly pleased when Betty married Talbot instead, since she thought that she would never be able to have Banner as her husband.

Around this time General Ross made an illegal bargain with the Abomination that he would have the latter cured and freed if the Abomination captured the Hulk for him. The Abomination failed in this task, but Ross would return to this scheme twice more in the future.

With the permission of the Canadian government, General Ross and a team of Hulkbusters pursued the Hulk into Canada. In the Arctic Circle, Ross was captured by the Gremlin, a Soviet agent who headed a secret base hidden on Canadian territory. Major Talbot and Vietnam war veteran Air Force Colonel Jack D. Armbruster led the Air Force team that rescued Ross from the Soviet prison to which he was sent. However, Talbot was captured by the Soviets, and the Americans thought him to be dead.

Shocked at losing her husband, Betty blamed his apparent death on Ross, thereby causing her father great anguish. Moreover, in part due to embarrassment over his capture by the Soviets and in part because he struck a reporter, Ross was relieved of his command of Project Greenskin. Colonel Armbruster succeeded Ross as commander of Hulkbuster Base. Ross was now officially "on leave" but often accompanied Armbruster on Hulkbuster missions.

Armbruster was eventually killed in saving Ross and the President of the United States from an assassination attempt, Hulkbuster Base was destroyed by the so-called Devastator, and General Ross and S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Clay Quartermain led a team that rescued Talbot from the Soviets.

Together, Ross, Quartermain, and Doc Samson sent the Abomination to defeat the Hulk, but once again this scheme failed.

Hulkbuster Base was reconstructed as Gamma Base, and Ross was again put in command of it. Gamma Base was intended more for research into the effects of gamma radiation and a cure for the superhuman creatures this radiation had created; the capture of the Hulk was only a secondary goal. Nonetheless, Ross was still obsessed with capturing the Hulk. This obsession and Ross's continuing failure to end the menace of the Hulk permanently caused Ross to suffer a nervous breakdown. Ross was placed on medical leave and was cared for by Doc Samson, a psychiatrist. Meanwhile, Betty and Glenn Talbot were divorced since she realized she was still in love with Bruce Banner.

The Joint Chiefs of Staff promoted Glenn Talbot to the rank of colonel and made him the new commander of Gamma Base. Talbot was determined to kill the Hulk, in part in revenge for the end of his marriage to Betty But then, due to the repeated failures to stop the Hulk, the U.S. Congress closed down operations at Gamma Base. Refusing to end his pursuit of the Hulk, Talbot committed treason by stealing the "War Wagon," a powerfully armed flying vehicle, and used it to hunt down the Hulk himself. Soon afterwards, Talbot was killed in combat with the Hulk.

Apparently fully recovered, General Ross returned to active duty, bent on avenging his protégé Talbot's death, as well as getting revenge on the Hulk for his nervous breakdown. The President of the United States was unable to get Congress to grant Ross manpower and funding for hunting the Hulk, but made him an advisor at the Pentagon on matters relating to the dangers posed by the Hulk.

Once again, Banner became capable of maintaining his own personality, intelligence, and memory when he transformed into the Hulk. As a result, the President pardoned the Hulk for all his past offenses.

General Ross now commanded the military's Project Earthfall, a research operation involving cryogenic facilities in which the Abomination was now held in suspended animation. Realizing that Betty was still in love with Banner, and refusing to believe that the Hulk was no longer a menace, Ross planned to commit treason by freeing the Abomination and sending him once more to kill the Hulk. Before Ross could do so, the Project was invaded by Modok, the former head of the subversive organization AIM, who intended to free the Abomination to use as an ally against AIM itself. Ross and Modok came to an agreement to cooperate in freeing the Abomination.

Subsequently, the Abomination attacked the Hulk but failed to defeat him. The Hulk succeeded in getting Ross to admit that he had allowed Modok to free the Abomination. Overhearing Ross's confession, Betty Ross was appalled. She reaffirmed her love for Banner and accused her father of treason.

Overwhelmed by shame, Ross nearly committed suicide at his office in the Pentagon. But he decided against killing himself and instead disappeared from sight. In his absence, he was dishonorably discharged from the armed forces. Ross became a drifter, sinking increasingly further into insanity.

Bruce Banner, apparently permanently cured of becoming the Hulk, proposed to Betty Ross, and she accepted. But in the midst of their wedding ceremony, the former General Ross appeared, wielding a gun and demanding that the marriage not take place. When Banner's best man, Rick Jones, tried to stop Ross, the former general shot him. Courageously, Betty Ross confronted her father and persuaded him to let the wedding proceed. Bruce Banner and Betty Ross were at last married, Jones soon recovered from the gunshot wound, and Thaddeus Ross was hospitalized and placed under psychiatric care.

Ross's old ally, Clay Quartermain, enabled Ross to participate in a S.H.I.E.L.D. experiment to transform him into a superhuman being by infusing some of the "living electricity'' that composed the sentient entity called Zzzax into Ross's body. But the experiment went awry, and Ross's consciousness and psionic energy was absorbed by Zzzax, which then broke free. Strangely, perhaps because of the strength of Ross's hatred for the Hulk, Ross's mind took control of Zzzax, submerging Zzzax's own personality. Meanwhile, Ross's original physical body remained alive, but all of that body's independent thought processes had ceased; only involuntary functions of the nervous system (such as those controlling the heartbeat) continued.

Controlled by Ross's mind, Zzzax tried unsuccessfully to kill both Bruce Banner and Rick Jones, who had recently become a Hulk-like monster himself. The Ross persona had apparently again become unbalanced by its absorption into Zzzax, and when Banner forced Ross to recognize that the latter's mind now occupied a monster's form, the Ross persona was horrified. Still controlled by Ross's consciousness, Zzzax fled.

Eventually, Ross's mind returned to his original physical body, bringing much of Zzzax's "living electricity" with it. But now a new menace had come to Gamma Base: a grotesque, unnamed mutant, which seized upon the heads of humans victims and drained life, energy from their bodies, killing them. Ross watched as Rick Jones, in his Hulk-like form, tried unsuccessfully to defeat the mutant, which menaced Betty. Then, to save Betty, Bruce Banner hurled himself into the mutant's path, and thereby himself became the mutant's victim. On seeing the "Hulk's" bravery and Bruce Banner's self-sacrifice, Ross realized that he had gravely misjudged them both. The mutant rendered Bruce Banner unconscious without draining him of all his life energy, and then headed towards Betty. This time, Thaddeus Ross hurled himself into the mutant's path, and the creature took hold of his head. But since Ross still possessed much of Zzzax's electrical energy, the mutant could not take control of Ross's mind, and Ross released all of Zzzax's energy, killing the mutant by electrocution.

But the strain of Ross's heroic act was too much for his aged body. Telling Betty he had been wrong about Bruce and that he himself loved her, Thaddeus Ross died in his weeping daughter's arms.

Eyes: Blue
Hair: Brown, later white

Strength Level: "Thunderbolt" Ross possessed the normal human strength of a man of his age, height, and build who engaged in moderate regular exercise.

Known Superhuman Powers: "Thunderbolt" Ross possessed no superhuman abilities for most of his life. For a brief time his mind controlled the form of Zzzax, and hence he commanded Zzzax's powers. When Ross's mind returned to his original body, he could still release some of Zzzax's electromagnetic energy at will.

NOTE: Sam Elliott played him in the move "The Hulk."

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