It's always fun to dig through the archives of past interviews, and with Marvel co-founder Jack Kirby's recent 98th birthday commemoration, io9 did just that. Uncovering an interview before the iconic comic book creator -- responsible for more superheroes than I can count on two big green hands -- the outlet found a mention of The Hulk, and the origin of his character.
The Hulk I created when I saw a woman lift a car. Her baby was caught under the running board of this car. The little child was playing in the gutter and he was crawling from the gutter onto the sidewalk under the running board of this car — he was playing in the gutter.
His mother was horrified. She looked from the rear window of the car, and this woman in desperation lifted the rear end of the car. It suddenly came to me that in desperation we can all do that — we can knock down walls, we can go berserk, which we do. You know what happens when we’re in a rage — you can tear a house down. I created a character who did all that and called him the Hulk. I inserted him in a lot of the stories I was doing.
Whatever the Hulk was at the beginning I got from that incident. A character to me can’t be contrived. I don’t like to contrive characters. They have to have an element of truth. This woman proved to me that the ordinary person in desperate circumstances can transcend himself and do things that he wouldn’t ordinarily do. I’ve done it myself. I’ve bent steel.
Rushes of adrenaline like this aren't something that occur often, but they certainly have happened, and in recent years. Back in 2012, a woman lifted a car by herself in order to rescue her father from underneath it.
Kirby's character-driven stories fit well with the aspect of real-life heroism for this exact reason: the motivations of Marvel heroes so very often rest within their emotional ties, making even the most alien characters seem human.