Raised in a poor, violent environment by his mentally ill father, Butch Bowers (an ex-marine who reputedly went insane and psychotic after being relieved of his war activities), Henry rapidly developed into a hateful, loathing individual who would often display immediate negative and stereotypical feelings towards those around him (particularly his classmates). In particular, Butch's deep racism leads to Henry choosing the African-American Mike Hanlon as his favorite bullying target.
Despite his hostile nature however, during his childhood (beginning in first grade of 1952) Henry would go on to make friends among other bullies of his age, with his closest being the more intelligent Victor "Vic" Criss and the unusually large and clumsy yet rather muscular Reginald "Belch" Huggins and the rest being the psychologically-disturbing Patrick Hockstetter, well-off Peter Gordon, the slightly retarded Steve "Moose" Sadler, and dim-witted Gard Jagermeyer. All six of these boys he would assort into a gang of his own: The aptly-named Bowers Gang.
While the same age as the kids of the Losers’ Club in the novel and miniseries, according to the book Henry and his friends are one grade older than them and that Henry was in the 5th grade with Ben, instead of being in 6th grade, as a repeat. "Henry was in Ben’s fifth-grade class instead of in the sixth grade with his friends Belch Huggins and Victor Criss because he had been kept back the year before. Ben had an idea that Bowers was going to stay back again. His name had not been called when Mrs. Douglas handed out the rank-cards, and that meant trouble. Ben was uneasy about this, because if Henry did stay back again, Ben himself would be partly responsible[...]" "Henry was a big boy even for twelve."
After Henry's mother leaves the family from the constant physical abuse of Butch Bowers, Butch gains a girlfriend in Rena Davenport. Rena is "fair, fat, and forty" and makes baked beans for the family every single weekend.
Erosion to Insanity (1958)
During and prior to the summer of 1958, Bowers torments the Losers with several acts of violence, such as partially carving his name onto Ben Hanscom's belly, killing Mike Hanlon's dog with raw meat laced with insect poisoning, breaking Eddie Kaspbrak's arm, and white washing Stan Uris' face in the snow until it bleeds. Following the apocalyptic rock fight with the Losers in July, Henry becomes more and more sadistic and even goes as far as to swear revenge to the Losers after the fight. His deteriorating sanity becomes apparent during subsequent violent attacks on Eddie and Beverly.
In late August, It provides Henry with a switchblade which he uses to kill his crazy abusive father. Under the influence of It, Henry alongside his friends, Victor "Vic" Criss and Reginald "Belch" Huggins, chase the Losers down through the sewers. Under Derry, It then takes the form of Frankenstein's Monster, and kills Vic and Belch in front of him. Henry still manages to escape while his friends were busy being killed by It. Part of him feels guilty that he lived and they died and wonders sometimes if they blamed him (as they're dying and possibly in the afterlife).
Henry was eventually framed by It and convicted for most of the murders that occurred throughout the summer. Due to the horrors he had observed, Henry put up no protest to the charges. However, when doctors chalked up Henry's decaying mental state as a reason for the murders, Henry is ultimately deemed mentally incompetent to stand trial.
Henry was committed to the Juniper Hill Asylum. He counts how many nightlights he burns out (four) and remains there until May 29, 1985 when he escapes.
Return and Death (1985)
In 1985, It is unable beat the Loser's Club alone - so It takes the form of one of Henry's deceased friends Vic, and makes him do It's dirty work (though in the first film adaptation, it is Belch who appears to Henry and persuades him to go after the grownup Losers). It also kills Koontz (one of the guards of the mental hospital) in the form of a tall doberman to stop him from preventing Henry's escape. Bowers encounters Mike at the Derry Public Library and engages in a violent brawl with him. Using his old switchblade provided by It, Henry stabs Mike's thigh, cutting his femoral artery (although Hanlon manages to wound him with a letter opener in self defense). With the guidance of It (this time in the form of Belch Huggin's reanimated corpse), the severely injured Bowers then moves on to the Derry Town House, where he plans to kill the remaining Losers, one by one. He begins by knocking on Eddie Kaspbrak's door and attacking him, breaking Eddie's arm in the same place he did in 1958, before Eddie is able to get the better of Henry and finish him with a broken water bottle. It is unknown what was the inspiration behind his name although it was most likely Henry Francis Bowers who was an American politician, or he could have been named after Henry Robertson Bowers who was the lieutenant of the ill fated Terra Nova Expedition.
Henry is described as being very big and strong for a 12-year-old with his hair into a spiked flattop spiked with a lot of Butch Wax that he keeps in his jeans and he wears a pink motorcycle jacket with an eagle on the back and engineer boots. In the 1990 miniseries, he sports a greaser pompadour and wears a brown motorcycle jacket. In the film adaptation, Henry is a 16-year-old teenager with a brown mullet and wears sleeveless T-shirts and torn jeans.
Henry is frequently shown to be a ruthless sadist throughout the book, shown by how he cruelly tortures the Losers by cutting Ben in the stomach, whitewashing Stan’s face in snow until he began bleeding, nearly drowning Bill in a tank of water, breaking Eddie’s arm, breaking Richie’s glasses, trying to rape Beverly and trying to kill Mike with fire crackers (not to mention killing his dog). At the end he gets insane to the point where he begins attackng, even trying to rape Beverly before trying to murder the Losers with Victor and Belch. he also is a coward, shown with how he leaves by Victor and Belch to die at the hands of IT. He was also not politically correct as shown as he is racist towards Mike, sexist towards Beverly, anti semtic towards Stan, bullies Eddie for his asthma, picks on Ben for being fat. He is homophobic as well shown when Patrick offers him oral sex, as he responds by punching him and calling him homophobic slurs. That being said he was remorseful for leaving his friends to die and is disgusted by Patrick’s hobbies of torturing animals (even though he was willing to murder Mike’s dog).
In the 1990 film he is mostly similar to the book. He is still racist and sexist and still tries to kill the Losers as well. He also seems to blame others for when he gets in trouble and although some of his crazy actions are removed, he still does commit some acts he did in the book (trying to carve his name on Ben’s stomach, trying to put firecrackers on Mike, etc.)
In the 2017 film while still a psychopath, he seems less crazy than the book since most of his crazy acts from the book have been removed. He is even nice enough to give Bill a free ride from his bullying since Georgie went missing. He also never calls Mike a racial slur, never is seen bullying Stan over his religion and bullies Beverly about her rumors rather than her being a girl. While he still does cut Ben, tries to beat Mike with a rock and tries to shoot a cat, he never is homicidal or murderous like he was in the book or 1990 film until IT manipulated him to kill his dad, friends (as seen in a deleted scene), and the Losers.
In the film, the Bowers Gang consists of just Henry and his pals, Patrick, Belch, and Vic. As Bill Denbrough, Eddie Kaspbrak, Stan Uris, and Richie Tozier are walking down the hall after school lets out for summer, they walk right past them. A few moments later, they harass Bill and his friends outside, calling them losers. Bill angrily retorts "You suck, Bowers!"; Henry, in response, mocks Bill’s stutter telling him that the free ride he got from his bullying thanks to Georgie disappearing is over and he threateningly approaches Bill until his father gives him a stern look. Henry then leaves with his friends in Belch's car.
While Mike is going to the butcher shop to deliver some meat, he sees Henry and his henchmen coming by and immediately goes into a side street to hide from them. After seeing Pennywise's shadow in the butcher shop, the Bowers Gang comes into the alley, speeding towards Mike, who barely dodges the car; Henry threatens Mike while throwing a cigarette at him and they drive off. Later, as Ben is leaving the library, he is ambushed by Bowers, and attempts to escape, but Vic grabs him. The four take him to a bridge, which they call the "Kissing Bridge". Patrick intimidates Ben with a flamethrower before two elderly people in a car drive past them; Ben desperately asks them for help, but they just drive past. Henry punches Ben in the face twice, before pulling a knife and carving an "H" on Ben's stomach. Ben kicks Henry in the crotch, causing him to fall backwards over the railing and go rolling down the hill. Bowers, Belch, Patrick, and Vic give chase, though Henry loses his knife while tumbling down the hill; he sends Belch and Patrick after Ben while he and Vic search for the knife. However, Patrick is killed by Pennywise after going into the sewer to look for Ben.
As July comes around, Henry, Belch, and Vic are torturing Mike by forcing him to eat the meat he was delivering to town; Henry then grabs a rock and threatens to beat Mike with it. Fortunately, Beverly intervenes by throwing a rock at Henry, hitting him squarely in the head. Stan commends her for her throwing skills. Henry taunts the boys about Beverly; Ben, still furious about how he tortured him before, gives an angry yell and throws a rock at Henry. After having another rock thrown at him by Beverly, Henry and his friends decide to fight back; the two groups immediately begin wildly throwing rocks at each other, hitting Belch and Henry in the ensuing rock war. Afterwards, the group helps Mike to safety, as Richie shouts at Henry and sticks up both his middle fingers before walking off.
In August, Henry and his friends are using Henry's dad's gun on various things. Henry then has Belch grab a nearby cat for target practice; Oscar Bowers then steps in and admonishes his son, and shoots at the ground near Henry's feet, making him cower in fear. A few moments later, Henry sees a red balloon sticking out from his mailbox and approaches it, finding a package containing his missing knife. He goes into his house, where his father is sleeping. A TV show he is currently watching entices Henry to kill his father, which he does by stabbing him in the neck. As the woman and children on TV applaud Henry for his actions, Pennywise appears on the TV, and encourages him to kill Bill and his friends.
When Bill, Eddie, Richie, Ben, Stan, and Mike return to the Well House to rescue Beverly after she is taken prisoner by Pennywise, Henry secretly watches them enter the house from Belch's car (in a deleted scene, it is shown that Henry killed both Belch and Vic). Just as Mike is about to go down the well into Pennywise's hideout, Henry suddenly attacks him from behind and pulls up the rope to prevent Bill, Eddie, Richie, Ben, and Stan from coming to save him. He chides Mike for not staying away from Derry, taunting him about his parents' deaths, and then tries to shoot him with his bolt gun, but Mike miraculously manages to push his gun hand away. Mike hits Henry with a rock, dazing him briefly, and, in a rage, charges at him and pushes him into the well, presumably killing him.
However, Henry survives the fall, and gets washed out into the Barrens by a flood, after which, he returns to his house. Upon arrival, he is detained by the police and punched in the face by Chief Borton, who arrests him for murdering his father.
Henry spends the next twenty-seven years incarcerated at Juniper Hill State Correctional Facility. One day, he goes insane at the sight of a red balloon, leading the guards to put him back in his cell. He finds the same red balloon stuck under his bed; struggling to pull the balloon out, it pops, and the corpse-like form of his old friend Patrick Hockstetter appears from under the bed, gives him his old knife back, and breaks him out in Belch’s old Trans-Am. He appears as his younger self along with Belch and Vic in a flashback Richie has in which he plays with Henry’s cousin at the arcade, trying to make friends with him, leading to Henry harshly telling Richie to leave.
He tracks the Losers to their hotel, stabbing Eddie in the cheek, but Eddie gets the better of Henry by hiding behind a shower curtain, then stabbing him in the chest, then escapes from the bathroom, informing Ben and Beverly of Henry’s presence; Ben goes in, and sees Henry outside, with the knife still in his chest, reminding Ben of how Henry tortured him before. Henry then goes after Mike at the library. A fight ensues, with Henry having the upper hand and pinning Mike down; before he can kill Mike, Richie turns up and throws an axe at Henry, hitting him in the back of the head and killing him.
Differences from the source material
- He gives Bill a free ride from his bullying, an act of kindness never done in the book.
- He never is shown killing Mr. Chips.
- He never calls Mike the n word.
Victor "Vic" Criss
Victor Criss seems to be Henry’s closest friend. Vic expresses loads of concern for him and always asks about the abuse Henry endures at the hands of his father (whom Vic despises). Due to Vic being the smarter of Henry’s two best friends, he is likely the second-in-command of the Bowers gang. However, A deleted scene shows that Henry slit Vic and Belch’s throats while possessed by It, without any mention of this in the 2019 film, it’s unknown if that is still canon in the films universe.
- He is extremely similar to Ace Merrill, as they both lead their friends in a gang and confront their victims outside of school.
- Henry is mentioned in the novel 11/22/63 by Beverly and Richie while talking to Jake Epping about the whereabouts of the Dunning family.
- Uses a nightlight of "Donald Duck doffing his little sailor hat" while staying at Juniper Hill to keep away nightmares and memories of IT.