It may seem like The Hulk’s powers are pretty straightforward if you’re only familiar with Marvel’s not-so-Jolly Green Giant from his appearances on the big screen. First, Bruce Banner gets angry. Then, he rips his pants and becomes the Hulk. After his transformation he’s super strong, basically invulnerable and has a leap that would put an Olympic long-jumper to shame. These core powers have been consistent across nearly every incarnation of the character since his debut in The Incredible Hulk #1 by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby all the way back in 1962; and for good reason. They’re all logical extensions of the Hulk’s elevator pitch of “big and strong.” Perhaps most importantly, they’re also simple to understand without a ton of exposition.
However, if you’re a fan of the grumpiest Avenger’s comic book adventures then you know that his move set extends far beyond smashing. Fire, disease and even the vacuum of space are no match for the Hulk’s indestructible form. His body has evolved to deal with some of the strongest (and strangest) threats the Marvel multiverse has to offer. For this list, we’ll be taking you through 15 of the Hulk’s weirder adaptions, talents and powers.
15. HIS INSIDES ARE FIREPROOF
Back before The Walking Dead was a household name, Robert Kirkman was a writer at Marvel. One of his most notable contributions during his time with the company was Eric O’Grady. The character was the fourth Ant-Man and the star of the short-lived ongoing The Irredeemable Ant-Man. In the series’ #10th issue, written by Kirkman with art by Phil Hester, Ande Parks, Bill Crabtree and Val Staples, O’Grady went toe to toe with the Hulk… sort of.
Knowing he couldn’t take on the Hulk in a fair fight, O’Grady decided to try attacking him from within. After flying into Hulk’s open mouth, he nearly breaks his hand trying to punch the Hulk’s stomach. O’Grady then tries to “burn him out” only to find his stomach lining completely unaffected by the flames.
14. HIS BODY IS A GAMMA BATTERY
One of the challenges of talking about the Hulk’s powers is that they often vary quite a bit depending on who is writing him and which of the character’s various personalities is in control. One power we’ve seen fluctuate over the years is the Hulk’s ability to act like a “gamma battery.”
Hulk is capable of generating so much power that Armageddon, the ruler of an alien race known as the Troyjans, goes as far as trying to use him as the power source for a machine that can resurrect his son. In The Incredible Hulk #464 by writer Peter David and artists Adam Kubert and Mark Farmer, we see that at least in certain instances Hulk can control the energy output. When Armageddon reveals his plan, Hulk willingly submits just so he can intentionally overloaded Armageddon’s machines.
13. HE HAS A SURPRISING INTERNAL COMPASS
Whether it’s thanks to powers or practice, many superheroes are gifted trackers or detectives. You might not think of him that way, but the Hulk actually possesses an incredible internal compass. This primarily shows itself in his bird-like ability to hone in on the crater where Banner first became the Hulk, even from another dimension.
However, on a handful of occasions, Hulk has also demonstrated the ability to locate people based on pure instinct. For example, in issue #25 of The Incredible Hulk’s second volume Banner is sent into a blind rage thinking about the death of his wife Betty at the hands of Abomination. With no prior knowledge of the villain’s whereabouts, Hulk is able to find him sleeping at the bottom of a lake.
12. HE EVOLVED TO SEE GHOSTS
One of Hulk’s strangest powers is his ability to see and interact with “astral forms.” This is a pretty convenient tool considering his close association with fellow Defender, Doctor Strange. This makes him one of the few non-magical beings who can still communicate with Strange even when he’s ghosting around.
However, it’s the reason Hulk developed these powers in the first place that speaks volumes about how his biology actually works. Bruce had a, let’s say complicated, relationship with his father Brian Banner. The abuse he endured at the hands of his distant and alcoholic father made Bruce terrified of him even in death. Hulk developed his ability to see astral forms based on Bruce’s subconscious fear of his father’s ghost returning to torment him again.
11. HE CAN REGENERATE MASS IN SECONDS
Despite his impressive durability, it is still possible to hurt the Hulk. Unfortunately for anyone standing in his way, the big guy’s healing factor makes any damage dealt to him a relative non-issue. He can easily recover from flesh wounds, regrow entire limbs and survive otherwise lethal injuries.
However, these examples are just the tip of the iceberg. One of his most impressive feats came during his fight with Vector in The Incredible Hulk #398, by writer Peter David and artists Dave Keown, Mark Farmer and Glynis Oliver. Hulk has almost all of his muscle mass literally “flayed” off his body during the fight, but pushes through to knock out Vector. After his opponent is down he was able to fully recover his entire body mass in minutes. Even the Omega-Level threat of X-Men member Elixer’s death touch only stopped our boy temporarily.
10. HE’S POSSIBLY IMMORTAL
Our next entry comes from the one-shot Hulk: The End by writer Peter David and artists Dale Keown, Joe Weems, John Livesay and Dan Kemp. The alternate universe story shows a world hundreds of years in the future where a nuclear holocaust has left Banner and the Hulk as the only remnants of the human race. Life is scarce save for swarms of mutant cockroaches who routinely consume the Hulk’s body down to nearly nothing.
Banner explains that he would have died centuries ago if it weren’t for his other half’s ability to consume nearly anything and turn it into energy. That being said, aside from some grey and thinning hair, the Hulk doesn’t look much worse for wear. Based on this story it seems that at the very least Hulk’s decelerated aging could allow him to live for thousands of years.
9. HE DOESN’T ALWAYS NEED TO BREATHE
At this point we’ve already established how adept the Hulk’s body is at adapting to new threats both real and imagined. Our next entry is a prime example of the extreme lengths his body can go to making even the most hostile environments hospitable. On multiple occasions the World Breaker has been shown to be able to survive for extended periods without oxygen.
Several comics across the character’s history have shown him as able to survive the vacuum of space. He’s even been depicted as being capable of talking in situations where he simply can’t be breathing. This seems to imply that his body is finding a way to store oxygen for extreme circumstances. Otherwise, we’re left to assume that it’s somehow converting space matter into oxygen.
8. HE’S IMMUNE TO ALL DISEASES
Another benefit of Hulk’s incredible healing factor is that it grants him immunity to all earthly viruses and diseases, including HIV. Why single out HIV? Well, because issue #388 of The Incredible Hulk made it explicitly clear. Banner’s long-time #2 Rick Jones is in LA to play a benefit show at the request of former Hulk sidekick Jim Wilson. After catching up with Jim, Rick learns his friend has been diagnosed with HIV.
Jim gets stabbed when the show is later attacked by Speedfreek, and Rick grabs something to stop the bleeding. He freezes when he realizes that the cuts on his own palms would expose him to the virus. Bruce, now in total control of the Hulk, is able to rush Jim to the hospital and save his life thanks to his immunity to the disease.
7. EVEN HIS EYES ARE INVINCIBLE
Aside from a swift kick in the crotch from a superhuman, there aren’t too many cheap shots one can take against Ol’ Greenskin. Hulk’s near invincibility extends to even the most vulnerable parts of your average human being. His eyes in particular have been shown to be able to shrug off hits from normally lethal forces. Bullets, shrapnel and even Hawkeye’s trusty arrows have all failed to pierce or even damage them.
We even see a slash in the face from Valkyrie’s enchanted blade Dragonfang fail to even make a dent in Incredible Hulk #207 by writer Len Wein and artists Sal Buscema, Joe Staton and Glynis Wein. To put things in perspective here, immediately after taking the hit like a champ, Hulk tries to snap the sword in half. Keyword: tries. If it can stand up to that level of pressure, Dragonfang is obviously a pretty powerful weapon.
6. HE CAN GO DAYS WITHOUT SLEEPING
As we mentioned above, over the years Hulk has had a number of different personas all vying for control. For a while, Banner was able to seize total control of the Hulk form. This allowed him to transform into the Hulk at will without losing control. Although this change obviously granted Banner a ton of advantages, the one significant drawback was how it affected his energy levels.
Banner first realized the change on the pages of The Incredible Hulk #275, by writer Bill Mantlo and artists Sal Buscema, Joe Sinnott, and Bob Sharen. Banner is surprised that for the first time he’s experiencing hunger after expelling energy as his other half. He then comments that the Hulk’s anger made him seem “capable of going for days — weeks — without sleep or sustenance.”
5. HIS BLOOD HAS HEALING PROPERTIES
Given how powerful his healing factor is, it should come as no surprise that the Hulk’s blood also holds regenerative properties. In the Planet Hulk storyline by writer Greg Pak, Hulk’s blood is shown to be able to literally heal the desolate planet of Sakaar. During his time on the planet, Hulk becomes a revolutionary figure and even a King, in part, because of the hope this ability inspires.
However, the most famous example of his blood’s healing power is his cousin Jennifer Walters’ transformation into She-Hulk. The lawyer turned superhero got her powers from a lifesaving blood transfusion in Savage She-Hulk #1 by writer Stan Lee and artists John Buscema and Chic Stone. After a fatal gunshot wound, Bruce’s blood not only saves Jennifer’s life, but turned her into the hero we know today.
4. HE CAN BREATHE UNDERWATER
We already covered how the Hulk is able to survive in outer space with relative ease. However, the way his body adapts to being underwater is even more interesting. Unlike his survival in space, Hulk’s body actually makes physical changes that would allow him to live at the bottom of the ocean indefinitely if he so desired.
Whenever he’s on the ocean floor Hulk’s body develops a gland which mimics the way aquatic life breathe underwater. This allows Hulk to breathe fluid and avoid the side effects of pesky things like decompression and nitrogen narcosis. In issue #145 of The Incredible Hulk by writers Roy Thomas and Len Wein and artists Herb Trime and John Servin, we see Hulk spend the entire issue swimming across the ocean in search of some peace and quiet.
3. HE CAN CAUSE NATURAL DISASTERS
The Hulk’s insane biology gives him the ability to start a number of devastating natural disasters with his powers. Some of these are no-brainers. Hulk can slam the ground with his hands or feet to create tremors capable of destroying city blocks. Another of his most popular attacks is clapping his hands together with enough force to create sound waves that are reportedly as powerful as history’s biggest hurricane.
Perhaps his most physiologically impressive feat, though, is his ability to inhale mass quantities of air. Sounds boring, right? Wrong! Hulk can inhale and exhale air with such a powerful force to level an entire forest with one blow. We see him do so at the request of a couple of lumberjacks in issue #273 of The Incredible Hulk by writer Bill Mantlo and artists Sal Buscema and Bob Sharen.
2. TRANSFORMATION ISN’T JUST BASED ON RAGE
When it comes to the Hulk, the conventional wisdom is that you wouldn’t like him when he’s angry. However, the specifics of Banner’s transformation are actually a little more complicated than that. The change is in fact triggered by Banner’s stress level. This makes it almost impossible to harm or sedate Banner before the Hulk can emerge as a defense mechanism.
This instant triggering of Hulk has come back to bite Bruce on more than one occasion. In a number of stories, we’ve seen Bruce try to kill himself to destroy the Hulk only to be “saved” by his other half. However, the events of Hulk Vol. 3 #1, by writer Mark Waid and artists Mark Bagley, Andrew Hennessy and Jason Keith, proved that this defense isn’t totally foolproof. By training to land the perfect shot, Melinda Leucenstern was able to knock out Banner without killing him or triggering the Hulk.
1. HIS POWERS ARE LIMITLESS
There are plenty of other superhumans in the multiverse who can survive mortal wounds, destroy entire worlds, and go toe to toe with the gods themselves. What sets Hulk apart from every other being in the Marvel Universe is his seemingly limitless potential. Hulk isn’t just the strongest there is, he’s a true force of nature.
We could fill an entire other list with Hulk’s amazing feats of strength, but the cosmic entity known as the Beyonder put it perfectly in Secret Wars II #8 by writer Jim Shooter and artists Al Milgrom, Steve Leialoha and Christie Scheele. Hulk had recently separated himself from Banner and without his influence the Hulk became much more aggressive. During their brief scuffle, Beyonder called Hulk, “…Nothing but raging power personified! An infinity of power — with no finite element inside!”
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