Whether it’s through comics or film, The Hulk is undeniably one the most beloved characters of the Marvel Universe. If you’re a fan of the MCU, you can’t help but enjoy watching Mark Ruffalo’s take on the character. He nails the subtleties of an embattled scientist while also raising his intensity as needed. Many of us can relate to The Hulk’s constant battle to control his inner demons while finding a constructive outlet to relieve his anger and stress. Our connection to Bruce Banner is immortalized because we can feel his pain when he turns into Hulk. We also know that he has good intentions at heart, which makes it extra difficult at times to watch his fights play out.
He’s a powerful hero with the unique ability to both cause destruction and save lives at the same time. But Bruce’s larger than life personality and strength as The Hulk is not unmatched. Yes, he’s capable of taking down the biggest enemies but at the same time he fights with reckless abandon and can’t always summon the beast when he needs him. Like all heroes, he has flaws, and he enemies sometimes know exactly how to exploit them. The Hulk’s strongest villains are not only the ones who understand his power, but also mimic his traits and match his intensity when needed. For almost six decades, many villains have attempted to take him down to mixed results. Here are the ones who have stood toe-to-toe with The Hulk and proved themselves to be worthy adversaries.
When a clan of bad guys destroyed the dynamos from the Con Ed nuclear power plant in New York City, an unexpected buildup of energy creates Zzzax, a creature taking a human form that’s able to absorb intelligence from any being it encounters. Using energy, the monster is able to unleash powerful electric currents and operate nearby electrical fields.
After destroying Hawkeye, the being moved on and fought Hulk, appearing with the green monster on the cover of The Incredible Hulk #183 in 1975. Without a fixed form, Zzzax is capable of growing in size according to the amount of energy it absorbs, making him a formidable foe to encounter.
Wendigo, the beast monster who lives off humans in the woods of Canada, was created by the Northern Gods. Superhuman mystical powers inhabit his body due to an ancient curse, making him a fierce and vicious animal. Although he’s a big, Wendigo is capable of running at extraordinary speeds and retain his stamina.
Several humans have become Wendigo in comic book lore, but the beast is unable to remember his human lives. The creature is capable of fighting for days on end, making it difficult even for Hulk to defeat him. The only known way to destroy Wendigo is to sacrifice a human heart to the Elder Gods. Ouch!
Dr. Geoffrey Crawford has a long history with Hulk. As a fellow scientist, Crawford took Bruce Banner under his wing and acted as his mentor. When Bruce asked for his help to control Hulk, Crawford developed a machine that could weaken the gamma rays in Bruce’s body, thus reducing Hulk’s effects on him.
Being a greedy man, Crawford decided to use the technology on himself but it backfired when he was unable to control the power of Hulk’s DNA. As Ravage, Crawford became one of Hulk’s arch enemies, able to match superhuman strength, durability, and intelligence. Ravage also has the regenerative powers that Hulk holds and is immune to many diseases.
Created in the Amazon jungle by scientists working for the Red Skull, Piecemeal is a cyborg villain mechanically enhanced size and strength. He has vicious claws, similar to Woverine’s, that can cut through metal and shred his enemies to smithereens. With a versatile tail that can crush anything, Piecemeal can also use it to generate bioelectric blasts.
Another special trait that Piecemeal has that makes him dangerous is his ability to conjure and absorb the memories and emotions of his victims. He can also mimic the powers of his opponents, making him capable to matching any enemy that attempts to fight him.
Leon Shappe was a lowlife criminal, making his way through the underground by stealing purses and robbing innocent people on the street. As an addict thirsty for power, Shappe was always looking for his next high. When a friend introduced him to an inventor who made a mobile armored suit, Shappe was up for it and became Speedfreak.
Shappe stole the suit, which has powerful weapons like a shooter with an Adamantium tipped coil that can pierce Hulk’s thick skin. His feet are propelled by rockets allowing him to fly at superhuman speeds. He doesn’t feel any remorse towards his victims, which makes him especially dangerous to Hulk.
Bi-Beast is an unusual creature with a noticeable trait: two heads, one loaded with the knowledge of warfare and the other with knowledge of culture. He’s an android that was created long ago by an avian race that was a sub-species of Inhumans. When the species ended, Bi-Beast was left to function on his own, developing a dangerous thirst for power.
His strengths include advanced knowledge of weaponry and war, along with a superb understanding of science, something Bruce Banner also possesses. Bi-Beast was created to match Hulk’s strength and size and his two heads were meant to make him more intelligent than his foe.
Vali Halfling (aka Agememon) is Loki’s son, a strong character descended from frost giants and born to a mortal woman. His powers are unlike those of any human or god, including superhuman strength and skin and bone density that is unusual. Because of this, Vali is able to withstand powerful blows and use shapeshifting techniques when needed.
He first appeared in The Incredible Hulk #376 (1990) and has had many encounters with him since. Agememnon ordered his descendants Prometheus to capture the monster, but has been unsuccessful in containing him. Agememnon also uses his superior intellect to work with The Leader in capturing Bruce Banner for unknown reasons.
13 LORD ARMAGEDDON
Even Hulk gets in trouble when he messes with his enemies' families. Lord Armageddon first appeared in Incredible Hulk Vol.1 #143 with a grudge against Hulk. As the ruler of the Troyjans, he held Hulk accountable for his son Trauma’s accidental demise in battle. Lord Armageddon took over Freehold, the icy arctic preserve but eventually abandoned it.
Lord Armageddon sought revenge on Hulk and, as a more powerful being, forced Hulk to power the machine that could potentially revive Trauma from the grave. The plan didn’t work and Lord Armageddon decided to let Hulk go. The fact that he captured the green machine in the first place is pretty remarkable though.
12 ABSORBING MAN
Just as his name implies, Absorbing Man can take on the properties of anything he touches, whether it’s solid, liquid, or gas. His real name is Carl “Crusher” Creel, a criminal and former boxer who became Absorbing Man after drinking a liquid potion given to him by Loki. He’s dangerous because he can take on the size and strength of anything he gets his hands on -- even if it’s a building.
After being banished to space by Odin, Absorbing Man returned on a comet, only to be intercepted by Hulk. While in close proximity, Absorbing Man was able to absorb Hulk’s strength, but lost the battle once Hulk returned to being Bruce Banner. Still, Absorbing Man has a wide range of potential abilities and powers that can be detrimental to the green monster.
Tyrannus, the sorcerer/scientist who was banished by King Arthur and Merlin to Subterranea, is an immortal villain that poses a threat to Hulk due to his immortality, eternal youth, and mind powers. After drinking from the Fountain of Youth, he acquired superhuman longevity and rejuvenation.
Part of why Tyrannus is so dangerous is his superior intelligence, which Bruce Banner himself has acknowledged. He has an advanced knowledge of weaponry, electronics, and technology. That skill, combined with his ability to control minds, makes him a strong adversary. Tyrannus uses his intellect to create new weapons, like advanced radiation guns and teleportation devices, making him the more dangerous.
Yes, one of Hulk’s greatest allies is also one of his most dangerous enemies. Wolverine’s superhuman abilities rival those of any of Hulk’s other foes. The two friends have a storied history of fighting each other, and Wolverine’s adamantium body and razor-sharp, unbreakable claws give him an advantage over Hulk.
Wolverine also has animal-like sense, allowing him to sense any oncoming attacks and eliminating the element of surprise form Hulk’s favor. Wolverine is fast and aggressive when he needs to be, and is also (slightly) better at controlling his anger than Hulk is. With his bad ass attitude and reckless demeanor, Wolverine is one enemy that Hulk doesn’t want on his hit list.
9 THE MAESTRO
The Maestro is a character that proves your own demons can be your worst enemy. In the future, Earth has been decimated due to nuclear was and almost all of the heroes with superhuman abilities have been wiped out. Hulk continued to absorb nuclear radiation and turned into The Maestro, a psychotic beast with the strength of Hulk combined with abnormal intelligence.
The Maestro first appeared in The Incredible Hulk: The Future Imperfect #1-2 in 1992. Unlike Hulk, The Maestro is driven to insanity due to his prolonged exposure to radiation. He’s therefore stronger and more reckless than Hulk, an enemy that has seized control of Earth’s dystopian future.
U-Foes first appeared in The Incredible Hulk #254 in 1980 when Simon Utrecht, Ann Darnell, Jimmy Darnell, and Mike Steel subjected themselves to cosmic rays. They were unknowingly exposed to higher amounts of dangerous rays than expected, and Hulk brought them back down to Earth, beginning the conflict between the green monster and the U-Foes.
Each member of the group has different powers, making them extra dangerous for Hulk. Vector has telekinesis, able to redirect powerful blasts. Vapor has the ability to change into poisonous gases. X-Ray is an energy field, hovering in the air and able to change his own weight at will. Finally Ironclad is made of metal, insanely durable and able to withstand strong blows. U-Foes comprise a lethal combination of powers that keep Hulk on his toes.
After being mistreated by his father, Cain Marko found the hidden temple dedicated to preserving the entity Cyttorak. Marko used the entity to transform into the avatar Juggernaut, a being with incredible strength and great resilience, making him one of Hulk’s strongest enemies. As Juggernaut, he also has the ability to create force fields, shielding him from Hulk’s powerful oncoming attacks.
In one of their first encounters, Hulk actually saves Juggernaut but then attacks him when he threatens an innocent person. The two have had many battles over the years and Juggernaut’s ability to keep fighting for prolonged periods of time -- even without food or water -- make him a worthy adversary.
6 RED HULK
The Red Hulk, eventually revealed to be General “Thunderbolt” Ross, is one of the more recent foes that Hulk has had to deal with. From their first encounters, General Ross was envious of Hulk and concealed his desire to have Hulk’s powers. With the same superior strength, superhuman abilities, and ability to regenerate himself as Hulk, Red Hulk is one of the strongest enemies Hulk has faced.
The Red Hulk first appeared in Hulk Vol. 1 #1 as an aggressive adversary, taking out Windigo and Abomination and destroying the S.H.I.E.L.D Heli carrier. His only downfall is that the angrier he gets, the hotter he gets, decreasing his power.
Most MCU fans know Thanos from the Avengers films, but of course, The Mad Titan has a storied history in comics as well. He’s a member of the superhuman race the Eternals, and his powers include everything from extraordinary strength and stamina to telekinesis and psychic commands. Thanos also has phenomenal intelligence, with knowledge in almost every field of science imaginable.
Recently, Thanos’ battles with Hulk were documented in the series Thanos vs. Hulk (2015). Both Hulk and Thanos have won at different times, making Thanos one of Hulk’s greatest threats. Without the Infinity Gauntlet, Hulk has actually defeated Thanos, which is why The Mad Titan avoids conflict with him whenever possible.
Back in 1966, Jack Kirby created Galactus because he wanted to make a villain that had god-like powers but didn’t fall into stereotypical clichés. Galactus is a cosmic entity without a fixed form, meaning he often takes the shape of something each species that sees him can understand.
Galactus’ most dangerous power to Hulk and other heroes is that he can appoint anyone as his hearld, giving them the energy of the Power Cosmic. Galactus literally takes over the person’s soul, giving them the ability to project energy, transform matter, and create and destroy life. Galactus’ ability to make others commit evil acts on his behalf makes him one of the Hulk’s strongest villains.
3 GENERAL THADDEUS “THUNDERBOLT” ROSS
It’s no secret that General Thaddeus (Thunderbolt) Ross has had it out for Bruce Banner since day one. He first appeared in The Incredible Hulk #1, published in 1962. General Ross comes from a military family background, so he takes pride in the projects he leads, which makes it infuriating to him that Bruce’s experiment goes awry.
Furthermore, Ross’ daughter Betty takes a liking to Hulk, making Ross even more upset that his family is involved in Bruce’s fiasco. As a military head with almost unlimited power at his disposal, Ross obsesses over capturing the Hulk and even goes beyond his own values by aligning with villains like The Leader and The Abomination in order to catch him.
Emil Blonksy is a character that’s well known to comic book fans. His alter ego, the evil Abomination, is described by Stan Lee as a “bigger, stronger, Hulk.” When Emil is sent to an Air Force base to photograph gamma ray equipment, he’s accidentally struck by the rays in a huge dose, making him the second green monster.
His powers include superhuman size, strength, stamina, and agility, as well as the ability to regenerate when he’s hurt -- just like Hulk does. One thing he has that Hulk doesn’t is gills, which allows him to breathe underwater. The Abomination is a strong foe, but Hulk’s ability to elevate his anger the longer the two fight allows him to get the upper hand.
1 THE LEADER
The Leader is undoubtedly the Hulk’s strongest villain and arch-enemy. As a janitor in Idaho, Samuel Sterns was exposed to gamma radiation and turned into a green villain that despises Hulk. Created by legends Stan Lee and Steve Ditko, The Leader’s first appearance was in Tales to Astonish #62, published in 1964.
The Leader’s greatest power and most dangerous weapon against Hulk is his mind. After the radiation hit, he was granted the superhuman ability to gain knowledge beyond any human comprehension. He can recognize patterns, store information, build technology, and calculate possible outcomes to any problem. Much like many villains, his ego often gets in the way of his plans, his intelligence by far the greatest threat Hulk has ever faced.