The timid and brilliant Bruce Banner isn’t exactly an evil person, despite sometimes being too uncontrollable to be a “good guy.” After a fated accident which saw Banner blasted by gamma radiation, Bruce became the colossal rage machine they call The Incredible Hulk.
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With practically limitless strength, impossible durability and a healing factor that rivals Wolverine’s, Hulk has established himself as one of the most powerful characters in the Marvel Universe. Though he might seem so at times, however, he’s not invincible, and there have been plenty of heroes and villains who have managed to best him over the years. Some of these victories might have been short-lived, but they were victories nonetheless. This list is comprised of those who aren’t obviously challenging to a super-powerful monster like The Hulk (supergods and cosmic beings, mostly).
15. Silver Surfer
Okay, so we said in the beginning that we wouldn’t include characters who would obviously obliterate the Hulk, and yet there are many who would argue that the Hulk’s near limitless strength would still allow him to beat the likes of Norrin Radd, AKA The Silver Surfer.
Few others have managed to master the power cosmic like the Surfer, whose ability to manipulate matter and energy reach levels near omnipotence. Silver Surfer showed just how powerful that force is when he defeated The Hulk by smashing him with his silver board in “Tales to Astonish Vol.1 #93, before then saving him from a platoon of cops. That wasn’t the last time Galactus’ former herald would defeat the green giant. In “The Incredible Hulk #250” the Surfer simply willed away Bruce’s gamma affliction, which all but removed The Hulk from Bruce. Despite Hulk once winning against the powerful Sentry, Silver Surfer is definitely one guy Hulk should avoid, even in his blind rage.
There have been many versions of these two battling each other, in film, on television and of course, in comic books, and for good reason. They both have incredible healing factors, they’re both almost impossible to kill and they’re both really, really angry people. In the series “Ultimate Wolverine vs Hulk,” the first issue begins with Wolverine awakening to find his body torn in half (which should be impossible, seeing as how he has an adamantium skeleton), so it’s safe to say he was technically defeated by The Hulk (even though he was still well enough to hike through snow and up a mountain to retrieve his lower half).
However, in “Old Man Logan,” an elderly Logan is shown fighting a more monstrous Hulk before the former is beaten and devoured. He isn’t down for long however, as just a few panels later, Logan is shown violently bursting through the Hulk’s torso, presumably after eviscerating his insides. Guess he didn’t have the strongest stomach there is.
13. Iron Man
Tony Stark is a highly intelligent, extremely wealthy superhero who relies on constantly upgraded technology to fight anything and everything that would threaten the innocent, the Earth or sometimes our entire dimension. When it comes to the Hulk, however, Iron Man is more often than not crushed and defeated; not for lack of trying, however. Tony has implemented some interesting technology in order to hold his own against Banner, including his (in)famous Hulkbuster Armor, which was equipped with rocket-propelled gauntlets that packed quite a punch. Usually, though, even that wasn’t enough to squash his beef with the Green Goliath.
Despite that, Stark has managed to win against the Hulk at least once. In “Iron Man” #132, Iron Man manages to force the Hulk underwater in an attempt to render him unconscious. When that doesn’t work, after an extremely destructive battle, Tony directs all the energy his suit can muster into a single epic punch, which finally knocks the Hulk out cold. While Stark did manage to beat the Hulk in that issue, the effort and impact proved to be a lot for him as well, causing him to collapse.
12. Spider-Man (Captain Universe)
Your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man was once imbued with awesome cosmic might in “Spectacular Spider-Man”#158, when what seemed to be a beam of energy resulting from an explosive lab accident, instead proved to be the mysterious Uni-Power, drawn to Parker for an unknown purpose. The Uni-power further increased his speed, agility, gave him telekinetic control over his webbing and further increased his strength. This was all during Marvel’s “Acts of Vengeance” crossover storyline wherein Loki and a gathering of other supervillains attacked the Avengers.
That’s where the Hulk comes in. Sebastian Shaw, Black King of the Hellfire Club, hired the Hulk to kill Spider-Man, in an effort to undermine what he suspects are Magneto’s machinations. Hulk and Spidey battle it out for a while until a couple of children, boldly stepping in to try and defend Spider-man, come under threat by the Hulk. In a moment of desperation, Spider-man (Captain Universe), punches the Hulk. He batters the Hulk so hard that the then-gray behemoth flies through the atmosphere and into Earth’s orbit. Sure, Hulk wasn’t knocked unconscious or killed, but being that he would have eventually suffocated if not for Spidey’s arrival, that’s a definite win for the webhead.
As with many characters in the Marvel Universe, Deadpool has gone toe-to-toe with the Hulk on more than one occasion. Nearly every time — although he’s never killed, because that would be impossible — ol’ Wade gets crushed by the Hulk’s ever-increasing strength. But Deadpool is persistent and out of his mind, which is why we love him, and why he’s fought the Hulk so many times. Deadpool has succeeded in technically beating the Hulk at least once and straight up killing him in an alternate universe (“Deadpool Kills the Marvel Universe” #2), albeit as Bruce Banner as opposed to his nigh indestructible alter-ego.
In 1997’s “Deadpool” #4, Deadpool attacks the Hulk in the hopes of drawing his irradiated blood to aid him in his loss of powers (it makes sense if you… okay, it’s just Deadpool being Deadpool). Hulk leaps into the air and the quick-thinking Deadpool ensures he lands on (and is impaled by) a broken and incredibly sharp sign post. Surprisingly, it works and Deadpool samples some of Hulk’s blood. That’s not the worst of Hulk’s defeats, butbeing that Deadpool got what he wanted, we’d classify this one as a win for the Merc with a Mouth.
Who better than to fight the indomitable Hulk than one who is generally just as large, muscular and virtually indestructible? The Juggernaut, made unstoppable by the mystical Gem of Cyttorak, has fought Hulk many, many times. His only real disadvantage here is that once he gets going, nothing can stop him and the Hulk has used that fact to his advantage numerous times. It also doesn’t help that while Juggernaut is immensely powerful, when it comes to brute strength, his strength has limits. The Hulk’s, on the other hand, does not.
One of their encounters, back in 1993’s “Incredible Hulk” #402 came as a surprise to the Hulk, who thought that his attacker was simply a swole worker in the Amazon Rainforest. As it turned out, that “worker’ was none other than Cain Marko, the aforementioned Juggernaut. The two fought through the rainforest, causing untold destruction until Juggernaut managed to finally subdue Hulk with a read naked choke that rendered the Hulk unconscious. Ironically, given that this was the “Professor Hulk” persona (an amalgam of Green’s strength, Gray’s cunning and Banner’s intelligence), ol’ Jade Jaws was straight-up outsmarted, done-in by his overconfidence. That’s what happens when you’re the strongest there is: sometimes you underestimate a potential threat, simply because you don’t recognize it.
One of the few beings who has fought Hulk and flat-out won was famed Asgardian son of Odin, The Mighty Thor. Hulk and Thor have battled each other more times than most can count and it usually ends in a standstill if nothing comes along to interrupt them. You might also find that either one or both of them aren’t really giving it their all, except for that one time in “Incredible Hulk” #440, when both of them lost control of themselves. Hulk turns into the older, more powerful Maestro, while Thor is trapped in a mad warrior state. The government decides to fire a nuclear missile at the two, which ends the battle.
Their battle in “The Incredible Hulk Annual” from 2001 takes a different turn. Thor, being an actual god, uses his powers as an opening, striking the Hulk down with lightning and rendering him unconscious. Of course, Hulk doesn’t stay down for very long, but for a moment there, Thor had clearly bested the Hulk.
Namor the Sub-Mariner is King of Atlantis and one of the few Earthly characters in the Marvel Universe that have established themselves as clearly being capable of defeating the Hulk. Namor’s incredible strength has been shown to rely on his contact with water, however, diminishing the longer he is away from it. That, without a doubt, aided him in his fight with the Hulk, when the latter enters Namor’s domain in the Atlantic while fleeing from the Avengers.
The two met on a small island, but Namor is able to force Hulk into the water before defeating him by conjuring up a whirpool then dragging the Hulk’s massive, unconscious body back up on to the island. It’s a very short fight and just goes to show how powerful Namor actually is. Never underestimate the little guy, a point Namor is quick to make in the beginning when he declares himself the strongest of all the sea creatures. Point well taken, Namor.
7. Dr. Doom
The infamous Doctor Victor Von Doom has proven himself to be shockingly resourceful over the years, going so far as to take power from The God-level Beyonder during both “Secret Wars” storylines, using it to defeat the world-eating Galactus and reshaping the universe, respectively. He had help, of course, but it’s still an incredible feat for someone like Doom, who began as a simple scientist with some knowledge of the mystic arts. It was enough for him to defeat the Hulk in “Fantastic Four” #320 and prove that brains can trump brawn.
In the issue, he led the Gray Hulk into the desert where the Hulk gets angry and attacks, but Doom is able to adequately defend himself thanks to his armor and weapons. After a failed attempt at persuading the Hulk to join him, Doom is finally able to neutralise his opponent with a neuro-ray, which put the Hulk’s movements under Doom’s control until the former is completely incapacitated, allowing Doom to say his peace. Despite all the trouble Hulk has caused others, Doom makes it seem so easy.
6. The Thing
With the promise of epic battle, these two giants were destined to fight, and they have multiple times. It might seem obvious at first who the victor would be, and yet the ever lovin’ blue-eyed Thing has managed to beat the Hulk in the past, even if it was the less powerful Gray Hulk. In “Incredible Hulk” #350, Thing is shown to have bested the Hulk already, without Grimm realizing that he had actually fought and won against the Hulk, knocking him clean out.
In Hulk’s defense, at the time Thing had been further strengthened and mutated by yet another blast of cosmic radiation during a crash landing back to Earth after he and Ms. Marvel (Sharon Ventura) foiled the government’s attempt to covertly ship weapons into space in “Fantastic Four” #310. Despite the increased strength and more monstrous rocky form, The Thing was eventually defeated in “Incredible Hulk” #350, when the Hulk switched to more tactically-effective methods. That still doesn’t make up for having his gray butt kicked by the Thing, who was more or less unprepared.
5. Doctor Octopus
The brilliant Doctor Otto Octavius developed four mechanical tentacles in an effort to aid him in his research into atomic physics. Unfortunately for him, something went wrong during his experiment and he was caught in an explosion that fused the mechanical arms to his body (though they were later surgically detached); the accident also rewired his brain so he could control those arms with a thought, even from quite a distance away. That being said, without those arms, Otto Octavius is just a near-sighted, brilliant minded man with no superpowers.
That’s what makes his fight with the Hulk in 1992’s “Spider-Man” #19 so shocking. The two cross paths when Ock tries to force the Sinister Six into joining forces with him. Spider-Man is on the verge of being destroyed when the Hulk intervenes, sent there by a psychic to prevent Ock from taking over the world. In a ridiculous turn of events, Ock, using his more powerful adamantium arms, pummels Hulk into unconsciousness until the police arrive. It seems fairly unbelievable that Doc Ock, no matter how enhanced, would best the hulk, but it did happen. The more interesting battle, however, was the one behind the scenes, with creators Erik Larsen and Peter David feuding with Hulk and Ock standing in as avatars in their respective stories. We’ve already talked about that story, which you can read more about HERE.
After escaping the tenacious General Ross once again in “Incredible Hulk”#150, the Hulk finds himself resting and trying to escape the sobering melancholy that comes with running for your freedom, as well as all that rage he always carries around. As he does, he thinks back to his romance with Jarella, princess of K’ai, an ancient world in the Microverse. Just then, he spots Polaris being chased by a motorcycle gang and chases after her, mistaking her for Jarella. After a small encounter with Havok, Hulk grabs Polaris and takes her up the side of a cliff.
Eventually, Havok catches up to them and fights the Hulk in order to save Polaris from the green one’s rage, brought on by a military jeep approaching at an unfortunate moment. Havok uses his powerful energy blasts to defend himself against the Hulk, though the blasts don’t really seem to be doing that much damage. That is, they didn’t, until Havok, prompted by the Hulk’s attempt at crushing him with a giant rock, focuses all his energy at the Hulk’s forehead. With his attack, plus the sheer weight of the mountain Hulk is holding up wearing on him (plus the fact that he had just fought the entire U.S. military moments prior), the Hulk’s energies are depleted and he passes out.
Maestro is Bruce Banner’s Hulk in an alternate future. He rules the world after absorbing vast amounts of radiation in the aftermath of a nuclear war that killed off many of Earth’s other heroes. He’s spent a century absorbing that radiation, constantly growing stronger (and more deranged) than the original Hulk ever was and possibly ever will be. Maestro proved his superiority of strength in “Incredible Hulk: Future Imperfect” #2, where he faces off with Professor Hulk from the past.
Those rebelling against Maestro’s rule in the dystopian future decide it best to use Doctor Doom’s time machine to bring Professor Hulk to their era to liberate them, reasoning that the only way to defeat a Hulk is with another one. The fight lasts a while, with the two smashing each other throughout Maestro’s capital city. And while Professor Hulk is able to get a few good punches in, her is distracted by a collapsing building and the people who are killed therein. Capitalizing on the moment, the Maestro jumps behind Hulk, ending the battle by grabbing his past self’s head and snapping his neck. Unlike some Kryptonians, that isn’t enough to kill Hulk, but it does paralyze him, rendering him powerless and imprisoned in Maestro’s lair.
The strongest character in the DC comics universe is, of course, the world renowned Superman. With the ability to fly, shoot lasers from his eyes, freeze things with a breath, super-speed, invulnerability and of course super strength, the upper limits of his abilities seem to be higher than any other comic book character around (depending on the writer and era, of course). So it made sense that he would eventually face off against the Hulk in the 1996 crossover event, “DC versus Marvel,” in which Superman encounters Professor Hulk in the desert after being teleported there by two godly brothers (the personifications of both the DC and Marvel universes).
At first, it seemed Supes and Hulk would fight forever. It was an intense rumble, and the two were quite obviously equally matched, for the most part. Even after Superman blasted the Hulk with his heat vision, Professor Hulk kept going, though he was evidently worn down. That made it easier for Superman when the Kryptonian brought an end to the fight with one powerful super punch that finally brought the green giant down.
As with the many of the criminals in Gotham, you probably weren’t expecting to see Batman here. The Dark Knight has found himself up against many a powerful monster, from the metaphorical ones such as the Joker, to literal hideous beasts such as Killer Croc. Still, he has rarely faced adversaries of such raw brute strength like the Hulk. That is, until “DC Special Series” #27, wherein Bruce Banner is found working on a gamma ray gun (for healthcare reasons, obviously) at WayneTech, when the Joker arrives and steals it.
Batman and the Hulk struggle against the Joker until the Joker manages to persuade the enraged Hulk to turn against Batman. How would the awesome and yet completely human Batman fare against a half-ton mass of muscles and fury? Many would say that the detective would be crushed in a heartbeat, and yet, as always, Batman surprises everyone. With Joker and a bunch of faux-military personnel watching from a distance, Batman uses sleeping gas on the Hulk, who defends himself by simply holding his breath. It works, until Batman launches a precise kick into the Hulk’s solar plexus, causing him to breathe in and subsequently fall.
Who did we miss in this list of folks who felled the Hulk? Let us know in the comments!
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