Hulk’s victory column is unparalleled. Bruce Banner’s monstrous alter-ego has proved to be tougher than nearly anyone he goes up against. The list of powerful Marvel characters that Hulk has beaten is ridiculous — Thor, Silver Surfer, most of the X-Men, Sentry, etc. etc. With those kinds of victories, you’d think that it would take an absurd level of power in order to beat him. You’d think, at the very least, that Hulk would be impervious to humiliation, but that isn’t the case at all. In fact, Hulk has had more than his fair share of embarrassing losses and we decided to list the top 20.
Sometimes it doesn’t matter how angry and strong Hulk gets because of his enemies have something that most of Banner’s Hulk personas don’t have — intelligence. When the savage Hulk goes up against super geniuses like the Leader, or intelligent behemoths like Abomination, his lack of smarts can lead to a mortifying loss. At other times, intelligence has nothing to do with it. Hulk’s smart personas are just as vulnerable to humiliation, especially if he’s going up against any number of foes who’s prime directive in life has been to destroy Hulk. In such cases, we can’t blame the big guy for losing to ridiculously powerful foes. However, a few of Hulk’s embarrassing losses are inexplicable. We’re talking about when he gets his butt kicked by a group of non-powered B-list villains like the Circus of Crime, or when a single whack from a magical crowbar is enough to keep him down for the count. The list goes on, so here are 20 villains who have humiliated the Hulk in battle.
20. DOCTOR OCTOPUS
Nothing says embarrassing like Hulk’s loss to Doctor Octopus from Spider-Man (Vol.1) #19. Not only did Spider-Man’s eight-armed enemy defeat the Hulk, but it was no contest. Hulk had stepped in to help Spidey against Doc Ock and his newly formed Sinister Six, but Doc Ock’s new mechanical arms proved to be too much for the Green Goliath.
Hulk couldn’t get a single shot in, and after a few rapid-fire blows from Doc Ock’s tentacles, Hulk was done. Hulk wouldn’t have his revenge until Incredible Hulk (Vol. 1) #396 when he’d have a brief meeting with the villain in Las Vegas.
Hulk was nearly put down for good during his first encounter with Abomination. Abomination, the monstrous form of the KBG agent, Emil Blonsky, made his debut in Tales to Astonish (Vol. 1) #90. The terrifying new Hulk villain was both stronger than the Green Goliath and smarter than him since Abomination maintained Blonsky’s intellect.
Hulk stood no chance. Abomination pummeled his adversary within an inch of his life, grabbed Betty Ross, and then fled the scene. In the years that followed, Abomination would continue to pose a major threat to the Hulk but he would never dominate his enemy like he did when he debuted.
The Wrecker is a B-list villain at best. Despite having he and his crowbar being imbued with Asgardian power, Wrecker is routinely defeated by everyone from Spider-Man to Iron Man. Yet, on one bizarre occasion, he one-shotted the Hulk.
The incident came shortly after Wrecker formed his own team of similarly empowered criminals known as the Wrecking Crew. The Wrecking Crew ran into Hulk and the rest of the Defenders, where Wrecker landed his improbable blow. With one swing of his crowbar, Wrecker knocked out Hulk and then continued on his way as if he hadn’t just peaked as a supervillain.
17. THE CIRCUS OF CRIME
Led by the Ringmaster, the Circus of Crime is a crew of circus-themed villains that originally squared off against Captain America during the ’40s. They were reintroduced during the ’60s and faced off against the Hulk in Incredible Hulk (Vol. 1) #3.
While the members of the Circus of Crime certainly have some unusual skillsets, none of them are superpowered per say, which makes Hulk’s loss to them especially embarrassing. In fact, the group of villains took out Hulk with a high-powered hose — that from someone who was supposed to be the toughest hero in the MU at the time.
16. DOCTOR DOOM
Despite not being a particularly strong villain, Doctor Doom takes out Hulk with ease in Fantastic Four (Vol. 1) #320. The story features Bruce Banner’s Gray Hulk persona, who’s lured by Doctor Doom into the Nevada desert. Using his advanced technology, Doom quickly defeats the Hulk before manipulating him into working for him.
Doom plays on Hulk’s hatred for the Thing and eventually motivates him to confront the Thing and find out who is stronger. Hulk and the Thing’s feud is reignited, leading to one of their most intense fights ever. However, what still catches our eye from the story is just how easily Doom beats Hulk.
Maestro is no joke. This Hulk baddie is what Banner becomes in an alternate future where the Hulk has absorbed tremendous quantities of radiation from nuclear fallout, making him stronger than ever. In addition to his absurd level of strength, Maestro maintains Banner’s genius — hence his name. In Incredible Hulk: Future Imperfect (Vol. 1) #2, Hulk goes up against Maestro, which turns out to be a bad idea.
After a back-and-forth fight, Maestro snaps Hulk’s neck. Hulk manages to survive Maestro’s finishing attack but is imprisoned by the latter. To this day, whenever Maestro shows up, Hulk can be sure that he’ll be in for a fight.
14. RED HULK
Bruce Banner knew he had a serious new threat on his hands when the mysterious Red Hulk debuted in Hulk (Vol. 2) #1. Right out of the gate, Red Hulk destroys Abomination and Wendigo, obliterates Tony Stark’s helicarrier, and pummels Thor.
Hulk only manages to defeat his red counterpart because Red Hulk exhausts himself fending off the Avengers, Fantastic Four, and others. Later, after Banner developed a new persona known as Doc Green, he duked it out with Red Hulk again. In Hulk (Vol. 3) #10, Red Hulk humiliates Doc Green, providing evidence that the latter is one of Banner’s weaker personas.
The Hulk-Killer was a robot created by the Leader for the sole purpose of destroying Hulk. With the Leader believed to be gone at the time, General Ross stumbles upon the dormant Hulk-Killer in Tales to Astonish (Vol. 1) #86.
Ross and his team attempt to use Hulk-Killer to target the Hulk, but upon being animated, the Hulk-Killer is uncontrollable. The Hulk-Killer proceeds to blindly destroy anything in his path. When Hulk finally arrives on the scene, Hulk-Killer knocks him off his feet with a single punch. The two then engage in a long battle that concludes with Hulk reverting back into Bruce Banner.
12. PRINCESS PYTHON
Nobody could’ve expected that Princess Python and her pet would one day subdue Hulk. Princess Python, a member of the villainous Circus of Crime, had set her pet python on Hulk numerous times before and each time the Hulk was able to brush off the snake’s attack. For whatever reason, the python overpowered Hulk in Incredible Hulk (Vol. 1) #470.
Princess Python’s snake coiled itself around Hulk’s neck and choked out the Hulk, giving the Circus of Crime another improbable victory over Hulk. Of course, it would only be a matter of time before Hulk would have his revenge on the circus-themed criminals.
Hulk and Juggernaut are two of the most unstoppable forces in the Marvel Universe. Although Hulk has managed to consistently beat Juggernaut whenever they meet, Juggernaut finally pulled one over him in Incredible Hulk (Vol.1) #402.
The issue featured Hulk on a mission in the Amazon Rainforest, where he’s attacked by a massive worker. Turns out the attacker is not just any strong workman but is Cain Marko, aka Juggernaut. Caught off guard, Hulk briefly struggles with Marko before being laid unconscious by his foe. The story concludes with the revelation that Marko had been hired by none other than the Red Skull who plans to take Hulk captive and exploit his power.
10. THE MANDARIN
Although he typically antagonizes Iron Man, the Mandarin has had his fair share of battles with other Marvel characters. The mystical villain clashed with Hulk in Incredible Hulk (Vol. 1) #108 in his attempt to subdue the Hulk and then use them for world domination purposes.
Armed with his ten magical rings and advanced technology, the Mandarin quickly overpowered Hulk. The encounter ended with the Mandarin trapping Hulk in a gas chamber, rendering him unconscious. Before the Mandarin uses the Hulk to do too much damage, Nick Fury steps in to free Hulk, and the two of them defeat the Mandarin.
Image Comics’ answer to Hulk was a character called Pitt. Similarly empowered, Pitt was a genetically-engineered superhuman created to be an assassin bar none. Pitt went toe-to-toe with the character that inspired his creation in 1997’s Hulk/Pitt (Vol. 1) #1.
The story gave fans what they wanted: a no-holds-barred battle between the two monsters. Hulk and Pitt engage in a seemingly endless conflict, relentlessly going back and forth. However, by the story’s end, it’s clear that Pitt has the upper hand. At one point, Pitt bludgeons Hulk with a goal post, shouting at his resilient foe to stay down.
8. THE GREMLIN
The Gremlin is the son of the first villain that Hulk battled, the Gargoyle. With the Gargoyle not living to see past Incredible Hulk (Vol. 1) #1, the Gremlin vowed to avenge his father. The Gremlin, who’d later become Titanium Man, had numerous skirmishes with Hulk until he finally pulled out a victory in Incredible Hulk (Vol. 1) #187.
The issue sees the Gremlin try out various tactics on the Hulk, each one failing until he used a weapon of his invention called an electro-stasis gun. The weapon’s blasts knocked out Hulk, allowing the Gremlin to take him captive and proceed with his plot.
Far from an A-list villain, Goldbug would’ve been a common criminal if it weren’t for his tech. Goldbug used his technologically advanced suit to pursue gold whenever he could. In Incredible Hulk (Vol.1) #239, Goldbug captures Hulk after he manipulates him into coming onto the ship. Once aboard, Hulk is trapped by Goldbug and then exploited as a power source for the ship that Goldbug’s using to travel to El Dorado — the lost city of gold.
As soon as they arrive in El Dorado, Goldbug cuts Hulk loose — which turns out to be a terrible idea. Enraged, Hulk demolishes Goldbug’s ship and is about to do the same to Goldbug but is interrupted by the people of El Dorado.
As an “electromagnetic intelligence”, the monstrously powerful Zzzax has posed as a serious threat every time Hulk has fought it. On one occasion, as if Zzzax couldn’t be more terrifying, General Ross merged his consciousness with it, hoping to use Zzzax’s power to finally defeat Hulk.
Wielding the power of Zzzax, Ross headed directly for Hulk and Rick Jones. He quickly overwhelmed the two and would’ve finished the job if Zzzax’s own personality hadn’t reemerged. Ross and Zzzax fought for control over Zzzax’s body of energy until Ross awoke to just how far he’d gone to try to take out Hulk.
5. BRIAN BANNER
Bruce’s father, Brian Banner, is largely responsible for his son’s anger issues. Of all of the monsters and demons that Hulk has gone up against, none come quite as close the memory of his father. To make matters worse, Brian has resurfaced on several occasions to pose as a physical threat to the Hulk.
During the crossover event “Chaos War”, Brian was resurrected in the form of a monstrous combination of the Hulk and a demon and received power from his Bruce’s anger. Hulk would’ve met his demise if Jarella wasn’t there. Upon seeing Jarella, Hulk’s anger was dissolved and Brian lost his source of power.
4. THE LEADER
The Leader has been responsible for countless threats that Hulk has had to deal with. Hulk’s most intelligent enemy had helped create Red Hulk and Red She-Hulk and nearly conquered the planet on several occasions. In Incredible Hulk (Vol. 1) #139, the Leader nearly finished off Hulk for good. In the issue, Leader induces hallucinations within Hulk, convincing Hulk that he’s fighting an endless gauntlet of enemies.
Hulk’s endless battle includes going up against Absorbing Man, Mandarin, Sandman, Rhino, Namor, Iron Man, and more. Luckily, before Hulk passes away from a heart attack, his friend Jim Wilson discovers the ruse and stops the Leader.
As a descendant of the Frost Giants, Hoarfen is an enormous wolf made up of ice. In his first encounter with Hulk, he did much more than just defeat the Green Goliath. In Incredible Hulk (Vol. 1) #422, Hoarfen was ordered by the Frost Giants to take out Hulk.
When the giant wolf was finally unleashed, it launched itself at Hulk and Hulk’s partner at the time, Agamemnon. Hoarfen took the two into his mouth and clamped down, instantly ending both of their lives. Obviously, this wasn’t the last we’d see of Hulk because soon after, Hela resurrected the two. Having obtained a second chance, Hulk fled from Hoarfen.
2. LORD ARMAGEDDON
Lord Armageddon, the ruler of the troyjans, debuted in Incredible Hulk (Vol. 1) #413 as an extradimensional god that wanted Hulk gone. Lord Armageddon’s thirst for vengeance was fueled by the loss of his son Trauma, whom Hulk had taken out in a battle.
Soon after Trauma’s end, Lord Armageddon came to collect the toll, which was Hulk’s life. He quickly overpowered Hulk and then forced him to power the machine that would resurrect Trauma. In spite of Lord Armageddon’s expectations, Hulk didn’t pass in the attempt to revive Trauma. With a newfound respect for the Green Goliath, Lord Armageddon decides to spare Hulk’s life.
Avengers: Infinity War started off with a bang. Thanos and his crew made their grand entrance by Thor’s ship full of Asgardian refugees and humiliating the heroes on board. Thor was toyed with and Loki appeared to be finished off for good, but perhaps Thanos’s most impressive feat from the opening scene was how he dealt with Hulk. Banner’s alter ego emerged out of nowhere, catching Thanos by surprise.
But it made no difference. Not even using the gauntlet, Thanos humiliated the Hulk in a sparring contest, assuring audience members that Thanos was anything but over-hyped. Hulk’s embarrassment had lasting effects for the movie, as the Green Goliath was no longer willing to emerge.
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