Bruce Banner, the Incredible Hulk, is considered by many to be the strongest hero on the face of the planet. At the very least, the Hulk believes this is the case and constantly tries to cement it in everyone’s heads by yelling that, “Hulk is the strongest one there is!” Whether this is true or not is up for debate, but what matters is few beings can, or want to, battle the awesome might of the Incredible Hulk. With a healing factor, impossible strength, and his notorious ability for getting stronger the madder he becomes, it’s pretty understandable why folks try and avoid confrontations with the jade giant.
Marvel’s early days definitely demonstrated that the Hulk had almost no equal. Aside from characters like Thor, a living god, and the Sub-Mariner, few could hope to challenge him; his might was legendary. Over the years, the Hulk’s strength has grown to the point where his footsteps create earthquakes. Yet with every popular character there emerge alternate versions and iterations of said character. Some of these are stronger than the original, while others are weaker than the real deal. Today at CBR we’re looking at some alternate Hulks, seeing which versions are more powerful and/or punier than the strongest one there is!
15 STRONGER: ZOMBIE HULK
One day the Hulk was minding his own business when suddenly he got transformed into an undead engine of destruction. The series Marvel Zombies kicks off with a zombie version of the Sentry crashing down in the heart of New York. The Avengers go to investigate, but are immediately infected by the former superhero. While readers didn’t get a chance to see how the Hulk was turned, it was probably during the futile struggle to save the planet.
Once the transformation is complete, the Zombie Hulk is as ruthless as he is unkillable. His power increases exponentially once he and his fellow zombie heroes kill the Silver Surfer and Galactus and devour them entirely, in turn gaining the Power Cosmic. Fueled with literal godly power, Zombie Hulk and his allies go about nearly eating/destroying the rest of the sentient universe.
14 WEAKER: MARVEL APES HULK
After the massively successful series Marvel Zombies, Marvel was on the lookout for the next weird franchise; and so was born Marvel Apes. All in all, Marvel Apes is exactly what it sounds like. It’s the Marvel Universe, except everyone is an ape. This included the Hulk. Like the regular Hulk, this ape Hulk wasn’t too different. Sure, he had a striking furry appearance, but he was still the strongest ape out there and prone to smashing things whenever he got upset.
This Ape Hulk helped battle against the vampiric Ape-Vengers and would later join a group dubbed the “Prime Eight,” lead by Nick Furry. In spite of all the bad (and hilarious) puns, the Ape Hulk was still an Ape and didn’t quit measure up to the profound power of the Hulk we’re all well acquainted with.
13 STRONGER: MAESTRO
Typically, the Hulk is portrayed as misunderstood or an anti-hero. That said, the version of the Hulk known as the Maestro is pure evil with zero redeeming qualities. In the Peter David and George Perez miniseries Future Imperfect, the Hulk time travels to the future, where a crazed older version of himself has taken over the world and killed all the superheroes -- the Maestro was insane.
Years of exposure to radiation had driven his craziness and anger to new peaks, providing strength greater than anything the regular Hulk had demonstrated. He easily beat up the Merged Hulk and in appearances outside of Future Imperfect, he’s never faced a being who can stop permanently stop him. The Hulk only defeated Maestro by tricking him on to Doctor Doom’s time machine and sending him back in time to the explosion of the Gamma Bomb.
12 WEAKER: HULK 2099
In a timeline where Spider-Man 2099 is the most endearing character, Marvel made sure to churn out other future versions of fan-favorite characters. This resulted in John Eisenhart as the semi-dinosaur-looking, tongue wagging, vicious Hulk of 2099. Eisenhart’s origin was bizarre to say the least. Working as a studio executive, he ended up crossing path with the Knights of Banner cult. They were dedicated to creating a new Hulk, but also wanted to option the cult’s story for a movie. Shenanigans ensue; Eisenhart joins the group, and is caught in a gamma explosion caused by a spurned Knights member.
Through this complicated sequence of events, Eisenhart becomes the Hulk. Though strong, he didn’t have the original Hulk’s savagery. He could control his rage, meaning his strength didn’t grow indefinitely. In spite of this, he has claws that can slice through most materials and his tongue is super strong.
11 STRONGER: OLD MAN LOGAN HULK
In the "Old Man Logan" storyline, the world is in shambles. The Marvel Universe is darker than it’s almost ever been. This particular timeline featured the world’s supervillains banding together, finally realizing the insane talent they have when pooled together. Systematically, they kill off nearly every superhero on the planet in a night. The only survivors are Wolverine, who because of the events he experiences, swears off violence forever, Hawkeye, the Hulk, and a couple others.
Though while the majority of survivors went into hiding, the Hulk did not. Rather, for reasons undetermined, but likely due to years of gamma radiation poisoning, he went quite insane and became a homicidal landlord. Presumably, the villains figured it was best to leave him alone, as Bruce Banner proceeds to claim California for himself. Though nutty, he’s stronger than ever before, as even his Banner persona boasts ridiculous strength.
10 WEAKER: ABORIGINAL HULK
Remove all the Hulk’s infamous anger and what do you get? Well, a relatively peaceful and docile Hulk, that’s what. Back when the Scarlet Witch went several kinds of crazy and whispered “No more mutants,” not only she fundamentally change the nature of Marvel Comics going forward, but she created the alternate House of M reality, where Magneto was in charge of a mutant-controlled world.
In House of M, after Bruce Banner is transformed by gamma radiation, General “Thunderbolt” Ross, assumes he’s one of Magneto’s mutant spies. This ignites a confrontation between the newly transformed Hulk and General Ross’ army. Banner flees the battle and makes his way to Australia where he joins a group of Aboriginal people. While there, this Hulk learns to appreciate the ways of the tribe, vowing to live the rest of his days in peace in a zen-filled existence.
9 STRONGER: INFERNAL HULK
At the end of the day, there are a lot of frightening versions of the Hulk, but one of the more horrifying is the Infernal Hulk. The Infernal Hulk demonstrates that, despite the mutual hatred Bruce Banner and Hulk have for each other, it’s best that they remain merged. Incredible Hulks Annual #1 introduced an alternate reality where Bruce Banner is the Sorcerer Supreme. Using his magic, he separates the Hulk from himself and proceeds to cast the Hulk down into Hell.
Contrary to public belief, sending a super-powered rage monster to Hell isn’t a great idea. The Hulk becomes corrupted by the demons of Hell and is converted into the orange skinned Infernal Hulk. He digs his way out from the nightmarish plane and returns to Earth. Driven only by revenge, the Infernal Hulk has all the powers he originally did, plus demonic abilities as well.
8 WEAKER: NERD HULK
There was a time in the Ultimate Universe where Bruce Banner, the original Hulk, was out of the picture and nowhere to be found. Since the government and Ultimates still wanted a powerhouse they could control, Gregory Stark, the brother of Tony Stark, created a Hulk clone using Banner’s stem cells. Dubbed the Nerd Hulk, on account of his wearing glasses, this version possessed all of Banner’s intellect and the Ultimate Hulk’s strength.
This combination didn’t work swimmingly however, as it took away the rage that supplied the Hulk with his neigh limitless power. This allowed Captain America of all people to defeat the Nerd Hulk easily. Later, Nerd Hulk was turned into a vampire but was killed thanks to Captain America beheading him with a magic hammer.
7 STRONGER: VENOM-HULK
The only thing worse than a mindless Hulk is a mindless Hulk bonded with the Venom symbiote, which also has all of Spider-Man’s powers. In What If #4, "What If…The Alien Costume Had Possessed Spider-Man". In the original timeline, when the Venom symbiote tried to possess Spider-Man, the Fantastic Four were able to get it off him. Not here. This time around the alien fully bonds with Peter Parker, despite the Fantastic Four’s intervention.
Enlisting the help of the Avengers, Reed Richards pursues the symbiote-controlled Spider-Man. The Hulk is among the first of the heroes to encounter it. Seeing potential in the Hulk’s power, the symbiote slithers off a now withered/drained Peter Parker and tries bonding with the Hulk. Thor then appears and tries to separate the two, but much to his horror, the monstrosity he faces now possesses all the powers of both the Hulk and Spider-Man.
6 WEAKER: TYRONE CASH
Introduced in Marvel’s Ultimate Comics line, Tyrone Cash originally served as a mentor to Bruce Banner. Together, they worked side-by-side to recreate the Super Soldier formula. At one point, Dr. Williams was presumed dead after an unexplained occurrence at the lab, but this being comics, he returned.
Now with the name “Tyrone Cash,” the newfound Mr. Cash was successful in administering himself with Super Soldier powers, making him the first Hulk. Cash disappeared into the slums of South America and built a criminal empire until he was recruited by Nick Fury to join his back-ops Ultimates team. Unlike Banner, Cash retained his genius intellect while Hulked out. When combined with his penchant for cruelty and sadism, made him a dangerous Hulk. Even so, while he had strength enough to take on War Machine, Tyrone didn’t have potentially limitless strength like the Hulk did.
5 STRONGER: CAPTAIN UNIVERSE HULK
Captain Universe is not an actual person, but rather the physical manifestation of the Uni-Power. The Uni-Power possesses people during a crisis and provides them with power to solve it. As a result, the power granted is astronomical, as the wielder becomes one of the strongest beings in the universe, capable of energy manipulation and projection, and nearly any other power the wielder can think of or needs.
In Captain Universe: The Incredible Hulk, the Hulk becomes the possessed by the Uni-Power. Suffering from memory loss, Captain Universe bonds with Bruce Banner in order to find the scientist Dr. Gilbert Wiles. Once they find him, a series of hijinks unfolds which leads to the Hulk fighting several AIM robots. Throughout the battle, the Captain Universe power is awakened in him and, although the power is temporary, for a brief while the Hulk really is the strongest one there is.
4 WEAKER: SKULK
Contrary to public belief, the ‘90s weren’t a completely awful time for comics. There were amazing stories that came out of the era. The Amalgam imprint line, courtesy of DC Comics and Marvel teaming up, is not such a positive example. In a massive, and ultimately failed, PR stunt, the big two comic powerhouses crossed over their heroes and villains in Amalgam. In this universe, a ton of fan-favorite Marvel and DC characters were fused into singular beings. One of the more bizarre creations was Skulk.
He was the combination of Solomon Grundy and the Hulk. This version of Bruce Banner was minding his own business, conducting gamma bomb tests in the desert, when Solomon Grundy appeared. Bruce tried to save the superhuman zombie, but gamma bomb’s explosion fused the two, forming Skulk. Ultimately, Skulk was really just Solomon Grundy, but with the Hulk’s iconic purple pants.
3 STRONGER: KLUH
One of the Hulk’s characteristics that make him constantly fascinating is his relationship with emotions. Depending on how Bruce Banner is feeling or his mental state at any given time, any number of Hulks can be produced. Yet for the most part, the Hulk is generated by Banner’s anger. Amidst the "AXIS" event, an inversion spell is unleashed by the Scarlet Witch, causing multiple superheroes and villains to become inverted versions of themselves.
This spell inadvertently affects the Hulk and gives birth to Kluh, the “Hulk’s Hulk,” who is created by sadness rather than rage. Interestingly enough, Kluh is a personality aspect of the Hulk, rather than Banner. When the Hulk gets sad, he turns into Kluh and gets significantly stronger, larger in frame, and sprouts a set of deadly claws.
2 WEAKER: ULTIMATE HULK
Marvel’s Ultimate Comics line, written primarily by Mark Millar, get a great deal of flack for the reimagining of certain fan-favorite characters. Take for example, the Ultimate Hulk and his penchant for eating people. This alternate universe version of the Green Goliath is similar to the regular Hulk, but his personality is drastically different. Yes, Bruce Banner in any reality comes with extreme emotional baggage, but the Ultimate Bruce Banner is selfish, self-absorbed and creepy.
He was so desperate to be noticed and recognized, he willingly injected himself with an experimental version of a new Super Soldier formula. This turns him into a monstrous version of the Hulk, a creature with little regard to human life and collateral damage. On the plus side, Ultimate Hulk, though mighty, doesn’t have anywhere near the strength of the original Hulk when he’s at full power.
1 STRONGER: LIZARD-HULK
The Hulk is already maddeningly powerful, but what if you wanted to make him even stronger? Well in that case just add some genes from Spider-Man’s foe the Lizard, and boom, you’ve got Lizard-Hulk! In "Spider-Island", The Spider-Queen rules over Manhattan with an iron fist. Because ruling wasn’t enough for her, she used a mysterious virus to turn the residents of New York into spider creatures.
All the while, there’s a small group of resistance fighters, led by Flash Thompson, who’re planning to fight back. They do this by rewriting the infected heroes spider DNA with alternative animal DNA, erasing the Spider-Queen’s control and morphing the heroes into new forms. This turns the Spider-Hulk into the Lizard-Hulk. It’s a pretty stellar combination as it combines the power set of the Hulk with that of the Lizard.