Bruce Banner, or at least his gamma irradiated alter ego, is who most people think of when they hear the name Hulk, be it within or outside of the Marvel Universe. Despite that, there had been another creature to hold the title before the not so jolly green giant: a monstrous alien who may have inspired a particularly controversial religion.
That creature is the furious and fuzzy monster Xemnu, who is set to appear in the upcoming Immortal Hulk #30. Here’s a look back at Marvel’s original Hulk, where he’s been, and what the future holds for him.
Xemnu: The Living Hulk
Xemnu, the Living Titan first appeared in 1960s Journey Into Mystery #62. On the cover of the issue, which read “Here comes… The Hulk”, he is also referred to as a Living Hulk. Despite his somewhat benevolent appearance making him resemble a cross between a yeti and an old man, he was a gigantic alien war criminal who had escaped from prison, crash landing on Earth. Revived by a man named Joe Harper, he inflicted his psychic abilities upon the town, attempting to mind control humanity into repairing his spaceship. The resulting take-off from the craft would have destroyed the Earth itself, forcing Harper to sabotage its launch. The crossed wires in the ship knock Xemnu into a coma, with the drastically weakened launch sending him near the sun.
Unfortunately, he would make his way back to Earth, and though weakened, again tried to enslave humanity with his mental abilities. Harper again foils his plans, beaming his psychic power back at him with a mirror, which seemed to dismantle the creature. Xemnu and other monsters-of-the-week like him were a dime a dozen in the late ‘50s/early ‘60s era of Marvel Comics. An attempt to cash in on the giant monster movie craze of the 1950s, these comics would be abandoned in favor of superheroes once Marvel began publishing Fantastic Four in 1961.
Xemnu himself was supposedly the idea behind intergalactic warlord Xenu (or, also, Xemu) in L. Ron Hubbard’s Scientology beliefs, though that is, of course, unconfirmed. The alien monstrosity would appear intermittently throughout the new era of superhero comics, a relic from the bygone era of monsters.
The Hulk vs. The Hulks
Given his original subtitle, it’s only fitting that Xemnu’s appearances throughout the years would pit him against the monster that currently goes by he name Hulk. Abducting children to repopulate his planet, Xemnu defeated Hulk’s fellow Defenders Dr. Strange and Namor the Sub-Mariner. He eventually fell to The Hulk himself, leading to a continued vendetta against him. His plans included cloning other classic Marvel monsters to send against The Hulk, but one by one, they each fell, including Xemnu himself.
Xemnu even went on to attack Hulk’s cousin Jennifer Walters, aka She-Hulk. Falling before his psychic power, the helpless She-Hulk was intended to be turned into a She-Xemnu. She-Hulk, with the help of Ulysses Archer and Razorback, defeated the Living Hulk again, and he was subsequently given over to a powerful alien presence, who saw him merely as a sort of stuffed animal.
Other bouts with other Hulks saw him fight the Red Hulk, only to be beaten again when the reality-warping Impossible Man fused the Green and Red Hulks into the powerful Compound Hulk. This connection to the gamma powered warriors also landed him a role in the cartoon Hulk and the Agents of S.M.A.S.H.
Xemnu briefly reappeared in the recent Monsters Unleashed storyline in 2017, a series which served to bring back many of the pre-superhero monsters that filled Marvel Comics in the Silver Age. His upcoming return in the pages of Immortal Hulk seems to be his biggest push yet, with him waging war fiercer than ever against the Green Hulk. Previews also show him as possibly gaining some control over humanity through the media, finally achieving that which he never could back in the Silver Age comics. Fans will have to read those issues to see what the alien furball has planned for the Immortal Hulk, and the rest of humanity with him.