Asking which of two comic book characters would win in a fight is an age-old question, asked in playgrounds, comic book shops, and even bars for years. In the world of superheroes, the Hulk is typically one of the top tier strongest and most powerful characters in both the Marvel universe and in all of the comics. Anyone who has read a comic remembers the Hulk shouting “Hulk is the strongest one there is!” and his strength is so legendary he is Tony Stark’s immediate response to Loki having an army, knowing that it means nothing against the might of the green behemoth.
Then, when it came to villains that would unite a franchise like the MCU, that role was filled by none other than the mad titan himself: Thanos. Despite the MCU making it clear how powerful Thanos was with Guardians of the Galaxy establishing him as the most powerful being in the universe, many assumed he would gain most of his strength and power from the Infinity Stones.
Updated September 23, 2022: This article has been updated to include more up-to-date information regarding the Hulk and Thanos in Marvel Comics, as well as the latest MCU entry, She-Hulk: Attorney at Law.
In the first half of the culmination of ten years of build-up, Avengers: Infinity War pitted the Hulk and Thanos against one another in what many expected to be an epic showdown between two powerhouses. Yet the film quickly showed how powerful Thanos was by laying way to The Hulk, the Avenger’s strongest powerhouse, with ease. The result begs the question: Is Thanos truly stronger than the Hulk? The answer may surprise you. It is actually yes and no, depending on the material for comparison. All versions of Thanos do not have the Infinity Gauntlet to make the fights interesting.
Thanos vs MCU Hulk
This short battle was shown in the aforementioned Infinity War‘s opening scene. The Mad Titan was easily able to dispatch the Hulk without even using the only Infinity Stone he had available at the time: The Power Stone. The polished fighting style of Thanos proved too much for Hulk and his overall brutality and savagery. Hulk had the upper hand for all of two seconds due to the element of surprise before Thanos was able to finish the fight with a few quick blows. This clearly established Thanos as a threat, as even without using an Infinity Stone he had enough strength and was an accomplished fighter to defeat Earth Mightiest Heroes’ previous secret weapon with ease. This bout has a clear winner: Thanos.
It is worth noting, Hulk and Thanos do not get a round two in Avengers: Endgame following Bruce Banner’s transformation into Smart Hulk. With a combined union between Banner and the Hulk, the two might have been able to go another round with Thanos. She-Hulk: Attorney at Law established that Smart Hulk still possesses the strength and power of his original version, but Banner’s intellect might have been the secret weapon to beat Thanos.
Thanos vs The Incredible Hulk (Comics)
Thanos himself addressed the issue of who would win back in 1990s Thanos Quest #1. After defeating Champion in his quest for the Infinity Stones, Thanos admits the fight with Hulk would be a difficult one saying: “His strength seems to grow in direct proportion to his anger. In many ways I assume this is what it would be like battling the Terran behemoth the Hulk. A conflict I’ve sought to avoid over the years.” Thanos admitting he would avoid it because it would be difficult shows that while he is powerful, he would rather avoid facing off against the Hulk as it would be a difficult challenge.
Thanos did eventually fight the Hulk in the Infinity Gauntlet comic, with the Hulk joined by a team of heroes but by that point, Thanos already wielded all six Infinity Stones. One possible version of the Marvel future shows a world where Thanos wins and he has Hulk chained up like a pet, showing that depending on the context, the battle could go either way in Thanos or the Hulk’s favor.
Thanos vs The Immortal Hulk
The Immortal Hulk is tough. Tough enough to beat a satanic entity, The One Below All. Can he defeat Thanos though? Powerful shockwaves emitted from his body thanks to a darker form of gamma radiation and gamma bursts only add to the monster’s power. The gamma radiation emitted to transform into Immortal Hulk, however, only occurs at night, and this specific type of radiation is essentially linked to dark magic. Using this magic transformation, Hulk was able to defeat The One Below All, an impressive feat on its own. How would that stack up to Thanos though?
Well, Thanos destroyed a planet by punching it. The ensuing aftermath didn’t even phase the guy. Both Immortal Hulk and Thanos are incredible forces of destruction, so if the two were to two battle whoever won, the collateral damage would make the entire world the loser.
Thanos vs World-Breaker Hulk
This is where things get interesting. World-Breaker Hulk, seen in the comic event World War Hulk, is an immensely powerful being and can shake the earth to its core just by taking steps. His anger rises exponentially with his strength, even more so than what the Hulk can do with his original transformation. This Hulk is created following the death of his wife and unborn child on Skaar when a warp core exploded. The result created a more powerful Hulk fueled by grief-driven rage that he had never felt before.
His return to Earth has him defeat several teams of heroes and mutants alike. He withheld a blast from Black Bolt, king of the Inhumans, who as shown in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness was able to destroy someone with a single whisper. Hulk easily laid waste to The Fantastic Four, Iron Man, Doctor Strange, Spider-Man, and even went toe to toe with Ghost Rider, who was likely the only being on the planet who could stop him at the time. Hulk eventually surrendered when he discovered the people he thought were responsible were in fact innocent, and he was actually betrayed by one of his friends. It is eventually revealed that Hulk’s unborn son was able to survive his mother’s death and took the name, Skaar. This version of the Hulk could, and likely would beat the Mad Titan.
Thanos by all intents and purposes is one of Marvel’s most powerful beings, a villain feared by many who has passed a threat to multiple heroes in the Marvel Universe. Few characters can stand against him, with only a few being so brave and some being very foolish. While the MCU Hulk was not able to defeat Thanos, his comic book counterparts pose a better chance to make an even fight particularly if Thanos does not wield the Infinity Gauntlet. These two titans in the Marvel Universe seem destined to do battle in some form or another.