Superheroes are a curious breed. From watching the endlessly-hypetastic Marvel movies, it’s clear that some of our childhood notions about these characters were totally wrong. They aren’t invincible, they do meet their match at times, and the most ordinary of snarky scientists can get under their skin and mess with them.
Take the Hulk, for instance. If you’ve only ever seen him when he’s huge, green, furious, and wearing those magical expanding pants he transforms into to keep himself decent, you might think that’s all there is to him. That’s not the case, though, because he’s also incredibly vulnerable. Poor, unassuming old Bruce Banner is as afraid of the monster he becomes as everybody else, and the MCU has taken a pretty deep dive into that.
At the height of his temper, the Hulk is a huge danger to everybody. He’s a force of nature, inherently unpredictable. A valuable asset in battle (because he can destroy just about anything as effectively as Godzilla in a china shop) for his ferocious strength, but also a liability because you can never be sure which direction he’s going to point that strength in.
Is Bruce Banner’s alter-ego the strongest hero in the Marvel universe? There’s quite an extensive debate to be had there. Is he more powerful than his cousin and female counterpart, She-Hulk? That’s a tough one too. Let’s take a look at the case for both, and see if there’s any conclusion to be reached.
The man who once busted the Hulkbuster (well, more or less) versus the woman who once tore Vision in half… who ya got?
20 She-Hulk: She Can Crash Straight Through The Fourth Wall
Newer comic book fans may think that Deadpool invented the whole fourth-wall-breaking thing. It’s a crucial part of the character, after all, and a perfect fit for his snarky, self-aware, and self-deprecating personality (Ryan Reynolds really was born to play this part).
Be that as it may, though, all of these things were originally She-Hulk’s bit. Over her long career, she’s spoken directly to the reader, made outside comments about her own situation, and even torn out pages from comic books because she didn’t agree with what the writers had done.
Let’s be honest, that’s a strength beyond anything the Hulk has ever done.
19 The Hulk: He Busted The Hulkbuster (Almost)
What does it really mean to be the strongest of the Avengers? Are we talking about just plain raw strength alone, or the member who’s armed with the most powerful arsenal of fancy weapons? There’s no real answer to that question, which is why arguments like these continue to rage on all around the internet.
In The Avengers: Age of Ultron, we got to see both of these concepts of strength clash head-on, when Tony Stark was forced to utilize his Mark XLIV Armor (the famous Hulkbuster suit) to try and subdue the raging Hulk.
How did that go? Well, it was a bit of a stalemate, as the pair fought a pitched battle (wreaking havoc on Johannesburg as they did so). Stark’s most powerful and heavily-reinforced suit was almost ripped right off of him before he was able to knock the Hulk out, a testament to the green mean machine’s incredible strength and resilience.
18 She-Hulk: She's Stronger Than Hercules
As we reported over on CBR, Hercules is not the sort of guy you want to get into an arm-wrestling contest with. In one match, after all, his strength was so overwhelming that he managed to pull the Earth out of orbit.
Yes, while arm wrestling. If that’s not comic book fanservice and melodrama in action, I’m not sure what is.
Anyway, the message is clear: don’t mess with Hercules, one of the most powerful beings in the Marvel universe. Unless you’re Jennifer Walters, that is, whose own strength is so great that she threw her own arm-wrestling contest with Hercules so that he wouldn’t feel bad (at least, that's her story).
What’s stronger, I wonder? Her biceps, or her need to humor poor, feeble Greek demigods?
17 The Hulk: His Rage Gives Him Limitless Strength (Theoretically)
As the famous line goes, you won’t like him when he’s angry. That’s the whole dichotomy and inner turmoil of the character: the mild-mannered and super-sweet Dr. Bruce Banner, and the huge, slavering green powerhouse he becomes against his will when provoked.
That’s the key to the Hulk, and the aspect that the Avengers and their enemies alike have tried to harness for their own gain. As has been demonstrated throughout the comics (and, again, in the duel with Iron Man in Age of Ultron), the Hulk’s power grows as his rage does, suggesting that his power is technically limitless.
16 She-Hulk: She's Much Stronger When Not Transformed
That’s the problem, really. Sometimes, you want the keen intellect and scientific brilliance of Dr. Bruce Banner, and sometimes you want the less-than-subtle smash absolutely everything and everyone into sad, defeated hunks of spam thing that the Hulk does so well. You can’t have one while you’ve got the other, and this is what often makes the character such a tragic liability.
With She-Hulk, things are a little different. She gained her powers after a blood transfusion from Banner, and she doesn’t transform in the traditional Hulk-ish, werewolf-y sort of way. The strength of her regular ‘form’ increases as she works out, along with her Hulk ‘form’ (which don’t technically change the way Banner’s do, but you see where we're going with this), enabling her to remain a physical threat at all times in a way that Banner just can’t.
15 The Hulk: He Has Many (Even Stronger) Forms
Needless to say, the Hulk is one of the most recognizable and popular heroes in the Marvel pantheon. One of the first to get his own movie, in fact, when the MCU as we now know it was just taking off. Over his long comic book career, like all the biggest names, we’ve seen various takes on the Hulk.
As we've covered, this intense being is limited only by how darn angry he can get. As such, over the years, we’ve seen everything from his I left my cookies in the oven slightly too long and they’re extra-crunchy, but I like that form to his I just stepped on a lego barefoot and I hate everybody and everything form.
Which is truly the most powerful Hulk we’ve ever seen? World Breaker Hulk? The Hulk of The End, who has aged and aged (and grown in strength) for so long that Bruce Banner himself passed away? It’s tough to say, and it’s tough to say whether She-Hulk could tangle with him at the true peak of his powers.
14 She-Hulk: She Took Down Thanos Himself (Well, Almost)
If The Avengers: Infinity War taught us anything, it’s that Thanos is about the most formidable and dastardly villain in Marvel’s repertoire. If the combined strength of the Avengers, the Guardians of the Galaxy, and Dr. Strange’s super-cool cloak can’t stop him… well, who the heck can?
We’ll tell you who can, friends. She-Hulk can, apparently. Of course, comic books constantly flip-flop with power levels, who can defeat who and suchlike, but this was still definitely a thing.
In She-Hulk #13, our heroine battles what turns out to be a duplicate of Thanos. As we reported over on CBR, it isn’t actually the Mad Titan, but it was imbued with all of his strength and abilities. What happens? That’s right, she takes him down.
13 The Hulk: An Entire Superhero Squad Couldn't Take Him Down
Speaking of Thanos defeating the combined strength of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, do you know who else has proven themselves able to do so? Well, yes, you probably do see where we're going with this: the Hulk has.
Now, we can't speak for everyone here, but that sounds like a definite yikes to us. The Hulk’s a loose cannon. Loose enough to drop right off and roll under the kitchen counter. Couple that fact with his immense power, and he’s one unstable ally to have.
12 She-Hulk: She Once Ripped Vision In Half
Naturally, to be in contention for the unofficial title of stronger Avenger, you’ve got to be the sort of person who could easily take on at least some of his fellow superheroes.
After all, if you’re not going to be a threat to them, that renders the classic villain-takes-control-of-a-powerful-hero-and-makes-them-fight-their-buddies storyline moot, doesn’t it? You know how much comic book writers like that one, too.
So, yes. The Hulk scares the heck out of his buddies at times, but She-Hulk is absolutely capable of doing the same, too.
She-Hulk, as we know, doesn’t tend to be the rage-infused monster her cousin is, but she has been. In the events of the Avengers Disassembled arc, Scarlet Witch uses her physic powers to make She-Hulk temporarily lose herself to her anger. While in its grip, she’s able to actually tear Vision in half. Literally. It isn’t pretty.
11 The Hulk: He Held Up A Whole Mountain Range
As we know, comic book characters go through quite a transformation over the course of their lives. Writers come and go, ideas are embellished, scrapped, or completely rewritten… nobody’s powers are anything remotely approaching constant.
Just how strong is the Hulk, exactly? That depends on the universe, the story, the arc, and the incarnation of him you’re looking at. We’re going to look at all kinds of absurd feats of strength from the Hulk, but here’s a hilariously impossible baseline: the time he held up a whole mountain range.
In the Secret Wars (an arc where some of Marvel's most popular heroes and villains are brought to an alien planet to fight), Molecule Man attacks the assembled goodly heroes with… a whole mountain range. With Reed Richards taunting him (making him angrier and therefore stronger), he’s able to singlehandedly hold up the mountains and prevent them from crushing his friends.
Whichever way you slice it, that’s just a little impressive.
10 She-Hulk: She Defeated Her Own Artist
Now, fourth wall breaking is an established technique now. Whether you’re talking TV shows, movies, video games, comic books, or any other form of media, these fun little references can inject a huge amount of humor into a piece.
If you’ve seen the recent Deadpool movie and its sequel, you’ll know how popular this sort of thing still is. Wade Wilson may have popularised the idea of these references lately, but as we’ve seen, She-Hulk was at it first.
How far did she take the fourth-wall breaking? Well, in Sensational She-Hulk #50, she leaps out and throws her own then-artist, John Byrne, out of a window, to add a little drama and boost sales.
9 The Hulk: He Ripped The Fabric Of Reality… With A Clap
As we’ve established, then, the essence of what a hero or villain can do will change dramatically over the years. Back in the day, Superman could only leap tall buildings in a single bound, and now he’s just flying around willy-nilly. It’s all very fluid, is what we're getting at here.
Nevertheless, they have their signature equipment and abilities that tend to remain unchanged. Wolverine’s claws and healing factor, for instance. Captain America’s shield. Then there’s the Hulk’s sonic clap.
He’s put this ability to all kinds of uses over the years, offensively and defensively, but the most impressive sonic clap occurred in The Incredible Hulk #126. Here, he used it to tear the very fabric of reality.
8 She-Hulk: The Sword Of Might Couldn't Even Scratch Her
So, yes. Comic books are well-known for their theatrics and general melodrama. That’s exactly what we love about them. It’s fanservice of the most explosive kind, and who could possibly say no to that?
With that in mind, there are all kinds of weapons with outlandish names to be found here. That’s what being a superhero is all about. One of our favorites is the blade simply named the Sword of Might. It’s wielded by Lionheart and is… well, pretty darn mighty, as the name implies. Supposedly indestructible and capable of cutting through just about anything, it had absolutely zero effect on She-Hulk during the Avengers Disassembled battle.
7 The Hulk: As Maestro, He Just Beats EVERYBODY
We’ve already touched on the fact that there have been various takes on Bruce Banner and the Hulk over the years. That’s just the way it works, when you’ve got alternate universes and timelines stacked on top of each other (like parallel worlds in Doctor Who).
How do you rate the strength of the various Hulks? That’s a tough one, but Maestro is surely among the strongest variants. He features in Future Imperfect, a series set in a potential future.
This ‘Hulk’ is perhaps his most frightening incarnation; a supervillain who has disposed of every superhero on his alternate Earth. This is what happens when you take Hulking out a step too far.
6 She-Hulk: She Can Effortlessly Defeat Her Foes… With Snark
In terms of self-awareness, then, She-Hulk is clearly leagues ahead of her cousin in his Hulk form. As powerful as the most formidable villains in the Marvel archives are, they don’t tend to be aware that they’re just comic book characters, but She-Hulk knows that and embraces it. In a way, that’s a strength far beyond holding up a mountain range in your bare hands.
With great power comes great responsibility, as they say. In this case, it’s the responsibility to call out your enemies on just how feeble they are. As we’ve reported previously, she was not impressed by being pitted against the hapless Doctor Bong in her fifth issue.
She made sure to set the writers straight on that.
5 The Hulk: He Once Threw Superman Into Space
Enough said, really.
To elaborate a little, though, Marvel and their rivals at DC have released more than a few crossovers in their time. It’s always interesting to see what the storylines will be, and how heroes and villains from the two different world will interact.
In one famous encounter, we get a possible answer to the age old question: could Superman beat the Hulk?
Well, apparently, that’s a firm no. In The Incredible Hulk vs Superman #1, the Son of Krypton swoops down and tries to pin the Hulk. Our old buddy Bruce has never been one to take kindly to this sort of PDA, and easily tosses Superman off him. So vigorously, in fact, that he’s thrown into space.
Granted, this doesn’t actually prove anything (the two have battled on several occasions, and each has been able to overcome the other), but it’s quite the feat nonetheless.
4 She-Hulk: She's Even Stronger As Part Of A Team
Now, see, that’s the thing about the Avengers. They’re a team. As we saw in Captain America: Civil War, this is both a great strength and a huge weakness. Zemo, without any flashy lasers or any other powers, turns the team on each other with devastating consequences. Still, that’s the price you pay for having Chris Hemsworth and his mighty hammer on your side.
While the Hulk is utterly unpredictable and frequently a liability, She-Hulk has been a crucial ally for our heroes, in all kinds of capacities. The Avengers, the Fantastic Four, her law firm… if you want a trustworthy green-skinned ally, she’d be a much safer bet.
3 The Hulk: He Easily Destroyed An Asteroid Twice The Size Of Earth
In a lot of ways, the comic book world is like an Arnold Schwarzenegger movie. There’s all kinds of brilliant ridiculousness going on, and you’ve just got to let it wash over you and enjoy the spectacle.
In Marvel Comics Presents #52, an asteroid estimated to be twice the size of the Earth is threatening life as we know it. What does the Hulk do? He launches himself into it and shatters it with the collision.
Now, as we've mentioned already, this asteroid was twice the size of the Earth. Yes, strength is the Hulk’s whole thing, but… what?
Here’s another important thing: this was the gray Hulk, known to be a good deal weaker than his later green form.
2 She-Hulk: She Almost Beat Zeus Into Submission
She-Hulk has already proven that she’s not afraid to take on the most formidable of foes. I mean, Hercules? Have you seen the Disney movie? Once he actually gets his act together and stops being a skinny mortal, he’s a darn powerful one and no mistake.
While we’re trawling through Greek mythology for worthy opponents, how about Zeus? Perhaps the mightiest of all gods, Zeus has thrown down with the Avengers before (believing them responsible for injuring Hercules). It’s not exactly a one-on-one battle, but She-Hulk handles him very well. Much better than the Hulk has been seen to do against him, in fact.
1 The Hulk: He Shrugged Off A Hundred-Trillion-Ton Hit
What did we say about Marvel and their insistence on being overly dramatic? To finish up, we’re going to take a look at a punch that supposedly carried a hundred trillion tons of force.
Naturally, the puncher is going to be someone pretty darn special. It was Skarr, son of Bruce Banner and Shadow Queen Caiera, a being endowed with all of the Hulk’s physical strength.
The punch-ee? Dear old dad himself. Believing that his father was responsible for the destruction of his home world, Skarr attacks Hulk, and the two formidable beings clash with incredible force.
As we reported over on CBR, “At one point, Skarr uses his power to move the tectonic plates, taps into the tremors, absorbs the energy to commander the kinetic power of a hundred trillion tons… and then hits the Hulk square in the chest with it. Hulk gets sent flying to another state, but then gets up, unfazed, like nothing ever happened.”
Plot armor? Oh, heck yes. Impressive? Oh, double heck yes. Enough to tip the Hulk/She-Hulk debate in Hulk's direction? Ultimately, that's up to you.