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Hulk vs. Superman – A Fight Between Ultimate Strength Titans

Hulk vs. Superman

Art by FKALEO Deviantart

superman wowHulk vs. Superman has been an intriguing battle between comic book titans for decades. Why them, in particular? Well because of their often egregious feats of that most obvious and decisive superpower – pure, unadulterated physical strength.

Unless you’re a telepath/telekinetic of Professor X or Jean Grey’s caliber, you’d better have some degree of superhuman strength if you want to be effective battling bad guys.

Superman is not only DCs flagship superhero (he’s kind of like the Michael Jordan of the comic book universe); he may very well be the penultimate superhero in all of comic-dom.

There have been numerous copycats in other universes – from Prime, to Hyperion, Mr. Majestic, Gladiator, the weak-minded but ultra-powerful Sentry, Marvel’s Thor and Supreme. There have been quite a few more, but these serve quite nicely as representative of a superhero mold that has withstood the test of time.

The Man of Steel remains, nonetheless, quite unique among this stable of powerhouses. Superman’s strength is sometimes lifted as whatever numerical maximum the current author cares to list; but true fans understand that it is essentially incalculable – Clark is as strong as he needs to be and then some.

If nothing else, Superman is the savior, in a sense, and frail primates can depend on his otherworldly Kryptonian frame to see him through to an end that results in saving the doubly wise man.

It is usually either a love/hate relationship that readers have with Superman; either you love him for being the most powerful ally for whom you could ever hope, for being a relentless force for what is good and should be right in the world, or simply for being so damn powerful and giving you hope against even extra-galactic threats.

Or, you hate him precisely for the antithesis of those reasons – for being too powerful, for being too good, etc. If you’re a nihilist, then Superman is, in all likelihood, a hero you would rather see beaten to death.

superman fired up

The Incredible Hulk

marc silvestri's hulk walkingThe Hulk is an absolute strength titan; whereas Superman has an array of god-like powers, Hulk has just the one – well, sort of. Hulk also has a very high degree of durability, endurance and regenerative ability – but one could argue that these are inevitable for something so incredibly strong.

After all, what good is the ability to throw skyscrapers at someone if you could be knocked out by a well-placed rock? Can’t very well engage a crew of supervillains if you tire like a human, now can you?

What sets the Hulk apart from other extremely strong metahumans is that his strength is tied to his emotional state. The angrier he gets, the stronger he becomes, so to increase your chances…no “yo mama” jokes while fighting him.

This sets up a Superman vs Hulk battle quite nicely; on the surface, it might seem that Superman takes this, because he’s also invulnerable, absurdly durable, hyper-strong, has an elite level of superspeed even amongst fast superheroes, and an impressive selection of distance weapons. But all may not be as it seems, which is why we’ll now take a look at who wins in an Incredible Hulk vs. Superman super-fight.

incredible hulk smash broken glass

superman and hulk fighting

Hulk vs. Superman: The Big Blue Boy Scout vs. the Green Goliath

hulk fighting sharksOne of the most powerful characters in the Marvel Universe, the Incredible Hulk is actually the superego/id of a scrawny and brilliant nuclear physicist named Bruce Banner. That would be “Dr.” Bruce Banner to you.

In his mighty green form, it is generally acknowledged that Hulk is flat-out the strongest humanoid in existence – especially because of a most peculiar facet of his superhuman biology: he gets stronger as he gets angrier.

As such, many believe his strength to be virtually incalculable; and rightfully so. Hulk has hoisted mountains on his massive shoulders, and broken enchantments made by nigh-omnipotent gods using the sheer force of his unrelenting strength.

In short; Hulk has lifted Thor’s hammer – which is supposed to be an impossible feat for those not worthy.

On paper, the Incredible Hulk is about as unstoppable as the X-Men’s Juggernaut claims to be. When writers are feeling like their loyal audience needs a reminder of Hulk’s strength levels, they pit him against the Mighty Thor – Lord of Thunder and Odin’s son from Norse mythology, recast as a godly Marvel superhero.

It is meant to show that a Hulk unleashed requires the attention of a god to even have a hope of stopping him.

Hulk tries lifting Thor's MjolnirAs for Hulk’s strength ratcheting up with his anger, the only apparent limit may be to his anger, itself. Many think that Hulk can continue adding to his already stratospheric strength levels, but this requires his anger to be limitless, as well.

In a Hulk vs. Superman bout, the outcome of the battle may very well hinge entirely on the veracity of this assumption.

In a Marvel Comics’ series, there was an incredibly powerful being called Onslaught; the mind-spawn of Professor X and Magneto.

Heroes rose and fell in attempts to breach his hide; none succeeded in even harming the ultra-powerful telepath. It was then that Jean Grey, harbinger of the Phoenix Force, used her powers to banish all humanity from Banner/Hulk; thereby turning him into the personification of anger. Finally, the onslaught that Hulk – in this rage-maxed form – launched managed to break Onslaught’s armor.

In the World War Hulk and Planet Hulk story lines, Hulk seemingly reached a level of anger that simply could not be surpassed when his wife and unborn child were killed. We shall take a look at this one later, after first investigating how Superman might deal with Hulk’s increasing strength as he gets angrier and angrier.

These are just a handful of the Incredible Hulk’s dashing feats of strength; to give you an idea of what the rage-monster is capable of.

Hulk raises Thor's hammer

superman emerging from fire

Superman vs Hulk – Limitless Powers?

hulk smashes caped beingAs if these two power-behemoths weren’t strong enough, Hulk and Superman are some of the most powerful meta-humans just at their baseline levels. It is difficult for other strong super-beings to simple hurt them at all in many cases – much less actually have a shot at taking them down.

Let’s take the Incredible Hulk, for example. When Bruce Banner, nuclear theoretical physicist and one of the seven smartest people in the Marvel Comics’ Universe, turns into the Green Goliath, there are perhaps just five other humanoid characters that can stand toe-to-toe with him in strength. These are the Mighty Thor (he’s an Asgardian god, folks), Gladiator – the intergalactic champion of the Shi-ar Empire, Hercules, Drax the Destroyer, and Juggernaut.

Among the beings that surpass Hulk in strength might be Sentinel and Onslaught – but that isn’t nearly the entire story. If an adversary who hasn’t quite read up on Hulk’s brief does something to make him angry, Hulk’s abilities ratchet up to untold heights if this continues. Yes; that’s why he is the rage monster – he goes from being an incredibly-difficult out, to being nigh-unstoppable. As Hulk becomes angrier and angrier, he can now match or damage the likes of Onslaught and Sentinel.

superman using chain t move planetIn a Hulk vs. Superman battle, this is the most important thing that Kal-El of Krypton will have to deal with. Hulk has traded blows with the Mighty Thor, goodness’ sake, and picked up his hammer Mjolnir as his anger became unmanageably large.

Of course, Superman has picked up the hammer, too, and actually defeated Thor with a knockout punch in the Avengers vs DC crossover comic.

So, although the Big Green Machine has hoisted billion-ton mountains aloft, and dove in the ocean to move an entire island closer to shore, Superman has moved solar systems (Silver Age Superman) and bench-pressed a planet for a business week – without the aid of the sun.

The X-Men’s Jean Grey employed the Phoenix Super-Force to relieve Hulk of his humanity in the battle against the psychic spawn of Magneto and Professor X.

This caused the Hulk to become as angry as possible, in a sense, as Banner’s calming influence and mental safeguards were no longer an impediment to him reaching his full strength and power.

In this form, Hulk did something that the combined might of Earth’s heroes had been unable to do: he broke Onslaught’s armor.

There have been other tremendous feats of strength from either side, such as Superman holding a Black Hole in his hands an lifting half of infinity (don’t ask), or Hulk punching holes in reality and thunder-clapping light to fill a parallel universe.

The important thing here, for a Hulk vs. Superman fight, is that their power levels can increase. Hulk’s, as he gets angry, and Superman’s, as he bathes in the Sun or asks more of his Kryptonian physiology.

fanart-hulk-vs-superman-final

The Lord of Rage and the Prince of Power

hulk propels himself upAs the Incredible Hulk gets angry or feels pain, his Class 100 strength grows seemingly without bound. I say seemingly, because it is dependent on pain and anger.

So, if those two feelings are boundless, then so is Hulk’s strength (and other powers, such as durability, leaping, stamina, regenerative attribute, etc).

In a Hulk vs. Superman battle, Kal-El will quickly become aware of the need to put the beast down – if he can. He’ll notice – as Hercules did with Gaea’s son Antaeus in Greek mythology – that his opponent does not seem to be tiring as the fight wears on.

Unlike Antaeus and Hercules, however, it is unreasonable to think that Superman could hoist Hulk above his head and strangle or crush him.

Hulk heals very quickly, and is difficult to control – even for Superman, although the Man of Steel would be the most capable humanoid Hulk has ever faced.

Those aware of the Superman mythos are of course aware of his incredible speed. This, as much as anything else, may make the Superman vs Hulk battle one-sided.

Hulk is very fast, but he cannot speed past gods the way Clark can. For example, Hulk’s listed speed of 300 miles per hour on ground is brutally fast; but he may as well be crawling compared to the interstellar speed of the Kryptonian – even if we discount his Silver Age speeds that allowed him to turn back time.

Hulk’s speed derives from his prodigious strength, and is limited by what the ground can sustain anyway, since he cannot fly. At some point, even as Hulk grows stronger with pain or rage, the ground would give way and he would just keep “running downward” into the flames he creates from molten rock.

The Otherworldly Speed of the Kryptonian

superman catches flashSuperman’s speed, on the other hand, is an entirely separate power, added to the excess speed he gets from the sheer force he can impart to the ground. When launching flying attacks, Hulk would be struck before he even understands from which direction Superman is streaming towards him.

Basically, then a speed blitz for which Hulk has no answer is a very possible method of attack that Superman could utilize – which even the thunder god Thor could not unleash.

Next, Superman would recognize the potential for great destruction inherent in their little dance. Using his strength, speed and powers of flight, he could make Hulk a victim of momentum and inertia – similar to how Kal handled Doomsday – and throw him somewhere far away so that they could fight.

Indeed; is it even possible for Superman to make Hulk angry enough for him to reach impossible levels?

It seems that, unless something truly diabolical happens – such as the death of a loved one at the hands of his adversary – Hulk cannot just decide to get as angry as he wants in the comic books.  Hulk had his pregnant wife killed in the World War Hulk storyline, which eventually led to his planet-rending World Breaker form.

That notwithstanding, it took the Phoenix Force to absolve him of any checks to his rage. Simply beating him up doesn’t make his anger increase interminably; and I have a theory as to possibly why:

As Hulk’s strength and abilities ratchet up, so too does his resistance to injury and his ability to heal from damage. Hulk will become too physically resilient for most super-beings to hurt him at some point, so he will no longer feel pain, and he will heal extremely quickly from any damage he does happen to suffer at the hands of an ultra-meta.

superman unchained

Hulk radioactive anger

These do NOT make a recipe of increasing anger. It is doubtful that Hulk could ever become resilient enough that the likes of Superman couldn’t hurt him, but he does become more and more capable of shrugging off blows if Clark doesn’t start to truly unleash his power, or flat-out sun-dip.

superman hulk fight image from nerdist.comSo, if the Hulk is losing a battle and getting angrier and angrier, it will become harder to inflict pain and damage on him – barring a single, absolutely catastrophic barrage that supersedes his capacity to regenerate.

This begs the question, by what mechanism would his anger continue increasing…?

For these reasons and more, Hulk vs. Superman is a very interesting fight. Hulk’s anger increases his strength, his resistance to injury and his healing factor.

On the other hand, when Superman gets angry, he does something he rarely does – unleashes his true power levels; unconstrained by the frailty of his surroundings (steel, concrete, etc).

Additionally, the Man of Steel can sun-dip for even greater powers – which means he gets even faster, which may be the only thing for which the Incredible Hulk cannot account. All of Hulk’s physical attributes exceed godlike levels to a similar degree as Superman’s; but that complete lack of relative speed just might be the nail in the Green Goliath’s coffin in a fight with the Last Son of Krypton.

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