I take on the heavy task of an Iron Man vs Hulk article with extra enthusiasm. In every article, I’ve written about Iron Man on this site, and there have been quite a few, the Hulkbuster Armor comes up.
Each dive into Tony Stark’s history reveals that one of the constant battles the suited-up, chest reactor super genius has is against Banner. When doing this job, I love reading the comics I gather information from. It’s my favorite research.
Now, what I haven’t gotten to do was write a Hulk article yet. This is my first one. What’s special about that to me is that The Hulk was one of my weekly comics as a kid.
Specifically, his run where he was having trouble feeling emotion and couldn’t revert back to Bruce Banner. I love his Grey Hulk persona, as well. Though I wouldn’t read those classics until later on.
Speaking of reading; for this article, I’ve spent an entire week catching up on comics where these two battled. Let me tell you, they have thrown down many, many times.
I’m ready to give you a winner, but first, let me share with you how I got there.
Bottom Line Up Front: This article will declare a winner between two of Marvel’s top heroes by comparing their cannon comic book selves. It will look at their previous battles and give you many links should you wish to read some of these.
Main Differences: Tale of the Tape
The obvious difference is strength. The Hulk’s strength comes from his rage and, to some extent, the very essence of his will. There may be no limit to his strength cap in some written instances.
Iron Man, with his best suit, is incredibly strong, but it has limits. That strength is limited to how much power he puts out and how much that suit is damaged. Not to mention, it is just a man behind that armor.
Edge Goes To: The Hulk
Would another obvious difference be intellect? No. This is actually a closer contest. The Hulk is Bruce Banner, a leading mind in science. A nuclear Physicist, a biochemist, and a renowned researcher.
While Tony is one of the smartest people in the Marvel Universe, he admits to having no advantage in a battle of wits during a fight with Bruce. Tony’s only advantage in intellect comes from his tech, which he brings into the fight. In the fight itself, it’s an even playing field.
Edge Goes To: Nobody
That topic brings me to this next difference. Powers. While it is true that Hulk has raw strength beyond what Tony can muster, what else does The Hulk have? Well, he can regenerate at pretty rapid speeds and withstand massive, near-planetary damage.
Tony though? If needed, his suit has flight, speed, repulsor rays, an arc blast, and sonic disruptors for sound damage. It can create flashes of high-powered light and tiny targeted lasers or incisor-like effects.
It can hack into other technology, be used remotely, and repair itself and even Tony to some extent. While Hulk is more powerful, Iron Man has a larger array of “powers.”
Edge Goes To: Iron Man
Durability is clearly in The Hulk’s favor, but Tony will likely hit Hulk more often. The question becomes, who breaks first? So, the next category to compare them, in my mind, is combat.
Regarding fighting skills, Tony has been in enough fights to be good at it. His Iron Man computer reads movements. It adjusts in fight to patterns and prepares attacks as it assesses threats.
In contrast, Hulk is instinct personified in his pure primal form. His speed matches his strength, and he has spent years fighting things equally as strong as he just to survive.
He is revered by the Asgardians, a warrior people, for his battle prowess. It’s hard to give an edge either way, as both will constantly adjust as the fight goes on.
Edge Goes To: Nobody
Why Need for Tony?
Everything about Tony comes down to need in a way. The very suit he wears came into existence because he needed to stop his own death. Building a reactor to keep his heart alive. Then he needed to escape, building a suit that could be powered by that reactor.
Later, he felt he needed to atone for his past as an arms dealer and became a hero. Eventually, going further with his designs and goals. Feeling like he needed to be the one to keep the entire world safe from outside threats.
Every fight he’s ever had with The Hulk was out of necessity. Feeling like he needed to stop him or needed to help him. This is the core of Tony Stark.
Is Hulk Only Rage?
No. Bruce Banner is the nicest guy in the room. He is the kind one, the one full of empathy. The “bleeding heart” who tries to “use his power and mind for the better of all.” The hero scared of the pain he could cause.
Even before he became The Hulk. Yet, as a man, he was often walked over and on by more powerful men. Turning his research into a weapon, creating The Hulk.
I have said this once and will say it countless times: “Nothing is scarier than when the nicest people snap.”
Hulk is not doing what he does out of some idealism of need or guilt. When The Hulk is coming at you full force, when he is yelling and on the hunt for someone, it is out of rage. You should be scared.
Calm that rage, however, and you can survive The Hulk.
A History of Battle
I usually like to go over similar opponents each character has faced. This is not needed here. In the halls of Marvel Comic history, Iron Man and The Hulk have fought as many times, if not more, than most heroes and their arch-rivals.
Since the very first time they met, in the first issue of The Avengers comic, Iron Man and The Hulk went at it. There is a wary man in Tony Stark who wants to see Bruce as a friend and be kind to the monster The Hulk but also fears him. He made his suit to protect the world from threats too great for mere men to handle. Hulk is that.
No man-made weapon has ever hurt the great green goliath. In Tony’s mind, he is humanity’s defender. Every time it seems like The Hulk is out of control, Iron Man is one of the first to step up and stand between him and the carnage he could cause.
More than once, Tony has done this mistakenly and paid the price. On occasion, rare occurrences, Iron Man was correct. Hulk did need to be subdued. Within the confines of those few instances, Tony was even able to either be the one to take him down or play his role in a larger team to do so.
One thing is apparent as I gander through the comics of old and new. Every Hulkbuster armor ever made was eventually busted by The Hulk. Iron Man rarely topples the green giant.
The most dominant instance is when The Hulk turned the armor into a literal shell of steel to encase Tony as he spoke. So that his old friend would be forced to listen. A great suit made to take down Bruce Banner was ripped up and crumbled like a ball of paper around Tony Stark.
That’s not the only battle I went through; Tony’s victories also need to be spoken of.
Avengers: Age of Ultron
In the MCU, the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Iron Man’s Hulkbuster armor actually beat The Hulk. This armor borrowed some upgrades from some of the best suits in Marvel Comics, repairing itself mid-battle when damaged.
The repairs, the quick thinking, and the fact Hulk was under some sort of ‘influence’ can be used attributed to why Tony was able to beat him. Love or hate the Marvel movies, this fight was both awesome and cannon.
This means Tony got a fair win over The Hulk under the Marvel Umbrella. It was not easy. It took a lot of outsmarting him when he was in his mindless form and left a path of carnage in its wake. Just the same; it was the one time the Hulkbuster suit really came through.
They also fought in the short-lived Iron Man cartoon in the 90s. Check out Season 2, Episode 11 on Apple TV. It strangely involved time travel and had Iron Man trying to help Bruce never become The Hulk.
In the comics, Iron Man does have one significant win.
The Might of Iron Man
Iron Man may not have won often, but some discrepancies can be taken from the context of most of these fights.
In them, Iron Man often tried only to subdue and reason with Hulk. Even in their first encounter, in which Iron Man arguably won by molding some steel to hook The Hulk into a wall. The Hulk may have been able to escape, but the dialogue was open, and they ended up fighting Loki together.
In other areas, Tony often realizes that he has to “come up” with some way to subdue The Hulk. Not being able to take him down outright. Worried about the damage the fight would cause, or for that matter, about hurting his friend.
There is one instance of Iron Man with his back against the wall and no Hulkbuster armor that Tony came through. Channeling all of his power into one single punch, he was able to knock out the Hulk. His suit died afterward, and he collapsed, but he knocked the lights out of an Unstoppable Force.
Has he done it since? In another Iron Man run in 1996, they would knock each other out, but never again did he land such a decisive victory in the comics. Even when he brought his best to the table.
World War Hulk
There is a pinnacle of Hulk that many fans will use to define him as one of the most powerful Comic Book characters. That is the “Worldbreaker” version of The Hulk.
What’s to note about this Hulk is he is cannon. This is exactly what those fans say it is, the full extent of how dangerous The Hulk could be. This is a “nuclear blast to the chest doesn’t bother me” kind of Hulk. Why? He was seeking revenge for the death of his wife. His rage truly had no end.
It was not intentional, but it didn’t have to happen. The most powerful heroes in the world sent Hulk away to a planet that might be more suited for the likes of him. They were right. He found a home there as The Hulk. He was Banner no more and it was okay. He fell in love with a warrior woman and things were fine.
His ship’s warp core exploded, and he took it as a booby trap of those who sent him. He blamed all of Earth. With his dead wife in his hands, Hulk would go to war with Earth and the heroes who sent him there on that ship, the ship that killed his wife. They were going to pay. Pay they did.
In what was supposed to be Tony Stark’s best Hulkbuster armor, Iron Man confronted the green monster upon entering Earth.
The fight was a destructive brawl greater than almost any they’d had before. In the end, with his rage at its peak, Hulk was not even injured. Iron Man was wrecked. In Tony’s defense, nobody stopped this version of The Hulk.
It took The Sentry, a being with the power of 1000 suns, to hang with the Worldbreaker Hulk. He didn’t win, either; they went blow for blow.
However, this version of The Hulk is rare, and there was one instance that was given far more pages. Where the best of Tony and The Hulk as they are more commonly seen collided in yet another glorious battle.
My favorite portion of the history between Hulk and Iron Man is the storyline encapsulating the Original Sin arc.
In this wonderfully written piece of comic history, Iron Man is shown to be…I can’t. It’s one of my favorite reads. I’ll put a link and suggest you pick it up. There are plenty of spoilers in the world, but reading through Original Sin for the first time is a feeling I don’t have the heart to take from you.
Nonetheless, the fight that occurs in this Hulk VS Iron Man arc is my favorite. Iron Man had an entire city ready to battle The Hulk. Massive rays and blasts and plan after plan.
The Hulk coming after Tony wasn’t just brute force. It was Bruce Banner. He was intelligent.
The fight went on for several issues. I complain about VS comics often not giving us any real fight, this one delivered. It even came to a beautiful end.
With its final pages, I am reminded that Tony’s many tricks and powers rarely put down The Hulk. They were at their best averages here, and damn if it wasn’t a close fight. When it came down to it, the Hulk’s rage was greater than Tony Stark’s needs.
This is where I take all I’ve learned and send our combatants into a hypothetical battle. I walk them into an empty area, in this case, a whole island, where they can let loose on one another.
A victor must emerge. These two have already fought at the hands of many talented comic book writers. The consensus is usually in Hulk’s favor.
After all these years, let’s see if I come to a different conclusion.
Enter the Fighters
In the current run of The Hulk, Iron Man, and the Jade Giant tussle again. Hulk gains a bunch of power upgrades, and wins, twice. Even “besting” four Hulkbuster armors. I’m not a fan of him having laser eyes suddenly, but it counts as current cannon. The laser eyes and Banner piloting Hulk like a ship will not be present in this fight.
Here’s how our fighters will stack up.
Tony is bringing my favorite suit to this fight, the Mark 70. It’s optimal power, has a defib, regenerates, and can go toe to toe with The Sentry…for a little while.
Hulk is bringing his most common form. A talking, thinking, dangerous green one. Not the “you killed my wife” rage-induced Worldbreaker.
They meet, and Iron Man lets him know it’s time for Hulk to stop being Hulk. Bruce lets Tony know it’s time Iron Man was humbled. They have a history, it’s a friendship, but it’s a rocky one.
The first round is Iron Man pulling out all his stops. Immediately trying to daze The Hulk with sonic disruptors, as once worked to save his life in The Ultimates. A dazed Hulk taking a powerful blow to the head has put him out before.
The Hulk claps so thunderously that it sends stronger sound waves than Tony’s machine. Some pummeling is coming.
The Hulk wrecks Tony, smash for smash. Each blast from Iron Man and each punch has both of them destroying the very layout of the island. Finally, The Hulk will rip out the heart of the suit, not to kill him but to power him down.
He’ll fix it after.
A few dozen tiny nanites and some powerful electrocution later, the Jolly Green Giant is out cold.
Tony did it. He’s fought Hulk dozens of times. He’d known Bruce would close in on him. He was ready. As he once blasted a small laser into the skull of The Hulk, forcing him to revert to Bruce, he knew smaller incisions would barely be noticeable.
The Hulk isn’t done, though, he regenerates very quickly, and electrocution is a good reminder of all the crap he’s been through. It’s the military’s go-to when they try to bring him in.
His eyes are open, his speech is grunts, and he is mad.
Image from Original SinThe cat and mouse round. Iron Man is fleeing and fighting in fleeing. He doesn’t want to lead Hulk to civilization, so he has to try and keep it on this island. The problem, Hulk is fast when he’s angry.
Eventually, The Jade Giant catches Iron Man and crushes his arms. An arc reactor to the chest sends him hurling like a crater into the island.
Tony is low on power, but at least The Hulk is seemingly down.
“I should know better,” pre-emptively, Iron Man realizes what’s coming. As the skin heals from the burning of the chest blast, Hulk is roaring. Tony’s suit repairs its arms, but is it in time?
He leaps towards a weakened Iron Man with a fist that would kill him. Iron man disassembles his armor to drop, then reassembles it below The attacking Hulk.
Iron Man flies upward and fast. Hulk doesn’t breathe in space.
He makes it to barely the clouds before, with a shift of muscles, all more powerful than the might of an army; the Hulk’s swinging arm comes to the head of Tony Stark.
Iron Man goes crashing into the ground.
Hulk comes tumbling down in a free fall, but the Iron Man suit is unresponsive.
As Hulk lands, the defib kicks in, more charging the suit than the man. Tony begrudgingly stands up.
This fight, at this point, Tony needs help. Without help, Tony has to flee. His only chance is a lucky blow. It is a little easier when Hulk is winning like this because his rage is less intense when he’s near victory.
I harken back to the old comics. All Iron Man’s power into one punch. The two charge at each other, complete energy into Tony’s right arm. He aims for the part of the skull that will knock the beast out. Hulk is simply aiming to smash.
How angry is the Hulk? Does the hit take him down? Well, Tony connects, but Hulk also connects. His hand bursts through the Mark 70, bloodied from the quality of the steel. Iron Man’s fist hits the skull, and we get a double knockout.
The catch? Remember when his armor disassembled and reassembled. He got out of it. He knew better. This Mark 70 was fighting remotely. Iron Man won.
Or he would have if this was the brutish Hulk. The fall and the defib catching his ears, reminding him of humanity, was enough for Bruce to regain his senses.
Tony, breathing heavily and laughing in relief, sits far away from his suit. He thinks he won but would most likely be glaring at Hulk walking toward him. The Mark 70 arm meant to strike him in Hulk’s left hand and a broken suit in his right.
Walking towards Tony, tossing the beautiful piece of armor into the water. Banner would ask, “Do you want me to wait for it to repair itself, or are you going to admit I won?”
I give this battle to The Hulk, Five out of Five times.
Does that make it a tie? Well, yeah, Iron Man could have landed that punch. So, it’s technically a tie.
My decision in this instance is The Hulk. Tony only defeats the mindless version of Banner. The thing is, that’s Banner half the time.
Some of the Comics Read for this Article
- Ultimate Human #1
- Hulk #1 and #7 (2021-Present)
- Avengers #1 1963
- Incredible Hulk #316
- Iron Man #2 1996
- Original Sin: Hulk VS Iron Man
- Iron Man #305 1994
- The Ultimates #5 2002
- Iron Man #132 1980
- World War Hulk
Thank You for Reading
This was a really fun article to write. I read so many comics through the course of this. I put them in the article where I could. I hope you give some of them a read as well.
We do a lot of Versus articles on the site where lore and history are often used to decide a winner. Make sure to give those a read.
Take care, True Believer.
Question: How did Iron Man Beat The Hulk?
Answer: While killing Hulk is nearly impossible, knocking him out and keeping him as Banner are ways Iron Man has won.
Question: Is Iron Man Stronger than The Hulk?
Answer: No. Hulk is the strongest there is. Just ask him.
Question: Are Hulk and Iron Man Friends?
Answer: Yes, in many iterations. Though they had a rough start, over time, as scientists and heroes, they tend to bond very well.
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