The most iconic Hulk vs. Thor fights and who came out on top

Easily the most exciting part of the first Thor: Ragnarok trailer was the promise of an epic arena brawl between Thor and Hulk. They fought in the first Avengers movie, and Thor: Ragnarok easily delivered on what the trailer seemed to promise. But the movie had plenty to live up to, because Hulk and Thor have clashed on the comics pages literally dozens of times over dozens of decades. Here are the most iconic fights between Hulk and Thor.

The Avengers #1-3

One of the highlights of the first Avengers movie was watching Thor and an out-of-control Hulk battle it out on the S.H.I.E.L.D. Helicarrier. These characters actually had a dramatically different first meeting. In fact, it's safe to say that without an out-of-control Incredible Hulk, the comic incarnation of The Avengers would never have come together in the first place.

In that fateful first comic, Loki was manipulating Hulk in order to make him look like … well, an out-of-control rage monster. Hulk thinks he is protecting a train from dynamite, but the dynamite is only an illusion created by Loki. When the train conductor calls for help because he sees Hulk destroying train tracks, his call is answered by Ant-Man, Wasp, Iron Man, and Thor. Thor eventually figures out that Loki is behind everything, but he battles Thor again a couple of issues later. Hulk and Thor start out by trading insults before things get physical on top of a train. Just when readers think they will get to see the brawl to end all brawls, Hulk ties Thor up with some cables and escapes to the desert. Hulk got the best of Thor by using his brains and not just his brawn. Score one for Hulk.

Journey Into Mystery #112

Of course, those early Avengers adventures and other comics were more like preview trailers for the main bout. Marvel knew the fans wanted to see a true knock-down drag-out fight between the two characters, and that's what happened with Journey Into Mystery #112. In order to do so, though, storytelling masters Stan Lee and Jack Kirby engaged in some serious flashback action, as this story is presented as Thor telling some young fans the full extent of his fight with Hulk back in Avengers #3, filling all of us in on a lot of weird adventures that occurred off-panel.

Thor spins a tale of how he and Hulk wanted to definitively test each other's strength. In fact, the arrogant Thor actually asks his father to take away the enchantment that made him transform into Donald Blake when he was separated from his hammer (more on that in a minute), all so he could fight Hulk hand-to-hand. The Hulk, savvier than he looks, wanted to destroy the hammer so his foe would permanently be denied that major advantage. He failed, but still got some good hits in. Hulk eventually throws Thor into a wall of the underground cavern they're in, causing it to cave in and separate them. By the time Hulk digs himself out, Thor has a new dance partner: he's fighting Namor the Sub-Mariner! Therefore, this fuller explanation of their original fight still ends the way the original fight did, with Hulk gaining the upper hand and leaving rather than finishing Thor off while he had him tied up.

Sub-Mariner #35

The next fight is a bit more controversial among those who like to keep track of these things. Hulk ended up fighting Thor again in Sub-Mariner #35, which featured Hulk, Namor, and even the Silver Surfer teaming up to take on The Avengers. This leads to another intense battle between Thor and Hulk, and exactly who won this battle is the subject of fierce debate.

The first part of their fight was par for the course for a Thor/Hulk brawl, with a lot of fists and hammers flying and everyone having a rock 'em-sock 'em good time. In contrast to their first fight, Thor does not willingly give up his access to his magical hammer Mjolnir. But Thor does get separated from his weapon during the fight, and the enterprising Incredible Hulk actually tries to pick it up. Hulk fails, of course, but Thor is in deep trouble. Back in those days, Thor was merged with the relatively feeble body of Dr. Donald Blake (something that would later be retconned), and being separated from his hammer for a full minute would make him transform back into Blake. Hulk basically has Thor dead to rights here, but the UN attacks Hulk and gives Thor the distraction he needs to grab Mjolnir. Afterward, everyone teams up to stop the UN from mucking about with a device that could destroy the entire Earth. This fight could also technically be scored a draw, but Hulk would have certainly won it without the meddling United Nations getting involved. We'll score one for Hulk.

Defenders #10

One of the most famous clashes between Thor and Hulk is in the otherwise humble Defenders #10. This story concerned Thor, Hulk, and other groups racing to collect pieces of the Evil Eye. It was being sought by Doctor Strange's enemy Dormammu, and Loki was manipulating the different groups into simultaneously seeking it so they would fight. And that's exactly what happens when Thor and Hulk are each trying to get a piece: they engage in some trash talk before escalating into a battle. The most famous part of this battle is when the two are grappling each other like Greek gods, each trying to outmatch the other in strength. They hold this pose for over an hour before Doctor Strange and other heroes show up, revealing that everyone has been fooled. Hulk is pissed at both the fight being interrupted and having to give up his piece of the Evil Eye. But he does it anyway, and after that hour-long standoff, this fight ends as a draw.

The Incredible Hulk #255

The battle in The Incredible Hulk #255 mostly started because of the sheer rotten luck on the part of Bruce Banner. In this issue, he woke up from fighting the police as Hulk and hopped a train to get out of the city. However, a guard recognizes him, and Banner nearly runs into an oncoming train. Sheer panic over his imminent demise made him transform into the Hulk, and he safely stopped the oncoming train. Unfortunately for him, Donald Blake was visiting a nearby clinic and quickly transformed into Thor.

The two proceed to have a long and weird fight. At first, Hulk ends things relatively quickly by slamming a boxcar onto his Asgardian foe and leaving him for dead. Thor survives and later finds Hulk in the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel. A clumsy throw of a van by Hulk ends up cracking the roof of the tunnel, causing water to pour in. Noble Thor immediately starts trying to save lives, and Hulk catches him with a sucker punch that knocks Mjolnir out of his grasp. Hulk attempts to lift the hammer and seemingly manages to do so, but only as it has turned back into Donald Blake's cane, whom Thor has also turned back into. Hulk leaves, thinking he knocked the god out of Blake and has won the fight. But he leaves the cane and Thor is able to transform back and save everyone. Some call this a draw because Hulk didn't know the whole score on Thor, but he pretty clearly won this fight with the thunder god. Score another one for Hulk, and score two for Hulk if you count the boxcar takedown.

The Incredible Hulk #300

In previous adventures, Hulk merely appeared to be a mindless beast, but there was actually some aspect of Bruce Banner holding him back. In The Incredible Hulk #300, however, Bruce Banner's mind had committed a kind of abdication, leaving only the Hulk personality in charge. This "Savage" Hulk immediately begins wrecking New York, leading to a fantastic "Hulk vs. everyone" fight. S.H.I.E.L.D. is not able to stop him, nor is Spider-Man. Hulk also fights off Luke Cage, Iron Fist, and Human Torch, and eventually, the Avengers show up.

What follows is a terrific battle, with each Avenger using his or her particular skills to try to subdue Hulk. However, they have the same amount of luck that the other heroes have had, until it's down to just Thor vs. Hulk. They fight across huge swathes of Manhattan, and the battle has some memorable moments, such as Hulk throwing an adamantium statue of himself directly at Thor. Just when it looks like the battle between the two may destroy the entire city, Doctor Strange uses his mystic arts to exile Hulk to another dimension. While this won't be the first time Hulk is forcibly exiled from the Earth, it does go as another victory for him over Thor. Doctor Strange had to magick him to another dimension, for crying out loud!

The Mighty Thor #385

In the Mighty Thor #385, we see more of the mindless, savage version of Hulk. He has destroyed half a forest already, and Thor heads to Hulk to try to stop him before he can destroy New York or hurt any innocent humans. At first, this looks like one of their standard duels, with Thor seeming to get an edge early on, mostly thanks to the power of Mjolnir. Hulk suggests they duke it out without Mjolnir and threatens to kill a completely innocent woman that he has taken hostage if Thor doesn't comply. The God of Thunder, now able to lose contact with the hammer without transforming, throws it as far as he can so they can engage in another hand-to-hand battle.

This battle has a clear winner. Without the aid of Mjolnir, Hulk starts getting the best of Thor. In fact, as Thor weakens, the enraged Hulk seems to get stronger and stronger. Eventually, the hammer returns and Hulk voluntarily stops the fight because he feels he has proven his point about who is stronger. Hulk dips out, having notched another tally on the board. This fight made it quite clear that the only thing standing between Thor and a severe Hulk beatdown is Mjolnir.

The Mighty Thor #489

In The Mighty Thor #489, we see a rare sight: Hulk is fighting Thor, but he is doing so to save the thunder god's life. At the time, Thor is actually a slave to Hela and stuck in her realm, Hel. Hulk goes in to save Thor's life, but Thor is forced to fight Hulk. Normally, fighting Thor wouldn't be a problem, but this was during a period in Hulk's life when unleashing his full rage actually forced him to transform back into Bruce Banner. Thus, Hulk had the dual handicap of not being able to tap into his full, raging strength and wanting to save Thor rather than pound him into the ground. The two struggle and actually destroy a good chunk of Hel. Hela eventually trades Thor in order to receive Malekith and Kurse back. We are left with another draw between the two, or we can consider them both winners for saving Thor's life and for double-punching a Hel beast on their way out.

Incredible Hulk #440

In the Incredible Hulk #440, the two warriors clash again, though it is under very bizarre circumstances. Terrorist attacks from a group called "The Alliance" have countries around the world considering going nuclear, which could easily spell the end of the world. Hulk decides to avert Armageddon in the Hulkiest way possible: he grows a badass beard, gives himself a supervillain name ("The Maestro"), and proclaims that he is the leader of the Alliance so that the world will focus on killing him instead of each other. And when the world needs a volunteer to go kill a Hulk, Thor is quite eager for the fight.

Relative to most of their prior fights, this one is serious business. Thor wants to kill Hulk, and in order to do so, he decides to embrace a kind of killer mindset that he calls "the warrior's madness" (possibly because Wolverine has a trademark on "berserker rage"). Despite going all in on this fight, Thor still can't beat Hulk, and it looks like the two are going to have another standstill. When it looks like Thor won't be able to kill Hulk, the Army actually authorizes dropping a nuclear weapon on their position in the antarctic. Hulk sees the bomb coming and, rather than let Thor die, tosses the Asgardian to safety. Hulk, too, manages to survive, leaving this fight as another draw.

Incredible Hulk annual (2001)

In the Incredible Hulk Annual of 2001, the two warriors have a pretty straightforward fight. The plot for it is pretty similar to early stories, with Hulk being in a savage, mindless state yet again. When he attacks the Army, Thor goes to stop him. Hulk insults the thunder god by pointing out that he needs Mjolnir to win the fight. Hulk is obviously trying to goad Thor into giving up his advantage, but Thor has apparently learned from their battles over the years and decides that he will use every trick up his sleeve in order to beat Hulk.

We get to see some more exotic tricks from Thor in this battle, too. When their raging battle looks like it might hurt innocent lives, Thor uses his magic hammer to transport both of them to another dimension. It's a really noble gesture, but it doesn't work out too well for Thor: after a bit more fighting, Hulk throws Thor into a mountain and an avalanche crushes the God of Thunder. Hulk has clearly won this fight, but later, Thor catches up to Hulk in order to bring them both back to Earth, as Thor has realized Hulk is a dangerous threat to pretty much any dimension he's dropped into. Hulk fights Thor again, but the God of Thunder is able to knock him out with a lightning bolt. So this is really two fights: Hulk wins the first one, and Thor wins the second.

Hulk: Let the Battle Begin

Sick of all these draws yet? Well, Marvel felt your pain, which is why it published Hulk: Let the Battle Begin. This story is another kind of flashback tale that reveals Hulk's previously untold adventures. In this one, Hulk starts out by fighting the Thor villains The Wrecking Crew. However, he's fighting them in the trademark Hulk fashion of destroying everything in the surrounding area, so Thor shows up to stop him. It doesn't help that they are fighting at Mount Rushmore, so Hulk's rages run the risk of destroying a major national monument.

At first, it looks like Thor is going to win this one. Throughout their long fight, he is beating Hulk into a red and green mess with Mjolnir. However, Hulk's got a Wolverine-esque healing factor that only gets better as he gets pissed off, and he quickly recovers from these wounds. And Hulk has learned over the years that he can't pick up Mjolnir, so he does the next best thing: he grabs Thor's hammering hand and makes the God of Thunder beat himself silly with his own weapon, knocking him out. Not only was this a definitive victory, but it's the kind of thing the Avengers have probably joked about around the water cooler for years: the time one of the mightiest beings in the universe got knocked out by a Hulk-powered "stop hitting yourself" attack.

Ultimates #5

The Ultimate line of Marvel comics was Marvel's attempt to create a new universe that would recruit new readers who wouldn't have to struggle with understanding decades of continuity. Marvel also took the opportunity to make these stories grimmer and grittier than their counterparts, and this was most obvious with Hulk. In these comics, Bruce Banner is a neurotic scientist who is tasked with recreating the Captain America super-soldier formula. His efforts are mostly failures, and Captain America undermines a lot of his work when he resurfaces. When the expensive government team The Ultimates doesn't have any real villains to fight, Banner voluntarily transforms himself into the Hulk.

It was probably one of Banner's worst ideas. Hulk kills hundreds of people, and he ends up King Kong-climbing a tall building to chase after his girlfriend, who's having dinner with Freddie Prinze Jr. Hulk screams about being horny while fighting off the Ultimates, and that's plenty awkward. They eventually call in Thor, their ace in the hole. Thor's best attacks merely slow Hulk down, and Hulk eventually throws Thor away like a bag of garbage. The Ultimates then proceed with the next phase of Cap's plan (Wasp crawling inside his brain and stinging him), so it's possible that Thor was holding back and following orders, but this one goes on the book as another definitive victory for Hulk.

Hulk vs. Thor (animated movie)

In a pretty direct display of giving the fans what they want, Marvel released an animated movie that promised a huge title bout between Hulk and Thor. And the movie does not disappoint … in that regard. The paper-thin plot starts out with Loki bringing Hulk to Asgard and controlling the powerful warrior's body. Loki messes up when he focuses on trying to lift Mjolnir, and Thor hits Hulk hard enough to break Loki's control. But the Enchantress had previously separated Banner's mind from Hulk to make room for Loki, so Hulk is just a rage monster, and he straight up kills Thor. Yes, the life is leaving Thor's body because of Hulk. Put one big victory point on Hulk's board.

But wait! Before his soul can be claimed by Hela, the Enchantress rescues Thor's soul with a kiss. That's enough to get Thor back in the game, and he sets out to reunite Banner and Hulk. Because Loki has killed Banner's mind, Thor and a reluctant Loki descend to Hel to rescue Banner before Hulk destroys all of Asgard. Loki gets Hela to transport Hulk's body into Hel, which results in another fight … that Hulk also wins. However, Banner manages to get Hulk's attention and the two join together once more. Hela, examining all of the damage that Hulk has caused to her kingdom, teleports him back to Earth. This is a relatively happy ending for Thor and Hulk, but the movie makes it clear on multiple occasions that Hulk is able to beat Thor to Hel and back.