Comic book fans know Bruce Banner, The Incredible Hulk as the original gamma-powered superhero. But his existence spawned an entire corner of the Marvel Comics Universe filled with other gamma radiation empowered characters. For some, came in the form of other Hulk-like identities, but the unpredictable nature of gamma irradiation has yielded some unique results in others.
While not every gamma-powered character becomes a variation of The Hulk, the others have nonetheless utilized their unique abilities to become both The Hulk’s greatest allies, like She-Hulk and Amedeus Cho, as well as some of his most iconic villains like Abomination.
Updated on July 25th, 2022, by Darby Harn: She-Hulk: Attorney at Law brings perhaps the most iconic gamma-powered character after the Hulk to the MCU. Jennifer Walters’ debut in live-action opens the door to other gamma-powered characters and the She-Hulk trailers already reveal that Abomination will appear in the series. The trailers also hint at connections to the Thunderbolts, and other major gamma-powered characters like General ‘Thunderbolt’ Ross, who became the Red Hulk in the comics. With the gamma-powered population in the MCU about to explode, the comics offer many hints at which characters could appear in live-action in the near future.
Lyra hails from an alternate future and thanks to being the daughter of the Hulk and the powerful She-Hulk comic book villain Thundra, she possesses incredible power. Lyra potentially claims the same superhuman strength as her father, but she was genetically engineered to get weaker as she gets angrier, and this scales down her power considerably.
She lifts 100 tons on average, well below her father and even Thundra, though she retains the potential to do much more. She also inherited his healing factor, making her essentially invulnerable to most attacks.
When the Weapon X program that created Wolverine attempted to create a new, more dangerous living weapon, they infused U.S. Navy Seal Clayton Cortez with a combination of harvested mutant genes and gamma-irradiated blood. While recovering from the trauma of this procedure, they also laced his skeleton with adamantium.
Dubbed “Weapon H,” the resulting Wolverine/Hulk hybrid was subjected to memory-erasing and mental-conditioning procedures in an effort to produce an unstoppable, last resort super-soldier. Like his predecessors, Weapon H predictably defied containment, breaking free from the program while seeking to regain the memories of his past life.
A gifted psychiatrist once tasked with “curing” Bruce Banner of his Hulk persona, Leonard Samson instead gained superhuman strength, speed, and reflexes. Like the mythical Samson himself, Doc Samson’s strength ties directly to the length of his hair, and as such, he frequently allows it to grow long to maximize his abilities.
In recent comics, Samson developed further abilities. He now possesses the ability to resurrect himself from the dead, a remarkable power he gained after dying and passing through The Green Door, a metaphysical portal all gamma-powered mutates encounter in death.
Halflife functions like a vampire, draining the lifeforce of gamma-powered victims. He also gleans the powers of gamma-powered characters, acquiring them for himself, making him somewhat like Rogue. Rogue easily ranks among the most powerful X-Men in Marvel Comics for her ability to wield the powers of anyone she touches and Halflife works mostly the same.
Halflife served The Leader, who created distinctive golden armor for him. This armor protected Halflife against the Hulk, but not for long. He died in Incredible Hulk #342 after an epic battle.
Instead of increased physical strength, The Leader’s exposure to gamma radiation heightened his mental prowess, enlarging his brain and cranial cavity, resulting in his iconic elongated head. He primarily funnels his intelligence into creating new inventions as well as scientific pursuits to increase his own abilities even further.
Among the most intelligent characters in the Marvel Universe, The Leader’s increased mental capacity also allowed him to access The Green Door on his own and briefly obtain the powers of The One Below All, the powerful entity behind all gamma-powered characters.
The self-described “Seventh Smartest Person On Earth,” Amadeus Cho used nanobots to alter his own cells to infuse them with gamma powers. This gave him superhuman strength equal to the Hulk’s, though he later lost some strength when he used other nanotechnology to mitigate his rage. This made Cho smaller and not as strong, but he retains his considerable intelligence.
Cho still possesses the ability to bulk up depending on how angry he gets, though this is rare. He lends his strength, speed, and stamina to several superhero teams, including The Champions, which he served on with Ms. Marvel in the comics.
Emil Blonsky’s exposure to Bruce Banner’s gamma radiation work transformed him into the monstrous Abomination. With strength double that of The Hulk at his base level, Blonsky also retained his intelligence. His stamina reaches unimaginable levels thanks to his dense tissue and muscles, making him the ideal foil for the Hulk.
The Abomination later developed the ability to generate gamma radiation from his own body. This proves lethal to regular humans close enough to be exposed, and also presents serious challenges for characters who absorb latent energy, like Captain Marvel.
Aberration possesses the exact same powers as Abomination thanks to altering her DNA to include Blonsky’s. Like him, she enters suspended animation at will and also in response to extreme pain or conditions. Aberration presumably exits this state the same as Blonsky, with no ill side effects, though it’s unclear she ever used it.
Aberration dies in Incredible Hulk #604, killed by Lyra, a powerful She-Hulk version from Marvel Comics that Aberration and other Gamma Corps members had been sent to apprehend.
Stranded on an alien world, Hulk battled his way from slave to sovereign and fathered a child along the way. Skaar, Son Of Hulk, inherited his father’s gamma-powered strength and invulnerability, as he displayed when he returned to Earth along with the Hulk and unleashed absolute devastation on New York City in World War Hulk.
Skaar also possesses ‘the old power,’ a mystic ability of the Shadow People that allows him to manipulate earth elements like lava and stone and use them against potential enemies.
The longtime love interest of Bruce Banner, Betty Ross, gained gamma powers to become the Red She-Hulk. Her superhuman strength, stamina, and endurance put her on par with She-Hulk for the most part, but she possesses several unique abilities. She bears razor-sharp talons, sharp enough to cut through the Hulk’s super dense skin and muscle.
When she evolved into the Harpy, she gained giant wings, allowing her to fly. If Betsy Ross returns to the MCU in the future, the Red She-Hulk likely emerges and could soon counter She-Hulk.
Comic book fans know She-Hulk gained her superhuman powers in a blood transfusion from her cousin, Bruce Banner. While initially not as strong as the original Hulk, Jennifer retains her own consciousness in her Hulk form, as well as the ability to transition back and forth from her Hulk form to her normal human self.
She-Hulk eventually discovers her strength has no practical limit. Like the Hulk, her strength depends entirely on how angry she gets, and recent versions explore her powers in new ways. Gamora also trained her in various fighting styles, making her even more challenging for opponents in battle beyond her impressive strength.
As Red Hulk, the angrier General ‘Thunderbolt’ Ross gets, the “hotter” he gets, emitting gamma radiation from his body with the ability to melt steel. He becomes even stronger by absorbing radiation into his body. Rather than smashing obstacles, Ross, retaining his intelligence, combines his incredible strength with his brilliant military mind, preferring to use a tactical approach.
Red Hulk defeated She-Hulk in their first encounter, instantly proving his incredible strength. He presents a challenge for all gamma-powered mutates, but his own limits work against him. He builds up so much energy getting angry that he literally overheats and shuts down.
The Spider-Hulk combines the gamma-ray powers of the Hulk with Spider-Man’s web-slinging ability. He possesses all Spider-Man’s powers, including Spider-Sense, adding another asset to the character’s robust defenses. While Peter Parker ranks high in terms of strength, he’s never been stronger than in his Hulk form.
This Spider-Hulk appeared in Immortal Hulk: Great Power #1 from 2020 and echoes another brief Spider-Hulk variant, who appeared once in Web of Spider-Man #70 from 1990.
Hulkpool merges Hulk’s superhuman power with Deadpool’s effective immortality, creating a truly powerful being. Hulkpool’s regenerative healing factor goes far beyond the Hulk’s, at least prior to revelations concerning The Green Door, making this version among the most powerful gamma characters in Marvel Comics before considering his proficiency in weapons and combat.
Hulkpool also possesses Deadpool’s trademark comic book determinism. He goes back in time to destroy himself before he gets his powers, wrecking the timeline as he goes, and becoming a chaotic force in the greater Marvel multiverse in the process.
Rick Jones spent much of his early Marvel history as Bruce Banner’s friend and then for a brief time, an alternate version of Bucky, Captain America’s sidekick. Much later, a consortium of The Hulk’s villains captured him, hoping to harvest the remaining traces of his once gamma-irradiated blood. He gained superhuman strength on par with the Hulk and the Red-Hulk.
Rick Jones distinguishes himself from all other gamma Marvel characters thanks to a mysterious energy field called the Destiny Force. This power proved so vast Jones used it to alter reality. Jones counts among the few Marvel Universe characters with this power, and when he is able to harness it, he’s nearly limitless in his ability.
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