Marvel Comics: 10 Strongest Gamma Powered Characters (Who Aren't Bruce Banner) – Screen Rant

The unpredictable nature of gamma irradiation has yielded some unique results in the Marvel universe – involving more than just The Hulk.
While Bruce Banner, The Incredible Hulk is the most well known, his existence has spawned an entire corner of the Marvel Comics Universe filled with other gamma radiation empowered characters. For some, this has come in the form of other Hulk-like identities, but the unpredictable nature of gamma irradiation has yielded some unique results in others.
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While not every gamma-powered character is “lucky” enough to become a variation of The Hulk, the others have nonetheless utilized their unique abilities to become both The Hulk’s greatest allies, as well as some of his most iconic villains.
When the Weapon X program that created Wolverine attempted to create a new, more dangerous living weapon, US Navy Seal Clayton Cortez was transfused with a combination of harvested mutant genes and gamma-irradiated blood. While recovering from the trauma of this procedure, he subsequently had his skeleton laced 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.
The longtime love interest of Bruce Banner, it was thought that Betty Ross perished at the climax of writer Peter David’s critically acclaimed run on The Incredible Hulk in 1998. When Red She-Hulk appeared in the comics over a decade later, her identity was initially unknown, but carefully laid clues eventually validated the suspicions of readers when she was revealed to be a resurrected and gamma-empowered Betty Ross. As Red She-Hulk, Betty relished the power and freedom granted by her new identity, operating with a complete lack of accountability for the first time in her otherwise sheltered and scrupulous life.
When the heroes of Earth, exhausted by his frequent rampages, exiled Hulk into space, they had no idea what world-changing sequences were set in motion. Stranded on an alien world, Hulk battled his way from slave to sovereign and fathered a child along the way. Skaar, Son Of Hulk, eventually found his way to Earth, seeking out the father whom he thought abandoned him and battling many of Marvel’s most formidable in the process, including The Fantastic Four and Juggernaut.
After being reunited with his “father” in the form of a depowered Banner, Skaar was at first disappointed by the feeble human claiming his paternity. In time, however, Skaar trepidatiously allowed the genius Banner to mentor him, learning to effectively utilize his incredible strength while attempting to live up to the world-breaking legend of the father he had never met.
Marvel’s original teen sidekick, Rick Jones is directly responsible for the events that created The Hulk. In the following years, Rick found himself tied to an impressive roster of Marvel’s greatest heroes. He trained with Captain America, explored the universe with the son of the original Captain Marvel, and was transformed into an alternate version of The Hulk himself. While he grew into adulthood surrounded by heroes, each of these roles featured Rick as secondary to his partners.
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Rick would finally gain his elusive autonomy when a consortium of The Hulk’s villains captured him, hoping to harvest the remaining traces of his once gamma-irradiated blood. As a side-effect, he was transformed into a blue-skinned, reptilian creature, resembling the classic villain Abomination. Calling himself A-Bomb, Rick’s early tenure as one of the newest Hulks was marked by a significant learning curve. The young hero often allowed his rage to overtake him, in homage to the early trials of his predecessor. Over time, Rick learned to control his transformations, utilizing his gamma-powered abilities to fight alongside the heroes he had long admired.
A gifted psychiatrist once tasked with “curing” Bruce Banner of his Hulk persona, Leonard Samson was instead unwittingly bombarded by gamma radiation himself, transforming the meek doctor into the brash and bravado-prone Doc Samson. Like the mythical Samson himself, Doc Samson’s strength is tied to the length of his hair, and as such, he frequently allows it to grow long to maximize his abilities. While he frequently uses his powers to aid in battle alongside other Marvel heroes, Samson has remained true to his initial calling as a psychiatrist, helping multiple heroes decompress during sessions after missions.
As gamma radiation has come to represent the empowering of some of Marvel’s physically strongest, Samuel Sterns, The Leader is the primary representative of the opposite side of this coin. Instead of increased physical strength, Sterns’ exposure to gamma radiation heightened his mental prowess, enlarging his brain and cranial cavity, resulting in his iconic elongated head. One of the most intelligent characters in the Marvel Universe, The Leader’s increased mental capacity has additionally resulted in an obsessive ambition, leading to multiple complicated schemes in pursuit of power and influence.
The self-described “Seventh Smartest Person On Earth,” Amadeus Cho is a child prodigy who has unwaveringly supported the frequently misunderstood Hulk. After a series of adventures as one of The Hulk’s most loyal allies, Cho was eventually forced by circumstance to siphon some of the gamma radiation that empowered the original, transforming him into a new “Totally Awesome Hulk.” With full awareness of the reputation established by his predecessor, Cho endeavored to forge a new legacy, combining his newfound strength with his formidable intelligence, teaming up with some of Marvel’s greatest heroes, and eventually joining the ranks of a reformed version of The Champions.
Originally a Croatian spy sent to sabotage the New Mexico Air Force base in which Bruce Banner was conducting his experiments with gamma radiation, Emil Blonsky’s exposure to Banner’s work would result in his transformation into the monstrous Abomination. With strength double that of The Hulk at his base level, Blonsky also retained his intelligence.
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The Abomination has arguably become Banner’s greatest nemesis, blaming him for the grotesque form he has become permanently trapped in. Abomination has battled The Hulk to a standstill on numerous occasions, but his most heinous act of vengeance came when he took responsibility for the death of Banner’s longtime love, Betty Ross.
Jennifer Walters’ career as a prosecuting attorney frequently put her in the crosshairs of New York’s prominent crime families. When her life was in jeopardy following an assassination attempt, she was saved by an emergency blood transfusion from her cousin, Bruce Banner, The Incredible Hulk. The resulting infusion of her cousin’s gamma-irradiated blood transformed Walters into The Sensational She-Hulk.
While not as strong as the original, Jennifer retains her own consciousness in her Hulk form, although her newfound strength led to a massive boost to her confidence as she shed her previous insecurities. Eventually learning to control her transformations, Jen would find that she preferred to remain in her Hulk form as a default. As She-Hulk, Walters has continued to practice law, while also building an illustrious super-hero career, at various times serving as a member of The Defenders, Avengers, and Fantastic Four.
Following the epic World War Hulk event, a new, more cunning Hulk would appear, but it would be over a year before fans learned his identity. When it was revealed that the Red Hulk was, in fact, persistent Hulk foe General Thaddeus “Thunderbolt” Ross, many in both the real world and the Marvel Universe were caught off guard. Depicted as pursuing the elimination of The Hulk since his earliest exploits, Ross was one of the last characters expected to become a Hulk himself. Even more unexpected was the way in which he would savor this new identity.
As Red Hulk, the angrier Ross gets, the “hotter” he gets, emitting gamma radiation from his body with the ability to melt steel. Rather than smashing obstacles, Ross, retaining his intelligence, combines his incredible strength with his brilliant military mind, preferring to use a tactical approach. While his origin is tied to a misguided deal with some of Banner’s greatest foes, Ross’ obsessive sense of altruism has proven to be his most redeeming quality. He has since become a valuable member of The Avengers while also building a begrudging truce with his former nemesis, Banner.
NEXT: Marvel’s 10 Best Spider-Powered Characters (Who Aren’t Peter Parker)
Drew Beaty is a third-generation superhero fan who was born and raised in Portland, Oregon. He began his collection with hand-me-down comic books from a used book store owned by his father and grandfather in the late 1980s. Today, Drew owns and has read over 50,000 individual comics. He was once ranked “Best In The World” in the Marvel Comics category of the mobile trivia game Quiz-Up and still has the screenshots to prove it. When he’s not reading or writing about masks and capes, Drew spends his time with his wife and cats, or rubbing elbows with Portland’s music scene, where he has performed in the hip hop group Bad Habitat since 2008.


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