Making his debut in Strange Tales #89 (Oct. 1961) during the Silver Age of Comic Books, Fin Fang Foom appeared during what fans and historians call Marvel Comics "pre-superhero" period, which would not become integrated into Marvel's mainstream fictional continuity until the 1970s.
Writer-editor Stan Lee's inspiration for the character's name was the title of the 1934 movie version of the long-running British stage musical Chu Chin Chow. As Lee described in 2005,
When I was a kid, I loved going to the movies. When I say a kid, I mean 10, 11, 12 years old. And there was one movie I'd seen. I remember nothing about it except the name. It took place in China, I believe, and the name of the movie was Chu Chin Chow. Now I have no idea what it meant — I don't know if it was somebody's name or a country or a city, but I never forgot that name. Those three words just stuck in my memory: Chu Chin Chow. So when I was looking for the name of a monster, I remember Chu Chin Chow ... and that particular meter, that beat, somehow led to Fin Fang Foom. (Transcript of 2005 interview)
The character first appeared in the standalone story "Fin Fang Foom" in Strange Tales #89 (Oct. 1961) and reappeared in Astonishing Tales #23-24 (April & June 1974). He was impersonated by the Midgard Serpent in Thor #379 (May 1987). His first story was reprinted in Fantasy Masterpieces #2 (April 1966), Where Monsters Dwell #21 (May 1973) and Marvel Monsterworks (1990). Foom eventually reappeared in Marvel continuity in Legion of Night #1-2 (Oct. 1991), and then made multiple appearances in Iron Man #261 - 264 (Oct. 1990 - Jan. 1991); 267 (April 1991) & 270 - 275 (July-Dec. 1992), and returned in Iron Man vol. 3, #15-18 (April–July 1999).
An alternate version appears in Mutant X Annual 2001. Foom briefly appeared in the intercompany crossover JLA/Avengers #1 (Sept. 2003). The villain Nightmare changed a creature called a Mindless One into a copy of Foom to battle the Hulk in Hulk vol. 3, #79 (May 2005).
The character's origins and early days are developed in Marvel Monsters: Monsters On The Prowl #1 (Dec. 2005) and Fin Fang Four #1 (Dec. 2005). Foom also appeared in Nextwave #1-2 (March–April 2006), Marvel Holiday Special 2006 (Jan. 2007), in a dream in Howard the Duck Vol. 3 #1 (Nov. 2007), in Iron Man: Las Vegas (May - June 2008); and appeared briefly in the limited series Age of the Sentry #1-6 (Sept. 2008 - May 2009); one-shot titles Monster-Size Hulk #1 (Dec. 2008) and Dark Reign Files #1 (April 2009) and featured in another monster one-shot, Fin Fang Four Return! (July 2009) as well as another version in Hulk: Broken Worlds #2 (July 2009).
Fin Fang Foom is first awakened by teenager Chan Liuchow, whose homeland is under threat from invading forces of Communist China. Liuchow goads the dragon into chasing him into the Communist camp (which Foom destroys) and then back to Fin Fang Foom's tomb, where the creature is returned to sleep via the use of a rare herb. Scientist Doctor Vault locates and mentally controls the dragon for use against Vault's foe, It, the Living Colossus. Fin Fang Foom resists the control and aids the Colossus against an alien invasion (intent on preserving Earth for the aliens' own race to conquer at a later date), then briefly battles the Colossus before being freed from Vault's control and returning to hibernation once again. Fin Fang Foom is again roused from his slumber when his body is possessed by the demon "Aan Taanu". Combating a group of occult adventurers (including an older Chan Liuchow, now a Professor) known as The Legion of Night in New York, Taanu is exorcised from Foom's body, and the creature once again returns to hibernation.
It is revealed in flashback that Fin Fang Foom is an alien being from the world of Kakaranathara (also known as Maklu IV) in the Maklu star-system of the Greater Magellanic Cloud. The aliens arrive on Earth in ancient China, intending to conquer the planet. Using their natural shapeshifting powers to mimic human form, the aliens infiltrate human society to study it before beginning their conquest. The alien navigator is the exception, and acting as a reserve is placed in a tomb in a catatonic state.
The Makluan vessel is eventually found by a man who steals ten sophisticated rings from it, and becomes the supervillain the Mandarin. The Mandarin is directed to the Valley of the Sleeping Dragon by a man called Chen Hsu, who is also an alien dragon and the captain of the vessel. The Mandarin finds and wakes Fin Fang Foom, using the dragon to threaten the Chinese government. Fin Fang Foom helps the Mandarin take control of one third of China, and is then revealed as an alien of Kakaranathara. With "Chen Hsu", whose true form is also revealed, the pair begin to summon their fellows, who had been disguised as humans for centuries. Realizing he has been tricked, the Mandarin joins forces with heroes Iron Man and War Machine to defeat the dragons, the battle ending with their apparent annihilation.
Although Fin Fang Foom's body is destroyed, the alien's spirit survives and bonds itself to a small dragon statue, which was stolen from a curio shop by teenager Billy Yuan at Fin Fang Foom's mental urging. Using Yuan's body as a conduit for his power, Fin Fang Foom summons thousands of lizards from the sewers beneath New York, merging them with Yuan's body to recreate his own form. Iron Man, however, defeats Foom with assistance from the last remnants of Yuan's mind. Due to legal complications the defeated dragon is sent to Monster Isle once again.
In the JLA/Avengers crossover, Fin Fang Foom and several other monsters are seen briefly battling the dimension-displaced superhero team the Justice League of America.
Fin Fang Foom is captured by the Elder of the Universe known as the Collector, and imprisoned with a subterranean collection of monsters. After being captured along with other monsters by the recently formed Fantastic Four and deposited on "Monster Isle", Fin Fang Foom returns to China and hibernation.
With the other members of the Makluan crew dead, Fin Fang Foom decides to reform and becomes a follower of Buddhism. Entering into a rehabilitation program with three other monsters - the robot Elektro; the giant ape Gorgilla, and the alien Googam - Foom is shrunk down to human size, hypnotically stripped of all powers and allowed to enter human society. Fin Fang Foom becomes head chef in a Chinese restaurant within the Baxter Building, and teams with the other monsters to defeat the size-changing warlord Tim Boo Ba. Fin Fang Foom begrudgingly aids Wong (the servant of Doctor Strange) in defeating a force of HYDRA agents.
Fin Fang Foom is later confronted and defeated by Squirrel Girl.
Howard the Duck also has dreams of playing cards with the Thing; Man-Thing; Bigfoot; Frankenstein's Monster and Fin Fang Foom.
There have also been two imitations of Fin Fang Foom. The Midgard Serpent imitated Foom to attempt to trick the Thunder god Thor, while the villain Nightmare changed a Mindless One into a copy of Fin Fang Foom to battle the Hulk. Thor also claims to have killed the true Fin Fang Foom in battle, and uses the dragon's bones to build a tomb in the realm of Asgard.
Fin Fang Foom and several Makluans come into conflict with the Pet Avengers.
Under orders from the Roxxon Energy Corporation, Mentallo mind-controls Fin Fang Foom and other giant monsters in a plot to take over an island and drill for oil.
During the Monsters Unleashed storyline, Fin Fang Foom, Gorgilla, Green Thing, and Zzutak confront Kei Kawade in the forest outside his house where they caught him offguard. Fin Fang Foom was the one who warned Kei Kawade against the preceding monster summoning. Fin Fang Foom was later seen falling from the sky alongside the other monsters. This was because Fin Fang Foom and the other monsters had been summoned by Kei Kawade to help the superheroes fight the Leviathons. He was told by Tim Boo Ba that he and the other monsters are not fighting of their own volition. Kei Kawade later sends Fin Fang Foom to assist the Heroes for Hire against the Leviathons in Hell's Kitchen.
The character possesses super strength, the ability to fly via his wings at supersonic speeds, and can spew combustible acid mist from his mouth. Foom is also extremely durable and can regenerate at a rapid rate. By entering into long periods of hibernation, Foom has managed to survive for centuries. The character possesses a gifted intellect, can communicate telepathically, and has access to advanced alien technology.
In a setting based on the Iron Man film universe, Fin Fang Foom battles Iron Man in the limited series Iron Man: Viva Las Vegas.
In the Marvel 1602 universe, Fin Fang Foom rampaged through China before he was killed by Hulk at the Great Wall of China.
In an alternate universe story in Mutant X Annual 2001, Fin Fang Foom is a member of the Lethal Legion, who dies in battle against the Goblin Queen (posing as the entity the Beyonder).
Foom appears in the limited series Nextwave as a pawn of the Beyond Corporation©. He is now back to his original size. Despite having no genitals, he wears purple pants. Captions indicate his mother became pregnant after interacting with radioactive materials. Foom had been buried for many years; when the Beyond Corp. releases him, he goes on a human-eating rampage. According to Volume 4 of the Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe A-Z hardcovers, this Foom was a clone created by the Beyond Corporation.
In Thor: The Mighty Avenger #6, Heimdall takes the form of Fin Fang Foom calling it "one which is common throughout the cosmos... echoes of a single, ancient dragon, now tamed and humbled."
He appeared in a cameo in Ty Templeton's comic "Stig's Inferno", issue 4, in a parody cigarette advertisement on the inside back cover.Fin Fang Foom appears as a recurring villain in the animated series Iron Man, voiced by Neil Ross. He apparently served the Mandarin but was revealed to be using him so he could bring back his fellow dragons. He and his brethren are killed in an explosion which scatters the Mandarin's rings.
Fin Fang Foom appears in the Iron Man: Armored Adventures two-part episode "Tales of Suspense". This version resembles a Chinese dragon.
Fin Fang Foom is featured in The Super Hero Squad Show episodes "And Lo! A Pilot Shall Come", "Mental Organism Designed Only for Kissing", "This Al Dente Earth", and "When Strikes the Surfer", voiced by Steven Blum. This version is a mindless beast that works for Doctor Doom's Lethal Legion.
Fin Fang Foom appears in the Hulk and the Agents of S.M.A.S.H. episode "Mission: Impossible Man". This version is incapable of speech. Impossible Man appears at the base of the Agents of S.M.A.S.H. in the form of Fin Fang Foom where he attacks them until Hulk sees through his ruse. After absorbing Impossible Man's powers, Sauron later uses them to summon Fin Fang Foom (who was the only reptile that Sauron couldn't control). Due to the absorption of Impossible Man's powers wearing off, Sauron tried to absorb Fin Fang Foom's powers only to be knocked out far into the ocean. The Agents of S.M.A.S.H. fought hard to defeat Fin Fang Foom. When Impossible Man is back at full strength, he borrows a weapon from Henry Pym's laboratory to enlarge the Two-Headed Compound Hulk (Impossible Man's merging of Hulk and Red Hulk from earlier in the episode) to large size so that he can defeat Fin Fang Foom. The Two-Headed Compound Hulk then throws Fin Fang Foom far into the ocean where he landed on Sauron (who was in the water at the time).
Fin Fang Foom appears in the Ultimate Spider-Man episode "The Avenging Spider-Man" Pt. 1. Fin Fang Foom appears as a villain that Spider-Man teams up with the Avengers with. Fin Fang Foom was defeated by the Hulk.
Fin Fang Foom appears in the Avengers Assemble episode "The New Guy." He was seen attacking Washington DC until he fights the Avengers where he is shrunken down by Ant-Man and stored in a small container until they released him back onto Monster Island. While fighting Red Skull and the Mindless Ones, the Pym Particles on Fin Fang Foom wore off as he attacks Red Skull. After a brief opening in the barrier around Monster Island is opened enough for Ant-Man to get through, Fin Fang Foom throws Red Skull through it as well.
Fin Fang Foom appears in the Marvel Disk Wars: The Avengers episode "Together With the Guardians". Fin Fang Foom appears as a dragon that attacks S.H.I.E.L.D's ship.
Fin Fang Foom appears in the Guardians of the Galaxy episode "One in a Million You." The Guardians of the Galaxy barely escape from Fin Fang Foom when on another planet. Later on, it was shown that Collector has added Fin Fang Foom to his collection of alien creatures because he was the last of his kind. When Rocket Raccoon released all the alien creatures, Fin Fang Foom went on the attack. While the other Guardians of the Galaxy distracted Fin Fang Foom, Rocket Raccoon made a makeshift harness which he uses to tame Fin Fang Foom and pin down Collector. After a deal was made between Collector and the Guardians of the Galaxy, Fin Fang Foom and the other alien creatures are released on another planet.
Fin Fang Foom appeared in the animated direct-to-video film The Invincible Iron Man as the Mandarin's guardian in his ceremonial resting chamber.
An image of Fin Fang Foom – based on the character's depiction in the Viva Las Vegas comic series but created specially for the film by artist Adi Granov – makes a brief appearance as an Easter egg in the 2008 live-action motion picture Iron Man.
Fin Fang Foom is featured as the first boss in the video game Marvel: Ultimate Alliance, voiced by James Sie.
Fin Fang Foom makes a brief cameo in Marvel vs. Capcom 3: Fate of Two Worlds in Arthur's ending.
Fin Fang Foom appears as a villain character in Marvel Super Hero Squad Online.
Fin Fang Foom appears in Lego Marvel's Avengers, voiced by Patrick Seitz. The players take a quest from Fin Fang Foom to gather ingredients so that he can start a frogurt company in order to enjoy his culinary wonders. Once that mission is done, Fin Fang Foom can be unlocked as a playable character.