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. After a brief battle, Fin Fang Foom resists the control and aids the Colossus against an alien invasion (intent on preserving the planet for the alien's own race to conquer at a later date) before 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 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.
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.
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).
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.
Foom is extremely vulnerable to an unidentified herbal leaf found only in China. This herb is capable of quickly putting Foom to sleep for extremely long periods of time, perhaps indefinitely, as long as it remains in his general vicinity.