DC Vs. Marvel: The Fights!
Back Issue Ben
We’ve all done it. It’s one of the great things about being a fan of superhero comic books. Debating with the utmost seriousness, about who would win in a fight between character “A” and character “B.” While a lot of the time we get to see these matchups play out in-universe (at least at Marvel, because Marvel likes to have fun), what gets really interesting is debating the relative combat merits of a DC character versus a Marvel character.
Since most of the top DC characters were created to be fantasy ideals (which is to say, boring and unbeatable) Marvel’s iconic characters were often created to be interesting and flawed. Because of this, DC tends to have a distinct power advantage at the top of their lineup. Marvel makes up for this by being smart and sneaky. (Basically, the Justice League is the 2004 Los Angeles Lakers, and Marvel is the Detroit Pistons.)
What follows is an exploration of the long and storied history of Marvel and DC fights. Just the fights, no story or motivations or feelings involved. Who rises, who falls, and who sneaks off to make kissy-face.
Superman vs. The Amazing Spider-Man
Writer: Gerry Conway; Penciler: Ross Andru (with clandestine help from Neal Adams); Inker: Dick Giordano; Editors: E Nelson Bridwell, Stan Lee, Carmine Infantino, Julius Schwartz, Roy Thomas, Marv Wolfman
In 1976, DC and Marvel combined forces to produce the first official published meeting between a DC character and a Marvel character (Wizard of Oz didn’t count). Naturally, the obvious choices were Superman and Spider-Man, the (at the time) flagship characters of both companies.
Manipulated by outside events, the two characters would meet in battle, in a spectacular contest of unparalleled might and skill. Spider-Man was unknowingly aided by a blast of red sun radiation, courtesy of the two villains of the piece, Lex Luthor and Dr. Octopus, giving him an actual fighting chance in the matchup.
(Young Back Issue Ben totally glossed over this scene, or didn’t understand what it meant, so I spent a long while thinking Spider-Man could go toe to toe with Superman. Nobody ever said I was smart.)
Spider-Man starts things out with a devastating (radiation-powered) punch.
After getting knocked around for a bit, Superman loses his cool for a moment and prepares to punch back, stopping himself just in time before landing the blow, which surely would have killed Spider-Man. Even still, the force of the punch sends Spider-Man flying.
Eventually, the radiation wears off, and Spider-Man discovers just how overmatched he is (this is back when Superman was actually a capable and powerful hero, instead of a big blue pushover).
Superman and Spider-Man
Writers: Jim Shooter and Marv Wolfman; Penciler: John Buscema; Inkers: Terry Austin, Klaus Janson, Bob Layton, Steve Leialoha, Bob McLeod, Al Milgrom, Joe Rubinstein, Walt Simonson, Joe Sinnott, Bob Wiacek; Editor: Al Milgrom
This follow-up skipped a rematch between the two protagonists, and had them face off against two other high profile characters from each company.
First up, we see Superman facing off against an out-of-control Incredible Hulk.
The Hulk manages to get in a few good shots.
But eventually, Superman gets a chance to plant his feet, and as he so boldly proclaims, nobody can move him when he doesn’t want to be moved.
|This legitimately blew my mind as a young lad.|
After dodging some machinery, Spider-Man turns out the lights, using that as proof that he means no harm to Wonder Woman.
DC and Superman win the first matchup against the Hulk decidedly, with the second one being a bit of a draw, thanks to Spider-trickery.
(John Buscema is well known for his hatred of drawing superheroes, so this book must have been his greatest nightmare to work on. I like his Wonder Woman though. Also, that has to be the most impressive collection of ‘80s inkers ever assembled.)
Batman vs. The Incredible Hulk
Writer: Len Wein; Penciler: Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez; Inker: Dick Giordano; Editors: Dick Giordano, Al Milgrom, Jim Shooter
Batman finds himself on the wrong end of the Hulk’s anger (and you wouldn’t like him when he’s angry). Batman is able to dodge the Hulks blows, and even breaks free from a bear hug at one point.
Until eventually landing an expert kick to the Hulk’s midsection, which is just effective enough for the gas Batman dropped to take effect.
Later on, the Hulk throws a car at Batman, but Batman does this.
Eventually a building collapses on the two of them, and the Hulk emerges first.
I guess the first fight goes to DC and Batman, but I’ll be damned if I believe that he can dodge the Hulk’s punches like that (and this was even before Batman became universally unbeatable). Hulk emerges from the rubble first in the second bout, which makes the whole issue basically a draw. (The Joker as depicted by the unbelievable Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez is the real reason to read this book anyway.)
The Uncanny X-Men and the New Teen Titans
Writer: Chris Claremont; Penciler: Walt Simonson; Inker: Terry Austin; Editors: Louise Jones, Jim Shooter, Len Wein
Instead of fighting like normal superheroes, when the X-Men and Teen Titans meet, they just shake hands and make friends. Total letdown.
(Claremont pretty much uses this story as yet another opportunity to explore his Jean Grey fetish.)
It was around about this time that the argument over the planned Justice League and Avengers crossover pretty much killed any more collaborations between Marvel and DC. They wouldn’t get together again until the ‘90s, in the middle of the “cash-grab for anything that would resemble a blockbuster story” era. (At the beginning of the decade, editors started getting royalties on the books they were responsible for. As a result, artistic integrity went out the window is search of the next sales bonanza along the lines of the Death of Superman, Jim Lee’s X-Men, Liefeld’s X-Force, or McFarlane’s Spider-Man. Hence, guaranteed money-makers like intercompany crossovers were aplenty. DC and Marvel working together once or twice a decade is about as much as I want to see them working together. I’ll equate it to NBA basketball. It’s nice to see the top players get together to play on the USA Olympics team every four years, but otherwise, I want to see them at each other’s throats during the regular season and playoffs.)
Writer/Art: John Byrne; Editors: Mark Gruenwald and Denny O’Neil
This original graphic novel would see the first of many “we’re too evenly matched to keep fighting” matchups between Batman and Captain America. At least this one would give it to us in the form of Bruce Wayne versus Steve Rogers.
DC Versus Marvel/Marvel Versus DC #1-4
Writer: Ron Marz; Pencilers: Claudio Castellini, Dan Jurgens, Inkers: Paul Neary, Joe Rubinstein; Editors: Mike Carlin, Mark Gruenwald
Marvel and DC would eventually stop messing around with the one-on-one matchups that had been coming out in OGN after OGN, and throw everybody into the mix in a four-part mini-series battle royale, leaving some of the winners up to a fan vote.
Up first, we’d see Thor (in an instantly regrettable costume) take down Captain Marvel. (Makes sense, with Thor having the ability to control lightning and all.)
Flash takes advantage of Quicksilver’s momentary hesitation to serve up a high-speed beating. (Unnatural abilities beat natural 9 times out of 10. Flash is the steroids of super speed.)
Aquaman quips his way to a ridiculous victory over Namor. (What was up with the joking? I thought they put a beard and harpoon on him to make him all serious and dark. Between hook-hand Aquaman and sexually ambiguous Thor, the case is constantly made for characters to appear at their most iconic in projects like this. Because no one wants to see electric Superman years later, or at all, really. Anyway, no way Aquaman wins this one. That’s just dumb.)
Robin ties up Jubilee, so he can continue to pretend he likes girls and would tie them up for smooches. (Tim Drake is totally gay. It’s just true. And good for him, he should let himself be who he is. I just want Tim to feel comfortable being himself. That’s all I’ve ever wanted from him. It’s okay, he’s among friends that love him.)
Silver Surfer gets the best of Green Lantern Kyle, because look at him, he’s been hitting the gym.
Wolverine wins a brawl against Lobo, thanks to the fan vote (which sent nerds across the globe into a fit of rage).
Storm surprisingly takes out Wonder Woman. (Wonder Woman was able to handle Thor’s hammer though, which pretty much means we should get a 10 issue mini-series of those characters doing it. Duy would buy two copies of each issue.)
Superboy loses to Ben Reilly Spider-Man (how did they arrive at that pairing?).
Superman beat the Hulk again, and Elektra defeats Catwoman.
Batman and Captain America close out the individual battles by once again being too evenly matched, until Cap is distracted by sewage, and Batman gets the victory on account of not being submerged in sewage. They end up deciding to team up and fight the real menace, which is a theme with those two. They’re the only ones with their heads screwed on right, while the rest are satisfied pounding each other. Praise Jebus that Batman exists, I always say.
All in all, Marvel won this mini-series in the final tally, thanks to the fan vote (and because they’re better).
DC/Marvel: All Access #1
Writer: Ron Marz; Penciler: Jackson ‘Butch’ Guice; Inker: Josef Rubinstein; Editors: Mike Carlin and Chris Duffy
This is an absolutely horrible mini-series, but I couldn’t pass up the chance to show you these panels of Superman getting absolutely worked by Venom.
Writer: Kurt Busiek; Penciler: George Perez; Inker: George Perez; Editors: Tom Brevoort, Mike Carlin, Joe Quesada
Once again, we get Batman and Captain America squaring off again, with them just deciding not to even bother this time, and teaming up to solve the bigger problem. Busiek has gone on record that Batman admitting that Cap would probably eventually win, is as good as a win for Cap. (He recently went one better — stating that this was a win for Cap. -Duy) But I think we’d all eventually like to see this fight happen all the way to the end. Even if it’s just two attractive female actresses, one dressed as Cap and the other as Batman, and they fight until one of them falls, and then maybe they kiss for a little bit. I think that would be an acceptable compromise to the years of unfulfilled promise in the Batman versus Captain America pairing.
Later, we get the infamous slugfest between Thor and Superman. Many nerd tears have been shed over this particular battle, so I’ll simply say that Superman wins, but in the process of doing so he says “the dials go up to eleven,” which means that he really loses. (Superman will always find a way to lose anything he should win. It’s his new power post-Crisis.)
JLA/Avengers was pretty much the perfect crossover story, so with most of the other individual pairings having already been explored, I think I’d be fine with DC and Marvel never working on another crossover together. (Unless it’s the Daredevil and Batman crossover that Bendis was complaining about not being allowed to do a few years back. Put him or Brubaker on that and I’ll support it fully. Put Brubaker on just about anything and I’ll support it. I miss Brubaker.)
Final Brain Thoughts:
That about does it. Definitely didn’t look at every single fight over the years between Marvel and DC characters, but I think I hit all the most entertaining ones. At least they were to me, and I’m writing this, so…you can go track down the Silver Surfer and Green Lantern crossover if you want. Leave me out of it. (I did all this mostly just to show Venom kicking Superman’s ass anyway.)
As you can see, DC got the upper hand in most of these single pairing fights. Mostly because DC characters are only interesting because of what they can do, so they’re completely defined by their powers, while Marvel characters are actually interesting in spite of what they can do. Basically, all DC characters have is their power, so Marvel lets them win the fights because they know their characters are the one that are actually going to make the story itself interesting. This is just another reason Marvel is better than DC.
Superman and Batman can win all the fights, because that’s all they have to look forward to in their long and lonely fictional lives. Meanwhile, Spider-Man is the one that will be taking Wonder Woman out on a date after the fight, and that’s what really matters.
These fights can be found in: