Monday, July 28, 2008

The Most Recurring Smackdowns in Comics

In this "Smackdowns" trilogy, I wanted to take a moment to look at some of the fights we've seen just a dozen times too often. The first time they fought, it was iconic. The second time was "The Rematch of the Century". Then it started getting a little boring. Here are some fights that have happened waaaaay too often:

Superman vs. Batman

You know, for two friends these guys seem to go at it pretty regularly. The best of the fights has to be the climactic battle that ends "The Dark Knight Returns". An aging Batman is covered in armor and even has some Kryptonite snuck in there somewhere, facing an older Superman who works for the government and is there to shut him down. Even though the end never seemed in doubt, after the incredible story we'd read up to that point in TDKR, we couldn't be sure. This wasn't the Batman we'd grown up with, and we thought he just might win. He didn't, of course, but that didn't stop the fight from being close and awesome.

Unfortunately, the rematches we've seen since then have paled in comparison and really started to get old. The "using Kryptonite" idea was cool the first time we saw it, then it sort of became the easy out. The awesome "Hush" storyline years ago brought us the return of Jason Todd and the creation of Hush, a villain uniquely cool in that he knew Batman's secrets and wasn't afraid to use them against him. It also brought us yet another Batman versus Superman fight. This time Supes was under control of Poison Ivy, so it was cool in that he really wanted to hurt Batman this time, but of course Batman pulled out the Green K and proceeded to beat down Supes yet again. Ok DC Comics, we get it: Batman's brains could beat Superman's superior speed, strength, and stamina. Enough already. Move on.

But if you really think he's so smart, then explain this...

Batman vs. The Joker

Who honestly gives a flip anymore about seeing these two together? I know the new Batman movie brings them together again and yes, that's cool. But in the comic book world we've seen them collide so many times it has lost any meaning at all. The Joker is going to show up, do something horrible to someone (he crippled Batgirl, he killed Jason Todd/Robin, etc), Batman is going to say "This is the last time. Tonight we end this.", and they're going to fight. The Joker gets locked up, Batman is satisfied that Gotham is safe again even though the Joker escapes jails more often than Houdini, and we wait until next year when they'll face off again "For the Final Time". Please.

The only time this battle ever got interesting was again in The Dark Knight Returns. And even then Batman didn't kill the Joker, but at least he died! Please, give us something different. Batman is this super-tough hero, yet even though this psycho baddie cripples one partner and kills another, he just keeps hitting him a little and putting him away. Someone give Batman the Punisher's cell phone number and let him come to Gotham and fix this problem once and for all!

Superman vs. Captain Marvel

I promise I'm not picking on Superman with this list, but it seems like DC just thinks every time they want to prove someone is tough they throw them up against him. Case in point: Captain Marvel. They fought for the first time in 1976. Two years later they had one of those giant books they used to put out for a while in the 70's. Both men were mind-controlled and it was nice, but ended with no clear winner.

The Kingdom Come fight scene is the only one that has ever done this pair justice, and that's just because Billy was crazy and really wanted to hurt him this time. Otherwise, it seems the standard "You punch me through a building, I punch you through a mountain" kind of fight.

It's been done and we know it's a close call because of Captain Marvel's magic origin (one of Superman's weaknesses). Yet, in spite of the fact that there has never been a clear cut winner between the two of them in any battle, DC keeps throwing them together like it's supposed to be fresh and thrilling. Fortunately, Billy Batson is now in charge of the Rock of Eternity and Freddy Freeman (formerly Captain Marvel, Jr.) is the new Captain Marvel, so I doubt we see these two tussle again any time soon.

As far as seeing Freddy Freeman coming after Supes at some point in the future...well, that's almost a guarantee.

Spider-Man vs. The Green Goblin

"The Joker" to Spider-Man's "Batman", these two have been going at it for decades. It was thrilling for a while, especially after Norman Osborn (the first GG) learned Peter's secret identity. Then he was instrumental in the death of Gwen Stacy, adding to his sinister persona. And then he was killed. Case closed, or so we thought.

Harry Osborn (his son) eventually picked up the mask and glider and went after Spidey. It was the same battle, but not really since there was another man behind the mask. It was still all good. But now Peter couldn't stop the Goblin without hurting his best friend. Then Harry died, but Norman came back and we started all over again.

This is a fight that has grown old and is time to end. The problem we have is that Norman Osborn is over in Thunderbolts pining after Parker and fighting to keep his sanity while Peter's entire life has rebooted in Amazing Spider-Man thanks to the tripe that is "Brand New Day". Harry's alive again, but does Norman know that yet? Are we back to square one on this fighting twosome? Probably. Why try a new idea when the old one works so well, right?

The X-Men vs. Magneto

Holy cow, let this one die! From the very first issue of the X-Men these two have been at it. The X-Men beat him down, Magneto forms his own team of bad mutants. The X-Men beat them, he finds more. They beat them, he goes it solo, thinking he's got them this time. They beat him again. He moves to an asteroid in orbit, and they fly up there and beat him. He decides to lead the X-Men, and they let him. Then he turns evil again, and they fight some more. He gets his own country and decides to leave the rest of the world alone if they leave him alone, and the X-Men go after him again.

You know, eventually you come to a point where everyone but the bad guy realizes he's just not going to win--ever. Marvel has spent so much time making him this big unbeatable bad guy, but then he always gets beaten. Give it up. Retire him and leave him be. Or if you really want to do it right, let him actually die saving the world like Hal Jordan did in "The Final Night". At least then we could develop some respect for him. Otherwise, he just seems like an old man sitting in a rocker on his porch screaming at the kids to get off his lawn. "What are you going to do if we don't, old man? Nothing!"

Next Monday, we'll look at the some of the stupidest fights ever thrown together in a comic book.


Andrew said...

I can't say I disagree about any of them. Cool post.

Rick said...

Here is another one that is more entertaining then seeing two men beat each other up but still gets boring. Superman and Flash racing to see who is the faster. Superman has at least a dozen powers and Flash has only one. Just say it's the Flash who is the fastest and move on.

Brian said...

Definitely! I couldn't agree more. When you can publish an entire trade paperback with nothing but "Superman vs. The Flash" races in it, it should be a clue it's happened a few too many times.

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