Monday, August 4, 2008

The Dumbest Smackdowns in Comics

The titanic battles between good and evil! It's the reason we read comics in the first place. Superman taking on Zod and his cronies, Green Hulk fighting Red Hulk, and Batman fighting the Joker...these are all fights that make sense. But every once in a while, comic books bring us battles that make no sense whatsoever. Whether it's one-sided or just plain dumb, these fights were strange choices:

Batman vs. Darkseid

While I'm the first to say Batman is one tough dude, you have to admit there are some villains who would have to be categorized as "out of his league". Darkseid, ruler of Apokolips, would have to rank in that category. Darkseid has fought Superman, The New Gods, and even the Justice League to a standstill, so who figured, "Hey, Batman! Now that would be a close fight!" Well, it happened in Superman/Batman volume 2 (collecting issues 8-13 "The Supergirl from Krypton"). Batman slipped on some armor conveniently laying around and tore into Darkseid with all he no effect. Darkseid stood there staring at him disdainfully until Batman showed that he would destroy the planet to stop him if need be. Darkseid believed him, and the fight was over. Brains won over brawn here, but why on Earth would he even try hitting him to begin with? Too bad Marvel Comics didn't try to top this off...just imagine Daredevil vs. Galactus! What a close fight that would be, eh?

Colossus vs. Deathstroke

This is one of those crossover moments that could have been cool, but wasn't. During the Teen Titans/X-Men crossover in the 80's (the first team crossover between Marvel and DC), it happened. Both teams were getting beaten handily by Darkseid's parademons and Deathstroke when it came down to the final hero, Colossus, facing down Deathstroke. Keep in mind this was years before Deathstroke would get his own title and become a seriously major player in the DC Universe. Later on, he would defeat the Justice League by himself in Identity Crisis, but for now he was just a bad guy from the Teen Titans own title. Still, you could tell the guy was good and he was a cool villain. This looked like a great battle.

It took 4 panels.

Not a punch thrown, not a dodge tried. Deathstroke just made Colossus look like the clumsiest hero ever.

The Punisher vs. Archie

You read that right. The vigilante anti-hero who shoots first and asks questions later versus the red-headed kid. I have no idea what they're serving up in the water cooler at Marvel Comics, but I think their meetings must look a lot like one of those mojito commercials you see on television: a lot of dancing, drinking, and slobbering. Someone had the brilliant idea that the Punisher would make a great guest star in Archie comics (I mean, the readership is so close), so off Frank Castle went to Riverdale High chasing a drug dealer. What a wacky set-up for fun, eh? A drug lord loose in a city full of wholesome teenagers...get ready for the laughs!

The drug lord happens to look a lot like Archie, so mistaken identity ensues. Frank finds Archie at the soda shop and guns him down in cold blood. End of story.

Not really. I mean, in the regular Marvel world it would have ended like that, but after a very "tense" scene Frank figures out that Archie isn't "Red Fever", tracks the real baddie down to the school dance, and sends him flying through the skylight tied to a giant balloon. Don't get me wrong, bullets are fired here and there, but the usual body count is pretty low for Punisher in this one. For some reason, the planned sequel of "The Punisher Meets Richie Rich" in which Frank tracks down where the "Poor Little Rich Kid" really gets his money (hint: it involves Columbia) never got made. Perhaps the 12 copies they sold of this particular comic didn't give Marvel the smart money they wanted.

Black Panther vs. The Juggernaut

Yes, this happened. In Ultimates Vol. 3 issue 4, some of the Ultimates and Ultimate X-Men are trapped in the Savage Land. Black Panther has recently joined the Ultimates and no one knows who he really is. He and Wolverine get jumped by Juggernaut and a battle ensues. I have to give Marvel credit for something: at least this time they kept it real. Juggernaut beats the living tar out of Black Panther, whose punches with some brass knuckle kind of thing don't even scratch Juggy's armor. While I know this is the "Ultimate" version of Black Panther who gets beat, it's good to see Marvel actually beginning to realize Black Panther isn't Thor. Since they revived his series, he's beaten Captain America and Iron Man, joined the Fantastic Four and fought the Silver Surfer, and is getting ready to single-handedly defeat the Skrull army in Wakanda. At some point Marvel might want to consider letting the "real" Black Panther lose a fight or two, just to make the book interesting.

Spider Man vs. The Hulk

So waaaaay back in Spider Man Annual #3 Spidey decides he wants to be an Avenger. To do so, he figures the best way to prove his merit is to take down the Incredible Hulk. Off he goes to find the Green Goliath and he manages to get the fight started. Unfortunately, it doesn't go well and Spider-Man gets beat rather decisively. He's got the speed, but when your punch doesn't hurt your opponent, there's a good chance you're not going to take him down no matter how many times he hits you. And, if you add the fact that one of his punches could kill you, the disadvantage is a little obvious. Still, Spidey manages to make him change back to Bruce Banner and the odds are evened up a little. But then Spider-Man decides not to turn Bruce in and he doesn't end up being an Avenger after all. To be fair, Spider-Man actually ends up as one of the founding members of The New Avengers decades later, so he does become a team player eventually.

The only cool thing about this battle is the fact that thirty years later (real-time) they would fight again in Spider-Man #328. This time, however, Spider-Man had been possessed by the Power Cosmic that would later turn him into Captain Universe. He had the strength to fight back this time through. Add to that the fact he was facing the "Grey Hulk" version and you can see where this was a little more interesting. The grand finale? That would be Spider-Man punching the Hulk into outer space! He eventually lost the power after facing Galactus, but it still goes down as one of the great rematches of all time. The first fight wasn't even close, but the rematch was killer.

Yeah, I know what you're thinking: "Where's that famous 'Superman vs. Muhammed Ali' fight? Shouldn't that be in this list somewhere?" Actually, that one was kind of cool if for no other reason that the guest-star-studded wraparound cover by Neal Adams. For Neal's sake, we'll let it slide.

Wednesday I'll be reviewing what is probably the worst Batman story ever. On Friday we'll be taking a look at some of the better costumes out there, and then next Monday to end the "Smackdowns" trilogy, let's talk about the greatest smackdowns of all time!

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