With great power comes… earth-shaking rivalry?
The two biggest superhero movies of the year — Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice and Captain America: Civil War — are introducing the masses to the tradition of hero-vs-hero fisticuffs. But comic book readers know that this phenomenon is nothing new. It’s so common that some heroes have fought again and again. And again.
Sometimes it’s a difference of opinion or ideology. More often, one of them just gets pissed off at the other. Whatever the reason, superheroes are terribly eager to resort to violence when they disagree or get angry. Here we present ten of the most longstanding grudges within the superhero community, ten match-ups that have stood the test of time and aren’t going away anytime soon.
Can’t we all just get along?
10. Superman vs. Wonder Woman
Clark Kent and Diana Prince: the two most powerful heroes of the DC universe. In DC Comics’ original continuity, they were friends and teammates. In the New 52, which reset all of the old rules (such as Clark and Lois Lane’s love) they’ve been a couple. But now and then, circumstances have a way of forcing these two to fight one another. Much like Batman and Superman, DC’s writers seem to look for any and every opportunity they can to throw these two into a ring.
Rarely is it an issue of principle or conflicting ideologies, although they do come from two very different worlds. Most of the time it involves one or both of them coming under mind control. That was the case in “Sacrifice,” a side story that was part of the (nearly infinite) buildup to Infinite Crisis. Another memorable throwdown came in Brian Azzarello and Jim Lee’s Superman: For Tomorrow, in which Wonder Woman attempted to stop Superman from undertaking a drastic action that he felt he had to do. More recently, in the first story arc of the New 52’s Justice League, Wonder Woman found out that Steve Trevor was being tortured by villain David Graves, and took out her anger on Superman and Green Lantern both.
Anytime Clark and Diana get into it these days, Superman is more powerful, but Wonder Woman seems to have the edge because she’s a highly trained warrior. Look for this matchup to play out on the big screen at some point in the near future.
9. Deadpool vs. Wolverine
What’s that? You want a knockdown-dragout superhero fight where neither hero holds back? You want a bloodthirsty battle filled with chopped-off limbs and buckets of blood? Have we got the pairing for you.
When it comes to Wolverine and Deadpool, there’s no need to pull punches or sheath those blades. These two share a unique ability to quickly heal from any injury. That means anything is fair game; Logan and Wade can play as dirty as they like, and there are no real consequences. Wolverine can slice and dice all he wants with those adamantium claws, and Deadpool can shoot or stab to his heart’s content. These two seriously fight each other more than they fight bad guys together.
Thanks to their ability to go for the jugular without actually doing any permanent damage, Deadpool and Wolverine are longtime fan-favorite sparring partners. On the other hand, for that same reason, their fights are ultimately pointless.
8. Superman vs. Shazam
When they’re not fighting on the same side against some mega-powerful foe, Superman and Shazam have gotten into a number of scrapes over the years. Mind control is sometimes involved, but the brawl to end all brawls between these two powerhouses came in 1996, in the pages of Mark Waid and Alex Ross’ Kingdom Come.
This seminal miniseries was set in the future of the DC universe (which has since been retconned as one of DC’s 52 alternate Earths), telling of a conflict between the older, altruistic superheroes that we know and love, and a group of newer, younger heroes who have none of their predecessors’ ethics. In a world with superpowers run amok, only an aging Superman can rally the heroes of yesteryear into bringing peace and order back to the planet.
At the end of Kingdom Come #3, Shazam arrives to fight an unsuspecting Superman, who’s in the middle of an enormous battle. Shazam, who’s still referred to as Captain Marvel here, has been brainwashed by Lex Luthor and nearly brings Superman to his end. Superman may be nearly indestructible, but aside from Kryptonite, he’s extremely vulnerable to magic. Shazam uses this to his advantage, battering Superman with magic lightning again and again, until Superman turns the tables and gets through to Shazam’s alter ego, Billy Batson. Realizing the truth, Billy decides to sacrifice himself to save the world.
7. Daredevil vs. Punisher
In all of comicdom, the relationship between Daredevil and Punisher is unique. While both men hold a grudging respect for the other, and on rare occasion might even help one another out, nearly every time they meet they come to blows — but not for reasons you’d expect. Ideologically, Frank Castle and Matt Murdock want exactly the same thing: to clean up streets and protect the innocent. It’s how they go about it that brings them into conflict.
As Frank is fond of reminding Matt at every opportunity, Daredevil is “just one bad day away” from becoming Punisher. And you could see it happening; it’s not like Daredevil has never been tempted to take a villain’s life. But Frank’s wrong. Daredevil may be dark and brooding, but he still regards life as precious. And as for a “bad day” that could turn him more extreme, Matt has lost plenty of people he loved and cared about over the years, but he’s never lost himself. (Unless you count that whole Shadowland thing, but demon possession was involved so it really wasn’t his fault.)
Frank became Punisher after his loved ones were brutally murdered in cold blood. But a case could be made that the Punisher was always inside him, and he just needed a traumatic event to unleash his extremist side. In any event, amid their countless fights over the years, Daredevil usually wins thanks to his superior skills at boxing and martial arts.
6. Batman vs. Guy Gardner
The amount of love lost between Bruce Wayne and Guy Gardner is precisely zero. Batman is the no-nonsense brooder who’s notoriously all-business and completely lacks a sense of humor. Guy Gardner is the temperamental, hotheaded blowhard who thinks he’s God’s gift to superheroes. He actually mooned Batman once. Is it any wonder they can’t stand each other?
Their rivalry culminated in the sucker “One Punch” heard ’round the world. Back in the day, Guy was the Green Lantern serving with Justice League International, which was led by Batman. (You can already see where this is going, can’t you?) After one too many verbal feuds, most of which had Gardner asserting his belief that he could be a better leader, the Lantern announced his intention to fight Batman. To which Batman answered by knocking him out cold with one punch. The Leaguers in attendance were shocked into silence, followed by snickering and giggling. Later, when Superman found out, he started to rebuke Batman for his action before he found he rather enjoyed the thought of Gardner being taken out with a single punch.
Thankfully, Gardner has matured significantly in the years since, though he still has anger issues. Batman has never given it much additional thought. And “One Punch” was so momentous a moment, it became a meme.
5. Reed Richards vs. Namor
Speaking of no love lost, there’s Reed Richards of the Fantastic Four and Namor the Sub-Mariner. Reed, aka Mr. Fantastic, is known as the smartest man in the Marvel Universe, and he’s also one of the nicest. Namor, on the other hand, has probably the Marvel U’s biggest superiority complex. His personality hasn’t changed over the years, from his origins in the Defenders to today; he’s usually (not always) on the side of light, but he’s an arrogant, self-intitled jerk.
The bad blood between them stems from the fact that Namor is madly, unapologetically in love with Reed’s wife, Susan. He’s never tried to hide his affections for her, and has even blatantly attempted to woo her away from Reed on numerous occasions — right in front of Reed! His sense of self-importance and entitlement causes him to believe he deserves to have Susan as his own (much like Dr. Doom, who also has the hots for Sue), and doesn’t care what anyone thinks about it. Susan, by the way, isn’t above manipulating Namor’s affections to get his help when she needs it.
Needless to say, when it comes to fighting over a girl, boys will be boys. Nearly every time the two of them are in the same room together, one of them ends up hitting the other. For two supposedly highly intelligent, enlightened individuals, it’s amazing how often they resort to violence at the mere sight of one another.
4. Hulk vs. Thing
Who’s the strongest and toughest of them all? This question has been been put to the test many times, and in the Marvel world, it almost always comes down to a contest between the incredible Hulk and Ben Grimm, aka the Thing. One of them is a gamma-irradiated rage monster, the other a test pilot whose body turned to living rock after exposure to cosmic rays in outer space.
It seems as though Thing would be outmatched by Hulk’s strength and resilience, but from their first true mano-a-mano brawl in 1964’s Fantastic Four #25 to other rumbles throughout the years, Ben has proven a surprisingly tough opponent for the Jade Giant. Hulk’s temper is pretty much nonstop, but it doesn’t exactly take a lot to push Ben over the edge, either.
3. Cyclops vs. Wolverine
Scott Summers and James “Logan” Howlett are not friends. They never have been and never will be. But they are frequently teammates, and at their core, they have the kind of respect that can only come from many years of shared history.
While their personalities lend a lot to the conflict — Cyclops is as straight-laced as they come, Logan is a rule-breaking loose canon — their rift can mostly be traced to Jean Grey. Both men love her, and although she’s always remained loyal to Scott, Logan will always hold a special place in her heart.
One of their worst fights occurred in Marvel’s Ultimate universe, when Wolverine actually left Cyclops to die. (Ultimate Wolverine wasn’t a nice person.) Back in 2011, they had a fight in X-Men: Schism that led to the division of mutants between two competing schools. Wolverine opened the Jean Grey School for Higher Learning, which was a new name for the existing Xavier Institute, and Cyclops ran a covert New Xavier School for the Gifted in Canada with a focus on preserving the mutant race at all costs.
2. Captain America vs. Iron Man
While Captain America and Iron Man have been foundational members of the Avengers and friends for decades, occasionally they get into arguments, just like real-life friends do. The difference is that their verbal arguments tend to escalate into physical altercations remarkably fast.
Their first real fight came in the pages of Iron Man #228, in 1988, in the middle of the “Armor Wars” storyline. They later had a much larger fight, involving the Avengers, the Fantastic Four, S.H.I.E.L.D., and more, during the 2006 “Extremis” story arc of Iron Man. But their biggest, nastiest, winner-take-all fight came during the 2006 mega-event Civil War.
On opposing sides of the “superhero registration” issue, these two friends made it clear they didn’t want to fight one another, but circumstances bigger than themselves had forced them into this position. That said, they held nothing back, with Cap managing to sabotage Iron Man’s suit while tricking him with a friendly handshake, and Tony retaliating by nearly severing Steve’s jaw.
It took Steve a while to recover from that one while the war raged on, but their next fight ended very differently. As Cap stood in victory over Iron Man, he chose to surrender after seeing the damage their war had caused to Manhattan, and that he didn’t seem to be fighting for the people anymore. This doesn’t seem to be the cause of the big brawl in the live-action adaptation, however.
1. Batman vs. Superman
Batman and Superman have fought so many times over the years, you’d be forgiven for believing them to be enemies rather than friends. The thing is, almost every time, mind control is involved. A prominent example is in the famous Hush storyline by Jeph Loeb and Jim Lee, in which Poison Ivy uses her pheromones to take control of Superman’s willpower. She sends him after Batman, who pulls out every trick in his arsenal to stop the Man of Steel.
But their most famous fight is by far their most bitter, without any mind-control or personality-altering drugs involved. Frank Miller’s seminal The Dark Knight Returns finds an older Batman waging a more brutal, no-compromise war on crime in Gotham, which attracts the attention of the President. For whatever reason, Superman has become a government lackey in this version of the future, and after a series of escalating events, Washington sends Superman to take Batman down. The fight goes almost beat-for-beat like the one depicted in Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, which was largely inspired by the graphic novel. Batman wins the fight, but lets Superman live as a warning to leave him and his allies in Gotham alone.
What makes the battles between these two so endlessly compelling is that Batman is a mortal man, while Superman is an indestructible alien. They’ve fought constantly in “Elseworlds” stories like Injustice: Gods Among Us, in which Superman decides to enforce totalitarian rule over Earth, and Batman rallies a resistance movement against him. This darker version of Superman usually manages to come out on top, even though Batman has survived their many encounters.
But in the main DC Universe, Batman’s amazing hand-to-hand skills and unparalleled tactical planning (not to mention his willingness to use Kryptonite-based weapons and any other imaginable advantage) always give him the edge. He tends to win every time they fight.
Is your favorite superhero rivalry missing from our list? Be sure to let us know in the comments section.