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Comic Books: History & Trends through the eyes of an iOS Developer

My Top 3 Superhero v. Superhero Showdowns

Superman vs. Batman might have been received with less than a warm welcome, but the movie brings to light a fascinating anomaly in the superhero universe: heroes punching heroes.

In the beginning, there were heroes. Heroes fought against bad guys and won. Sometimes, heroes teamed up with other heroes, and together they fought against bad guys and won. Sometimes bad guys turned out to be good. And sometimes heroes turned out to be bad. But by and large, there was harmony in the heroverse: superheroes only fought bad guys.

Then, heroes started punching each other.

Here’s a look at my Top 3  Superhero v. Superhero Showdowns

3. Spiderman v. Wolverine, Spider-man Vs. Wolverine

Like all the Superhero fights in this list, this one hinges on an ideological question. Spider-man is one of the classic good guys. Sure, he has some run ins with symbiotes and is sometimes a little emotionally unbalanced, but overall he’s a paragon of virtue. Ever since he witnessed his uncle get wasted because of his own deliberate negligence, Spider-man has been haunted by the words “With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility.” This is a tall order for any superhero to heed, but for a young teenage suddenly thrust into adulthood, this is a big freaking deal. Case in point, Spidey (like a number of other heroes) doesn’t kill.

And then there’s Wolverine…Spidey may have had a tough upbringing what with his uncle dying and all and never knowing his parents, but Wolverine is guy just born into tough. Depending on which canon you want to follow Wolverine is an illegitimate son, has killed those whom he loves, has an abusive father and a deranged brother, has fought in World War I, World War II and the Vietnam War..and has been tortured and tested on. Wolverine has had it rough. Although being a member of the X-Men has somewhat tamed his ways, Wolverine is a killer.

In Spider-man v. Wolverine this all comes to a head–albeit not as fully realized as it could have. Wolverine pushes Spider-man to kill him, and although we realize that Spidey could easily do so, he does not. *finger snaps*

image of spiderman fighting wolverine

Come on Spidey…”Great Power”

Note: The personalities of these two heroes is also reflected in when they were first appeared. Spider-man first appeared in Amazing Fantasy #15 in 1962–towards the end of the big post-war boom and in the midst of growing civil rights consciousness. Wolverine first appeared in The Incredible Hulk #180 in 1974–in the height of the grizzled disillusion of the Vietnam War and domestic civil unrest.

2. Captain America vs. Iron Man, Civil War

image of captain america and iron man fighting

Cap…is it really worth it?

To register or not to register, that is the question? Like a lot of the great super hero questions, this one was approached in Watchman (Rorschach being the unregistered Vigilante; The Comedian being registered the “sell-out”), but in Marvel Civil War, this question receives an unparalleled degree of focus.

To recap: a new Superhero Registration Act requires those with super powers to identify themselves to authorities. While Iron Man is all about the additional transparency, Captain America takes on a Rorschach-like idealist crusade against the registration campaign.  The two attract their own allies who come to them with various reasons for being pro- or anti-registration.

In the end, Captain America drops the smack on Iron Man. But just before he is about to land the killing blow, Cap (with the help of some fear-stricken bystanders) realizes how far he’s gone in order to pursue what he believes is right. Instead of dealing the final blow, he takes off his mask and offers himself to authorities.

Like any politician or person in a relationship would tell you, compromise is the bread and butter of living peacefully. There’s a certain point where you have to realize that you’ve crossed the line–and right before he’s about to cross it, Cap realizes this. It’s a poetic gesture in of itself, but it also distinguishes Cap from other idealistic figures like Rorschach. Cap holds strong beliefs, but at the same time he ultimately values society more than his own crusade. It’s a tricky situation, placing one’s values in society v. one’s self, but in this story it rings as utterly heroic. *finger snaps*


1. Batman vs. Superman, Dark Knight Returns #4

You can say what you will about the movie. You can try to tell me that the action of this battle is underwhelming. But it’s the ideological battle at the center of this duel that’s so appealing to me. Batman and Superman are arguably the two most reputed superheroes in the DC world. Both of them premiered in within a year of one another between 1938 and 1939. They both have seen many stories and character developments throughout the years. They both come from broken homes/planets. They both have had tough upbringings. They both struggle with their flaws. They both advocate against killing. These two heroes are surprisingly alike in so many ways, but they also have many differences. Supehero was given his powers by birth. Batman needed to hustle and train himself to where he is. Superman had godlike powers. Batman must rely on his own cunning and discipline. Superman breaks the boundaries of what it means to be human. Batman is glaringly stuck within the mires of humanity.

And Frank Miller has them fight each other to the almost death.

image of batman fighting superman

Batman = very nearly dead.

In doing so Miller illustrates some of the most striking dichotomies ever captured in a comic book: Man v. God, Free willvs. Destiny, Inherited power v. Hard-fought-for power.

This all might seem like old hat now (what with Watchman and dozens of other comics having tackled similar themes), but in 1986 when Dark Knight Returns was released, this was a game-changer. *finger snaps*

Note: Watchman started publication in September of 1986, while Dark Knight returns was published between February to June 1986–so, while the year was a big one for pitting gods against man, Dark Knight beat Watchmen to the punch.


What are your favorite Superhero showdowns? Let me know at @estebanrules.