Movies & TV / Columns

Comics 411: Best Superhero Feuds

May 12, 2022 | Posted by Steve Gustafson
Batman Superman Image Credit: DC Comics

Welcome back! I’m Steve Gustafson and if you enjoy discussing anything comic book related, you’ve come to the right place. Each week we cover something in the industry and I always enjoy your input in the comment section below.

Previously on…

Last time we discussed the Best Doctor Strange Stories. Here’s what some of you had to say:

Acolyte Of Glorious La Parka~: “”Triumph and Torment” was magnificent: a “team up” with Dr.Doom, where Doom gets to be both evil and good at the same time. We see the good there can be in Doom like never before. He will stop at NOTHING, betray Strange, confront Mephisto, go through the tortures of the damned, to free his mother from Mephisto’s clutches. He even accepts his mother’s eternal hatred and damnation for betraying Strange, just to see her ascend to Heaven and for Mephisto to lose his grip on her. He will dare all for his mission. It’s in a way the story of the redemption of Darth Vader\Anakin Skywalker, and since Vader bears a LOT of similarities to Doom, it’s appropriate. In the end, Doom knows his mother hates him, but she at least has found peace and salvation, so to him he has achieved what he wanted most of all, and he accepts her enmity knowing that she is safe from Mephisto. And for that it is enough and he is satisfied. If you’re going to read a Dr. Strange standalone story, this is the one (the ‘prelude’ of Dr. Strange having to go through a “competition” of all the greatest sorcerers for the title of ‘Sorcerer Supreme’, a title he has no desire or aspiration for, is as well quite good).”

Benjamin Kellog: “I’ve been reading some Strange Epic Collections recently and it feels like literally every third issue involves some young whippersnapper mage trying to gather all the power in the universe, including Strange’s, before being undone by their own hubris. “Sise-Neg Genesis” from Strange’s “Marvel Premiere” run feels like one of the best examples of this trope to me, a runaway roller coaster of (no doubt pot-fueled) mid-70s psychedelia and megalomaniacal philosophy. The ending with our bad guy inflating himself to godhood (“small G, son”), then getting guilt-tripped by Strange into remaking the universe up to then-present day, was quite the controversial thing for Marvel at the time, but remains one of the most improbable, mad, brilliant, just-look-at-the-darn-page-for-yourself moments in the history of comics, and I guarantee the MCU wouldn’t sniff at it in a million years.”

Cruel Angel: “The Dracula/ Montesi Formula arc is my all time favorite.”

Great stuff and thank you to everyone who commented last week! Too many great comments to list so go and check it out!

This week we discuss…

Best Superhero Feuds
Competition runs naturally when you’re dressed up in a costume and battling supervillains on a regular basis. Of course you’re going to try to prove to everyone that you’re the best, even if it means getting into a misunderstanding with a fellow hero so let’s take a look at some of our favorite superhero rivalries.

Before I jump in and before I get comments wondering why I didn’t include Reed Richards and Doctor Doom, I’m talking about traditional superhero-on-superhero rivalries. Superhero/Supervillain is another column. 

Keith Giffen and J.M. DeMatteis were gold from the very start of their 1987 Justice League run. One of the highlights was the rivalry between Guy Gardner and Batman. Guy always felt he should be the leader of the group and often took umbrage under Batman’s direction. While Gardner usually complained or gave Batman a hard time, the two finally clashed physically in Justice League #5, when Guy decides to challenge Batman to a fist fight.

Yes, he picked a fist fight with Batman.

Guy takes his swing and then Batman proceeds to knock Guy out with one punch.

“One punch! One punch!”

To me, that’s the bar when it comes to rivalries. Comic book history has had its fair share of friendly superhero rivalries. Some are more friendly than others. Some of those rivalries have upped the drama to the point of battling it out from time to time.

Take Batman and Superman. The world’s finest! We could do a whole column on what these two represent and how they reflect on each other. Batman and Superman have a long and storied history together; both as allies and opponents. While it’s exciting to see these two match wits and duke it out, I’ve always enjoyed the quieter moments that showed how much these two respect each other. You have the hard-edged Batman, dedicated to his mission contrasted with the hope Superman inspires. The two first crossed paths in ‘The Mightiest Team in the World’ story in Superman #76 back in 1952. Bruce Wayne and Clark Kent happen to be vacationing on the same cruise. Of course the ship is overbooked and the two have to share a cabin and are called to action when a diamond thief makes himself known. Over the years the two have built a mutual understanding with each other and have been in some classic stories like The Dark Knight Returns, World’s Finest Vol. 2, Superman & Batman: Generations, the entertaining Superman/Batman series, and working with each other in several incarnations of the Justice League. Their rivalry is definitely one for the ages and beyond.

Of course not all rivalries are as complex as Superman and Batman. Some are simply over the love of a woman. We’ve all been there. Maybe not exactly like the one between Cyclops and Wolverine though. Jean Grey has long cast a spell over these two, making herself the center of their not-so-secret dislike for each other. On one hand you have the primal, animalistic Wolverine and on the other you have the reserved and focused Cyclops. A classic theme that showcases their strengths and weaknesses. What’s a girl to do? These two have enjoyed poking the other over the years, coming to blows at time and trading barbs. They’ve split over ideology differences but it still comes back to Jean. With these two, will there ever really be a “winner”? And how will their current status in the books develop this ever-changing relationship?

If you want straight action and punching, look no further than the Hulk and Thing. Many debates have been waged over who would win in a fight between these two. The Hulk has usually come out on top but Ben Grimm has held his own and has managed a win or two. This rivalry has survived and thrived over the years. Out of all their encounters, I liked the Grey Hulk v Thing the best. Even though Hulk started off at a lower strength level, his cunning made the match up that more exciting. Probably tied with those encounters was back in Fantastic Four #112. We witnessed the Thing go full tilt against the Hulk, no holding back. The issue was one big super fight and Grimm’s smarts and determination were on full display. While the Hulk kept going, Ben had reached his limits, yet refused to yield. Unfortunately, his heart brought him down when his girlfriend at the time, Alicia Masters, screamed out as debris fell around them.

Poor Ben.

You know who’s not poor? Tony Stark. Which makes the Captain America and Iron Man rivalry one of my favorites. This is another case of ideologies coming into play. While they have the same goal in mind, they use different methods to achieve them. Marvel’s ‘Civil War’ played out thanks to these two and the rivalry plays so strong that they are basing some of the cinematic universe around it. Who’s right or wrong when it comes to these two? It all depends on whose side you’re on.

I was thinking of including Namor on here but who would I pair him with? Reed Richards? Black Panther? Also, isn’t he more an anti-hero than anything else?

Who’s your favorite? Who did I miss?  Punisher and Daredevil? 

That’s all the time I have. See you next week!