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Comics 411: The Best Superhero Rivalries

September 11, 2019 | Posted by Steve Gustafson
Batman Superman Image Credit: DC Comics

I’m Steve Gustafson and thanks for stopping by. Don’t forget to check out 411mania’s Comic Book Review Roundtable, every Thursday! Read up on the best reviews and let us know what you’re reading as well. Click to read the latest Comic Book Review Roundtable! Last week we covered House of X #4, Marvel Comics #1000, and more!

On with the show!

Last time we discussed the Worst Comic Book Trends from the 90s!. Here’s what some of you had to say:

Lycanthrokeith: “”So how many more months until that issue of Pitt # 3 comes out?””

D2Kvirus: “Dark Horse’s decision to run Aliens/Predator vs… titles into the ground not just with half a dozen Aliens vs Predator series by the time the 90s were done, but crossovers like Superman vs Aliens, Superman vs Predator, Batman vs Predator, Judge Dredd vs Predator and even Tarzan vs Predator that all started to look like the same comic just with different names being used”

Acolyte Of Glorious La Parka: “Ahhh, the ’90’s.

Remember when everything was X-TREME!!!?”

Ken Wood: “Alternate covers and late comics.”

John: “The worst for me was all the what I like to call “spaghetti” characters where they good or bad…who knows they were barely there one minute and gone the next.
Excalibur – Feron, Klyun, and Micromax
X-factor – Fixx, and Greystone
Generation X – Mondo and Gaia”

Reginald Fisterbottom: “I believe everything bad from the 1990s should be blamed on Wizard Magazine.”

DerekScott: “One horrible comic trend that wasn’t mentioned – Wolverine. EVERYWHERE. You think Deadpool made a lot of guest appearances in the 2000’s, it seemed Wolverine was in every comic book. Spider-Man, Punisher and Ghost-Rider were just as bad.

Another is along with the explosion of indy comics came the death of indy comics. Todd McFarlane did a lot to kill the independent comic scene in the 90’s, convincing distributors like Friendly Frank’s and Diamond to adopt punitive measures for indy publishers that failed to meet certain qualifications, but he also made sure that Image didn’t have to follow the same rules – like releasing comic books on time. Word has it that he was upset with an indy company Image partnered with in their early days for a crossover, and that company was even worse than Image at releasing their books on time, which resulted in all of Image’s titles in the crossover being out but the other company being 6 months or more late on theirs.

As for Superman’s death, anyone that thought it was permanent was crazy. The geeky explanation is that the next book that would have come out after the Funeral storyline was Adventures of Superman 500. Perfect return issue. The logical explanation is that a lot of companies paid WB for the rights to Superman’s image to go on their product, and they wouldn’t be happy to have the rights to a character that was no longer appearing in comics. That’s why major characters don’t stay dead and major costume changes don’t stick. It’s why a big deal was made when Marvel basically got rid of the Fantastic Four just so Fox didn’t have the benefit of a comic promoting their movie.”

Some great back and forth last week. To read ALL of the comments go HERE! As always, thanks for the input!

This week we discuss…

The Best Superhero Rivalries!

Before I get comments wondering why I didn’t include Reed Richards and Doctor Doom, I’m taking about superhero-on-superhero rivalries.

A special thanks to everyone who reminded me of the greatness that was Justice League and inspired this.

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

“One punch! One punch!”

Comic book history has had its fair share of friendly superhero rivalries. Some 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”?

If you want straight action and punching, look no further than the Hulk and Thing. Many a debate has 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.

Who’s your favorite? Who did I miss? Who do you think would make a good superhero rivalry?

That’s all the time I have. Check out our Comic Book Reviews tomorrow and see you next week!