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Comics 411: Top 10 Marvel Slugfests

April 27, 2022 | Posted by Steve Gustafson
Wolverine Sabretooth Image Credit: Marvel 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 our Top 10 Bronze Age Comic Books. Here’s what some of you had to say:

Al Lobama : “I have to resist my natural urge to make my entire Top Ten Bronze Age Stories List nothing but Batman books, but I honestly could. Besides the iconic Denny O’Neil/Neal Adams run that gave us the League of Assassins Saga, the revival of Two-Face in Half an Evil, and Joker’s Five Way Revenge, you’ve got a stellar Detective Comics run by Frank Robbins (which gave us the Man-Bat Trilogy), Gerry Conway’s criminally underrated run that produced the Killer Croc Saga and the debut of Jason Todd as Robin, and my personal favorite – the Steve Englehart/Marshall Rogers run of Detective Comics that gave us the Strange Apparitions story arc, the rebirth of Deadshot, the debut of Dr. Phosphorus and Clayface III, and what may be the greatest Joker story of all time, The Laughing Fish.
At the same time, I could just as easily make this Top Ten List nothing but stories written by Len Wein. During the Bronze Age, he worked at both Marvel and DC and wrote classics everywhere he went. The Jarella Saga in Incredible Hulk # 202 – 208, Giant-Size X-Men # 1, The Untold Legend of Batman miniseries that gave us the definitive Batman origin story, The Rampage of Reed Richards in Fantastic Four # 187 and 188, the debut of Swamp Thing in House of Secrets # 92, the debut of Mongol in DC Comics Presents # 27, The Return of the Seven Soldiers of Victory in Justice League of America # 100 – 102, and Batman vs. The Incredible Hulk. I could go on for days if you let me.

Here’s the best I could narrow it down to, in alphabetical order.

01.) Captain America and the Falcon # 169 – 176 (The Secret Empire story arc)
02.) Daredevil # 181 (“Last Hand” – a.k.a. The Death of Elektra)
03.) Detective Comics # 437 – 443 (the entire Archie Goodwinn/Walt Simonson Manhunter back-up serial)
04.) Detective Comics # 475 (“The Laughing Fish”)
05.) Incredible Hulk # 140 (“The Brute that Shouted Love at the Heart of the Atom!”)
06.) Iron Man # 120 – 128 (“Demon in a Bottle”)
07.) Legion of Superheroes # 290 – 294 (The Great Darkness Saga)
08.) Superman # 247 (“Must There Be a Superman?”)
09.) Swamp Thing # 1 – 10 (the original Len Wein/Bernie Wrightston run)
10.) Uncanny X-Men # 141 – 142 (“Days of Future Past”)

Honorable Mention – Superman vs. The Amazing Spider-man”

Crystal Shepard: “I read eight of these when they came out. Cerebus came later (as it did for most readers, I expect). I still haven’t read that Green Lantern run.”

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…

Top 10 Marvel Slugfests
In case you haven’t heard, Donny Cates is currently taking two of Marvel’s most iconic characters on a journey. The writer will bring them both together in an all-new epic: HULK VS. THOR: BANNER OF WAR! Just in time for the two heroes’ 60th anniversaries, this five-part crossover will kick off in HULK VS. THOR: BANNER OF WAR ALPHA #1 before crashing in the pages of both Hulk and Thor’s solo titles throughout May and June. Tackling ongoing mysteries from both series and featuring artwork by Martin Coccolo and covers by artist Gary Frank, the story promises to feature Thor and Hulk’s most glorious battle yet and the showdown will have a shocking impact on both characters’ futures. 

“Well, I was a little surprised that Marvel approached me to write this, if I’m being honest. I’m mostly known for writing very small, very quiet, intimate comics, so I had to—ha!! Sorry. Couldn’t keep that up. Yeah, this is gonna be bonkers as hell, guys,” Cates said. “We’re going to break EVERYTHING! Happy birthday, Hulk and Thor! Hope you enjoy MASSIVE AMOUNTS OF VIOLENCE!” 

To me this sounded like an old school Marvel tale that featured two heavy hitters going at it. I thought it would be fun to list my Top 10 and then see what you have. Be warned, I’m old school and nothing beats some of the classics from back in the day!

Honorable Mentions
Wolverine vs Punisher (Punisher War Journal #6-7)
Iron Man vs Hulk (Iron Man #132)
Hulk vs Juggernaut (Tales to Astonish #90-91)

Some things about the list. First, Thing used to be a bigger player in the Marvel universe. In fact, it’s crazy how far the Fantastic Four have fallen as they used to be in some bangers. Second, Hulk was THE powerhouse when it came to battles. He fought everyone and it was an event. Third, I miss the Silver Surfer. 

Yes, my selections are old school and reflect MY preference. Yours will differ. And that’s OK.

Top 10 Marvel Slugfests

10. Ghost Rider vs  Avengers (Avengers #214)
Reading this makes you realize how much Ghost Rider has changed in the Marvel Universe. Jim Shooter and Bob Hall put him front and center and start with him beating Angel pretty easily and when the big guns arrive, including Captain America, Thor, and Iron Man, you expect them to end things pretty quick. Not so fast! Ghost Rider goes on to win this and makes me wonder how he’d have worked as a regular opponent for the Avengers. A pretty fun issue overall that introduced an interesting angle to the Ghost Rider character that I don’t think has really been followed up on properly. 

9. Wolverine vs Sabretooth (Uncanny X-Men #212-213)
You just knew that these two would show up on the list. They’ve fought before this and they’ve fought after but this one stands out most to me. As the X-Men and Marauders were battling it out, Wolverine and Sabretooth went at it in a great couple of issues from the creative team of Chris Claremont, Rick Leonardi, and Alan Davis. I’d call this one a draw but what a fight!

8. Spider-Man vs Venom (Amazing Spider-Man #300)
Another classic between two characters that were destined to fight. Venom is more powerful than Spider-Man so it takes all his experience and skills to win this one. Venom would go on to be a huge thorn in Spidey’s side and people forget how cool his introduction was at the time. Not only that, David Michelinie and Todd McFarlane gave us a great issue that still stands up today.  

7. Thing vs Silver Surfer (Fantastic Four #55)
Prepare to see Stan Lee and Jack Kirby a lot on this list. I think younger audiences don’t realize how HUGE they were in the industry, churning out straight epics issue after issue. In this one we get the ole “hero miscommunication leads to fight” as Ben Grimm opens the door to find his girlfriend Alicia spending time to Norrin Radd aka the Silver Surfer. Of course this leads to a pretty awesome slugfest that has Silver Surfer holding back, giving the Thing the win. The pacing and Kirby dynamic art make this one stand out. 

6. Silver Surfer vs Thor (Silver Surfer #4)
I miss the old school Silver Surfer. He’s a great character, when written properly, and this issue is a great example. Loki does Loki things and tricks Silver Surfer into believing that Thor is evil. Then he gives Surfer a power boost so he can really mix it up with the Thunder God! After a devastating fight, Silver Surfer comes out on top and we can thank the team of John Buscema and Stan Lee for the ride!

5. Hulk vs Silver Surfer (Tales to Astonish #93)
I just realized that we’re in a Silver Surfer triple play! Roy Thomas and Dan Adkins keep it simple. Hulk wants to leave Earth. He believes the Silver Surfer can help him leave Earth. Silver Surfer is stuck on Earth thanks to Galactus. Hulk doesn’t want to hear and so they fight. Silver Surfer wins easily but it is a fun, wild fight while it lasts. 

4. Thor vs Hulk (Journey Into Mystery #112)
Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. Again. Thor meets two groups of children arguing over who is the stronger – Thor or Hulk? Thor tells them the tale of when he battled the Hulk under an enchantment spell. Probably one of my favorite single issues and while the fight ends in a draw, everything about it encompasses what’s great about comics. And it gives us this great bit of dialogue from Thor, “But, I leave you with this thought… it is not the one with the greatest power which is important!! It is the one who uses his power wisely… in the cause of justice!”

3. Fantastic Four vs X-Men (Fantastic Four #28)
Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. OK, I’ll just spoil it and say Stan and Jack run the rest of this list. In this issue the X-Men are under control of the Puppet Master and take on the Fantastic Four. These early Fantastic Four issues showcase some of the best stories that had a little bit of everything. These two teams go at it and while the X-Men could be declared the winners, we get a wild mix of characters with Awesome Android and Mad Thinker joining the action. Also, I love how the early Beast was portrayed. 

2. Hulk vs Fantastic Four (Fantastic Four #12)
Stan Lee and Jack Kirby give us one of the first crossovers that had Hulk showing up and taking on the Fantastic Four. Back then this was huge and seeing Hulk take on the team was pretty exciting stuff. A note on the Hulk. While most would say he was dumb and full of anger, in this issue we get a sneaky Hulk who not only has a powerful rage but uses a bit of intellect to take on the Fantastic Four. Great stuff from two guys who were not only creating a new universe but epic classics on the regular. 

1. Hulk vs Fantastic Four and Avengers (Fantastic Four #25-26)
You can take this issue and put it against any comic today and it will more than stand up. After the Hulk puts the Human Torch in the hospital things ramp up and the Fantastic Four and the Avengers team up to take him down. It doesn’t go as planned and we get some cool matchups as we see just how strong the Hulk is. While we’ve had some great, great Hulk runs over the years, early Marvel was the Hulk’s heyday and this issue makes sure you know he’s THE guy when it comes to fights. It takes a Rick Jones gamma-ray capsule to get him to revert back to Banner but this one will always be my number one thanks to Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. 

Alright, I know you’re chomping at the bit and I’m sure I’ll see lots of newer fights, which I totally know I’ll be accused of ignoring. That’s the beauty of comics. Share below!

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