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Lorendiac’s Lists: 12 Rationales for a Hero-Versus-Hero Slugfest on the Cover

12 Rationales for a Hero-Versus-Hero Slugfest on the Cover

So you want to have the cover show two (or more?) superheroes going at it hammer and tongs. Of course, if both combatants are superheroes then theoretically they ought to be on the same side . . . most of the time. How do you rationalize your decision to show them squaring off on the cover?

This is a question that comic book editors have obviously asked themselves hundreds of times. I did my best to think of a wide range of Hero-Versus-Hero Slugfests in my collection and try to sort them out according to the general Rationales that were used for them. Most of the examples I cite below did have heroes confronting each other in the cover illustrations, either fighting or else looking as if they were right on the verge of throwing punches (or using whatever special weapons and powers they might have available, if not literally punching and kicking). However, in a couple of cases I had to settle for stories where such clashes definitely happened within the story, but weren’t featured on the front cover. Sorry, but it was the best I could do. Here was what I came up with:

The 12 Rationales

01. Mistaken Identity
02. Smear Job
03. Regrettable Duty
04. Impostor
05. Presumed Impostor
06. Analog
07. Dream Sequence
08. Mind Control
09. Incoherent
10. Good Clean Fun
11. Gone Rogue
12. The Big Lie

01. Mistaken Identity

“Oh, you’re a fellow superhero? Well, how was I supposed to know that?”

This can work a couple of different ways. The hero who throws the first punch may have no idea who the other guy is, and just assumes his target “must be” a villain, name unknown. Or he may think he knows exactly whom he’s attacking-except he’s dead wrong!

The initial encounter of Spider-Man and Moon Knight (in “Peter Parker the Spectacular Spider-Man #22″ in 1978) fell into the “I don’t know who the heck he is, but I’d better fight him anyway!” category-at least from Spidey’s point of view. There was, of course, a Spidey/Moon Knight Slugfest on the cover.


Toward the end of the story inside, Spider-Man saw Moon Knight clobbering a thug in a dark alley and trying to interrogate him about the Maggia. Spidey had overheard mention of the Maggia, and was sufficiently upset by Moon Knight’s harsh interrogation tactics to assume that this weirdo in the white suit was probably planning to beat this thug to death for some reason (as a job for the Maggia, maybe?), and Spidey seemed to feel his best bet was to capture both of them, just to be on the safe side, and then question both until he got some straight answers from one or the other.

Moon Knight, not surprisingly, refused to simply stand still and be immobilized by Spidey’s webbing. Things went downhill from there. Eventually a costumed villain who was really working for the Maggia showed up and attacked the pair of them, right around the time that Spidey was finally starting to figure out that his white-clad opponent was “Moon Knight,” whom he had at least heard of before in a favorable context!

(It also occurs to me, although I’m reasonably certain nobody said so at the time, that Spidey may have thought Moon Knight’s white hooded outfit looked like a variation of the traditional garb of that fun-loving bunch, the Ku Klux Klan. Those false first impressions can be killers!)

I have a vague idea that there may have been cases, in one company’s continuity or another’s, where two heroes met face-to-face for the first time and one of them somehow thought the other guy must be a notorious villain whom he had heard of before (instead of just saying, “Gee, that weirdo looks pretty villainous to me, but I don’t know his name!”) But I’ve been unable to think of a specific example of a hero-versus-hero slugfest that started in exactly that fashion. If you can think of one, please let me know!

02. Smear Job

“I heard that you’ve gone rogue. And I believe everything I hear. Once upon a time you were a respected fellow hero, but now I’ll just have to clobber first and ask questions later!”

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I once wrote a “first reactions” piece about the graphic novel Spider-Man/Kingpin: To The Death (plotted by Tom DeFalco; scripted by Stan Lee), in which this happens to Spider-Man over and over in a single day, with several different heroes assuming the worst of him and trying to take him down by force without any silly preliminaries first, such as saying, “Please tell me your side of the story. Do you have an alibi?”


I called the piece: “Spidey’s only been a superhero for ages — why trust him?”

As you might surmise from that title, my major problem with the plot was that the story was published in 1997, and obviously set around in what was then “modern” Marvel Universe continuity, and yet a lot had changed since the Silver Age when Spidey was a very new kid on the block in superhero terms, and others (the X-Men, the Avengers, etc.) had never met him, or maybe just bumped into him once upon a time, and could plausibly say they didn’t really know anything about his good character or lack thereof. By the late 90s, Spidey had teamed up with practically everybody and his brother on numerous occasions to fight evil and sometimes even Save The World, so you’d think other veteran heroes would be willing to give him a little benefit of the doubt when they heard a news report that some super-powered guy in a Spidey costume had just killed a bunch of thugs with automatic weapons fire. Especially considering it wasn’t exactly the first time Spidey had been impersonated by a villain. (The first time was way back in “Amazing Spider-Man #1″ and it was written, of course, by Stan Lee. That was how The Chameleon made his debut.)

Note: This story did not feature a Hero-Versus-Hero Slugfest on the front cover. But it sticks in my mind as a particularly silly example of lots of other heroes taking a Smear Job at face value without even considering the possibility that it might be, in fact, a Smear Job. Daredevil was the lone exception to the general cluelessness of the other Marvel heroes in that tale.

03. Regrettable Duty

“I know you’ll stand up and fight for what you think is right. And you know that so will I. It’s a crying shame that our respective duties are putting us at cross-purposes!”

If you count Frank Castle (The Punisher) as a superhero (which I don’t), then he’s probably had this sort of cover scene, shooting or punching at a more conventional superhero, dozens of times in his career! Because he feels it’s his sacred duty to kill violent criminals (he doesn’t count himself as a violent criminal in that context), whereas other heroes normally feel it’s their sacred duty to apprehend violent criminals (by which they sometimes mean the Punisher too) without killing anybody in the process. Those mission statements obviously don’t mesh very well.

If you want an example where the heroes on both sides normally refrained from killing people, but ended up in violent opposition to one another anyway, then consider “Infinite Crisis #5,” which featured a Superman-versus-Superman slugfest on the cover.


The Golden Age Superman (Kal-L) was slugging it out with the Modern Superman (Kal-El, the guy who had been the star of the various Superman titles of the last two decades or so, since the Post-COIE Reboot of Superman continuity). Kal-L felt that the Earth of his native universe, back before the Crisis on Infinite Earths pruned the old Multiverse down to size, had been inherently superior to the newfangled Earth that so many superheroes lived on nowadays, and so he wanted to restore the “Earth-2″ universe to its former glory. If that restoration process would be awfully hard on the Modern Earth of the DCU, that was just tough. His first loyalties were to his wife (and his native timeline in general).

This picture was complicated by the fact that Kal-L’s expressed rationale for what he and his allies were attempting seemed (to my eyes) to be mutating in odd ways as the Infinite Crisis progressed, and it didn’t help that a version of the Superman-versus-Superman slugfest published over in the Superman titles was somewhat contradictory of the version published within the pages of “Infinite Crisis,” but the key point is that Kal-L felt he was fighting for the best interests of his entire native timeline, and the modern Kal-El felt he was fighting for the best interests of his entire native timeline, and it was generally believed that those respective sets of “best interests” were somehow mutually exclusive.

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(Ironically, at the end of the subsequent “52” series, DC decided to reveal that there was once again a Multiverse out there, including a parallel Earth that ended up at least superficially resembling Kal-L’s late, lamented Earth-2.)

I have the impression that similar situations of conflicting loyalties have arisen in Marvel’s “Civil War” and DC’s “Amazons Attack,” but I’ve largely ignored both of those events, so I won’t pretend I can comment on them with any expertise.

04. Impostor

“Look out! It’s a villain posing as a hero and beating the tar out of us!”

A goldie oldie. It doesn’t have to be Superman (for instance) fighting those other heroes on the cover; it just has to be someone who can pass for Superman at first glance! Then you can rationalize the whole thing inside the pages of the story to explain why it isn’t really Superman at all! (It’s even possible that nobody within the story ever thought for a moment that it was the real Superman, even if the cover gave a very different impression to the customer!)

For instance: the cover of “Titans/Young Justice: Graduation Day #2″ (middle installment of a three-part mini) showed Superman standing above the battered forms of Robin, Donna Troy (I think she was still calling herself “Troia” that week), and Superboy, while holding a rather-the-worse-for-wear Nightwing up in the air with one hand and drawing back the other hand in a fist, obviously ready to pulverize this powerless mortal.


And when you read the story, the heroes of those two teams did in fact fight something that superficially resembled Superman but definitely didn’t act like him. A previously-overlooked robot double that had now been programmed to kill, kill, kill. (Which it proved by doing exactly that to a pair of Titans, Donna Troy and Lilith. Donna has already made a comeback, of course; I don’t think Lilith has, but I figure it’s just a matter of time!)

And of course there have been any number of comic books that had a cover illustration featuring the costumed hero fighting himself. Usually, one of the combatants was simply an impostor wearing a duplicate costume! What could be simpler?

(Besides robot doubles and “just wearing the same costume,” other rationales for “Impostor” include clones, magically-created duplicates, illusionists, and shapeshifters.)

05. Presumed Impostor

“Prepare to be thrashed, you scoundrel! How dare you dress up like one of my colleagues in the superhero business? WHAM! Oops! Did I jump the gun a little on that one? Sorry!”

Sometimes whether one of the heroes on the scene is a fake is far less important than whether the other hero thinks he is-and reacts accordingly!

As an example of attacking a real hero on the theory that he must be a second-rate imitation, we have one of the stories in “Marvel Comics Presents #48.”


As I recall: Spidey is out on patrol one night and sees Wolverine, in full uniform, standing on a rooftop doing nothing in particular. Now, at this point in Marvel continuity, Wolverine and a bunch of other X-Men were commonly believed to be dead and gone, following events in Dallas during the “Fall of the Mutants” event. Therefore, Spidey “knew” this couldn’t possibly be the real Wolverine, whom he’d met several times before. Therefore, Spidey “knew” it had to be some shameless, disrespectful, dishonest impostor trying to capitalize on Wolverine’s hard-earned reputation, for some nasty reason or other. Therefore, Spidey “knew” it was his sacred duty to pummel the rascal with a sneak attack.

Follow the logic? I mean, how was Spidey supposed to know that the X-Men who died in Dallas had been magically restored to life by Roma about five minutes later-and had been hiding this fact from the general public ever since? (I should point out, though, that this “Wolverine,” phony or not, wasn’t committing any visible crime when Spidey attacked him-but Spidey evidently saw no reason to get all hung up over such a tiny technicality!)

So, even though these two heroes had absolutely nothing to fight about, they did anyway! Wolverine initially seemed more amused than anything else by the whole thing, and Spidey eventually noticed that his trusty Spidey-Sense wasn’t screaming “Red Alert!” at him, which tended to suggest that this guy with the claws wasn’t exactly a supervillain after all . . . sure, you may think it would have been nice if he’d noticed that total absence of “Red Alert!” a few pages sooner, but that would have ruined the chance to put a Spidey-versus-Wolverine slugfest on the cover!

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06. Alternate-Timeline Analog

“I’m not fighting my old buddy; I’m fighting a nasty version of him from a whole different reality!”

Marvel’s “Exiles” series gets plenty of mileage out of this one in its plots, as a motley assortment of characters from alternate timelines (some of them based on people we know from 616’s regular continuity, and occasionally an actual native of 616 gets involved)-goes gallivanting about the multiverse to visit more and more alternate timelines and fight the local versions of even more of the old familiar faces-and those “hero-versus-hero” slugfests occasionally carry over to the “Exiles” covers. I just checked an online gallery of that title’s cover scans and noticed that a surprising number of their covers aren’t slugfest-happy, but I also found an example that seems to illustrate my point in spades!

A cover scan of “Exiles #86″ shows a team of six Exiles standing close together at the center of a circle. They are surrounded by about a zillion variations of Wolverine, and of course every last one of those analogs appears to have his claws extended, meaning he’s primed and ready to do what he does best (and you just know it ain’t very nice).


I don’t own a copy, but as near as I can tell from what I’ve read online (and from what I already understood about the basic premise of the Exiles), this illustration didn’t mean someone had been mass-producing “Wolverine Clones” or “Wolverine Robots” or even “Cheap Wolverine Disguises” in a factory somewhere! No, each of those guys was presumably the “One and Only” Wolverine (or Logan, or Patch, or Weapon X, or James Howlett, or whatever he called himself that week) in his respective native timeline! Now they had all been brought together in one world, at the same place and time, for some diabolically clever reason! (I’m not even counting the part about “showing a zillion Wolverines on the same cover” as being the diabolically clever reason all by itself, you understand.)

The “Alternate Timeline Analog” would also apply to the covers of DC’s Elseworlds material (or similar stories that might not carry the Elseworlds logo). If the entire story, including every member of the cast, is totally separated from the “continuity” of the company’s regular monthly titles, then you can pit anybody against anybody else, even kill off any hero you please (instead of just having the combatants “kiss and make up” after the obligatory slugfest), and you’ll get away with it because every other writer knows he is absolutely free to ignore whatever you just did!

For instance, in James Robinson’s four-part Elseworlds miniseries “The Golden Age,” the final issue has a cover illustration of putative superhero Dyna-Man (formerly Dan the Dyna-Mite, erstwhile sidekick to T.N.T. in adventures from the WWII era) standing triumphant on a battlefield where various other Golden Age heroes are sprawled on the ground, presumably either dead or badly battered after tangling with his incredible power (seemingly Superman-level in strength and invulnerability, at least at the beginning of the battle)-and the cover is not false advertising; several veteran heroes did in fact die within the pages of the story; it was quite the bloodbath!


Word has it that James Robinson originally tried to pitch the idea as a “flashback” miniseries that would become The New Official Continuity regarding the final fates of a bunch of fairly obscure Golden Age heroes in the years following World War II. However, DC evidently didn’t want to let him kill off as many established heroes as he hoped to eliminate for dramatic reasons, so they insisted upon publishing it with the Elseworlds logo firmly displayed on each cover, instead. If he would settle for killing lots of “Alternate-Timeline Analogs” of various Golden Age heroes, then he could go hog-wild!

07. Dream Sequence

“Man, what an exciting dream I had last night! My good buddy and I just about killed each other in a fight over some stupid thing!”

So there was a fight scene, but it didn’t really happen. Nobody got hurt. Besides simple dreams, other variations on this theme can include hallucinations triggered by mind-altering drugs, carefully engineered virtual reality scenarios, a work of fiction written by one of the characters within the larger story . . .

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I’m having trouble thinking of a good example where a “dream sequence” was the excuse for a Hero-Versus-Hero Slugfest shown on the cover. Although I’m sure it’s been done. Anyone care to help me out here?

I initially hoped to find an example in “Ghost #21,” from the first “Ghost” series from Dark Horse, but when I checked an online scan of the cover (I remembered the story a lot better than the cover), it only has Ghost and X staring at each other, practically nose-to-nose. They certainly tried to kill each other in the actual story, in what was basically a dream sequence inflicted by a telepathic villain (as the two vigilantes eventually figured out), but that slugfest isn’t really reflected on the cover.


All you could deduce from that picture was that X would be guest-starring in this issue, and he and Ghost would look at each other at least once (which was true, but far from the whole truth).

08. Mind Control

“I really hate to do this to you, old chum, but somebody else is in the driver’s seat inside my head right now!”

This has been done many. many times. For instance, “Batman #612″ (Part 5 of the
12-part “Hush” story arc) had Superman choking Batman on the cover.


I don’t recall if that exact bit (choking him) happened in the story, but there was certainly a violent confrontation, thanks to Poison Ivy having achieved mental dominance over Superman for a while.

It’s even been done via body-switching, so that the hero ends up in the villain’s body and vice versa. For our purposes, I’ll just call that an extreme case of the same phenomenon of “Mind Control.”

09. Temporary Incoherence

“I’d rather fight you than explain exactly what’s weighing so heavily on my mind, even though you’d understand my concern if I took the trouble to share it with you! Unngh! Ouch! Whoof! You’ve been working out, haven’t you!”

In other words, the “conflict” between the two heroes could be resolved in about ten seconds, without further violence, if the aggressor-superhero in this situation were capable of articulating one short sentence to coherently express why he was making such a fuss. (But why do a wimpy thing like that when he can settle for a long, pointless slugfest instead?)

On that note, let’s talk about “Fantastic Four #357.”


By the time I first read this comic, years after it came out, I already knew darn well what all the fuss was about. It was painful to see that writer Tom DeFalco, just for the sake of justifying a Thing/Human Torch slugfest on the cover, had rendered Ben Grimm utterly incapable of formulating a simple declarative sentence that would coherently explain his violent attitude toward Johnny Storm’s wife.

Johnny and “Alicia” are talking when Ben suddenly bursts through the door, bellowing, “Move back, Johnny! Don’t let ‘er near ya!”

A moment later he tries to explain his reason for barging in on them this way. He uses the following well-chosen words: “I’m gonna kill yer woman!”

For some reason, this declaration doesn’t go over well with Johnny. (Isn’t that peculiar?) Observing that Philip Masters, the notorious Puppet Master, is standing right behind Ben at the moment, Johnny quickly suspects that Ben Grimm is being mind-controlled (Rationale #08, above) and is now a very nasty threat to Johnny’s beloved spouse for no good reason! (Ben sure hasn’t mentioned a good reason, or even a bad one, at this point! Nor will he for several pages yet!)

Hence, a slugfest, as well as Ben chasing Alicia all over the place while trying to either kill her (if we take his angry pronouncements at face value) or at least to terrify her enough to make her drop a masquerade so Johnny can see the truth (if we give Ben the full benefit of the doubt and judge by what finally happened, rather than by what he repeatedly said he was going to make happen).

Later on, when Ben has “blind Alicia” cornered, he says, “Yer dead, lady, dead! Nuthin’ can save you now!” Again, Johnny seems to think there is something terribly wrong with this picture . . .

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I should mention (now that I’ve just reread that sequence) that Johnny, even while using his flame powers to try to keep Ben away from Alicia, also repeatedly tries to persuade a rampaging, murderous-sounding Ben to stop, take a deep breath, remember they are friends, fight off any mental control being used on him, not force Johnny to char-broil him in defense of Alicia, etc. Anywhere along the line, Ben could have responded with an explanation, in just
three or four words, of why he was so bound and determined to get his mitts on “Alicia.” Sad to say, Ben wasn’t interested in doing anything so rational. He actually indulged in bits of repartee with Johnny during their fight, but somehow never was able to find a moment to say, in plain English, why this fight was happening! Not until he’d already terrorized “Alicia” enough that she turned back to her natural form as Lyja, and then, on the last page of the story, Ben pointed at her and finally said what he just as easily could have said several pages sooner: “Yer lovin’ wife is a stinkin’ Skrull!”

(When I first read this issue, long after I knew about that retcon, I was appalled at how horribly written Ben was in this scene. How hard could it be for him to yell out a few syllables to an old friend-such as “She’s a Skrull!”-at the beginning of the conversation? Except of course, that if the guys at Marvel didn’t make him Temporarily Incoherent on this crucial subject, then there was no basis for a slugfest between two of the FF, and if there was no slugfest, they might have had to go with a [i]non-violent[/i] cover illustration . . . the horror! The horror!)

10. Good Clean Fun

“Fighting? What fighting? That was just friendly practice! We have to stay ready for the real thing, you know!”

Yes, they were slugging away at each other-but they weren’t angry or anything. Pulling their punches, using their energy blasts at one-quarter-power, or whatever. Sometimes just as a training exercise; sometimes it’s even done to settle a dispute without anyone being meant to get killed or maimed; sometimes they’re just fooling around for fun without really thinking of it as “training.”

Consider “Tales of the Teen Titans #42,” Part 1 of “The Judas Contract.”


Much of this issue’s cover is a set of six panels shaped like TV screens; and the words across the bottom of the cover are “The Eyes of Tara Markov.” One of the panels shows Starfire and Wonder Girl I (Donna Troy) dueling with quarterstaffs. Another shows a bird-presumably Garfield Logan (then called Changeling; now Beast Boy again) trying to dodge a storm of clods of earth that seems to be pursuing him. Since that’s the type of attack his teammate Terra would naturally use, we had one definite Hero-Versus-Hero Slugfest advertised on the cover and a second one strongly implied. Indeed, both of them actually happened in the story, and both of them were-in theory-supposed to be Good Clean Fun for training purposes.

In the case of the Kory/Donna fight, theory and practice went hand in hand. It was just friendly exercise; not a grudge match. After Kory beat Donna fair and square, they hugged each other to show there were no hard feelings. (Garfield Logan muttered something about a waste of two perfectly good hugs.)

The Changeling/Terra fight, a bit later on, also started as a reasonably friendly training match, but Terra finally lost her temper (to be fair: only after a stream of undeniably obnoxious taunting from her opponent) and came close to killing Changeling in the heat of the moment. The other Titans finally intervened because they felt that knocking Changeling out and then throwing a stream of lava at his helpless form was a bit excessive. (Fussy, fussy, fussy!)

If you care, Terra talked her way out of it-for the moment-by claiming that under the stress she’d had a flashback to the period of her life when terrorists were picking on her all the time, and she’d felt like she was lashing out at them now . . .

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11. Gone Rogue

The primary difference from Mind-Control is that one of the heroes is deliberately Being Evil (or Violently Insane, or something along those lines). Not just because someone else is pulling his strings, but because of bad choices he’s made of his own free will (as far as we know) and/or because of inherent mental illness that isn’t just the result of hypnosis or whatever. Sometimes we are told that this “heroic” character was always rotten underneath the charming exterior. Other times we’re just told that he’s finally lost his marbles under severe stress. Either way, it creates opportunities for his former friends and allies to have some lovely slugfests with him.

As an example: Picking up where we left off, the second installment of “The Judas Contract” (“Tales of the Teen Titans #43″) also had several smaller panels on the cover, and one of them showed Terra riding a rising wave of earth and obviously attacking a fellow Titan, Raven.


This actually happened-although we only saw it in flashback-and it meant that Terra was finally showing her true colors as a dyed-in-the-wool psychopath who, for some reason, had long hated those goody-goody two-shoes Titans but was extremely good at covering that up most of the time (except for one or two tiny little slips, such as trying to fry Beast Boy with lava in the previous issue).

12. The Big Lie

“Ha! You expected the scene you saw on the cover? Fooled you that time, didn’t we?”

Here someone took the laziest way out, in the process of grabbing your hard-earned money with an enticing cover. In other words, the publishers put a hero-versus-hero slugfest on the cover . . . just because they felt like putting a hero-versus-hero slugfest on the cover to see if it helped sales, and not because it had any particular relevance to the plot of the actual

I don’t bother with the current “Supergirl” title, but I’ve recently seen complaints that it’s already used this type of Big Lie on the cover more than once, and the readers are expected to just grin and bear it and then come back for more!

Supergirl squaring off against Power Girl on the cover . . .


…no such fight on the inside.

Supergirl squaring off against Karate Kid on the cover . . .


…no such fight on the inside.


As always, I take it for granted that my “first draft” is likely to contain some errors, and probably totally overlooked some other possible Rationales for contriving a certain type of story. If you can think of other reasons for superheroes to face off with each other in shameless slugfests, then please tell me what you think I should add to a later draft of this list! :)

Further Reading

I’ve been writing these Numbered Lists since 2004. Recently I transferred copies of most of them (all the ones that predate my involvement with CSBG) to a new account on LiveJournal, following an embarrassing situation two months ago when my GeoCities pages got overloaded by the numbers of people seeing the links here and trying to follow them. That shouldn’t happen this time, if anyone reading this wants to take a look at my previous efforts to look at some peculiar aspect of the superhero lifestyle and list and analyze the different approaches that various writers have taken in dealing with such matters over the years.

12 Motives for Killing a Comic Book Character

17 Excuses for Bringing Back a Dead Character

16 Types of Retcons

19 Ways to End a Superhero’s Romance

22 Ways to Show a Superhero Killing Someone

9 Categories of Continuity

5 Types of Superhero Team Members

Secret Identities: 10 Ways to Unspill the Beans

Superhero Finances: 10 Situations

13 Reasons to Use a Deathtrap

14 Functions for a Superhero Costume

10 Types of Superhero Successors

14 Ways to Rehabilitate a Disgraced Hero

14 Motives for Becoming a Superhero

12 Tricks for Keeping Superheroes Young


Very nice. The only thing missing is the very recent phenomena of Hero A fights Hero B because Hero B has turned evil for real.

Batgirl, Superboy, Black Adam….

Very nice. The only thing missing is the very recent phenomena of Hero A fights Hero B because Hero B has turned evil for real.

Uh, wouldn’t that be exactly what’s covered by #11?

A couple that I can’t think of good cover examples for:

The Fake-Out – A staple of certain 1960s comics, this is when the heroes seem to have fallen out violently, or one seems to have gone rogue, only for the whole thing to turn out to be a preplanned sting operation aimed at suckering the villains. Superman used to do this sort of thing constantly in the Silver Age, but I’m inexplicably failing to come up with a solid example. A subtype of this is the “fight so hard we wreck the villains’ lair” version of the Mind Control trope, but that fits under that category better than here, where no mind control is involved.

Zen Sadism – This is the occasional use of that hoary martial arts cliche in which the experienced master openyl attacks the student, provoking a massive fight…which ends when the master reveals that the whole thing was designed to test said student. Quite a lot of team recruitment stories seem to use this method, as whn Night Thrasher rounded up many of the original New Warriros by…well, attacking them outright and then making his pitch to calm them down. Sometimes this also takes the form of “attacking to snap you out of your funk,” which goes to prove that superheroes aren’t licensed therapists. This trope differs from the usual training session in that the attackee (and usually the reader) aren’t supposed to know it’s just a game. Though again, I’m not thinking of actual covers that advertise this trope, I’m sure they’re out there.

I don’t think that counts, since Hero B has actually become a villain.

#12 is pretty much the foundation of DC’s output isn’t it? Superdickery has a ton of covers exactly like that.

And Spider-Man/Kingpin was really really bad.

Er, the example under #11 is a case in which the ostensible hero was an outright villain. And it opens by stating that the hero “is deliberately Being Evil” for any of a host of reasons. Becomign a villain would seem to me to be the definition of “deliberately Being Evil.”

This makes me miss the top 5 lists that were here a while back. They were a lot less cynical.

What about a case where both heroes are in their right minds, and they know who each other are, but don’t get along, and have finally had enough of each other and want to step outside? I can’t think of an example, but there must be one or two…

Another occasional subset (though they might fall under other categories too) is “Determine once and for all who is the TRUE Major Meerkat!”

For some reason, there are two heroes who either claim or desire the same identity, and they have a fight over it. Possibly as an actual “official” contest (IIRC, that was how Artemis became Wonder Woman for a while, right?) Or as a less official “the guy who gets beat up gives in” thing, like The Tick vs. Barry (the hero who also calls himself “The Tick.”)

Another occasional rationale would be “I’m fighting myself,” usually due to time travel shenanigans, often with an element of Mistaken Identity in there too (e.g., several covers showing Superman fighting Superboy.)

Wasn’t there a JLI cover that showed Batman punching out Guy Gardner? That would be exactly the type of thing you mentioned, Matthew.

“I’ve heard some pretty bad things about you, mister, so I’m bringing you in!” is pretty much how the entire Marvel Universe introduced themselves to Spider-Man.

According to suedenim’s added reason, you have the example of the Captain (Steve Rogers) vs. Captain America (John Walker) on CA #350 to prove which is the better Captain America.

Here’s the Google Image search:

the thing/human torch story cited above was simply lazy writing, pure and simple. it could’ve easily started with ben busting in with the “your wife’s a skrull” line, and johnny defending her honor until the stress made lyja reveal her true self at the end. there could have still been a battle, but ben wouldn’t have come off as such a dumbass.

I was going to mention that too, jazzbo. Batman knocks Guy out with one punch, and Guy’s personality changes until Lobo punches him again.

Also used at the end of Green Lantern: Rebirth. Hal punches Batman because Batman wasn’t ready to believe he’s a good guy. Now that I think about it, Batman punches him back in GL #9. Batman apparently has something against Green Lanterns.

Also kind of used in The Dark Knight Returns or Strikes Back, when Batman pummels Superman. I forget which. Probably both.

There’s also the “extremely powerful villian has kidnapped two heroes and is forcing them to fight it out, gladiator-style” story. (Sometimes this is a mind-control thing, but more often it’s just plain extortion.)

Which, (extortion) come to think of it, is another rationale for a fake/temporary heel turn that leads to a hero/hero fight.

Jeff, that last one is the plot of Challenge of the Super-Heroes that Marvel put out back before Secret Wars.

I’m not sure which category this example would fall under: There was an old issue of either All Star Squadron or Infinity Inc (the story was a crossover) where the Squadron attacked the Inkers on the basis that the only one they recognized appeared to be Brainwave, a known villian.

Now, all of the Inkers were time traveling children of certain Squadron members, and so couldn’t reveal themselves without compromising their existance. And, Brainwave Jr.’s father was the villian that the Squadron mistook him for.

Would this be #1, 2, 4, or 5?

Also, would #9 also apply to when the story is incoherent, or only when the hero’s motivations are incoherent. Because there are a lot of 90s examples of purely incoherent stories where at the end I was left wondering, “Wait, why were these guys fighting again?”


Sorry, that title is Contest of Champions, not Challenge of the Super-Heroes. Don’t know what I was thinking.


Batman apparently has something against Green Lanterns.

Batman apparently has something against pretty much every single occupant in the DC universe. He’s a really grumpy guy… which I guess is one way to cause a hero vs hero battle, by having Batman act like a jerk.

Clearly, Batman and Green Lanterns don’t mix.

And slightly off topic, but did anyone else love the fact that Batman was chosen by a Sinestro Ring to be a member of the Sinestro Corps, because of his ability to instill fear? I thought that was great.

I enthusiastically agree with Ben. The way he treated Blue Beetle in Countdown to IC was major jerkery; however, I like grumpy Batman. Have you ever seen him smile? That’s genuinely creepy.

Which issue did that happen in, jazzbo? It sounds familiar, but I don’t recall for sure.

CBSBG should give him a placefor his super hero lists, permanently.

And Spider-Man/Kingpin was really really bad.

Mm. It’s especially goofy because you can make something of a case for the other heroes’ behaviour. In a universe where mind-control is a literal moment-to-moment threat, it well might’ve seemed the better part of caution to take Spidey in first and ask questions later.

Unfortunately, from Lorendiac’s article, it appears our Stan didn’t take even that flimsy out – the other heroes clearly think Spidey’s simply decided to start shooting people. Presumably because he hates Mondays. Or something.

In case anybody’s interested, the cover to Exiles #86 is a swipe of Superman: The Man of Steel #37. The “Zero Hour” crossover issue featured then-long-haired Superman meeting three Batmen: The Bob Kane version circa Detective Comics #27, Neal Adams’ 1970s Batman (he asks mullet Supes if he’s “going hippie”) and Frank Miller’s Dark Knight Returns Batman. Jon Bogdanove does a good job aping the various art styles and the story’s fun. The cover features several variations who didn’t make it in the issue, such as the Batman: The Animated Series Batman and the Gotham by Gaslight version.


in that superman zero hour story, there were a few more variations of batman that didn’t play a huge role in the story like the alan grant version from the eighties and the sci-fi version from the fifties.

joshschr – Doing a quick internet search it looks like it was in Green Lantern #17. I’d have to dig through too many comics to verify, but I’m pretty sure that’s right.

“What about a case where both heroes are in their right minds, and they know who each other are, but don’t get along, and have finally had enough of each other and want to step outside? I can’t think of an example, but there must be one or two…”

There *must* have been a Wolverine & Hulk fight like that, at some point.

I think either Morrison or Whedon wrote Wolverine & Cyclops that way in an issue, too.

I gotta say, the X-Men trying to bring in Spider-Man because they think he’s turned into a killer is like the fox guarding the henhouse. The X-Men have a very lax regard for the rule of law and habeus corpus. Either they’re giving sanctuary to one villain after another (Magneto, Sabretooth, Mystique, ect) or they’re standing on the sidelines watching Wolverine slice entire platoons of ninjas and Hydra agents to bloody bits.

The Fake-Out – A staple of certain 1960s comics, this is when the heroes seem to have fallen out violently, or one seems to have gone rogue, only for the whole thing to turn out to be a preplanned sting operation aimed at suckering the villains. Superman used to do this sort of thing constantly in the Silver Age, but I’m inexplicably failing to come up with a solid example. A subtype of this is the “fight so hard we wreck the villains’ lair” version of the Mind Control trope, but that fits under that category better than here, where no mind control is involved.

Let’s find out if I remember how to put quotations in comments on here . . .

Assuming it works, here’s my response:

I guess there’s a case to be made that a carefully-staged fight between friends (or polite acquaintances) that is meant to look very much like a real no-holds-barred grudge match could fall into a separate category from the friendly sort of sparring session that I labeled as “Good Clean Fun.” It occurs to me that the fighting between the JLA and the Titans (in the three-part “JLA/Titans” mini by Devin Grayson that preceded her run on a newly launched “Titans” title) was an ambiguous situation.

The putative argument was over whether whatever was left of Cyborg’s personality deserved to be kept alive when the giant spaceship thingie he was in was threatening — and already damaging — the entire Earth. Various members of the two teams (including reservists who hadn’t really been Titans in years) starting expressing their differing opinions violently. After several pages of Hero-Versus-Hero Slugfest, someone (Batman?) said something that revealed that at least some of the JLA members who’d been fighting had only been doing so as part of a secret strategy to create a very noisy diversion to cover something else entirely. Nightwing hadn’t known that; I’m not sure any of the Titans had (although you’d think that one or two of the more psychically gifted ones, such as Raven, might have sensed something fishy going on.)

The JLA/Titans Slugfest certainly was reflected on the covers of the mini.

So how does it count when some (or all) of one side of the Slugfest figures the whole thing is just a smoke screen, but some (or all) of the other side actually thinks the life of a former teammate is at stake if they don’t kick the butts of those holier-than-thou JLAers?

Well, I don’t remember how to get quotations formatted in here, so I’ll stick to the tried-and-true.

Mullon said: “This makes me miss the top 5 lists that were here a while back. They were a lot less cynical.”

I don’t like to think I’ve been overcome by cynicism. I do get frustrated by Bad Writing, but my enjoyment of Good Storytelling in Superhero Comics remains vast!

“Fantastic Four #357,” for instance, did not qualify as “Good Storytelling” by any stretch of the imagination, and I expressed my feelings accordingly. That doesn’t mean I’ve gotten so cynical that I assume every Hero-Versus-Hero Slugfest on a cover will be advertising an equally flimsy plot. I still have my fair share of optimism, and I keep hoping for good storytelling with reasonably honest cover illustrations.

In case you weren’t clear on this: Some of the stories I cited as examples in this Numbered Lists were stories that I enjoyed immensely! (“The Judas Contract” springs to mind — as a schoolboy, I was buying those issues each month as they came out.)

Matthew E said: “What about a case where both heroes are in their right minds, and they know who each other are, but don’t get along, and have finally had enough of each other and want to step outside? I can’t think of an example, but there must be one or two…”

It’s a point. A case where the heroes are angry at each other — and agree to fight it out — but they aren’t actually trying to kill each other, for instance — might not fit under the umbrella of “good clean fun.”

Maybe I should have given “Grudge Match” its own listing? Examples that have been featured on covers include “Green Lantern #3″ from 1990 (with Hal Jordan and Guy Gardner slugging it out), and another story that came along a bit later, a boxing match between Guy Gardner and Blue Beetle in “Justice League International #52.”

Comics.org doesn’t seem to be working, so I can’t quickly provide URLs to nice big cover scans.

Incidentally: The first example ended up with Hal winning, but then he and Guy were both tossed in jail for disturbing the peace in a small town. (They had taken off their rings to make it an old-fashioned, bare-knuckle, man-to-man confrontation. Naturally, a couple of other guys stole the rings during all the commotion.)

The second example was done in a boxing ring, with both guys wearing gloves and supposed to play strictly according to the rules of the sport, with General Glory as the referee. (Guy lost his temper as he started getting the worst of it, hit Beetle in the back between rounds, and then started kicking him while he was down, all of which was absolutely against the rules in what was supposed to be a sportsmanlike contest. General Glory finally had to break it up when he realized Guy had gone berserk.)

So how does it count when some (or all) of one side of the Slugfest figures the whole thing is just a smoke screen, but some (or all) of the other side actually thinks the life of a former teammate is at stake if they don’t kick the butts of those holier-than-thou JLAers?

That was meant to be covered by my other category suggestion, Zen Sadism, where a hero who does know better attacks another one who doesn’t in order to “test them” or to achieve some other goal, after which the attacker explains all to the attackee as if it justified the initial assault. As I noted,it’s named for the most typical setting in which it occurs, the Zen master who attacks the martial arts student as a final test. Superteams also sometimes use this as an initiation stunt — and even weirder, as a recruitment tool! It’s usually not successful in those con texts for obviousreasons.

Between the DC’s stuff the past view years and Civil War at Marvel I am so damn sick to death of hero vs. hero.

The thing is it makes many of these heroes just look rock f’ing stupid. What, the worlds greatest detective can’t deduce that Superman is not his enemy? That they ultimately have the exact same goal? Also, why the hell does Batman need to beat Superman in the first place. Are Batman writers and fans in such dire need to prove the character that they can only do so if he has total victory over any and all other heroes? Sorry but all the prep time, Kryptonite, darkness, and one liners in the world doesn’t negate the fact that this is a being with heat vision and superpowers among his arsenal of powers.

Here’s a wild way out wacky concept, how about having great heroes working together (GASP! protecting humanity against a common threat and kicking ass as only they can?

Thenodrin — about the time when the All-Stars assumed the worst of the Infinitors because of Brain Wave Junior’s look, I’d call that “Mistaken Identity.” It actually could serve as an example of a variety of Mistaken Identity that I couldn’t think of a good example for at the time — when Hero A thinks Hero B is a certain, specific villain, and fights him on that basis . . . but has made a dreadful mistake!

Thenodrin — as an afterthought regarding your question about #9 and Incoherence, it would help if you could mention one or two specific examples of “incoherent stories with hero-vs.-hero slugfests” from the 90s to give us a basis for discussion. Then, if it turns out I’ve actually read one of those samples, I could get my teeth into it as I tried to analyze just what category (or categories) it fell into.

Ben Herman said: “I gotta say, the X-Men trying to bring in Spider-Man because they think he’s turned into a killer is like the fox guarding the henhouse. The X-Men have a very lax regard for the rule of law and habeus corpus. Either they’re giving sanctuary to one villain after another (Magneto, Sabretooth, Mystique, ect) or they’re standing on the sidelines watching Wolverine slice entire platoons of ninjas and Hydra agents to bloody bits.”

As I recall, that same point definitely occurred to me, with regard to Wolverine in particular, when I first read that graphic novel after finding it very cheaply at a sale. (After reading it, I understood why it only cost me something like 3 bucks.)

It would be particularly hypocritical of Wolverine to try to hunt down a more clean-living hero like Spidey just because he had allegedly killed a bunch of guys who were, in fact, professional criminals themselves. However, since Wolverine only got one cameo on a “montage” page, with no dialogue, I didn’t actually learn exactly what his rationale was for trying to punish Spidey for (supposedly) doing much the same sort of thing that Wolvie has done on many previous occasions when fighting gangsters in Madripoor, or ninjas in Hong Kong, or whatever.

For the example of “Dream Sequence,” there is the cover of Web of Spider-Man #7. Though the cover doesn’t feature two heroes in pitched battle, it does show the Hulk looking very angry, and a succint set of captions: “The Incredible Hulk has just spotted Spider-Man. Cancel Christmas.” Clearly, the cover is promising that our beloved web-slinger is in grave danger at the hands of the Jade Giant. The story within, as I recall, features Spidey having a vivid dream where he is tormented by friends and foes at every turn, and soon is ready for the Hulk to put him out of his misery.

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