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CSBG Archive

I Can’t Cover What I Am – Superman Gets Punched!

In this feature, I spotlight comic book covers that follow a specific theme. Here is an archive of all the cover themes we’ve spotlighted so far.

Obviously, when someone is as strong and as tough as Superman is, to see him getting punched by someone (and having it actually be felt) is quite a sight! That’s why it’s been seen so much on covers over the years.

An amusing thing about it, though, is that it was NOT used for the first couple of decades of Superman’s career – I think you could make the argument that this cover theme really does not work until Superman is COMPLETELY set as a paragon of strength and toughness – otherwise, it’s seen as an ACTUAL sign of weakness, and not “Wow, that guy just punched Superman! What the heck is going on in THIS comic?!? I must find out now!”

In any event, here are ten cool comic covers of Superman showing off his “oh man, I just got punched hard” face

Enjoy!

This 60s cover is one of the first uses of the theme…

Jerry Ordway homaged it 20-odd years later…

Born on a Monday, Punched Superman on a Saturday…

Martian Manhunter? More like Martian SUPERManhunter!!

And now the rest of the League!

Not a good day for Superman!!

Obsession is supposed to love Superman! She shouldn’t punch him!

Blockhouse was probably the greatest Superman villain creation of the 1990s…

That Kandorian packed a mean punch, too!

Et tu, Bibbo?!?!

Finally, “Why are you punching yourself? Why are you punching yourself? Why are you punching yourself? Why are you punching yourself? Why are you punching yourself? Why are you punching yourself? Why are you punching yourself? Why are you punching yourself?”

So there you go!

Ten cool comic covers with people punching Superman!

Yep.

That’s it.

Okay, you know I couldn’t do this without a “Batman punching Superman” cover!

So here it is…

Which of these covers is your favorites?

Any other cool comic covers with Superman getting punched that you like?

46 Comments

Tom Fitzpatrick

October 11, 2008 at 6:19 am

Not exactly a cover, but one of my favorites scenes is Batman kicking Superman in the face under green kryptonite. Courtesy of Frank Miller in The Dark Knight Returns # 4.

That was a definite classic.

“Get out of my cave.” Heh. Classic Miller. “Get the hell out of my Goddam Batcave” would be the modern interpretation.

Wow. Some of the worst cover art I’ve ever laid eyes upon to boot!

Vincent Paul Bartilucci

October 11, 2008 at 8:20 am

Of the covers you’ve posted I’d name the Jose Luis Garcia Lopez one as my favorite. Garcia-Lopez is just completely amazing.

Here’s one I really liked as a kid. I didn’t normally buy Action but I had to when I saw this cover:

http://www.comics.org/coverview.lasso?id=27699&zoom=4

But my all time favorite “Superman gets taken down a peg” sequence is Supes vs Muhammad Ali under a red sun radiation generator. Ali totally schools Superman. It’s awesome. I wish there was some way that DC could reprint that comic. Every comic fan should own a copy.

I had that Solomon Grundy comic as a kid (in Spanish.) I remember being shocked because it was the first *realistic* battle I’d ever seen Superman in, and I couldn’t believe anyone could punch him out!

How about “Superman vs Muhammed Ali?” While they are not actually hitting each other in that cover, it was still a *bizarre* cover (and a very convoluted story!)

Btw, what’s the story behind the Superman vs Superman cover? Post-Crisis, their only fight was in Infinite Crisis, and that comic had a different cover (or is this from a tie-in?)

An amusing thing about it, though, is that it was NOT used for the first couple of decades of Superman’s career – I think you could make the argument that this cover theme really does not work until Superman is COMPLETELY set as a paragon of strength and toughness – otherwise, it’s seen as an ACTUAL sign of weakness, and not “Wow, that guy just punched Superman! What the heck is going on in THIS comic?!?

That’s not the reason those covers were never used. Old DC comics were pure escapism fantasies of power wish fulfillment, it’s all fantasies of a really uber-powerful good guy that totally dominates and overpowers the weaker bad guys. They are not about the drama of a close fight or a hero overcoming overwhelming odds. That;s why the traditional DC superhero has a rogue’s gallery full of weaklings. Almost none of Batman’s villain’s know how to fight especially well and are usually not strong, Superman’s worst enemy is a mad scientist with no powers whatsoever, most of the Flash’s enemies don’t have superspeed. It’s all about a vehicle for kids, who typically feel powerless in their lives, even quite often when dealing with other kids as they get bullied a lot, to imagine a world where all the bullies and bad guys are the powerless ones.

Then Marvel came along and changed the game. Spider-Man is beating people more powerful than him, lifting huge weights off his back and getting a beating from some of the biggest, baddest dudes around. The Fantastic Four are facing virtual gods like Galactus and the Surfer and the Hulk, Captain America is fighting really dangerous foes….fans got more mature after Marvel and didn’t want to see the cakewalk anymore, they wanted to see the hero actually overcome insurmountable odds. THAT is why the Superman covers changed, to compete with Marvel and to show fans “look, our heroes aren’t pampered guys who never have to face real challenges.” Post-Marvel you’ll also notice that DC characters started bickering a lot more with each other, especially in Justice League of America.

Oops, hit “publish” too soon.

Anyway, the point is that DC thought it knew what kids wanted…a uberpowerful good guy that utterly dominates his foes powerwise, whose worse challenge is figuring out some brainteasers and deathtraps along the way. Marvel showed them otherwise and they had to start adjusting accordingly.

My favorite cover gallery ever!

Thanks, Brian!

I agree it was a reaction to Marvel.

EVERYTHING else T says… welllll, I think he’s pretty far off.

It’s not that Marvel was less mature (Well, maybe, but that’s beside the point.) It’s that the plots in early Marvel superhero comics were much more repetetive and simplistic than those in DC at the time.

In this issue! Iron Man fights a super-villain! And has a love triangle! Meanwhile, be sure to read Ant-Man, where he fights a super-villain! And has a love triangle! Meanwhile, in Daredevil, all the supervillain and love triangle action you can stand! And be sure to check out this issue of Spider-man for supervillain and love triangle, as well as every single issue of Spider-man that’s ever been, or will be, for the next twenty years.

DC, in general, had better plot-hooks, and was a hell of a lot more creative and varied. Plenty of man-out-of-time fish out of water stories… the focus wasn’t so much on the villains, who were kinda like window dressing. It was all about defining the hero’s emotional core or trying to squeeze in as many crazy sci-fi concepts as the audience could stand. Meanwhile, Captain America is fighting the Red Skull for the 4th time. This year.

Which brings me to point two, the Kirby efffect. Marvel heroes tended to win through physical domination (PUNCHING!) while DC heroes won through out-thinking their opponents. So DC was less concerned with giving the Flash or whoever a physical threat than someone who could pose a mental challenge.

Meanwhile, Marvel had Kirby. Which meant that fight scenes (PUNCHING!) were a vitally important part of the plot. Lots more space given to feats of strength, while the DC guys were just assumed to be super-powerful.

But eventually DC started to follow Marvel’s lead: The plots got more simplistic and less creative. And, voila. PUNCHING! on the covers.

Wow, I both sort of agree with Mark Andrew AND T. The apocalypse must be here soon.

And “Blockhouse was probably the greatest Superman villain creation of the 1990s…”? That’s damning with false praise indeed.

How about the All-Star Superman cover where Superman has just been punched and looks surprised as hell at the blood coming out of his nose? That is a pretty great one, done differently than the others.

Who wrote that World’s Finest? And is it the first instance of bats (or anyone) KO-ing Supes w/kryptonite gloves?

Wow, that dubious comment criticizing T. was a great example of the sort of “drinking the kool-aid” pro-DC cult that Greg is talking about over in his column! Synergy!

Well, I admit I was a little direct, but I was HONESTLY curious to see if I’d get a “Waaaah! Reading comics where Wolverine stabbed that guy is all that got me through my parents divorce! Must! Turn! Off! Brain! Must! Defend! Marvel!” comment.

Dude, except for TOR I haven’t bought a DC comic in a year. I understand that self-definition through corporate allegiance is a major aspect of the American psyche, but it ain’t somethin’ I subscribe too or care about.

I understand that you feel the need to express your corporate loyalty – That’s even kind of brave, especially since you clearly don’t care that it makes you look like a twat – but it doesn’t change the…yeah, I’ll go FACT that Silver Age DC superhero books were generally more creatively plotted than their Marvel counterparts.

Certainly the Marvel books were better in a lot of ways as well. Sharper, more distinct characterization, more idyosincratic and less “house styley” art, dialog, creative story structure, Stan Lee bein’ all Stan Lee and cool. In general I rate Silver Age Marvel a notch above the other (superhero) side.

But, yeah, feel free to ignore all this and stick on your corporate blinders. I’m doin’ fine over here with my Moët Bellini, so you can keep your Kool-Aid. Juliah Childs says it’s the perfect whine to go with ignorant histrionics.

GarBut: WF #302 reprinted WF #176, The Superman-Batman Split by Cary Bates and Neal Adams, one of the more often reprinted issues of World’s Finest.

When I don’t know something, I try to make doubly sure that I don’t know.

Boy, that Ordway cover is hardly even an homage, is it? Homages, as far as I’m concerned, pay tribute to a previous cover by adapting it to a new purpose. That one is the same two characters, in the same positions, doing exactly the same things. It’s the Gus Van Sant’s Psycho of cover homages.

I agree with Anthony Stand. If anyone who wasn’t an almost universally beloved artist did that there would be cries of swipe.

First off, while I don’t agree with MarkAndrew’s sentiments, I don’t think he did anything out of line or overly direct in responding to me. That being said, I respectfully disagree. I downloaded via torrent the complete Legion of Superheroes collection and other Silver Age DC. Don’t attack me now, I only did it because the Archives hardcovers were expensive, and I didn’t want to spend the $50 before knowing if I’d like them or not. I wanted to sample them free first and if I liked them I’d buy the Archives for longevity and presentation.

That being said, I do not see this maturity or smartness MarkAndrew claims. They were just as repetitive as Marvel books. Book after book or DC hero getting mind-controlled, either in actuality or only pretending to get turned against his friends to fool a villain while secretly hatching a counterplot the whole time, with the big Scooby-Doo reveal at the end. Over and over and over again. It’s like “Gee, what a surprise, Superboy was only PRETENDING to be controlled as part of a secret plot. AGAIN.” r the Julie Schwartz formula, some creazy, implausible premise that turns out to be a huge counterintuitive fake-out on the part of the hero to fool the villain. Ever Schwartz cover is always a predictable fake-out. Sure there were more outsmartings at DC, but they followed some really stupid, convoluted logic. I don’t hold this against DC, because they were being written for REALLY young kids in the 50s and 60s, but I hardly find these stories more mature or smarter than the Marvel ones.

Also, Marvel heroes outsmarted their villains all the time. Spider-Man often used his brains by putting on rubber shoes and dousing Electro with water to short him, he figured out that Vulture used antigravity devices to fly and invented something to block the signal, Reed Richards relalized Molecule Man couldn’t withstand organic molecules, Peter coming up with the brilliantly simple solution of making Shocker’s thumbs immobile to stop him from using his gauntlets, Reed Richards used his brains against Doom to trick him into flying into the Galactus force field after Doom gained the Surfer’s power cosmic. Reed was always using his brain. So was Spidey. So were others. Thor outsmarts Absorbing Man by tricking him into transforming into helium. But here’s the big difference: Marvel heroes outsmart when they odds are so stacked against them that mere force won’t work. DC heroes, by so ridiculously physically outmatching their opponents, often have to be put in a place where they need to outsmart their villains via plot-induced stupidity. For Superman to NEED to outsmart Luthor to beat him means you need him to behave extra stupid to get into the trap in the first place, because thanks to his pre-Crisis power levels and “superbrain” he is vastly both stronger AND smarter than Luthor. He can move without even being seen. Same for Flash…he is fast enough to move without being seen, he is near lightspeed…yet when he runs at unpowered Mirror Master or Trickster, he has to conveniently run slow enough to be tagged with some funky beam or to be hit with some deathtrap even though he could knock out either foe before they even knew he was there.

With a Marvel hero, their outsmarting of foes is a character strength because there is no other option. With a DC hero, their outsmarting is less impressive because they are so much more powerful they shouldn’t even ever be in danger from their weakling villains anyway, and they are often established as much smarter than the villain to begin with so it’s never that big a feat. So Marvel had the insurmountable odds AND the outsmarting (except unlike DC it was a necessary outsmarting). DC had supergenius, superpowerful heroes outsmarting notably weaker, notably less intelligent foes that should never have gotten an upper hand to begin with. DC stories actually make the villains look more impressive for even having a chance of winning.

So DC was less concerned with giving the Flash or whoever a physical threat than someone who could pose a mental challenge.

Also…Dr. Doom, Red Skull, Loki, Green Goblin, Mad Thinker, Dr. Octopus, Magneto, The Leader, The Wizard, Baron Zemo…all could provide mental challenges and in some cases (the Wiizard vs. The Torch, Loki vs. Thor,, Leader vs. Hulk) they were established to be smarter than the hero.

“Btw, what’s the story behind the Superman vs Superman cover? Post-Crisis, their only fight was in Infinite Crisis, and that comic had a different cover (or is this from a tie-in?)”

Sijo, this came out a few years before Infinite Crisis. A writer friend of Clark Kent’s writes his first novel in decades and suddenly a variation of Superman shows up and starts dealing out justice and retribution, a la the original Superman stories by Seigel and Shuster. Anyway, Clarks has to talk the writer into destroying the manuscript to make the doppleganger disappear because the doppleganger is a danger to others (or something..I’d have to dig it out of the long box.) Actually, the real deal Supes actually does not show except for a couple of shadowy panels….mostly, it’s just Clark. I forget all the details but I think it was a pretty cool issue and, like a lot of comics, nothing like the cover image happens on the inside.

Conspicuous by its absence: Superman #164, October 1963, on the cover of which Lex Luthor is beating the snot out of the Man of Steel, a scene that does happen inside, with almost word-for-word the same dialogue.

http://www.comics.org/coverview.lasso?id=17933&zoom=4

It looks like Batman and Wonder Woman are giving his hands a “rose garden,” the way kids do to torture each other, while Flash clobbers him.

marvelcomicsgroupy

October 12, 2008 at 10:14 am

Gotta love that Martian Manhunter blow to the chops on the cover of World’s Finest #112. You actually see blood, which wasn’t a common occurance back in the Bronze Age, most likely due to the CCA.

@Matt Bird: Have you zombies finally gotten tired enough of being the laughingstock of fandom that you’re hitting back with wild ideas about cults and Kool-Aid?

Did Superman comics become more Marvel-like when sales started slipping, or did sales start slipping because Superman comics became more Marve-like? I could be wrong, but I thought Superman outsold every other super-hero comic (except Batman around ’66) throughout the ’60s. Why would the editors mess with success unless sales were sliding?

There’s just something really satisfying about seeing Superman get clocked by a girl!

Mike, the earliest of those covers is 1967. According to this site, 1966 ia the year where Marvel comics started finally outselling DC:

http://enterthestory.com/comic_sales.html

Both T. and MarkAndrew make interesting points (though T. does it with much less arrogance, Mark seems to be very intolerant of people that think differently than he), but both Marvel and DC were repetitive at times. Lots of comics produced per month, sometimes by the same creative teams.

I don’t agree that there was a lot of “defining the hero’s emotional core” going on at DC Comics in the Silver Age. Perhaps in Superman titles and a few others like the Legion, sure. But Flash, Batman, Green Lantern, Atom, Hawkman, Justice League, despite the cool, original sci-fi ideas had very little “emotional core”, the heroes were pretty much all cut from the same stoic, staid, champion of order, 1950s patriarcal figure. Even their girlfriends all seemed alike.

Batman only got more emotionally complex with Denny O’Neill in the 1970s.

There was a lot of formula going on at Marvel too, the underdog and love triangle stuff were partly a response to DC’s godlike heroes and steady girlfriends (exception: Superman, but there he was both corners of the love triangle), but I think Spider-Man, Thor, and the Fantastic Four were much more different from each other than Green Lantern, Flash, and JLA, choosing 3 superhero titles from each publisher.

Unlike the JLA, the characters in the FF and Avengers had their individual voices. The downside of this was that these individual voices were often stereotypical. Reed was the Introverted Noble Scientist, Johnny was the Hot-Head, Sue was the Girly Girl. Still an improvement over the JLA, were all of them were Stoic Staid Hero.

FunkyGreenJerusalem

October 12, 2008 at 7:30 pm

Jurgens and Thibert should work together more – I normally think of them as competent, but not flashy artists, but I really like that cover the two of them did with the JL punching Superman.

Both T. and MarkAndrew make interesting points (though T. does it with much less arrogance, Mark seems to be very intolerant of people that think differently than he), but both Marvel and DC were repetitive at times. Lots of comics produced per month, sometimes by the same creative teams.

Oh I totally agree with this. Lots of repetitive stories from both Marvel and DC. A lot of this had to do with the fact that there wasn’t a big reprint and trade paperback market for reading old issues plus a high turnover of fans as many didn’t keep the habit into teenage years and adulthood, so it was easier to get away with repeating stories. I am not denying Marvel was repetitive, I just took issue with the claim that Marvel was significantly more repetitive than DC was.

I don’t agree that there was a lot of “defining the hero’s emotional core” going on at DC Comics in the Silver Age. Perhaps in Superman titles and a few others like the Legion, sure.

Honestly, even Legion didn’t have that much defining of emotional core until Marvel came along. For a long time despite the large cast the dialogue and personalities of Legion members was pretty interchangeable.

T., thanks for the link. It’s kind of sad to see how far down DC’s sales slipped in the ’80s, even as they were putting out some of their best comics. I’m still curious as to how Superman sold against the competition, but it’s clear that DC’s aesthetic moved towards Marvel’s in the late ’60s/ early ’70s.

DC, in general, had better plot-hooks, and was a hell of a lot more creative and varied. Plenty of man-out-of-time fish out of water stories… the focus wasn’t so much on the villains, who were kinda like window dressing. It was all about defining the hero’s emotional core or trying to squeeze in as many crazy sci-fi concepts as the audience could stand. Meanwhile, Captain America is fighting the Red Skull for the 4th time. This year.

I just realized the irony of this paragraph: you praise DC for being more varied because they have man out of time and fish out of water stories. Then you criticize Captain America for being derivative. But isn’t Captain America himself an example of a man out of time/fish out of water stories? And as far as being fish out of water or loners, what about the Thing, Spider-Man and the Hulk. You also have Thor, who is both a man out of time (from Norse times) AND a fish out of water (his hometown is Asgard, a mystical land where he lived among gods).

Yeah, Marvel was the king of “trapped in a world he never made” stories.

I find Silver Age Marvels a lot more readable than Silver age DCs (with a few exceptions). Kirby & Ditko may have repeated themes and motifs (not the same as plots), but they managed to make them exciting.

What I love about Silver Age DCs are their NON-superhero stories. THOSE are pretty great. I can read Sgt. Rock or some DC Westerns around the clock.

Man of Steel #8 is the prefect example for why I don’t like Bogdanove’s art. I could/can read a most any comic no matter how good or bad the art is, but his just distracted me to the point where I couldn’t enjoy MoS at the time. And I can’t really give a reason as to why I don’t like it.

I was always partial to the ‘guess who’s winning’ Superman/Booster Gold covers…I believe the one in Action is the one that fits this theme…

“@Matt Bird: Have you zombies finally gotten tired enough of being the laughingstock of fandom that you’re hitting back with wild ideas about cults and Kool-Aid?”

(emotional) CRIPPLE FIGHT.

I love comic book fans.

How about doing a follow-up to this – Superman punching someone else on a cover.

[...] already seen Superman get punched, now check out these ten cool comic book overs depicting Batman taking his turn at getting [...]

justice league gal

August 29, 2010 at 9:32 am

is it even possible for martian manhunter to make superman bleed?!?!?!?!?!

Some one has already said this, but I put out a suggestion for covers than incorporate the logo/title into the art. Classically, Hulk King-Size Special #1 by Jim Steranko and X-Men #190. I’m sure there’s Spider-Man covers somewhere with the logo in webs as well.

I’ve always loved the Wonder Woman-punching-Superman cover of Justice League of America #143. http://images2.wikia.nocookie.net/__cb20081227181549/marvel_dc/images/a/ae/JLA_v.1_143.jpg

[...] relief? Why not buy a machine that makes your bicycle sound like a horse?Here’s a gallery of Superman being punched in the face, because why not?You’ve always wanted to make Panda bread, well now you can. Editor’s [...]

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