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The Wrong Side: Sabretooth vs. Rogue

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In this feature, I examine comic book fights that were particularly notable in the wrong side winning (or at least that the fight wasn’t won the “right” way). This really isn’t a big deal, of course, as it doesn’t really matter if the “wrong” person won a fight. But it’s fun to talk about!

If you want to suggest a fight for future inclusion in this feature, drop me a line at bcronin@comicbookresources.com. Don’t suggest a fight in the comments!

This week, based on a suggestion from reader Michael, we take a look at Sabretooth kicking Rogue’s ass….

As always, the first page we look at their power levels and on the second page, we look at the fight itself.

Also, as always, we answer the age-old question – “How did they do when they fought Spider-Man?”

In Spectacular Spider-Man #116 (by Peter David, Rich Buckler and Bob McLoed), we learn that Sabretooth was trained as a killer by the mysterious Foreigner…


He goes to take out the Black Cat, but Spider-Man gets in his way and Sabretooth gets his ass kicked so badly you’d think that the Wasp was in town…





Okay, anyhow, Sabretooth was introduced as an Iron Fist villain…





And he eventually fought against Iron Fist AND Power Man, along side his partner in crime, the Constricter.


He actually only went after Black Cat because he and Constricter stopped being buds and Iron Fist and Power Man disappeared, so he was looking for something new to do. Black Cat then proceeded to kick his ass, a fight I thought was worthy of the Wrong Side in and of itself (as Black Cat had super cat-agility, but then she just kicked Sabretooth’s ass).

Rogue, as we know, got served alongside the rest of the X-Men by Spider-Man. But other wise, she is pretty strong. She is as strong as Ms. Marvel, which is pretty strong. Stronger than a guy who Iron Fist can keep up with without even using the “iron fist.”

He showed up in Uncanny X-Men #213 and became Wolverine’s nemesis from that point on. But first, he faces off against Rogue. How did he do?

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Sabretooth is effectively the villainous equivalent of Wolverine. He does whatever the hell the writers want (regardless of whether or not it makes sense) because he’s so damn cool and everyone is constantly jerking it to how awesome he supposedly is. It always struck me as weird that everyone grew to hate Logan for being an overexposed invincible Mary Sue but nobody ever leveled those same criticisms at the way the writers handle Victor.

Complete with one of those ubiquitous X-Men “Bang… you dead!”s, a phrase that wasn’t a good idea even once.

Pretty sure this is the first instance of Sabretooth showing up in UXM, so Chris felt he needed to establish this dude as a scary dude and potential Wolverine nemesis. If that means Rogue had to take an L, she can say she got taken by surprise/her eyes were closed.

Sabretooth was never convincing to me. Except in his Spider-Man appearances, perhaps.

interesting for thought sabertooth did not show up to take his place as wolverines future joker till the mutant massacre. plus to be able to take down a power full lady like rogue who would need to just touch sabertooth and his powers is hers. talk about proof sabertooth is one bad power house.

Considering this was at the tail end of the Mutant Massacre when the X-Men had been run through the grinder and the few members left standing had still been put through absolute hell, I can let this one pass.

Sabretooth’s intended second appearance had him taking on Ms. Marvel, and I seem to remember him holding his own there.

If he punched her through a wall of brick structure, that might make a little more sense. She also clearly had her guard down. No, one punch from Sabertooth probably wouldn’t hurt her. But throw her through a few trees or buildings that are sufficiently hard enough and, yeah, he might be able to do it. Plus, they have to make him look KEEEEWWWWWWLLLLL!

Not just three punches, but using only his left hand!

I see the slow ’80s-ization of Rogue’s hair has begun by this point.

Marvel writers had a lot more latitude when it came to power levels prior to the Marvel Handbook.
Even though Rogue had Ms. Marvel’s powers her resistance to injury was always played up more.

In this case… it’s a good showing for Sabretooth and a bad showing for Rogue but it is a sneak attack that would have likely been shown to work on a number of uber durable characters. I’m sure we’ve seen Namor and Luke Cage taken out by less.

Claremont has gone on record as saying that with the exception of his first appearance in Iron Fist and all of those times that he shows up on Wolverine’s birthday to kick Wolverine’s butt, the Sabretooth who appeared i all of those other stories were clones made by Mister Sinister. So any inconsistencies in his power levels could be explained as either enhanced or faulty clones.

OMT, I really wish that comic book creators,editors,and fans realize that having a rapid healing factor does not mean a character is invulnerable or unable to be killed.

Alan Davis is a storytelling god.

Seeing Sabretooth smiling like while punching Rogue reminds me of the beatings Rath used to give to Purgatori.

As I understand it, Claremont was intending to use Nimrod in his Mutant Massacre story, but Alan Moore was unhappy about his similarity to a Captain Britain villain called Fury, which Moore had created, so Claremont decided to bin his original plans and quickly created the Marauders instead. This is probably why Sabertooth was appearing in the Spectacular Spiderman as the archetypal C-list super-villain while simultaneously appearing in the X-Men as Daddy Cool.

The shortest fight scene with the least amount of dialogue ever written by Claremont.

Blade X, that’s the equivalent of John Byrne’s Doombot nonsense, where every appearance of Doom inconsistent with Byrne’s take is a Doombot.

Reno, it’s not quite the same thing since some of those Sabretooth appearances that would have a cloned Sabretooth were written by Claremont himself.

It’s pretty obvious the Chris Claremont, now that he was once again able to write Sabretooth for the first time in a decade, was very eager to re-establish just how powerful & dangerous the character could be. No doubt a major part of this was prompted by Sabretooth’s then very recent poor showings again Spider-Man and Black Cat. I can understand why Claremont wanted to do that, and to write off the Spider-Man appearances by Sabretooth as one of Sinister’s clones.

Neverthless, I do find it more than a bit amusing that during the events of the “Mutant Massacre” crossover Power Pack had a better showing against Sabretooth than Rogue did!

Maybe Rogue accidentally absorbed Sabretooth’s ‘getting his ass kicked by Black Cat’ powers?

Laurence J Sinclair

January 2, 2016 at 1:46 am

Sabretooth punches her in the face at one point. Since that requires touching her, shouldnt that alone have tipped the fight against him?

Is Sabretooth even supposed to be strong enough to punch stone into pieces, let alone break them by throwing a person as a missile as he does when he punches Rogue?

And if he is, can Wolverine possibly stand up for him?

Of course, we are supposed to think of Wolverine as somehow a match for the Hulk, so I guess all bets are off.

David P.- With the exception of the Iron Fist story, I think all the stories shown here came out after the first version of the Marvel Handbook.

Alaric… I didn’t mean to suggest otherwise but I was unclear. Yep… this story did come out a number of years after the first handbook but I think Claremont and number of other writers of his era were happy enough to go about business like it was prior to there being a book with all the listed strengths.

The handbooks were a fun read on their own but they took some fun out of the stories imo.

@Laurence- I think that he was wearing gloves when he punched her in the face.
The really dumb part is that during this same crossover, Sabretooth fought Daredevil hand-to-hand, and although Sabretooth seemed a little stronger than Matt, Matt was still able to hold his own. If Sabretooth was strong enough to knock out Rogue, Matt should have been killed.Remember, Rogue was once able to remain conscious after being knocked into orbit!

Yes, this one made me scratch my head when I read it back in the day

The X-Men, and Claremont, were just beginning to lose their shine for me right around this time (I thought the Mutant Massacre ended on a pretty lackluster note compared to the intensity of the first couple of issues…and set the stage for mutant crossover ennui in future years).

Sabretooth is one of those characters (like Wolverine) whose power level seemed to go off the charts for no logical reason as he became more popular. The early appearances make the most sense. If you want a Sabretooth appearance that makes even less sense than his battle with Rogue, you should check out a fight he had with a Wendigo a few years ago. As I recall, the story ended with Sabretooth walking off with the Wendigo’s pelt. Now, that is just insane. Barring the possibility that Wendigo has been unbelievably depowered, the great white cannibal was pretty consistently portrayed as being a match for the Hulk, in both strength and invulnerability. The idea that Sabretooth could even scratch him doesn’t make sense, let alone that he could kill and skin a Wendigo.

I remember a story where Snowbird of Alpha Flight takes down a wendigo by turning into a real Wolverine because of all the animal savagery and so forth. Yes, a creature that can go up against adamantium-clawed Wolverine will have no chance against the real thing with its natural claws and teeth. Right. Uh-huh.

@Shaun- I think that the writer in that story was thinking of the time that Snowbird was able to knock out a Wendigo by turning into a wolverine. (The animal, not Logan.) I think the idea was supposed to be that when Snowbird changes into an animal, she becomes more powerful than the animal but that’s something that’s been inconsistent over the years.

It’s an alternate reality Roguebot clone who had the flu.

IIRC, wasn’t it retconned that all the times the marauders appeared during their time as Sinisters lackeys, they were all clones created by Mister Sinister?

In that case, you could argue that Sinister tinkered with Sabretooth’s DNA to make him even stronger than he usually is.

Eh, he catches her by suprise, which means a lot in comics fairly regularly. Plus Sabertooth is normally not super strong, but sometimes seems to border that territory. (Even Wolverine sometimes seems stronger than a normal man). But as much as it’s a Sabertooth build up, Claremont Mary Sue’d all his characters, Rogue included. Her invulnerability was something far beyond the powers she stole from Ms. Marvel, so much so the Handbook even noted that. So it’s hardly defined in any consistent way.

Really, when you think about it, her powers barely mirror Ms. Marvel, who was supposed to mirror Mar-vell some. She was stronger, more resistant to harm. I guess they both flew. The bigger problem is how you sneak up on someone with a “seventh sense,” but Claremont barely used that himself.

@Luis Dantas:
“Is Sabretooth even supposed to be strong enough to punch stone into pieces, let alone break them by throwing a person as a missile as he does when he punches Rogue?”

Later in the same issue, Psylocke throws a metal barbell at him, which he proceeds to catch and crumple like a soda can. He was significantly stronger in this issue than just about any of his other appearances.

The page can be seen here.

Given how the Marvel method works, I wonder how much of this was Alan Davis taking liberties due to not understanding how strong Sabretooth was supposed to be?

@T- on the other hand, 2 of the other appearances where Sabretooth is uncharacteristically strong- Marvel Super Heroes 10, where he rips out an I-beam and attacks Carol with it and X-Men 219, where Lorna wraps iron ore around him and he breaks free- were both written by Claremont. (Although X-Men 219 is a bit iffy- does Lorna’s ability to hold a villain with iron depend on her concentration, the strength of the metal or both? There was an explosion in her home earlier, so if she had trouble concentrating…)

As I recall, in the first OHOTMU, Sabretooth (who only warranted a half-page entry at the time) was listed as being able to lift 900 lbs (or something like that), which, if you consider Captain America’s 800 lbs strength to be the maximum humanly possible, means that, at the time, he was supposed to have slightly superhuman strength. Certainly not strong enough to do that to Rogue, of course, but a bit in the superhuman range.

Eh. I’m still mad Rogue lost to Viper’s laser gun.

I finally located a quote from Chris Claremont about Sinister cloning Sabretooth…

“What I ultimately was going to establish was that all the Sabretooths we had seen heretofore, with the possible exception of the one in Iron Fist #14, were clones made by Mr. Sinister. They were Xeroxes,” Claremont revealed in Wizard Tribute To Wolverine.


Of course Claremont never did actually get around to revealing that during his tenure on X-Men. Years later he FINALLY utilized the idea in the alternate reality “X-Men Forever” series. He had the real, original Sabretooth fighting against the cloned Sabretooth from the Marauders.

Sabretooth’s healing factor was non-existent at the time of that Spider-Man story (and a follow up, wherein an enhanced Black Cat takes him down by herself). He didn’t get the “Wolverine” treatment until subsequently to that, sometime during the Fall of the Mutants storyline in the X-titles (I’m not even sure if he had it at the time he fought Archangel in Louise Simonson’s X-Factor).

Once Claremont started writing him again, in X-Men, his super healing factor was retconned in, and Sabretooth became much more formidable than he ever had been. Increasingly so, much the way Wolverine became.

Healing factor or no, surprise or no, clone or no…Sabretooth should have at least broken his hand/wrist when he punched Rogue.

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