This has been one of the most difficult “Top 10” lists of any subject I think I have ever put together. It’s because of the abundance of moments in Marvel history where heroes and villains, heroes and heroes and even villains and villains beat each other senseless. With my life-long appreciation of Marvel, my own comic collection, the back issue bins at my local comic store, the collective minds of myself, ComicBulletin’s Dave Wallace, Kelvin Green and Keith Dallas, and of course the majority of the Marvel library at my fingertips in digital form, this quickly became an extremely difficult task. But there are Marvel battles that truly stand above the rest, whether they are iconic, memorable or controversial, there are some that truly stand apart. So without further ado, here are ten of the best Marvel Slugfests of all time.
10. Silver Surfer vs. Thor (from Silver Surfer #4)
One wields the Power Cosmic, given to him by the devourer of worlds, Galactus. The other is the Norse God of Thunder, wielding the mighty Mjolnir that only he can pick up. Both men are essentially gods, possessing powers unlike any other superhero. Of course, I am referring to the Silver Surfer and Thor, and in 1969 Stan Lee and John Buscema pitted the two powerful beings against one another. However, this battle does not exactly come to fruition because the two heroes were looking for each other; this battle had everything to do with Loki. Loki was basically sitting in Asgard, bored out of his mind and trying to come up with a way to defeat Thor. While deep in thought, Loki comes up the idea to recruit a superhero to help his cause. He considers the Hulk, Thing and Hercules. The Hulk is too much of a brute, the Thing is too grotesque and Loki fears the wrath of Olympus if he were to manipulate Hercules. Thus, as Loki searches the cosmos, he comes across the Silver Surfer. He knows that Mephisto has already attempted to recruit the Surfer, but Loki plans on using simple manipulation.
Loki finds the Silver Surfer, trapped on Earth as part of Galactus’ punishment, and offers him freedom if he ends the tyranny of Thor. The Surfer, having never met Thor, believes Loki and travels to Asgard to dispose of Thor. It is during this battle that the Silver Surfer’s true abilities with the Power Cosmic are shown off as he defeats a number of Asgardians on his way to Thor. The battle is one that shows of the great powers of both Thor and the Silver Surfer, both men more or less equally matched. The Silver Surfer eventually realizes the honor in Thor. He senses that he is being manipulated and the battle ends. However, Thor fans rejoice when, during the battle, the Silver Surfer does admit that Mjolnir is far greater than his Power Cosmic.
9. Cap vs. Iron Man Rounds 1 and 2 (from Civil War)
Civil War was the big event that has basically laid the groundwork for everything going on in Marvel right now. It all started with the New Warriors’ reality show going terribly wrong and 600 residents of Stamford, CT getting laid to waste. A number of heroes and villains also lost their lives, leading Tony Stark to kick start his plan for all super-humans to register and work for the government. Of course, there are always those who will oppose such laws being enforced and the anti-registration movement was led by Captain America. You know something is wrong with government policy when Captain America goes underground. Regardless, Tony’s pro-registration team and Cap’s “Secret Avengers” go toe to toe over seven issues that split the Marvel Universe down the middle.
Of course, the two big slugfests that are showcased over the course of this series are the two between Captain America and Iron Man. Easily two of the most recognizable characters in Marvel history and all of comics, both men fought over what they believed in, putting their longtime friendship aside. The way the stories were written, readers, for the most part, found themselves taking Captain America’s side during the fights and the battles. In the first round, Iron Man uses his armor to his advantage, out-gunning Captain America. Iron Man more or less beats the crap out of Captain America, who seems as though he is holding back from ripping the armor off Iron Man’s skin. The first battle is a true testament to each character’s personality as Iron Man essentially holds nothing back and will do whatever he has to in order to win the battle. He even creates the clone of Thor which kills Goliath. Although Captain America escapes after taking a beating, the tides begin to turn during his recovery. While Cap and the Secret Avengers regroup, Spider-Man and the Punisher join their ranks allowing Cap to start a new offensive.
Round 2 of the Captain America/Iron Man Civil War battle came at the end of the series. This time, Cap was fully prepared to take down Iron Man and ensure that the superheroes remain free of government control. Using a small EMP device, Cap disables Iron Man’s armor, which effectively leaves the shellhead worthless. While Iron Man still had his armor to protect him as Cap mercilessly beat the hell out of him with his fists and his shield, Iron Man is nothing without the arsenal inside the armor. However, moments before Cap delivers the final blow to Iron Man, he looks around at all the destruction caused by the heroes’ own in-fighting. He stops, and in probably my most personally hated scene in all of comics, Cap is taken down by New York Firefighters, Police Officers and Paramedics. While I don’t think that would ever happen, Cap and Iron Man are left at a draw. One can only hope that when Steve Rogers eventually returns, he’ll have a few shots for Tony.
8. Punisher vs. the Russian (from Punisher #8)
At first, the Punisher’s recent dismantling of Barracuda was taking up this spot on the list. While I think that fight is one of Ennis’ best, Keith Dallas reminded me of another, one that really set the tone for Garth Ennis and for the future direction of the Punisher. At the time, Ennis was already an established writer in American circles having written Hellblazer for three years, and creating Preacher and Hitman at DC. However in 2000, Joe Quesada brought in Ennis with the promise that he could write the Punisher as long as he wanted. While Ennis has provided many great Punisher moments over the years, one of the first was Frank Castle’s tango with the Russian. While I still believe the theory that the Russian was a satire of Dolph Lundgren, his demise remains one of the best Punisher (and Marvel) fights ever.
The Russian was hired by Ma Gnucci to kill the Punisher. He was able to track the Punisher down to one of his safe houses where he proceeded to beat the holy hell out of an already injured Punisher. The Russian tossed Frank around like a rag doll, beating him within an inch of his life. However, during the course of the beating, the Russian proceeded to spill his philosophy on life as well as a few key facts about himself. He ranted and raved about the ridiculousness of capitalism and comic book superheroes, perhaps channeling his inner-Ennis and revealing to the Punisher he has a hatred of hot things. When the Punisher manages to get a second wind, he pushes the Russian into his obese neighbor’s apartment, finally blinding the Russian with a hot pizza. In order to kill the Russian, the Punisher has his obese neighbor, Mr. Bumpo, sit on the Russian’s head, suffocating him. The Punisher then decapitates the Russian and uses the head to taunt Ma Gnucci.
7. Spider-Man vs. Firelord (from Amazing Spider-Man #269 and #270)
I asked a number of Marvel fans both young and old what they thought were the greatest Marvel fights off all time. After asking a few older fans, I started to notice that one fight constantly came up. In November of 1985, Spider-Man was wearing his famous black suit. However, he wasn’t mourning some old lady being shot nor was the suit the alien symbiote which he got rid of 10 issues earlier. Instead, Spidey just had two costumes until after he married MJ because she was afraid of Venom. Like the symbiote though, the black suit still allowed for a more edgy side of Peter Parker. While he wasn’t doing strange dance numbers with Gwen Stacy and a chair in a jazz bar, he was adding an abundance of violent behavior to his resume. Firelord makes his way to Earth remembering his last visit to the planet with the most “pleasurable activities in the universe.” Firelord makes his presence known on Earth in the midst of a negative report on mutants and is mistaken by a few construction workers as a mutant. When Firelord confronts them, he prepares to kill one of them when Spider-Man shows up. That’s right: Firelord, a powerful cosmic being and a herald of Galactus gets opposed by some nerd who was bitten by a radioactive spider. If I were placing bets, this is one of those fights you put the house on. Nonetheless, over the span of two issues, Spidey uses his agility to avoid the powerful cosmic blasts of Firelord and even manages to toss Firelord’s staff into the Hudson.
The bizarre thing about this fight is that Firelord almost never hits Spider-Man. This guy is a former herald of Galactus, and he can’t even squash a bug. Finally, when Firelord manages to corner Spidey, the web-head starts unleashing a flurry of punches preventing Firelord from striking him. Spidey continues to pummel Firelord over and over until Captain America shows up to pull him off. When Spidey regains his composure, he sees that he has beat Firelord senseless. This fight is controversial basically because of its outcome. A cosmic being, a former herald of Galactus, gets his ass fed to him by a nerd with spider powers. I’ll be honest. It’s a bit ridiculous, especially considering Spidey’s black suit didn’t have symbiote powers. Had the suit still been part of the symbiote, I could buy Spidey beating the crap out of Firelord, but it is most certainly not the case.
6. Magneto strips Wolverine’s Adamantium (from X-Men #25)
One of the biggest Marvel moments of the 1990s came when the X-Men invaded Magneto’s Avalon base. When Magneto was “de-aged,” he learned that Moira MacTaggert messed with his mind a little bit. His goals went from world domination to creating a haven for mutants. Magneto eventually learns that this was all a lie, and he returns to super-villain status. The United Nations Security Council creates a satellite network blocking Earth’s magnetic field, effectively neutering Magneto. However, the master of magnetism uses an electromagnetic pulse to destroy the satellites and shutting down every electronic device on Earth.
The X-Men make their way to Avalon with the help of Colossus, posing as an Acolyte, and one of the most classic X-Men battles of the 90s commences. It is during this battle that Wolverine attempts to take Magneto by surprise. However, Magneto does the one thing that sent shockwaves throughout the Marvel community and kick started the origin of Wolverine as we know it today. Magneto ripped the adamantium straight off of Wolverine’s bones and left him for dead. Xavier would stop Magneto by blanking out his mind and throwing him into a coma, but the damage had been done. Today, this event has led into the idea that Wolverine always had claws, and had laid the ground-work for the expansion of Wolverine’s origin.
5. Moon Knight carves off Bushman’s face (from Moon Knight #2)
Superheroes usually adhere to the age-old credo of “no killing.” It’s just par for the course that they uphold justice rather than completely take the law into their own hands. However, Moon Knight hasn’t always been the typical superhero. Sure, he’s a former Marine and mercenary and has a few kills in the past, but there are few kills as memorable or as gruesome as what he does to his former archenemy. When Charlie Huston re-launched the Moon Knight series in 2006, he also ret-conned the moment when Marc Spector stopped being Moon Knight. It was a gruesome and bloody “final” battle between Moon Knight and Bushman. Bushman stabbed and bit Moon Knight a few times in true Mike Tyson fashion, while Moon Knight followed up with a few punches, kicks and a moon dart or two.
It wasn’t until after Bushman threw Moon Knight off the roof of a building, destroying Moon Knight’s knees in the process, that this battle really got interesting. Lying helpless on the ground while Bushman made his way down the side of the building, Moon Knight began launching moon darts into Bushman’s neck. In his final attempt at destroying his nemesis, Bushman bit Moon Knight’s face, leaving a decent scar running down the middle of Spector’s eye. Finally, Moon Knight knocked Bushman off, and proceeded to carve off his face with a moon dart, holding it towards the full moon, offering it to his god, Khonshu. Today, Moon Knight is haunted by a ghost who looks like Bushman without the face and who may or may not be Bushman, Khonshu or both.
4. Thor vs. Hulk
There’s really no specific fight in mind for this epic rivalry. The Hulk has battled a number of heroes and villains over the years, but there is perhaps no one who has driven Hulk to a stand still quite like Thor. While it took the Sentry to finally take down the Hulk at the end of World War Hulk, many fans thought it would have been Thor returning from beyond. But given the history of the two characters, it was probably best that Thor didn’t show up to battle Hulk. New York was already completely laid to waste and there’s no telling how long the battle between them would have raged. Thor usually insists the big green bow down before his power, but that usually just makes the Hulk mad and they always come to blows.
Throughout their multiple battles, there have been a few memorable ones. In Incredible Hulk #255, Hulk and Thor begin to battle after the Hulk mistakenly wanders into New York City. The Hulk, lost and confused, goes into a rampage and grabs the attention of a nearby Donald Blake. Shortly thereafter, Thor confronts the Hulk and the two battle back and forth, no one gaining an upper hand. After a while, Thor and the Hulk both realize the danger they pose to the bystanders and stop fighting. But the Hulk attempts to pick up Mjolnir, only to pick it up after it transforms back into Donald Blake’s walking stick.
Another memorable battle between the two occured in Incredible Hulk #300. This was during the period when the Hulk had gone completely insane and was nothing more than a giant green monster. He made his way to New York City where a number of heroes attempted to stop his rampage. When Thor finally arrives, the two again battle back and forth into a stalemate, until Dr. Strange shows up to transport Hulk to the crossroads, moments before the Hulk was to smash a statue of himself over Thor.
These two have had many battles over the years, their final battle occurring in Hulk Annual 2001 where the Hulk beat the hell out of Thor and left him for dead.
3. The Thing vs. Hulk
There is no hero the Hulk has fought more than the Thing. The two seem to always be in a constant struggle to determine who is the greater “monster.” Like Thor there have been numerous times throughout history that these two have come to blows and whenever they do, issues sell out. Although these two often fight to a draw, the times when there is a clear winner, it’s the Hulk who comes out on top. Most recently in World War Hulk #2, the Hulk quickly disposes of not only the Thing but the entire Fantastic Four. These two have fought numerous times throughout history and strangely enough many of their stalemates end when the Hulk gets bored and simply leaves. When the Thing comes out victorious (I believe only on one or two occasions), it is often the result of interference by the Fantastic Four.
The long rivalry between these two heroes is important not only to each character but also to Marvel’s history. The first time these two met was in March of 1963 in Fantastic Four #12 by none other than Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. The Fantastic Four had been recruited by General Thunderbolt Ross to help bring in the Hulk after the Thing was mistaken for the Hulk. During this time the Wrecker also worked as an assistant for Bruce Banner and was committing acts of sabotage against the army, in turn framing the Hulk. When the Fantastic Four arrived on the army base, they assumed that the Hulk was the Wrecker and the first, historic battle between the Hulk and the Thing got underway. It was a fairly even handed fight until the Hulk was knocked out by the Wrecker’s concussion ray. While there are many significant slugfests between the two to mention, the battle in Fantastic Four #12 is very important because it is the first of those battles, and one of the first to pit hero against hero.
2. Daredevil vs. Bullseye (from Daredevil #181)
Bullseye was originally a costumed assassin who came to New York City and boasted about his exploits in an interview with the Daily Bugle. At first, Daredevil tracked down Bullseye and attempted to bring him to justice, but Bullseye escaped. Later, Bullseye was hired by the Kingpin to kill Matt Murdock. This occurred in a time when Murdock’s secret identity was still intact and Bullseye thought killing a blind lawyer would be a piece of cake. Instead of confronting Murdock, Daredevil appeared and the two battled with Daredevil coming out on top. With this defeat, Bullseye was convinced that his reputation was destroyed and made it his personal mission in life to kill Daredevil. He would do whatever he could to grab Daredevil’s attention. He hijacked a TV studio, kidnapped Black Widow and even went out hunting for Daredevil. Bullseye eventually began to delve into insanity as the result of a brain tumor and began seeing Daredevil everywhere and trying to kill innocent people he thought were Daredevil. Eventually, Daredevil stopped Bullseye and the assassin got treatment for his tumor.
Upon his return, Bullseye learned that the Kingpin had replaced him with a new assassin named Elektra. In retaliation, Bullseye battles Elektra and kills her with a playing card to the throat and her own sai. She crawls through Hell’s Kitchen to die in her lover Matt Murdock’s arms. Murdock, knowing Bullseye has returned after an incident at the morgue, sets a trap for the assassin and surprises him as Daredevil inside his apartment when Bullseye tries to kill a dummy Murdock. In one of the most well-written and drawn fight scenes of the time, Daredevil and Bullseye engage in an almost evenly matched battle full of pure physical aggression and fantastic acrobatics. The two end up balancing on a telephone wire, Bullseye eventually loses his footing and is caught by Daredevil before falling to his death. In a moment that defines the much darker tone of Daredevil as a hero, he lets go of Bullseye’s hand letting him fall multiple stories, resulting in Bullseye’s paralysis. This is not only one of the most defining moments for Daredevil, but Bullseye as well, creating one of the most fantastic arch-rivalries in all of comics.
1. Spider-Man vs. Green Goblin (from Amazing Spider-Man #121 and #122)
Everyone knows the basics to this story. Peter Parker’s best friend’s father, Norman Osborn, became the Green Goblin after his wife dies and Norman devotes himself to developing a “super-serum.” While working on his serum, he neglects Harry, who in anger tampers with the formula, causing it to explode in Norman’s face. The serum gave Norman super-strength and intelligence but also creates the Goblin. At first, Osborn only wants to control New York’s organized crime syndicate, using a possible defeat of Spider-Man to create a sense of power. However, Spider-Man defeats the Goblin, causing Osborn to lose his memory. But Osborn’s true insanity begins to resurface over time and each time he tries to re-emerge as the Goblin, Spider-Man defeats him. Finally, armed with the knowledge that Spider-Man is Peter Parker, the Green Goblin captures Parker’s girlfriend Gwen Stacy and takes her to the top of a bridge. He pushes an unconscious Gwen off the bridge and in his attempt to save her, Spider-Man accidentally kills her.
In a fit of rage, Spider-Man goes after the Green Goblin, unleashing one of the greatest super-villain beat downs of all time. Spidey pretty much hands the Green Goblin his ass and prepares to kill him, but “with great power…” and Spider-Man regains control, sparing Osborn’s life. And of course, in what appeared to be his final act, Osborn used his jet glider to try and impale Peter from behind. Peter flips over the glider and it instead impales Osborn, ending the Green Goblin’s reign of terror for the time being. This fight is not only one of the most important moments in Spider-Man’s history as well as one of the most iconic Marvel and superhero fights of all time. It was also fantastically represented and adapted in the 2002 film Spider-Man.
There you have it, True Believers. Hit the CB message boards to tell us your Top Ten and head over to Marvel.com and sign up for their digital comics library so you can see all the fights for yourself!