At Wizard World Los Angeles, I got a lovely chance to participate in the “Sunday Conversation” panel hosted by the Distinguished Competition’s Dan Didio and Jimmy Palmiotti. This was the second time the EiC of DC stepped down off the panel podium and got to know a little something about the love of comics and the fans who follow them. Both creators got into the act, telling stories from their youth and personal pics and pans, everyone in the room pretty united in fandom. Palmiotti shared a story about being a kid and running nearly a life long debate about a problem that has plagued mankind for decades: “Who would win in a fight: Superman or the Hulk?” Every time his friend would chime in with a way that the Hulk would come out on top, a young Palmiotti would devise a new way the Man of Steel could thwart Banner’s puny attempts to destroy him.
I’m proud to say that I achieved my first job at a comic shop by forgoing the interview process and getting to the nitty gritty of the job. When asked who would win in a fight between Batman and Superman, the speed at which I answered Batman and the reasoning behind it got me the job and a little respect around the store.
I’m pretty sure, dear reader, that as you’re reading this, there’s some part of your brain reversing these decisions. “But the Hulk could totally beat Superman!” or even “Batman doesn’t stand a chance against Superman!”, there’s always another side to these arguments in the lives of our favorite fictional characters and these debates rage on to this very day and beyond, no matter what publishers decide or how stories are written.
Keep in mind, a lot of our favorite battles deal nearly exclusively in heroes. These are the men and women who are indeed the World’s Finest, but who is the Finiest-est? Sure, the fight card might turn to Venom vs. Wolverine, but it doesn’t have the same ring as say Elektra vs. the Black Widow. Somewhere, I think we know who wins in a fight between good and evil (SPOILER: Good.), but the true test is one of equals. Or at least presumed equals as these metaphorical battles never have a stalemate; someone has to win. Most of these debates end in death as what could be a more final decision than death? A clear winner and a clear loser.
Company cross-overs are both longed for and despised as there’s something a little unsatisfying about the outcomes. Take for example 1996′s Marvel vs. DC: despite having some outcomes clearly played out, you can’t say the results are going to please everyone nor will they end the ongoing debates. Someone is going to come up with a way where Namor takes Aquaman to school or Superboy crushes Spider-Man like a bug. The event was a major hit for both companies and won them the Comics Buyer’s Guide Fan Award for Favorite Limited Series; the trade paperback collection makes the rounds in the store, picked up by the curious fan but the battles never end.
Maybe there’s a little of this in Civil War’s success? With big boxing match-style posters of Iron Man on one side and Captain America on the other, it really does come down to who wins and who loses. Sure, there were greater themes at work, a larger picture shown reflecting the world around us through the modern mythology of Marvel Comics… but you have to admit: seeing Captain America and Iron Man pummel each other got the fan brain turning to decide the outcome. Forums went wild, odds calculated and the teams dissected on merits and fan following. And is everyone happy with the results? No. Are some people still thinking that Captain America could have won that fight? Yeah.
It’s not just comics; baseball teams inspire loyalty, professional wrestling fans debate the merits and flaws of Hollywood Hulk Hogan’s odds against the Nature Boy Ric Flair and Trekkies will throw down at the slightest hint of Kirk vs. Picard. Fans of anything hold to their heroes, whether they be four-color or Olympic-level flesh and blood; it’s just another manifestation of interest, no more ‘childish’ than trying to figure out who would win a Presidential election months before the votes are cast. And while baseball fans can only dream of what it would look like to see Babe Ruth in his prime against Nolan Ryan in his, we’re lucky enough to love a medium that won’t shy away from a challenge.
So where does that leave Secret Invasion? Why, at the best position humanly possible: not only are we getting a clear and definable villain in our summer event, not only are we getting a mystery thriller to follow, we’re getting some fantastic fights. There are Skrull doppelgangers from what could be different eras of the Marvel Universe, allowing for not only ‘Who would beat Who?’ but when they would as well. If that’s not enough, we also get power combinations set to make every 15-year-old kid in the back of science class doodle in the margins of their notebooks with glee. What’s the best power combination within the X-Men that could totally annihilate the Illuminati? What five Avengers powers are practically indestructible? The new series of Skrulls are doing a number of the debate factor of your average Marvel Zombie so that even the more erudite comic scholar has to be considering that the ’70s version of Luke Cage could totally kick the new version’s keister.
A love of comics, folks, makes us loyal and imaginative. The best of the best keeps us reading and thinking.