We can fight our evolving pop culture as hard as our desperate little hearts can manage, but technology has caught up and surpassed comic books. The limitations of the static medium of pictures and word bubbles can’t compare to a CGI fight scene or romantic interlude or musical number or whatever TV/movies want to accomplish. Still, that’s no reason to give up. With the correct writer and artist, our chosen artistic form can create marvelous fight scenes, powerful romantic moments, and everything else you so deserve and desire. I present to you proof of that with the incredible archery fight in Green Arrow #20, written by Jeff Lemire and drawn by Andrea Sorrentino. You want two dudes shooting arrows at each other with the same suspenseful build up you get from watching what I assume would be a very awesome new Olympic sport? You have it. You’ll love it.
We’re in the New 52 – note Oliver Queen’s lack of Van Dyke facial hair. I’m skipping all important set up. All you need to understand the story is that the supervillain Komodo – an evil Green Arrow – is trying to kill Green Arrow. There. Comic books are pretty to understand sometimes. But these next four pages truly showcase what simple drawings can accomplish. As Green Arrow and Komodo shoot arrows back and forth at each other, you’re witnessing two vital ideas: first, in the hands of a skilled artist, a fight scene can flow just as brilliantly as any movie, and two, Green Arrow looks so much better shaven. He already has his Robin Hood gimmick; the mustache and goatee combo is a superfluous gift much better suited to a boring or non-descriptive superhero. A Van Dyke is a powerful present given to the correct face.
Have you noticed that every hero in the New 52 wears armor instead of spandex? Superman, who’s immune to everything our pitiful Earth brains could ever conceive, wears a full suit of armor. Batman’s protected by armor. So is Aquaman and the Flash. And good! If, say, our beloved Superman is going to be punched by Doomsday hard enough to slam into our moon, he should absolutely wear something beyond a thin layer of underwear. If Green Arrow, who has no powers to begin with, wants to wear protection (though sleeves for wussies, I guess), he darn tootin’ should.
Superheroes gain an unfair literary advantage in the rain. Since rain always symbolizes hopelessness or depression or frustration, our superheroes automatically enter the battlefield coated in the gloomy downside of a hopeless, depressive, or frustrated fight. So of course good triumphs over evil. The more “dark” the setting, the more victorious our superheroes’ actions become. When Green Arrow takes down Komodo with an arrow in the eye (which isn’t a spoiler as you can clearly see it below), oh, how powerful the moment becomes. It feels good. Good rocks, evil sucks.
In summary, the New 52 is awesome. I mean that with every fiber of my heart.
There’s a deep freedom in the slow march to the end. Forty more articles until I wrap this blog up – my shameless (and obvious) pandering for increased hits is no longer needed. Now, in my very dark, very small, and very damp corner of the Internet, I can write about whatever I want without fear of such scary notions like negative comments, gradual apathy, and this emotion I keep hearing about called “love.” It’s wonderful! I’m free! So today, because I gosh darn can, I present to you ten times Spider-Man has been kicked in the head. You’re welcome, Internet.
1. Amazing Spider-Man #49, written by Stan Lee and drawn by John Romita
I like to think Spider-Man is ripping out Kraven’s chest hair in that second panel. There’s nothing wrong with fighting shirtless – hell, Kraven spent years fighting dinosaurs or riding eagles perfecting those powerful pecs and his beautiful chest shrubbery. Let him fight in just a vest and capris; that man has earned it. And Kraven probably shouldn’t go bragging about his strength to Spider-Man. That’s like bragging how strong you are to a wall by punching it. Spider-Man can juggle cop cars while Kraven is listed on Wikipedia as an “Olympic-level athlete.” The only thing Kraven is “far more powerful” than Spider-Man in is the ability to grow a mustache.
2. Amazing Spider-Man #81, written by Stan Lee and drawn by Romita, John Buscema, and Jim Mooney
I don’t know why Spider-Man fights so many supervillains who hate sleeves. Go ahead, I’ll give you a chance to guess Kangaroo’s super power. You’re wrong, it’s not jumping. He can actually carry babies around in a stomach pouch. By the way, when do supervillains eventually learn modesty? Spider-Man has solved dozens of crimes and stopped dozens more bad guys, and this Kangaroo – a man whose superpower is to kick slightly harder than the average man – isn’t the least bit intimidated? But if you want some trivia, the Kangaroo dies forty issues later when he runs into a fatally radioactive room because Spider-Man told him not to. If the real world had stakes similar to the comic book world, every middle schooler would perish by eighth grade.
3. Amazing Spider-Man #170, written by Len Wein and drawn by Ross Andru
Ginger Teddy Roosevelt turns out to be more eloquent than I expected. Note that Spider-Man’s losing a fight to a man who’s smoking a cigarette. GTR takes himself down a notch with an occupied hand and the beginning phases of lung cancer, and Spider-Man still can’t gain any ground. Our dear supervillain (real name Doctor Faustus) has a thick Austrian accent, so go back an re-read that panel in your best Schwarzenegger – it makes everything easier to swallow when you realize Doctor Faustus’ only superpower (and I’m taking this directly from the Marvel wiki) is that he holds “an MD in psychiatry [and] is very charismatic.” Spider-Man just got kicked in the face by a man less like a supervillain and more like someone who Oprah would give his own show.
4. Amazing Spider-Man #287, written by Jim Owsley and drawn by Erik Larsen
Daredevil fights so often that he just lets his mind wander, like when you think of what to get at the supermarket during a boring work meeting. When Kingpin comes back into town, only the inhumanly fast and strong Spider-Man has the guts to stand up to him. Unfortunately, and I’m not making this up, the Kingpin is actually Daredevil in a fat suit. Just like Tyra Banks when she walked down the street as a fat woman, desperate to know the struggle, so goes Daredevil. And also just like Tyra Banks, Daredevil jump kicks his friend in the head. I’ve seen America’s Next Top Model - it’s cutthroat. While Daredevil wrestles with the idea of an evil Kingpin dominating New York City, there’s nothing heroic about punching a fellow superhero in the face. I mean, unless the other superhero is possessed or under mind control or a clone or from an alternative dimension or a secret robot or gives a mean look or forgets a birthday or really any reason the writer can justify. In summary, comics have no rules.
5. Amazing Spider-Man #379, written by David Michelinie and drawn by Mark Bagley
That many not be the real Spider-Man, but anytime a cyborg who looks like a shrunken head clobbers a monster using his cloven hooves, that comic has my full attention. The cyborg Deathlok’s a great character if you prefer your heroes without noses. The Spider-Man doppleganger actually belongs to the supervillain Carnage, a bad guy who’d make a list of supervillains most likely when touched to be sticky. And you ask, how did Deathlok get involved in a Spider-Man story? Trust me, with the cast of this issue, the only explanation is every hero and villain’s name got was shoved into one of those lottery spinners. Winners get three panels for a quick speech about why they’re essential.
6. Amazing Spider-Man #409, written by Tom DeFalco and drawn by Bagley
I looked up this Joystick character (mainly so you didn’t have to), and I can 100% conclude that Joystick is the perfect 1990s superhero. She has a superhero name that completely sums up the decade (meet her friends Tamagotchi and Pogs), a rocking ‘tude (she’s overconfident and flirtatious!), powers that are vaguely stolen or unoriginal (think Psylocke’s weapons), and a costume that takes far more effort to draw than it is cool to look at (she’s the most fashionable bee in her hive!). It’s beautiful and we’re all better people for knowing about Joystick. She may be a “game-player,” but the only game she’s playing is with my heart.
7. Amazing Spider-Man #427, written by DeFalco and drawn by Steve Skroce
I like to imagine that all superhero foreplay eventually devolves into a slugfest. The one who bleeds the least gets to be on top. If Spider-Man’s still conscious, he should make a move – his marriage to Mary Jane is about to fall apart/demonically wished away soon anyway. In a few pages, Spider-Man mentions that while he doesn’t want to be sexist, he didn’t think Delilah (the Nasty woman above) would give him as much trouble as she did. That’s important many years later during Ms. Marvel and Spider-Man’s first date when we see Ms. Marvel carrying Spider-Man around the city snugly in her arms, like how a loving mother holds her soft newborn baby.
8. Amazing Spider-Man #510, written by J. Michael Straczynski and drawn by Mike Deodato Jr.
Unlike real people and solely because of the type of literature that superheroes are portrayed in, they must name all their injuries in the same manner as a grocery list. And for a superhero with a specific super power used entirely to dodge attacks, Spider-Man sure gets hit a lot. I know you remember when Gwen Stacy and Norman Osborn made sweet love with each other and then Stacy became pregnant with twins and this was all retconned later after an editor gave this compelling reason: “Eww.” That mysterious boot belongs to one of the twins, who now takes out his budding anger and brutality on our innocent Spider-Man. Explosions, beatings, humiliations, and innumerable misunderstandings later, Spider-Man gets out of this arc barely alive and emotionally traumatized. The point I’m trying to make: use condoms.
9. Amazing Spider-Man #588, written by Marc Guggenheim and drawn by John Romita Jr.
Just for reference, the goblin (named Menace) still tries to kill Spider-Man anyway, just y’know, her heart won’t be into it. It’s just business, like how you schedule meetings and fill out spreadsheets, or in this case, attempt to decapitate Spider-Man with a stop sign. And way to go Menace for winning against a man with an arm already in a sling. Watch for her next victory as she pushes people out of wheelchairs. Look, if you want to feel bad for Spider-Man, understand that he has been beaten many times before by various supervillains all carrying purses. Green Goblin, Hobgoblin, Menace – they’re as fashionable as they are deadly.
10. Amazing Spider-Man #604, written by Fred Van Lente and drawn by Barry Kitson
To be fair to Spider-Man, we’ve found recently that’s how most cops react when you’re rude to them. Plus, he’s not blindly insulting a police officer – the lady is the supervillain Chameleon in disguise (which is his only super power if you don’t count ballsy high kicks). Honestly, I don’t think there’s much of a lesson here except to be suspicious of authority and wary of those in charge. Marvel’s not pushing for anarchy, but if it’d boost sales, they probably wouldn’t be opposed. Also, after ten of these kicks and hundreds of punches I didn’t show, Spider-Man should probably wear some sort of armor. At least a heavy jacket.
I hope today was educational. Next time Spider-Man gets kicked in the head, think of me. Please. I have a very specific fetish.
You love ninjas, right? Of course you do, because you love Batman and Wolverine and the hundreds of other superheroes who’ve studied with the hordes of ninjas roaming around the world. Seriously, they’re everywhere – I don’t know how any politician or businessman makes it through a single day without a blowdart in the neck or ninja sword through the abdomen. I’m not great at math, but did you know that comic book mysteries begin with ninja assassinations 100% of the time? So Marvel has this great idea: instead of always having our superheroes go to Japan or another vague Asian country to fight ninjas – which take at least ten pages of airplane humor and a foiled terrorist attack – why not bring the ninjas to New York City? Create an entire ninja society with appropriate architecture and culture smack dab in Hell’s Kitchen. And these new New York-based ninjas’ proud grand leader? Daredevil, of course.
In Shadowland #1, written by Andy Diggle and drawn by Billy Tan, you’re about to witness supervillain-on-supervillain crime. The Hand, Marvel’s premier ninja group, has to be led by someone evil and Daredevil’s turned to the bad side. It’s also a weird demon possession, but we can ignore that. Right after Bullseye leaves the Dark Avengers pretending to be Hawkeye, he returns to Hell’s Kitchen to do whatever supervillain stuff he normally does.
Notice the black outfit, always a bad sign in the superhero costume community. Though it’s odd his ninjas get to rock that famous crimson, but Daredevil has to look like an actual ninja. Note that like all supervillain henchmen, these ninjas are terribly weak and ineffective. Spider-Man could take on hundreds of them without breaking a sweat, and he hasn’t spent his entire life in an obscure monastery devoting his entire life to learning martial arts. That’s the life of a henchman. Bullseye has no actual superpowers, but you know without a bead of hesitation that he can wipe out entire small countries of ninja henchmen before he even takes the smallest knife wound. And he does.
How could this fight end in anything but Daredevil versus Bullseye? All Daredevil’s doing is dumping his ninjas straight into the toilet. Luckily since this is comics, his ninjas number somewhere between all of them and infinite, but still, someone has to clean up all the ninja goo splattered all over the pavements and ceilings and everywhere else they futilely attack a better fighter. Poor ninjas. They should really try techniques like body armor or shields or finding a non-murdering line of work.
It took two-thirds of the fight, but finally the two of them get to fight. Also, this Daredevil lacks all the charm and good vibes and mercy that normal Daredevil has. Turns out a hundred and twenty issues of non-stop misery wears Daredevil down a bit. So while what happens next is easily dismissed as demon possession (giving Daredevil a pass when this Marvel event ends), it’s delightful to know that Daredevil is still suffering lingering effects of this five years later in current continuity. Because he’s a jerk. Because he deserves this. Because we as readers don’t have the strict moral compass of superheroes.
Daredevil’s dead! On an unrelated note, you like lists, right? Lists are the cool thing now, right? Good, let’s do one of those next time.
We jump to the tragic life of modern Daredevil, where his only victories came in not having his entire life destroyed and everything he’s fought for become meaningless. These are dark days. In the current story from Daredevil #79, written by Brian Michael Bendis and drawn by Alex Maleev, Daredevil’s secret identity is outed by a tabloid. That’s right – because if he must go through physical trauma such as stabbings, beatings, and the normal superhero punishment combined with the emotional trauma of watching loved ones die in front of him and his unhinged sanity of keeping the overwhelming chaos from consuming him, we should add mental trauma to that list. It creates the full trifecta of never-ending sadness.
Then Kingpin comes forward admitting he has physical proof that Daredevil is actually Matt Murdock. Bullseye wants the documents. We pick up halfway through the issue and mid-fight.
Oh yeah, and Daredevil is married. Long story made short: she’s a sweet civilian who like Murdock also happens to be blind. Common interests build strong relationships, you know. Luckily, and not just for vengeance purposes, Daredevil gets an ally this time – someone just as ninja-y as our protagonist. It’s Elektra, because let’s be fair, you already see her in the page below before your eyes wandered to this text. Note that this Daredevil isn’t playing any games today. He hasn’t experienced joy in fifty issues. So when I offhandedly mention that Daredevil is tired of Bulleye’s crap, I’m underplaying just as much.
Arch-nemesis must be more than scary, dangerous bad guys. No, the superhero must need the supervillain – some terrible psychological aspect of having the opposite qualities (whether that be physical or personality) placed inside another person. Or at the very least, what the supervillain represents. Like say, how Spider-Man and Green Goblin represent different paths genius can take. Iron Man and Mandarin bring us technology versus magic. Red Skull’s a Nazi. But Bullseye? Daredevil doesn’t need him. He doesn’t represent anything symbolic for our crimson hero. And unlike the complex give-and-take of many superheroes with their dear arch-nemeses, Daredevil only possesses one emotion towards Bullseye: pure, unbridled hatred. Bullseye exists solely to be a bug for Daredevil to step on every few months, albeit a giant bug with claws and a shell and razor-sharp antennas and projectile venom and anything else dangerous a bug could have.
The fight isn’t over. Not for another five pages. To give a compliment where it’s due, Bullseye can take major punishment. We’re talking Punisher-level amounts of abuse and suffering. Now’s a good time to tell you that soon after this, as some sort of half-reward for being an awful person, Norman Osborn makes Bullseye an Avenger. He gets the penthouse suite, the ID card, and everything. People love and cheer for him. So as you watch the upcoming beatdown, know that Bullseye’s life is about to become awesome – he deserves far worse than what Daredevil and Elektra give him. Sometimes good things happen to bad people.
Everything about this fight gets wrapped up in a delightfully visceral bow. But as satisfying as Bullseye’s conclusion is, remember what I said at the very beginning. Daredevil can’t win. The poor guy has a span of about a hundred issues of constant torment far beyond what we non-powered wussies can endure. So when you see Bullseye lose so spectacularly, that only means Daredevil has to lose by that much more.
One more to go! Shadowland is next!
You want a good ol’ fashioned vengeance brawl? Of course you do. Because after a former love interest/supporting cast member of the superhero gets killed, our next thought ventures immediately to something like, “This [superhero] is going to beat the crap out of [supervillain].” But today, we jump to one of the most famous death scenes in Marvel comics – that sickening moment when Bullseye impaled Elektra with her own sai in all its full gory glory. And with her death, I know what you’re really thinking. You’re right: Daredevil is going to beat the crap out of Bullseye. We jump to Daredevil #181, written by Frank Miller and drawn by Miller & Klaus Janson.
So this story has a skewed angle: Elektra’s death and the aftermath isn’t told from Daredevil’s perspective. He serves as the foil. Every thought box you’ll see is Bullseye’s crazy thought process. Daredevil doesn’t say a word. Most importantly, Elektra’s relationship with Matt Murdock, Matt Murdock’s relationship with Foggy Nelson, Foggy Nelson’s relationship with Elektra, and all their relationships with Daredevil have spawned some worrisome suspicions on Bullseye’s psychopathic mind. Like say, maybe Daredevil’s secret identity isn’t so hard to figure out.
There’s a delightful irony in the Kingpin’s quick dismissal of Murdock as Daredevil in that Frank Miller’s most famous story involves the Kingpin discovering that Daredevil actually is Murdock. But Bullseye doesn’t confirm any of that for another decade or two down the line. So how does Daredevil throw him off the Murdock trail? Y’know how: the simplest superhero trick in whatever disguise/feint book every superhero’s required to read before they go off and billy club bad guys. Also, Bullseye’s a moron.
Notice how Murdock’s not quipping? Not ranting or taunting? Not doing anything but ramming his fist into Bulleye’s jaw? That’s some cold ninja shih tzu right there. It’s the moments when superheroes don’t speak that should freeze the bad guys’ blood. When they’re taking the fight seriously enough not to multitask with silly dialogue or angry monologues – instead just a combination of punches, concentration, and the total decimation of whoever managed to push them to this point. To bring in some more symbolism to their fight, on the pages below they run afoul of a passing train. The last time the two fought, Daredevil saved the unconscious Bullseye’s life from being run over a similar train. Moral responsibility totally sucks sometimes.
Okay, so I lied. Daredevil says six words. And when I previously mentioned moral responsibility? That was before Bullseye killed Daredevil’s first lover. Some lessons take more than one try for even the smartest superheroes to understand. And just like how we rely on the Joker’s bat-guano crazy rants of why he’s obsessed with Batman to cement his arch-nemesis status (though every arch-nemesis for every superhero seems to go on at least one obsessive monologue about their chosen enemy at least once per arc they appear in), Bullseye shines the same way here. Finally, if you can learn one important lesson from this fight, bad guys shouldn’t kill Daredevil’s love interests. He isn’t great at dealing with that kind of trauma in a healthy way.
We advance to modern Daredevil for our next fight on Friday! Get excited!
Over the next three articles, we’ll be reading three different fights of these two – mainly because I love arch-nemesis brawls and lengthy villain monologues. Bullseye likes to talk. Premiering about thirty issues before where we start today, our baddie started as all normal supervillains tended to in the 1970s: he planned ornate, extravagant plots for Daredevil to foil (like fighting Daredevil while riding a circus elephant or shooting Daredevil out of a giant crossbow) that were as forgettable as they were silly. But he kept showing up roughly every five issues or so. And today, in Daredevil #160-161, written by Roger McKenzie and drawn by Frank Miller, he finally gets that gold medal all supervillains aspire to be – Bullseye’s hard work (and bruises) attain him his long-awaited arch-nemesis status. For reference, you’ll be looking at the dawn of Daredevil emergence as the gritty, dark superhero that saved his title from cancellation and made Frank Miller a superstar.
Since Daredevil has far more important things to do than fight Bullseye, our baddie will have to force the superhero’s hand. Like say, attacking Daredevil’s girlfriend Black Widow.
No more happy Daredevil. Hell, Black Widow even straight up mentions the dramatic change a few pages from now. When you really think about a superhero’s life, it should only be a matter of time before they crack. How much crap does Daredevil have to deal with everyday? And not only it piles on far faster than our superhero can clear it, each new pile always comes with it a dose of broken bones and ruined days. He doesn’t even get paid – superhero-ing actually costs him a fortune what with new outfits and billy clubs and lost opportunities to work on his law firm. We can all proclaim from the heavens that Daredevil’s paid in justice, but he did choose a profession where every day is soaked in the angry fists of evildoers. He should at least get a stipend, I say. Oh, and that’s probably why Daredevil’s not happy anymore.
Despite this butt-kicking you’re witnessing, we have to believe that Daredevil and Bullseye are on roughly equal fighting levels. Our superhero’s a much better martial artist while Bullseye has the superpower to never miss his target with whatever he happens to throw (I know he’s officially non-powered, but we can all agree that his crazy aim is a skeptical stretch even for a universe where everyone fights crime in pajamas). Most importantly, Bullseye goes off an a long rant mid-fight, which I’ve always enjoyed in comics. Just like boxers recite lengthy speeches during their fights on ESPN. And if you want to notice the bigger difference between old Daredevil and new Daredevil, this new Daredevil really doesn’t have time for this bull anymore. No time at all.
Bullseye suffers from brain damage – crazy painful headaches, hallucinations, and personality shifts occur randomly. None of which are helped by Daredevil smashing his skull through a pinball machine. But the brain damage is at least a somewhat justified punishment for him killing people and whatnot. On a side note, these next few pages show just how much of a superhero’s career is left to chance. Sure, Bullseye’s crazy, but how crazy? If Daredevil guesses wrong, he dies – and Daredevil has to guess the insanity of each new bad guy every other issue or so. Thank goodness Daredevil’s series started selling well: superheroes make far more mistakes when their series dips in sales.
I know you’re upset that I didn’t show you the Daredevil versus Hulk fight instead. Mainly due to how little of a chance Daredevil has against the most powerful being in the Marvel universe. Oh, sure, we love to watch our adorable street-level heroes fight against impossible odds, but there’s nothing more foolish than Daredevil whacking the Hulk in the nose. It can’t harm him and the Hulk only gets stronger with each continued blow. But, here’s a taste. You deserve it.
We jump twenty issues next time to the mid-Frank Miller era!
Four months after Batman and Punisher’s first team up, they get another shot, and Punisher even gets top billing this time. But unfortunately for our dear Frank Castle, he’s not dealing with the raving craziness of pseudo-Batman/Azrael, a man who does not prepare for everything no matter how inane and weird. But despite the real Dark Knight jumping across rooftops, the Punisher’s still hanging out in Gotham City. His only supervillain Jigsaw teamed up with the Joker to do evil stuff, so he’s going have to stay for a while. In Punisher/Batman: Deadly Knight, written by Chuck Dixon and drawn by John Romita, Jr. & Klaus Janson, the issue goes pretty much like you’d expect.
Batman and Punisher, each not fond of the other, get two short fights. It’s bound to happen, y’know, because the Punisher shoots people once while Batman prefers instead to have bad guys get jump kicked over and over again for decades. More importantly, without all of Azrael’s armor and claws, we’re going to get a fair fight – at least as fair a fight from two fictional characters each with rabid, loyal fan bases who’ll rise up against the opposite comic book company if their boy loses.
Look, let’s be honest: the Punisher has probably saved far more lives than Batman has. Not in terms of catching civilians from burning buildings, but just in the sheer thousands of mobsters and criminals the Punisher has taken off the street. And it is in the thousands. Every issue he mows down at least one crowded restaurant or party full of bad guys. So with the climax of the book over complete, and all Punisher has to do is clean up whatever trash remains – you know what’s going to happen in the next three pages as soon as you take a look at the first. Of course Batman’s not going to let Punisher kill Joker, and of course it’s done in a very non-Batman way, but what else could possibly happen? The end result always ends with the status quo. That’s good business.
You’re about to witness a punch so full of rage and frustration that it needed a two-page spread. But rest easy knowing that you and the Punisher likely have the same opinion of Gotham City: it’s an insane, illogical, mess of a widly broken city filled the most insane, illogical, and definitely broken people. Plus, in New York City, superheroes dress as spiders instead of bats, the way a civilized society should be.
On Friday, we’re delving into some of Iron Man’s daddy issues!