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!
Teenagers are a giant mess of sweat, insecurity, and mistakes. That’s not even opinion; I imagine science could back me up on that. And like all non-adults, teenage superheroes – aside from still being perfect physical specimens, going through puberty with relative ease, and attracting more of the opposite sex than the school they attend combined – make terrible errors in judgement. Such as Robin today in Robin #4-5, written by Chuck Dixon and drawn by Tom Grummett & Ray Kryssing. He breaks up an attempted robbery, except he didn’t think through the bad guy’s full plan.
Y’see, the money’s hot, right? The cops’ll be looking for the stolen cash and armored car, so the supervillains decide to bury it in concrete for a few days before excavating it, thus losing the evidence if they get caught or whatever. So our whole story takes place in the five by ten foot enclosed square of an armored truck with Robin and Cluemaster (Spoiler/Batgirl/Stephanie Brown’s father) stuck together. It starts off pretty much how you imagine it would. Badly.
This is why superheroes are only applicable in a fictional universe. Superboy and Wonder Girl in a single punch would have been back home sleeping soundly in his barn by now. Beast Boy would have slipped out before the concrete came down. Starfire could blast her way out. And Cyborg must have dozens of methods to escape or call someone or he might not even need to breathe at all. But poor Robin has to rely on luck. His utility belt has many gadgets, but none of those pockets contain miracle guns or divine intervention lasers.
The clock indicates what time it is. It builds suspense while Spoiler runs around on the surface in the sub-story I’m not showing you. And poor Cluemaster, getting lectured by a high school sophomore. No one takes Cluemaster seriously rocking a ponytail like that. Hairstyles for supervillains must be short, normal, or outrageous, not a style blaring Nostalgia for the ’80s. But luckily as you’ll see below, Robin has learned the most important lesson one could under Batman’s teachings: blame yourself for every little thing you do wrong no matter what the situation or uncontrollable variables because you should know better always and forever.
We all know Robin isn’t going to die. It’s only issue five of his series, and DC usually waits until sales get low before they kill off their series’ main characters. Dear Robin gets saved entirely by the chaos of the comic book universe and not his own abilities. It’s an acceptable method of storytelling as having the superhero lose once in a while raises the stakes for their next battles. That’s why Superman usually battles dudes stronger, faster, and tougher than he is. Though I imagine this is a story Robin won’t be telling Batman about when he gets back to the cave.
This moment marks more than Robin’s embarrassing rescue. You’re about to witness the beginning of the Robin/Spoiler romance, despite Robin having a girlfriend and it taking thirty-ish issues before they actually become a couple – and even then, Robin won’t tell Spoiler who he is although he knows Spoiler’s real life identity. It’s a slow, drama-filled burn, like all high school relationships should be.
Iron Man is dead. At least in this point in the comics. It allows War Machine to take over the title for a few issues, but it mainly consists of James Rhodes angrily stomping his feet in frustration at every single situation that comes his way. Seriously, for starring in his own superhero comic for these precious few issues, Rhodes has more angst than Spider-Man’s worst day. Anyway, in Iron Man #285-288, written by Len Kaminski and drawn by Kevin Hopgood & Barry Kitson – Iron Man obviously not “dead” dead – our hero hallucinates about his past. Mainly about his relationship with his father. Nowadays in current continuity, Tony Stark’s dad acts much like Batman’s dad: a paragon of the community and a role model for our superhero to aspire to be. But not in these four issues. Let’s meet a very different Howard Stark.
Iron Man has been sober for about a hundred issues or so. But all that previous alcohol fried his brain enough for him to repress all those awful memories of the domestic abuse committed by his boozy father. We know this story as a constant theme in comics — terrible parents force the prodigal son to begin his never-ending quest seeking the approval of people who will never give it to him. But this story factors so much into Iron Man’s personality: his love of machines, his superhero fantasies, his maniacal self-improvement, and his relentless drive; everything pretty much goes back to his father being a dick.
I know he’s called Iron Man and his first two armors were made of iron, but let’s chalk his father’s proclamation up to a coincidence. By the way, is it just me or is it weird to see Tony Stark without his mustache? Even as a child. That ten year-old needs to be rocking that pencil-thin mustache for me to be completely comfortable with this flashback.
You see what happens when you let kids be exposed to fantasy? They become billionaire playboy superheroes who gain the whole world’s adoration and love. Off topic, but I do hold a firm belief that superheroes are America’s King Arthur. Britain has their fictional greater-than-life heroes, complete with adventures and so on. We Americans created our own fictional greater-than-life heroes, just with spandex and who punch mobsters as opposed to slaying dragons. Though, if I can shamelessly plug, Green Arrow has totally slayed a dragon, so take that Lancelot or whoever.
You should feel bad for Iron Man, and not because he lost his parents. No, y’see, Iron Man is so amazing that nothing is difficult. He’s good at everything. He has no weaknesses. He’s a god among men. So shed your tears now, my friends. Can we all take a minute and proclaim what a genius Stan Lee is? He created Iron Man, a superhero literally no one can identify with (except maybe Elon Musk), injected into him the ego of an entire professional sports league, gave him everything the readers weren’t getting (like girls), and then somehow made this man a comic book superstar.
You know what happens next. Terrorists kidnap him or Vietcong or whatever’s the current group Iron Man first gets kidnapped by. I know nowadays his superhero origin relies on an abduction somewhere in the Middle East, but that changes depending on what decade the Iron Man story takes place in. But that incident propelled him to become a good person, warrior of justice, etc. May we all hope that our own physical, mental, or emotional transformation doesn’t involve building a suit of armor to blow up terrorists. But we should definitely hope that we can one day we could wear a pencil-thin mustache and still be called cool. That’d be a decent enough transformation, I guess.
Iron Man’s back to life! On Monday, get ready for a surprise (because I don’t know what we’ll be reading at).
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!
Finally, right? You know you’ve been clamoring for it – Batman does many things, but fighting non-powered dudes who shoot guns isn’t one he does often. By that I mean every ten pages as opposed to the entire issue cover to cover. But this team up carries a far different weight than the last article, due to the whole Batman and Punisher disagreeing violently over their very moral cores. So when they have their inevitable fight, it’s for real. No genital measuring contest here. Except in Batman/Punisher: Lake of Fire, written by Dennis O’Neil and drawn by Barry Kitson & James Pascoe, you might notice something different about this Batman. Hint: this comic came out in 1994.
That’s right, my friends. It’s Mecha-Batman. The lunatic Azrael still reigns over Gotham City as their forced caped crusader since Bruce Wayne’s back remains still broken by Bane. Azrael’s cult brainwashing and inferior complex to the real deal drives him further into those insanity depths he jumped in long ago. But since I introduced Azrael, I’ll give you Punisher’s intro as well. Spoiler alert: religion doesn’t come up as often with him.
I know that going into “stats” or superpowers is a useless discussion. The writers determine many of the imaginary limitations for the imaginary characters, but it won’t stop me from attempting it – it’s very late, and I have space to fill. Azrael’s suit makes him stronger, tougher, and faster than Punisher. But Punisher, usually armed with only silly weapons like guns and bullets, takes on Marvel supervillains frequently enough for that to negate all of Azrael’s benefits. Plus, the Punisher fights dirty. Don’t go expecting a long drawn out ordeal – it’s a six page fight – but I hope it’s bloody enough to satisfy your superhero bloodlust.
Punisher isn’t cheating. He thinks he is, but he’s not. If Mecha-Batman can use super strength and giant claws to fight a man clad in just spandex, it’s not against the rules if the Punisher pulls out a pistol. Actually, the fight should have probably started this way. And also, since when is the Punisher against cheating? The only reason the team up had to include Punisher’s baddie Jigsaw is because Jigsaw is the only bad guy Punisher has. He has a rogue gallery of one. His oppenets tend not to last more than single issue when Punisher’s modus operandi is to murder them. Almost always by cheating.
Good news. There’s a second team up, and Punisher fights the correct Dark Knight next time. We’ll read it next time to finish up our crossover articles, as it’s hard to find enthusiasm for all those Silver Surfer team ups.
[Ed. Note: I’m feeling better. I promised myself I would get to 500 articles, so I hope you’ll enjoy the final fifty articles as much as I’ll enjoy writing them! Until I’m back to 100%, I’m going to cut down to two articles a week – I appreciate your support far more than you would ever imagine.)
Last time the Man Without Fear and the Dark Knight crossed pathes, they basically spent the entire issue seeing who had the bigger wiener. We all know the winner: Superman. His perfection doesn’t end at the belly button, my friends. In their second team up, Batman/Daredevil: King of New York, Daredevil begins our story by traveling the mysterious dimensional gap of DC/Marvel cities to Gotham City. I know the story’s called King of New York. Just go with me here.
Daredevil’s following Catwoman, who stole something valuable or whatever. But because all good team ups must begin with fisticuffs, Batman’s going to show up to wreck whatever information party Daredevil hoped to figure out. Cue the initial brawl:
These two constantly seem to forget that they’re normal dudes who can’t do stuff like fly or land safely on the ground without transforming into superhero goo. And while I know Daredevil attempted to interrupt Batman, the crooks are going to figure out who’s on their tail when Daredevil tackles his superhero counterpart in clear view while they both fall to their deaths. Truthfully, Daredevil’s actions only serve for us to witness a cool acrobatic free-for-all between Batman and him. And it’s awesome. I never need context for stuff like that.
Thus begins round two of their big wiener contest. The stakes are just as high as last time (nothing). But here’s the summary of their current squabble: both Gotham City and New York City are awful places that create the most unnecessarily toughest people to ever walk the comic book universe. But it’s their super awful places.
The story takes Daredevil’s bad guy Kingpin and Batman’s bad guy Scarecrow to New York City where the Scarecrow plans to unleash a mega bomb of fear toxin that will destroy the tough people of New York City. Earlier, Kingpin betrayed Scarecrow – y’know, because they’re both supervillains and that’s why every time the Injustice League gets formed, it eventually dissolves into infighting and misery – and now Kingpin’s getting his revenge. These next two pages aren’t important to the story, but they’re important for my heart and soul.
As required in a team up, our two superheroes face their buddy’s supervillain. I’m skipping Batman versus Kingpin, but only because the Daredevil versus Scarecrow fight is so much better. The baddie can’t beat Daredevil in a fistfight, so he has to use that magical fear gas of his. But Daredevil’s the Man Without Fear, right? See? I told you their fight was better.
Victory for our heroes, who never meet again. Luckily, I found a bunch of other crossovers, so next time we’ll have Batman team up with another Marvel superhero. Hint: this one doesn’t banter or smile. He only wears shirts with white skulls. His name starts with “P” and ends with “-unisher.”
I tend to keep my personal life out of this blog because you come for the comics and the images, not me. We read superheroes in the first place because they’re so much more fascinating than our own lives. But I have to take a few weeks off. I can’t keep this blog going right now. I promise to continue as soon as I can. Thank you for reading and I love you.
Daredevil #9-10, written by Mark Waid and drawn by Chris Samnee