Let’s you and him fight! That has been the time-honored cry of comic-book fans for decades now, ever since Marvel launched the tradition of super-heroes clashing with one another almost as often as they did with super-villains. And what fans haven’t engaged in the favorite pastime of arguing about whose favorite hero was the stronger?
The hero vs. hero sub-genre began with the classic Torch vs. Sub-Mariner fight way back in comics’ golden age — not coincidentally at Timely Comics, ancestor to Marvel Comics. But aside from that instance, hero vs hero fights didn’t seem to catch fire and languished through the 1950s until Marvel started running super-heroes in its books again beginning with Fantastic Four #1.
Early encounters between the FF and hero/villain Sub-Mariner proved popular so it wasn’t long before Marvel began to regularly feature clashes between its super-heroes, a formula competitors tried to duplicate but never with such soul-satisfying results. The reason? Marvel’s secret weapon was artist Jack Kirby who could choreograph bludgeoning battle scenes better than anybody!
By comparison, competitors like DC were as sedate as a ladies’ sewing circle!
10) Old Human Torch vs the New Torch
It happened in Fantastic Four Special #4 (1966) and served to set the golden and silver ages on a collision course even more dramatic than did the Sub-Mariner’s first appearance in FF #4. That said, the eventual meeting of Johnny Storm, the new Human Torch, and the golden age Torch was a foregone conclusion among fans following Namor’s presence in earlier issues. And of course, it being Marvel, such a meeting between young and old Torches couldn’t be had over a cup of Java at the Coffee Bean!
9) Captain America vs the Black Panther
With their similar physical powers it was a natural for America’s sentinel of liberty to meet Africa’s favorite son in hand-to-hand combat; so why did it take until Tales of Suspense #98 (1968) for it to happen? Be that as it may, Kirby does both heroes proud in his most grandiose of styles. Needless to say, the two antagonists weren’t really mad at each other, tackling Cap was just the easiest way for the Panther to tell if he was the real thing or not!
8) Mister Fantastic vs Sub-Mariner
This time, for once, the clash between two heroes was over something perfectly understandable: a woman. As readers of the FF knew at the time, Reed Richards (aka Mr. Fantastic) and Sue Storm (aka Invisible Girl) were pretty much an item even though they hadn’t made it official yet (that would come in FF #35). But that little bit of uncertainty left an opening for Sub-Mariner who’d taken a shine to Sue — who’d given him some reason to hope. Taking the hint, Subby kidnaps Sue and takes her to his undersea digs where an angry Mr. Fantastic catches up with him in Fantastic Four #27 (1964).
7) The Original Human Torch vs Sub-Mariner
In the first historic clash between super-heroes, the original Human Torch has it out with Sub-Mariner in a fight so big that it had to be spread out over three issues of Marvel Mystery Comics (1940). This fight may or may not have inspired Lee and Kirby to do the same on a much more regular basis in the silver age, but it certainly might have had!
6) Daredevil vs Spider-Man
With Daredevil implicated in criminal activity by the evil Masked Marauder, Spidey tackles our hero in Daredevil #16 and again in #17 (both 1966) before finally realizing the truth and teaming up with him to tackle the Marauder. The art for these issues was handled by Jazzy Johnny Romita early in his career at silver age Marvel and supposedly he didn’t know that this two-parter was an audition for his taking over Spider-Man’s own book a couple months later.
5) Thing vs Silver Surfer
One of the most bludgeoning battle sequences ever produced in comics took place in Fantastic Four #55 (1966). There, for page after page of ever escalating violence, the Thing pounds away at a bemused Silver Surfer. The Thing, you see, ever insecure in his relationship with girlfriend Alicia Masters, discovered she and the Surfer together and before any explanations could be given, whales the hapless skyrider of the spaceways clear into the next week! Mayhem ensues!
4) Thor vs Hulk
By the time of Journey Into Mystery #112 (1965), Marvel had passed on from its early, formative years into its years of consolidation and by then its growing legion of fans had had plenty of time to form opinions of the company’s new line of heroes. And some of those opinions naturally involved questions of which heroes were more powerful than others. One of those comparisons inevitably involved Thor vs the Hulk and to answer that question, writer Stan Lee teamed with artist Jack Kirby to tell an untold tale that took place during Avengers #3 where Thor and the Hulk found themselves separated from Sub-Mariner and the other Avengers and battled briefly one on one.
3) Iron Man vs Sub-Mariner
In a pattern that would prove the rule (and during the silver age, a popular one at that), Sub-Mariner ended up fighting every hero in the Marvel universe at one time or another and when he wasn’t meeting them as part of a team, he was bumping into them on their own as he does in Tales of Suspense #82 (1966). Filling in for regular artist Gene Colan, Kirby lets loose with some of the most unadulterated clobbering anyone ever saw! In big, bold, quarter and half page panels, Kirby pulls out all the stops for one of the biggest, best hero vs hero battles of all time!
2) Thing vs Hulk
Sure, they first met in Fantastic Four #12 but it was only really late in the page count and then only for a few panels; they’d barely brushed shoulders that time. Fans had to wait over a year before a second opportunity for Marvel’s two most brutish powerhouses to meet again in Fantastic Four #25 and 26 (1964). What follows is page after page of battle as the two mountains of muscle lay waste to a condemned part of town (and doing urban renewal a big favor) before moving on to the Washington Bridge. Too big to be contained in only one book, the fight of the century was continued in issue #25 where the Thing/Hulk clash became one for the ages as Kirby and writer Stan Lee showed the Decrepit Competition how it was done!
1) Thor vs Hercules
What super-hero vs super-hero fight could be better than a battle between gods? We speak of the legendary battle between Thor and Hercules in Thor #126 (1966). Kirby, at the absolute height of his bombastic powers, had already given readers a glimpse of how he’d handle a face to face battle between the god of thunder and the prince of power in Journey into Mystery Annual #1 when the two heavenly titans first met, but that was but prologue! The real smack down took place some months later when Herc came to Earth and by sheerest coincidence ended up sharing a soda with Jane Foster, the apple of Thor’s eye! What follows is a heady mix of synchronized violence and pseudo-Elizabethan dialogue scripted by Stan Lee making for a perfect balance of words and pictures. Because of that, this tussle between Thor and Hercules must rank as the best super-hero vs super-hero fight ever presented in the four color medium!