Thursday, April 3, 2014

When DC and Marvel Fight: Round Two

Comics Should Be Good has once again based their Superhero March Madness tournament on “Who would win a fight with a half hour of prep time.”  This makes the voting more interesting than the standard popularity contest, and also leads to more entertaining arguments.

Sadly, even though my most popular post detailed the inappropriateness of the word “impossible” when discussing super hero fights when they did this three years ago, it turned out that a refresher course was in order.

With three of the Final Four unchanged, here's hoping I can help in time.  Though I doubt it.  The same people who say, "We've seen Batman beat Superman." Also say, "There's no way Batman can beat Thor."  Even though, per JLA/Avengers we've seen Superman beat Thor.  I guess the venn diagram of people who argue about the fights of imaginary musclemen in funny pajamas, and people who've taken "Logic 101" has a tiny cross section.

I first learned of this dire need after foolishly getting pulled into a discussion on the Comic Battles Message Board shortly before the March Madness began.

As a goof, I popped into the middle of folks doubting if there was any way Batman could defeat Thor.

Shameless self-promotion whore that I am, I immediately linked to my original post, referencing the possible method within…

And triggered a geekstorm of incredible proportions.

I’d forgotten the heavy Marvel slant of the board to begin with, and stumbled into a nest of Thor fans who didn’t share my rather loopy perspective on heroic combat.

The first wave of “impossibles” hinged upon Batman’s unworthiness to lift Mjolnir.

The reason most commonly cited for this was Odin’s Hairy and Manly Vikingness infused enchantment would take offense at Batman’s policy against killing.

Some of the Asgardian Faithful talked as if slaying one’s opponents was a core requirement in spite of my assertions that Comic book Odin's definition of worthy may be a tad different from mythological Odin's version.  After all, nowhere in either Edda do we hear of Thor’s godhood being removed because Odin wanted to teach him humility. 

Turning him into a limping doctor was not the best way to increase his son’s body count,
unless, contrary to all Lee/Kirby and beyond evidence, Donald Blake was a terrible surgeon.

I foolishly tried to provide examples of other characters that lifted the Mjolnir, and Batman’s equivalence of worth to them.

Superman was worthy in JLA/Avengers at a time (as it should be for ANY time for Superman) when he was opposed to killing.

I was told that the scene near the end of the series with him being unable to lift the hammer meant he wasn’t truly worthy, and Thor had relaxed the enchantment in an hour of need.  This ignored both the fact that Thor never displayed any Relax-Odins-Enchantment-O-Vision before and, more dramatically, the fact that Superman caught the mighty one’s mallet when it was directed at his Kryptonian Cabesa previously in the story.  I always took it to mean old Clarkie was worthy, but Thor was magically messing with him later on.

Wonder Woman was worthy back during DC vs. Marvel, during which I believe she didn't kill at the time.

I was told her being from a warrior culture made her worthy.  I didn’t argue that point because,  honestly, even when I’ve followed her adventures I’ve had a hard time figuring out when she’s following the standard superhero code against slaying enemies, and when she’s popping villain’s heads off like dandelions.

Steve Rogers was worthy when he called himself "The Captain" in Thor #390.

Amazingly, several fans informed me that the key reason for his worthiness was that he killed Nazis in World War II.  Funny, I’d have thought it had nothing to do with that and more because of the beliefs, values and drive that made him CAPTAIN AMERICA! 

Being a slaying soldier couldn’t have been the reason when the hammer hoisting issue came out.  It was around the same time as the “Armor Wars” crossover (Captain America #340) when he not only refused to outright kill Mr. Hyde, who had viscously beaten the tied up (decidedly unsuper butler) Jarvis almost to death during the “Siege” arc in Avengers, but actually saved his life instead of letting him fall off of a cliff when the guard rail he held was breaking.  

Methinks current continuity hath colored their worthiness vision.

Particularly, since there were also various creators around then insinuating that Steve had made it through the entire Second World War without killing anyone.  I won’t count that, because it didn’t match comics from before or after it, it wouldn’t affect my opinion of his worthyishness either way, and it’s silly.

I made attempts to drive my point home, again, that it was the writer’s job to justify that Batman's self-sacrifice to dedicate his life to becoming a warrior against criminals who never gives up and never backs down would make him worthy of Mjolnir on his own.

That's the beauty of these characters, and the danger. If it serves the story, ANYTHING can happen. It's the justification and execution of the storytelling craft that makes it good or bad. No choice is inherently a "flaw."

In an attempt to flesh out the adventure, and bolster my point, I introduced a further in story reason for the event to my original fight description:

If Batman managed to enrage Thor to the point that he was hurling himself into the fray, heedless of the collateral damage he was causing, that in itself could cause Odin to feel the need to whip a little more humility on the boy by showing his more safety conscious foe to be worthy.

This was greeted with two main complaints.

The first was it being out of character for both the Thunder god and his divine pop.  Again, likely from those who only know the current continuity.

Thor’s anger as a weakness has been dramatically shown several times-

Thor 385 written by Stan “the Man” Lee himself:

Thor was carried away by battle lust, fighting the Hulk to the point he demanded continuing the countryside rubbling roughhousing after Jade Jaws was ready to play his “just want to be left alone” card and leave.  This led to a major, "What have I done?" moment for goldilocks.
And perhaps (he added, to twist the Asgardian dagger in his “impossible” loving co-posters) a loss of self-worth.

Jurgens's King Thor had a fleeting but nearly identical moment after denting Cap's shield.

I’d have no trouble weaving, or believing a tale of Marvel Odin (if alive, obviously or his spirit somehow still infusing the hammer during one of his many “mostly dead” periods) deciding those actions were a punishable offense.

The far more puzzling complaint was that the loss of his hammer, or basically the loss in general, to the weaker Batman belittled Thor and made him look like a supporting character in the Dark Knight’s narrative.  Their view was that both characters should come off as heroic and the protagonist in the fight.

This confused me a great deal because, after a life time of reading these silly and slugfest filled adventures, I’ve noticed the losing superhero in any crossover fight ends up looking like a supporting character to the winner.  It’s usually inherent in the design.

Remember the amazingly accurate lines from the Incredibles:
“Everyone’s special, Dash.”
“Which is another way of saying no one is.”

To have a definitive winner, there has to be a loser.
If there isn’t a definitive winner, comic book fans complain about it being incomplete, or a cop out.

Because we’re a crazy and annoying bunch.

It was put forth that any instance of Batman stealing Mjolnir would be equivalent to Thor blasting Batman with lightning with such force he evacuated his bowels before collapsing into a charred pile.

It's the execution and storytelling that matters.

To modify the above example: Instead of the embarrassing Bat-poop, what if World’s Greatest Detective battled through the blast with his last bit of strength to convey to Thor the importance of something he’d discovered which was the core reason for his fighting. When he slumped into unconsciousness, Thor would salute him as a worthy foe, and use the information to drive the story on through the inevitable team up.  Batman still appeared as the co-star, and the loser, but it’s much better storytelling.

Same mechanics, different execution.

I'm an old Thor fan dating back to the unparalleled Simonson run. I wasn’t trying to make the Odinson look bad. I do believe the Hammer Wielding "Thor Corps" should be extremely limited. Given Cap's status in the Marvel Universe, and his bond with Thor, that issue is still one of my non-Simonson favorites, though.

If internet “Battle Boards” existed before 1987 and I postulated that Thor, with multiple broken bones, could beat the Midgard Serpent. Then, after being reduced to a pile of Asgardian jam in a can, defeat Mephisto, the Destroyer, and Hela all in a row, I'd have been laughed off the web for being and unrealistic Mjolnir licking fanboy.

Simonson’s execution issue 380, (with a bit of help from Al Milgrom and John Buscema along the way) made it into one heck of an epic arc!

Similarly, I could just as easily come up with reasons why Batman wasn't worthy.

However, I could also come up with a myriad of rational explanations why Bruce Wayne would never be worthy of a Green Lantern ring (e.g. fear based modus operandi, the loss of his parents constantly haunting him, etc.)

It doesn't change the fact that when he wore one for a couple of panels in Green Lantern V.4 #9 it was awesome enough to inspire the creation of and cause me to buy both the variant cover, 

and the action figure.

The other poster’s view of Batman was primarily based on the, “he really is crazy” idea that Frank Miller and others have presented.  That view is a man who never grew up, and confuses vengeance with justice.

My justification was based on my favorite Batman writers being O’Neil, Grant, Wolfman, Dixon, and Moench. Most, if not all of which, went out of their way to illustrate the difference between justice and vengeance and why Batman follows the former. Busiek did it excellently as well in the series that I will continue to cite as being one of the best characterizations for the myriad of heroes inhabiting both universes: JLA/Avengers.

I guess what amazed me most about the arguments I received was manyposters stating they had no problems with the other outcomes, but Thor being treated without dignity was wrong.  This was baffling primarily since I was also going for laughs, and the loser looked somewhat foolish in all the scenarios I posted.

Heck, there was being tossed over the horizon, taking a dive and wedgies involved.

Why did I bother with these discussions?

Y’know, besides the fact that I’m equally as geeky as the rest of them and couldn’t help myself.

Maybe I'm just old, don't take any characters too seriously anymore, and hoped to bring some others around to my viewpoint.

I think Batman the Brave and Bold may be my favorite super hero cartoon of all time.

Instead of striving to avoid making fictional people “look silly,” it strove to use the unadulterated breadth of sheer insanity that seventy five years of Batman comics have produced.

As of March 30th...HAPPY BAT-IVERSARY!
No, I didn't plan this as a post for this occasion. Considering how often I ramble on about Batman  it heavily threw the law of averages in my favor that I'd be talking about the caped crusader at the proper time.

It pulled together all types of elements, from realistic to completely out there in order to generate entertaining and well-constructed tales.  There were occasional dark or tragic moments but the show never lost sight of the whole point of super heroes:
Wish Fulfillment.

And that should be fun!

UPDATE  4-8-2014:
Well, whadda ya know?  All my complaining may have worked after all.
They got it right this time!

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