Bom Dia, Bloggers! Did you have a nice holiday season? Myself, I was blessed with Many Books, among them Andrew Rilstone’s “Do Balrogs Have Wings?”, a lovely thing that could never (in the last fifty years) have hoped to have seen publication at all, being as it were a REAL NICHE MARKET FRIPPERY, a book about almost everything (or at least: almost everything important) that takes a deep Tolkien and C.S. Lewis fandom as its jumping-off point. Like (as I said to Andrew) being offered a glass of some pure juice that one mostly finds diluted in a cocktail of other juices, because most people aren’t interested enough in it to take it straight. “Can I offer you a pint of lime juice, sir, or would you prefer cherry? Perhaps a draught of plum-and-soda?” Not since the heyday of the Paperback Era have we known such polymorphous diversity, as we enjoy today with the print-on-demand lifestyle…
And I, personally, am very thankful for that.
Of course in thirty years it’ll all be gone, and the only things printed will be Dan Brown books. Maybe, if we’re lucky, people will still know of that old High Elven invention known as the Periodic Table? We will perhaps still think sometimes of magnetism or of celluloid? I am way behind: if you all would like to give me a Christmas present, please go read Andrew’s “How To Build Your Own Time Machine”, because of all the stories Andrew has written, to me this one seems the most passionately Andrew of him.
He should be a high-school teacher, really.
What was it that Confucius said? Something like: “if a country can’t find employment for its people that suits their talents, that country is already up shit creek without a paddle if things have gotten so far as all that?” Confucius, of course, is someone I would not have gotten along with…but he does say a lot of things that aren’t totally shit. For example:
“In a country well-governed, poverty is something to be ashamed of; in a country poorly-governed, wealth is.”
I see that acted out on the streets of my town every day, Bloggers: wealth in Vancouver brings with it great superficial nervousness, that propagates evilly downwards to the point where even people who aren’t kings fear that someday a cat might look at them…
But, SIGH. Did you come here for a New Year’s Lecture? No you did not. Instead, I think you came here for a silly drunken idea committed too soon to paper. Over the last few months and years, I’ve found it quite satisfying that one of my most-viewed posts remains “The WORST Superteam”, and I’ve sort of wondered how I can answer that interest back…
…And today I think have the answer.
The Marvel Universe is made of many parts, many different milieux, and all of them jostle somewhat uncomfortably next to one another — well, that’s the transgressive fun of it! We can imagine weird remixes of “who could beat up who”, what our old friend Harvey Jerkwater has called “the three-chord rock of fandom”…imagine if you will: Dracula vs. the Silver Surfer!
Woodgod and Ant-Man vs. Diablo!
Deathlok vs. Starhawk! And one of them is the other one’s father, and one of them is the other one’s son!
Odin vs. Mr. Fantastic, and isn’t it wonderful that we can conceive of these strange slashes (it is a word I have chosen) of strangeness across the sky, but I found myself wondering…
I mean: look at that “Woodgod and Ant-Man vs. Diablo” one, if you would. I’d read that comic, if Marvel Comics could be prevented from getting any money out of that reading. But it may be a bit of a dodge, you know? Because I would read “Woodgod and Ant-Man vs. Diablo”, but maybe that’s only because I wouldn’t read “Ant-Man vs. Woodgod”? I mean: one can find ways of spicing up most any collision of characters, and Marvel pioneered the “so-and-so don’t know one another so they’ll probably have a bit of a fight first” method of spicing up these collisions, but forget the transgressiveness of Dracula vs. the Silver Surfer, and ask yourself instead about the incommensurability of…
Loki vs. Dracula!
You can well imagine “Thor vs. Dracula”, I hope. It’s Thor fighting Dracula. Pretty simple. Dracula probably has to be on his toes a bit, to escape from that one with his skin intact. But Loki vs. Dracula?
How would that even…?
I mean, is it that Dracula is even going to bite Loki’s…?
I’m not even talking about Loki overpowering Dracula, though obviously he would have to. Well, Thor would overpower Dracula too! But there’s something else here, something suspiciously Aristotelian. Some things can’t be true together. Let’s examine it a bit more, maybe with…
Dr. Strange vs. The Thing!
Or even Baron Mordo vs. The Thing if you absolutely have to, but look, it isn’t just about pitting a good guy vs. a good guy or a bad guy vs. a bad guy: Dr. Strange vs The Hulk, we’ve seen that. One can fruitfully imagine Baron Mordo vs. The Abomination, too. (Call my thirteen year-old self, Marvel, he’d write it for free if he only he could shake Stan the Man’s hand!) But Ant-Man vs. Woodgod, I think you’d have to write the shit out of that to make it worthwhile. Like, you would really have to have an idea.
Actually on reflection, Ant-Man vs. Woodgod is too easy. How about The Beast vs. Woodgod, instead? No…no…
It’s yappiness vs. silence, it can be worked around too well as mood. It isn’t really incommensurable! What we need are two idioms that don’t even match up in counterpoint. Thor vs. Power Girl, well how would THAT go? A clever writer, I think, would give Power Girl a counterpunch speech that says something like:
“Well, fine, so you know who you’re the Son Of and you know what you’re the Master Of, and I can’t keep my own real name straight from week to week! You’re doing great, really confident, you’re like all noble and shit and I’m BY ALL ACCOUNTS A MESS! But this mess is gonna KICK YOUR ASS ANYWAY, YOU SONOFA…!”
Outside of that, I don’t know what you’d do. Gee, Power Girl, it really seems like they’ve positioned her, all against their intention, as a potential Good Character for these times? It’s rather like She-Hulk at Marvel, an awful and stupid idea for a character, a joke even before she started, then saddled with absurd “I’ll-prove-she’s-not-a-walking-joke”-isms and just getting weighed down, weighed down all the time, by piggish ambition. Yet this shitty idea for a character, that’s been abused by almost every writer who’s stumbled across her in the name of their (sorry, I mean his) own private non-comic enthusiasms (to the degree they can be said to have any), is not this character a potentially wonderful identification-figure for real people who feel they’ve been born into their own lives and their own environments in much the same way? With few unmediated choices? Steve Gerber got it right, with She-Hulk: no matter what she does, she can’t escape being made into an object. That’s bedrock. That’s non-negotiable. And that makes her as one with Howard The Duck.
Power Girl may be much the same way: wow, imagine being a character whose writers and editors all but publicly confess that you have NO REASON TO EXIST!! Except: tradition, and boobs. That’s really it. Is there any more?
Worse: does there have to be any more?
Supergirl vs. Goliath. They would just dance, I think. What else could they do? “Great Krypton, it’s like this guy’s too big to get out of the way of my punches, I’m killing him and I don’t even mean to!” Hank Pym, a bright guy, might think: “shit, I’m so outclassed here, and no way to step aside…maybe if I did the Robot? AS GOOD AN IDEA AS ANYTHING ELSE…!”
Sorry, Bloggers, I’m not describing it very well. “What If…Peter Parker Had Become The Disciple Of The Ancient One?” “Look, Master, I’m telling you…I can cling to walls! You have to know that’s awesome!”
The Human Torch vs. Mysterio! FOOSH. Game over. No talking.
No…no, that’s not quite it either…
Captain Marvel vs. Omega The Unknown!
On the surface, two star-spanning aliens with “powers” to the degree they can do different things from what human beings can do is if what. And they can even plausibly have a fight.
But what would come of it?
Is that incommensurable, or is it too commensurable?
Bloggers, help me out here, I am beating my brains in trying to think of superhero fights that don’t make any sense. Surely there must be some?
And none dare call it MEME!
Hope you had a wonderful End-Of-2013…mine was most relaxing. Now, with 2014 starting, I feel day-by-day ever-more unrelaxed. May have to start posting in spurts once again.
You have been warned, those of you who are left!
It’s tough to do this. Because most characters are adaptable enough that you really can make them work in a lot of different situations. I tried thinking of a few and everything I thought of, I could see some potential in.
Deadman vs Resurrection Man? That’d work. What about Deadman vs the Hulk? Not sure.
Ambush Bug vs the Spectre? Pssh; Ambush Bug goes up against guys like that all the time. Well, how about going the other way, Ambush Bug vs some other silly character? Like Ambush Bug vs Plastic Man? But no: all you have to do is make Plas a straight man, and it works great.
Ambush Bug vs the Joker? That might be a hard one to run.
I don’t know. Batman vs Power Pack?
I’d actually thought of Ambush Bug vs. Someone, but then I thought…
Isn’t that the whole point of Ambush Bug? To be a reason for characters to look ridiculous? Ambush Bug vs. Darkseid, it’s not a “real” story but it can be a funny story, and to tell you the truth it doesn’t annoy me nearly as much as Marvel people saying “except Squirrel Girl of course”…hell, well what would the Marvel people do without Squirrel Girl? Without an obvious signifier of “we know this is all silly at its core, really: we’re not crazy”. Holy shit, but you DO look a bit crazy though, because it is canon that Squirrel Girl defeated Dr. Doom, well non-comics people just look at that and say PLAH! At least Ambush Bug is a joke. Squirrel Girl’s supposed to be taken seriously.
They say she isn’t, but they’ll defend her to the death.
That said, Deadman vs. The Hulk is pretty great — if he’s in the desert being attacked by the Army, there really isn’t any way he can talk them down…and if he’s in the city, what’s he going to do? Rent a room? Watch some TV? Get an early night?
Plastic Man vs. Firestorm might be good: no point fighting, one could see that after five seconds. No common attitudinal ground, either. Both reactive characters, but if they have nothing else but one another to react to, they’d probably just…
Get some coffee?
Two teleporters fighting each other!
“Look, I can teleport away to anyplace I can think of!”
Unus vs. The Blob!
That’s too easy…
Wait, I’ve got it!!
Unus vs. Rogue, now you can’t tell me that’s not a dumb match-up…
Well, that’s what I was thinking with Ambush Bug; give him an opponent where there’s no point in making the opponent look silly. Ambush Bug vs Plas doesn’t really work as an Ambush Bug story, but as a Plastic Man story, where Ambush Bug is portrayed like in his first few appearances, it’d be fine. The reason I suggested the Joker is that the Joker misses in both directions: he’s either too silly for Ambush Bug to have anything to work with, or he’s too serious for Ambush Bug’s schtick to meet even a Keith Giffen level of tastefulness.
Arm-Fall-Off Boy vs Squirrel Girl?
Korvac versus the Human Fly.
Obviously I’m cheating because everything about the Human Fly is a non-starter. How about the Enchantress versus Zaius from Planet of the Apes?
The Beyonder vs. Doomsday.
You’re both right.
AMBUSH BUG vs. THE HUMAN FLY!!
Korvac vs, The Human Fly is too easy to spin: “real people can still make a difference, Korvac!” It’s idolatrous Captain America times one million. “I was handicapped once, but I overcame my disintegrating knees by force of will and a super-positive attitude!” FULLY COMMENSURATE IDIOM. Matthew slightly gets at it with Beyonder vs. Doomsday: two dumb ideas, that taste equally dumb together! But even that’s not quite where it’s at…I think you want something, instead, like The Watcher vs. Doomsday…otherwise known as “Doomsday stomps around on the Moon, doing nothing much, and the Watcher gives up taking notes on it”, or The Spectre vs. The Beyonder…“you have sinned, Beyonder, therefore I make you into…SOME CONFUSED DUDE WHO ISN’T SURE OF HIS DIRECTION IN LIFE!”
But AMBUSH BUG vs. THE HUMAN FLY, I’d read that horrendous comic. “Why are you such a loser, Human Fly? Huh, more like ‘The GIMPY Fly’…oh God I can’t believe I said that, what is WRONG with me…”
“It’s okay, Ambush Bug, this was all just a complicated plot to raise enthusiasm for NBC’s fall rollout of 1979 anyway…you’ve seen ‘Wag The Dog’, I guess? Think that, only instead of getting a President re-elected it’s to get marginally more market share for ‘That’s Incredible’…”
AMBUSH BUG: “Dear God…”
HUMAN FLY: “Come on, help me get to the nosecone of this Saturn V before it blasts off! YOUR ATTITUDE DETERMINES YOUR ALTITUDE!”
AMBUSH BUG: “Just gotta…sit down for a minute…”
HUMAN FLY: “Either you’re IN or you’re OUT, Mr. Half-Baked Kiddie Satirist!”
Actually if anyone knows the real true story of The Human Fly, I would not mind hearing it. I may have painted him as worse than he was…?
I mean, it’s one thing to advocate for “Supertrain” but it’s another to…?
Team America vs. Thanos. I can’t picture it beyond the cover, unless it’s some “outrace death” goofiness. Which it can’t be because that’s not wacky enough.
Oh, and teleporter vs. teleporter was done in Bizarre Adventures 27. Nightcrawler vs. the Vanisher. It was mildly fun but forgettable.
So, long time no comment but I’ve been keeping up with and enjoying your posts. Happy New Year!
Waverider vs Pariah.
Happy New Year to you too, Mike! Good to hear from you! I remember that Bizarre Adventures thing, now that you mention it…
Ah, Matthew, nice one! Yet, frighteningly, I wonder if there isn’t a story there, that’d be worth reading…
You’ll all excuse my lateness, but it’s suddenly occurred to me that I have an imaginary dialogue around here somewhere in which Alan Moore talks about rape and sexual assault in his oeuvre, and…
Jeez, I never anticipated someone would actually ask him about it…!
But they have, and he’s just written 12,000 angry words in reply. So I have been trying to figure out how to make it plain to any future blogsurfers that I am not actually part of that discussion…
Uncle Scrooge and the Looter.
Manhunter versus Anti-Monitor.
Juggernaut versus Blob.
Buckaroo Banzai versus Fu Manchu;)
What about this one… I think it doesn’t work, but it might have to be carefully calibrated not to work.
Dream of the Endless, and Man-Thing.
Man-Thing versus Big Barda.
Sam Beckett vs. Deadman.
The Hulk vs. the Riddler.
Daredevil vs. the Rainbow Raider.
Darwin (the character Brubaker created for X-Men: Deadly Genesis) meets the Answer (’80s Spider-Man foe, I think). Each one has a power that only works in response to some external threat or problem. So either it’s an endless back and forth of attacks being countered, only to have the counter countered, or they do nothing because each one is waiting for the other to make the first move, but until someone gives them something to react to, they can’t do anything.
“Come on, make your move!”
“No, you make your move.”
“No, you!”, so on and so forth.
This one almost certainly won’t work, but Rocket Raccoon and the Suicide Squad (or perhaps just Amanda Waller). It mostly boils down to character’s mindsets. Rocket not being familiar enough with Earth (I’m thinking shortly after the Mantlo/Mignola mini-series) to see anything odd about Task Force X (maybe he thinks Belle Reve is another asylum like Halfworld, and the Squad are patients acting out their delusions), and the Squad think the whole mission – talking raccoon with laser pistols – is a joke, or a trap, and refuse to play along.