Comics 411: Top 10 Marvel Slugfests

Happy to see you again! I’m Steve Gustafson and if you love discussing all things comics, you’ve come to the right place. Every week we cover something in the industry and I always appreciate your input in the comments section below.

Previously…

The last time we discussed our Top 10 Bronze Age Comics. Here’s what some of you had to say:

Al Lobama: “I have to resist my natural urge to make my list of the ten best Bronze Age stories just Batman books, but honestly, I could. Besides the iconic Denny O’Neil/Neal Adams run that gave us the League of Assassins Saga, the revival of Two-Face in Half an Evil and Joker’s Five Way Revenge, you have a stellar Detective Comics led by Frank Robbins (who gave us the Man-Bat Trilogy), the series criminally underrated from Gerry Conway who produced the Killer Croc saga and Jason Todd’s debut as Robin, and my personal favorite – the Steve Englehart/Marshall Rogers series from Detective Comics which gave us the weird Arc of the history of appearances, the revival of Deadshot, the debut of Dr. Phosphorus and Clayface III, and what might be the greatest Joker story of all time, The Laughing Fish.
At the same time, I might as well make this list of the top ten stories written by Len Wein. During the Bronze Age, he worked at both Marvel and DC and wrote classics wherever he went. The Jarella Saga in Incredible Hulk #202–208, Giant-Size X-Men #1, The Untold Legend of Batman miniseries that gave us Batman’s definitive origin story, The Rampage of Reed Richards in Fantastic Four #187 and 188, Swamp Thing’s debut in House of Secrets #92, Mongol’s debut in DC Comics Presents #27, Return of the Seven Victory Soldiers in Justice League of America #100–102, and Batman vs. The Incredible Hulk. I could go on for days if you allow me.

Here’s the best I’ve been able to narrow down, in alphabetical order.

01.) Captain America and the Falcon #169 – 176 (The Secret Empire Story Arc)
02.) Daredevil #181 (“Last Hand” – aka The Death of Elektra)
03.) Detective Comics #437 – 443 (the entire Archie Goodwinn/Walt Simonson Manhunter backup series)
04.) Detective Comics #475 (“The Laughing Fish”)
05.) Incredible Hulk #140 (“The Brute Who Screamed Love at the Heart of the Atom!”)
06.) Iron Man #120 – 128 (“Demon in a Bottle”)
07.) Legion of Super-Heroes #290 – 294 (The Great Dark Saga)
08.) Superman #247 (“Must There Be a Superman?”)
09.) Swamp Thing #1 – 10 (the original Len Wein/Bernie Wrightston course)
10.) Uncanny X-Men #141 – 142 (“Days of Future Past”)

Honorable Mention – Superman vs. The Amazing Spider-man »

Crystal Shepard: “I read eight of them when they came out. Cerebus came later (like most readers, I imagine). I still haven’t read that Green Lantern run.

Great stuff and thanks to everyone who commented last week! Too many great reviews to list, so go ahead and check it out!

This week we discuss…

Top 10 Marvel Slugfests
In case you haven’t heard, Donny Cates is currently taking two of Marvel’s most iconic characters on a journey. The writer will bring them both together in a brand new epic: HULK VS. THOR: WAR BANNER! Just in time for the 60th anniversary of the two heroes, this five-part crossover will begin in HULK VS. THOR: ALPHA WAR BANNER #1 before crashing into the pages of single-player Hulk and Thor titles in May and June. Tackling the ongoing mysteries of both series and featuring art by Martin Coccolo and covers by artist Gary Frank, the story promises to showcase Thor and Hulk’s most glorious battle yet and the showdown will have a shocking impact on the future of both characters.

“Well, I was a little surprised that Marvel approached me to write this, if I’m being honest. I’m best known for writing very small, very quiet, intimate comics, so I had to—ha!! Sorry . I couldn’t go on like this. Yeah, it’s gonna be crazy as hell, guys,” Cates said. “We’re gonna smash EVERYTHING! Happy birthday, Hulk and Thor! ABUSE!”

To me, it felt like an old school Marvel tale that featured two heavy hitters. I thought it would be fun to list my Top 10 and then see what you have. Mind you, I’m old school and nothing beats some of the classics of the era!

Honorable mentions
Wolverine vs. Punisher (Punishing War Diary #6-7)
Iron Man vs. Hulk (Iron Man #132)
Hulk vs. Juggernaut (Tales to Astonish #90-91)

Some things on the list. First of all, Thing was a bigger player in the Marvel Universe. In fact, it’s crazy how the Fantastic Four fell as they were in some bangers. Second, Hulk was THE powerhouse when it came to battles. He fought everyone and it was an event. Third, I miss the Silver Surfer.

Yes, my selections are old school and reflect MY preference. Yours will be different. And that’s okay.

Top 10 Marvel Slugfests

10. Ghost Rider vs. Avengers (avengers #214)
Reading this makes you realize how much Ghost Rider has changed in the Marvel Universe. Jim Shooter and Bob Hall bring him to the fore and start with him beating Angel pretty easily and when the big guns are coming including Captain America, Thor and Iron Man you’d expect them to end things pretty quickly. Not so fast! Ghost Rider keeps winning and makes me wonder how he would have worked as a regular Avengers opponent. A pretty fun glitch overall that introduced an interesting angle for the Ghost Rider character that I think wasn’t really tracked properly.

9. Wolverine vs. Sabretooth (Weird X-Men #212-213)
You just knew these two would show up on the list. They fought before this and they fought after, but this one stands out the most for me. As the X-Men and the Marauders fought, Wolverine and Sabretooth got into some big numbers from the creative team of Chris Claremont, Rick Leonardi and Alan Davis. I would call this one a draw but what a fight!

8. Spider-Man vs. Venom (amazing spider man #300)
Another classic between two characters who were destined to fight. Venom is more powerful than Spider-Man, so it takes all of his experience and skill to win this one. Venom would go on to be a huge thorn in Spidey’s side and people forget how cool his introduction was back then. Not only that, David Michelinie and Todd McFarlane gave us a big problem that still stands today.

7. Thing Against Silver Surfer (The Fantastic Four #55)
Prepare to see a lot of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby on this list. I think young audiences don’t realize how HUGE they were in the industry, churning out straight epics number after number. In this one, we get the old “hero, miscommunication leads to fight” as Ben Grimm opens the door to find his girlfriend Alicia spending time with Norrin Radd aka the Silver Surfer. Of course, that leads to a pretty impressive slugfest that held off Silver Surfer, handing Thing the win. Kirby’s pacing and dynamic art make this one stand out.

6. Silver Surfer vs. Thor (Silver Surfer #4)
I miss the old school Silver Surfer. He’s a great character, when written correctly, and this issue is a great example of that. Loki does things to Loki and tricks Silver Surfer into thinking Thor is evil. Then he gives Surfer a power boost so he can really mix it up with the God of Thunder! After a devastating fight, Silver Surfer emerges victorious and we can thank the team of John Buscema and Stan Lee for the ride!

5. Hulk vs. Silver Surfer (Tales to Astonish #93)
I just realized we’re in for a Silver Surfer triple play! Roy Thomas and Dan Adkins keep it simple. Hulk wants to leave Earth. He believes the Silver Surfer can help him get off Earth. Silver Surfer is stranded on Earth thanks to Galactus. Hulk doesn’t want to hear and they fight. Silver Surfer wins easily but it’s a fun and wild fight while it lasts.

4. Thor vs. Hulk (Journey into mystery #112)
Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. Again. Thor encounters two groups of children who are arguing over who is stronger – Thor or Hulk? Thor tells them the story of when he fought the Hulk under an enchantment spell. Probably one of my favorite unique issues and although the fight ends in a draw, everything about it encompasses what’s great about the comics. And it gives us this great bit of dialogue from Thor, “But, I’ll leave you with this thought…it’s not the one with the greatest power that’s important!! It’s the one who uses their power wisely… in the cause of justice!

3. Fantastic Four vs. X-Men (The Fantastic Four #28)
Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. OK, I’ll just spoil this and say that Stan and Jack lead the rest of this list. In this issue, the X-Men are under the control of the Puppet Master and face off against the Fantastic Four. These early issues of Fantastic Four feature some of the best stories that had a bit of everything. These two teams get in on it and while the X-Men could be declared the winners, we get a wild mix of characters with Awesome Android and Mad Thinker joining the action. Also, I like how the first beast was portrayed.

2. Hulk vs. the Fantastic Four (The Fantastic Four #12)
Stan Lee and Jack Kirby give us one of the first crossovers where Hulk showed up and took on the Fantastic Four. At the time, it was huge, and seeing the Hulk take on the team was pretty exciting. A note on Hulk. While most would say he was dumb and full of anger, in this issue we get a devious Hulk who not only has powerful rage, but uses a bit of intellect to take on the Fantastic Four. Awesome stuff from two guys who not only created a new universe, but also epic classics on a regular basis.

1. Hulk vs. Fantastic Four and Avengers (The Fantastic Four #25-26)
You can take this issue and put it against any comic today and it will more than stand up. After the Hulk puts the Human Torch in the hospital, things speed up and the Fantastic Four and the Avengers team up to take him down. It doesn’t go as planned and we get some cool clashes as we see just how strong the Hulk is. While we’ve had some pretty good Hulk runs over the years, early Marvel was Hulk’s heyday and this issue lets you know he’s THE guy when it comes to fighting. It takes a gamma ray capsule from Rick Jones to get him back to Banner, but this one will always be my number one thanks to Stan Lee and Jack Kirby.

Alright, I know you’re chomping at the bit and I’m sure I’ll see a lot of new fights, which I know full well I’ll be accused of ignoring. That’s the beauty of comics. Share below!

That’s all the time I have. See you next week!

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