Twenty years ago, eternal rivals Marvel and DC Comics teamed up for the four-issue miniseries “DC vs. Marvel” / “Marvel vs. DC,” with each publisher getting to put its name first on two issues. Though the Big Two had crossed over their characters before, notably matching up the Uncanny X-Men and Teen Titans and pitting Superman against Spider-Man, this was fans’ opportunities to see a full slate of bouts between their favorite heroes, and settle once and for all which universe is best — they could even vote on who should win several of the fights.
Of course, a lot’s changed since 1996. A new generation of heroes has emerged, or in some cases, classic heroes have returned. Fans’ tastes have also changed, bringing with them a shift in how some characters are portrayed, and brand-new heroes have risen to prominence. In celebration of “DC vs. Marvel’s” 20th anniversary, CBR revisits all 11 original title bouts, and introduces a few new challengers along the way.
16. Namor vs Aquaman
In “DC vs. Marvel,” Namor was just hopelessly outclassed. This was before Namor really started flexing his muscles with the Illuminati, or teamed with the X-Men, or generally became the haughty badass readers came to love. Aquaman was in his steel half-shirt, harpoon hand, Poseidon hair, super metal phase. Incidentally, Arthur Curry won by hitting Namor with a whale. Yup, that happened.
Namor’s come a long way in the last 20 years. He’s shown extraordinary cunning, untapped reserves of power and a penchant for leadership beyond just commanding his armies to attack the surface world every few months. Aquaman, meanwhile, is younger, with fewer fearsome prosthetics. But the Aquaman of 2016 has one clear advantage over present-day Namor: he’s alive. Namor sadly met his end in the “Secret Wars” event and has not yet recovered from his death through resurrection, alternate reality doppelganger or any of the other usual devices. Thus, Aquaman wins by default.
15. Elektra vs. Catwoman
“I’m not a hero!” “Neither am I!” Catwoman and Elektra don’t mind fighting for their respective universes, but Elektra does make a point of saying she’s not going to kill her opponent “merely to appease the beings who force this battle.” Mighty big of her. Instead, she just chucks Catwoman off a building under construction into a vat of sand strongly evocative of a giant litter box. This is apparently enough to count as a victory.
While the two characters have undergone perhaps the least amount of change from the original combatants, their portrayal has certainly shifted with the tastes of the time. We can’t imagine either of them, in 2016, bragging about what a badass she is before launching into an assault. Both would make greater use of subterfuge, operating in the shadows and striking at precisely the right moment. The fight would be sudden and brief, as after the first blow is landed, the women would likely remain in close quarters, attacking in a flurry of fists, claws and sai. Catwoman may get in a quip or two, probably a kitty pun, and Elektra might utter a few words about honor and such, but this is not a chatty fight.
Since, abilities-wise, Catwoman and Elektra are largely the same characters they were in 1996, there’s no reason to think the result would change. Elektra wins.
14. New Challengers: Deathstroke vs. Deadpool
While both of these characters were around in 1996, neither had achieved the sort of popularity to warrant a spot on the “Marvel vs. DC” bracket. Slade Wilson, aka the Terminator, aka Deathstroke, held and still holds the title of deadliest assassin in the DC universe, and established himself early on as one of the creepiest villains ever, thanks to his relationship with Teen Titans turncoat Terra. Meanwhile, Wade Wilson, aka Deadpool, aka the Merc with a Mouth, is also an assassin of no small repute in the Marvel universe, though is perhaps best known for his over-the-top antics and tendency to break the fourth wall.
Deathstroke probably has the edge on skill and strategy in this one, which in most cases would carry the day. But it seems likely Deadpool would do something ridiculous and probably disgusting that would see him emerge as the victor. Slade doesn’t really stand a chance against an opponent who can’t die, especially a psycho like Deadpool.
13. Flash vs. Quicksilver
Both speedsters lamented the fact they had to fight in “DC vs. Marvel,” but Quicksilver nearly got the upper hand when Wally West took a moment to save some kids from an exploding truck — Pietro pummeled him mercilessly, but the Flash ultimately came out on top because he’s the Fastest Man Alive.
Wally’s return in “Rebirth” notwithstanding, the guy wearing red in the Flash series these days is Barry Allen, so he’ll be the one fighting Pietro Maximoff today. Both heroes have been through a lot since the original meeting — Barry fought his way back from the Speed Force, got rebooted and started to remember friends from his original timeline. Quicksilver remade reality, lost his powers, became an insane time traveler, got his regular powers back and found redemption. So really, they’re about even.
Barry is as likely to get distracted by innocents in danger, as Wally was, and Pietro is, if anything, even more likely to take advantage of such an opening now than he was in 1996. But while Quicksilver is super fast, Barry literally runs between planes of existence. He also has the mind of a scientist, giving him additional insight into how best to employ his speed-based powers. It would take an astonishing additional skill to overcome these advantages, and Quicksilver just doesn’t have it. The Flash wins in record speed.
12. Robin vs. Jubilee
In the more innocent mid-’90s, Jubilee lamented in her diary that “I finally find the right guy … and I’ve got to fight him for the fate of two universes.” It’s not every day that a boy with almost exactly your same fashion sense just materializes in your bedroom, right? Tim Drake, ever the romantic, invites Jubes for a short walk before they get down to the unfortunate business, and at its conclusion, Jubilee reaches up for a brief kiss. Despite not having powers, though, Robin quickly wins without throwing a punch.
The rematch is not likely to be so sweet. Instead of teen heartthrob Tim Drake in the Robin costume, we have the brutal adolescent Damian Wayne, Son of Batman. Jubilation Lee has also grown a bit of a harder edge, as well — becoming a vampire will do that to you. Being an adoptive mother, she also has someone to protect, making her very, very dangerous. This’ll be one to watch.
Damian’s a thinker, and he’ll have to execute his plan perfectly to overcome Jubilee — in a head-to-head fight, he’s at a disadvantage. However, his weird genius and dedication to understanding his foe completely before attacking all but guarantee success; even though Jubes may be able to escape whatever traps Robin sets, by the rules of the original miniseries, being bound at all counts as a loss. Victory to Damian.
11. New Challengers: Green Arrow vs. Hawkeye
Being both classic archer heroes as well as a Justice Leaguer and an Avenger, respectively, it’s actually surprising Green Arrow and Hawkeye weren’t included in the original “DC vs. Marvel.” Back then, it would have been Connor Hawke and Clint Barton, but now it’s going to be Oliver Queen and Kate Bishop. Yes, Hawkguy is still around, but the mysterious entities have chosen Kate. She’s everybody’s favorite anyway, right?
Both Ollie and Kate see the advantage in striking early, ending the battle before the other person knows it’s begun. Most likely that initial strike doesn’t go as smoothly as either intended, and a hunt ensues. Kate’s no rookie at this point, but Ollie still has an edge in experience and possibly tech, although Hawkeye might know better how to navigate unusual terrain. It’s a pretty close call, and is going to come down to who can land a shot first — or set an effective trap. We’re calling this neck-and-neck contest for for Green Arrow.
10. Green Lantern vs. Silver Surfer
Unlike some of the other combatants in “DC vs. Marvel,” Norrin Radd and Kyle Rayner dive right into the fight, with only the briefest protestation that they don’t really want to be doing this. As the two cosmic-powered heroes charge toward each other, they collide in an explosion of green and silver energy, but only Silver Surfer remains standing.
Both Kyle and rebirthed hero Hal Jordan have had their brushes with godhood in the years since that original fight, and both have grown more adept with distinct skills related to power rings. But outside of their individual abilities, readers have been given much more context regarding Green Lantern’s light: whereas before it had been portrayed as possibly the greatest weapon in the DC Universe, we now know that there are any number of powerful rings channeling users’ emotions into raw energy. Viewed through this lens, there’s no question the Power Cosmic is more impressive. Silver Surfer wins again.
9. Captain Marvel/Shazam vs. Thor
In the original showdown, the two heroes were evenly matched until Shazam, then known as Captain Marvel, employed a magical lightning transformation to escape a tight spot as mortal teenage alter ego Billy Batson — Thor, realizing the nature of his adversary’s power, prevented magical lightning from restoring Billy to his superheroic form. Since it wouldn’t be sporting for a god to beat up on a mortal teen, both agreed Thor was victorious.
Both heroes have been through upheaval since that fateful fight, with a rebooted Shazam taking on powers more rooted in magic than superior strength, and the unworthy Odinson replaced as Thor by Jane Foster. But Shazam’s transformation still relies on lightning, and Thor controls the lightning. Further, the Wisdom of Solomon hasn’t served Shazam well in this post-New 52 world, and the boy hero appears especially prone to rash mistakes. He also still relies on the transformation mechanism as combat strategy — this worked well in the alternate future of “Kingdom Come,” but he’ll need more than that to defeat an Avenger. Despite still being quite new to the role, Thor’s skill with Mjolnir sees her carry the day.
8. New Challengers: Blue Beetle vs. Ms. Marvel
Behold, two young heroes determined to prove their worth, taking the tough decisions as a matter of course. They may not want to fight, but if that’s what it takes to save the universe, they’re going to protect what’s theirs. Jaime Reyes, the Blue Beetle, has a commanding advantage in power, but Kamala Khan’s force of will is extraordinary, and her resourceful use of “embiggening” abilities is a tremendous source of strength. The two heroes’ mentors, Ted Kord and Carol Danvers, respectively, have set Blue Beetle and Ms. Marvel on their chosen paths, and it’s not hard to see who gets the better value here.
Jaime storms in, blowing stuff up, looking to concuss rather than kill. He’s a flyer, too, allowing him to perplex Ms. Marvel as the fight begins. Kamala grows to colossal height, though, plucking Beetle out of the sky and holding him immobile in her embiggened hands. Victory falls on Ms. Marvel.
7. Superboy vs. Spider-Man
Last time, this was the Battle of the Clones, as Ben Reilly and Kon-El bantered while kicking each other’s butts. Superboy seems to gain the upper hand, but Spider-Man webs him up and sends him flying into an electricity box, laying him low.
This time… we have our pick of Spider-Men and Superboy is ten-year-old Jon Kent, who is just starting to sort out his powers. The only way Jon beats Peter Parker or Miles Morales is if he accidentally flash-fries them with his heat vision. Assuming our lighthearted crossover doesn’t take that path, though, pitting him against the younger Spidey evens things out a little, but not much. Both Miles and Jon have experienced the death of their home universe, but unlike Superboy, Spider-Man already had a number of heroic adventures under his belt by then, and actively fought against the dying of the light. He’s trained with (his world’s) Captain America, he’s been an Avenger and a Champion. Though Jon is undoubtedly stronger, Miles has no trouble subduing him long enough for the W.
6. Batman vs. Captain America
After sparring in a sewer “for hours,” Batman and Captain America decide to play the grown-ups and look for another solution to the universe-destroying problem. A rush of sewer water forces Cap under, though, and while the Dark Knight comes to the rescue, chalk this one up as a loss for Team Marvel.
Once again, the 2016 rematch presents a choice of combatants. For the sake of freshness, it’ll be Sam Wilson as Captain America squaring off against Bruce Wayne, who’s been back under the cowl for a few months now. Bruce is going to want to think his way out of this fight and confront the true enemy. Sam is not eager for a fight, either, and is not going to attack an opponent who’s not fighting back. Is it a cop-out to hit them with sewer water again? Yes?
There’s the comic book mantra that Batman Always Wins, but given the nature of his previous victory over Captain America, it’s necessary to balance the scales. The Dark Knight and FalCap coordinate their efforts, but the entities behind the cage match literally pull the ground from underneath their feet. Sam saves Bats, grabbing the win on a technicality.
5. Lobo vs. Wolverine
As befits their characters, Lobo and Wolverine settled their “Marvel vs. DC” contest in a bar fight. Lobo drew first blood, burying a meat hook in Logan’s chest, but Wolvie shrugged that off and steamed in with claws out. Readers are spared most of the bloodshed, though, as the action takes place below the bar’s sight line. Soon, Wolverine raises himself up and finishes his cigar.
Now, Logan is dead, but there’s alternate universe Old Man Logan alive and kicking and Laura Kinney, also known as X-23, now operating as Wolverine. It’s got to be Laura here. As much fun as it would be to put her up against Sexy Lobo, DC is kind of pretending that New 52 version didn’t happen, so we will respectfully oblige. Classic/Modern Lobo is a beast, and he’s certainly going to come down hard on the more slightly-built Wolverine in the early rounds. But since taking over her clone-daddy’s persona, Laura’s fighting style has been the very image of DGAF — she’ll dive in, get annihilated, heal up, get back in there.
The question for this fight really is what constitutes the victory condition. If, as seems to be the case from “DC vs. Marvel” fights that actually took place on-panel, all it takes is the equivalent of a football “down,” Lobo’s probably got this. But if it’s the sort of brutalist to-the-death brawl (not) seen in Lobo vs. Wolverine I, Laura could dice up the Main Man into enough pieces to count him out before his healing factor kicks in. Edge: Wolverine.
4. New Challengers: Atom vs. Ant Man
Two classic heroes, both with new (-ish) guys under the mask, and both with a penchant for the absurd. Ryan Choi, the Atom, took over from his mentor Ray Palmer in a college town warped by the weird science that powers his shrinking belt; Choi died, returned (in the most bizarre of DC’s “Convergence” specials), and will be the/a Atom for the “Rebirth” era. Meanwhile, former (?) thief Scott Lang is hard at work forging a reasonably heroic existence for himself as Ant Man, while struggling to balance work and family.
This battle takes place at the microscopic level, and, much as the original “Marvel vs. DC” had the Lobo/Wolverine fight take place mostly off-panel, it might be fun here to focus on a petri dish for about five panels and then have the victor grow himself out of it. Who wins? Who’s that emerging from all the science? It looks like Atom.
3. Storm vs. Wonder Woman
Following Thor’s battle with Captain Marvel in “DC vs. Marvel,” Mjolnir landed at the feet of Wonder Woman. She is deemed worthy and wields the enchanted hammer, but chooses to relinquish its power and face Storm under her own strength. The two women bond over both being gods, but then Storm prevails by… striking Wonder Woman with lightning. Hmm. Was it, like, enchanted lightning? Let’s go with that.
Storm has better hair now than she did in 1996, but other than that, this is another set of heroes who are largely the same as they were back then. When fans voted on who would win this battle, the X-Men were perhaps at the height of their popularity, while Wonder Woman just kind of did her thing. Now we’ve got Gal Gadot and Diana of Themiscyra is thrilling. But this isn’t a popularity contest (except when it definitely is). An Amazonian warrior, who may or may not be an actual goddess of war, still has a commanding edge on a mutant who controls the winds, impressive though that power may be. Wonder Woman wins in a walk.
2. Hulk vs. Superman
“Let’s just get down to it!” In “DC vs. Marvel,” immediately after being teleported to the Grand Canyon, the Hulk sucker punches Superman mid-exposition. He’s the Smart Hulk at this point in time, so presumably Dr. Banner doesn’t want to waste an advantage. Surprisingly, Superman doesn’t exactly shy from the fight here, perhaps because he’s going through a phase of his own — this is the mullet era, and Clark’s got to do his hair-rock idols proud. And so, with a rebel yell, he puts Hulk down.
Post-Rebirth, pre-Flashpoint “Dad Superman” is at once a bit more circumspect about solving problems with violence and more willing to lay a dude out if he puts his family in danger. Banner’s Hulk, meanwhile, has been replaced by the young and newly gamma-powered Amadeus Cho. Cho has intellectual genius on his side, no small advantage, but his inexperience will be a heavy liability. It’s not like Superman has never contended with a smarty pants before; that’s kind of Luthor’s whole deal. Superman wins, but offers the Totally Awesome Hulk some fatherly advice on being a hero and so forth, which Amadeus Cho may or may not take on board.
1. New Challengers: Harley Quinn vs. Squirrel Girl
Lots of heroes profess not wanting to fight, but Squirrel Girl thinks this whole thing is super dumb and isn’t going to do it. Her whole thing is resolving problems without violence whenever possible, right? And then beating people up only when necessary? The question is whether she can reason Harley Quinn into her point of view.
Both characters were created before 1996 and were thus eligible for the original contest, but Harley was just getting started and Doreen Green was… not on anybody’s radar. But really, this should be 2016’s most extraordinary matchup (and, quite honestly, the one that would make the best actual published comic book).
Harley does her best at first to make friends, merely destroying everything around the women rather than attacking Squirrel Girl directly. It’s a good, healthy outlet, but SG still has Concerns. As it becomes clear that Harley is now just waiting for the best moment to strike, Squirrel Girl begins to utter her famous battle cry of “Let’s Get Nuts,” but is knocked out by a giant mallet before the words leave her mouth.
Scorecard: DC 8, Marvel 8
In the event of a draw, the two universes must merge — make way for the Amalgam Age of Comics II!
Who do you have in the above fights? Which other bouts would you like to see in a DC vs. Marvel Rematch? Let us know in the comments!
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