For all their fantastic abilities and fictional lives, superheroes are just like you. They have bad days. They have to deal with endless mundane responsibilities like going to school and paying their rent. Work can be a drag. And sometimes, they really hate the people around them — colleagues, friends of friends, romantic rivals; you name it, there’s probably a miniseries about it. Yet antagonistic relationships are a mixed bag for fans. They can build narrative tension and serve as a test of character, but they’re also something we’re seeing with increased frequency lately.
The newly formed Avengers and the Justice League spent their first films together at each other’s throats. The smackdowns then continued in major solo films like Captain America: Civil War and Batman vs. Superman. The same old rivalries in the comics are almost too numerous and predictable to list. At this point, if we’re going to see superheroes fight each other, at least give us some variety. And if we are going to rehash well-known super-fights, then you’ll definitely need to know some new history behind the cinematic slug matches. Not only will this list offer you some unique hate pairings, but also some new reasons why our favorite heroes hate each other.
15. BATMAN AND SUPERMAN
Yes, we are absolutely starting this list with the most mainstream example of superpowered frenemies. But hear us out. The recent aggression between Batman and Superman is an unusual situation for the dynamic duo. They’re more than just League teammates and partners in arms; they are brothers and best friends.
In the DCEU, Batman and Superman have struggled to achieve their current status of “don’t… not” liking one another. Batman had a somewhat legitimate xenophobic fear fueling his animosity, while Superman saw the Bat as the embodiment of humanity’s worst attributes. Their comic counterparts are much more stable, but writers like Scott Snyder, Tom King, Peter Tomasi, and Patrick Gleason have shown us that Batman’s deep-seated mistrust of others is steadily pushing even his best friend and ally away — and in the case of Dark Nights: Metal, potentially dooming the Multiverse.
14. SUPERMAN AND SHAZAM
Outside of the Bat, Superman generally has more uncomplicatedly pleasant relationships with his colleagues in the DC universe. Not only is it part of his personal commitment to protecting humanity, but Superman is just a swell guy. So it may surprise fans that he has a pretty tumultuous history with Captain Marvel, known now as Shazam, who is really the teen character Billy Batson.
Blame corporate for this recurring interpersonal issue. In the 1950s, DC successfully sued Fawcett Comics for copyright infringement over Captain Marvel, as DC claimed he was a carbon copy of Superman. It was a long and ugly war that DC “won” when it bought the character from Fawcett in 1972. Bitter feelings still remain in-house, apparently, because whenever these two meet, they can’t help but fight — which they do in Kingdom Come, Injustice, every time Superman is possessed by Eclipso, the entirety of the ’90s… the hit parade goes on.
13. BATMAN AND THE GREEN LANTERNS
Fans aren’t necessarily surprised that Batman rubs people the wrong way. He’s blunt, distrusting, critical, and an insufferable know-it-all. He has his fair share of strained relationships under his belt, spanning literal decades of comic history, but none have ever been as long-lasting or as passionate as the mutual disdain expressed between the Dark Knight and the Green Lanterns — specifically two of its most well-known members: Guy Gardner and Hal Jordan.
Bruce and Guy were teammates on the Justice League International in 1987, and time and again Guy proved himself to be a callous, arrogant, and immature hero that even Batman couldn’t pretend to like, instigating constant fights. Bruce’s tenure with Hal has generally been more stable, though Bruce dislikes Hal’s overconfident devil-may-care attitude and Hal disapproves of Bruce’s darker methods of superheroics. Their differences have often caused violent rifts, the likes of which threaten the whole JL team dynamic.
12. BATMAN AND THE HUNTRESS
Batman’s general unpleasantness can even be felt across the Multiverse. And, if you’re a dedicated Batman fan, you can guess that Batman’s biggest feuds would be kept all in the family. Bruce Wayne means well, but his overprotective nature causes him to be more overbearing than helpful. He’s fought with all the Robins, non-Robin affiliated sidekicks, and even Alfred. But nothing beats his complicated relationship with Helena Wayne, his technical daughter from another universe.
Helena is originally from Earth-2, where she fought crime with Batman and her mother Catwoman as the Huntress. Crisis on Infinite Earths destroyed Earth-2, and DC retconned her as Helena Bertinelli, the daughter of a murdered mob boss who joins the Batfam’s war on crime. But whether it’s in the main continuity or the Injustice universe, the two continuously clash due to Bruce’s disapproval of her overt violence and Helena’s frustrated, fruitless pursuit to impress him.
11. THE FLASH AND GREEN LANTERN
Wally West is one of the friendliest Justice Leaguers around, and Kyle Rayner is a saint when compared to his brasher Corps brothers. One would think these lovable heroes would be best friends — or at the very least, cordial colleagues in the fight for justice. But Grant Morrison’s JLA series from the 1990s shows us that these legacy characters have a much frostier relationship than first imagined.
Their beef was born from loss and stress than differences in morals or methodology. At this point in the DCU, Barry Allen and Hal Jordan were dead. Wally was close to Barry as his protege, while Kyle became a Lantern without ever knowing Hal. Wally thus saw Kyle as undeserving of his new role and Kyle viewed Wally as a judgemental annoyance. These two have never really reconciled, but they refuse to let their dislike for each other to get in the way of their teamwork.
10. WOLVERINE AND CYCLOPS
On the long list of superhero hateships, the fire that burns between X-Men teammates Wolverine and Cyclops is an absolute classic. Thanks to the X-Men films, many superhero fans think this in-fighting has been going on for decades because of Jean Grey. While Jean is usually involved with Scott in the comics, she has a shared mutual attraction with Logan. This romantic triangle has certainly caused a lot of drama, but some rivalries are a bit messier in origin.
A young Cyclops has been distrustful of Wolverine since he joined their team, and Wolverine has responded to these negative feelings in kind. Couple this initial issue with their equally hotheaded personalities, and a genuine loving friendship between these two was never really in the cards. Their vehement rage has resulted in severe moral conflicts about the future of the X-Men, as we saw in 2011’s X-Men: Schism.
9. DAREDEVIL AND THE PUNISHER
The second season of Netflix’s Daredevil had a lot of hype to live up to since its stellar first season, and for the most part, it delivered. There was just one curiously missing element that fans noticed: interactions between the Man Without Fear and the Punisher. The two heroes shared very little screentime in their first live-action adventure together, which was a bit of a letdown considering their rich comic book history… of bitter, angry hatred.
The reason for their enduring rivalry should be obvious. Matt Murdock’s faith in the legal justice system stands in direct contrast with Frank Castle’s preference for merciless vigilantism. Their intense fights across the corners of Hell’s Kitchen only match their reluctant team-ups against mutual local criminals, but these collaborations never last longer than a comic issue or TV episode. The only thing preventing them from killing one another is a reluctant mutual respect.
8. GREEN ARROW AND HAWKMAN
Another classic superhero rivalry comes in the form of Green Arrow and Hawkman. New comic fans may be surprised that these two characters have a history of antagonism — especially since Hawkman has only just returned to the DC universe — but the two have been at each other’s throats since the early 1970s. Len Wein began writing Justice League of America at that time, and figured the Super Friends got along a little too well based on their personalities.
Oliver Queen and Katar Hol were a match made in hell for Wein. Green Arrow is a progressive and outspoken leftist radical, while Hawkman is a more conservative, interstellar space cop. Their superhero methods clashed on a very intrinsic level, and their arguments often dealt with what kind of social and political issues the JLA should get involved in. Yet neither were above petty squabbles over just about everything.
7. HULK AND THE THING
Speaking of petty, there’s something to be said about the constant grudge match between the Hulk and the Thing. At first, it definitely seems like their battles are the result of a writer’s “Who is the Strongest?” geek challenge. But certainly, there’s a philosophical reason behind their nearly 50-year feud, some kind of moral clash that they’ve struggled to solve based on their past actions, something substantial like that…
The truth is a bit complicated. Ben Grimm hates that the Hulk is able to revert to his human form as Bruce Banner with relative simplicity, as it makes his life as a perceivable monster easier to deal with. Meanwhile, the Hulk is envious of the Thing’s ability to retain his intellect, his friends, his family, and social acceptance as a hero outside of his human form. Unfortunately, these jealousies transform themselves into senseless beatings every single time.
6. HULK AND IRON MAN
This writer loves the Science Bros. as much as the next Marvel fan, but unfortunately, this feel-good friendship only exists in the MCU. Thrown together with other fledgling heroes in The Avengers, Tony Stark and Bruce Banner bonded over their intellects and feelings of isolation as “monsters” due to their past actions. Sure, they had their issues in Avengers: Age of Ultron, but there wasn’t any heat behind that smackdown.
Let’s compare this to the 616. Both are just as accomplished as their cinematic counterparts, but there is a mile-wide list of atrocities they have individually committed and a deep-seated feeling of mistrust between them as a result. After the Hulk inadvertently loses control and attacks Las Vegas, Tony (along with Black Bolt, Doctor Strange, and Reed Richards) decide to exile him in space in Planet Hulk. Once he returns in World War Hulk, his vengeance against Tony is devastating.
5. ROGUE AND MS. MARVEL
Ms. Marvel has had an interesting comic book history; she’s always been a hero, but her path to saving others as an Avenger has often meant she’s struggled to save herself from her own demons and temptations. Rogue has also had her fair share of self-care in her path towards redemption as a hero on the X-Men. One would think there would be a mutual bonding between these two as Avengers, but things are never so simple.
After a pretty tumultuous time in space, Carol tried settling for a simple life in San Francisco instead of rejoining the Avengers. But trouble found her when the precognitive Destiny prophesied that Ms. Marvel would be involved in an event that would destroy Rogue’s life. Overhearing the premonition, Rogue decided to preemptively attack Ms. Marvel. She nearly drove her to catatonia in the process, and though she recovered, the mutual resentment was solidified.
4. ROGUE AND THE SCARLET WITCH
Out of all the listed rivalries on this list, Rogue and the Scarlet Witch may seem like an especially surprising pair of nemesisters. They’re both former members of the Brotherhood of Mutants who turned their traumatic pasts and potentially harmful powers into heroic futures of redemption and inspiration. And through the 1980s and 1990s, their relationship almost felt like a mentor-student deal during the few times they interacted.
But Rogue has never forgiven the Scarlet Witch after she depowered the world’s mutants during 2005’s House of M. Everyone in the superhero community was upset and expressed their rage after the event, but Rogue’s feelings didn’t really come to light until 2013 in Uncanny Avengers. Rogue at one point stole Wolverine’s powers to attack Wanda, thinking she was going to depower the world again, and the two have been less than cordial as recently as Secret Empire.
3. KITTY PRYDE AND EMMA FROST
Now, it definitely makes sense that Kitty Pryde and Emma Frost would not be on good terms. Kitty is a young member of the X-Men, proud of being a mutant and using her power to save humanity. Emma, meanwhile, has spent a significant amount of her comic history as a villain with Magneto’s Brotherhood of Mutants and as an anti-hero agent of chaos and sometimes superheroic helpfulness.
The one time Emma extended an olive branch to Kitty, it was to offer her a spot at her newly established Massachusetts Academy. When Kitty refused, Emma sent the Hellfire Club to destroy the X-Men. The next time they would meet as a potential team was in 2004’s Astonishing X-Men, where their tension escalated into a full-out brawl. While that fight was caused by supervillain Cassandra Nova, their current status is still rocky.
2. BLACK PANTHER AND NAMOR
You’d expect royals to have a sense of decorum and unflappable grace around their colleagues, superheroic or otherwise. It’s just part of the typical courtly training expected from representatives of entire nations. The royal delegations of Wakanda and Atlantis used to get along well, as much as you might expect, anyway. While their early interactions were few and far between, there was never any explicit hostility between Black Panther and Namor. They were often too embroiled in the affairs of their colleagues to really focus on one another.
Yet everything changed during the 2012 crossover Avengers vs. X-Men. Namor became possessed during this event by the Phoenix Force, and flooded Wakanda to kill the Avengers. Namor and Black Panther went on to become members of the Illuminati with Black Bolt, Tony Stark, Doctor Strange, and Reed Richards, but T’Challa never forgave him for Wakanda’s losses and Namor’s pride couldn’t take this kind of justifiable ill-treatment.
1. HAWKEYE AND THE WINTER SOLDIER
They say you can never be friends with your ex… but what about your ex’s ex? It might sound like all fun and games, but Clint Barton and Bucky Barnes have definitely struggled to make it work. While they haven’t interacted in the MCU, the two know each other very well in the comics because of the Black Widow. She and Hawkeye previously dated, and Natasha and Bucky were an item just before her death during Secret Empire.
There’s an undeniable uneasiness between them, but they’ve always had each other’s backs as Avengers and friends of Natasha. Yet their current partnership in Tales of Suspense is surprisingly fraught — and not just because the Black Widow is dead. Their narrations frequently state they’ve never liked one another, and the series has been filled with their endless bickering and outright brawling. Even this writer is surprised by all the hate.
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