16 Marvel Covers Depicting Battles Between Combatants That Don’t Exactly Appear to Be an Even Match
1. Daredevil #7 (04/65)
Let’s be clear: Marvel isn’t the only publisher guilty of publishing superhero slugfests in which one of the combatants are clearly overmatched, but they’ve elevated the lopsided battle to an art form over the years. Take this early issue of Daredevil (the first, by the way, that took DD out of his original yellow-and-black ensemble and into something a little more iconic). In one corner: the monarch of the seven seas, a man whose impressive physique enables him to withstand the crushing pressures of the deep, swim endless ocean miles and toss Nazi U-boats with ease… and in the other, a lawyer with a super-sensitive snout, a Bally’s membership and a thing for hot Greek chicks. Place your bets!
2. Daredevil #30 (07/67)
Um, yeah. On second thought, maybe Matt should go back and ask the Sub-Mariner for a rematch. How long do you think it took Thor to wipe the sticky red stuff off that fancy mallet of his, shortly after this clash of the titans?
3. Captain America #110 (02/69)
Now, no one is suggesting Captain America is a weakling by any stretch — the man is the ultimate fighting machine, with a super-soldier serum (coughsteroidscough) and everything. That said… the Hulk? Even with an inexplicably miniature Bucky at your side, Cap, there’s really one way you’re coming out of this fight: red, white, black and blue.
4. Amazing Spider-Man Annual #3 (11/66)
In this classic Spidey tale, the Avengers give Spider-Man a chance to audition for the team. It starts out as you might suspect, with all the heroes getting into a big fight before everyone calms down and Spidey agrees to a test. And what better way to test his spider-mettle than to… send him off to subdue the Hulk? Yes, yes, proportionate strength and speed of a spider, we get all that… but really? The Hulk? Why not test a lifeguard by tossing him into the Marianas Trench while you’re at it?
5. The Incredible Hulk #161 (03/73)
Oh, a man will die, Beast. A very, very hairy man who’s about to get up close and personal with Righteous Right and Louisville Left.
6. The Mighty Thor #146 (11/67)
The problem with characters like the Hulk or Thor is an obvious one — once you establish a character as one of the most powerful beings in the universe, it’s a bit of a challenge coming up with credible opponents. At least Thor had the option of going up against other gods and great mythological beasts… but every once in a while, he climbed into the ring with a certified flyweight. The Ringmaster was a guy who, absent his Circus of Crime confederates, really only had his hypnotizing top hat gimmick going for him, an accessory that might — might, mind you — make him a threat to Power Pack. Against the God of Thunder, a guy who can safely dislodge said hat (and the head it sits on) from a comfortable distance with just a flick of his wrist? There are artificial isotopes existing in highly specialized lab environments that will last longer than this bout.
7. X-Men #10 (03/65)
Okay, at first glance this would appear to be a little bit more of a fair fight than sticking Thor and the Ringmaster in a steel-cage match. But let’s allow Wikipedia to have the final word on Ka-Zar’s powers: “Kevin Plunder is an athletic man with no superhuman powers. He utilizes a unique style of hand-to-hand combat shaped by years of surviving in the Savage Land. He has developed great skills in hunting, trapping, fishing, foraging, and general survival in the wild.” So we’ve got a Tarzan knockoff with no powers and a saber-tooted tiger up (give it up for ‘Bu!) against five combat-trained heroes who can blast him with eye-beams, freeze him solid, or immobilize him telekinetically. Right.
8. Tales of Suspense #49 (01/64)
“Hey, I know! Let’s take the guy who’s a walking weapon of mass destruction and has survived toe-to-toe battles with Thor and the Hulk and put him up against that X-Man with the birdie wings. Because they both fly. That’s fair, right?” And then maybe Zabu can take on the winner.
9. Uncanny X-Men #143 (03/81)
Oh, come on, now. It’s covers like this that make you think Chris Claremont and John Byrne Claremont enjoyed messing with their fans, just to see how far they could get away with stuff. The young woman, of course, is Kitty Pryde at the very start of her career as an X-Man, still learning the intricacies of her mutant phasing powers. Right behind her is an N’garai demon, member of an ancient race of demons that periodically invade our dimension to destroy life and remind us how much they don’t at all resemble the monster from the Alien movies. Thirteen-year-old girl with no offensive capabilities not only holding her own in a deserted mansion against a much, much bigger spawn of Chthon, but actually finding a way to kill it? Oh, those two kidders.
10. Silver Surfer #14 (03/70)
I’ll be honest — I never got the appeal of the Silver Surfer. I know he has his fans, but I never understood why — he’s basically just a Christ figure who flies around and mopes about how much he feels, and why is there so much suffering in the world, and blah dee bloo blah all day long. On top of that, he possesses the “power cosmic,” a never-fully-defined set of powers that allowed him to survive deep space, exceed the speed of light, absorb and generate energy, manipulate matter, travel through time and anything else the writers decided he could do. Of course, you can only go so high with the power levels before you end up with no one who can pose a credible threat. Certainly not a wall-crawling spider-dude from Queens whose top speed is somewhat less than the speed of light…
11. Silver Surfer #15 (04/70)
…or a human flamethrower, whose hottest temperatures and brightest flames mean nothing to someone who sails through the hearts of stars…
12. Silver Surfer #17 (06/70)
…or — okay, now this is getting ridiculous. After testing his incomprehensible cosmic might against Spider-Man and the Human Torch, the Surfer is now taking out his frustrations on Nick Fury and the agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. — well-armed and well-trained agents, to be sure, but every single one of them as human as you or me. “Gun ‘im down! He’s out to smash us!” Oh, he can to do a lot more to you than that, Nick. Hey, maybe after you fire all your bullets, you can throw your guns at him. It never worked when the bad guys did it to Superman, but you might get lucky.
13. Fantastic Four #61 (04/67)
The Fantastic Four tended to go up against villains who posed an actual threat to the planet. But Galactus and Annihilus don’t come knocking every week, so sometimes they had to make do with lesser opponents. This cover, for instance, pits Spider-Man baddie Sandman against the Fab Four — no one’s idea of a wimp, true, but it’s a little far-fetched to think a walking sand castle is going to spell “the END of Mister Fantastic,” or anyone else here for that matter. Human Torch? Fry ‘im until he turns into glass. Mister Fantastic? Stretch into an airtight ball, surround him, then contract. Invisible Woman? Same deal, only with force fields. The Thing? Okay, he might have some trouble punching sand. But the idea that any one of Sandman’s limbs can outmatch a member of the FF is a little too much to take.
14. Dazzler #3 (05/81)
And then there’s Dazzler. A product of one of the many fads that influenced comics in the ’70s, Dazzler (or “the Disco Dazzler,” as she was originally named) earned her own solo title shortly after her debut in an X-Men issue, and right from the start writer Tom DeFalco seemed to delight in pairing her up against overpowering adversaries. The Enchantress took a break from bedevilling Thor to show up in #1, followed quickly by Doctor Doom. Why, you ask, would everyone’s favorite tin-plated dictator even be in the same room as a struggling singer-slash-mutant with pretty light powers? Well, see, there was this concert happening at the UN, and a bunch of jewels on display, and something about Merlin and… oh hell, just pretend it all makes sense.
15. Dazzler #7 (09/81)
This, on the other hand? No sense whatsoever. Forget whatever cockamamie scenario DeFalco came up with to put Dazzler and the Hulk in the same ZIP code. Is there anyone who, after witnessing a woman of average strength hurl herself at the Hulk’s abdominals in the hopes of subduing him, would then say, “Well, I’ve got to admit to admit that lady’s got guts”…? Only if her actual guts were suddenly visible on account of a very angry Hulk ripping them out of her torso (spoiler: she survives by generating a hypnotic light show that calms him down). Surely, it can’t get any more ludicrous and lopsided than this, right?
16. Dazzler #10 (12/81)
I believe I stand corrected.