Monday, February 29, 2016

Real Name: Danny Rand
First Appearance: Marvel Premiere #15 (May, 1974)
Fight Club Ranking: #40

Featured Fights:
- vs CONSTRICTOR & SABRETOOTH: Power Man & Iron Fist #66 (Dec 1980)
- vs UNUS THE UNTOUCHABLE: Power Man & Iron Fist #90 (Feb 1983)
- vs UNUS THE UNTOUCHABLE: Power Man & Iron Fist #90 (Feb 1983)
- vs AVENGERS: Civil War #3 (Sep 2006)
- vs DAREDEVIL: Daredevil #87 (Sep 2006)
- vs THE HAND: New Avengers #27 (Apr 2007)
- vs MIGHTY AVENGERS: New Avengers #36 (Jan 2008)

There were a handful of other small screen contenders for HOTW this week, but I really couldn't ignore the influence of one of the biggest stories of February: Marvel's reported casting for Iron Fist!

Entertainment Weekly led with the story this week, identifying English actor Finn Jones as the prospective star of the fourth live-action Marvel/Netflix series. You might know Jones best as "Loras Tyrell" from TV's Game of Thrones. I don't know him from a bar of soap. This acknowledges one of the most shocking stories you'll read on this blog all year: I've never watched Game of Thrones.

At 27, he reads a little young on first impression. Which gives me a real tough time picturing him as best bud to 39 year old Mike Colter. Colter appeared as Luke Cage in last year's Jessica Jones, and will headline a Power Man series later this year. I hate to consider the possibility that the Heroes For Hire won't be rock solid BFFs in the land of Netflix, but commitment to the expectations of the character have been sketchy throughout development. Marvel & Netflix have reportedly declined to comment on the casting, so there's still an outlying chance things are not as they seem.

Not that there's anything obviously wrong about the 6', square jawed Brit. He isn't quite the yellow-blonde martial artist I picture from the comics, but he's close enough. It's a given at this point that he's been chosen for his ability to act, but we'll want to see him fight before giving the full endorsement.

I wouldn't ordinarily consider it noteworthy, but it's also true that Jones isn't Asian.

In the build-up, some determined Asian ethnicity a desirable trait in Iron Fist's casting -- a deliberate departure from the character's cross-cultural origins. As is popular for the moment, those in favour became convinced a switch in race could be a course-correct for representation on screen. An attitude that typically disregards decades old source material, good creative, or the more impactful desire to take the opportunity to create and contribute sincere new multi-cultural icons. It doesn't say a lot for the film landscape in general, either, indulging a tunnel visioned reality where the audience is as much to blame for making Marvel Studios the only important thing in the world. More anything? More everything!

Some pushed back, questioning the sensitivity of choosing a master martial artist for Asian stunt casting. I'll assume none of the parties involved are actually partaking in the wonderful world of Chinese cinema, where representation of martial artist and Asian is expert and abundant. Perhaps once mainstream American audiences have become (re)acquainted with Donnie Yen -- upcoming in Star Wars: Rogue One and xXx: The Return of Xander Cage -- we can look forward to his name being thrown around in more racially confused circuses. Too late for The Ancient One's casting, sadly. That could've been fun and fitting. Perhaps a petition for more fair-skinned redheads to be cast in traditional Chinese films? Lets hope not.

Of course, the instinct to harness the Chinese flavour of Iron Fist's mythology isn't at all wrong. There's a fantastic opportunity to populate his world with interesting, genuine Asian characters.

Ultimately, the fusion of cultures -- Chinese & American, ancient & modern, martial arts & superhero -- has always been underlying in what makes the character interesting. A man in a world he doesn't obviously belong to, forced to earn his place and prove his worth. A conceptual vessel for cultural contrast and connection. A good man taking an earnest interest in other cultures and the world around him. Something we should all aspire to.

The new series presents an opportunity to diversify Marvel's portfolio not just with actors, but new genre content, and new visual and conceptual identity. It isn't totally unfamiliar ground: Daredevil season two is gearing up to venture further into the traditions of The Hand ninja clan. Iron Fist can take it further though, offering a more romantic flourish by placing its origin story in the environment of K'un-Lun and/or China itself. This is a story that may or may not benefit from the mountain philosophies soon to be established by November's Doctor Strange [1/4/2016], topical conditioning even if the connections between Marvel's movies and Netflix series don't pan out.

The more things have changed at Marvel, the more they've stayed the same. DD opens the door to a flagging world of martial arts cinema once prominent through to the mid-2000s. Iron Fist can kick that door down, reinvigorating a genre and giving us all something fresh to enjoy. This type of trail blazing is arguably the right lesson to learn from Deadpool. A genre investment even proven properties like Mortal Kombat (Warner Brothers) have been too timid to make. Marvel's for the taking!

Visual identity has been a through line for Hero of the Week this year. As much as I'd like to see some authentic Chinese fabrics and designs in the depiction of a screen K'un-Lun -- what I'd really love to see is Iron Fist's yellow and green. The slippers, the huge collar, the plunging neckline - probably too much imagination to ask of the same adults fumbling in the dark for true cultural understanding. A character who might encourage Daredevil to ditch the 90s style armor for the flexibility of a live-action red onesie? Be still, my beating heart! We'll dare to dream.

Iron Fist probably won't hit streaming services until next year, but with Power Man Luke Cage on his way, I'm sure we'll sideswipe the other Hero For Hire along the way. If you're not real familiar with either character and want to know more, be sure to follow the featured fight links at the top, or character tags littered throughout. You can also find many more stories in the Issue Index Archive!

Friday, February 26, 2016

The Bully (Marvel)
Daredevil #257 When: August 1988
Why: Ann Nocenti How: John Romita Jr

The Story So Far...
When Alfred Coppersmith lost his job to computerized machines, he perceived his enemy as all around him. In retaliation, he lashed out at everyone all at once - spiking over-the-counter aspirin with deadly cyanide!

To a man like former marine Frank Castle, spiked medication is like firing a random bullet into a crowd. It's an act of guerrilla warfare staged in the urban jungle of New York City. Hell's Kitchen is his new frontline, and as The Punisher he's the special operative to bring the bad guy down - by any means necessary!
Punisher's tactics have never sat well with Daredevil. As a lawyer by day, he invests his faith in the criminal justice system. He won't allow a disturbed man to be put to death. Even if it means stepping between Coppersmith and a bullet, making an enemy of The Punisher!

Tale of the Tape...
Strength: Daredevil 3 (Athlete)
Intelligence: Punisher 4 (Tactician)
Speed: Daredevil 4 (Olympian)
Stamina: Daredevil 5 (Marathoner)
Agility: Daredevil 4 (Gymnast)
Fighting: Daredevil 5 (Martial Artist)
Energy: Punisher 4 (Arsenal)

This week we're taking the fight to the streets! Under different circumstances they would be fighting side by side against a common enemy. Two sides of the justice scale - driven against one another by a code of ideals!

Matt Murdock dedicated his life to upholding the law in the courts as a lawyer by day, while by night he uses his radar senses and martial training to enforce it as the vigilante Daredevil. Murdock may be blind, but just like justice, he sees all! Those who escape the right in one walk of life run the risk of meeting him in the other!

Frank Castle dedicated his life to upholding the law as a soldier of the United States Army. Once home, the weed of crime claimed his loving family and he redirected his skills in warfare to enforce lethal justice as the vigilante Punisher!

When matched against one another, there's no denying Daredevil has the edge. His finely honed mastery of martial arts combined with the radar sense he developed after toxic waste took his sight surpasses the hand-to-hand training of The Punisher. We saw that in a previous encounter between the two, where Daredevil handily dealt the winning blow in as show of skill and athleticism [Daredevil #65].

The opponent comparison test highlights the differences between both men. In battles with Deadpool: Daredevil suffered defeat when Deadpool was able to exploit his selfless, heroic nature [Contest of Champions II #4]. On the other hand, Punisher's amoral approach and willingness to utilize the methods of the villain allowed him to soundly trounce the merc' with a mouth in Deadpool: Suicide Kings #2. Similar weapons-based tactics even helped The Punisher overcome rampaging powerhouse Rhino! [Punisher War Journal #3]

Against the criminals they both stalk, The Punisher's lethality makes him a formidable foe. Is he willing to go the distance against a man whose differences hinge on his unwillingness to take a life? Lets find out who the better man is...

History: Daredevil (1-0-0)
The Tape: Daredevil Ranking: Daredevil (#9)

What Went Down...
On a New York City rooftop, The Punisher holds a man above his head. His name is Alfred Coppersmith, but it hardly matters. He's just another criminal caught in the scope of the crazed vigilante. On any other night it would be any other scumbag. Perched moments from death, the only reprieve is a man who dares to be a devil. One shot to save a life - hinging on a blind man's aim.

An order to hold gets Punisher's attention. Daredevil pitches his billy club and catches him some place high. It weakens his hold and he drops Coppersmith hard on his head. Not as hard as it would've been on the pavement below.

Daredevil approaches and Punisher catches him by surprise with a fist to the gut. Hunched over like prize fighters they stare each other down. Punisher's the first to break his gaze. Something about Daredevil's cold stare turns even his eyes away. DD makes him regret it with a stiff left into a hard right cross.

The fight is on and it's on Daredevil's terms. Fists fly and hit their mark. He takes Punisher's trigger finger away with a shot that makes his arm a dead weight of muscle. Another body blow, another cross. The killer goes down.

Punisher evens things out with a sweep kick that hooks Daredevil's knee. With the tables turned Punisher can go for his knife. He only needs one good arm to plunge steel into flesh. Assuming Daredevil's quick reflexes don't roll the target out of the way. They do, and DD swings his arm back to club the back of his opponent's head. Castle eats the concrete roof. There are no rules here.

Daredevil hooks in a full nelson, but Punisher hoists him off his feet into an overhead toss. DD lands nimbly on his feet, but the break is enough time for Punisher to go for his gun. The stakes are rising fast!

The man in red goes back to the gut -- thrusting a kick deep into the death's head logo! The blow triggers a bodily chain reaction that relinquishes Punisher's grip on his sidearm. The desired effect. An enforcement of honor.

Daredevil presses the advantage, raining down a left to the jaw. He follows with a right, but Castle is under it. His shoulder dips and he counters with an quick uppercut. DD goes with it and fires back with an elbow to the gut.

Recovered, Alfred Coppersmith has been taking in the fight. It's the greatest battle he's ever seen. Better than a ringside seat in Madison Square Garden! He could've made a getaway any time -- should've -- but is transfixed by what he thinks to himself is downright superhuman. Then he remembers Punisher's gun.

The heroes stop fighting long enough for Daredevil to plead his case one more time. They're still too distracted to see Coppersmith pick Castle's pistol up. DD wants to take Coppersmith to court. Punisher wants him dealt with. They wonder where he went and as Coppersmith announces himself behind the handle of the gun, he contemplates crippling them to make an escape.

Then Daredevil deals with him. Faster than Coppersmith can think with a flick of his wrist and the toss of a billy club. Lights out for the bad guy. Non-lethal. Next time they see each other it'll be blind lawyer Matt Murdock ready to plead his case to the courts. This time, justice will be served.

The Hammer...
In the matter of moral debate and the course of justice, it's clear Daredevil won out this time. We're more concerned with the outcome of physical superiority, and on the terms of what's presented we must call this a draw!

This story has an overlap with events depicted in Punisher #10. Perhaps in a future instalment we'll explore this fight and the rivalry between Punisher & Daredevil in greater detail. For now, we leave it there.

That leaves us free to acknowledge that todays featured fight was inspired by Daredevil Season 2 coming to Netflix on March 18th. We tackled the subject last month in a Hero of the Week entry [Punisher], and this was the last opportunity to see the rivalry play out in the all in important comics medium before we dive into a month of other hero-on-hero battles.

I find myself becoming less enthused about the live-action version the more its revealed in promotion. On paper, Jon Bernthal makes a solid Punisher, but the show, like so many live-action offerings, simply lacks the commitment to giving the experience a totally unique feel. I'd have to watch the show to fairly comment on the content, but the first bites with the eye are underwhelming. In today's knock down, drag out comic book fight the battle is described as super-human -- equal to the greatest prize fight, but greater in effort. Magnificence is something these shows all too often shy away from. I hope they surprise me.

John Romita Jr owns much of the magnificence of Daredevil #257. His attention to storytelling ensures the fight is blow by blow coherent, choreographed - but also making use of the visual comics medium. You'll notice most panels featured above lack backgrounds. A coincidence of selection that does not capture the overall use of layouts, or the way the story -- told from Alfred Coppersmith's perspective -- weaves in and out of comic book, and tunnelling POV focus.

Though far from a carbon copy, the influence of the best remembered Daredevil writer/artist of the eighties is everywhere. You can get a sense of a consistent visual language from the few panel selections featured from Daredevil #163 in a past feature. Frank Miller looms large over the character to this day, let alone in 1988 when today's feature was published. There are key differences that separate the late eighties from Miller's work that demand special attention, though.

In 2016, we've been hitting on a lot of characters and stories that haven't been featured in ten years of Secret Wars on Infinite Earths. I'm very excited to finally induct Ann Nocenti into the site canon!

Nocenti is an influence who doesn't get enough credit for advancing Daredevil from the noir-tinged isolation of Miller's deconstruction and rebirth. She was a writer who did an honourable job maintaining the Miller Hell's Kitchen, but played in two worlds, allowing the epic urban hero to co-exist with the Marvel Universe. Where Miller's ideas are the definitive source of inspiration behind live-action adaptations, the best of Nocenti's run may never see a screen. It's too often wholehearted in its dedication to being a wonderful comic book.

While we highlighted the main event advertised on the cover, a lot of the issue is dedicated to the on-going development of Typhoid Mary - a Nocenti & Romita Jr creation. If Miller's Elektra can't make it to the screen in tact, you can bet your bottom dollar the deliciously bubble gum, punk-rock apocalypse of 1988 Mary will never stand a chance!

I was reminded of Typhoid Mary's exploits last December, while reviewing Savage Dragon #7. Now that we've opened the page to Ann Nocenti, I'm sure we're one step closer to getting to that good stuff. In the mean time, I'm going to leave you with but a vague taste of my gushing enthusiasm.

As always, you can join me in the reading circle by taking advantage of the Amazon link provided [right]. Shopping via the link will help support further exploits in The Comic Book Fight Club. You can find all past exploits in the Issue Index Archive.

Be here next week as we tackle one of the reader's most requested hero on hero fights of all time! Another modern classic battle bumped from our 10th Anniversary spotlight! Check back during the week to catch any additional updates, including the Hero of the Week - and tell your friends!

Winner: Draw
(--) #9 Daredevill
(--) #64 Punisher

Monday, February 22, 2016

Real Name: Wade Wilson
First Appearance: New Mutants #98 (February, 1991)
Fight Club Ranking: #17

Featured Fights:
- vs JUGGERNAUT: Deadpool: Sins of the Past #2 (Sep 1994)
- vs TASKMASTER: Deadpool #2 (Feb 1997)
- vs HULK: Deadpool #4 (Apr 1997)
- vs AJAX: Deadpool #19 (Aug 1998)
- vs BATROC THE LEAPER: Deadpool #20 (Sep 1998)
- vs DAREDEVIL: Contest of Champions II #4 (Nov 1999)
- vs TASKMASTER: Cable & Deadpool #36 (Mar 2007)
- vs PUNISHER: Deadpool: Suicide Kings #2 (Jul 2009)

Well, it finally happened! After a decade and a half of 'will they? won't they?' - they finally did it! They made a Deadpool movie! Not only that, but they serviced the material well enough to give the public the breath of fresh air long time fans always knew it could be! When it comes to Hollywood, that's no mean feat! When it comes to X-franchise rights holders FOX: it's a rewarding step away from the stubborn stain of their early successes with Bryan Singer and black pleather.

A theme of Hero of the Week in 2016 has been design and the first bite of the eye, which arguably defines comic book superheroes. The punch of the Deadpool visual was one of the movie's strongest tools -- a striking icon to hang their hat on in promotion, and a mea culpa for the truly bizarre take on the character seen in X-Men Origins: Wolverine.

Actor Ryan Reynolds has long been committed to realizing the look of the character on screen. Sure, he gets plenty of requisite face time with the camera, but ultimately gives himself to the costume with rare abandon for a name actor. If there's a confidence behind that choice, it's undoubtedly his ability to project himself beyond the mask. Something he does in harmony with the character from the page. The three biggest heroes of this movie may be Deadpool, Ryan Reynolds and director Tim Miller.

By most accounts, Deadpool isn't a perfect film, but it didn't necessarily need to be. Having lopped off great sections of script to come in under FOX's requisite budget - Deadpool has earned the right to a second try. It's a working proof of concept. An R rated slapstick superhero with a profit margin, reckless abandon, and the lasting cultural impact that Marvel Studios' Ant-Man lacked. Just as X-Men was the lesser trial run for X-Men 2 -- Deadpool, by rights, should be the launching pad for a bigger and better sequel, or franchise. The exercise now is -- as many voices are saying -- taking the right lessons when movie forward. Something Hollywood rarely does.

There's been a lot of talk about the precedent Deadpool's R rated box office records will set. It's worth noting that, although an exception to the Disney controlled Marvel Studios films, this is hardly the first time a comics adaptation went to theatres with an R. In 1981, Heavy Metal became an early entry in adult cinema's comic cult. Judge Dredd went there twice - in 1995 and 2012. Even Marvel heroes have gone R before: The Punisher and Blade accumulating six R rated movies between them.

Most voices agree: Few properties require, or would benefit from, the exclusions of an R rating. I would argue Deadpool didn't even need it -- perfectly capable of finding bawdy laughs and superhero levity with a faithful PG-13 rating. They went R and it worked, but if a third Wolverine film thinks an 18+ escalation is going to solve any of their problems, they're still painfully missing the point.

Guardians of the Galaxy director James Gunn responded to certain reactions with a surprisingly frank statement. He praised the deviant vision of the character and film: "Deadpool was its own thing. THAT's what people are reaction to. It's original, it's damn good, it was made with love by the filmmakers, and it wasn't afraid to take risks." It's a spirit sorely lacking in today's big budget movies.

Of course, Deadpool's originality is ultimately sourced from the comics themselves. The character on the screen owes a lot to the comic version, but it's worth noting much of what surrounds him is not a slavishly faithful adaptation. Ajax is a notably pale shadow of his comic book self, as an example.

Bigger than the question of MPAA ratings and content advisory will be what comes next for the character in a confirmed sequel. Taskmaster was reportedly excised from the original script -- an obvious target for a referential sequel, provided the Avengers villain is accessible to FOX.

Venturing deeper into the Marvel superhero universe for the purposes of parody and the contrast has a lot of appeal, but FOX's bench may prove too shallow. Just as Taskmaster may not fall under the catchall of X-Men licensing; familiar crossover characters like Hulk and Daredevil may be a bridge too far. That's where Wolverine and Cable probably offer attractive options for a clash of the self-serious and the completely ridiculous.

The idea of coaxing Hugh Jackman into extending his tenure for a proper Wolverine/Deadpool screen meeting has a lot of appeal. It does, however, run the risk of cutting the fresh franchise off at the knees in the same way Days of Future Past diminished the strides made by First Class by going back to the 2000s well. It may be best doubling down on further establishing Deadpool's world in a sequel, saving expansion for the talked about X-Force film.

If Jackman follows through on his retirement threats, it may be that Ryan Reynolds and the red & black become the franchise anchor they can come to rely on. Sure beats recasting!

That wraps a big month of Deadpool lovin' here on Secret Wars on Infinite Earths. It's been a lot of fun reconnecting with some very fun comics, and one of my favourite characters of the late 90s. If you missed any of the fun, be sure to check out the Featured Fight links at the top of this post. You can always find even more in the Issue Index, previous Hero of the Week entries, and other updates! Share your favourites with friends so we can revisit the good stuff in the future!

Friday, February 19, 2016

Final Cut (Marvel)
Contest of Champions II #4 When: November 1999 Why: Chris Claremont How: Michael Ryan

The Story So Far...
On a day like any other, the super-heroes of Earth find themselves suddenly plucked from their normal routines -- abducted by aliens! Fortunately, The Coterie are a benevolent race of game-masters hoping only to trade their vast intergalactic knowledge in exchange for basking in the legendary fighting excellence of humanity's greatest champions!

A nice story, but if The Coterie are as benevolent as they claim - why is the air crawling with nanites infesting every hero they've abducted?! Could it be that The Brood are plotting to manipulate the heroes into a plot to steal their powers and turn them against the rest of humanity?

Manipulated by the microscopic nanites infesting their very being, the heroes comply with the contest - turning their powers against one another!

Tale of the Tape...
Strength: Draw 3 (Athlete)
Intelligence: Draw 3 (Straight A)
Speed: Daredevil 4 (Olympian)
Stamina: Deadpool 5 (Marathon)
Agility: Draw 4 (Gymnast)
Fighting: Daredevil 5 (Martial Artist)
Energy: Deadpool 4 (Arsenal)
Politeness: Deadpool 6 (Canadian)

If you've been reading The Comic Book Fight Club this month - you know the score: Wade Wilson was just the high school science nerd, secretly crushing on sweet, sassy Gwen Stacy when he was bitten by a radioactive kiddy pool. Imbued with the proportionate powers of a pool, he makes all the baddies wet as Deadpool, learning in the process that with great power must come great resistance to transmittable disease. Or... something like that.

We've seen him apply his mercenary trade, deadly weapons, healing factor, and dazzling personality in battles against many expert fighters: martial mimic Taskmaster [Deadpool #2, Cable & Deadpool #36], savate meister Batroc the Leaper [Deadpool #20] and cyborg sadist Ajax [Deadpool #19].

Daredevil is epic, self-loathing Catholic Matt Murdock: lawyer by day, Deadpool Lite by night. Blinded by an illegal radioactive spill as a boy [for real, this time], young Matt awakened to vastly enhanced senses that gave him a pinpoint accurate, sonar-like perception of the world. Combined with decades of intense martial arts training, Daredevil is the scourge of bad guys in Hell's Kitchen.

According to our patent pending power scale, these two are incredibly well matched! Daredevil edges ahead with his refined fighting skills, while Deadpool makes up for it with unpredictability, and an arsenal of weapons and the will to use them. Not that Daredevil hasn't made a career out of dealing with that!

Arch-nemesis -- and mercenary pal of Deadpool -- Bullseye has had three projectile filled run-ins with DD in previous features: Daredevil #132, Daredevil (Vol.2) #49 and Daredevil #79. Daredevil's also matched supreme fighter and temporary replacement Iron Fist blow for blow in Daredevil #87, and fought off another opponent with a mutant healing factor in Wolverine #24. (Guess who!)

In a side-by-side comparison: Deadpool got the edge over Hulk, beating him in Deadpool #4, while DD couldn't cut it in Daredevil #163. Alternatively, Daredevil effortlessly took down The Punisher in Daredevil #65, while DP got his head blown off in Deadpool: Suicide Kings #2. Once again: it's tough to separate the two!

There is an x-factor involved in the outcome of this particular fourth round, Contest of Champions II fight: it was determined by fan vote on

By mid '99, Daredevil was in limbo after the conclusion of Kevin Smith's hugely popular relaunch with Joe Quesada, awaiting David Mack. On the other hand, Deadpool was still trucking with Joe Kelly, and fighting for survival off the back of the strong cult following that has brought him to movie stardom today. Critical acclaim and restored fandom, versus sustained cult following.

Yeah... I still can't separate them. Let's just see who won...

The Tape: Draw Ranking: Daredevil (#9)

What Went Down...
The arena: New York City -- or at least something very closely approximating it!

The opponents: "The Man Without Fear" Daredevil versus "The Merc' With a Mouth" Deadpool!

The fight is already under way! Deadpool has thrust one of his katana swords into the surrounding brickwork - narrowly missing Daredevil, who vaults over it with a kick!

Deadpool's quick hands block the kick in a perfect stalemate, while his quick mouth starts the verbal and mental assault.

The motormouthed mercenary attacks Daredevil for his choice of footwear -- flat soled in an age of "mega-lug boots, presented by old world craftsmen in more loving detail than they devote to the depiction of the glorious choreography of life itself". Not a fan of the art trends of the time, it would seem. Too bad, because he's about to get a face full of flat sole!

One foot blocked, Daredevil seamlessly swings his left leg around to bring the free foot into Deadpool's head! Talking isn't going to shake the discipline of DD, who questions Deadpools focus. DP's found himself too close to the roof edge and about to fall. Hoping to avert the fatality, Daredevil tosses Deadpool a lifeline. A merciful mistake!

Deadpool thanks DD for the offer, but uses it to right himself enough to unload a hail of bullets from his handy dandy machine gun! Brakka brakka brakka!

Daredevil weaves through the hurtling ammunition and dives after his opponent, using a nearby flagpole to pendulum his momentum to the lower roof. Hitting a conveniently located rooftop swimming pool - Deadpool makes a splash with a much harsher landing, but emerges relatively unharmed.

Detecting Deadpool's vital signs with his heightened senses, he recognizes a timbre similar to the self-healing body mechanics of Wolverine. He may have picked his opponent's healing factor, but he's also noticing the barrage of quips and chatter are creating enough white noise to throw him off ever so slightly.

Daredevil digs deep into his early days -- countering with a competition diving gag, a little copyright law, and a roundhouse kick that sends Deadpool flying!

Tumbling into a nearby cabana, Deadpool emerges with -- a baby!

Detecting the baby's heartbeat beneath the cries: Daredevil can only put aside his doubts and do everything he can to save an innocent life. For Murdoink, it's a threat that cuts deep - recalling his recent ordeal defending an infant, which ended in the death of Karen Page.

Daredevil tosses his billy club at the fleeing mercenary. Deadpool thinks it missed, but the ricocheting club extends an internal cable - setting up a tripwire that sends him into a face plant! The fall causes the baby to spill out of his hands and over the edge of the rooftop leisure area!

Daredevil dives blind over the edge of the roof to make the save!

His sonar senses guide him to a conveniently placed window cleaner's platform, which he acrobatically springs off to direct his momentum toward an open dumpster below!

His manoeuvres take the edge off the fall, but it's still a hard landing as DD puts his back to the bin. When he gets out and pulls back the swaddle to check the child he finds a doll and an "ACME authentic fake baby noise maker, guaranteed to fool superheroes every time." A set up - gotcha.

With a gun to Daredevil's head - Deadpool wins.

The Hammer...
A controversial finish, but a victory for Deadpool never the less!

Did it end the way you thought? I have to admit: even as a Deadpool fan of the time - I would not have expected Daredevil to lose a fan vote. Another example of the cult following Deadpool had long before he kicked down the doors as the star of one of Hollywood's most profitable R-Rated films!

I wonder if the Daredevil/Deadpool '97 annual could've influenced the vote at all, as well. Those who guessed which hero was in Deadpool's firing line this week probably expected that issue to play a bigger role. I just couldn't resist dipping a toe into the widely overlooked Contest of Champions sequel.

Of all the tournament style comics to plague superheroes over the years, I think Contest of Champions II probably ranks among the best. The story in these things is always shakey, but I think Chris Claremont's experience pays off with a simple plot that utilizes one of his classic X-Men villains -- The Brood -- and his knowledge and contribution to Marvel's characters.

Rogue plays a central role in the story thanks to her ability to absorb and channel powers. There's a lot of X-Men, as you might expect, but everyone gets a pretty good go. Iron Man pulls focus early on, and to illustrate the details that elevate the issue, there's a nice call back to Rogue's villainous first appearance in Avengers Annual #10 [see also; What if...? #66]. Little details like that really elevate an otherwise throwaway, action oriented mini-series.

Last week we looked at Mark Waid's work with Deadpool [Sins of the Past #2], where I may not have given him enough credit for his Looney Tunes approach to the character. With the Joe Kelly years well entrenched, Claremont picks up those Bugs Bunny/Daffy Duck threads - writing a pretty decent Deadpool in Contest II. That ending will no doubt drive Daredevil fans nuts, but on Deadpool's terms it's a fun poke in the eye of the grimly serious superhero.

Remembering that Daredevil had just come out of Kevin Smith's landmark Miller influenced Guardian Devil reboot, it was a good idea to lean on levity. It was probably one of the last times that path was taken, as Daredevil disappeared into the self-serious isolation of a decade of stories under Brian Bendis, Ed Brubaker and others. Appropriately enough, it was Mark Waid who really guided DD back to the Marvel Universe in recent times. Stories we'll have to get to some time, as much as I do love the Bendis years.

On the subject -- this battle brings an end to our Deadpool blitz for February.

The clever among you will recognize a transition when you see one! Today's featured fight will take us on a detour through Hell's Kitchen in time for Netflix' second Daredevil series, before we dive into more hero-on-hero media-inspired conflict involving a certain movie Man of Steel!

Contest of Champions II isn't easy to come by these days, but if you're going hunting, be sure to use the Amazon link provided [right]. Doing so could help fund future features on The Comic Book Fight Club! It'll also give you the full experience of today's battle, and the many more I'm sure we'll look at in the future!

Hit up the Issue Index for lots more Deadpool, Daredevil and other fights. Be here Monday for a Hero of the Week DP recap!

Winner: Deadpool
(+8) #17 Deadpool
(--) #9 Daredevil

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

DC Comics is teasing a Rebirth and in their latest update, they're claiming it isn't a reboot - and it never was! The cryptic messages were delivered on the now familiar Rebirth blue drape by DC bigwigs: Jim Lee and Geoff Johns. So, what does it all mean?...

2010 line-wide reboot "The New 52" came built-in with an apparent Get Out Of Jail Free option in the form of mystery character Pandora. For the stubborn among us, every event since reads like a possible unravelling of the controversial relaunch. The New 52 selectively wiped the post-Crisis DC Universe from existence, replacing it with a movie era "new reader friendly" one. The line arguably jack knifed under apparent poor planning and less than iconic characters, lending to a serious rethink. .

Fact is: DC has been in the business of soft reboots, hard reboots, and general jumpstarts for the last two decades. The quality of the New 52 reinvention can be questioned, but undoubtedly the overall weight of so many lives and deaths of the DC Universes have contributed to diminishing returns.

This Old Comics Wednesday you're invited to look back upon some of DC's many deaths and rebirths. By clicking the covers below, you'll be transported back to the pivotal battles that gave birth to new visions of the DC Universe, destroyed old ones, introduced new eras of characters, rebooted classic ones, and in come cases literally involved the Rebirth brand. Could one or more point the way to what's next for DC Comics? The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Real Name: Ryu
First Appearance: Street Fighter (August, 1987)
Fight Club Ranking: #19

Featured Fights:
- vs BALROG: Street Fighter II #1 (Jul 1994)
- vs VEGA: Street Fighter (Dec 1994)
- vs SAGAT & VEGA: Street Fighter (Dec 1994)
- vs GUILE: Street Fighter II V Ep. 2 (Apr 1995)
- vs SAGAT: Street Fighter II V Ep. 9 (Jun 1995)
- vs KEN: Street Fighter II V Ep. 12 (Jul 1995)
- vs KEN: Street Fighter Alpha (Dec 1999)
- vs ZANGIEF: Street Fighter Alpha (Dec 1999)
- vs SADLER'S CYBORG: Street Fighter Alpha (Dec 1999)
- vs KEN: Street Fighter #1 (Sep 2003)
- vs SAGAT: Street Fighter #1 (Sep 2003)
- vs SAGAT: Street Fighter II #2 (Dec 2005)
- vs DHALSIM: Street Fighter II #3 (Feb 2006)
- vs ROSE: Street Fighter Alpha Vol. 1 (2007)

Since returning to Secret Wars on Infinite Earths for the site's 10th Anniversary, I've wanted to double down on some of the cool comics and characters we never got around to. With over 800 characters in the system, it's hard to believe we've already added a dozen or so new additions in 2016!

That's all good and well, but inevitably we come to a point where old passions die hard.  That brings us to today's Hero of the Week - the wandering world warrior known only as Ryu!

You probably know Ryu best as the karateman mascot of the Street Fighter video game series. He's been the franchise lead since the beginning - fighting through the forgotten original 1987 Street Fighter arcade game, through to tomorrow's PlayStation 4 new release: Street Fighter V! He was one of only two playable characters in that first game, and he's back on the cover for the newest one.

Street Fighter V boasts a new-to-the-series, post-release story mode that will take players through the latest chapter of Ryu's saga. It's the kind of addition I've been waiting the entire series for. When in gaming circles, I often find myself defending Street Fighter's overlooked story component. If I'm at all self-conscious about interrupting the site's renewed comics focus with a video game HOTW -- I need only look to the canon of Masahiko Nakahira to remember comics (manga) have carried much of the burden of Street Fighter's world for quite some time.

I'm not entirely sure I'm going to love Street Fighter V's story. Most of the established beat 'em up franchises have been gradually drifting away from their martial arts origins, moving into the world of comic book militaria, and super-heroics. It's not necessarily a bad thing. Those elements have always been there. It's just that I've always appreciated the foundational elements of martial arts fiction and philosophy that were unique to series like Street Fighter, and its rivals.

The nuanced combination of fighting, fables, philosophy and sport has often been uncomplicated in the hands of Street Fighter's creators. Motivations can often be boiled down to archetypes of rivalry, jealousy, revenge, greed, competitiveness, vanity, or megalomania.

As of Street Fighter II, a tremendous amount of heavy lifting was supplied by the character design. Painted in broad strokes, each character communicated a lot about their world view through strong visual context. Designed around nationality, fighting style, and simple cartooning -- the most enduring icons are not only instantly recognizable, but revealed in their appearance and fighting. The very animation of the games fighting reflects the characters behind each move - their body language and facial expressions communicating exactly as human beings should. To fight them is often to know them. This sense of character makes everything that comes after it all the sweeter.

Many characters simply wish to be the best fighter in a match, their style, or the world. With such vivid characters - this simple pursuit of self is enough to create a compelling world through the chemical reactions of each match. Some fighters will like each other, some will hate. Many will remain unchanged as their drive towards a goal refines them. I've always viewed the strong identity of Street Fighter characters as one of their greatest strengths, but when progress occurs, it is exciting.

Ryu's journey has taken him through various missions and rivalries, allowing him to transfer meaning to other characters. Defeating final boss Sagat in the first game flipped the script and created one of my favourite characters. "The Emperor of Muay Thai" [Sagat] arrived in the sequel with a massive chest scar - a visual reminder of the first game, and his now famous loss to Ryu [Street Fighter #1].

Sagat allowed himself to become even more corrupt in the pursuit of revenge in Street Fighter II, a subordinate sub-boss to Bison and his sinister organization: Shadaloo. He refined his own counterpart moves to Ryu's specials and was dedicated to revenge. His journey would ultimately become one of self discovery, leading to redemption and peace. He turned his back on Shadaloo and restored his honor by making peace with losing to Ryu. In UDON's comics, this helped Sagat defeat Ryu [Street Fighter II #2]. By Street Fighter III, he was no longer among the fighting ranks.

Sagat's story is almost a double helix to Ryu's. Much of Street Fighter Alpha has been dedicated to Ryu negotiating the threat of the Dark Hadou -- dangerous corrupting ki energy manifesting from the lethal intent of his Ansatsuken fighting style. It's a flowery metaphor in the classic vein of Star Wars' good and dark sides of The Force. Naturally, Ryu resolved his struggle with the dark hadou and rejected its power, but did not attain ultimate mastery in the process. In fact, friendly rival Ken beats him to total mastery first in Street Fighter III. Not quite the journey of the vanilla hero by numbers.

Scuttlebutt has it that Street Fighter V, like the revival before it, will be set before Street Fighter III. An unsurprising decision, given the then unpopular shake-up of Street Fighter's characters and fiction in the third instalment. SFV is clearly headed toward that direction, though. Many of its characters appear to be changing and aging. It will be interesting to see how far they go in bridging to the finality of some of Street Fighter III's stories. It's inconceivable to imagine Street Fighter without its icons, yet the format they're taking lends itself to putting some of the toys to bed, and graduating some of the other legends to the fore.

Whether Street Fighter V veers from its martial arts stories, or not, I'm sure we'll revisit their themes sometime in the future. If you'd like to see some of the Street Fighter stories and fights already covered, be sure to check out the featured links at the top of this article, or scroll down to the Miscellaneous section of the Issue Index Archive!

Friday, February 12, 2016

Luck of the Irish (Marvel)
Deadpool: Sins of the Past #2 When: September 1994 Why: Mark Waid How: Ian Churchill

The Story So Far...
Black Tom Cassidy is a bad seed with a bad problem. A viral wooden growth is claiming his humanity while he serves a life sentence in maximum security prison.

Former Weapon X geneticist Dr. Emrys Killebrew is Black Tom's only hope. Brought in at the request of Interpol Agent Sean Cassidy, the good doctor is running out of time and methods to cure the aggressive infection. Lucky for Tom, his brother isn't the only one looking out for his health. Eager to upgrade Black Tom out of the prison healthcare system, Juggernaut goes on the warpath!

Absconded with Dr. Killebrew, Black Tom's condition is hanging in the balance and the key to saving him may just be former Weapon X subject: Deadpool! The mercenary's sinful past with Black Tom is about to bite him in the ass and the unstoppable Juggernaut is first in line to do the biting!

Tale of the Tape...
Strength: Juggernaut 6 (Invincible)
Intelligence: Deadpool 3 (Special Ed)
Speed: Deadpool 3 (Atlhete)
Stamina: Juggernaut 7 (Unstoppable)
Agility: Deadpool 4 (Gymnast)
Fighting: Deadpool 4 (Trained)
Energy: Siryn 4 (Arsenal)
Vocal Range: Siryn 7 (Blarney Hell)

It's the unstoppable force meeting the unmuteable mercenary! Watcha gonna do brother when Juggernaut runs wild on you? That's the penniless question we aim to answer today! How will we achieve this daring feat of combat analysis? With our trusty numeric power scale and scholarly references, of course!

When it comes to superhuman strength, endurance and stamina - Juggernaut's in the top tier. His powers are derived from the Crimson Gem of Cyttorak: a magical ruby that's pretty tough to come by ever since Cain Marko got his mitts on it. We've seen him use his magic might to go toe-to-toe with heavyweights like: Colossus [Uncanny X-Men #183], Nimrod [Uncanny X-Men #194] and even Superman [DC versus Marvel #1]!

That sounds like bad news for mild mannered mercenary Deadpool, whose skills amount to: DIY home renovation, a skin condition, overactive imagination, access to 24/7 tech support, protection in the afterlife from Bea Arthur, swords, guns, and a healing factor. Fortunately -- it is not so bad!

A few years after today's feature fight, Deadpool scored a victory against an opponent every bit Juggernaut's equal - the Incredible Hulk [Deadpool #4]! He was also able to negate the super-strength of cyborg nemesis Ajax in Deadpool #19, and use unconventional tactics to topple the Taskmaster twice - in Deadpool #2 and Cable & Deadpool #36!

Of course, for all the raging hard muscle of the Hulk - he is still flesh and bone and can be penetrated (by swords). Juggernaut's magic strength tends to make him pretty resistant to being shanked. A whole construction site of pointy things didn't do Spidey any favors [Amazing Spider-man #230]! Then again, he's never been one to take the spider gimmick to its logical, skin piercing conclusion... You know what? He's the Juggernaut, bitch! Deadpool's in big trouble! If he had any clue he'd just run away! Call the whole thing off!

Is she pretty Irish, or Irish and pretty? Isn't "Irish redhead" a bit redundant? Oh, I guess there are Scottish redheads... Wait, is that racist?...
Oops. That's not an option, though. Pretty Irish redhead Siryn is in tow and DP's on the path to being smitten! Juggernaut does have orders not to hurt her [from Uncle Black Tom], but Juggernaut's never been known for being gentle, and Deadpool & Siryn don't know she's supposedly safe. Like her father Banshee, she's got a mean set of pipes on her, though. That rusty dome on his head doesn't seem like it stops sonic screams getting through, either. Yeah, just go with that.

Oh, by the way, Siryn has chosen the knife factory stage.

The Tape: Deadpool Ranking: Deadpool (#26)

What Went Down...
Having made a daring escape from a pack of mercenaries - Deadpool and Siryn have but a moments pause before the true threat presents itself: Juggernaut!

Taking refuge in a nearby "blade manufacturing" factory, the heroes hope to control the fight with walls at their back. If the door was any indication - the walls won't be much help. Juggernaut kicks it down and calls for last words...

Deadpool tips a box of blades over the hulking behemoth, showering him in sharpened steel! Against any ordinary mortal the tactic would surely have been sharp and to the point - but it was a blunt failure thanks to Juggernaut's magical invulnerability!

Deadpool Facts:
Don't throw anything at Juggernaut that you aren't prepared to have thrown back.
Juggernaut gives Deadpool points for originality: few have tried to slow him down with meat cleavers! How many points did he give? About as many as he can scoop up in his giant Cytorrak Gem enhanced fists!

Deadpool shoves Siryn aside as a wave of knives slices through the air - and through Deadpool as well!

The merc' with a mouth is officially silenced as his healing factor kicks in to deal with the many lacerations. Still reeling from his earlier battles, bruises, bullets and regrowing an entire hand - Deadpool's living up to his name. He's totally defenceless when Juggernaut decides to get in on the puns. More knives, too!

Deadpool Facts:
Actually, if you look closely - Deadpool is stopping the knives with his Magnum look.
This time Siryn leaps into the path of danger -- much to Juggernaut's horror! She unleashes a sonic scream at a high enough frequency to shatter the blades before they reach her, or the mercenary she's hoping to save!

Little does Siryn realize, her banshee cry also damaged the factory floor. As Juggernaut takes chase of the pair, the ground gives way under their feet -- sending all players to the lower level!

Deadpool Facts:
You smelted it, you dealt it.
Down low in the factory, Juggernaut lands on his keister and cries Deadpool's name! The mercenary has pulled a disappearing act in the fall, so Juggernaut asks Siryn for directions. As it turns out, the nearest man in red & black tights is lurking just overhead -- somewhere near the factory's molten vat!

Doing his best Tarzan, Deadpool swings down on a chain to snatch Siryn off the factory floor as the vat of molten metal spills out onto Juggernaut!

Two years after Alien 3, weaponizing molten metal probably seemed like a pretty good idea. Alas; the unstoppable Juggernaut isn't real concerned about thermostat - and there's nothing to cool him off quick enough to put the ol' metallic freeze on him. All that means is...

... flaming hot Juggernaut covered in molten in the hizzoooouuusssse!!

With only one page remaining, Deadpool & Siryn make a mad dash to meet vengeful Interpol agent Daniel Peyer on the final page cliff hanger.

The Hammer...
Whoops! As per Secret Wars on Infinite Earths rules: we ring the bell when the issue comes to an end. I'm afraid that means this battle finishes in an inconclusive draw.

The fight does resume for a second round in the subsequent issue, which I'm sure we'll take a look at some time in the future. For now, we etch another Juggernaut draw into the records, and press on toward our final Deadpool feature fight for February.

We have, of course, been looking at Deadpool this month in celebration of his long awaited arrival in theatres. The only thing more amazing than Deadpool finding movie stardom after a decade and a half in development hell is Ryan Reynolds hitting on a superhero winner! Somewhere out there a horribly out-of-character Hannibal King salutes you!

By now you've probably seen the trailers, heard the praise, and become aware of sequel and crossover plans. Hopefully you're enjoying digging into the real Deadpool through these comic fight updates. For me, the fun has definitely been reconnecting with what was, at one time, possibly my favourite character.

Deadpool Facts:
Alien 3 is very underrated, Blade: Trinity has some moments, but the less said about Green Lantern the better.
If you caught last week's feature [Deadpool #19], or dug into the Deadpool back catalogue, you can probably already tell the '97 series was a sweet spot for my fandom.

The Liefeld years had blown me by, but by the time the first mini-series was coming ["Sins of the Past" is the second], the mystique of the character had caught up with me. Some time in '93 I got my hands on a X-brand promotional pamphlet that sold the series pretty well. By 1997, a convergence of cult character, comedy, and visuals made for an instantly enjoyable mix.
There was a bit of drama recently over [Rob] Liefeld's comments regarding who created the character. He shares credit with X-scribe Fabian Nicieza, but I don't think the movie ever even happens if you remove "Uncles" Joey and Ed from the equation. Without their well rounded work in 1997, I don't think you have the sustained popularity, or the definitive voice of the character. Good formative influences from Deadpool's cool uncles, before the other kids in school ruined him, and he started hanging out with the burnout of the family. [He's doing much better now].

That said, much of what you know of Deadpool is there from the earliest days -- as evidenced by today's hijinks. In 1994, Mark Waid wasn't quite as aggressively madcap in his comedy, but it's serviceable as an against-type mercenary. Very much the shadow Spider-man he's sometimes seen to be.
With that, we make a hasty exit. There'll be more of what you know of Deadpool next week when we transition from the merc' with a mouth to another Marvel hero. Can you guess who?
As always, if you'd like the full story that goes with our featured fight you can use the Amazon link provided [right] to pick yourself up a collected edition. You can also find more Deadpool battles by hitting the Issue Index or Old Comics Wednesday!
Winner: Draw
(+1) #25 Deadpool
(+4) #322 Juggernaut
(new) #378 Siryn