Friday, November 30, 2018

Countdown To Crisis! (DC)
Justice League of America #196 When: November 1981 Why: Gerry Conway How: George Perez & Romeo Tanghal

The Story So Far...
In an effort to destroy his nemesis Superman, Ultra-Humanite forms a Secret Society of Super-Villains across two worlds. His goal: to orchestrate the capture of ten key heroes who will upset the balance of worlds - resulting in the orchestrated destruction of his own!

Earth-1 is home to a Justice League of America led by the youthful Superman, while Earth-2 boasts seasoned veterans of the Justice Society and a matured Superman. Despite a meeting between the heroes of two worlds, they are blissfully unaware of the forces plotting against them!

The Society's efforts have already led to the capture of Earth-1's Wonder Woman, Black Canary, Batman and Earth-2's Hawkman and Hourman! Now the wicked Rag Doll, and recently unretired Monocle, set their sights on Earth-2's Flash with the world only 40% away from cosmic annihilation!

Tale of the Tape...
Strength: Flash 3 (Athlete)
Intelligence: Flash 4 (Tactician)
Speed: Flash 7 (Light Speed)
Stamina: Rag Doll 6 (Generator)
Agility: Rag Doll 6 (Rubber)
Fighting: Draw 3 (Street Wise)
Energy: Rag Doll 2 (Projectiles)
Total: Flash 26 (Metahuman)

As the golden age Flash: Jay Garrick was the fastest man on Earth-2! Exposure to strange vapors unlocked the speedster's unique powers, later linked with the same esoteric Speed Force that fuels Barry Allen and Wally West!

How do you beat a guy who can move faster than you can see? A lot of villains have tried, but few methods have been as unusual as Rag Doll's!

If you've ever had a friend who was double-jointed, you've seen first-hand how a person can bend fingers and limbs the wrong way. In the case of Rag Doll: Peter Merkel was born triple-jointed -- allowing him to twist and contort his every joint into bizarre and impossible configurations!

Most notably: Rag Doll can compact his body into impossibly tight spaces. With such phenomenal natural pliability has also come a super-human quality to absorb impacts! The flow of his flexible limbs isn't super-fast, but he's been shown to react quick enough to twist between the flight path of gunfire!

Rag Doll's known to carry guns himself, and even though The Flash is faster than any speeding bullet, he can occasionally be caught by surprise! We saw Sandman use powers and terrain to chin-check Flash in 2004's JSA #64.

Rag Doll can exploit any nook or cranny in a given environment, allowing him to hide in plain sight and launch attacks on unsuspecting victims. He may look like a goofy child's toy, but it turns out Rag Doll is actually quite deadly!

The Tape: Flash Ranking: Flash (#143)

What Went Down...
A red & blue streak blazes a trail along a Keystone City dock at dusk. The Flash racing to meet an anonymous police tipster with information about Rag Doll!

Hidden between wooden crates, and obscured by hat and coat, the informant points Flash in the direction of a ship: The Lazy Sue. The speedster leaves with thanks in the blink of an eye -- never noticing the villainous Monocle!

It only takes a few more beats for Flash to have scoured the entire vessel and come up empty -- or so he thinks!..

It soon dawns on The Flash that his old enemy Rag Doll can hide in smaller spaces than any ordinary man! The realization comes with seconds to spare as the folded Rag Doll leaves his hiding place in a ventilation cowl and opens fire!

Flash reacts with super-human speed, blurring out of the line of fire and towards the protruding tube! He returns fire with a knife-edged chop thrown at speeds high enough to cut right through the rusting metal structure!

Rag Doll manages to escape injury and makes a leap for the cargo hold! The hero estimates the plunge at a leg breaking forty feet, but soon remembers the "rubber-jointed freak" won't suffer a scratch from the fall!

To avoid injury himself, Flash swings his hands fast enough to create two focused jets of downforce that glide him safely to the level below.

Before the speedster can begin his search of the hold - he spies a waiting bundle of dynamite amongst the cargo. It explodes -- launching the unprepared hero into the air with a devastating blast!

The Flash crashes back down to the hold with his helmet clanging beside him! The explosion leaves the hero unconscious as Rag Doll stands unscathed over his nemesis, gloating about his powers of resilience in victory!

The Hammer...
It was a plan that worked to perfection: Monocle lures The Flash to the trap - Rag Doll blows it up! Eloquent in its simplicity, and devastatingly effective at scratching one of the major heroes off The Secret Society of Super-Villain's hit list of two worlds!

This was part of the annual crossover between Earth-1's Justice League of America and the Justice Society of Earth-2. Ultra-Humanite is the mastermind, plotting to surgically remove key heroes in the hopes of creating a cosmic imbalance that will destroy his world. If you know anything about the Ultra-Humanite: you know he won't mind relocating!

There are a lot of fun villains in this one that've been slightly forgotten, or just overlooked. A recent spotlight in Hero of the Week got me thinking more about the original comic book Rag Doll, who hasn't featured on Secret Wars on Infinite Earths yet. I figured I'd pull this issue off my desk and take a closer look.

It's a nice quick showcase of what makes Rag Doll work as a functioning high-concept super-villain. He's hiding in the shadows right under the hero's nose, then he strikes with total impunity - unafraid of the shock of an explosion!

It's a good transposing of the old children's dolls that always seem to survive a plane crash or similar human crisis. I'm in favour of updating the design of the character to enhance the creepiness, but there is a charm to such a ridiculous visual. If blowing up Flash wasn't bad enough for you, he robbed a bank with guns blazing in the prior issue. A nice subversion of an innocent image.

Now that we've seen the original Pete Merkel in action, we'll have to find time to get Junior on the books. The 2005 Simone/Eaglesham creation reinvented the concept by cranking up the creepy weirdness, and doubling-down on the body horror of surgically acquired triple-joints. A nice updated, made all the more appreciated by keeping the original in tact. In fact, papa Doll hates his son!

Not such a great showcase for Jay Garrick, who's played a little too absent minded for my taste. All part of moving the three-issue story along with enough gravitas to threaten A-list assemblies from two worlds.

The tradition of the JLA/JSA meet-up essentially starts with 1963's Justice League of America #21. It became a regular staple of the seventies and early eighties, before it kinda became redundant once Crisis on Infinite Earths consolidated all properties in one continuum.

Justice League of America #196 is titled the "Countdown to Crisis". Before there was a Crisis on Infinite Earths, there were crises on multiple Earths.

I've always been of two minds about the idea. It's obviously a lot of fun to have two generations of heroes meet. Nice that the tradition ensures it's going to happen sooner than later. I just kinda prefer that they're all living on the same world. It loses a little bit of the sense of importance, but it also never gets silly as the years go by. It's also nice to have a DCU populated with all these great characters! When Jay Garrick was a recurring part of The Flash's world, that was great! When he was having his own adventures in JSA - even better!

If you want to cross between time and space, you can do it by picking yourself up a collected edition via Amazon! Today's story can be found in its three-issue entirety in Crisis on Multiple Earths Volume 6. If you shop with the link provided, you help support our Secret Earth that hosts The Comic Book Fight Club!

You can find more featured fights and superhero smackdown by diving into the Secret Archive! There you'll find the many Earths of DC, Marvel, and beyond! Be sure to follow links throughout this post to discover more wonders relevant to your favourite topics!

You can also follow Secret Wars on Infinite Earths via Twitter and Facebook for daily links to fights inspired by the topics of the day! Liking and sharing battles is a great way to support the site, so be a pal!

Winner: Rag Doll (w/ Monocle)
#317 (new) Rag Doll
#322 (-179) Flash (Jay Garrick)
#545 (new) Monocle [+1 assist]

Monday, November 26, 2018

Real Name: Arthur Curry
First Appearance: More Fun Comics #73 (November, 1941)
Fight Club Ranking: #20

Featured Fights:
- vs OCEAN MASTER: Adventure Comics #444 (Mar-Apr 1976)
- vs BLACK MANTA: Adventure Comics #446 (Jul-Aug 1976)
- vs MERCURY MONSTER: Secret Origins #32 (Nov 1988)
- vs WOOD KING: Secret Origins #32 (Nov 1988)
- vs SUB-MARINER: Marvel versus DC #2 (Apr 1996)
- vs ULTRAMARINE CORPS: JLA: Classified #3 (Mar 2005)
- vs DESPERO: JLA #118 (Nov 2005)
- vs MERA & TEMPEST: Blackest Night #2 (Oct 2009)

We've been paddling in the Aquaman pool on-and-off for a couple of months now, exploring uncharted waters in anticipation of next week's theatrical release. WB has unleashed the final trailer, officially signaling our Hero of the Week's imminent arrival - December 5th! Check it out below:

It's been tough to get a precise read on the film, but I'm very much enjoying the visual spectacle and promise of a unique flavor! It's been a while since Hollywood embraced its tradition of the deep sea epic. The vibrant colours of an underwater environment have instantly imbued Aquaman with an unique aesthetic that comic book movies have too often lacked!

The underwater kingdoms and creatures look pretty good for what is, presumably, a mostly CG creation. There's every hope Atlantis and its neighbouring civilizations can succeed where similar films have failed. This is already looking more exciting than Green Lantern's dimly lit Oa, and slightly more stimulating than the dry fantasy realms of 2012's underrated John Carter. I'm a fan of the cool palette, complimented with sea creature neons. It all looks very well realized and palatable.

Efforts to bring Jason Mamoa's Aquaman more in line with a classic comic book design have been much appreciated, as well. The gold and green looks fantastic! Even Amber Heard looks pretty great in Mera's simple fish scale suit, with vivid red hair! The only fear for Yahya Abdul-Mateen's helmeted Black Manta is that there might not be enough of him in the final cut! He looks incredible!

Even if there's some lingering uncertainty - it's been a welcome change of pace to have genuine curiosity about a DC film after the ominous misery of most of their other offerings. Indeed, the stink of Justice League could've been a real detriment, but by doubling down on what makes Aquaman unique, the movie has positioned itself to be the most enticing of the bunch!

It also helps that this will be a rare example of WB & DC beating their competition to the punch. Aquaman will claim the waters before Disney & Marvel are able to make use of the much discussed Sub-Mariner license. Given the unflattering comparisons of Justice League to Avengers -- and DC's entire model for building a shared cinematic universe -- that's no small relief!

Secret Wars on Infinite Earths has traditionally been a Sub-Mariner stronghold, but even we've succumbed to Aquamania! Friday's feature fight win not only pushed Aquaman into the Top 20, but also marks the first time in the history of the site we've ranked Aquaman above Namor!

The majority of Warner Bros' slated productions involve more offerings from their proven properties [Harley Quinn, Joker, Wonder Woman], but I remain of the long held belief that drilling into faithful cinematic versions of less travelled characters could be the best way to combat Marvel Entertainment's milquetoast dominance. It certainly seems to have worked for Sony's Venom, and is well on the way to delivering the same for Aquaman. Let's just hope the movie's actually good!

Friday, November 23, 2018

The Manta-Ray Means Murder! (DC)
Adventure Comics #446 When: July-August 1976 Why: Paul Levitz & Martin Pasko How: Jim Aparo

The Story So Far...
Aquaman has been overthrown as King of Atlantis and run out of the city under threat of death from new ruler: Karshon! With his wife Mera and son by his side, the ousted monarch is desperate to contact Aqualad to warn him of the dangers of returning - but even Robin cannot locate the aquatic Teen Titan's whereabouts!

On the Mississippi Delta; Aqualad & Aquagirl are mixing heroics and pleasure by visiting the paddle steamer Club Mark Twain to investigate diamond smugglers. The bust uncovers a grander plot with Black Manta pulling the strings and using surprise to get the drop on his nemeses' ward and his daring date!

Aquaman uses his marine telepathy to desperately canvas the waters for his missing ward. It's a race against time as the arch-villain concocts a deathtrap of malicious mantas and mind-numbed electric eels ready to kill Aqualad!

Tale of the Tape...
Strength: Draw 4 (Enhanced)
Intelligence: Draw 4 (Tactician)
Speed: Aquaman 3 (Athlete)
Stamina: Aquaman 5 (Marathoner)
Agility: Draw 2 (Average)
Fighting: Aquaman 4 (Trained)
Energy: Black Manta 5 (Lasers)
Total: Draw 24 (Champion)

We've seen what happens when Aquaman goes head-to-head with Ocean Master, but now it's time to test him against another of his deep diving, aquatic arch-nemeses: Black Manta!

Our stats measure them approximately equal in the overall stakes, but Black Manta derives his sub-aquatic skills from an artificial source. His power suit keeps him as nimble in the sea as an Atlantean, outfitted with life preservation technology, reinforced helmet, strength enhancement, and heavy artillery!

Manta's arsenal most famously includes deadly "manta-ray" lasers fired from the eyes on his helmet, but he also carries a variety of tricks, such as swords, spear guns, harpoons, pistols, and torpedoes. His propulsion system has also been known to work in and out of the water, making his own body a deadly missile thanks to his suit's high-pressure durability!

There's no doubting Black Manta is one of Aquaman's deadliest enemies, but the King of Atlantis is no stranger to tough competition!

His ability to communicate with marine life has always offered a unique arsenal, such as the school of fish who helped him beat the Mercury Monster in Secret Origins #32, or the killer whale who controversially squashed Marvel's marine master Namor in Marvel versus DC #2! He was less successful marshaling sharks in battle with Despero, whose telepathy won out in JLA #118.

We also know Aquaman has the muscle and knowhow to beat strong and well armed foes! He turned the Olympian's own medieval weapons against him, delivering a kayo uppercut in JLA: Classified #3! The aforementioned battle with Ocean Master was a knock down, drag out slugfest in Adventure Comics #444!

These are two perfectly matched warriors who know each other very well. On any given day one could defeat the other. As the hero, Aquaman is traditionally the victor, but you can never count out Black Manta's cunning! Manta has Aqualad hostage, and is facing an Aquaman dethroned by Karshon -- which could prove the psychological advantage! Let's see if it worked...

The Tape: Draw Ranking: Aquaman (#32)

What Went Down...
Black Manta is so preoccupied gloating over the aquarium deathtrap now holding Aqualad - he fails to notice an orange & green dynamo decimating the guards on deck! When he finally hears trouble: Aquaman is already upon him!

The sudden, devastating impact of Aquaman's left hand slams so hard through Black Manta's helmet he topples to the ground!

No matter! Like the Manta's namesake, he proves just as deadly while flat on the ground! The villain throws a stiff kick into Aquaman's waiting mid-section before unleashing the awesome energies of his manta-ray eye beams!

The powerful muscles in Aquaman's legs react in the blink of an eye - launching him just above the deadly blast and out of harm's way! The daring dodge allows the deep sea dominator to launch a swift counter-measure!

Remembering his old foe's weaponry well: Aquaman charges with the speed of a dolphin to deliver a precision strike to the back of Black Manta's suit!

Even as Aquaman successfully deactivates the deadly Manta-Ray device, Black Manta continues to gloat over the imminent death of Aqualad! Little does he realise his murder plot has failed -- twice!

An earlier attempt to send Aqualad's girlfriend to a watery grave backfired as she too is an Atlantean! Freed from her restraints when Aquaman arrived to the floating night club - young Tula has already paid it forward by shattering the glass that kept Aqualad prisoner with mindless mantas & electric eels!

Aqualad makes his presence known by diving in to grab Black Manta's legs! The assist plants the villain to the spot, rendering him immobile as Aquaman delivers an unforgiving straight shot to the ribs - and follows with an uppercut!

Manta staggers desperately across the deck, but on his home turf - he isn't as helpless as he seems. Just as Aquaman boasts he has his nemesis where he wants him: the villain hits a button -- and disappears down a hidden hatch!

The bottom of Club Mark Twain opens up, releasing the hidden Manta-Ship into the waters below! It seems Black Manta has made his daring escape, but in the water Aquaman has his own contingency!

A telepathic command springs a giant squid out of hiding amidst a camouflaging cloud of ink! Massive tentacles wrap around the fleeing Manta-Ship, engaging a tug-of-war between marine-life and machine! The metal of the Manta-Ship is left a twisted mess, but its powerful hyper-drive breaks free.

The Hammer...
Black Manta may have successfully escaped, but his running is a symptom that comes from defeat! Aquaman wins the day, with a notable assist from Aqualad and Aquagirl!

I'd actually forgotten that Tula played a part in rescuing Aqualad, so that's a fun little follow-up to her recent induction via Blackest Night #2. As morbid as it sounds, I'm still hoping to take a closer look at her untimely demise in the pages of Crisis on Infinite Earths. Nice that we got to experience a small taste of her relationship with Aqualad in today's feature.

I've been particularly excited about getting to today's featured fight! Not because it specifically holds special significance in history, but because I've really been enjoying this period of Aquaman in Adventure Comics, and because I've been wanting to get Black Manta on the books for a very long time!

Black Manta is just one of those classic comic book characters who couldn't have come from any other medium! The bold visual of that iconic helmet, perched atop a simple black bodysuit, is really all you need to know! He's a cool looking villain uniquely equipped to carry out a vicious vendetta against Aquaman!

It makes me a little sad to think of the years Black Manta, and similarly fantastic characters, were out of vogue. For a little while in the nineties they tried him out as an actual human-manta hybrid, but that only did more damage. All you need is that insane helmet and you've got a must-see character!

Thank goodness cooler heads have prevailed in recent years. Black Manta isn't just back in action, he's about to become a multimedia sensation thanks to next month's Aquaman movie. Warner Brothers, with director James Wan, seem to be making every effort to unleash a visual spectacle upon the screen, with Black Manta all-but fully realized in live action! It's very exciting!

Speaking of exciting visuals - how about that Jim Aparo? Isolated panels may not do the artist's work true justice. I hope you can at least appreciate a sense of what the full layouts offer. Aquaman is a madman of action, throwing himself into fights and scenes with reckless abandon! So many angles! So much impact!

The whole story has a very enjoyable mix of pulpy sensibilities and modern super-heroics. I'm not sure anything can match the blistering whirlwind of furious fists and sci-fi adventure from Adventure Comics #444, but this issue goes it's own way, sweeping wildly through monstrous octopods, inter-personal dramas, and Aqualad & Tula mixed up in an undercover casino dive!

If you want to experience this issue in its entirety - you may have to do some digging, but if you do it via the Amazon link provided, you'll help support Secret Wars on Infinite Earths! The 70s Adventure Comics era was well represented in Aquaman: Death of a Prince trade collections presently out of print.

You can find more from Aquaman and his family by clicking the search tags below, or links found throughout this post. You can also discover classic combat and surprising smackdown by browsing the Secret Archive! To get daily links to fights inspired by the topics of the day follow on Twitter and Facebook. A like, share, or retweet is another great way to support the site!

Winner: Aquaman
#20 (+12) Aquaman
#863 (new) Black Manta
#153 (+41) Tula (Aquagirl) [+1 assist]
#562 (+300) Tempest (Aqualad) [+1 assist]

Monday, November 19, 2018

Real Name: Peter Merkel
First Appearance: Flash Comics #36 (December, 1942)
Fight Club Ranking: #DNR

Featured Fights:
- Yet To Be Featured on Secret Wars on Infinite Earths

It's no secret I'm not the biggest fan of the current crop of superhero television -- but there's also no denying that sometimes they deliver the goods! Case in point: Rag Doll - who made his striking screen debut during this week's episode of The Flash. Don't hit play below if you're squeamish!

Rag Doll started out as a cutesy Jay Garrick villain, but over the decades he's become increasingly creepy, cranking up the twisted body horror and spooky doll factor! That's the element the TV show looks to capture - embellishing the performance of real-life contortionist Troy James with inhuman CG twists, and some very effective costuming!

The live-action incarnation seems to infuse the character with a little bit of the spirit of Peter Merkel Jr (of Secret Six fame), stopping short of his full harlequin look, while borrowing the eerie white face mask. The classic Raggedy Anne look is finally switched out for a vintage suit, recalling sinister ventriloquist dummies, and the uncanny disjointed movements of an old marionette.

It's always nice to see TV digging deeper into comic book obscurities, and even better when they do it well! I'm not gonna become a regular Flash viewer any time soon, but interesting and visual ideas like these will always warrant a second look.

The return of John Wesley Shipp as 1990's TV Flash will be another reason to watch during next month's Elseworlds crossover! It was an exciting talking point of October, but if you flash back to this time a couple of years ago, we were also talking about his role as Jay Garrick a week after Marvel's Champion of the Universe was Hero of the Week. The Champ was back in last week's HOTW, and here we are talking The Flash once again. Has somebody been screwing with time again? See you next week!

Friday, November 16, 2018

Part 4: The Hulk At Last! (Marvel)
Fantastic Four #12 When: March 1963
Why: Stan Lee How: Jack Kirby

The Story So Far...
Project 34 is the latest invention by Dr. Bruce Banner: a state-of-the-art device able to blanket cities in protective electro-magnetic rays that repel any modern attack! It's the ultimate defensive technology, but its drawn the destructive interest of the mysterious Wrecker!

General Thaddeus "Thunderbolt" Ross suspects Banner's secret alter-ego of the monstrous Hulk is responsible, and recruits the Fantastic Four to deal with the menace!

The heroes accept their mission, with the powerful Thing particularly eager to prove his superiority against the rampaging powerhouse. Little do they realize the Hulk is innocent, and on his own desperate mission to rescue teenage friend Rick Jones from the clutches of the true Wrecker!

Tale of the Tape...
Strength: Hulk 6 (Invincible)
Intelligence: Mr. Fantastic 6 (Genius)
Speed: Invisible Woman 3 (Athlete)
Stamina: Hulk 6 (Generator)
Agility: Mr. Fantastic 6 (Rubber)
Fighting: Hulk 6 (Warrior)
Energy: Human Torch 7 (Cosmic Power)
Total: Hulk 26 (Metahuman)

The year is 1963. The Marvel Universe is now in full swing, and for roughly ten months there have co-existed two monstrous powerhouses: The incredible Hulk and the ever lovin' blue-eyed Thing! They are unstoppable force and immovable object - destined to meet in the middle to determine who is strongest one of all!

Hulk was mild-mannered scientist Dr. Bruce Banner until bathed in gamma radiation from an experimental bomb! This accident of science unleashed the monster within - first triggered by nightfall, but eventually sparked by Banner's own inner turmoil! The greater his rage - the more powerful the Hulk!

Here on Secret Wars on Infinite Earths we subscribe to an understanding that Hulk may become more powerful with the intensity of his rage -- but he's still an organic being with limits. Not that those limits make him any less impressive!

At this early stage of his career, Hulk was best known for tearing through the military might of the United States Army - as was still the case many decades later in World War Hulk #3! He would go on to overwhelm super-powered heavyweights like: Thor [Avengers #5], Silver Surfer [Incredible Hulk #95], Juggernaut [Marvel Adventure #12], Hercules [Tales to Astonish #79], The Sentry [World War Hulk #5], and Red Hulk [Hulk #6]!

Thing is no slouch himself! Our above stats controversially advantage the Hulk, particularly in the realms of stamina and fighting ability. Strength is numerically equal in the "Invincible" bracket, but Thing's renowned brawling couldn't transcend skill-based finesse to match Hulk's "Warrior" Fighting stat.

An even greater question mark may lie with Stamina, given Thing is famed for rising to the occasion with heart & determination! It was best encapsulated when he went the distance with Champion of the Universe in Marvel Two-In-One Annual #7! The reason for the low stat lies in a record of running out of gas against: Thundra & Sandman [Fantastic Four #129], Gladiator [Fantastic Four #249], Captain Marvel [Captain Marvel #26], The Sentry [Mighty Avengers #10], Wolverine [Wolverine #22], and Black Panther [Fantastic Four #52].

These defeats have weighted Thing's ranking, but he is famous for gutting it out against overwhelming odds! He's done it against Doctor Doom [Fantastic Four #350], The Adaptoid [Fantastic Four: Unplugged #1], his evil Doppelganger [Fantastic Four #367], and in the Ultimate Universe - a Zombie Hulk!

Thing also has something Hulk almost never does - powerful friends to help him in a pinch! The Fantastic Four are: Mister Fantastic, Invisible Girl, Human Torch and Thing.

Over the years they've combined to defeat powerful adversaries, such as: Ego The Living Planet [Fantastic Four #235], Super-Skrull [Fantastic Four #6], Paibok the Power Skrull [Fantastic Four #358], Gomdulla [Spider-Man Family #3], and The Sinister Twelve [Marvel Knights: Spider-man #11]! With Mister Fantastic's stretching, Invisible Woman's force-fields, and Human Torch's flame - coordinated tactics could prove to be the difference!

Of course, Hulk has taken down the Thunderbolts [Incredible Hulk #449] and Avengers [Avengers (Vol.2) #4], so all we can really do is get on with the fight!

History: Thing (1-0-0)
The Tape: Fantastic Four Ranking: Hulk (#6)

What Went Down...
Lurking within catacombs beneath a secret New Mexico military test-site: The Hulk hears voices echo through the subterranean chambers as he searches for his prey! The Fantastic Four now stalk the tunnels, led by the Thing, who's itching for a showdown with their "overrated" target. His wish is soon granted!

The incredible Hulk steps into view right as the Human Torch glides by and Thing's path meets his own! The notorious monster threatens to crush the surprised hero like a flea and launches a devastating left!

Despite its devastating power - the awesome blow serves only to temporarily knock Thing off balance! Hulk remarks that it's like hitting rock, realizing the Thing is far tougher than he expected.

Human Torch doubles back to attack, but the Hulk moves swiftly to launch a counter-attack of dirt and sand. His massive hands scoop untold rubble, blanketing the airborne Torch in a smothering layer of Earth!

In the chaos, the green behemoth apparently lost sight of the remaining half of the quartet. Believing they may've headed for the surface, he rips a tunnel towards the light and fills it tightly to keep Thing and Human Torch down below!

The deviation almost keeps the entire Fantastic Four buried, but Mister Fantastic is able to stretch his arms through tiny crevices in the dirt. Hearing Hulk's heavy feet thundering through the earth - he successfully ensnares the beast!

Though his rubbery arm easily loops around Hulk's waist, Mister Fantastic cannot endure his beastly rage! Like a furious bucking bronco, Hulk breaks the lasso hold and charges through a nearby abandoned desert town!

As Thing digs the remaining members of the Fantastic Four out of the ground -- Hulk hoists a wooden frame building above his head and dumps it on his rocky opponent. Remarkably - the emerging Thing effortlessly swats it aside!

Desperate to defeat the foursome, Hulk plots to mitigate their impressive powers by separating them. He leaps into the air, first planning to power-dive the Thing -- but Mister Fantastic stretches skyward to cut his trajectory off!

This time the brilliant hero wraps his entire elastic body around the Hulk, entombing him in a jacket of constricting rubber! It waylays the behemoth for a moment, but he soon spins his powerful body like a top -- flinging Mister Fantastic uncontrollably from his body!

The Human Torch flies in for another shot at the powerhouse, but the open-air strike won't do him any good. This time Hulk is ready to level him with a clap so powerful it unleashes a sonic boom shockwave!

The impossible blast grounds the Human Torch, and keeps the Invisible Girl and Mister Fantastic out of the fight, as well! Yet still one remains!

Unaffected by the sound or force of the sonic assault -- Thing wastes no time answering Hulk's queries, delivering a right hook that knocks Hulk off his feet and through a nearby brick wall!

Hulk retaliates by launching a massive cart, but the toss is easily avoided by the mocking Thing! His jibes only provoke Hulk's further rage. At last - they collide!

Like two raging bulls the powerhouses collide! The ground trembles beneath their massive feet as each jockeys for position in a grapple tie! Thing relishes his chance to finally go one-on-one with the famed super-heavyweight, while Hulk simply insists he's finally got him!

The flexing of mighty muscle is slow and grueling, but eventually Hulk is able to leverage his height to begin lifting the Thing! It seems the advantage may be going Hulk's way, but Thing maneuvers to prepare a devastating pile-driver punch when suddenly -- an unseen attacker strikes from beneath the ground!

The mysterious atom-powered beam brings Hulk to a complete standstill - knocking him out cold! Thing can only be dazed and confused, uncertain of how his powerful foe was suddenly vanquished. When the Invisible Girl alerts him to the stolen victory -- an enraged Thing sets his sights on the unseen assailant!

The Hammer...
One of the biggest super-heavyweight showdowns of the early Marvel Universe -- and it ends in interference!

Hulk was clearly defeated, but it wasn't by the powerful pounding fists of the rocky Thing! No! That dubious distinction went to the dastardly Wrecker, whose victory comes from a dirty sneak attack!

In professional wrestling terms this was a result that kept both powerhouses strong. They each got their licks in, but Hulk had the visual advantage at the end - before suffering underhanded defeat! Who would win a fight between Thing and the Hulk? Fans could still find valid arguments in favor of both!

Don't confuse ol' Karl Kort [pictured] with the enchanted crowbar-wielding Wrecker. This guy was a one-and-done villain in the classic mold of other communist spies and saboteurs. He was similar to several early Hulk villains, dubbed "The Wrecker" for destroying prototype weaponry and devices.

Karl Kort would be all but forgotten after Fantastic Four #12, but the potential for a rematch showdown between Thing and Hulk continued to have all the orchestrated drama of a Madison Square Garden main event!

There was more than a touch of the New York promoter about Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. Many of their finest early stories built the emerging threat of a new villain, before putting the hero over in the end. Each victory: another notch in the belt of would-be challengers to the unspoken title of Marvel's toughest!

These kinds of staple fantasy fights in Marvel's early years were vital to building the inter-connected reality of the modern shared Marvel Universe.

The Hulk solo series ended after Incredible Hulk #6 (published the same month as FF #12), but Editor-in-Chief Stan Lee would send his star on a tour of other series, growing his legend as he mixed it up with The Avengers, Iron Man, Spider-man, and a circulating attraction from the Golden Age: Sub-Mariner!

It comes as no surprise that I would have a strong affection for this approach. I enjoy a good superhero fight, and love the way these stories helped build the legend of each character, and their inter-personal relationships.

Thing & Hulk are still two of Marvel's toughest, and still have a pretty healthy rivalry! In fact, the fight from Fantastic Four #12 was specifically revisited in 2005's Hulk and Thing: Hard Knocks, where Bruce Jones wrote a new brawl between them as they argued over who won that fateful first encounter!

Marvel Comics were really given a strong start, and Stan Lee deserves a lot of credit for cultivating that.

There were a lot of classic confrontations we could've revisited, but when I think Stan Lee, I think Fantastic Four, so this seemed like a fitting way to pay tribute to "The Man", who sadly left us earlier this week, aged 95.

Many people around the world have said wonderful words about the writer, editor, publisher, and personality, who had such a huge impact on us all. I'm not sure I can add much more of value. With so many famous faces leaving us in recent years, that's one of the nice aspects of the Stan Lee story. He had the chance to know how much he meant to us all. More should be so lucky.

If you'd like to check out more famous fights from Stan Lee, be sure to browse the Cover to Cover: Remembering Stan Lee selection. You'll also be able to find more from "The Man" by following links, and browsing the Secret Archive.

You can read today's featured story and more for yourself by checking out collected editions from Amazon! Purchasing via the links provided helps support the Secret Wars on Infinite Earths at no extra cost to you! Excelsior!

Get daily links to featured fights inspired by the topics of the day by liking, sharing, and following on Twitter and Facebook. You can also connect with more fans celebrating the life of Stan Lee with tributes and stories by following the #StanLeeForever hashtag.

Winner: "Wrecker" Karl Kort (w/ Fantastic Four)
#317 (new) Karl Kort (Wrecker)
#11 (--) Thing [+1 assist]
#10 (--) Mister Fantastic [+1 assist]
#14 (--) Human Torch [+1 assist]
#12 (--) Invisible Woman [+1 assist]
#6 (--) Hulk

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

With heavy heart the comics world has bid farewell to one of its tallest titans! Stan "The Man" Lee has passed at the ripe age of 95, leaving a legacy of co-creations that defined Marvel Comics, and helped establish the modern mode for comic book heroes with headaches - and great responsibilities!

Moviegoers will recognize Stan Lee as the loveable icon who transcended licensing to appear in the majority of Marvel movies. It started with 2000's X-Men and quickly became a tradition as Hollywood brought more of his creations to life - and even a few that weren't his!

In Fantastic Four, Lee played one of his own characters for the first time - classic mailman Willie Lumpkin. Later, Marvel Studios would acknowledge him as another classic FF creation: the all-seeing Watcher! It was fitting that Stan would tie the disparate movie studios together, given the points of difference his work as a writer and editor featured.

The "Marvel Age" of the 1960s brought a modern outlook to superhero characters and characterization, while also embellishing the concept of the shared universe. Lee paid homage to Timely's Golden Age heroes like the Sub-Mariner and Captain America by incorporating them into new stories. Thus, the expansive Marvel Universe was born!

Stan Lee endured a time when comics were dismissed as disposable entertainment for kids, but he never talked down to readers. He had words and he used 'em! He's famous for his roles as Art Director, Editor, and Self-Promoter -- but I consider one of his greatest gifts to be a verbosity that instilled an understanding of language in any young reader who read his writing. It was a wonderful way to learn weird and wonderful words! I'm sure anyone who reads Secret Wars on Infinite Earths will immediately recognize the influence of Stan Lee's legendary linguistic verve!

My favourite Stan Lee stories have always came from two of his most celebrated series and collaborations: Fantastic Four with Jack Kirby, and Spider-man with Steve Ditko. I hope you'll enjoy celebrating Stan Lee's life & work the only way we know how - with a selection of featured fights, starring the FF, Spidey, and even more of his classic co-creations, such as: X-Men, Hulk, Iron Man, Black Panther, Doctor Strange, Vulture, MysterioElectro! Excelsior!

Behind The Covers
1. IRON MAN vs WONG-CHU: Tales of Suspense #39
2. BARON MORDO vs DOCTOR STRANGE: Strange Tales #111
3. BARON MORDO vs DOCTOR STRANGE: Strange Tales #114
4. SPIDER-MAN vs VULTURE: Amazing Spider-man #7
6. HERCULES vs HULK: Tales to Astonish #79
7. BLACK PANTHER vs THING: Fantastic Four #52
8. BLACK PANTHER vs ULYSSES KLAW: Fantastic Four #53
9. SPIDER-MAN & HUMAN TORCH vs WIZARD & MYSTERIO: Amazing Spider-man Annual #4
10. BLACK PANTHER vs CAPTAIN AMERICA: Tales of Suspense #98
11. SPIDER-MAN vs ELECTRO: 1992 Marvel Holiday Special
12. X-MEN vs EXECUTIONER: Marvel: Heroes & Legends #1

Monday, November 12, 2018

Real Name: Tryco Slatterus
First Appearance: Marvel Two-In-One Annual #7 (October, 1982)
Fight Club Ranking: #320

Featured Fights:
- vs THOR: Marvel Two-In-One Annual #7 (1982)
- vs SHE-HULK: She-Hulk #8 (Dec 2004)
- vs SHE-HULK: She-Hulk #8 (Dec 2004)

Well, it must be November, because combat's in the air, and Champion of the Universe is back in the spotlight! It still seems like yesterday, but it was this time two years ago we were celebrating the return of Tryco Slatterus in comics! Now it seems he's making a run to rule mobile video games!

Newsarama highlighted the exciting new addition, which takes Champion into the arena of Marvel: Contest of Champions - an aptly titled, free-to-play card collecting fighter for iOS and Android. Its been around since the end of [2014], so it's taken a while for the true champ to enter the fight, but now that he's arriving he's bringing the power primordial to deliver some big time power-ups.

Champion of the Universe is never far from mind on Secret Wars on Infinite Earths. Though famous for fighting Thing on debut in Marvel Two-In-One Annual #7, The Champ has fought many powerful figures from the Marvel Universe! We've scratched the surface with Thor, who was actually the first Earth hero to battle Champion in his first appearance [see; Thor vs Champion of the Universe].

One of the things that makes a Champion fight interesting are the rules of conduct. As Thor learned, one does not simply swing wildly when challenging the champ! Ring rules played a major role when She-Hulk scored an upset victory in her now-classic rematch bout, as well. The Champion traditionally favours the art of boxing, but it looks like Contest is going more of a pro-wrestling route, with Newsarama reporting special moves like a dropkick, and press backbreaker.

Be sure to check out the featured fight links at the top of the page to get more familiar with the Champion of the Universe! Then stay ttuned to the main page, Twitter, Facebook, and the Secret Archive for future updates. We're overdue for another main event title contest!

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Sunday, November 11, 2018

There's no point beating around the bush: Hawkman is a bona fide badass! It was only natural he'd play a significant role on Secret Wars on Infinite Earths: he isn't just one of DC Comics' longest running icons -- he's one of their toughest! We couldn't let the first annual Hawkman Day go uncelebrated, so it's an all-Hawkman edition of famous fights in today's Cover to Cover!

Having been Chairman of the JSA and a charter member of the Justice League; Hawkman has been a part of every major era, facing down deadly threats with unique grit and determination! He doesn't win every fight, but you can always count on Hawkman to go down swinging! He's tested the mettle (and metal) of his trademark mace against some of the biggest threats the DCU has to over -- and even some of his toughest friends!

Hit the covers below to fly into featured fights with: Superman, Batman, Sinestro, Deathstroke, Doctor Fate, Solomon Grundy, Matter Master, Black Lanterns, and more! Be sure to visit our pal at Hawkworld to make every day Hawkman Day and learn more about the new Hawkman series discussed earlier in the year in Hero of the Week!

Behind The Covers:
1. HAWKMAN & CAPTAIN COMET vs SINESTRO: Secret Society of Super-Villains #5
2. DOCTOR FATE vs HAWKMAN: All-Star Squadron #4
3. HAWKMAN vs SUPERMAN: Justice League of America #200
5. HAWKMAN vs MATTER MASTER: Hawkman #23
6. HAWKMAN vs ST ROCH MONSTER: Hawkman #31
7. JUSTICE LEAGUE vs DEATHSTROKE: Identity Crisis #3