The 20 heroes in today’s showdown are the mightiest of the mighty, beings with almost god-like invincibility. But all of their nearly limitless power doesn’t guarantee them victory in a battle of cool-ness. So without further ado:
The most powerful heroes in their respective universes, the Man of Steel and the God of Thunder share many powers in common: super strength, invulnerability, flight, etc. Debuting in 1938, Superman is the first-ever superhero and historically one of the most popular and enduring. His track record is spotty, however, with at least as many groan-inducing stories as thrilling ones. And his recent screen history is absolutely abysmal. In some ways, Thor is even older, as the character is rooted in prehistoric Germanic tradition, but as a Marvel superhero he only dates back to 1962. Comic-book Thor takes a hit for using ridiculously over-the-top, faux-Shakespearean language in many of his depictions (like his co-creator Stan Lee), but gets a big bump up for his recent movie, which was fun from start to finish. Winner: Superman. Thor is trending up, and Asgard definitely beats Krypton, but Superman is one of the biggest icons in the world.
Contest #2: Captain Marvel (DC) vs. The Incredible Hulk (Marvel)
Captain Marvel is a little boy who turns into a full-sized adult Superman rip-off when he utters the magic word, “Shazam!” The Hulk is a Dr. Jekyll rip-off who turns into a giant, barely controllable green monster when he gets angry. Winner: Hulk smash!
Contest #3: Captain Atom (DC) vs. The Sentry (Marvel)
Two more Superman clones, Captain Atom harnesses the power of the “Quantum Field” to do just about anything he wants, and was the inspiration for the Watchmen’s Doctor Manhattan. The Sentry harnesses the power of “one million exploding suns” to do just about anything he wants, including wearing the gaudiest belt buckle of any superhero. Winner: Captain Atom.
Contest #4: The Spectre (DC) vs. Professor Charles Xavier (Marvel)
The Spectre is the “Spirit of Vengeance,” said to be the one who does God’s dirty work, such as slaughtering the Egyptian first-born during the Passover story in the Bible. Professor X is the world’s most powerful telepath. Both can see into men’s souls and seem to pull new levels of power out of thin air as needed, although only the Spectre is portrayed as really having limitless power. Professor X was portrayed by Patrick Stewart, who is pretty badass, but the Spectre has the better costume and resumé (employer: almighty God). Winner: The Spectre.
Contest #5: Supergirl (DC) vs. Captain Marvel (Marvel)
Supergirl is Superman’s cousin and was invented at a time when DC was giving us super monkeys, dogs, horses and so many other preposterous “supers” that you’d think Krypton never exploded. Throughout most of her history, Supergirl has been pretty silly. However, in recent years, DC has taken pains to make her more interesting (and I’m not just talking about her new, bare-midriff look). Like Supergirl and her famous cousin, Marvel’s Captain Marvel (real name Mar-Vell) is an alien, and he has Superman-like powers thanks to the cosmic technology in his “Nega-Band” wristbands. Captain Marvel featured in several great storylines featuring a war between the alien Kree (his people) and Skrull empires. However, as a character, he has never really seemed to click. Winner: Supergirl.
Contest #6: Superboy (DC) vs. Hercules (Marvel)
A teenage clone of Superman on the one hand, and an ancient Greek demigod turned superhero (a la Thor) on the other. Neither of these really work as well as the great superheroes they’re modeled after. Winner: Superboy.
Contest #7: Big Barda (DC) vs. Beta Ray Bill (Marvel)
These are two of the more colorful supporting characters. Big Barda is an immortal warrior from the planet Apokalips, where she was trained by the forces of evil but defected to the good guys. Beta Ray Bill is a genetically modified alien who defeated Thor in a fair fight. In an unexpected twist, this strange alien proved worthy of wielding Thor’s magic hammer, and gained all of Thor’s powers. He eventually got a magic hammer of his own. Winner: Beta Ray Bill.
Contest #8: Orion (DC) vs. Black Bolt (Marvel)
In Jack Kirby’s “New Gods” series, Orion is son of the evil Darkseid, who rejected his father’s ways and became the greatest champion of New Genesis. He is immortal, possesses Superman-like powers and uses powerful alien artifacts. Black Bolt is the ruler of the Inhumans, a secret society of super beings created by Kirby with Stan Lee. He is not invincible like Orion, but is very powerful and mysterious: he can manipulate energy, deliver a devastating attack known as the “Master Blow,” and a single whisper from him can level a building. Winner: Black Bolt.
Contest #9: Mary Marvel (DC) vs. Ms. Marvel (Marvel)
Mary Marvel is a female version of Captain Marvel (the DC one), the superhero alter ego of Mary Baston, twin sister of Billy Baston, who transforms into Captain Marvel. Like Supergirl, she suffers from a long history of silly storylines. Ms. Marvel is a female version of Captain Marvel (the Marvel one), a human woman who obtained similar powers to Mar-Vell from a Kree device. She actually turns out to be a little more interesting and enduring than the hero she’s based on. Winner: Ms. Marvel.
Contest #10: Power Girl (DC) vs. She-Hulk (Marvel)
Power Girl is apparently a version of Superman’s cousin Supergirl from an alternate reality that has since ceased to exist. She-Hulk is the cousin of the Hulk, who has been similarly transformed, but stays permanently in her muscular, green state, which is considerably shapelier and less monstrous than her cousin’s. She also retains her full mental faculties and even practices law in her green form. Winner: She-Hulk.
Round one score: All tied up – DC 5, Marvel 5.