My hero can beat your hero

Mar 7, 2008

My hero can beat your hero

Mar 7, 2008

If that sounds anything like the age-old “my dad can beat you’re dad,” you’re on to something. They are kind of the same thing, except the dads are fictional, have superpowers, and the people having these discussions are not (usually) children, but grown men (almost exclusively) who use their extensive knowledge of the details of comic book fisticuffs to argue their respective points. Many online comic book forums even have a special section for these kinds of discussions, such as ComiXtreme’s The Arena.

I will readily admit that I don’t find these discussions particularly interesting, though I’ve come across one or two threads of this nature and for some masochistic reason found myself reading the whole thing. It’s usually at times like that I’m particularly greatful that the fans aren’t writing the books, leaving that instead to people who, for the most part, know what the heck they’re doing.

When it comes to Daredevil, one common match-up is Batman. With Daredevil often being referred to as Marvel’s Batman, this is not surprising. They also have a few things in common, such as being “dark,” low-powered (in Batman’s case without powers, but a mighty tool belt), and heavily reliant on skill rather than brute strength. These debates tend to get fairly heated as you also have the Marvel vs DC angle. The debate usually sounds something like this:

Daredevil fan: “Yeah, well Batman just has a bunch of gadgets. DD is a ninja!”

Batman fan: “So, it would take Batman two minutes to figure out that DD is blind and has heightened senses, and then he could just take him out with a hypersonic device.”

Daredevil fan: “How would he figure that out in two minutes. DD has fought villains X and Y so many times and they never figured it out.”

Batman fan: “Well, Batman is really smart.”

Daredevil fan: “But DD has hypersenses!”

And so the debate rages on endlessly. Because there can be no resolution. Daredevil and Batman will never meet. Oh, don’t get me wrong, they’ve had at least two cross-overs that I know of, but unless they come to life, battle it out somewhere and some lucky kid catches it on their camcorder and posts it on YouTube, we will never truly know.

Perhaps the people who would have Daredevil battle someone like Spider-Man and the Black Panther (the last “battle thread” I came across) are in better luck. At least they have more fights to go on, and we all know the incredible reliability of comic book history. Sometimes a scene from thirty years ago will be pulled out and scrutinized. Every angle will be considered, down to whether one of the characters may have had a bad day or possibly a hang-over. Anything that might taint the experiment must be considered.

There are two things that baffle me about this kind of discussion. The first is the readiness of readers to take anything a character has done and turn a particular event into solid evidence without any regard for whether a character has generally been consistently portrayed or not. Someone of this inclination might take Daredevil’s trip into space mentioned in my previous post as evidence that he would be an excellent astronaut, regardless of whether this particular feat is really in line with what we would expect from the character. In my view, for this kind of discussion to make any type of sense, abilities must be based on the smallest common denominator. Daredevil has generally been shown to be able to evade bullets (though exactly how he does this is probably still being debated in some other thread as we speak), and this can then be counted as one of his skills. He has also been shown to be able to be able to “look” through solid objects with his radar sense. I’m not particularly fond of this nonsensical ability, but it is one that has been part of the book for as long as it’s been in existence. By that criterion, that ability would count as well. However, by not taking into account that characters and their abilities can be wildly misrepresented, the whole argument becomes even more pointless than it already is, which brings me to my second point…

Who the *beep* cares? This is a particularly valid question for Daredevil fans. According to how their respective abilities have been portrayed – in the comics and in the Marvel Universe Handbook – there is no way that Daredevil should be able to beat Spider-Man. At this point, some poor Daredevil fan is bound to go “But Daredevil is a ninja with hypersenses!” So what? I’m a hardcore Daredevil fan. I have a blog devoted to the guy, for crying out loud. However, my appreciation for the character and the stories he has appeared in has nothing to do with whether or not he can defeat Spider-Man, Wolverine, the Taskmaster, Galactus or Dr Doom. In fact, I would even say that having Daredevil routinely defeating any of them would cheapen the character.

Because this all brings me to my final point, which is that all characters benefit from being consistently portrayed. Daredevil doesn’t have superhuman strength and shouldn’t be portrayed as if he did. This will of course render him less able to defeat someone significantly stronger than him (though he has, of course, been shown to do so on occasion through skill and wit). This is not a problem. From a storytelling perspective, limited characters are actually easier to work with, and get readers to relate to. To quote Joe Quesada regarding his views on a nearly omnipotent character like Dr Strange:

“[…]I’ve been looking for a great magic proposal that makes sense of our magic characters. If you look around comicdom you’ll notice that although there are some pretty popular magic based characters they all have trouble supporting an ongoing series. I can only speak for the Marvel characters but I think that’s because there are no solid rules that govern them.

In other words, you can place Dr. Strange in peril but it never really seems like much because at any moment he can cast a spell of crimson bands of what have you and he’s out. There are no rules to his universe and from a storytelling perspective that’s problematic. When you look at imaginary situations, worlds like the world of Toy Story or even Roger Rabbit have rules of their universe clearly define. Heck in Roger Rabbit it’s very clear how to kill a ‘toon, so the viewer gets the feeling that the characters can be placed in peril and have their back’s placed against the wall.

This is exactly what I’m looking for in regards to our magic characters. Rules that govern them. How do you kill Doctor Strange? How do you hurt him?”

At the end of the day, Daredevil is the “superhero next door.” He’s best portrayed when his world is one next door to our own, and his powers are incredibly but almost believable. The day Daredevil beats the Hulk to a pulp is the day I’ll stop being a fan, or – more likely – wait until the next writer to come along. Matt Murdock is just a guy in a suit who learned most of his skills the hard way, and I wish all of his fans could just accept him for what he is, not because he might be able to beat Spidey on a good day with just a little bit of luck.

The thumbnail image for this post (not visible in single post view), is by James Metcalf with colors by Jeff Balke and available for sale on the latter’s web site.


  1. Gloria

    I suppose it’s hard for fans to avoid the “who is stronger, the Thing or the Hulk?” type of questions, lol

    But to me the main thing isn’t whether DD can’t beat Spidey or is Marvel’s Batman (a gross oversimplification of two great characters!), the main thing for me is, whatever Matt’s strenghths and skills are, that good stories are written about him: and in this field, he’s been beating most any other superhero for years (and truly poor webcrawler doesn’t stand a chance against him: poor Peter!).

    And Matt’s got Foggy: one of the best non-powered sidekicks of comicsdom: I mean, poor Supes just haves Jimmy Olsen :p

  2. Franco

    You know I like to indulge in these comparisons from time to time :p.

    But I like to do it just to have some fun with my imagination, and also because “overcoming an opponent who outclasses him” is typical of Daredevil and part of the many reasons why I like the character.

    While, in the end, you can always say that the Hulk beats the Thing (because it would just be a battle of brute force, and Hulk is the stronger between the two, hands down), with “DD Vs someone” the whole “debate”, to me at least, becomes more provoking and stimulating.

    To me it isn’t so much a “Could DD beat this opponent” but rather a “How would DD face this opponent?”

    my two cents :p


  3. Christine

    Yes, F, I know you like these little comparisons as well. 😉 When kept at a reasonable level, I don’t particularly mind them either. It’s when some people in these threads actually discuss drawing angles from some twenty-year-old panel and discuss it as if where sold proof of something that could be objectively proven that it gets to be a little absurd. I’ve also noticed that these debates often get heated to the point where people become upset with each other. But it is a little funny, definitely. 😛

  4. Duane Thomas

    As you well know, Daredevil did indeed fight the Hulk once. I tell that to people and they laugh. They get pissed off. They say, “That’s ridiculous!” It’s like, “And what did they do for panel 2? That fight would have been over so fast….”

    They don’t believe me when I tell them it was great. Because DD knew he was so outclassed it wasn’t even funny. He knew he could easily be killed. Hell, one glancing backhanded blow from the Hulk broke his ribs and put him in the hospital for weeks. The entire “fight” was one not-terribly-long, desperate attempt just to survive. But he did it anyway, to help his friend, because he liked and cared for Bruce Banner, because he wanted to protect the innocents that the Hulk would have killed otherwise, and, as woefully vulnerable he was, as incredibly (no pun intended) outclassed as he was power-wise, he was the only guy around to do the job. So he did the job. He got his ass kicked. He was nearly killed. He was….magnificent.

  5. Andrew

    “They don’t believe me when I tell them it was great. Because DD knew he was so outclassed it wasn’t even funny. He knew he could easily be killed. Hell, one glancing backhanded blow from the Hulk broke his ribs and put him in the hospital for weeks. The entire “fight” was one not-terribly-long, desperate attempt just to survive. But he did it anyway, to help his friend, because he liked and cared for Bruce Banner, because he wanted to protect the innocents that the Hulk would have killed otherwise, and, as woefully vulnerable he was, as incredibly (no pun intended) outclassed as he was power-wise, he was the only guy around to do the job. So he did the job. He got his ass kicked. He was nearly killed. He was….magnificent.”

    Agreed, that scenario illustrates one of the reasons why I love the character so much (“the measure of a man is not in how he gets knocked to the mat. It is in how he gets back up”). It also plays into Christine’s point about a character being written consistently.

    • Christine

      Ha ha. I remember writing this post back when I still hung around the message boards. These days, I rarely do. The number of idiots is high enough to take away the fun of talking to all the nice people who enjoy a good discussion. I do, very rarely, post something on MWOF, but that’s about it.

      Anyway, back to the point at hand: It is nuts to measure Daredevil’s merit as a character by who he can and cannot beat up. He is a superhero, yes, but a low-powered one. Most fans of the character presumably enjoy his aspect of the character. I know some people want to have their cake and eat it too (i.e. they want him to be the little guy yet still always – paradoxically – end up on top), but I think it’s refreshing that he actually gets his ass kicked every once in a while. That is absolutely consistency in my book. 😉

  6. Greg

    I think Daredevil would win because he and Batman are both normal humans trained to the utmost extent possible for normal humans but Daredevil also has hypersenses.

  7. Duane Thomas

    Well, it’s hard to argue with that. 😀

  8. Eccentwrit


    I think Daredevil would beat Batman in a fight on average 75/25 in DD’s favor, but the moment Bats finds out Matt is blind, the fights would quickly spiral into 50/50 odds.

    Both characters are clever and incorporate that into their fighting, and I think that is part of what makes them appealing characters. Personally, I would love to see them duke it out just so I could see Bruce and Matt trying to outwit each other and having to awkwardly adjust their fighting strategies to compensate for the other guy trying to get the drop on them.

    I don’t know, I think I’d be interesting. For me the whole X could beat Y isn’t so much could X beat Y, but how will X beat Y and what will Y do about it? It’s especially interesting for DD, because (correct me if I’m wrong)not a lot of villains who know DD is blind ever use his hypersenses against him. I don’t think Batman would be afraid to use that to his advantage, and it’d be cool to see Matt go up against someone who uses every advantage to their advantage.

  9. mike

    Batman sucks. DD could beat him 10 times out of 10.

  10. evfleischer

    *Shrug* I’m writing a Batman-DD crossover at the moment. I do have them scuffle, but it ends in a draw. Neither one actually wants the fight. It happens pretty much like this.

    Backstory: Bruce Wayne is in New York on Wall Street for some business convention and slips away to do what he does best. He returns and changes back into civvies in an empty office. The office is in a restricted area of the office tower. While Batman is too good to get caught on film changing in room, a stray camera does catch him leaving the restricted area. Meanwhile, someone hacks one of the computers in that wing and since Bruce hasn’t got an alibi, he’s a suspect. Police question him, he’s released on his own recognizance and urged to hire a lawyer. He goes to Nelson and Murdock. Matt immediately realizes that Bruce isn’t being totally truthful and, after Bruce sticks to his story, Matt kicks him out—but resolves to check out the Wall Street firm after hours as Daredevil. Meanwhile, Bruce decides that Batman will do the same thing. So…

    1. DD is in the darkened office, when Batman breaks in with his burglar tools. He knows it’s Bruce immediately from the heartbeat, but his radar sense also picks up on the cape and cowl. He’s not sure whether Bruce is a hero or a villain—if he’s never seen a picture of Batman, there’s no reason he would know. He hears the whine of Batman’s night vision lenses and immediately turns on the light.

    2. I will admit that I overplay Batman’s Gotham-centricity AND take advantage of one difference between the DCU and the Marvel U. In the DCU, the vast majority of heroes have their own cities, towns, turfs, etc. In the Marvel U, it’s gotten a bit better, but it usually seems like 95% of the heroes and villains are based in NY. While Batman WOULD have done his research before coming to NY, the sheer volume of costumed crimefighters and criminals in the greater NY area, coupled with the fact that, at the moment, he’s seeing mostly spots, means that he doesn’t recognize DD as one of the good guys necessarily. He knows how it must appear, his breaking and entering, but since talking and explaining himself aren’t usually his strong points, he pretty much tells DD he’s got no quarrel with him and to stay out of it. Naturally, DD won’t.

    3. Brief spar. Batman flings batarangs. DD evades, strikes with billy-clubs. One of the windows gets smashed, triggering the alarm. Since neither man wants to be caught on the premises, Batman uses a pressure-point strike that temporarily paralyzes DD’s right arm and tags him with a tracer. Both manage to get out of the building and head off in different directions. With the alarm still ringing in his ear, DD loses track of Batman. Once the sound stops and the pressure point strike wears off, he hears the tracer’s signal, flicks the thing off and crushes it under his boot heel. “Nice try, Mr. Wayne… but no cigar.”

  11. geb

    ha.. so funny.. I too just had to sit thru a couple of those deadbates, many years ago.. so true that it cheapens, and is totally pointless.. so much so that i wished to add that sometimes, even the opposite holds.. case in point below.. at the beginning it read semi norm.. but after the anger it was raging and all pretenses of gentlemanship flew..

    one was wolverine aaannd??.. oh yes, tarzan.. you’re so right that it’s truly unreal what you hear..

    i think i can recall something along:

    tarzan would drop on the puppy from the tallest tree with the timing precision of his aminal skils and runum thru the heart with his knife before hed blink (spelling errors and all after it got heated and fast typed)

    wolverin would sense him coming cuz hes gut the higher mutant animal sense and impail him one handedly up in mid air right under his chin right thru his top skull..

    howdydedodat if tarzan gut the strength of a gorillas that raised um up huh.. you understand that?.. if in eva youd raed youd no even the smaler chimp male maturated can has the streangth of between 3 to even 4 times the strenghts of the even strogest mans, if its a honcho chimp.. huh stupid?

    raed? you? you mean read you dumb pha(%? so what, if you read youd now the wolverine can steal the foods from 4 or even 5 of a pack a wolfs and they don tik with um.. and hell even tangle with a bear over food, yea its in documented that its even killed a polarbaer.. so hows tarzan gonna chimp his way around the wolverine huh chump?

    wit the combinational masses of those 2 dimandz contained within just that little 70 lb chimps sac waying close too twice of that has a 200 lbs mans sac.. you idiot.. so imagin a gurrrila. wolverine ha! hed be bent an over with impregnation hed be yea.. you dumb @!#$%..

    yor a crazy $%#&^%$ so stupid no way could any man ever take wolverine cuz…. (blah blah and so on)..

    forgive me if it is a bit crude.. i tried to tone it down as much as possible.. but it was just.. so.. funny.. haha, that i just hahad to relay..

    in the end sounding like uneducated wiggs..

    an example of the opposite prevailing.. a case where they both had valid info to a point.. (the chimp does indeed, but the gorilla is in fact 1/4 that of aforementioned.. and the wolverine is one of the most tenacious especially from a power/weight ratio but.. in sits like meeting the hulk, well, to a point).. but it came down to it being so ridiculously funny that it mattered not because of as previously noted above, its not so easy to standardize something without all the data..

    i mean, some (here) get a molossoid type (bull-terrier or bigger such) for whatever reason, but if they are bad, we have the avg farm collie (well, a gd one to be fair) that has set the other type taking to heels or ripped it if not.. and again, the reverse is true.. so cannot generalize somethings..

    anyway, thought it funny to hear similar experiences..

    yes this site’s the coolest site.. who the “beep” cares.. so funny.. much fun .. thanks


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