Mismatched power levels and durability in comic book fight scenes

In comic books, there are often fight scenes where one opponent is vastly superior in strength – let’s say, Thor, the Hulk, the Thing, or Iron Man (who can all knock buildings down easily) fighting Captain America, who is only a little bit superstrong, not too much above normal human level. Cap has his energy-absorbing shield, but others at about his level or below (Hawkeye or Black Widow, maybe) have no such protection. One good hard hit from the big bruisers listed above should utterly pulverize these comparative weaklings!

Now, usually in comics, everybody – or at least all the good guys – survives the altercation, despite the inherent dangers of fighting somebody who could knock down a building. I’m looking for examples where that doesn’t happen, and somebody winds up splattered or dismembered during the fight.

I have this vague recollection of an evil version of Superboy decapitating a female character, I think in the 1990s. I’m sure there are others – I think the Hulk has pulled opponents apart, before.

Can anyone provide me with specific examples?

Yeah, Superboy Prime punched Pantha’s head off as well as ripped off the arm of another hero:

Didn’t Doomsday wreck someone as well during the Death of Superman arc?

Thanos killed lots o’ heroes when he got the Infinity Gauntlet. Fortunately, they got better.

The Ultimate version ripped Wolverine apart in the aptly titled “Ultimate Wolverine vs. Hulk” miniseries.

What happens when Wolverine gets torn in half like that? Do both parts regenerate, like an earthworm? Could be an interesting premise for a story.

Taskmaster is an Olympic-level athlete who can emulate anyone’s physical skills: a circus acrobat, an expert marksman, a professional quarterback, you name it; he sees a feat done once, and it’s like a photographic memory for his muscles.

Anyhow, he knew that a pissed-off Sue Storm was coming for him in CIVIL WAR, and he was well-armed, and he – stood absolutely no chance. I mean, she’s Sue Storm! Who cares how good a shot you are against an invisible force field? Who cares how well you can sidestep if she’s slamming an invisible force field down on the whole area around you?

Would it be safe to assume that the bruisers like Hulk, Thor etc. might be pulling their punches a bit? Atleast in the fights against weaker heroes that survive the fights.

We all know Superman holds back a lot, but what about the other guys?

Heh. IRREDEEMABLE was, basically,* “what if Superman couldn’t handle the pressure and cracked?”* So the opening pages of IRREDEEMABLE #1 involved the big guy deciding to kill his world’s equivalent of Batman, an athletic sleuth with body armor and police training; and, again, this is someone who knows exactly what’s going to happen, and is scrambling as best as he can in the face of it – but, hey, he’s up against someone who can kill you by looking at you, so the fight’s over.

She-Hulk once ripped the Vision in half. Mr. Hyde raped the Invisible Man to death in LOEG. Ragnarok (Clone Thor) killed Giant Man (Bill Foster) with a fake Mjolnir. Outside of mainstream Marvel/DC continuity, there are plenty of scenes from The Boys, Marshal Law and Brat Pack worth considering. Also, Kingdom Come.

This happens A LOT in Invincible. Heroes and villains are routinely pummeled, bloodied, smashed, squashed, disemboweled, beheaded, and ripped in two. Some of them live.

That was great! Love it!


Some of them more than once. Abe Lincoln does not fucking stay down!

That’s nothing.
In the Old Man Logan miniseries, the Hulk eats him…then he reconstitutes insides Hulk’s body and rips him apart from the inside.

Holy Halibut! I hadn’t heard of that one!

(I haven’t collected comics since 2007. And my memory is fading about specific fight scenes from the era that I was a comic book junkie – 1971 to 2005, or thereabouts.)

A thread from a while back covering some of the same territory. To quote me, “JLA: THE NAIL … the for-want-of-a-nail story that asks, hey, what if Jon Kent’s pickup truck had a flat tire the day Kal-El’s rocket landed in that Kansas wheatfield? So the Justice League keeps squaring off against superpowered foes without their signature blocking back looking out for his squishy human teammates, which means we see Green Arrow wind up confined to a wheelchair after one particularly brutal fight sure as Batman gets beaten to a pulp in another, plus Hawkman dies early on – oh, and Robin and Batgirl get ripped apart for much the same reason, and as for the Metal Men – well, look, it just gets ugly, is all I’m saying.”

I didn’t mention it at the time, but the Flash goes up against a killer android; the Flash isn’t big on using lethal force, but, hey, robot, right? So cue one electronic brain yanked out of one metal body – with the implication that he can do it to flesh-and-blood ones whenever he pleases, but he’s usually just a darned nice guy.

I think you could make an argument for nearly everyone in many superpowered universes having some degree of enhanced damage resistance, even if they don’t have “powers”. We see too many people with no explicit invulnerability powers walk away from things that would have been fatal, or at least crippling, to a normal human from our world. Just for starters, there’s all those inertia-defying mid-air rescues. What happened to Gwen Stacy was apparently a freak occurrence; it’s “normal” for metaverse people to be uninjured after falling great distances, then having their momentum abruptly revectored.

Metas and mutants demonstrate it to an even greater degree. How many times have we seen a blaster-type–say, Cyclops–slammed into a wall hard enough to break boards and leave a hero-shaped dent? Or smashed through a floor, falling to the next floor below? That represents a serious impact, possibly with sharp debris mixed in, and Cyclops doesn’t have any explicit resistance or recuperative powers. Yet he pulls himself loose, shakes his head, and charges back into the fight. He’s obviously not a glass cannon.

Wally has his enthusiasms: “Robots! I love smashing robots!”

Of course, that sort of impossible toughness isn’t unique to Superhero comics - most action films feature protagonists who are, when you get right down to it, supernaturally resilient. When people talk about Steve Rogers being “peak human,” the important thing to remember is that the baseline human in the Marvel universe is basically John McClane.

Wait, what???

League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, volume 2, issue 5. There’s quite a bit of backstory if you’re not familiar with it.

Still, it neatly qualifies: an invisible guy goes up against someone who has both inhuman strength and the ability to see the invisible. Not even a fight, really.

Incidentally, SQUADRON SUPREME sometimes gets mentioned along with WATCHMEN and DKR – never in a flattering way, but, y’know, still. Anyhow, the year-long series builds up to a final-issue clash, and, yeah. What happens to an archer hero in a fight when supers are zipping around? He dies. What happens to a Batman type? He dies. What happens when you challenge a Green Lantern type and he stops holding back? You die. Is a Flash type running around at high speeds? Yeah, he’ll be fine; the guy he collides with, not so much. Wait, was there also a Penguin type on the battlefield? Hahaha, that’s hilarious; he’s dead faster than you can say “punctured lung.”