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Today’s Six by 6 sprang out of a recent post Comics Reporter Tom Spurgeon did on five of his favorite superhero fights. It’s a pretty excellent list and made me want to come up with my own, though I thought I might see if I could expand it a bit by staying away from the superhero genre and moving into other realms. What great fights could I find in the world of manga or alt-comix, I wondered?
Turns out I didn’t have to look too far. I should note though that this list is by no means definitive — it’s simply a list of six comic book battles that I like a whole lot. I’ve probably forgotten some. Actually I’ve probably forgotten plenty. Feel free to let me know what I’ve overlooked in the comments section.
1. Popeye vs. Bluto. The animosity that spawned a thousand or so animated cartoons began in E.C. Segar’s comic strip in 1932, where the spinach-eating sailor faced off against a then burly pirate who evenly matched Popeye in strength and ferocity. The battle lasted about two weeks and reached such a fever pitch that it became almost an abstract arrangement of slashing lines. Popeye socked a lot of folks in the strip and some of them even socked back rather hard, but none of them were as ferocious as this one was.
2. Captain Easy vs. Slugg. Though Fantagraphics has only just begun reprinting the work of Roy Crane, I was first introduced to his work in that seminal coffee-table tome, The Smithsonian Collection of Newspaper Comics. In a lengthy sequence from the daily Wash Tubbs and Captain Easy strip, Tubbs and Easy are shanghied aboard a whaling vessel ruled by a brutal hook-handed first mate named Slugg. The whole thing comes to a climax with Easy battling the now-insane Slugg aboard the burning ship. It one of the most memorable sequences in a book that’s full of memorable sequences, and sold me forever on Crane’s genius
3. Knives Chau vs. Ramona Flowers. It seems ridiculous to have a list like this and not include something from Bryan Lee O’Malley’s epic video game/anime/romance mash-up. It’s hard to pick just one sequence here, so I’m going to go out of left field and pick the library battle between Knives and Ramona in Volume 2, partly because it has some of my favorite bits of dialogue (“My name is Knives Chau and I’m a Scottaholic”) and mainly because I just love the way O’Malley paces out the fight. There are a lot of great battles in Scott Pilgrim, but this is one of my favorites.
4. Hellboy vs. the Hectate. “You’re very, very ugly and you have a giant snake body.” So says Hellboy while rejecting the advances of a rather evil supernatural figure in as violent a manner as possible. As with Scott Pilgrim, there’s a seemingly infinite number of great fight scenes to choose from in Mike Mignola’s Hellboy series. I picked this one just cause I love Hellboy’s banter and the way Mignola draws snake ladies.
5. Ogami Itto vs. a lot of ninjas and Retsudo. Kazuo Koike and Goeski Kojima’s Lone Wolf and Cub makes a lot of claims to being about honor and integrity, but really it’s about disgraced samurai executioner Ogami Itto killing a whole lotta people. It all comes to a head in the final two volumes of the 28-book manga, with Itto facing wave after wave of deadly killers before finally squaring off against Retsudo, the man who framed him. It’s a tense, relentless finale that serves as a fitting capstone to the bloody saga.
6. Sangrecco vs. everybody. Rafael Grampa came roaring out of the gate with the release of Mesmo Delivery, a high-octane, gory short story that revolves around two big fight sequences, the first involving a burly truck driver and a collection of oddball hicks; the second featuring the trucker’s traveling companion, a ruthless killer named Sangrecco, who proceeds to lay the afore-mentioned hicks to waste with a pair of knives. It’s easily the most violent and gruesome entry on this list, but no less thrilling or mesmerizing because of it.