Robot 6

Six by 6 | Six great non-superhero comic book fights

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.

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45 Comments

Simon DelMonte

March 4, 2011 at 10:28 am

I think of Hellboy and Popeye as being almost superheroes. The former straddles the line depending on the story and the era, the latter has that pesky spinach-fueled superpower.

I agree. Many comic historians usually note that Popeye, not Superman, was the “first” superhero in American comics and comic strips.

Which volume of the new Fantagraphic collections did that Pluto fight take place in? I just got vol 3 (for 8 bucks! NATCH!) but I haven’t had time to read it yet.

Damn, MESMO DELIVERY. Ridiculous!

Lone Wolf and Cub — Greatest. Ending. Ever.

What? No “Darth Vader vs anybody”? No mention of the awesome fight between Nixon and the Willeford corporation from Frank Miller’s Hard Boiled? Or how about just about any trade of the Blade of the Immortal…

I hear “non-superhero fights” and I think Sin City, Shaolin Cowboy, and Jonah Hex

Musashi vs. 70 Yoshioka samurai in vol. 26-27 of Vagabond (It takes up most of two volumes).

1. Hard Boiled– the fist-fight in issue #2…

2. There’s a good fight in that Tardi book, West Coast Blues. More that it’s kind of neat how its staged than that the fight itself is great on its own terms, but I’d still count it…

3. That old lady character fighting the rat creatures in Bone– I want to say there’s a fight in the first third, though that book’s more about the chase scenes…

4. Is One Piece a superhero comic? Well, if Hellboy isn’t… Maybe that fight early on in One Piece where they meet Usopp and fight off the people on his island? I remember that being pretty great…

5. Gantz… the “Jurassic Park” fights, maybe, were the highpoint there…

6. Lunge meeting Tenma for the first time in Monster. I haven’t read Yawara but I remember that as being his most satisfying action sequence, all around.

7. Enid Coleslaw vs. the Ninjas in Ghost World. (If you think about it, despair is the Ultimate Ninja).

Transformers should be in here, somewhere. What was the best fight in Transformers comics that I can think of… I know that there was at least one, somewhere in the series.

I’d probably nominate “All of the Transformers vs Unicron” in issue #75 of the Marvel series; presumably that counts, if “Ogami Itto vs a bunch of Ninjas” counts.

Oh, and is Street Angel a superhero? Because speaking of great fights with a bunch of ninjas…

Popeye cannot be beat. Jus look at that!

Having just re-read it, the Jesse/Cassidy fight from the final arc of Preacher is one of my all-time favorites. Ennis and Dillon at their best.

Great picks!

I also thought of Blade of the Immortal.

And what about Johnny Ryan’s Prison Pit?

I got ahold of the smithsonian book last year and upon first browse hit on the above mentioned roy crane fight. it makes me feel like every other comic is terrible and i should just read that one over and over.

My all time favorite fight: Kaneda versus Tetsuo. Love how Kaneda doesn’t care that Tetsuo’s transformed into a god. He just cold cocks him like the bitch he is.

How about:

Snoopy vs. The Red Baron? A fine example of Schulz’s pacing, and you never had to see the second combatant on the page!

And, since webcomics are my thing: MS Paint Adventures’ Problem Sleuth vs. Demonhead Mobster King — taking up pretty much half of the entire narrative and getting more overpowered and ridiculous with each passing page.

Martin Costello

March 4, 2011 at 3:29 pm

Slaine and Elfric at the battle of Clontarf in Slaine: Time Killer. Epic!

Nah chill son.

Preacher: Jesse vs Jody was the best fight in that series and one of the best fights in a comic book of any kind, EVER. Sorry dudes.

Also: Popeye is not at all a superhero. Serious? He’s a pulp character and superheroes are a pulp genre, but just because he’s a dude in a comic doing incredible things doesn’t make him a superhero. Intention matters. Retroactively fitting works to fit a contemporary framing is bad history.

I’m sure a Jaime wrestling sequence should be on this list, but which one…?

Chris Mautner

March 4, 2011 at 6:07 pm

Great suggestions here. I had considered Whoa Nellie, Akira, Gantz and Hard Boiled when putting this list together. Only reason I didn’t include them was I couldn’t find my copies easily.

I don’t really think of Popeye or Hellboy as superheroes per se despite their fantastic powers, though I suppose I can see how some people want to include them under that umbrella.

that doyle vs. borneo fight in L&R Vol. 2 was pretty great; a friend of mine called me and left me a message like they were two real-life dudes we knew who fought

i like that fight in bone where Jeff builds up that one-armed city guardsman to be a big badass and then… well…

Nice to see some old newspaper strips getting some play here, but if you’re delving into that area you missed the big one.

Prince Valiant alone on the bridge against a horde of Vikings. First time he uses the Singing Sword and the thing Kirby himself used as a motif for every rumble scene he’s ever drawn.

Seriously. It’s iconic and set the bar for everything that came after.

yeah, that prince valiant scene is awesome

I liked Cerebus/Cirin when I first read it, but I haven’t read it since it came out

This list is completely invalidated by the complete lack of Atomic Robo fights. And it is a post on a ROBOT 6 blog.

I don’t think the list is all-inclusive, so nothing was in fact omitted. It is just Six Great Non-Superhero Fights. Not “The Only Great Non-Superhero Fights in the History of the World!!!!” That said, it’s fun to read some addition fights that other people have enjoyed.

Guts vs Griffith (Berserk)

Magatsu vs Shira (Blade of the Immortal)

” Having just re-read it, the Jesse/Cassidy fight from the final arc of Preacher is one of my all-time favorites. Ennis and Dillon at their best. ”

Strongly agrees. Excluding that fight from this sort of list is criminal. :P

Would also include, in the one-sided and hilariously-depraved category, Mr. Hyde vs. the Invisible Man in League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.

Yes, Ivan, because a guy who blogs on a blog about comics and pretty much spends all his time reading comics is clearly unqualified to put together a list of six comic fights he happens to like.

Martin Costello

March 5, 2011 at 1:22 pm

Global Frequency #10 Superviolence. I still think about the fight in that story years on!

One of my favs have to be Ki-itchi!!:
When Ki-itchi’s in gym class and catches a classmate being bullied he proceeds to not just beat the crap out of the three girls doing the bullying but the entire class including the teacher and his friend for not doing anything to stop the bullies.

I think it’s funny that people are subconsciously putting the words “best” or “top” or “greatest” or whatever when they read that title. Either that, or they think their opinion is so important that they get offended when something doesn’t line up with it.

Guts vs. Zodd (Berserk)

Kenshin vs. Jin’e (Rurouni Kenshin)

Musashi vs. Baiken (Vagabond)

Negi vs. Rakan (Magical Teacher Negima)

3rd Hokage vs. Orochimaru (Naruto)

Gon vs. Knuckle (Hunter x Hunter)

Ivan the Terrible has been vanquished.

I also agree with the Jesse/Cassidy fight from Preacher.

Spurgeon’s right about Cerebus v. Cirin. Brutal and epic — it’s the best fight scene I’ve ever read, in or out of the supes genre.

Some other good’uns that I haven’t seen mentioned yet:

–any time the good guys go up against the (seemingly unkillable) demon Jei in Usagi Yojimbo. I’m seriously worried that s/he’s going to kill Gen some day.

–also in Usagi, the duel at Kitanoji

–the Great Outdoor Fight (albeit it’s not very visually impressive)

–the Saint of Killers versus two goddamn armies

–Billy Hazelnuts versus the house cat in the most recent BH book. It’s the dialogue that sells it: “I’ll rip out your vitals, you monstrosity!/I will break you down to your most basic elements!”

–The boxing match between Little Nemo and Flip, a pivotal fight in the development of the strip

–Herbert, Duke of Craftiwich versus anything coloured green

–And, what the hell, Ignatz v. Krazy. Zip!

Also, the utterly nuts siege/fight in the first volume of Bakune Young.

What always gets my goose about these lists is that it’s always nothing but North American comics (and I’d count Hellboy a superhero, but hey). And one manga. It’s the author’s perogative, of course, but when I read a title that claims to be about comics in general, and only find North American culture and one incredibly popular import, I feel a bit cheated. There’s one mention of Tardi, and it’s in the comments and about a comic he did specifically for the American market. Now, the European comics industry is basically in the hands of the French, and they’re absolutely disastrous when it comes to translating and exporting, but it’s not like it isn’t there. And a great comic fight list without Asterix & Obelix just seems empty, whichever way you put it.

I’m a big fan of Bone’s first Gran’ma Ben vs. the Rat Creatures fight.

Also, the spinach in Popeye wasn’t present in the comic, at least not back in the early days (it was an animation addition). Popeye is just really, really tough. That’s his thing. He’s a fighting stevedore.

Chris Mautner

March 6, 2011 at 8:16 am

PIet — Asterix was on my short list, but for reasons that I’ve since forgotten I opted not to include it.

” 3rd Hokage vs. Orochimaru (Naruto) ”

Another great choice. Sarutobi was the most badass of badass grandpas.

Piet, West Coast Blues (AKA Le petit bleu de la côte ouest) was NOT “specifically for the American market”! It was published in France in 2005, quite a few years before the US publication, and it’s an adaptation of a novel by french writer Jean-Patrick Manchette.

If Tardi produced comics for the US market, I’m sure he would be starving…

Rafael Grampa made the most innovative and original fight scene of the decade.

One of my favorites: the “handcuff fight” between Marv and Kevin in Frank Miller’s Sin City: The Hard Goodbye. Absolutely brutal, right down to the last bloody splash page.

@ Pedro

Sorry about that. I must have confused it with something else. I haven’t kept up, lately.

And on the second part, I don’t know. I think he might be of interest to indie comics readers. Especially his style should speak to them.

I’d probably nominate “All of the Transformers vs Unicron” in issue #75 of the Marvel series; presumably that counts, if “Ogami Itto vs a bunch of Ninjas” counts.

@Wraith. I agree that TF #75 was awesome. Remember how Unicron grabbed Brainstorm like a gnat and then ate him. Then Skorponok got melted while attacking Unicron’s foot. And I remember there was a big esplosion where if you looked close you could make out specific characters getting blown to pieces. And it was drawn by Geoff Senior so it looked like a robot horror movie. I loved that issue when I was a kid. TF #76 featured all different characters from the issues before because all the main characters from before were dead, including optimus.

And there’s my geekout for the day.

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