I’m not here to undersell the storytelling in comics. I love the well-written stuff like Watchmen or Sandman. But one thing I do love from comics is the action, and that’s why I’m writing this article. This is my personal analysis of the best fighters in superhero comics. Now, keep in mind, the opinions stated are my own, and if you disagree, I welcome your comments (so long as it’s civil). Secondly, this is not a countdown. Thirdly, I’m going to attempt to figure out real-world martial arts that may actually be in use here. And finally, if your favorite superhero isn’t here, it doesn’t mean they’re not a good fighter, I just think these are the ones who have a legitimate style to it.
Might as well get the big guy out of the way. We all know Superman’s powers by this point. Almost invulnerable, superhuman strength, can fly, he’s got it all. So, what makes him a good fighter? Well, like all the heroes on this list, it’s a combination of his powers and his ability to adapt those powers and learn how to use them. Initially, Superman could just be seen as taking the easy way, relying on brute force and heat vision. In fact, this is one complaint I have about Frank Miller’s depictions of the Man of Steel. As demonstrated in his battles with Doomsday, Mongul and Imperiex, Superman may be strong, but he’s not always the strongest one in the fight. Since distance fighting is easily accomplished with heat vision, it’s a matter of determining his striking and grappling styles. And as I’ve never seen Superman do a lot of kicks, I’m guessing good old western boxing is the groundwork of his combat style. And while he has been known to put a submission hold on a foe a few times, when it comes to grappling he always tends to just lift the guy and toss him. As such, I’m guessing either Greco-Roman wrestling or Freestyle Wrestling.
Now this one is a toughie to figure out. First off, I’m going to say that the Hulk is most likely (at least potentially) the physically strongest one on this list. This is due to his anger being the source of his powers, and if he continues to get angry, he’ll just get stronger. Another factor to consider is that his size can alter based on said rage. The final factor to consider is which of the many personalities of the Hulk is the one fighting. Regardless of which Hulk it is, there’s that super strength to worry about, as well as the fact that he can heal from injuries that other people would call fatal. Hulk’s also shown an ability to adapt his strength in new ways, the prime example being his trademark Thunderclap (which is just him clapping his hands so hard it makes a massive boom and sends shockwaves that knocks people and tanks in the air). Now, if you happen to just be fighting the Savage Green Hulk, or the Grey Hulk known as Joe Fixit, you can expect brawler style boxing. If you face the Green Scar (what the Hulk became during the Planet Hulk storyline) you have another matter entirely. This Hulk not only knows how to fight strategically, he also is versed in combat with weaponry like swords, axes and the like. And believe me, if there was such a creature armed with a sword, there may not be enough pieces left when he’s down with you.
During the Marvel event called Civil War, Spider-Man described Cap’s style as not being made up of several different moves, but one continuous flow to get you right where he wants you. Steve Rogers’ origins states that his powers are being in peak physical condition. Initially, I wrote Cap off as just being in really good shape, until further reading showed that he’s in peak condition all the time! That means that he’s always at the highest limits of natural human potential. You can train a man to be the most agile he can be, or the strongest, or the fastest. Cap is all of those together with no weaker side to him. This peak condition thing also means that his body does not create the lactic acids that causes fatigue like the rest of us. Cap may not be the strongest in the Marvel Universe, but he’s got one of the highest chances of winning due to not being able to get tired. On record, he’s been able to run a mile in a little over a minute and lift 1100 pounds. That’s what the human body is capable of at its best. And with the shield providing good defense and offense, he’s set to fight anyone. Style-wise, Cap fights with a combination of Judo, western boxing, kickboxing and gymnastics into his own specialized style. However, he is also a master of many other martial arts. When it comes to barehanded fighting, Captain America is one of the second dangerous men on this list.
We all know this guy and his powers. Adamantium skeleton and claws, enhanced regenerative healing factors, it’s very obvious why he’s a great fighter. That said, he’s also a master of virtually every martial art, armed and unarmed. So, you want to know what styles he uses the most? Well, given his predilection for Japan, I’d say it’d make sense for him to use styles like Karate, Jujutsu, Aikido, and the swordsman styles of Kenjutsu and Iaijutsu. But with his claws and his down-and-dirty style showcased in the films, I’m going to throw in the Filipino martial art of Escrima which often utilized close-distance blade weapons like knives to take down a foe.
Peter Parker’s greatest advantages in a fight, more than his strength and speed, were three things: his intelligence, will and the spider-sense. More than any other character, Spidey will never give up. And this list is filled with characters who never will stop, but Spidey is the image I picture when I think of a man on his last ounce of strength still standing up to fight when he has little chance of winning. Prior to the recent loss of his spider-sense, he tended to utilize what is referred to as a freestyle martial art, which allows him to use all his advantages against an opponent and also continue to learn new things to add to his style. With the recent sacrifice of his spider-sense, Spidey has taken to learning Kung Fu from Marvel’s martial master Shang-Chi, aka Iron Fist, and he did spend his time among the Avengers learning martial arts from Captain America himself. If you want to think of a realistic approach to Spider-Man’s style, I recommend the freestyle approach to learning all sorts of martial arts, but don’t forget styles that help train agility like Kung Fu/Wushu and the non-martial discipline of Parkour to help you develop that speed and agility.
Do I really have to explain this guy? Style stats-wise, Bruce Wayne spent his time training around the world for his future crime fighting not just learning science and criminology but accumulating knowledge of 127 styles from Aikido to Yaw-Yan. While this may seem like over-training, what it does is allow Batman to identify an opponent’s style and thus his tactics and limits, and exploit them. In fact, that’s Batman’s fighting style in a nutshell. He will either figure out or already know the most effective way to quickly end a fight, and then enforce it. While he does have the gadgets and weapons to help, it’s this pragmatism when it comes to fighting that is Batman’s trademark. And while Batman’s style in the comics may be hard to grasp (mastering 1 style is difficult, let alone 127), the films of Christopher Nolan managed to find a style that has that fast, brutal efficiency to taking multiple foes down with the Keysi Fighting Method.
As always, you are all welcome to discuss. Have a fact or theory about the people I mentioned? Want to add your own thoughts on heroes I didn’t mention? Leave a comment and let’s have a good old fashioned talk.