Hard Knocks: The Most Humiliating Defeats In Comics
This week, DC released the trade paperback of Matthew Sturges and Freddie E. Williams II's "Final Crisis Aftermath: Run." Centered on fifth-string villain Human Flame, who had the Martian Manhunter killed and recorded it on his cell phone, this book tells the story of a man on the run from the law, the Justice League and the super-criminal community, and believe it or not, it just all goes downhill from there. By the end, the utterly irredeemable Human Flame has suffered through some of the most hilariously undignified moments in comics history.
And that's saying something: Even if you discount the utter indignity of anyone who's ever been beaten by Gambit, comics are full of overmatched battles and decisive victories, and sometimes they verge over into the extreme. That's why today, we're offering up some of our favorite utter, crushing, humiliating defeats for your schadenfreude-based reading pleasure!
BATMAN VS. GUY GARDNER ("Justice League" #5)
Of all the bwa-ha-ha-inducing awesome moments of the Giffen/DeMatteis/Maguire "Justice League International" era, the most well known is Batman's infamous one-punch throwdown with Guy Gardner. And with good reason: For four issues, the creators had ramped the loudmouthed Green Lantern up into quite possibly the most obnoxious character ever (well, at least until Lobo came to prominence in the '90s), and when it finally comes to the breaking point, the nose-breaking shutdown that keeps him under for a good two issues is absolutely beautiful.
Plus, it's a good reminder that having the most powerful weapon in the universe on your finger is no match for Batman's superpower: being Batman.
BOOSTER GOLD VS. TEN ("Justice League" #4)
And speaking of crushing defeats from the International league, we're pretty fond of Booster Gold's "audition" for the team, where he single-handedly defeats three members of the playing card-themed Royal Flush Gang, and then delivers the sad news to a fourth that by his home time of the 25th Century, feminism has triumphed and true gender equality has been achieved. Admittedly, it might not seem that humiliating for a non-powered super-villain gangster to get punched out by a guy with force fields, laser blasts and a flight ring, but when even the glory-hound that is Booster Gold feels bad for beating you? Well, that oughta tell you something.
BRUISER VS. WOLVERINE ("Runaways" v.2 #12)
Wolverine, as we all know, is the best there is at what he does, but unfortunately for him, "what he does" is not "fight little girls." If it was, he probably wouldn't have been on the receiving end of a beatdown from the Runaways' resident preteen, Molly Hayes (a.k.a Bruiser, a.k.a. Princess Powerful), who sends everyone's favorite X-Man packing with a grand total of one shot.
Seriously, we can only hope Sabretooth never finds out about this.
SUPERMAN VS. A COMMON CRIMINAL ("Superman" #233)
You've got to imagine that if you're a common criminal in Metropolis, getting a hold of some Kryptonite has to be a game-changer. At least, that's what this poor sap thought before he had the misfortune to use his stash right after a chain reaction had turned every piece of Green K on Earth into ordinary iron, which not only ended his crookly aspirations before they began, but gave Superman the perfect opportunity to kind of be a total, hilarious jerk about it.
But really, if you can't be a jerk to the guy who tries to murder you with a chunk of your exploded home planet, who can you be a jerk to?
THOR VS. LOKI ("Thor" #382)
Marvel's Mighty Thor has never been averse to some post-combat smack-talk to rub in his (literally) hammering defeats, and while Walt Simonson's entire run is full of bone-crushingly brutal fights, they usually find the Thunder God pretty evenly matched. With Loki, though, things are a little different, and as the very last act of Simonson's run, Thor confronts his scheming half-brother -- who has been manipulating things behind the scenes for years at this point, up to and including sending Thor down to the realm of the dead -- and just casually breaks his arm to remind him that he is not to be flexed with.
Seriously, guys: Thor is hardcore.
The Martian Manhunter vs. Ultraman ("JLA: Earth 2")
In "JLA: Earth 2," the inspiration for the new "Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths" movie, the JLA heads to an alternate universe to battle the Crime Syndicate, leaving the Martian Manhunter responsible for protecting the entire planet in their absence. This might seem like a pretty big job, but as Ultraman finds out, the reason behind this is that the Martian Manhunter has all of Superman's powers, plus he can read your mind, turn invisible, and change his shape.
And that's how a guy with all of Superman's powers and none of his morality got the crap kicked out of him in a fight that lasted a grand total of three panels.
BATMAN VS. THE HYPERCLAN ("JLA" #4)
On the flipside of the coin, we have this one. If we were honest with ourselves, the list of our favorite humiliating defeats in comics would all come from Batman's incredible seventy year litany of dealing out the pain, but never has their been a beatdown that reached the heights of Batman's battle with the Hyperclan, a gang of planet-conquering White Martians.
As we've already mentioned, Martians have all of Superman's powers and then some, so how do you beat three of them at one time? Easy: You make them fight Batman.
SQUIRREL GIRL VS. DOCTOR DOOM ("Marvel Super-Heroes Special" #8)
Forget being trapped by Paste Pot Pete or jobbed out to Gunfire, this one right here is the granddaddy of all humiliating defeats. Generally speaking, most crushing losses come when one side is ridiculously overpowered, and while that holds true for Dr. Doom's battle with Squirrel Girl, the powerful one isn't the one doing the winning.
Doom, after all, is a scientist capable of inventing a time machine who is also a wizard and who also has a suit of armor complete with boot-jets, laser blasts and -- just for the icing on the over-the-top cake -- a gun. And that's exactly why it's so hilarious that he gets handily beaten by Squirrel Girl -- at the time a high school student whose powers were limited to knuckle spikes for climbing, the ability to talk to squirrels and a pair of oversized front teeth -- who swarms him with her rodent friends. And even better, she does this in her first appearance, setting a trend embraced by other writers, most notably Dan Slott, who pitted her in devastating (but off-panel) fights against characters like Thanos.
We're just amazed that this hasn't been the crux of a company-wide crossover. Yet.