For the longest time comic books were seen as books for children and because of that we didn’t see the characters in the books really let loose with violence. Sure the villains and heroes would trade punches and kicks but it was all done in a way where we didn’t truly feel the brutality which comes with a real fight. The blood, the broken bones and grit didn’t come truly into effect until the Bronze Age of comics starting in the mid-1970s. From that point on, the violence in comics got turned up a notch and the stakes got higher.
But the following fifteen entries aren’t fights: these are beatdowns. A fight implies that each side is fairly well matched and they both get good hits on each other, but a beatdown is when one party is just absolutely brutalizing the other. This just doesn’t happen when villains do the dirty deeds on a hero, sometimes the good guys of a story decide to let it all hang out and put a hurting on the evil-doers which plague their worlds. I’m going to include both on this list.
These fifteen entries are going to be ranked on a few factors. One of them would be just how much the other side deserved the beating. Another would be if the parties involved had a significant rivalry or history already built in; if there’s a good reason why the person is getting wrecked, chances are it’ll get a better spot. Finally, it comes down to how brutal the beating actually is and while that doesn’t necessarily mean somebody has to die, it absolutely could. Here are the top fifteen brutal beatdowns in comics.
15. Joker Gets The Last Laugh On Alexander Luthor
Never underestimate the arrogance of a Luthor.
In one of DC Comics’ biggest crossovers ever, Infinite Crisis, the company’s best villain was conspicuously absent. That was because the mastermind behind the event comic, Alexander Luthor Jr., thought that Joker would be way too unpredictable to control. While Luthor is absolutely right, it ends up being a costly mistake once his plan to reshape the multiverse to his liking fails.
Roaming the streets, Luthor runs into Lex Luthor and Joker in a dark alley where Joker exacts his revenge for being left out of the evil plan. He shoots acid in Luthor’s face, he burns his face further with a joy buzzer, and finally, he puts a bullet or two in Luthor’s skull killing the arch villain.
14. Thor Shows Iron Man “Friendship”
If you saw the Avengers movie, you may think Iron Man and Thor are on some sort of equal footing. Well, I can tell you after reading Thor Vol.3 #3, that they are clearly on different levels.
During the Civil War storyline, Tony Stark used a strand of Thor’s hair that he kept from their first meeting to create a cyborg duplicate of Thor that he used to hunt down heroes. (The real Thor was dead at the time.) Once the real Thor came back to life, he didn’t take this well and decided that he would teach Stark a lesson in real power.
The God of Thunder showers Iron Man in lightning, he knocks him through buildings with his hammer, rips Iron Man’s faceplate off and puts the literal fear of God in him. I don’t care what suit Iron Man is packing, nothing can save him from a fully pissed off Asgardian God.
13. Supergirl Smashes The Anti-Monitor
Crisis On Infinite Earths, even 30 years later, is still regarded as one of the best event comics in DC history. It truly felt like the end of an era and had many great moments. One of the best though has to be the final act of Kara Zor-El, a.k.a Supergirl.
With her cousin Superman on the brink of death at the hands of the universe-killing Anti-Monitor, Supergirl knows that she must do everything in her power to buy time for Superman and the rest of the heroes to escape. She does this by exacting a merciless beatdown on the heartless villain, smashing his armor (which harnesses his energy form) so severely that the villain is forced to retreat.
This one would be way higher on the list except for the fact that Supergirl actually dies at the end of the fight from a blast of anti-matter from the Anti-Monitor. Still, considering what blows the bad guy was able to fend off before Supergirl, this is mighty impressive.
12. Harley Quinn Shuts Joker Up
If there’s anybody who deserves a good beat down, it’s the Joker. The man has committed so many terrible acts, the most despicable of which may be the continued abuse of Harley Quinn. At least Quinn got some semblance of revenge just this year.
In Harley Quinn Vol.2 #25, Harley breaks into prison to rescue her current boyfriend Mason, but when Joker comes calling for his former lover she decides to step into his cell. This isn’t a delusional reunion of happiness for Quinn though as she tells Joker that his control of her is gone for good. If that’s not enough, Quinn beats her puddin’ into actual pudding, ripping off his bottom and stomping his head into the ground.
11. Daredevil Takes The Kingpin’s Title
Many of these beatdowns are going to be ones that were a long time coming for the recipients, and my lord has Kingpin been due for a savage beatdown from Daredevil.
Thankfully Brian Michael Bendis finally gave fans what they wanted in Daredevil #50 Vol.2 when Matt Murdock finally decides that he is done playing games and trying to outwit Kingpin. This time, he just wants to beat the stuffing out of Wilson Fisk and does he ever.
After taking everything Kingpin could dish out, Daredevil kicks and punches the crime boss of New York into a broken shell of his former self. Once Daredevil is finally satisfied, he drives Kingpin through a window at the feet of a group of criminals while proclaiming that he’s not protecting Hell’s Kitchen, he’s running it. The sick smile on the face of Murdock seals this as one of the best beatdowns ever.
10. The Hulk Wallops Wolverine
If you want to see Hulk at his angriest, read World War Hulk. What happened to him that made him so mad? He got forcefully sent into space against his will by his superhero friends. Yeah, would definitely piss anyone off.
Upon returning, Hulk goes on a rampage against everyone who sent him into space, which so happens to include Professor Charles Xavier. This, of course, brings Hulk into conflict with the X-Men, including his longtime rival Wolverine. Hulk has won all of their fights but this one features Hulk just absolutely pounding Wolverine into the dirt.
Logan could have just let it go when Hulk swatted him away but as soon as Wolverine came back for more he signed a check for pain. Hulk picks up Wolverine with one arm and just pounds his head in with the other. It leaves Logan unconscious and is proof that Wolverine doesn’t have a prayer versus the Hulk.
9. The Joker Kills Jason Todd
Joker makes another appearance on this list, but this time, it features one of his most infamous kills.
In the storyline A Death In The Family, Jason Todd finally finds his long lost mother in a Middle Eastern country, but when it’s revealed that she is working with Joker, things go south really fast for the second Robin. Once his mother shows her true allegiance, Joker pistol whips, kicks and mercilessly pounds Todd with a crowbar.
Once Robin is bludgeoned into oblivion, Joker rigs the warehouse they’re in to blow up and the explosion kills Jason Todd. It’s one of the darkest moments in Batman’s mythos and is directly followed up with Joker becoming a U.N. Ambassador for Iran. Not the smoothest transition there, D.C.
8. Spider-Man Almost Crosses The Line
There’s a reason why The Night Gwen Stacy Died is considered one of the greatest stories in comics history. It marked the end of innocence in comics and is the second most important moment in Spider-Man’s career. It also has a hell of a beatdown.
After killing Gwen Stacy, the Green Goblin begins plotting to kill Spider-Man himself but the wall-crawler gets the upper hand on him. Spidey is already plenty mad but when Osborn insults Parker’s dead girlfriend, the gloves come off. The beatdown only lasts a few panels, but it is so satisfying and deserved for the Goblin that it still stands the test of time as one of the best ever.
7. Bane Breaks The Batman
Nobody said that this list was going to be all about the heroes, and here we have the worst defeat of Batman’s career.
Exhausted from rounding up a large portion of rogues gallery, Batman returns home to Wayne Manor only to find Alfred unconscious at the feet of the massive Bane. Having discovered his secret identity, Bane plotted the breakout of Batman’s villains from Arkham Asylum and now is a shark that smells blood.
Batman tries to put up any semblance of a fight but to no avail. Bane tosses Wayne across his house, thrashing everything in sight and destroying Batman’s spirit and body. After he can’t move anymore, Bane picks Bruce Wayne and delivers a backbreaker from hell which cripples the Dark Knight. The move ended up putting the caped crusader out of action for months. The only thing keeping this from the higher spots is that Bane didn’t do this to an in-shape Batman, but nonetheless still brutal as hell.
6. Adrian Veidt Massacres The Comedian
It’s very rare that a comic opens with a beatdown of epic proportions, but Watchmen is a special book indeed.
While the entire fight is not shown in the original comic of Watchmen, what is implied from it and the full fight shown in the movie is vicious. The Comedian is sitting at home watching TV when the former Ozymandias shows up to kill one of the only men who could stop his plan. For being a threat to his scheme and for embarrassing him all those years before at the meeting of the Crimebusters, Veidt throws the Comedian all around his apartment, dodges all of his attacks and throws him out of a window from multiple stories above the street killing him.
5. Deathstroke Handles The Entire Justice League
Want to know just how much of a threat Deathstroke is? He took out the entire Justice League in a fight.
Okay, okay, to be honest, Superman, Wonder Woman and other heavy hitters of the Justice League are absent from this fight but Slade Wilson still has to contend with a host of powerful heroes. The combined efforts of The Flash, Black Canary, Green Lantern and others still wasn’t enough to completely deter this determined assassin in Identity Crisis #3.
He stabs The Flash, he spots the microscopic Ray Palmer and he generally lays a hurting on the league. Only when all the members team up on Deathstroke does he finally start losing the fight. Even then, it only took a few panels to demonstrate just how dominant Slade can be.
4. Zeus Gives Hulk The Beating Of His Life
Hulk may think he’s the strongest one there is, but that high self-esteem doesn’t save him from the massacre Zeus gives to him in Hulk #622.
In his Marvel Comics form (because of course, Greek mythology is a real thing in the Marvel Universe), the Greek god of thunder finds himself standing opposite the Green Goliath after Hulk climbs Mount Olympus to challenge him. Long story short, it doesn’t end well for Hulk. Zeus completely outclasses the monster, shattering his ribcage and collapsing both of his lungs with his mighty blows.
To add insult (and injury) to injury, Hephaestus ties up Hulk to a rock where his body is feasted on by vultures. Hulk is only saved by his family of Hulks but to this day this might be the worst beating ever inflicted on Bruce Banner.
3. Spider-Man Embarrasses The Kingpin
If you really think about it, the Kingpin should not have a chance against Spider-Man in a fight. Thankfully, J.Michael Straczynski realized this in Amazing Spider-Man #542 which is an entire issue-long “fight” between Peter Parker and the man responsible for putting his aunt in a coma, The Kingpin.
Spider-Man, normally a light-hearted hero who toys with his enemies, doesn’t mess around here. He is tight-lipped and full of fury in this issue as he lays the hurt on the fat man of crime. He speed blitzes him, slaps him around the prison they’re fighting in and by the end of it leaves Fisk a broken man. Spider-Man doesn’t kill Kingpin, but he says that if his Aunt passes away, Parker will come to finish the job. He doesn’t come back to finish Kingpin though and instead makes a deal with the devil to erase his marriage and save his octogenarian aunt’s life. I hate One More Day.
2. Batman Nearly Kills The Joker
There’s always a group of comic book fans that wonder why Batman just doesn’t kill the Joker and be rid of his evil for all. While we likely will never see it, this is probably the closest Batman ever came to killing the Clown Prince of Crime.
In the Hush storyline, it appears that Joker has killed the childhood friend of Bruce Wayne, Thomas Elliot. Batman finally gives into the rage from all of Joker’s sins over the years and lays a savage beatdown on the Joker. The Dark Knight breaks his teeth, chokes the life out of him and even knocks out Catwoman who was trying to stop Bats.
Finally pinning down Joker in a stranglehold, it’s only thanks to Jim Gordon talking Batman down that Bruce Wayne doesn’t break his one rule. This beatdown was a long time coming and that’s why it lands so high on the list.
1. Luke Cage Crumples The Purple Man
For anybody who hasn’t read Alias or watched the Netflix exclusive Jessica Jones, Zebediah Killgrave also known as the Purple Man is a horrible person. And it took Luke Cage in New Avengers Vol.1 Issue #3 to finally give him what he deserves.
Thinking he has Luke Cage under control with his mind-manipulating powers, Killgrave tells Luke Cage to kill his fellow Avengers and then kill himself. That’s not all as the Purple Man threatens Cage’s wife Jessica Jones and their unborn child. What Killgrave doesn’t know though is that the prison that was holding him had drugged him over time so that his powers became useless.
Upon realizing this, Kilgrave is met with a savage beatdown from Luke Cage where Cage exacts justified revenge on the man who tormented his wife for months. It is only because of interference from Captain America that Cage finally stops himself. He still was successful at turning Killgrave’s face into mush.
It’s not very long, but the beatdown is so deserved in this case that I feel no other choice than to put it at number one. David Tennant‘s bone-chilling portrayal in the Netflix also may have something to do with that.