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Both Captain America: Civil War and Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice had big commercials during last weekend’s Super Bowl (though the commercials for Batman v. Superman were a little unconventional). Beyond both being highly anticipated blockbusters, there is another similarity – both movies feature heroes fighting each other, at least in the marketing of the movie. This brings up the idea of comic book rivalries. Which comic book characters have the strongest rivalries? If we are talking rivalries, I think we should limit it to characters that are mostly on the same side but have big differences in one or more areas. Also, we are discussing characters, not company or creator rivalries (there are many of those!)
This one has fallen off in recent years, especially since DC’s Universe was reset after “New 52.” In the late 1970s and 1980s, though, one of the fun undercurrents of the Justice League of America series was the ideological rivalry between Green Arrow and Hawkman. Thanks to Denny O’Neil’s and Neil Adams’ Green Lantern/Green Arrow, Oliver Queen was characterized as a liberal. In the Justice League, this clashed against the law & order and battle-centric Carter Hall Hawkman. Although they were friends, Green Arrow and Hawkman had frequent arguments, and their points of view were more related to the real world than many other feuding characters.
The real boiling point of this rivalry was obviously Civil War. However, even prior to that, Captain America and Iron Man frequently disagreed about the leadership and direction of the Avengers, even if it previously had never come to much physical force. Since Civil War, there have been many moments of clashing between Steve Rogers and Tony Stark. Although they eventually both became teammates on the Avengers (during Jonathan Hickman’s run), Iron Man was also a member of the Illuminati that was dealing with breaching worlds – with a plan that Cap vehemently opposed. Once Steve Rogers became an old man, the rivalry cooled since there was less of a physical component to it. The early indication is that during Civil War II, Iron Man and Captain America will be on the same side, but is that Sam Wilson Cap or a soon-to-be-young-again Steve Rogers Cap?
The clear touchstone for Zach Snyder’s Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice is Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns. In that book, Batman is the dark vigilante and Superman is the dumb muscle for a restrictive government. In Mark Waid and Alex Ross’ Kingdom Come, Batman and Superman also find themselves at odds. However, even in the regular DC Universe, Batman and Superman have often had a sort of rivalry, though usually it has been more of a “best way to carry out justice” one. Superman has his ideals and Batman usually has a “whatever it takes” strategy. They have mostly been good partners, though, serving as counterpoints rather than foes. Beyond the comic book pages, however, fans of Bruce Wayne and Clark Kent have always had a strong rivalry about who is the greatest DC superhero.
This is another rivalry that has appeared in the comics and in movies. In the X-Men movies, there was more of a romantic quality to the Cyclops-Wolverine rivalry, as they were both in love with Jean Grey (it didn’t really work out that well for either of them). In the comics, however, their rivalry has been more of a personality clash and disagreement about the best course for the X-Men. For a time, Wolverine was carrying out secret assassinations with X-Force, and it did not sit well with Scott Summers when he found out. Once Cyclops was possessed with the Phoenix Force, things got even more complicated (sorry, Professor X!). This rivalry has been in a pause mode for the time being, as the original Logan is considered dead, and there were multiple Scott Summers. I think it’s safe to assume, though, that from which ever time/universe they come, Cyclops and Wolverine will soon have a heated rivalry again.
Up until about a decade ago, it was very rare to see any cross membership between Avengers and X-Men. They were almost like sub-universes within Marvel. Once Wolverine joined the Avengers, things loosened up a little, but it did not dampen the intense rivalry between Avengers and X-Men. The X-Men often feel like the Avengers (and much of the non-mutant superhero community) do not really support them. Meanwhile, the X-Men’s “with us or against us” mentality and their occasional union with Magneto has been a problem for the Avengers. There have been two separate miniseries pitting the teams against each other – X-Men vs. Avengers (1987) and Avengers vs. X-Men (2012). The X-Men’s role in the Marvel Universe has been lessened in recent years, so it will be interesting to see if the rivalry between these two super-teams is still strong in post-Secret Wars Marvel Comics.
Since many superheroes are emotional and prone to fighting, there are many other heated rivalries in comic books. This list could go well beyond a top five. Which characters do you think have the best and most compelling rivalries? If you have a pick I didn’t include, leave a comment with your choice.