Wednesday, October 17, 2012

A Good Punch Never Lands

Wow--what a punch!

Or was it?

Occasionally in comics, you'll see two characters go at it head-to-head in one big "clash" panel. It's more eye candy than anything else--a non-punch. It's mainly to show the reader the intensity of the fight, a way of indicating that the characters (and you) are really in the thick of it. Otherwise, when you think about it, it's not tactically sound to physically punch your opponent at the same time they're punching you. In a normal world, both fighters would reel back, with neither gaining the advantage--though probably each getting a broken hand out of making such a bonehead move. With super-beings who are practically invulnerable, like these two characters, each just cancels the other out. At least we get a cool sound effect out of it.

It's one reason why I don't understand the prevalence of head butts in television fight scenes. What's the sense in hitting your opponent with a type of hit that could seriously injure yourself at the same time? Sure, your opponent is going to be affected more because they're not ready for it and haven't tensed up--but jeez, OWW. You're going to have a difficult time convincing me that colliding my skull with someone else's is going to leave me alert enough to take advantage of my reeling opponent--and, by the way, will leave my brain still good as new. I repeat, oww.

Of all the Marvel characters, Thor seems to be the one who's chosen for these kinds of dramatic non-punch clash panels. In his heydey fights with the Hulk, they were always a treat:

Maybe it was that big red flapping cape of his that spiced up the panels and enhanced the scene. Of course, Thor charging into battle is what Thor does, usually with opponents who charge right back at him:

But he's mixed it up a few times without relying on momentum, with the same non-results:

Uh--did you see where either punch landed?

Fortunately, there's no doubt with this one:

Now if you're going to punch at the same time as your opponent, this scene between Thor and the Thing is probably the way to do it. Though in this case, the effect turns out to be the same--neither opponent is affected. In this particular story, Thor's power has been removed by Odin, so he and the Thing are pretty evenly matched. Otherwise, the Thing's chest would probably be caved in. But at the very least, both opponents should have to stagger back and collect themselves before continuing.

Then you have situations where you have clashes of characters who have similar abilities and/or appearances, where we get a nice splash panel of the two colliding. It's a weird effect. Like the others, we see the collision, but have no real satisfactory impression of its result:

One such collision that was actually followed through on--and, astonishingly, ended the battle--was the one between Iron Man and the Silver Surfer. Yes, believe me, I know what you're thinking:
  • No, there's no sense in either character thinking that a collision is the best way to end the fight.
  • Yes, cosmic power vs. electronic power is almost too laughable a contest to imagine.
  • No, a guy who's held Galactus at bay shouldn't have had much trouble with a guy with boot jets and a heart condition.
Still, I have to give artist Sal Buscema credit for how he was able to have Iron Man actually connect with a punch, given the extension of the Surfer's board to overcome:

Even though they took each other out of the fight with this collision, the implication here is unthinkable: that the Silver Surfer and Iron Man are evenly matched. That's simply too preposterous to even consider. The caption in the panel tells us that they were both "stunned into unconsciousness by the sheer, immeasurable impact of collision." Perhaps there's something to be said, after all, for the non-punch, which would have rendered such a collision a non-issue.

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