I was going to write an article to coincide with the start of the NCAA basketball tournament consisting of a bracket of 64 superheroes in a “who would win a fight” contest. Those are so boring though because inevitably the answer is “Superman wins!” Thinking of scenarios that could make for
better clickbait more entertaining content led me to recall one of the greatest articles I have ever read in the history of the Internet. Thus begins our journey!
Back in 2012, I came across this amazing article by FaceInTheBlue detailing what would happen if all the U.S. Presidents across history were pitted against each other in a winner take all, battle to the death, KNIFE FIGHT. The participants were pulled from their healthiest presidential periods and pitted against each other on a level playing field. A little bit of a Hunger Games meets U.S. Civics Class.
I then thought, what if the Justice League had the same contest? Who would win? Who would lose? Who would cower in terror? Would people want to read about this?
Since, we don’t want to get to the same “Superman wins” result, we at Gabbing Geek asked our old friend Mxyzptlk to step in and institute some rules to make it a battle to remember.
- No powers allowed! That’s how we avoid the “Superman wins” syndrome. The Imp from the fifth dimension removes all powers and weapons from the Leaguers. This is a very human battle. Well, very much a human/martian/robot/etc. battle, I guess…
- Equally, any vulnerabilities stemming from the powers themselves (Superman & kryptonite, Aquaman’s need for water, etc) will be removed from the heroes.
- Any psychological or human weaknesses (E.g.- Martian Manhunter’s FEAR of fire or Vibe’s small penis) will remain.
- Our heroes, though their super abilities are removed, will still have the equivalent of a superior human abilities. For instance, Superman would be very strong and the Flash could run fast on a human level. Vibe could wiggle his ears. Robot/Cyborgs such as Steel and Red Tornado will be given only enough mechanization to replicate the equivalency of their human appearance/physique. For instance, since Steel LOOKS strong, his cybernetic enhancements would only make him as tough as a football player.
- The JLAers are fighting in NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas. The stadium was provided free of charge because SOMEONE was guaranteed to win there for once, dammit!!! The heroes may move about the following areas only: the field, the seats, the concourse areas. All other areas are prohibited. The domed stadium provides protection from the elements. The lights are on.
- Each superhero has only been given one 3.5 foot staff made of titanium alloy as a weapon. Their costumes have been replaced with tactical uniforms.
- Players can fight, run, or hide. No matter the strategy, the battle doesn’t end until every Leaguer BUT ONE is dead.
- Personal attributes of the character (moral prohibition against killing, compassion, humility, etc) remain intact. This will be hard for some Leaguers, but we will test their mettle when it is “do or die.”
- Hmm. Let’s make this contest interesting, so the pacifism isn’t too much of a factor. If the Leaguer dies, so too does their closest supporting character. Superman may be noble, but when Lois’ life is on the line? It might be go time! (Insert Jenny’s “Damsel In Distress” criticism!)
- Alliances are allowed and even encouraged, but in the end there can be only one (cue Highlander music from Queen!)
- All heroes will receive notice when someone dies but will not know who perished.
- We are only using the Leaguers from the original era throughout the Detroit league. No one from the Giffen League forward is in the fight. There is some time travel employed as a few of these heroes have died and actually stayed dead. So let’s say we pull the leaguers from their peak. We did cut Phantom Stranger though. He never paid his dues, and a fraternity like the JLA is built on dues paying!
- ROSTER: (Loved one who’s life is on the line is in parentheses.)
In order of initiation:
- Superman (Lois Lane)
- Batman (Dick Grayson)
- Wonder Woman (Hippolyta)
- Flash (Iris Allen)
- Green Lantern (Carol Ferris)
- Aquaman (Mera)
- Martian Manhunter (The CEO of the Oreo Cookie Company)
- Green Arrow (Roy Harper)
- Atom (Jean Loring)
- Hawkman (Mavis Trent)
- Black Canary (Larry Lance)
- Elongated Man (Sue Dibney)
- Red Tornado (Kathy Sutton)
- Hawkgirl (Big Red)
- Zatanna (Constantine)
- Firestorm (Father)
- Steel (His Grandfather)
- Vixen (Bronze Tiger)
- Vibe (Reverb)
- Gypsy (Oracle)
- ROSTER: (Loved one who’s life is on the line is in parentheses.)
Issue 1: LET’S FIGHT!
Mxyzptlk appears at the JLA Satellite and announces his scheme in way too much detail to the JLA. All the heroes are then teleported into the home stadium of the Houston Texans (Go Battle Red!) simultaneously; equally spaced apart. All are on the field level, and in plain sight of each other. A sadness washes over the friends as the clock ticks down. They don’t want to do this, but Mxyzptlk and Ryan convince them there is no way out. As the force fields holding them in place begins to fade, it is apparent that 19 of the 20 participants have the same idea!
Issue 2: The Dogpile
Batman, the 20th of 20 participants in question, sees it coming but there isn’t much to do when a wave of finely trained athletes come moving your way. He strikes… and does considerable damage… but the end comes quick. Everyone knew The Bat needed to go fast. No one knows who killed him… but fanboys will debate it for years to come. After Batman drops, there is a stunned silence. More than one hero wants to mutter “I guess he wasn’t prepared…” but all think better of it. Instead of picking each other off, especially the heroes wounded by Batman, everyone flees the carnage in shock.
FIRST DEATH: Batman
Issue 3: The Hunt Begins
Green Arrow and Black Canary, a natural pairing, quickly agree to an alliance with the other power couple, Hawkman and Hawkgirl. GA and Hawkman, long debate rivals in the League, see the pairing as the best way to give ONE of them a chance to live. As they are finalizing their deal, they notice that Ray Palmer climbing up the stairs toward the main concourse. The foursome always liked Atom (who didn’t?), but they understand what is at stake. To his credit, Palmer was current on his hand to hand and weapons training; as any Leaguer should be. Unfortunately those classes were taught by Canary and Hawkman, respectively. The fight is as short as the shrunken hero himself.
SECOND DEATH: The Atom
Issue 4: The Mismatch
While the couple alliance of trained warriors is finishing off the nerdy scientist, others cast aside their moral codes and begin their hunt. Gypsy was always a well-liked Leaguer (well…for a Detroit era Leaguer anyway). She was always kind and warm to others. She was something of the JLA little sister. None of this matters when Wonder Woman realizes she is in a battlefield and blood must be spilled. WW says a warrior’s prayer for Gypsy as the frees spirited Leaguer valiantly, but futility, tries to defend herself.
THIRD DEATH: Gypsy
Issue 5: Death and Noshing
As Gypsy gasps her last breath, Hal Jordan ducks into a snack bar alcove, only to discover Elongated Man already hiding behind the counter. This Hal is years away from going all EMERALD TWILIGHT on Kilowag, so he justifies his actions in the context of saving Carol. Hal, a natural athlete, summons the pure strength of will to do what he must do to live another hour. Ralph was more of a detective than a fighter, so his end is quick.
FOURTH DEATH: Elongated Man
Issue 6: The Amazon and The Atlantean
Shortly after she takes down poor Gypsy, Wonder Woman rounds the corner to find Aquaman moving cautiously toward the stairwell of the luxury suites. The two fierce warriors eye each other; knowing that even without powers the other is as deadly a foe in the contest. A quick alliance is formed and they begin to hunt. The two members of royalty hear movement in one of the suites and kick the door open to find Firestorm hiding within. Firestorm could control matter itself, so without his powers Wonder Woman’s first strike knocks him to the floor and Aquaman leans into to give the young Leaguer a quick end. Aquaman kneeling on the floor gives Wonder Woman too good an opportunity and she betrays her alliance almost as soon as it begins and takes Aquaman out of the game. Wonder Woman feels great shame from this dishonorable act but knows a warrior has to strike at the right time. Besides, she figures, she can just tell people Firestorm killed Aquaman. The Internet would believe that! That guy talks to fish…
FIFTH DEATH: Firestorm
SIXTH DEATH: Aquaman
Issue 7: Don’t Blame Ivo
Steel and Vibe, plucked from the timeline before their deaths at the hands of the evil Professor Ivo, form an alliance. Taking a chance, they cut across the field only to come face to face with their mentor, Martian Manhunter; who without his shapeshifting abilities, has returned to his native form. Neither side wants to fight but that’s what they are here for, and so the battle begins. The battle is fierce, but the seasoned Manhunter gets the better of the pair. As they lay on the ground beaten, the noble Martian simply cannot finish the job. These people are his friends! Sadly in his moment of reflection, he fails to see Vixen, the final member of the Detroit League, come up behind him with her staff raised. A true survivor, Vixen doesn’t share J’onn’s qualms about the others either.
SEVENTH DEATH: Martian Manhunter
EIGHTH DEATH: Vibe
NINTH DEATH: Steel
Issue 8: The Men of Steel
Superman doesn’t know what to do. He loves Lois but he’s also one of the most noble heroes to ever live. Thus, he’s relieved to see that the first ally he encounters is Red Tornado. He rationalizes to himself that Tornado is not alive and so he won’t be a killer. Tornado, while enhanced by the leveling cybernetics, has always relied on powers instead of ability. Superman still has the strength and speed of a Linebacker, so he is able to end the fight with only taking a few bruises.
TENTH DEATH: Red Tornado.
Issue 9: Speed Kills
Barry Allen has decided he is simply unable to kill any of his teammates so he does what he does best: he runs. When he bumps into the Hawks who are circling the arena like birds of prey, he dashes at Usain Bolt speed the other way. Unfortunately, though he is still the fastest man alive, he runs into Green Arrow and Black Canary, laying in wait to spring a trap. Like everything else in his life, the end is quick.
ELEVENTH DEATH: The Flash
Issue 10: Maybe Four Contestants Will Replace Him?
Superman moves through the arena carefully. He is amazed how different life is without his powers. Ordinarily he’d have to merely scan the building with his X-Ray Vision to find his allies-turned-adversaries. Without his super hearing on the other hand, he doesn’t hear Hal Jordan sneaking up behind him. With his strength and stamina, Kal El survives the first salvo, but the best he can do is make sure Green Lantern feels some pain before succumbing. Battered and beaten, GL has little chance of defending himself when Wonder Woman moves toward the sound of the fracas.
TWELFTH DEATH: Superman
THIRTEENTH DEATH: Green Lantern
Issue 11: Alliances Crumble, Leaguers Die
The Fearsome Four track down Zatanna who has been wisely hiding under a beer kiosk in the nose bleed section of the giant stadium and make quick work of her. As they are catching their breath, trying to avoid thinking about what they’ve done, Vixen attacks and takes out Hawkgirl. Vixen attempts to flee the scene rather than take on the remaining three, but Green Arrow catches her before she can use her still formidable speed to get away. While GA is finishing off Vixen, Hawkman decides he’s no longer safe with the pair and betrays the unsuspecting Green Arrow. A furious Black Canary begins to avenge her beloved Ollie, but in the end Hawkman’s strength and size are too much for Canary.
FOURTEENTH DEATH: Zatanna
FIFTEENTH DEATH: Hawkgirl
SIXTEENTH DEATH: Vixen
SEVENTEENTH DEATH: Green Arrow
EIGHTEENTH DEATH: Black Canary
Issue 12: Final Crisis
Wonder Woman, tiring of the game, walks to the middle of the arena and shouts for her remaining challenger to face her. Eventually, Hawkman moves to meet her in the clear. A brief nod of respect between the two final survivors occurs and the battle begins. The melee is fierce. Both warriors have seen their share of tough fights, but this one is unlike any they’ve ever experienced. Fatigue gets the better of Hawkman and he leaves himself open to a glancing blow to the temple; stunning him for a moment. A moment is all Diana needs to put a brutal end to the contest. Wonder Woman, the Amazonian Warrior, prevails in the battle to the death between the Justice League of America.
FINAL DEATH: Hawkman
Wonder Woman retires to her home island so that she never has to face the scrutiny of what she’s done. Even with one’s life on the line, it is an awful thing to be known as the person who ended the JLA.
WINNER: Wonder Woman