And so it has come to this: The final two matchups in the quarter-final round of our Superhero Showdown bracket game. In the first face-off, two of the most popular heroes in the whole history of fiction will fight for domination: It’s Batman vs. Wolverine, two superheroes who arguably define their respective comic book universe, two characters who have headlined some of the most important stories in comic book history (not to mention a few movies you might have heard about.) Then, witness a showdown between two old friends and teammates: Iron Man vs. Captain America. There can only be one!
Click on the image above for a printable bracket. Check out our pocket biographies of each superhero, and scroll to the bottom of each page to register your vote. Voting will conclude in on Monday, at 2:00 PM EST. And there’s still time to vote in yesterday’s quarter-final battles: Superman vs. Hellboy, and Spider-Man vs. Green Lantern.
Northeast Regional Final: Batman vs. Wolverine
Origin Story: After watching a thug named Joe Chill kill his parents in cold blood in Crime Alley, Bruce Wayne devoted his life and considerable fortune to the cause of justice – and vengeance – in perilously bleak Gotham City by becoming the caped crusader known as Batman. To some, the dark knight is a criminal vigilante, just as gonzo wrong as the baddies he fights (and inspires). To others, the hero is an aspirational icon, bringing hope to a hopelessly corrupt world.
Costume: The model for all masked avengers. Sporting a black hooded cape and gray body armor with the ominous insignia square on his chest, Batman dresses for effect – that effect being terror. Inspired by the fearsome flying rodents that live in the cave underneath Wayne Manor, Bruce plays the part of mythical bogeyman to Gotham’s underworld – part Dracula, part Jungian shadow.
Coolest power: What makes Batman so cool is that he has no powers, save his smarts, brawn, and the array of gadgets and tools (but no gun) on his utility belt.
Defining stories: Detective Comics Nos. 27-33 by Bob Kane and Bill Finger; Batman Nos. 1-18 by Kane, Finger, various; “Strange Apparitions” (aka Detective Comics Nos. 469-476) by Steve Englehart and various artists, most notably Marshall Rogers & Terry Austin; Batman: The Dark Knight Returns by Frank Miller; Batman: Year One by Miller and David Mazzucchelli; “No Man’s Land” written and drawn by many; “Hush” by Jeph Loeb and Jim Lee.
Cultural Legacy: Been to a movie theater lately? Batman was created in response to the success of Superman, but also represented a philosophical rejoinder to the Man of Steel, a mythic do-gooder devoid of super powers (besides the extraordinary wealth) whose idealism was shaded with troubling anger. Still, until Spider-Man came along in the early sixties, Batman best represented one of the basic appeals of the genre: He made the whole superhero thing look like nifty-cool fun – Sherlock Holmes in a cowl. Since the seventies, Batman has darkened and coarsened as the culture as darkened and coarsened. Indeed, his indisputable greatness lies in the elasticity of his symbolic value, in his ability to reflect changing notions of good and evil, and of heroism itself.—Jeff Jensen
Origin Story: For many years, the history of this volatile, violent mutant was a mystery, even unto himself. He knew his name was Logan. He knew he was Canadian. He knew he had retractable claws, heightened senses, and a healing ability that slowed his aging process. But beyond that… only scant, fuzzy, disturbing memories. Over time, X-Men readers have come to learn Wolverine’s epic, tragic backstory, which dates back to the late 19th century and includes several lost loves and includes stints as a soldier, mercenary-adventurer, and black ops agent. During the sixties, the CIA wiped Logan’s memory, and during the seventies, a Canadian military unit known as Weapon X laced Logan’s bones with an indestructible metal known as adamantium. Since joining The X-Men, Logan has learned to master his berserker rage (though not without some notable relapses into feral madness), become a team leader, and distinguished himself as one of the key heroes of the Marvel Universe.
Costume: The classic Wolverine outfit is a yellow jumpsuit with tiger stripes, blue gloves and a mask with two pointy flaps around the eyes designed to contain Logan’s unruly hair… or have somehow made his hair unruly. Now there’s a Wolverine mystery that really needs to get explained.
Cool powers/abilities: Heightened senses, bloodhound sharp. Naturally retractable bones for claws, later reinforced with that aforementioned hoo-ha metal. Extraordinary healing powers. Also handy with a sword.
Defining stories: “Days of Future Past” (collection) by Chris Claremont and John Byrne;Wolverine by Claremont and Frank Miller; Weapon X by Barry Windsor-Smith; Origin by Paul Jenkins, Bill Jemas and Joe Quesada;Wolverine: Logan by Brian K. Vaughan and Eduardo Risso.
Cultural Legacy: Wolverine was the wildcard pick for the next-gen X-Men back in the mid-seventies, and with his anti-social, doesn’t-play-well-with-others persona, seemed destined to follow Thunderbird as X-Man Most Likely To Get Killed Off (Via Redemptive Sacrificial Death) Just To Prove Anything Can Happen In This Comic. But the more Claremont (and Byrne) played to Wolverine, the more he popped as the most dynamic, compelling character in a comic full of such characters. Remember Zachary Quinto’s star-making turn in Heroes, how his Sylar went from supporting player to the focal point of the series (and the only reason to watch)? That was Wolverine during his first 50 issues in Uncanny X-Men (except, fortunately, there were many other reasons to read the comic than just him). Yet it was the Claremont/Miller mini-series that expressed and clarified Wolverine’s game-changing significance: the emergence of the Byronic protagonist — proudly damaged, morally ambiguous, darkly romantic — as the defining heroic archetype of modern comics. —Jeff Jensen
NEXT PAGE: Captain America vs. Iron Man