We at Comicbook.com recently put together our list of the Best Comic Book Friendships, spotlighting comic book characters who were stronger (and more fun to read) with friends by their side.
Well, it's all well and good to have friends - but what about the comic book characters who are interesting not becasue of the friends they keep, but rather the rivals they can't let go of?
Comic book lore is filled with great rivalries that fans love to see play out over and over again.
Wether it's a match-up of powers, a clash of opposing ideologies, or just some good old fashioned "good vs. evil," some comic book rivalries are so fascinating that they've penetrated the bubble of pop-culture to become part of the mainstream zeitgeist.
Here are The Best Comic Book Rivalries:
Honorable Mention Rick Grimes vs. Negan
This is the rivalry that currently has millions of people holding their collective breaths. The Walking Dead comic books have seen Rick Grimes and Co. face all kinds of nightmarish threats (worse than what we see on TV), but meeting Negan and his saviors was a brutal affair that led to a long violent conflict, eventually an all-out war, and an uneasy partnership inthe aftermath.
The Walking Dead TV series has just introduced its version of Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), and season 7 wlll begin with him beating one of Rick Grimes' survivor crew violently to death. After that, we expect this epic rivarly from the comic book page will be entertaining millions on the TV screen.prevnext
Sub-Mariner vs. Human Torch
This one is stretches pretty far back into the history of Marvel Comics, but it's significant enough to earn mention, as one of the first superhero battles in comic books.
In the early days of Marvel (aka "Timely Comics"), The Sub-Mariner (as Namor was known then) and the Original Human Torch (Android Jim Hammond) were two of the big three characters (the third being Captain America). While often allies, The Torch and Sub-Mariner were sometimes at odds with one another, with Namor's brash, imperial nature making him more anti-hero than hero.
In the simpler times of Gold Age comic books, this was an elemental conflict (fire and water) that was easy to play out. While it would continue with the Fantastic Four version of Human Torch (Johnny Storm), the classic rivalry is still a favorite.prevnext
Aquaman vs. Black Manta
Aquaman and Black Manta have been nemeses as far back as the Silver Age Superfirends era. Their rivalry has grown from a generic "good vs. evil" relationship to become something deeply personal - and the DC Comics' "New 52" reboot helped retcon their mutual history to make the rivalry more personal than ever before.
Now, Manta was a boy whose father was inadvertently killed in a confrontation with Aquaman and his father. That tragic event has made this rivalry intensely personal, as Manta presents a constant threat to not just Aquaman, but all of his loved ones. With his cunning strategies, superior tech, and utter ruthlessness, Black Manta is one land-deweller that could actually dethrone the King of Atlantis.prevnext
Reed Richards vs. Doctor Doom
Like the Magneto/Prof. X rivalry (more on that later), Reed Richards and Doctor Doom's longstanding conflict grew from a foundation of cracked friendship. As two of the most brilliant scientists in the Marvel Universe, Reed and Doom could've remained the best of friends, if not for the latter's unquenchable thirst for knowlege as a means of power, rather than for the sort of altruistic ends Reed Richards pursues.
The best thing about this rivalry is that, at the end of the day, it's a rivlarly between two science geeks. The conflict between these two great minds spanned mulitple planets and many dimensions, using everything from time travel to mysticsm as their weapons. When nerds like these Reed Richards an Doctor Doom rumble, all reality teeters in the balance.prevnext
Wolverine vs. Cyclops
Woverine and Cyclops have had a rivalry from pretty much the moment they met. Cyclops wasn't happy to have a savage character like Wolverine on the X-Men - especially when Wolverine started sniffing around Cyclops' main squeeze, Jean Grey.
In the years of X-Men comics since, Cyclops and Wolverine found an uneasy balance that was shattered in recent years, when the two had a big fallout over how to treat the students of Xavier's School.
Since that "Schism," Wolverine and Cyclops have not remained on the best of terms. With the older version of Cyclops now apparently dead, this bad blood isn't likely to get cured anytime soon - only postponed.prevnext
The Thing vs. The Hulk
This is your classic strongman contest taken to an exaggerated comic book degree. As two of Marvel's most powerful bruisers, it's only natural that Bruce Banner/The Hulk and Ben Grimm/The Thing would eventually come to blows.
However, the Thing/Hulk rivalry is so much richer than the big, destructive battles: there a general competiveness between the two that makes their banter and sh*t talk almost as fun as the actual conflict.prevnext
Daredevil vs. Punisher
It may be hard to believe now, but Frank Castle/The Punisher acutally got his Marvel Comics debut in the '70s as a Spider-Man villain! Things changed when comic book icon Frank Miller (Sin City) took over the Daredevil comic book, and saw opportunity for a great rivalry between Daredevil and The Punisher.
Matt Murdock may be a punishing vigilante by night, but his underpinning as both a Catholic and a man of the law prevent him from crossing the line. Frank Castle of course lives on that crossed side of the line, which make his conflicts with Daredevil highly interesting and enjoyable reflections of real-life philosophical debates about crime and punishment.prevnext
Thor vs. Loki
Thor and Loki's rivalry is something that predates comic books by a few centuries (all that Norse mythology), but since the two Nordic gods were adapted into Marvel Comics characters, their rivary has become a mainstream fixation.
It's not hard to see the conflict: aside from the type of sibiling rivarly any brother or sister can relate to, Thor and Loki represent a classic "brawn vs. brains" battle that is as old as jocks and nerds themselves. Thanks to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Thor and Loki's battles are now a pop-culture phenomenon.
If only the Vikings could see them now...prevnext
Wolverine vs. Sabertooth
This is a clear rivalry: two ferocious, animalistic mutants with considerable powers (like rapid healing) face off periodically in some of the most brutal and bloody fights in all of comics.
There's been extensive history (both real and false) established between Victor "Sabertooth" Creed, and James "Wolverine" Logan, which has made their nemesis battles into an annual tradition. For a long time, Logan could count on Sabertooth attacking on his birthday, with the intent of causing Wolverine (and his loved ones) pain.
This violent rivalry has gone so far as Wolverine lobotomizing Sabertooth for a time, and even seemingly killing him by decapatation. However, with Sabertooth still alive and now part of Magneto's current team of X-Men, it's only a matter of time before the Wolverine vs. Sabertooth grudge match continues.prevnext
Green Lantern vs. Sinestro
In classic Green Lantern comics, Sinestro was Hal's former Green Lantern instructor, who went rogue and got a yellow power ring to battle his former teammates. The idea of a hero fighting a thinly drawn evil villain powered by the color yellow is funny to think about these days, which is why the Hal/Sinestro rivalry has gotten a major overhaul in modern times.
Geoff Johns was responsible for resurrecting Hal Jordan after his death as a villain in the '90s. With Hal's return came a new Green Lantern mythos that saw colored power rings used as metaphor for emotional power, with Green Latnerns representing will, and Sinestro's yellow ring being the embodiment of fear (a much more interesting dynamic). The villain's backstory was also retconned to create a much more complicated, Magneto-esque character who is not so much evil as he is misguided and twisted in his view of universal order.
In recent years, Hal and Sinestro's relationship has only gotten (wonderfully) more complicated, as Sinestro built an army of yellow ring followers; helped Hal save the universe; replaced Hal as Green Lantern for a time; has now murdered most of the Guardians of the Universe and returned to reign as king of his Sinsetro Corps.
These two frenemies have had their dynamic only get better with time, an we're excited to see what's next.prevnext
Spider-Man vs. Green Goblin
Spider-Man has an extensive and celebrated rogues gallery, but none of those villains has impacted the Web-Slinger's life as heavily as Norman Osborn/Green Goblin.
Norman Osborn's Green Goblin was one of the original (and most mysterious) Spider-Man villains, and he made a huge impact on the character's history by killing Peter Parker's first love, Gwen Stacy. Osborn was seemingly dead for years (replaced by other Goblin villains), but returned in the '90s to help finish off the much-hated "Clone Saga" with a big twist ending.
Since that time, Norman Osborn has become a central villain in the Marvel Universe, but when it comes to destroying Spider-Man, he is still every bit the shadowy scheming archnemesis he's always been.prevnext
Prof. X vs. Magneto
The rivalry between Professor Charles Xavier and his former best friend Erik "Magnus" Lehnsherr has been such a longtime focus of X-Men comics (and movies) with good reason.
The two mutant leaders and their differing ideologies about mutant/human relations goes far beyond your normal good/evil comic book rivalry: it resonates on a socio-political scale that's all too familiar these days.
The foundation of friendship and mutual respect that runs beneath this rivalry also allows for a richly complex and enduring dynamic. Prof X and Magneto's relationship has been tweaked any number of different ways - including Xavier once absorbing elements of Magneto's mind and becoming the fearsome villain Onslaught.prevnext
Captain America vs. Red Skull
As characters, Captain America and Red Skull are pretty much walking embodiements of WWII's warring ideologies of democracy and facism. As those two ideologies have continued to bump heads in the time since WWII, Marvel Comics has found a way to smartly adapt the Cap/Skull rivalry to changing times.
In the modern age, Red Skull has taken up a twisted version of American capitaliist ideology, and uses subtrefuge and long-term scheming to undermine America's values and citizens. He seemingly assinated Steve Rogers; stole the brain of the Prof. X in order to brainwash the masses and fuel bigotry against mutants; and has recently used a reprogrammed cosmic cube to fool Rogers into thinking he's a HYDRA sleeper agent.
Needless to say, this rivalry is as alive volatile as it's ever been.prevnext
Superman vs. Lex Luthor
It's one of the oldest rivalries in comic books, but the dimensions of it are still being thoroughly explored through some major overhauls to the Superman/Lex relationship as part of DC's Rebirth initiative.
The paradigm between Lex and Supes is interesting: Lex Luthor represents the greatest heights of humanity's ambition and capability to achieve; yet Lex is constantly undermined by the stark reminder that a being exists whose power forever diminishes his own stature. Conversely, Superman, for all his godly power, is somehow more "human" than Lex has ever been.
With recent DC comics instilling Luthor as the new Superman, this rivalry is only getting more complicated. We're looking forward to it!prevnext
Batman vs. Superman
This is the rivalry that forms the two opposing poles of the DC Universe - a difference of opinion that has extended well beyond the boundary of comic books to become an actual philosophical quandary in our culture: Are you a Batman? Or are you a Superman?
Batman and Superman come from vastly different backgrounds, which form their respective pessimistic and optimistic views of the world. It's that division in outlook which can make them such serious rivals at times; but those same differences are what also make them the sort of lifelong friends that deserved a spot at the top of our best comic book friendships list.
Comic book fans have enjoyed some great stories involving Batman and Superman at odds - whether in the Superman/Batman comic book series, animated films like World's Finest, and of course, a Batman v Superman film that earned solid box office return on the spectacle of the two heroes battling.prevnext
Batman vs. Joker
Like Batman vs. Superman, Batman vs. Joker is more than just a comic book rivarly: it's a dynamic that has grown to symbolize any number of philosophical quandaries (ex: order vs. chaos). It's such a big deal that these days, anytime the two archnemeses clash (on the page, onscreen or in video games), it becomes a bonafide cultural event.
For those and many other reasons, Batman vs. Joker is a rivalry that has - and will - stand through the ages.
That's our list, but what are your favorite comic book rivalries? Let me know @KofiOutlaw - or join other fans in discussion down in the comments!prev