Yeah. Yeah, I did. And what's more, in the anarchic spirit of true artistry, I intend with this entry to break the mould of Odin's Aviary by discussing a topic seemingly unrelated to The Third Life(TM), though I'm likewise sure that I'll find a way to tie it in somehow. That topic is as follows:
Just who would win in a fight between Wolverine and Batman?
Now, everybody: Calm down. Calm right the hell on down. (Some of you may think I'm using an ironic tone at this moment, but nothing could be further from the truth; I have friends that will be offended that there is even a question about this match up--and for both sides, too.) We're going to look at this rationally, and I'm going to be as unbiased as possible. To that end, I must admit to those of you who don't yet know me (though I'm on the cover of this week's The Record . . . WATCH OUT!) that I am about as biased for Batman--in all things--as I could possibly be. Bearing that in mind, let's us begin our fair and balanced exploration of the question.
Batman would win.
Okay, I'm sorry. For reals now:
Batman would kick shorty's hairy butt.
No, no, really. Really. It's a tough call. (It is, Mark.) They're both the more popular bad boys of their respective universes--which is no doubt part of what inspired Amalgam to bring them together in their character, Dark Claw. One could make a quick argument that Wolverine's enhancements make him the sure winner, but frankly, Batman has dealt with supernatural (et al) powers before, and has a reputation for being the smarter fighter in any situation. But I get ahead of myself. Let's take a look at our fighters in some limited detail.
(Isn't it great to, every once in a while, be shameless in one's geek self? "Geeking out" is the popular term, but it can refer to any incidence in which someone unabashedly reveals their enthusiasm for anything. Why should it be such a social sin to relish anything in this world? Because not everyone will care? So what? You don't have to listen/read.)
Dealing with a brief outline of the conditions: Batman is a hero from the DC Comics universe, Wolverine from the Marvel. For the purposes of this discussion, we will be approaching the characters as being at the peak of their natural condition; that is to say, Wolvie with his standard set of attributes in the X-Men arc, Batman in his late-twenties/early-thirties...none of this sapped adamantium or Return of the Dark Knight stuff. (Non-fanboys: Anyone over geeked yet?) And they shall be comic characters, not movie characters. So sayeth I. And they shall be drawn according to their origins, with some allowance for increased anatomical awareness in artists of the latter half of the 20th century. So Wolvie is short, and Batman is not hulking. Finally, they're both to some degree anarchic good guys, with Wolverine taking the anarchy cake: He will kill; Bats will not.
Let's get it on!
Wolverine is a mutant who has been experimented upon (fact-check me here gang; I am not a Marvel dude). He has regenerative powers of shocking rapidity, but for the purposes of this discussion we're gonna go with the popular comic choice of him needing some time (one or two nights) to heal from something severe, like a dozen machine guns. He also has three foot-long claws that extend at will from his fists, which are made from adamantium, a purportedly indestructible metal. In fact, his entire skeleton is coated with a layer of the stuff, adding to his indestructibility and making him heavy as all hell. Now, the healing is a mutant power, and the adamantium is the result of a government experiment. The claws were long assumed to be part of the government's work, but a twist in the nineties suggested they were there before all that, made, at their core, of bone. Sadly, as a result of powerful amnesia, Wolvie barely knows a thing about his origins. Given his healing ability, it's possible he is really very old, but he maintains a loner attitude and an underdeveloped emotional capacity. He is trained in martial arts with a Japanese flavor, and prefers direct action to intricacy or planning.
Batman is just a dude--no superpowers. He has, however, spent every waking moment since he was six years old (or so) dedicating his life to studies both physical and mental that will help him fight crime in the urban sprawl of Gotham City, so often the argument is held that his single-minded determination is his "superpower." These studies include gymnastics, mixed martial arts, all sciences and technologies (with an emphasis on computers and mechanistic devices), detection, criminology and behavioral psychology. His mind and body are honed into excellence, and he's backed up in all of this by a huge estate and corporation left to him by his deceased parents. His modus operandi is to research and investigate the hell out of everything ahead of time and be prepared, like an inky black boyscout. Owing to his background, he is incapable of accepting loss, either of people or in achievement.
Now (and I owe Friend Mark a nod for this): chances are it would all go down in Gotham. It's not hard to imagine these two egos clashing, but given that Wolverine generally wishes to best bad guys, it would take his stomping on Batman's grounds to make Bats take issue with him or his methods. So Gotham it is. And methods it is. Specifically, Wolvie would most likely only come to such a big city if he had to, presumably in pursuit of answers about his past or to hunt a baddie, and he wouldn't announce himself to the authorities. Now, it's hard to say what DC characters would feel about mutants. Batman would have no love lost over their DC equivalent--metahumans--but he's teamed with super types before, and some much fruitier than Wolvie. He is something of a control freak, though, and Wolvie would probably pretty quickly foul up some careful lead Bats was following. Bats would sneak up on him, Wolvie would smell him coming, Bats would warn, Wolvie would yawn him off, Bats would disappear suddenly and without a trace (because you can't smell them going). It's only on their next encounter they'd fight, probably with Bats tracking Wolvie, but Wolvie aware of it, and so he provokes him by threatening to shred a house of drug traffickers instead of arrest them.
And it's on.
My preference is to judge the winner by character examination. You can spend all day debating the merits of strategy, relative invulnerability and motorcycles versus sports cars, but at the end of the day, we're talking about events in a storytelling medium. If it isn't a good story, in this context, then it just isn't feasible (much less desirable). So we'll talk here about claws and cowls, but hopefully in how they serve an outcome, not their viability strictly as weapons.
(Brief irrelevant observation here: Why in the hell does Wolverine wear a mask? Bruce Wayne has to hide his identity to function in both worlds, but Logan has never shown any sign of needing to mask himself. Hell, he's on a continual quest for his identity! That's not the kind of guy who would dig getting his disguise on. Yeah, yeah; I know when he was created it was fashionable and they were trying to make him look more like his namesake. But come on.)
The fight would be all about control and, from this perspective, with Batman as the aggressor (trying to achieve control) and Wolverine as the defender (trying to escape control). This doesn't, however, mean that Bats gets to start the fight. Wolvie would probably startle him by drawing him in and then attacking suddenly. Bats would want to keep the high ground afforded him by his aerial equipment, but would just have to keep swinging lower to suppress Wolvie until it degraded into a street-level (or rooftop) brawl. Surprises would abound. Bats would have all kinds of interesting ways of evening the odds (in the eighties it would have been a neural suppressor to prevent the claws from engaging; in the sixties a giant bat-magnet), and Wolvie would shock Bats with moves so ugly they're almost absurd. Essentially, they're both incredibly experienced, intelligent fighters, once they get past the emotions. Along those lines, Bats would be doing everything he could to make Logan lose it whilst he maintained control of himself and the environment, and Wolvie would be doing whatever he could think of to cause Bats to falter from his grim determination.
Which is why, ultimately, Batman would win.
In every fight, Bats has some part of himself standing outside of the engagement, being the deductive reasoner, that part of him that he found years before, ready to carry him on past his parents' deaths. It's this part of him that inevitably carries the Rocky-esque twists of his fights: Just when he seems most lost, we discover that Bats was merely doing what he had to to manipulate the situation into his ultimate plan. He is ultimately objective, which is what makes him a hero, rather than a revenge-obsessed sociopath with a Narcissus complex.
Which is why, ultimately, Batman can't win.
In every fight, Wolverine's spirit is indomitable. It has to be--it's all he really has. Wolverine is actually a supremely vulnerable character. When he started out, this was manifested only by his impulsiveness and relative lack of strength compared to the other X-Men, rendering him more often as comic relief than as his current status of anti-hero. As writers developed his story, however, the vulnerability came out of this incredible amnesia and a conflict between who he seems to be and who he wants to be. For all his indestructible qualities, inside he's destroyed, and it's only his fighting spirit that he can rely on.
What we have here is a conflict between essential natures, and a stricture of conventional comicbook plots. The characters and their stories are serial, and keeping a balance between continuity and ingenuity is what marketing those comics is all about. That's part of what makes comicbook characters such contemporary icons: like the gods and heroes of myth, they are defined by specific characteristics that remain essentially the same. So we can have several Robins, and Batman can get his will broken by Bane, but only if it eventually returns him to his essential character with renewed vigor. This is great for hero worship and power fantasies. This sucks for narrative, because what's really interesting about a story is how people change as a result of it.
So I propose that the fight would end with Bats getting control of the Wolvie, and having his say about his jurisdiction and Wolvie's methods. Wolvie might even find his arguments compelling enough to stop threatening him for a moment. But Wolvie will not change his ways, and Bats will be forced to expel him from Gotham, like an animal released into the wild. Another little tussle, in which Wolvie gets a claw swipe at the utility belt, to no apparent harm, and Bats will have him ready for transport. The much-battered Batman will escort a bound Logan across whatever harbor borders Gotham, and Logan will light a stoagie, turn wryly back and say over his shoulder as all his bruises fade, "Been a while since I've had a beating, but I've had worse. Bit of advice: Remember that I owe you one, bub." And with that cryptic line, Wolverine leaves the scene.
In a brief coda, Bats goes back to the scene of their first meeting to scavenge clues that may not have been obliterated by Wolvie. In departing there, he uses his fly line to span an alleyway, to discover mid-flight that it is nicked. The line snaps, sending him crashing to a fire escape. "I suppose now we're even..." he says as he rather gingerly descends the escape.
Thoughts? Comments? Complete disagreement?