Thursday, 30 July 2015

The Faux Clash of Titans: Why Superman Vs. Goku Never Mattered

So, those of you who looked at either of the two most iconic powerhouses in anime or comics might have noticed that there's been a feud going on for a while now. Superman fighting Son Goku has always been a big discussion between fans on forums, sparking more interest than most other fights. This finally reached fever pitch a while back in a ScrewAttack Death Battle, where Goku was soundly beaten. Then in a follow up, where Goku was utterly crushed even harder.

Now, this has resulted in plenty of complaints, so i'm just going to weigh in on this in the least inflammatory way possible: 
Neither character mattered in this fight. 
Neither character ever needed to be in a deathmatch. 
Neither character needed to face one another. 
Neither character should be compared with one another. 
Whoever won the fight ultimately did not matter.

The reason none of this matters is simple. Whoever wins, the other one will just get back up sooner rather than later. We are talking about two characters here who have died and been resurrected more times than I can personally count, even without going into Elseworlds tales and the like. For crying out loud, Superman is argued to have single-handedly triggered the comicbook death trope and Goku "lived" in the afterlife for years at a time, going back and forth as needed. As soon as one died, within a year for one reason or another, the other would just come back and start fighting again. It would never end.

In addition to all of this, these are also two characters whose powers differ heavily depending upon who is writing at the time. Often, for the sake of drama, one will suddenly gain a substantial power nerf and suddenly seem far weaker than before. There's one infamous moment where Goku, a guy who casually shrugs off bullets and supernovas, is hurt by a rock being bunged at his head and by Bulma's slaps. Superman meanwhile has been seen doing everything from being blown halfway across a city by high explosive rocket launchers, to just shrugging off artillery capable of glassing continents. Neither were truly ever intended to be put into these fights, and you know why? Because their entire world runs less upon established rules than it does the "rule of cool" and drama related excuses.

You can certainly argue that there are established rules here yes. Goku's transformations have him becoming increasingly powerful, with one overcoming the other and he's notably as dumb as a rock at times. Sups meanwhile lives a double life, is the most powerful person on his planet and he's weak to kryptonite. However, these are more rules less focused upon their power than setting the scene and details for their adventures, and even these are extremely malleable. Goku's intelligence tends to change from moment to moment. He's clueless in the more humourous moments of him interacting with modern society; yet at others is tactically intelligent enough to predict attacks, pinpoint weak-points and even come up with entire victory gambits over a long period of time. The same goes with Superman's vulnerability to kryptonite. In some cases it's been shown that a single sliver penetrating his skin can turn him comatose and bring him on the verge of death. In others, entire fields of the stuff only slow him down and he can lift entire islands made of it into space.

The problem is that fandoms will always be biased towards one side. Often you can't have these discussions because some people - well, no, let's be honest here - arseholes will never cede any ground. It's the same as almost every widespread internet discussion, the most miserable and vocal elements will come out of the woodwork. You will have fanatics obsessing over every detail, screaming at one another, and clawing for every kind of edge they can find. I've honestly met people who claim that Star Trek can instantly trounce everyone because no series has directly proven that their technology works against phasers and transporters. Yes, someone argued that with total sincerity.

Debates over inter-fandom wars will inevitably result less in sensible arguments than they will one side openly pissing on the other, forcing the ones they like the most to win every time. Look about and you'll find people claiming that High Marshall Helbrecht can suplex Galactus, that the House Stark could easily annihilate the Solar Exalted, and that Asura could be instantly killed by Mario. You will find people who have made it their mission to go from argument to argument, hunting down one faction and arguing that they deserve to lose no matter who they are being compared against. The problem is that as these people are often the most vocal, the most dedicated, they end up being the ones at the forefront of any such debates. It becomes less about any "facts" than it does sheer spite and determination to have one side bury the other, and have everyone else agree with them. This is only exaggerated further when you have such massive characters battling one another. Characters who, along with their power, often have a childhood connection with anyone arguing.

Finally, and perhaps the single biggest point why this shouldn't matter, is that this was a ScrewAttack Death Battle we're talking about here. In all honesty, while I don't personally think the creators are nearly as bad as those cited above, some of the elements still seep through. These are events which are, ultimately, favouritism driven brawls which are disguised as being extremely well researched and balanced. Most people tune in for some incredibly well made battles and extremely well animated fights, just as mindless entertainment. Personally, i'd be fine with that, but the problem is that ScrewAttack aren't presenting it as that. They're presenting this as the definitive outcome for all fights, an ultra-accurate supremely researched throughout both sides, but then shift the goal posts in favour of the one they want to win. 

You can see such open bias quite obviously in their rematch. Superman barely beat Goku in the original, after a hard one fight. Goku, in two films, gains two more transformations and a significant power boost. Their response to this? Effectively ignore any changes this might make and promptly declare that Superman's power is simply infinite, and have him crush Goku in seconds. This is effectively openly pissing on any vague concept of there being a contest between the two and slamming down in favour of one side, no argument, no debate, their word is apparently just law. This goes even further by writing in Goku as somehow being happy that he's lost as if this exempts them from any backlash. It tries to claim that both characters are great in their own right, only that the one they like can turn the one other people like into a fine red smear with a small fraction of his actual power. Yeah, it's dressed up, but it's still pretty damn insulting to anyone who likes this character.

Such displays have been shown more than once, where the writers have completely ignored certain facts, favoured elements which would allow only the side they wanted to win, or broken their own rules. For starters, one of Death Battle’s rules is that a character’s model doesn’t affect the flow of battle. However, despite this, they have repeatedly used excuses that the character was weak, or was unable to perform a certain attack because their model wouldn’t allow to to win. This happens on multiple times, across multiple battles, and it's never remarked upon. With ScrewAttack breaking their own rules whenever they please, why should anyone honesty put stock in the quality of the research in these outcomes?

Things only become worse when you really stop and analyse the reasoning behind some fights, which sadly display a hell of a lot of cherry picking. You only need to look at their treatment of Starscream to see how bad this can be, taking and picking elements of the character which will cause them to be at the biggest disadvantage. For example, this Starscream was based upon his Generation One incarnation. However, rather than actually accounting for his capabilities across the board, the creators opted to purely use the cartoon as a basis for research. As such, ScrewAttack were happy to make use of his every idiotic failure, loss and moronic plan, but carefully navigated their way around any of his victories or displays of greater power. 

So, Starscream's acts of true competence in other media from that time are all suddenly ignored entirely. Killing off almost the entire Autobot and Decepticon forces in one move, taking out Brawn in a slugging match and having enough power to one-shot three newer Autobots in quick succession? Never brought up. However, ScrewAttack then go the extra mile of ignoring moments from the the cartoon which could give him an edge. After all, he actually emerges on top in a full blown brawl to decide the Decepticon leadership in the film (albeit off-screen) and was shown to have the power and speed to perform interstellar flight in a flashback with Skyfire. The problem is that the former isn't even addressed or acknowledged, and the latter is overlooked in favour of his toy's original profile which limits his speed to Mach 2.8. The same profile which doesn't note or reflect his more buffoonish nature in the cartoon at all, going so far as to note the following: "Megatron overlooks the potential threat Starscream represents for one very good reason: Starscream is very good at his job."

Such a depiction only becomes worse when you consider this is not only also ignoring the abilities of Starscream's IDW and Dreamwave incarnations, but the researchers are picking out the bits they want to favour one side. Not only did they nerf him to an insane degree and ignore half of his abilities, but the one he was fighting (a My Little Pony character named Rainbow Dash) was abruptly given Superman level durability, immunity to all Starscream's weapons, and the ability to devour souls. None of which have any standing in any canon. Trust me, it gets worse as the fight went on. Even if you listen to their commentary, nearly all of it focuses upon how impressed they were with this character's skill-set, how much they favoured her and all but completely gushing over the character.

To be completely blunt, given their willingness to overlook certain facts and break their own rules, ScrewAttack doesn't deserve to be seen as the definitive answer to all fights. Please don't get this wrong, their production values are outstanding, they usually find a good way to make fights fun. The creative team places a clear emphasis upon maintaining very high standards in the fights themselves and turning them into a true spectacle, and something truly entertaining for the fans. However, personally speaking, I think that's all people should see them as: A fun distraction and entertaining set-piece, having two characters slug it out, but with about as much substance and sound research as Deadliest Warrior.

I ultimately stand by what I said before. Neither character should be pitted against another in this manner, and doing so will only bring out the worst in fandoms. No matter who you have doing it, no matter how much official backing a crossover might have, no matter how faithful the writers might be to both sides, there will always be a biased outcome. ScrewAttack isn't immune to this, nor are the forum members on everything from Spacebattles to The only person who should ultimately decide the outcome of such a fight to you, is ultimately you. Any other situation, any massed debate, is ultimately only going to end in tears. As such, rather than on any group consensus, i'd rather recommend that each individual fan decides it for themselves, and leaves it just as that. If someone else decides differently, don't start ganging up on them or forcibly trying to have them change their views.

Also, as a final note, while much of this update as made it clear how ridiculous have the two fight truly is due to the nature of their universes, there's something else to be discussed. Is a fight really the best way to have the two meet? You have two characters here, paragons in their own universes and people who have saved billions of lives time and time again. In the one time the two met, would you really rather have them engaging in attempted murder of one another? With each performing acts of collateral damage and manslaughter which make Godzilla look tame by comparison and modern Marvel heroes look self-controlled? Or would you rather have them teaming up to fight a greater threat, not because one fan wanted to murder and crush another's hero, but because someone wanted to write a great story.

(Original work found here, visit to appreciate a fine artist.)


  1. I do agree that they really shouldn't fight each other, partially for the reasons you give here but that's because I agree in that it doesn't matter. So Superman beats Goku... Good for him. If the reverse is true, well then good for Goku. Why is this such a big issue?

    I also completely agree that Screwattack is really biased, personally I never watched the Starscream vs Rainbowdash because that's a fight that should be over in a few seconds, not something to actually be considered, especially if you look at Starscream when he was at his most powerful (and even at his weakest he should crush Rainbowdash), when he literally became the size of a planet and they needed another planet sized transformer (one they literally view as a god) to even take him on.

    If the above examples you give aren't enough you just need to look at their Toph vs Gaara battle. Now Toph, minus her ability to move Earth, is a normal blind human. With her abilities she is able to somewhat see by sensing vibrations in the Earth, Gaara on the other hand is a superhuman who moves at the speed of sound (or higher), can lift hundreds more than a regular person, and he took an explosion from a miniature nuke which only knocked him unconscious, as well as being able to fight for days straight without becoming fatigued.

    So who do they have win? Toph of course. This fight was one that should have ended in less than five seconds, Gaara can manipulate sand and fire it like a bullet, meaning at or above the speed of sound, it should be literally impossible for Toph to react other than dropping dead from the hole in her skull because comparing anyone in Naruto to a regular person is a bad idea when even some of the children can go faster than a regular eye can see. Not to mention they have her win because Gaara somehow becomes tired after only a few minutes and decided to use an ability he stopped using several years prior to the version they decided to use, as well as making Toph gain superhuman abilities.

    They also had another ridiculous win in their Nightmare vs Guts battle, their reasoning for Guts winning is because he always wins against monsters and gods way above him, so he'll win here too of course. Now I'm not saying that Guts should have lost, I'm saying that kind of reasoning was really stupid.

    I will say that I liked their reasoning on how Superman and Goku were different and why they should be looked at differently, but that's about it.

    Having a crossover though with the two characters could be pretty cool, especially since they do have different abilities and resistances that would have helped them depending on who they're up against, and it would show that they're both really neat/powerful characters in their own right.

    1. Well, in all honesty I think the big issue here is that some people see the loss of one character meaning their inferiority to another. There's a lot of reasons why fans are likely to complain and as I said, it just brings out a lot of toxic behaviour most of the time; but I personally think at least the core of it comes down to fans believing that the character they support has not been done nay justice.

      Yeah, i'll freely admit I only took the time to watch two or three of ScrewAttack's fights, but each time it seemed to be the same. They were well made, had good production values, but were backed by some of the worst reasoning I think i've ever seen. Much of it was questionable at best, and that would be fine were it intending to be a direct parody of Deadliest Warrior. The problem is that there's nothing here to suggest that's the case, and most of this seems to have them treating their outcomes as fair, well researched and just. At least when the Spoony Experiment did the same thing they came out and openly said afterwards that they were intentionally making it unfair, specifically to mock the whole idea of such shows. The examples you give of the Death Battle show screwing up are bad enough and show some incredibly poor reasoning, but it only gets worse given just how many times they keep breaking their own rules.

      That i'll definitely agree with to a point, explaining and outlining how each character represents a different approach or way of thinking is fine. The problem in this case is it came off as ScrewAttack trying to just get everyone to accept their complete game-changing and abandoning all prior research to declare Superman infinitely powerful and capable of killing everything. It was dressed up, but somehow that honestly made it all the more insulting in some respects, at least to me personally.

  2. Quite honestly, I always found the idea of a Transformer and a pony fighting ridiculous. Should've been a Bionicle character instead.