Bruises, Burns & Beat-Downs from the Pain Hall of Fame.
In the knock-down, drag-out world of comic book combat, superheroes routinely experience boatloads of pain and physical punishment. So much so, veteran readers (such as myself) seldom bat an eye when confronted by the sheer amount of punching, kicking, gouging, smashing, and pummeling experienced (and dished out) by superheroes. Like a Looney Tunes anvil to the head or a Three Stooges slap fest, it’s just part of the gig.
However, every now and then, a comic book cover comes along that depicts injuries so intense or disturbing, even the most jaded, battle-hardened reader will wince in sympathetic pain.
Kicking things off is the cover of Amazing Spider-Man #133 (1974), featuring a nice, comfy third degree burn to the neck…courtesy of the Molten Man. Mmmm…smells like bacon!
Continuing the flesh-searing theme is Green Lantern #110 (1978), as Hal Jordan is literally branded with his own lantern logo courtesy of a reality-hopping alien named Borch. You’d think Green Arrow would refrain from stating the obvious and get his fellow Hard Travelin’ Hero some aloe vera….stat!
It’s gonna take more than soothing ointment to help Daredevil, following the Punisher’s impromptu “ventilation” of his abdomen in Daredevil #183 (1982).
Multiple-choice quiz: Are those two objects leaving Daredevil's exit wound:
(A) The Punisher’s bullet casings?
(B) Pieces of Daredevil’s costume?
Daredevil’s grievous internal injuries, while serious, still don’t hold a candle to Buddy Blank’s internal disintegration in Animal Man #10 (1989), as he’s summoned with a vivisecting transport ray by the mysterious aliens who originally granted him his powers. Eeeewww!
Though impervious to physical injury himself, the near-omnipotent Spectre could certainly dish it out. Adventure Comics #431 (1974) finds the Ghostly Guardian punishing evil in his customary irony-soaked, gruesomely creative fashion…this time melting the criminal’s gun-toting arms into fleshy slag!
While we’re on the topic of "fleshy slag", that’s the consistency of Barry Allen’s face in Flash #341 (1985) following a pummeling by the buffoonish Big Sir. The damage to his face was so extensive, Barry received high-tech plastic surgery from his intelligent gorilla friend Solovar (yes, you read that correctly), leaving him with a different face and, strangely enough, a new hair color for the remaining nine issues of his title.
The cover of JSA #10 (2000) shows veteran member Wildcat with a similarly mutilated face, though the interior story depicted nothing of the sort as he handily defeated an invading Injustice Society….all the while wearing only a towel!
Tired of suffering defeat at the hands of an adult Superman, Lex Luthor evens the odds by transforming his foe into a child in Action Comics #466 (1976). Of course, the only thing worse than hitting a kid is hitting him in the back of the head with hi-tech brass knuckles! For those keeping score at home, this would be Excedrin Headache #5.
Several years earlier in Action Comics #361 (1968), the Parasite proves he has no problem taking on an adult Man of Steel, as the sheer impact of his devastating punch (courtesy of artist Neal Adams) seems to be knocking Superman clear out of the 2-dimensional plane toward the reader.
Another wince-inducing blow can be found on the cover of Captain America #230 (1979), as Cap’s indestructible shield is the only thing between him and the rage-fueled fist of The Hulk! Ooof!
Batman bends over backwards in his relentless war on crime, but never more literally than on the cover of Batman #497 (1993), as the monstrous Bane invades the Bat Cave to deliver a (near) career-ending, back-breaking blow.
Less dramatic, yet no less painful looking is Dianna’s improbable, similarly spine-warping pose from the cover of Wonder Woman #231 (1977). No doubt intended to look “sexy”, the alarming contortionism on display here isn't quite pulling it off.
How about a double-fisted, Mach-3 smash to the face? That’s exactly what Superman gets from his older Earth-2 counterpart, who made his “impactful” Silver Age debut here in Justice League of America #74 (1969).
Not painful enough for you? How about the decaying fingers of an ancient cannibal/sorcerer ripping out your eyeball for a snack? That’s exactly what happened to everyone’s favorite Canadian mutant on the cover of Wolverine #165 (2001). Sure, his regenerative powers soon restored the missing eyeball, but still…that’s some off-the-scale discomfort right there.
Like the mythic account of a fully-grown Athena springing from the skull of her daddy Zeus, Solar #2 (1991) finds the Man of the Atom inflicting the Mother of All Splitting Headaches while bursting from the mind of his alter-ego Phil Seleski.
Finally, we come to the cover of Thor #157 (1968), where we see the thunder god’s groin being crushed by the vise-like claw of Mangog. “Is that all?” you say? I forgot to mention that the Mangog was a creature fueled by the collective power of a billion-billion people…which translates into “oatmeal groin” for Goldilocks.
For those of you who’ve made it this far without collapsing in sympathetic pain, be thankful that you will never have to experience Mangog’s pelvis-crushing grip, the Spectre’s flesh-melting wrath, or the business end of the Hulk’s fist.
Sure…as pampered, mouse-clicking twinkies, we still have to deal with the agonies of hangnails and eyestrain…but as for the really rough stuff?
Leave it to the professionals.