Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Discuss: Woodgod is HOW strong???

Karen: A lot of us comic geeks enjoy talking about super-hero power levels, and when Marvel came out with their Official Handbooks of the Marvel Universe, with actual statistics provided, it became similar to baseball fans comparing favorite players by the numbers. Instead of batting average and RBI, we could compare how many tons someone could lift or their level of invulnerability. 

Recently my nephew sent me this link, from the Marvel wiki, which lists a vast number of Marvel characters and their strength levels. I spent some time poring over it, and I have to say I was struck by a couple of things:

1. A large number of characters have had their strength upped since they first began recording these things. I recall Colossus was originally rated at 70 tons; now he is ranked as potentially over 100 tons. The Thing, once 85 tons, is also in that class. Others who have gone up notably: Ms. Marvel, She-Hulk, Iron Man, Sub-Mariner, Spider-Man, Luke Cage.

2. There are some really wacky, surprising ratings here. I mean, Woodgod, 50 tons? Seriously? Or Deathlok, 85 tons? This has got to be some later iteration of the character. Or even the Black Widow, 500 pounds? Come on. Yes, she's a great athlete, but 500 pounds is ridiculous. Then again, I think they ret-conned her origin too, so she may be super-human. 

Take a look at the Strength scale and come back and let us know what you think about it. Or even more generally, do you like having concrete numbers to put with characters? 


dbutler16 said...

I remember Colossus being at 70 tons, too. I also remember the Thing being at 85 tons and he's now over 100. I'm not surprised, however. Superheroes only incease in power level, they never decrease. This is due to a sadly mistaken belief that: more powerful character = better/more interesting character.

ZIRGAR said...

The Thing and Colossus were always working out with all that really cool exercise equipment. Plus after Galactus changed Ben Grimm BACK into the Thing he was bigger and stronger than he had been previously. Also, after Colossus was The Juggernaut for a while, didn't he retain some of that potentially unlimited strength? One thing I found funny was back in the Korvac Saga when Wonder Man tried to impress Ms. Marvel by lifting some weights set at "Thor level" and he didn't quite manage to lift it all the way. These strength levels are always in flux, so I don't put much stock in them. I mean, for me, the Hulk at baseline is in the top five, but as soon as he gets angry he becomes number one and only goes up from there. After that, it all just becomes a matter of whoever you like is the strongest.

ZIRGAR said...

An aside, I do remember Woodgod fighting with the Hulk and pretty much holding his own. Now whether that was due to strength or toughness or whatever, I don't know. But I do think Woodgod is stronger than is typically thought (if anyone even pays him any mind, at all), even if he does look small and not particularly muscular. Personally, I like Woodgod. At least the version from back in the Bronze Age ;-)

Edo Bosnar said...

Yeah, let's hear it for Woodgod! And be thankful that his name was somehow never appropriated by a porn star (at least not as far as I know).

To me, strength levels and whatnot aren't all that important. However, I'll readily admit that I loved the Marvel Universe Handbook back in the day and enjoyed all of the stats on strength, invulnerability and other power levels. And I just loved that breakdown of strength levels for the various heroes from that Spider-man Annual you posted here - even though at the time I recall being miffed by the fact that the Thing and Colossus weren't put into higher categories.

Doc Savage said...

Everyone has been hyperinflated at everything they do. Batman is a ninja and probably benches small cars now. For me, it makes the characters less heroic. Remember whenSpidey struggled to lift that debris off himself? Now he'd just flick it away with one hand. Is that more exciting?

Doc Savage said...

My understanding is that Black Widow was now supposedly around in WW2, received a super-soldier serum, and is on the level of Captain America. All of which makes her a bad carbon copy of Cap & Wolverine instead of a uniquely trained superspy femme fatale.

Can't think of one good reason she should be in her 90s but look 25. At least the movie version got it fairly right.

david_b said...

I wasn't a big fan of the MU Guides.. Sure they were all encompasing for tidbits, but when they started comparing heroes, I lost interest.

It steals the magic away, especially as Matt indicated, there was much more dramatic tension built when you really didn't know what some heroes were capable of.

But it was a handy reference, I can see that, but very subjective obviously.

I'm irked the Thing wasn't considered higher.. I always liked the fact that he could still pound Hulkie pretty good when he wanted to.

And Iron Man considered one of the top..? Naaaaaah, not really. His armor is impressive, but I'd keep him comfortably at Subby level. We saw him fight Thor many a time, no competition.

I would put Spiderman down a notch as well ~ He's shown to be at the same level as the Surfer..? I'd put him more down with DD and Captain America.

And by the way, where IS Cap and his armor-tearing super-strength in these illustrations..???

Anonymous said...

The other thing, of course, is how much do their super powers augment their strength? I mean, Thor and Herc don’t have the biggest biceps, but you know that, in this area at least, size doesn’t matter. Likewise, the Surfer’s strength is NOT about having a great set of delts so much as being cosmically powered. The Hulk gets more powerful as he gets more angry, but he doesn’t get physically bigger...stronger, but not more muscular. how much they can lift a measurement of strength....or of power?

Also, Zirgar makes a great a point. Correct me if I’m wrong, but in that bit where Wonder Man is trying to impress Ms. M and fails to lift the Thor bar, I think the next thing that happens is that the Beast lifts it effortlessly with one arm and puts it away....thereby making Hank apparently significantly stronger than both Wondy and Thor. Seriously?

Also...where are the baddies in all this?


ZIRGAR said...

In reply to Anonymous. Actually, Iron Man saves Wonder Man by using his repulsors to hit the "off" switch on the weight machine. With Wonder Man struggling with the weights and Ms. Marvel unfamiliar with the setup neither one could turn off the weight machine. Although I wonder why Ms. Marvel didn't just grab it with Wondy and help him drop it (maybe she was trying to spare his wounded male ego. Better for him to be crushed than to feel like a wimp? lol). It's a good thing Iron Man just happened to stop in for a moment.

Edo Bosnar said...

Richard, the Beast scene you're recalling is from quite a few issues before the incident Zirgar describes: he easily hefts a barbell Cap was straining with.

ZIRGAR said...

In response to david _b:

Here's the full chart. Of course, this is from the early 80's, so...

One thing: Capt doesn't have super strength, right? He just has the highest level possible for a normal human.

david_b said...

I guess I'm referring to the super-strength serum Cap was given, allowing him to tear the door off an armored car, back in CA&F ish 160 (?).

That's far more than highest level strength..

Doc Savage said...

That was eliminated at least by the time Kirby came back. Cap is supposedly the upper limit of normal human physical potential. At least last I read...who knows anymore?

Anonymous said...

Karen, to answer your last question about liking "concrete" numbers - while I guess it can be fun to talk about them, I think my answer is "no". I prefer things like the images you have in the post. I remember some similar pin-ups that I believe were from the Silver Age Spiderman annuals that hinted at or speculated as to how strong Spidey was compared to other heroes. For me, the stats are overkill. As david_b said "...steals the magic...".

And Edo...yeah let's hear it for Woodgod! Great name! LOL


mr. oyola said...

This is a version of one of our favorite discussion back in jumior high, who would win, Thor or Hulk? :)

Yeah, all these strength levels seem a little too high across the board and I think 2 to 10 tons is too wide a lower category. I'd put Spider-man at 10 tons for his max, for example.

I always thought of Hulk and Thing at the same level until the Hulk gets madder.

Karen said...

I just threw in the pics from the Spidey annual because I thought they were fun. But I think some of the folks there were grossly mis-classified, like Colossus. But that's what makes it fun, arguing about where they should be ranked.

I do feel there's been too much power inflation over the years. I like Spidey being in the lower ranks -although when you think about it, being able to lift ten tons is pretty darn impressive! Of course, the DC heroes are always head and shoulders above the Marvel heroes when it comes to power inflation. I mean, most of the big names also have super speed, so I contend that they would beat their counterparts in a fight -Thor couldn't even lay a fist on Superman or Captain Marvel for instance, as they'd simply move out of the way. But that's probably best left to another post.

I thought it was interesting in that Marvel wiki that a popular character like Wolverine was left ambiguous when it comes to his strength -likely because different writers have shown it at different levels. So he's somewhat super-human but it's unclear how much. You'd think by now they would have pinned it down.

Garett said...

I like the picture, with the characters arguing about where they belong on the charts. But putting actual numbers on strength and abilities takes away from the imagination of the reader.

Doc Savage said...

I really don't see why Wolverine needs super strength...aren't claws, unbreakable skeleton, and healing power enough?

As for Spidey, if I recall they claim "proportionate strength of a spider," except spiders aren't especially strong and they're really thinking of ants. In any case, if an ant can carry ten times its own weight, shouldn't Spidey's upper limit be more like 1,800 lbs.? he's not a heavy guy.

William said...

I remember seeing this chart when it was first published. I also remember being surprised by some of the rankings.

The Top tier is fine, with the exception of Iron Man, who should be down on the next level.

I think the second to top tier is pretty good. I feel that the Thing does belong on this level because it was always said that he was not quite as strong as the Hulk.

The next level down (the one with Spider-Man) is the most inaccurate. I really think that Colossus, Silver Surfer and She Hulk should be up on the next level. Also, I'm not positive about Luke Cage, after all he was called Powerman. However, I think his main super power was having "steel hard skin" and not so much super strength.

Spider-Man is an unusual case. Most people don't think of him as having super strength as much as his agility and wall-crawling powers. However, he has been shown in the comics, stopping a runaway roller coaster and even lifting a small car over his head. And in the movies he is shown as being extremely strong. Remember in Spider-Man 2 when he stopped a subway train with his webbing and bare hands? That's almost a Superman level feat there.

The tier that is not shown is the "normal human strength" level. If I recall it featured characters like Captain America, Wolverine and The Beast. I always thought that the Beast had at some sort of enhanced strength. So, he should be up on the level with Spider-Man.

It's really a though debate, as a lot of times a characters upper strength level depends on who's writing them at the time.

William said...

Matt is absolutely right. They have made Spider-Man way too strong in the comics and the movies. I did some research and it seems even the strongest spider species can lift a maximum of about 10 times their own weight.

Peter Parker weighs at most 180 pounds, so even if he has the "proportionate strength of a spider" he should only be able to dead-lift about 1,800 pounds (as Matt pointed out). Which is still pretty damn strong.

I wonder why they over-exaggerated Spidey's strength so much in the comics and movies. I think he'd be more interesting if he wasn't portrayed as such a powerhouse in the strength department. He mostly relies on his agility, speed, and wall-crawling abilities anyway. He doesn't really need to be a Hercules as well.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Edo, quite right. It’s in the Korvac saga somewhere, isn’t it?

Ref. Cap’s super strength, it turned up in #159 as a result of poison reacting to the super soldier serum, but I don’t remember any clear explanation of where it went. I seem to remember a reference to it when they’re fixing the statue of liberty in Avengers #113, but Kirby’s first image when he took over has Cap and the Falcon arm wrestling, which would surely have ended badly for the Falcon? Likewise, they never explained how or why Cap stopped being a policeman. Under Englehart, It was actually a plot point that the police thought his constant disappearances indicated he was some sort of criminal infiltrator, but then he just never showed up for work again and no one batted an eye. As we said before, Jack just disregarded everything that had happened since Steranko.


Inkstained Wretch said...

I have issues from both volumes of Marvel Universe and what struck me was how much the ratings could change from one volume to the next. In the original series Mr. Hyde was rated at 11 tons. In the next he was upgraded to 50 tons! I guess they had to make him punching it out with Hercules in Avengers Disassembled plausible.

As far as having specific rankings ... well, I get the argument of leaving them vague for the sake of story-telling, but my inner geek says, "I wanna know!"

The example of Captain America that david_b brings up actually underscores why these guides are are a good idea. During his run as writer, Steve Englehart decided that Cap needed to be more powerful than just the Olympic-level athlete the Super-Soldier Serum made him. So he introduced a storyline in which a villain's poison dart (!) caused a reaction with the serum that made Cap super-strong.

Exactly how strong was never made clear but it was somewhere in the range of the Beast and Spider-Man. This in turn caused the Falcon to decide he wasn't pulling his weight as a partner so he got Black Panther to create his wings. So the storyline had some consequences.

And then... Cap's super-strength was forgotten about. Since he was mostly punching out non- or minimally-powered bad guys at the time, the stories stopped referencing it and when other writers took over the title they apparently hadn't gotten the memo: Cap reverted to his prior strength level. Jack Kirby completely ignored it during his subsequent two-year run. Nor was it ever referenced in Avengers.

It wasn't until years later that anybody spotted this continuity error and included a scene of Cap saying in essence, "Yeah, I had super-strength once but it faded."

Had Marvel Universe been around at the time maybe this wouldn't have happened. It's not a big deal, I know, but it's amusing such an oversight could happen with a major character like Cap.

Anonymous said...

I kinda liked the strength levels given in Marvel Universe, but as a few people have mentioned, they tended to change between editions. DC's Who's Who always refused to give exact numbers for fear of "limiting" future writers.

Of course, strength alone isn't an indicator of who'll win in a fight; Captain America and Daredevil have both beaten Mr. Hyde and Spidey's pounded Firelord and Titania into the ground, so you never know.

Mike W.

Inkstained Wretch said...

Sorry, didn't realize Richard had already posted on Cap's super-strength.

Karen said...

There's been a lot of fluctuation with some characters. I mean, the aforementioned Mr. Hyde started out as a Thor villain! Then he became a DD villain for the longest time, then he was whupping on Hercules...I have no idea where to put him really. Or what about the Rhino? Fought Spidey, but also fought Hulk.

As much fun as it is to play with the numbers, we were probably better off without them. DC may have been smart to leave it all very vague.

Humanbelly said...

And the whole issue of power-inflation over the course of time is probably unavoidable in this kind of genre'-- y'know, episodic and so often based on overcoming physical obstacles & threats. At some level, it becomes an endless sequence of threat-topping, and the heroes' abilities have to slowly, slowly expand to match what's being thrown at them. This is touched on in a play called HISTORY OF INVULNERABILITY. . . and Jerry Siegel saw it happening at an alarming rate as control of the Superman character slipped from his hands even in those early years.

But heck, if I remember right, even the Six Million Dollar Man seemed to top his own feats regularly as the series progressed into its twilight-- and he had a VERY codified set of power parameters.

On the macro level, this phenomenon might be more responsible for taking the fun out of modern comics than anything else. The threat levels have long-since inflated up to the omnimultimegaubercosmoinfiniteallofreality universe level-- which is so stupid and unimaginably large that it counteracts the intent to impart "really big this time"-ness to the stories, and essentially renders them completely meaningless.

Or am I just bitter?

(Waiting for HBGirl to finish at dance. . . as is often the case w/ these longer posts. . . heh. . . )


mr. oyola said...

A spider may be able to "only' lift 10 times its body weight, but Peter Parker is hundreds (if not thousands) of times bigger than a spider - so I am not sure the weight thing is the way to go.

Regardless, I consulted my Spider-Man expert and he agrees with me, he should be topped out at 10 tons, with a couple of exceptions on the higher side if he needs to save Aunt May. :)

Doc Savage said...

I think you're right on. All these cosmic menaces just make each other ordinary. I like it when Spidey fights a guy like the Vulture. All V can do is fly and scheme! But written and drawn right, it's exciting. No need for Galactus and Eternity and the Collector to team up against Power Man & Iron Fist & Shang least not every friggin' year!

Doc Savage said...

I actually prefer the power levels of the TV versions of super heroes. Lynda Carter, i think, could lift up the front of a pickup and bend an iron bar. Adam West could fight a handful of thugs at once. Reb Brown could leap about 20 feet straight up. Nicholas Hammond was about on par with a stuntman. Lou Ferrigno could smash thru a subway train. I think that's plenty powerful to be impressive. It all depends, I suppose, on how powerful you make the opposition, but frankly Lou lifting the Empire State Building would just look and feel silly.

William Preston said...

I don't know what DC's done with the 52 version of Superman, but, contra what others have noted, I think DC made the effort several times over the past 40 years to dial back Supes's strength, at least in his own comic. Right?

Anonymous said...

I am with those who agree that quantifying strength levels is not the greatest idea. Sure, some fanboys might like it when they're debating who's stronger, Hulk or the Thing for example. One might say 'well, the Marvel handbook says Hulk is class 100, and the Thing is only rated at 85 tons."

However, it's all relative in the context of storytelling. Stan Lee himself once said that in the hands of a writer, Mickey Mouse could conceivably defeat Godzilla.

These strength ratings were probably an attempt to rank our heroes on a scale, but sometimes it can lead to confusion - in different stories, characters can have wildly differing levels,e.g. Mr Hyde as some readers mentioned.

OK just my fanboy observations - Iron Man does not belong in the superheavyweight category, he should be a notch down. Now it's just insanity to have the Silver Surfer down there with Luke Cage & co. Being endowed with the power cosmic, he should be right up there with Thor & the Hulk. Colossus should be up there in the Thing's class. Spidey is about right at 10 tons. Cap could probably lift a little more than an Olympic athlete.

Yes, I do recall Woodgod holding his own against the Hulk. What's Black Bolt doing there?

- Mike 'power levels are overrated' from Trinidad & Tobago.

Rip Jagger said...

This is one of those good old days debates for sure. Rarely has this site felt more like a vintage letters page than today.

That's a good thing.

I love that classic one-page poster shot of Spidey holding over his head other Marvel heavy lifters like Thor, Hulk, Thing and some others. The debate of course was could Spidey hang with these guys and the answer of course was not because of his inherent strength.

It's one of the silliest arguments in comics and one of the most fun.

Rip Off

Vernon Sanders said...

Thank you!!!

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