Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Don't Judge Me

Because there was some confusion in the comments for the most recent post, I thought I'd take a minute to type out what I believe to be, from a lifetime of reading bad comics, the relative strength levels of the various Marvel characters. It's been a while since I've sat down with an issue of The Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe but I still recall quite clearly how the book avoided any real judgment on the more contentious issues - say, Thor vs. the Hulk - but still did a good job of providing relative power levels for most of the rest of the strong guys in the Marvel Universe. The "Class 100" thing was good way of avoiding the subject, but even given that a few general rules of thumb have cohered in the treatment of the characters - despite the occasional blunder (like Hercules moving the island of Manhattan with a tow-chain - whu?).

A couple notes: Iron Man is not included, as the variable nature of his armor makes any real guess as to his strength level moot - one of his "Hulk Buster" armors probably easily taps out at "Class 100", whereas his black stealth armor is probably very weak in comparison. Traditionally, in the context of the Avengers, Iron Man was always treated as roughly 75-80% as strong as Thor in any given story, putting him about level with the Thing, which still seems like a good rule of thumb to me.

The Sentry's power levels are constantly variable, even in the context of the same story, so any guess as to how strong he is usually comes down to "however strong the writer wants him to be". His powers are such a willful deus ex machina that it's really difficult to get a handle on what he can and can't even do - and over the years I've read more or less every story the character has appeared in! (Well, not all of the New Avengers appearances, because, well, even for free they blow.)

Relative Strength
(In Descending Order)

The Silver Surfer* / The Destroyer (Armor)*
The Juggernaut (Fully Powered) / "World War" Hulk / Gladiator** / "Odinpower" Thor
Thor / Beta Ray Bill / The Hulk (Green) / Thanos / The Abomination / Hercules
Sub-Mariner (Submerged) / Absorbing Man***
Wonder Man / The Thing (Pointy Rock)****
Gray Hulk / The Thing (Normal) / She-Hulk / Black Bolt / Demigod Hercules
Colossus / The Champion***** / Sasquatch / Sub-Mariner (Out of water)
Ms. Marvel / Rogue / Doc Sampson

* For all intents and purposes the Silver Surfer and the Odin-powered Destroyer armor both possess essentially limitless reservoirs of power. In the past the Surfer has been able to vary his physical power depending on the situation, and even without any preparation has shrugged off the Hulk's mightiest blows with little or no distress. The Destroyer Armor is probably the most powerful mystical artifact in the Marvel Universe, and has never been defeated physically. It's easy to imagine that the Destroyer could probably defeat even the Silver Surfer, if worn by a sufficiently ruthless warrior.

** Depending on his willpower, his strength is variable.

*** Having absorbed an incredibly strong metal, such as Uru (Thor's hammer), adamantium or the adamantium alloy of which Captain America's shield is composed.

****Fantastic Four #310-327

***** Without his Infinity Gem - with the gem, his physical strength is assumed to be near-infinite.

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