Toon Zone Throwdown Round 1: Top 5 Bare-Knuckle Brawls
Here at Toon Zone News, we firmly believe that non-violent solutions to Real World problems are the ones that should be actively sought out and implemented. These solutions are harder to do, but if done correctly, they will tend to be more permanent, resulting in less ancillary suffering of innocent bystanders and more long-term happiness for all parties involved.
That’s why we want our cartoon characters to solve their problems with as much violence as possible.
So, to commemorate the opening of Kung Fu Panda last week and The Incredible Hulk movie this week, and with tongues placed firmly in cheek, the staff at Toon Zone News has pumped up the adrenaline and the testosterone to put together the Hulk-sized Toon Zone Throwdown: our completely subjective picks for the best slugfests in animation, divided into five categories of five fights each. There will be one new Top 5 list per day, starting Monday and running to the opening of The Incredible Hulk on Friday.
Our first list of Top 5 Animated Fights are the Bare-Knuckle Brawls. We have a few rules on how we picked these fights:
- The first rule of the Toon Zone Throwdown is that we do not TALK about the Toon Zone Throwdown.
- What am I talking about? We want EVERYONE to talk about the Toon Zone Throwdown. Tell all your friends about this.
- All the fights on this list are about putting Fists and Feet in Faces (FnFiF from here on out).
- The only permissible weapons are ones physically integral to the fighters (like teeth or claws) or Opportunistic Clubs, meaning stuff lying around that someone picks up to smash an opponent with. Nobody should start the fight with a weapon. Weapons fights are coming up in the list of Duels.
- Super powers are permitted only if they are used to assist in putting FnFiF. Super power brawls are coming up in the Power Fights list.
- If we were considering a gang brawl, then we expect at least two of the fighters to be obeying rules 3-5. The more fighters engaged in FnFiF, the better.
In addition to the screenshots for these fights, any title that’s a link will take you to a legal video of the TV show or movie in question, either streaming or downloadable for a fee. Nothing brings across a fight like seeing it in motion.
All these writeups may contain spoilers. Ready? Then let’s FIGHT!
The Hulk vs. The Thing
Fantastic Four: The Animated Series: “Nightmare in Green” (1995)
Directed by Thomas McLaughlin. Jr.
Why: Given the inspiration of the list and the long-running rivalry between the two, we had to include a Hulk vs. Thing fight somewhere. However, despite the multiple times both characters have had animated shows, there haven’t been that many Hulk vs. Thing matchups, perhaps due to licensing issues, the younger audiences these shows aimed for, or Broadcast Standards & Practices injunctions against “imitatable acts.” Nothing is more imitatable than punching someone in the face. Luckily, the 1995 Fantastic Four episode “Nightmare in Green,” has not one but two heavy-duty, knock-down, drag-out punch-ups between Green Genes and Aunt Petunia’s favorite nephew. It doesn’t even wait long to get the party started — the Hulk and the Thing have at each other for nearly three minutes even before the opening credits. The lovingly rendered fist-to-face impacts are even more surprising when you consider that this was the era when Spider-Man and Wolverine couldn’t even make a fist on the air in other Marvel cartoons. The rest of the Fantastic Four may make token appearances, but at heart, this fight belongs to the Hulk and the Thing.
One other reason this is a great fight between the Hulk and the Thing is that it doesn’t go for the usual cop-out “It’s a draw” answer. The Hulk really beats the stuffing out of ol’ Ben. It isn’t even close — there’s even some doubt whether Ben survived the fight. To his credit, Ben doesn’t go quietly, resulting in some pretty major property damage to Manhattan. It’s a little ways off from the insurance company nightmare that was the Superman/Captain Marvel throwdown in Justice League Unlimited‘s “Clash,” but it would be shocking to see that much wanton destruction in a superhero cartoon today, let alone one from 10 years ago.
Black Canary vs. Huntress vs. Vixen vs. Hawkgirl vs. Wonder Woman
Justice League Unlimited: “Grudge Match” (2006)
Directed by Joaquim Dos Santos
Why: Speaking of Justice League Unlimited, conventional wisdom would put one of its many Superman fights for this list. Conventional wisdom is for the unadventurous, though, which is why we’ve picked the bench-clearing catfight of “Grudge Match” instead. The fact that it’s directed by Joaquim Dos Santos is the first sign of what you’re in for here. Personally, I have nicknamed him “Dr. Fight” in my head because he really knows how to direct the hell out of an action scene, and there’s plenty of raw material for him to work with here.
The reason why this fight gets picked over all the many great, bone-crunching FnFiF fight scenes of JLU is because it’s a perfect demonstration of how the way a character fights can communicate character traits about them. Black Canary’s flawless martial arts techniques pound the snot out of people with an elegant, balletic grace that matches her cool, aloof demeanor. In contrast, the Huntress uses a much uglier and more direct street-fighting style that matches her more abrasive personality. Hawkgirl’s attacks have no subtlety at all — they are direct and linear, effective because of their tremendous speed and the way she adds the third dimension to her fighting style. Vixen’s powers drive the way she fights — she moves differently channeling a boa constrictor than when she’s channeling an elephant. And once Wonder Woman joins in, it becomes clear very quickly that her combination of superlative fighting skill and raw power means everyone else in the room put together is still nowhere near her weight class.
“Hits like a girl?” Hah! If it’s any one of THESE girls, that’s quite a compliment.
Amuro Ray vs. Char Aznable
Kidô senshi Gandamu: Gyakushû no Shâ/Mobile Suit Gundam: Char’s Counterattack (1988)
Directed by Yoshiyuki Tomino
Why: Gundam made its name with its mix of realistic mecha and futuristic politics. But perhaps more importantly is the factor that keeps fans coming back: the rivalries. Surely on the top of the list is the original, Amuro Ray vs. Char Aznable. Clashing again and again in the original series with battles that never ended in a definitive victory for either. An uneasy truce was formed following sequel series, but finally the gloves were off for the theatrical motion picture Mobile Suit Gundam: Char’s Counterattack. Finally at his wit’s end with humanity’s corruption, legendary antagonist Char masterminds a scheme to drop the massive asteroid base Axis on to Earth, creating a nuclear winter and forcing the remaining Earth elite to join the rest of humanity in space. Opposing him as always is Amuro. With Amuro piloting the Nu Gundam and Char piloting the Sazabi, the two engage in battle on the asteroid surface.
The ensuing fight is vicious. Both pilots cycle through the various weapons available to them, trying desperately to land the killing blow. However, the real reason we include this fight here is that their fight is so furious that soon both men are are out of weaponry and reduced to having their humanoid robots punching, kicking, and trying to rip chunks out of one another. Even while Amuro is attempting to desperately push back the descending asteroid base, the two continue their battle with harsh language. In the end, this fight is not for revolution. Not for duty. They fight simply to settle a decade old feud between two hated rivals who blame each other for the same woman’s death.
Also, you know, we ran out of time for “Top 5 Giant Robot Fights” and this one was too cool not to include somewhere.
Porco Rosso vs. Curtis
Kurenai no Buta/Porco Rosso (1992)
Directed by Hayao Miyazaki
Why: Hmmm…and here’s another fight over a woman. As the leader of the Mamma Aiuto Air Pirates would say, “There are FORMALITIES that must be observed!” and one of those formalities is that you should really try to get something by Hayao Miyazaki on to any animation-related “Top 5” list. His collected works aren’t much for overt FnFiF action, but the one notable exception is the closing fight between the title character of Porco Rosso and the arrogant cowboy pilot Curtis, with the fate of spunky tomboy mechanic Fio hanging in the balance. It wasn’t even supposed to be a fistfight, but both of their guns jammed on their airplanes, and they ran out of stuff to throw at each other in the air.
What follows is a simple, straightforward, and hilarious fistfight. It’s a great fight because both of them are too stupid and stubborn to give up until they knock each other out. Even then, it looks like they’ve battled to a draw until Miss Gina shows up to inspire Porco to his well-earned victory. This fight is also one of very few where two guys can pound each other to bloody pulp while maintaining the underlying sweetness and light tone of the film as a whole. It’s funny, but it’s also serious, and it takes a master like Miyazaki to pull it off this well.
Bigwig vs. General Woundwort
Watership Down (1978)
Directed by Martin Rosen
Why: On the other hand, this fight also involves two characters beating each other to a bloody pulp, but there’s no sweetness to be found anywhere. Based on the novel by Richard Adams, 1978’s Watership Down is a real antidote to the cutesy, idyllic nature presented in most animated movies. Instead, it opts for a gritty, hard-edged, realistic look at the hard-scrabble life in a rabbit warren. To them, it seems that the entire world has been populated with things that are out to kill them. In the climactic sequence the film, these things turn out to be other rabbits, as the fascist rabbit General Woundwort leads an attack on the rabbit warren led by the valiant Hazel. Hazel dashes off in a last-minute bid to get help, instructing his second-in-command Bigwig to hold off the General’s invading forces for as long as he can. Bigwig and Woundwort have history, so once they find each other, it is ON between these two hardcore, bad-ass rabbits.
What makes this fight distinctive is that it is brutal, ugly, bloody, and short…and thus far more realistic than any of the other fights on this list, even though the participants aren’t even human. Almost the entire last half of the movie has been building up to this fight, creating tremendous suspense and ensuring that we feel that the very survival of Hazel’s warren is at stake. Furthermore, when the fight finally erupts, there is not much variety in it. It’s just two rabbits doing their best to rip each other to shreds. What it may lack in length is more than made up for with intensity and drama. As the blood flows freely, the savagery and viciousness of the fight between Bigwig and the General leaves little doubt that this fight is for keeps. There is no glory in this fight, only the most basic and primal struggle for survival.
On a side note, what’s up with letting this movie go out of print on DVD in Region 1, Warner Home Video? This animated classic deserves to be seen by everybody everywhere. Don’t make us go all Bigwig on your butts to get it! (UPDATED June 24, 2008: Credit where credit is due — Warner Home Video is bringing Watership Down back in print for its 30th anniversary.)
Earlier Toon Zone Top 5 lists have had lists of runners-up or alternates. However, in the Toon Zone Throwdown, there are winners and there are losers, and we’re not doing runner-up lists for losers. However, because I just know someone’s going to ask about it…
Superman vs. Darkseid
Justice League Unlimited: “Destroyer” (2006)
Directed by Joaquim Dos Santos
Why not? Make no mistake: this entire episode is a fabulous smörgåsbord of comic book superhero violence, directed by “Dr. Fight” himself and including the final, earth-shattering confrontation between Superman and Darkseid. Their battles, starting in Superman the Animated Series and running all the way to now, have been growing in intensity and come to a glorious head in this final episode of the show.
So why isn’t this in the top 5? Simple. Superman delivers a bad-ass, tough guy speech. It’s a terrific bad-ass, tough guy speech, and it’s followed by him cutting loose and giving a right royal pounding on Darkseid. And what happens next? After taking what was supposed to be Superman’s best shots, Darkseid stands up, none the worse for wear, and proceeds to kick Superman’s butt. The only thing that prevents Superman from getting his heart cut out by a Kryptonite dagger is Lex Luthor showing up to give Darkseid exactly what he wanted all along.
No way a fight is going to make it to our top five when it centers on a world-class trash talker who then gets his ass handed to him on a silver platter.
Replay Past Toon Zone Throwdown Rounds:
- Round 1: Top 5 Bare-Knuckle Brawls
- Round 2: Top 5 Duels
- Round 3: Top 5 Power Fights
- Round 4: Top 5 Comedy Fights
- Round 5: Top 5 Takedowns
Concept for Toon Zone Throwdown by Jacob T. Paschal. Toon Zone News Staffers Stu, HellCat, James, and Duke contributed to this article, and the Marvel Animation Age provided screenshots for the Hulk/Thing fight.