A hulking beast of a man materializes upon a sparse scrubland. The field is vast with little vegetation and a smattering of ancient ruins of varying proportions. "Crom! What Stygian dog of Set has whisked me from my mount and dropped me upon this barren waste? By Ishtar I hate wizards. A man should fight face to face, with steel in hand to match the fierce intent in his eyes." Conan attempts to explore this strange land he finds himself in only to realize he's unable to move. As he flexes his sinewy muscles to break free of whatever accursed spell he is in, a flash of light momentarily blinds him. The event passes quickly and the barbarian's keen senses reveal he is no longer alone. After blinking several times, his spotty vision returns and Conan sees two figures in the distance, one to the left, and the other to the right. They are close enough to see some details of their forms and strange garbs, but nothing more. The bewildered barbarian is now at his wit's end as he continues struggling against an unseen restraint... He knows not who these figures are, and refuses to be helplessly sliced up like a pig to slaughter.
Out of the heavens a slender beam splits into three creating a neon triangle, connecting to the three bodies on the field as it hits each in the forehead, depositing vital information before the Deathmatch commences. None of the opponents can put into words what the alien intelligence has imparted in those seconds of time, but they are now aware of three things:
There is NO escape.
There is NO mercy.
Only ONE will leave this field alive...
What is this?
The other day I was reading through Amerowolf's Comic Book Bucket List article and it got me thinking about the many comic book characters I've enjoyed over time. I thought that the list had a lot of great books, but as always is the case, I certainly had several more to add by the time I finished reading it. Since I was fresh off of writing By Crom! all about that lovable brute you read about in the opening, it was natural for my mind to ponder the possibilities of how a battle royale between Conan and some of these other characters would unfold. Thus the research began and the writing commenced.
...a very good movie that I enjoyed quite a bit, but that can wait for another piece. A deathmatch between combatants from different comic titles is nothing even remotely new. I have enjoyed getting into very heated debates over "who would win" on several message boards and have seen very scholarly discussions play out with pie graphs, ven diagrams, and home movies of kids wrestling with Marvel and DC characters transposed onto the faces. It's pretty safe to say that these hypotheticals have been around as long as comics have. But, that still doesn't stop me from having a unique point of view on the subject, so I figured I'd devise a nice title for the melee and let the carnage commence.
There's the rub. I decided to try to come up with a (somewhat) original title for my bouts (I say "bouts" plural, in hopes that there will be enough reader interest in doing more of these) and took to the internet to see what I could use. I really thought I had something good with "Comic Clash," but then found a website with several seasons worth of YouTube videos depicting one-on-one matchups with the likes of Thanos vs Darkseid and Venom vs Lobo (pretty fun videos by the way). I couldn't go with anything so generic as Deathmatch Duels or The Smackdown, yada yada, but then the idea of a cage match hit me. When dealing with cosmically powered being or just the average street-level brawlers, you really can't coop these guys up in a small enclosure and have them battle it out. A large field is necessary to let these combatants stretch and utilize strategy and tactics to be able to compete to their fullest. Still, a cage match is about the closest thing our modern society has that harkens back to the blood drenched matches of the Roman gladiators, and that is the spirit of what is desired in this style of Deathmatch. Thus, "In the Cage!"
When you have a character in their own title, most times they practically seem god-like because the comic would have a pretty short run if the main character came up against a bad guy (or good guy) that there was just NO WAY they could possibly overcome or at least survive. A perfect example of this would be Batman (or The Bat God if you so wish), who has proven a number of times that he can overcome practically anyone with enough planning. But, he IS a human, which means if you give him no time to prepare some specialized equipment and tossed him into the ring with a very pissed-off Superman, he'll be shredded into bite sized chunks and heat visioned to dust before he could say, "Clark, wai..." So, this battle is a way to cut through all of the "popularity" bumps and get down to the nitty gritty to see who would plausibly win away from the protection of their fans who would say, "Well, of course Wolverine would beat Mojo, the living planet. How? That don't matter. He's Wolverine! He'll find a way."
That brings us to the setup:
- 3 opponents are taken from their respective universes and dropped on a vast playing field.
- The field is mainly barren plain with some minor vegetation, but there is also some areas of cover such as ancient ruins or rock formations. I'm not saying 3 story buildings, but certainly large enough to be crude fortification for a competitor to take cover in if they can make it there safely.
- Each opponent will have their mind wiped of any previous knowledge they may have of the others. I want these guys to be facing each other fresh in order to test their adaptability on the spot rather than how well they can devise a plan based off a previous encounter.
- Each opponent will have whatever trademark weapons (to a point) that they are known for. No specialized weapons that they've only used once (or a few times) will be permitted. I just want the steak n'potatoes here.
- In the same instant as the wipe, they are all informed that there is no escape, no mercy, and only one will leave this battle alive.
This last point is the most important and likely the most controversial. There are many characters that have a moral code that is so deeply a part of them that participating in killing is just not an option. They will defend themselves, try to defeat others by disabling them, but will always hesitate when it comes to landing a deathblow. While admirable indeed, I want the participants in this fight to have the solid mindset that they are here to put down the others with lethality. To use Superman as an example again, I think we all know that if his mind isn't "altered" just a tad, he's not going to be out for blood, he's going to spend his time defending himself, trying to "talk sense" into the other fighters, and try to get everyone to work together to find a way out of this crazy battle they've found themselves in. Sorry Supes, I love yah man, but no boyscouts allowed in this event. (or future battles for that matter)
Now, FINALLY, onto the Deathmatch!
Conan vs. Ozymandias vs. Spider Jerusalem
Sizing them up
When I was reading that "Bucket List" article I spoke of earlier, I instantly latched onto the idea of tossing Ozymandias into the ring with Conan. I feel that these two represent a very satisfying study in ancient guile and might vs modern brilliance, will, and science. After I finished reading the piece, I was a bit disappointed that my favorite futuristic gonzo journalist, Spider Jerusalem didn't make the bucket list cut. That's when a grin creeped across my face and I knew I had a pretty special trio bouncing around in my noggin. While Adrian Veidt (Ozymandias) is about as straight-arrow as you can think of (not to say he's not a drug-user at times, but rather that his body is "a temple" and he's always pushing the boundaries of science to refine himself to the highest levels of mind and body attainable by man), Spider's the guy that will down a myriad of drugs with a bottle of whiskey and take out the building across the street with a rocket launcher because the guy in the 3rd floor apartment was "being a hypocrite!" Yes, this will do nicely. Let's size them up a bit-
Conan: He's a powerful barbarian hailing from the harsh, icy climes of Cimmeria. He was born to a grim, warswept people who were tempered for battle almost from birth. Theirs was a culture of rigorous trials and the glories of adventure and clashing steel. Conan, is the undisputed champion of the people as well as a revered force in the many lands that his travels have taken him. He has been a thief, a soldier, a Warlord, a King, and even a God as "Amra" down by the Black Coast. While he is a mortal man, his mighty strength, panther reflexes, beguiling agility, tactical mind, and skillful swordarm have helped him defeat all manner of obstacles, whether they be a few drunken conscripts in a tavern or Gods of death from hellish dimensions. A truly awesome combatant.
Weapons: All Conan will need is a yard of cold Hyrkanian steel. (A sword for anyone that didn't catch it)
Ozymandias: Despite the image of him floating in air, Adrian Veidt, is very much a human being who was not born a mutant, didn't have an accident giving him powers, or was not imbued with abilities by a god, but he has played with the lives of millions with his twisted genius and unrivaled ambition. Hell, he literally beat a "god" with a tv remote. (I'm sure many of you get that reference) His tireless efforts in unlocking the boundaries of human ability and pushing his mind and body to an almost super human level has created a being that has olympic level agility, strength, and dexterity, with reflexes fast enough to literally catch a bullet. Of course, his impressive reflexes are not muscle memory alone, but also the product of an ever calculating mind. It has been stated (on fan sites and the like) that his mind is always calculating the probabilities of any outcome in any situation that he finds himself in. This allows him a limited amount of precognition as he formulates the likeliest manner in which events will unfold. It is likely that he is rarely in need of any signature weapons because he is so adept at hand-to-hand combat and is able to perceive events in such a blazing manner that he is able to predict the moves of most opponents and devise the movements necessary to subdue them (much like the stuff we saw Robert Downy Jr. doing in Sherlock Holmes). Besides his many attributes, Adrian has the ability to commit completely to a plan of attack no matter how ruthless it may be which makes him all the more lethal.
Weapons: None. Ozy's hand-to-hand is usually second-to-none and his brilliant tactical mind can make anything in his environment a weapon if he deems it necessary.
Spider Jerusalem: He smokes. He drinks. He spouts "the truth" to anyone who will listen (and those that won't). No matter what time of day it is, he's got some arcane concoction of drugs running through his veins, sharpening his mind (or dulling it at times), and opening new doors of perception that allow him the insight to see what's really going on and the maniacally brazen attitude to shove it in the face of anyone he pleases. On paper, this guy is a great journalist, but you're probably asking, "What is he doing in a Deathmatch with a beefy barbarian and a scientific super man?" That's exactly why he's in the mix and is not someone to be scoffed at. Spider is deceptively formidable. The man has conditioned his body over years of drug use to have the constitution of a rhino. His hand-to-hand skills may be average, but his freakish surges of "Don't give a f@#$!" have given him the ability to take out opponents that were far more adept in combat. On top of this, he has had several enhancements that allows him to be "wired" into the feed (internet) as well as been exposed to so many exotic chemicals that there's no telling what strange stuff he could pull off if he tried. He's fast on his feet when he needs to be, has gotten out of several scraps, and has even brought down the most powerful man in the world while being labeled public enemy #1. Spider is resourceful and should not be underestimated.
Weapons: Spider Jerusalem has stated that he is "always armed." He's used everything from handguns, to grenades, to rocket launchers and revels is mass destruction. But, for this battle, he's only going to be packing his signature weapon, the Bowel Disruptor. This very compact weapon may be one of the most powerful non-lethal weapons known to mankind, but with several settings to choose from, it can kill. The dial goes from "Loose" all the way up to "Fatal Intestinal Maelstrom" so it is certainly capable of being an equalizing agent in any scenario.
Time for the Main Event!
We have come to the battle itself. In order to portray a plausible presentation of how this fight will play out I have utilized several sources of information including, but not limited to: character wikis, fan write ups on message boards or sites like Comic Vine, heresay and rhetoric from friends and family, and anybody that may have come to the door in the last few hours that I have been compiling this article (those Thin Mints were pretty tasty). Let us begin:
We return to our 3 opponents who are facing off on the field. During the time the combatants were restrained and downloaded with the Deathmatch directives all 3 were moved a little closer together before being released into action. For a moment, the 3 men weigh their initial impressions of the others and the environment, looking for strengths, weaknesses, items that can be used to their advantage... well, except for Spider, he immediately starts running away, making a mad dash for the stone ruins in the distance. Conan bounds forth like an enraged lion, his perfect form graceful and fierce in motion towards Ozymandias. Ozy has yet to move. He watches the wretched bald man scampering away with no apparent style or discipline in his exit. He watches the raven maned cimmerian taking impressively long strides with powerful legs and the steel determination in his eyes, weapon drawn at the ready,trailing behind. Ozy flinches ever so slightly that it goes unnoticed, but then springs into action seconds before the barbarian is upon him. His nature tells him that he should dispatch the weaker opponent before applying his full attention the greater, but with Conan so near, he only has time to snatch a large rock from the ground and make an unnaturally accurate throw, smacking Spider in the back of the head, a football field away, knocking him unconscious several yards from the ruins. Ozy then continues a fluid movement through the throw, extending his leg back, tripping the charging brute, flowing into a forward roll, then springing from a crouching position to flip into the air and land in a ready stance facing the warrior who has just gotten back on his feet.
"Mitra! I knew I chose correctly!" Conan grins steel in hand, eager to continue. His honor would normally compel him to toss aside his weapon when entering into combat against an unarmed opponent, but he dismisses this thought quickly as the stranger seems formidable AND is dressed in the type of outfit befitting nobility or possibly a wizard. Either way, better to be ready for hidden dangers or conjurings. Conan notes that Ozymandias looks relaxed as though ready to take a seat and have some wine, but the experience of countless campaigns has gifted the giant with a preternatural sense when locked in battle... Conan picked up the slightest tilt of an eye to the ground where a few strands of golden hair wavered under a soft breeze. He knows that the singing arc of his sword cut closer than his opponent wishes to reveal. Ozymandias then launches into a dazzling barrage of fists that staggers Conan with it's mesmerizing combination of crisp motion and powerful strikes. The barbarian blocks and parries the majority of the onslaught while trying to counter with his own devastating swings, only to continuously hear the "Clank" as his sword his blocked at every turn by Ozy's wrist bands. A moment later and Conan's back is to the ground, sword just out of reach, while this lightning fast opponent half his size is pushing his advantage, continuing to strike at Conan while he struggles to regain his footing. Thankfully, while his movements are quick, they are not as powerful as many of the blows that Conan has become accustomed to over years of battling magical beasts and mythic creatures. He was stunned by the abilities of this fighter to begin with, but, "By Crom! I've the measure of this whelp now!"
Ozymandias realizes too late that his blows have not been as effective as they originally seemed, a rare flaw for this master strategist, but such that can be expected when dealing with an unknown adversary who's resilience seems more inhuman than even his hulking frame would indicate. Ozy quickly attempts to change from a direct assault to a more tactical maneuver, but Conan's iron grip latches his arm and Ozy is greeted with the shocking speed and ferocity of an enraged cimmerian. The first punch shakes him to the core and he hears a crunch echo through his head, the next he does not feel, but hears the world go mute and sees creeping blackness threaten the corners of his vision as he almost passes out. But, Ozy has honed his mind and body for decades and has become a master at manipulating his autonomic nervous system. Instantly he releases a large dose of endorphins and adrenaline to recover and sharpen his senses even further. His head clears and he notes that Conan's vise grip is on his wrist band so he disengages the piece and flips out of reach as the barbarian staggers backwards a moment. Ozy knows he will need to be more cunning with this beast of war in order to survive, so he turns to make his way to a contingency point he had spied at the start of the fight only to stop dead in his tracks, legs turning to rubber, an excrutiating pain stabbing his guts and his bowels violently evacuate into his pants. The last thing he sees before passing into unconsciousness is Spider's filthy grin. "Guess you forgot all about me, a@#*$&#"
Conan is no fool, and has already darted in a flanking pattern to quickly get around Spider before he can settle his aim. Spider tries to draw a bead before it's too late, but his head is still ringing with pain from the shot he took from the prissy little blonde guy and his mind wonders, "How can someone that big move so fast?" Spider takes a shot while turning to get to the shelter he had been trying to make it to earlier. He's only precious feet away when he feels himself lifted into the air, and hears the crunch before his mind registers that Conan just crushed his weapon AND his hand. He's flung around like a ragdoll and is then face-to-face with the seething savage who's literally trembling with rage. Spider then detects a foul odor and looks down to see poop dripping from the giant's loincloth. He sees that Conan's iron will is struggling against the torturous pain that's racking his body and realized he must've hit the idiot with that last shot. Always ready to push his advantage, Spider violently knees the beast with all he's got and Conan falters, going down to one knee while Spider continues wailing on him with punches and kicks, but suddenly a meaty fist shoots forth, and with every ounce of effort the barbarian has left he begins choking the life from this little bald man. Spider uses his last moments to pull a hypo from his pocket. Conan braces for a final desperate attack, only to be surprised when Spider thrusts the hypo into his stomach. He barely has enough air to mutter, "Christ, that's the best high of my life..." before passing into unconsciousness. A "snap" and it is done.
Conan falls to the ground covered in his own filth next to the grinning dead body. He feels himself drifting off, but then his senses pick up a rotten odor not his own. He struggles to turn over, fighting off the blurry exhaustion overcoming him, only to see a ragged looking figure standing over him. "CROM!" Conan tries to react, but his arms are dead timber as Ozymandias brings a large stone down on the cimmerian's skull. Ozy then uses what strength he has left to bring the stone down, and down, and down until he's sure no man could ever recover from such trauma.
Ozymandias falls to the ground himself and is grateful to have survived, but his pride has difficulty counting this encounter as a victory as he wallows in his own filth, beaten half to death, and owes his life to luck rather than his vaunted abilities.
If you actually made it through the whole thing, I commend your endurance. I gotta admit that I hadn't planned for this article to be quite this long, but I guess I got carried away with the excitement of it all and hope that you enjoyed reading this post as much as I enjoyed writing it. In future installments of "In the Cage!" I will be linking back to this original article for explanations of "The Premise/Guidelines" so that should make for shorter articles to come.
I invite everyone to use the comments section below to give feedback. I want to hear anything that's on your mind. If you think I got it right, or if you think I got it completely wrong, don't hesitate to sound off. If you have suggestions for future Deathmatches or even modifying the guidelines or other details you'd like to point out, I can't guarantee I'll agree, but I'll definitely listen. Thanks for stopping by.