Fight to Survive: Masters of Evil vs. Legion of Doom by Jerry Whitworth
Fans waited twenty-four years to see the Justice League battle, and then align; with the Avengers so it’s unlikely we’ll ever see their villainous contemporaries follow similar circumstances. There’s little doubt the Avengers’ worst group of enemies is the Masters of Evil, the only group that even comes close is the Lethal Legion, and it’s with little doubt the most dangerous assemblage of the Masters was for the Avengers: Under Siege storyline. It’s not as simple with the Justice League who seem to fight super-villain teams of different names frequently: Injustice Gang, Anti-Justice League, Super Foes, Secret Society of Super-Villains, Injustice League, and so on. However, out of all these groups, the most recognized and iconic would have to be the Legion of Doom (which is amusing for the fact it started from the Super Friends cartoon franchise). Adapted for the comics (and various media), it’s difficult to do better than the original line-up, but the assembly put together by Alex Ross for the series Justice undoubtedly raised the bar (as well as making an even eighteen on eighteen battle).
TALE OF THE TAPE
Name: Masters of Evil
Members: Baron Zemo, Absorbing Man, Blackout, Black Mamba, Fixer, Goliath, Grey Gargoyle, Mister Hyde, Moonstone, Screaming Mimi, Tiger Shark, Titania, Whirlwind, the Wrecking Crew (Wrecker, Thunderball, Piledriver, and Bulldozer), and Yellowjacket
First Appearance: Avengers #270 (August 1986)
Base of Operations: Baron Zemo’s Secret Base
History: If the Red Skull was the right-arm for Adolf Hitler and the Nazi regime, Baron Heinrich Zemo certainly would have been the left. Where Skull was essentially an administrator, Zemo was a scientist, who alongside Arnim Zola, formed some of the most brilliant minds to participate in World War II. Surviving the war, Zemo believed his nemesis Captain America to be dead only to turn up in modern times. Forming the original Masters of Evil, Zemo sought to battle his enemy and his Avengers allies. After several attempts, he perished in a battle with the Captain. Zemo’s son, Baron Helmut Zemo, was disfigured by his father as a boy when the elder Zemo applied Adhesive X to the traditional Zemo mask and put it on the child, efforts to remove it horribly scarring his face. Helmut would learn of his father’s demise at the hands of Captain America and picked up his father’s reins. However, he wasn’t his father, and when he built a Masters of Evil, rather than select a handful of villains who frequently battled members of the Avengers, he selected the most dangerous yet generally manageable enemies of individual Avengers in a force that could overpower the group several times over. Further, rather than a direct confrontation, Zemo wore down the Avengers in seemingly unrelated battles, chipped away at their membership, bore his way into Avengers Mansion, and picked its members apart piece by piece. Zemo’s taking of the Mansion was one of the most dire situations to ever afflict the Avengers and was only toppled by the timely appearance of the long-absent Thor to turn the tide. Zemo and his Masters would go on to form the basis of the Thunderbolts.
Powers and Abilities: Baron Zemo is a brilliant strategist and scientist with a physique at the peak of human condition (comparable to Captain America) and great skill in marksmanship and swordsmanship. The Absorbing Man is able to transmute into anything he touches, including minerals and energy, and can siphon power from energy-empowered individuals (such as the Hulk’s gamma-irradiated strength). Blackout is capable of tapping into the Darkforce, an infinite space of dark energy that can be manipulated in various ways and can transport from one location to another through it. Black Mamba is a telepath able to read minds and project limited illusions as well as employ Darkforce energy to crush an enemy. Fixer is a brilliant electrical and mechanical engineer common to wear body armor and employs an arsenal of high-tech weaponry and tools. Goliath can grow to great height growing proportionally in strength and durability. Grey Gargoyle can turn anything to stone with a touch of his right hand for one hour, which can be used to turn him to living stone with enhanced strength and durability. Mr. Hyde is a genius in biochemistry and has superhuman strength and durability. Moonstone employs a Kree gravity stone to fly, become intangible, project force blasts and blinding light, and superhuman attributes. Screaming Mimi has a super-powered scream that can generate force, alter the status and state of mind of those who hear it, and create three-dimensional constructs. Tiger Shark has superhuman attributes and can breath underwater. Titania has superhuman attributes and is an accomplished wrestler. Whirlwind can spin at super-speed and wears armor turning him into a human battering ram. The Wrecker has super strength and durability with an enchanted crowbar he can mentally command (such as throwing it and having it return) that can absorb and project energy, create illusions, generate a force field, create small earthquakes, and can be used for teleportation. Thunderball is a brilliant physicist and engineer with superhuman strength and durability. Piledriver has superhuman strength and durability with oversized fists capable of great concussive force. Bulldozer has superhuman strength and durability who is virtually unstoppable when running like a battering ram. Yellowjacket is brilliant with cybernetics and can shrink to microscopic size, fly, and employ devastating force blast stings.
Name: Legion of Doom
Members: Lex Luthor, Bizarro, Black Adam, Black Manta, Brainiac, Captain Cold, Cheetah, Clayface, Giganta, Gorilla Grodd, Metallo, Parasite, Poison Ivy, Riddler, Scarecrow, Sinestro, Solomon Grundy, and Toyman
First Appearance: Justice #1 (August 2005)
Base of Operations: Hall of Doom
History: After a series of nightmares where the Earth is destroyed in a nuclear holocaust the Justice League of America couldn’t prevent, several of Earth’s villains joined together to save the world in their own way and eliminate the Justice League. Employing microscopic worms created by Dr. Sivana, they enslave the loved ones and allies of the League to use against them and with protocols designed by Batman to stop the League (stolen by the Riddler) nearly reach their goals. When their plans fall through as the League align with other heroes, Brainiac tries to bring about the nuclear holocaust from their nightmares but is stopped by the Green Lantern Corps.
Powers and Abilities: Lex Luthor maybe the most brilliant scientist on Earth who employs rocket boots and a ray gun. Bizarro is a failed clone of Superman with an abnormal brain but otherwise all of his powers such as superhuman capabilities, heat and x-ray vision, flight, and super and freeze breath. Black Manta is an accomplished brawler with a helmet with an air supply and optic blasts and employs a hand harpoon energy blaster. Brainiac is one of the most brilliant minds in the universe that employs a shrink ray and force field belt with an enhanced robotic body. Captain Cold is a strategist and scientist in freeze ray technology with near-superhuman reflexes employing a freeze ray pistol. Cheetah is an avatar of the Dark Gods with superhuman feline attributes. Gorilla Grodd is a psionic capable of telepathy, mind control, and telekinesis with strength, durability, and intelligence far greater than a gorilla. Riddler is a brilliant strategist and generally knowledgeable in various fields of study who wears a longcoat that radiates a wave that disrupts the thought processes of those afflicted. Scarecrow is a genius in chemistry who employs a fear gas that can bring a person’s greatest fears to the surface with exponential terror. Sinestro is a renegade Green Lantern who employs a yellow power ring that can be manipulated in various ways and can transport him from one location to another. Solomon Grundy is a giant zombie of great strength and durability. Toyman is a brilliant scientist who employs robots and weaponry with a toy motif. Black Adam is an avatar of Egyptian gods given superhuman attributes and flight. Metallo is a cyborg with enhanced capabilities and a Kryptonite heart that can fire deadly blasts of radiation. Clayface is living clay able to take on virtually any form. Parasite can absorb energy and the powers and lifeforce of anyone he touches. Poison Ivy is a leading expert in botany able to mentally command plant life.
Equal in number for membership, the groups would begin in single combat against each other. Further, the strongest members would seek each other out first as slower, weaker forces would trickle against each other. In this, initial encounters would be as follows: Absorbing Man vs Parasite, Blackout vs Sinestro, Goliath vs Giganta, Grey Gargoyle vs Clayface, Moonstone vs Bizarro, Titania vs Cheetah, Wrecker vs Black Adam, Thunderball vs Gorilla Grodd, Piledriver vs Metallo, and Bulldozer vs Solomon Grundy.
• Absorbing Man, wielding his ball and chain, would be on the offensive but it’s only a matter of time before Parasite would close the distance and come into physical contact, draining away his power. Absorbing Man, having similar abilities, would try to use this contact to steal his power back, essentially trapping the pair in a loop neither can afford to break from and would see them cancel each other out in a double knockout.
• Blackout and Sinestro have essentially the same abilities; save of course Sinestro is yellow light and Blackout black darkness. What it comes down to is Sinestro has a great deal more experience and considering Blackout’s documented psychological problems, Sinestro would triumph in a hard fought battle.
• Goliath is a hardcore brawler taking on someone with roughly the same abilities. Giganta in some ways is not equipped to take on Goliath in the same fashion he would fight (she generally fighting normal sized humans with flight and Goliath experienced going toe-to-toe with giants) but her frequent encounters with Wonder Woman would certainly mean a perseverance gained over time her opponent would lack (with Goliath rarely fighting someone of Wonder Woman’s caliber). Inevitably, the pair would likely knock each other out.
• Grey Gargoyle has strength and durability that allowed him to fight on equal footing as Thor and Iron Man but it would mean little battling essentially a living glob of matter. However, his granite touch plays a key role exploiting Clayface’s weakness (a means to make him solid and contain him). However, I’m confidant with Clayface’s reaction time, he would avoid being turned into solid stone and with Gargoyle’s necessity to touch his opponent for his ability to work, Clayface would simply travel down his enemy’s gullet and suffocate him for a victory.
• Moonstone and Bizarro are physically almost equals, albeit Bizarro slightly stronger and faster. But this battle really comes down to Moonstone’s devious mind, a former psychiatrist and brilliant strategist, would undoubtedly take advantage of Bizarro’s greatest weakness and after a hard fought battle get him to defeat himself.
• Cheetah dealing with an opponent like Wonder Woman on a frequent basis, Titania would be a lightweight by comparison. Cheetah wins with a little effort.
• At first glance, you would see this as an easy victory for Black Adam. The Wrecker isn’t the sharpest knife in the drawer and Black Adam is one of the top fighters among his power set. But, there are a couple of x-factors to consider. The first is the various abilities of the Wrecker’s crowbar, something alone that would be a devastating weapon but its powers would consistently keep his opponent on his toes, putting Black Adam on the defensive. Something else to consider is just how tough the Wrecker is, considering Adam has fought the Marvel Family and a few others, where the Wrecker has swung his crowbar against the heaviest hitters for his world. In a surprise outcome, the battle would mean a double knockout.
• Both Thunderball and Grodd are geniuses, both veteran fighters, and both super-strong and durable. Where they differ is Thunderball’s ball and chain and Grodd’s psionic abilities, the latter of which I have little doubt will mean victory.
• It’s likely Metallo would physically eclipse Piledriver, at least in part, but it would only be a matter of time before he uses his Kryptonite energy blast and his opponent using his super-sized (and empowered) hands to rip his heart right out of his chest leaving the cyborg taken out of the fight.
• Bulldozer is simply playing in the wrong league taking on Solomon Grundy, a force more likely measured against the Hulk than just about anything else. The Wrecking Crew’s final member would bust into his bull run only for Grundy to send him into orbit.
As the heavy hitters duke it out, Baron Zemo and Lex Luthor would find each other as their remaining forces pair up: Black Mamba vs Poison Ivy, Fixer vs Toyman, Mr. Hyde vs Scarecrow, Screaming Mimi vs Riddler, Tiger Shark vs Black Manta, Whirlwind vs Captain Cold, and Yellowjacket vs Brainiac.
• Searching Poison Ivy’s memories, Black Mamba will make the unfortunate discovery that the only thing her opponent loves are plants. Gambling on Ivy’s mixed feelings towards her professor Jason Woodrue, Ivy would welcome the sight of the teacher that seduced her but his betrayal that turned her into what she is today would be too damning leaving Ivy to fight off Mamba’s constricting Darkforce trap and turn the Serpent Squad/Society member into fertilizer.
• Fixer would make quick work of his emaciated opponent only to discover it as a robot. As man-sized marionettes began to emerge, Fixer uses every weapon in his arsenal to barrel through the emerging enemy force. Standing triumphant, he’s rewarded with a razor-adorned yo-yo leaving him at the feet of the Toyman.
• Mr. Hyde would slowly make his way to the frail Scarecrow before him, assured he has nothing to fear from such a meek opponent. However, his confidence quickly devolves into dread as he realizes he’s reverted to the frail form of Calvin Zabo. Desperately, he produces more of his serum, drinking it down quickly only to find himself still unchanged. And so he drinks again and again and again before his heart simply stops from the strain. Scarecrow casually comes up to his hulking body taking the curious serum that turned his opponent into a mass of useless muscle to examine later.
• Screaming Mimi, confident in her fighting ability and super powers, sees the Riddler as an easy target. But, after an obviously well-thought out riddle about the danger she faces, the verdant-clad villain opens his coat to paint Mimi in green light as she struggles to try and do something other than stand motionless in agony. The Riddler creeps toward her, cane in hand to deliver the final blow, only for Mimi to use the willpower she earned through hard martial training to unleash a note sending her enemy now reeling in pain, closing up his coat as he recoils. Not to risk any response, Mimi quickly uses her powers to force Riddler into a hallucination (for him, the image of his father beating him) as she knocks him out with a quick blow.
• Tiger Shark charges like an animal towards Black Manta, blasts from Manta’s harpoon blaster and optic beams making his opponent stumble but not falter. In a fast paced exchange, a dire one for Manta if Shark can get a good blow in, the pair battle as claws swipe and teeth snarl and Manta stabs and blasts for his life. However, despite the enhanced capabilities of Tiger Shark, Manta’s fought the likes of Aquaman for years, and though Manta loses flesh and blood, he comes out on top.
• Spinning at incredible speeds, Whirlwind becomes a human tornado as buzzsaw blades fling at Captain Cold as deadly blurs. However, these blades mean very little to him, having battled the Flash for years. Further, ultimately Whirlwind is a speedster limited to spinning; something the Flash has done to him dozens of times. Before his freeze ray and experience, Whirlwind doesn’t last long.
• Brainiac stands motionless, protected by a force field with little interest in the proceedings before him. Yellowjacket, with little alternative, seeks out the unfeeling android. Giving off an icy glare, Brainiac stands still as YJ begins blasting him with her bio-stings. With beyond human reflexes, Brainiac raises his shrink ray gun and uses it on the girl as she fades from sight. Moments go by with no change until Brainiac is wracked with injury. He did not account for the fact if he can see, then his force field is not completely impenetrable: light needs to pass through it. Shrinking to that size, YJ easily made it through his field, entered his brain and unleashed her stings on him, taking him down for the count.
• Baron Zemo slowly approaches Lex Luthor as the pair trade some barbs. Luthor’s the first to act, using his energy blaster as Zemo dodges. Before he can counter, Luthor takes to the air with his rocket boots. Strafing his opponent, having both a long-range weapon with superior rapid distance, Luthor views his opponent’s threat as non-existent. A bullet from Zemo’s Luger disabling one of Luthor’s jets changes the game for him. Crashing, he desperately fires his raygun but Zemo is significantly more accurate with his Luger.
Seeing his troops outnumbered and outclassed, Zemo assembles what’s left of the Masters to retreat. After some discussion, they split up forcing what’s left of the Legion of Doom to perform likewise and follow. Of course, the more powerful Legionnaires follow their similar leveled foes, leaving the less empowered members to follow Baron Zemo en masse. This tactic leads to Sinestro vs Moonstone, Toyman vs Screaming Mimi, Cheetah vs Piledriver, Solomon Grundy vs Yellowjacket, and Scarecrow, Black Manta, and Captain Cold vs Baron Zemo as Poison Ivy, Clayface, and Gorilla Grodd continue to search.
• In a battle of power ring vs Kree gravity stone, the result is a pitched aerial battle of light. Both still fatigued and injured from their previous battles, the outcome boils down to Moonstone’s intangibility and craftiness to win her the day against Sinestro. She has little time for rest as the sounds of the battle summoned Grodd, where her intangibility is useless against the gorilla’s psionic abilities. He peels away her mind like an onion, but of the Masters, Moonstone undoubtedly has the strongest will. In the end, Grodd knocks his opponent unconscious, but likewise falls against what his female opponent could muster from her powerful item in a force blast taking both out of the battle.
• Screaming Mimi makes quick work of the remnants of Toyman’s various tools like model airplanes equipped with real guns, man-sized toy soldiers, bestial teddy bears, and biting jack-in-the-boxes. The scene amused Toyman until he realized all of his precious toys were busted. In a fit, he tries to avenge them but he falls without incident against his opponent’s screams. The noise, however, attracted the roaming Poison Ivy as vines wrap around Screaming Mimi, choking and binding her. However, Mimi manages to unleash her scream and take out Ivy before passing out herself.
• Piledriver and Cheetah crash into each other, Cheetah’s claws doing only peripheral damage as Piledriver eventually begins to land blows, in time knocking her out. Zemo appears to bring the Wrecking Crewman along for the final battle. Piledriver doesn’t realize he’d be duped until Clayface smothers him.
• When Solomon Grundy goes to land a haymaker on Yellowjacket, she simply shrinks and unleashes bio-stings to little affect as the zombie swings wildly to swat his annoyance. Using Grundy’s dim-witted nature and her capability to dodge while antagonize him, YJ eventually dupes Grundy into taking himself out of the fight.
• Dodging the blasts of Captain Cold and Black Manta, Baron Zemo manages to get his two opponents to take each other out of the fight. This battle was a distraction, however, as he begins to hallucinate about his father taunting him, experiencing the agony of trying to peel his mask off again. However, Zemo begins to realize he’s been trapped and uses all of his will to focus, striking at the Scarecrow badly injuring him. Taking Mr. Hyde’s serum, Scarecrow transforms into some variation of the Scarebeast. Zemo, undaunted, picks up Cold and Manta’s weapons and takes down his foe. Receiving applause, Zemo turns to see Moonstone who commends his work. Zemo blasts her with Manta’s energy weapon as she turns into Clayface, Zemo using the freeze ray gun to turn him into a statue. Yellowjacket appears to blast it to smithereens. Asking how he knew it wasn’t Moonstone, Zemo simply says he didn’t.
Ultimately, the Legion of Doom have superior power, but the Masters of Evil demonstrated a stronger capability to work together and to take orders. But as you can tell from how I played the scenario out, their greatest weakness was lacking someone like Baron Zemo who is skilled enough to take apart his enemy with strategy but can back up his plans with martial training and intelligence. Add in someone like Moonstone who is a powerhouse and has a high level of tenacity, determination, and intelligence with a versatility of abilities and the Legion crippled with dim-witted powerhouses (Bizarro and Grundy) and presumptuous egos (Luthor, Brainiac, and Riddler) and it just makes sense for the Masters to win.