They tell ya, ‘Never hit a man with a closed fist.’ But it is, on occasion, hilarious.”
—Captain Malcolm Reynolds
The fine folks here at Quirk Books asked me compile a list of my favorite punches, which I thought was pretty open-ended—like punches I've received? Punches I've delivered? There aren't even ten items on those lists combined. I'm not really big into boxing, either, so I decided to limit myself to great punches in the realm of comic books.
Captain America punches Hitler: The cover of the very first issue of Captain America Comics (released in 1941) depicts our star-spangled hero socking Hitler in the jaw, because really, what better way to introduce a patriotic superhero in the early days of World War II? (This was before Pearl Harbor, mind you)
Batman punches out Guy Gardner: There’s a certain history of hotheadedness amongst the Green Lantern Corps, but no one’s got it quite as bad as Guy Gardner. But, in his defense, you’d be kind of an overcompensating machoheaded jingoistic jerk too if you were still rockin’ that horrible bowlcut hairstyle while trying to make it in the Justice League.
In Justice League #5 (1987), Guy went a bit too far trying to question Batman’s leadership, so Batman knocked him out with one swift punch to the face, much to the entertainment of the rest of the team (and judging by their satisfied reactions, he certainly had it coming).
She-Hulk punches Hawkeye: Hawkeye has always been the resident hothead of the Avengers (and this is not the only example on this list of him getting punched by a teammate—see below). Despite the frustration that he caused for some people, Hawkeye’s attitude has proven to be a rather valuable asset for the team, such as this example from Avengers #227.
After being bombarded with more Gamma Rays by the Radioactive Man, She-Hulk finds herself stuck in her reverted human form. Hawkeye is the only one willing to do what it takes to help her get her powers back: heckle and harass the crap out of her for being a powerless whelp. Unfortunately for Hawkeye, his plan works, and he succeeds in making She-Hulk angry enough to punch him out of the room and into another wall. Thanks, Hawkeye!
Spider-Man punches The Spot punches Spider-Man: The Spot is one of those hokey supervillains who actually has a pretty terrifying and effective powerset if you can get past his ridiculous appearance. Each of those little “spots” is actually a portal that he can use to teleport himself (or others) around via another dimension, which allows the Spot to steal things rather easily.
It also makes him a wily opponent, as he can appear out of nowhere from a new spot right behind you and attack you before you have a chance to react. Or, as pictured, he can use a spot as a shield and make his opponent punch himself in the face. Poor Spidey.
Luke Cage punches Purple Man: Most of the other punches listed so far have made it for comedic or novelty reasons, but this one makes the cut for its sheer emotional heft. The Purple Man has mind control abilities that he once used to manipulate and sexually abuse Jessica Jones, the now-wife of Luke Cage, for nine months.
When the Purple Man escapes from the superpowered prison The Raft in New Avengers #3, he runs right into Cage, and uses his powers to manipulate Cage into helping him escape. He also threatens Cage’s wife and newborn daughter, because, well, he’s a sociopath.
Fortunately, Purple Man’s powers were still diminished from his stint in the prison, so naturally, Luke Cage proceeds to beat the everlovin’ hell out of Purple Man — and possibly would have killed him, too, if not for the timely intervention of Captain America.
USAgent punches Hawkeye: More Hawkeye getting punched by teammates! Woohoo! See, Hawkeye’s never been good with authority figures. Even Captain America, whom Hawkeye respects and admires more than pretty much anyone ever.
So when the government assigns US Agent as the new head of Hawkeye’s West Coast Avengers team—well, imagine how you’d feel if the pigheaded, jingoistic, government stooge, lite-version of your hero showed up on your doorstep and decided that he was in charge of your life. Naturally, Hawkeye decides to give US Agent a piece of mind; and naturally, US Agent punches Hawkeye in the face to end the conversation.
Spider Jerusalem Punching His Editor: Our only non-superhero entry, but still just as gloriously violent (oftentimes moreso). Spider Jerusalem is one of those writers who drives editors absolutely insane, but he’s so good that editors don’t mind putting up with his shenanigans. Like the time that Spider’s Internet access was blocked and prevented him from filing a story. He showed up at his editor’s office and demanded that the front page be changed immediately, which his editor vetoes, as it is well past deadline.
So, naturally, Spider punches him in the face. Note to readers and/or aspiring writers: punching your editor in the face is generally not an advisable practice (hi Eric), unless you’re Spider Jerusalem, in which case your editor might be more willing to put up with your abuse.
Wolverine punches himself, courtesy of Magneto From Uncanny X-Men #112: Magneto, being the Master of Magnetism, and Wolverine, having a metal skeleton, would—of course—get drawn into conflict like this. I like to think of this as the warm-up round for Magneto pulling Wolverine’s skeleton out of his body in X-Men #25.
But instead of something as brutal as that, Magneto just pulls the classic “Stop hitting yourself! Stop hitting yourself! Stop hitting yourself!” Maybe ol’ Mags was just in a weird mood, having recently been turned into a baby and then re-aged...well, it’d be understandable if he was feeling a little immature. In that same issue, he gives the X-Men a robot nanny called Nanny, so I think there’s definitely some kind of childhood theme going on here.
Wonder Woman Punches Superman After Swatting Him Like A Fly With A Telephone Pole: There’s a lot more than just one hit in this sequence from Superman vs Wonder Woman #54, set during World War II. Wonder Woman shows up in Chicago looking to dismantle a secret nuclear reactor built on a college campus — but of course, superheroes never like to trust each other or ask questions first, because that would be way less fun. So Supes sees Diana destroying a building and he attacks her in retaliation, at which point she smacks him with a telephone pole. “She actually hit me!” Superman cries. “Even if she is a woman, no one treats me that way.” “Men are all alike, even super men,” Wonder Woman responds as she tosses around like a ragdoll. “Involving themselves where they don’t belong, all for the sake of masculine honor — an honor that causes war, Superman.” Point for the superpowered Amazon on a mission!
Superboy Prime punches a hole in reality: In 1985, DC Comics embarked on their first metafictional attempt to streamline all of their various continuities into one singular superheroic vision with the infamous Crisis On Infinite Earths. In the aftermath of the story, the Superboy of Earth-Prime (henceforth known as Superboy-Prime) was spirited away to a paradise pocket dimension along with Superman & Lois Lane from Earth-2, and the not-bald Alexander Luthor of Earth-3.
But after 20 years of paradise, Superboy-Prime got bored—er, sorry, “disappointed by all the modern-continuity DC superheroes”—and decided to literally punch a hole in reality in order to streamline continuity yet again, in 2005’s Infinite Crisis. This is clearly the most epic punch in history (although I’m still personally undecided if that’s a good or a bad thing).
BONUS — Hulk punches Thor. Not technically from a comic book but c’mon, this was great. Perfect comedic timing.