The Power of Thor

What?! Another Thor thread? Buckshot, you monster!

Alright, just wait a second and let me explain, this isn't like the last one. In my last thread I was attempting to reconcile a history of speed displays to come up with a reasonable assessment of Thor's operational speed in comparison to other characters. This is simpler. These versions of Thor have, to my knowledge, all existed very briefly, each with a single author, with pretty much exclusively high level displays. My issue, and the reason I'm making this, is because a lot of times I see "RKT/NKT wins" either with nothing even resembling a reason or else support built primarily on what other characters have done with a similar power. Occasionally I'll see something like Necro Thor fighting Galactus, which seems like him demonstrating a huge amount of energy output, but not really any other abilities (not to mention him being surprised he's even alive at the end). So I'm just here trying to see what these upgrades actually amount to for Thor. All I want here is to see exactly what Thor has done in these versions that people like to talk about. Not stuff others have done with the same power, not things it's said he could do, not stuff he "should" be able to do, nothing more than exactly what he did. If there are individual displays, show me them with their context. If there are fights, I want the entire things and the aftermath if there is any. So, help me out, and just know, if you start misrepresenting things, someone's gonna call you out on it.

As I get displays here I'll slot them into their appropriate sections. And I left one here for Gorr because I have't read that story in a while and since the last three are connected I figured I'd get some of him too.

Rune Thor

King Thor

Necro-Thor, All-Black the All-Father, God of Butchers, Eater of World Eaters, Son of the House of Odin, First of His Name, Breaker of Chains, King of the Andals and the First Men and Lord of the 9 Realms

Gorr

3 Comments

The Speed of Thor

We've been having another one of our regular chats about how fast Thor is and during this latest round I came up with a new idea to reconcile some of the sorts of things we see when it comes to Thor's speed. Now, to be clear, I'm not suggesting that this is how Thor actually works or how anyone else should see him, this is just me trying to figure out a way to accept as many displays of Thor's speed as possible in the face of the inherent contradictions. I'm curious to see if what I'm thinking is supportable by on panel evidence or not and if any coherent system or organization of Thor's speed feats is possible, and I also want your help with the whole endeavor. But your help comes later, for now, the problem. In the simplest terms, Thor has some displays of speed at an extraordinarily high scale, and he has some displays that are more in the realm of street level characters. He also has a ton of displays that may be in the middle somewhere but are hard to pin down. My thought is that perhaps Thor has the sort of speed that characters like Deathstroke or Midnighter have, where for the most part they operate like high street level characters, but occasionally they operate at a level beyond that which approaches speed more like Flash and it's not a flaw of writing or excused by the plot, but it's firmly within their abilities.

That's what I want to see if I can support with clear displays. To aid the collection and sorting of data, and for easy presentation whenever I feel I've gotten a lot, I'm making some categories. Some, the ones with other characters, will be simply for comparison and some will be different sorts of displays from Thor. What I need from you is ALL THE SPEED FEATS YOU CAN FIND. I'm going to want them primarily for Thor, but to beef up one of the major points of comparison, send me what you've got for Deathstroke as well (I got Midnighter, no worries). I want good ones, great ones, bad ones, old ones, new ones, related characters (various mjolnir wielders, beta ray bill, jane foster, etc), everything. The only sort I don't want for Thor right now are pure travel speed feats. If he's doing something while traveling, sure, but I don't need a million images of him just flying through space. If you have anything that's not immediately clear, give me context or references or at least issue numbers so I can find things myself. Unfortunately I'm not able to start us off with images but I'll be back with some in a few hours or so. I'm going to be filling in areas myself and updating in general as I get the chance but anything you provide will just speed things up. And in case it needs to be said, yes, I'm going into this with some preconceived notions, but I'm open to them being challenged as I fill this post with examples.

Some clarifications for the images in general since I'm not going to be commenting on each one individually. I feel like I've been pretty particular about what feats I'm presenting here, there are definitely more for each character that could be presented. I'll get into more clarification on each section as I go. The reason I was so strict was to make sure, as best as possible, that the displays could be taken at face value without guessing what they're "really" showing. This is not an attempt to just look at what Thor does most often but to look at all he seems to be capable of and see what sort of picture that paints.

Comparisons

Flash Speed - A DC representative to demonstrate high speed

For Flash, there are of course a ton of feats, but so it's clear, the point is not necessarily the exact speed he's moving, since this thread isn't about pegging Thor's exact speed, but looking at what grouping he best fits in, so for that reason, with the Flash examples, take note of how his high speed is demonstrated.

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Silver Surfer Speed - A Marvel representative to demonstrate high speed

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Sentry

Adding this section because after mentioning him in the thread I realized he displays speed in the sorts of ways people say Marvel characters don't.

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Midnighter Speed - Potential Thorspeeder 1

With Midnighter, separating pure speed from what is possible due to his combat computer is tricky, but I think I've picked well, using either instances where his combat computer is not a factor, or instances where high levels of physical speed are required even after the combat computer does its thing, or he makes clear references to his speed as the reason he is able to act the way he does.

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Deathstroke Speed - Potential Thorspeeder 2

With Deathstroke, there are a TON of examples of him moving around while bullets or lasers are flying that I've seen presented as all examples of dodging bullets. If I were going into detail for him like I am for Thor, I'd probably put them in an "Unclear Speed" section because it's very hard to say for sure whether he's dodging bullet/lasers or just moving while being shot at or even aim dodging. Since I'm not separating his displays like that, I've simply dropped almost all of those kinds of displays.

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Added here are displays against the Flash specifically.

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And here is a display of the Flash showing his speed to Deathstroke which should serve as an example in the difference in how they use their speed (isolated actions vs continuous application). There is also an image of Impulse talking about how slow Deathstroke is before Deathstroke demonstrates his workaround for that, an area of effect attack, which we'll see again with Thor. (Wasn't originally going to put this here but if I only do one image it makes it big so I had to do two.)

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Street Level - Cross-company Baseline (Wolverine, Batman, Captain America, etc)

You're going to see a lot of Captain America here, and that's not without reason. First, he's been around a long time and as, by some measures, the very best "non-powered" hero and poster child, he's racked up a ton of the sort of feats we're looking at. Second, his shield is about the closest thing a street level character has to Mjolnir (Iron Fist has a number of feats here for a similar reason), a tool that can just be put in front of anything to stop it. Third, there's an idea out there that Marvel doesn't demonstrate speed in a way comparable to DC characters, and with Deathstroke here as well (you know they both say they "see faster" than things like bullets and that's what lets them react quickly? if you didn't the images are here), I thought it was a nice comparison.

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Thor Speed

High Operational speed

These are Thor's displays where he operates at anything clearly outside of the range of what can be considered street level. The term "operate" is being used to mean performing a series of systematic actions.

....Yeah, I'm still waiting too...

High Reflexive Speed

These are Thor's displays where he performs any action clearly outside the range of what can be considered street level but not as a series of systematic actions.

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Unclear Speed - Blurs, potential metaphors, and other unclear displays

Speed displays that cannot accurately or reliably be measured.

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Unclear Limits

Just to have a place to demonstrate the mirror of the previous section, this includes displays of Thor not overcoming unclear speed displays. Just as he blocks energy, he gets hit by it, and just as he tags fast moving characters, he gets hit by them when they're moving fast. This is just for balance and to show he's not always presented as faster than any unclear speed, but like the previous section, no definite information can be gleaned without stated values.

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Hammer Spinning

I added this section because Thor's most impressive (dealing with multiple projectiles) blocking feats tend to involve him spinning his hammer. Personally I find this to be the equivalent of Captain America raising his shield, but decided to give it its own section.

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Here are a couple really interesting hammer spinning ones. Interesting enough to look at separately. In these, Thor talks about spinning his hammer even when its spinning on its own, out of his hand. In one instance he throws it and it spins FASTER than it was in his hand. It's pretty common to attribute the speed Mjolnir flies, its ability to tow Thor through space, and even some fun tricks to the hammer, but perhaps even the spinning itself is more an attribute of the hammer than Thor himself.

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Street Level Speed

I decided to split up the street level section so things wouldn't get muddled. This section has Thor performing feats that have been performed by other street level characters. I wasn't sure if random energy blocking should go here or in the Unclear Speed section, but I put them here because Captain America performs similar or identical displays with his shield.

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Street Level Limits

Thor's displays where limits can be demonstrated that are purely or primarily a result of speed. Just like a clear reference to speed is needed to justify high end speed, a reference to speed is needed to support the idea of a lower limit. I think the only examples here without a clear reference to speed will be times he's hit multiple times in a row by characters who are street level or accepted as outright slow. There are PLENTY of examples I'm not using of Thor being hit when no significant speed at all is suggested and I could easily have more images of that than anything else, but this is not a list of any time Thor has been hit by anything or failed to hit something.

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Direct Speed Comparisons

Decided to add this section to include direct comparisons for some of the feats most commonly used to suggest Thor has high speed to look at which things have been performed by street level characters, characters with speed on that level, or speedsters. Discussions about Thor's speed usually involve claims from some saying Thor's speed is being "lowballed" or that only his "bad displays" are being used. This section focuses on what he has done and the sort of other characters that have performed similar feats so we can determine what leel of speed is necessary for the sorts of things Thor does. For some of these, there will be only one display in a given section so I've added fun Midnighter image just so I can upload multiple small pictures instead of being forced to upload a single large image.

Reacting to Bullets - Figured I'd start low and work my way up. First up is Thor reacting to bullets:

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And now street level characters reacting to bullets: (Included here are street level characters actually catching bullets as well. There are SO MANY of these, I'm just using a few.)

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And just for further comparison, some examples of what it looks like when "verified speedsters" react to bullets.

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Reacting to Random/Unspecified Energy - Thor:

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Street level characters:

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Further Comparison - Deathstroke: Take note of the explicit speed statements made when Deathstroke avoids energy attacks. It's something not really seen in Thor's displays.

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Further Comparison - Midnighter: (In general, Midnighter is a tough character to use in this sort of thing because his combat computer means he knows things are coming ahead of time, but two things are making me use him anyway. First, there are some times when he attributes his ability to perform some action to his speed directly, at least one of those is below. Second, there are some times when knowing alone wouldn't be enough to perform a feat, and he'd need the actual movement speed as well, at least one of those is below as well.)

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Reacting to "Light Speed" Energy - Thor: Thought Thor had a "clear" example of this but it turns out...not so much. Captain America and Hulk do though.

Street level characters:

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Further Comparison - Hulk: (The first appearance of Hulk in this experiment.)

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Reacting to Missiles - Thor:

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This bit was actually difficult to find for street level characters for what I think are obvious reasons (strength and durability requirements which are blurred less for street level characters) but I think I did alright.

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Further Comparison - Midnighter:

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Further Comparison - Hulk:

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"Lightning" Speed Descriptor - Thor:

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Street level characters:

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Further Comparison - Hulk:

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Moving Faster than Sight -Thor: One of these says "almost faster than mere mortal eyes can follow", but I put it here anyway.

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Street level characters: I've been sleeping on Batman so I'll put him here. There's also some of him reacting to bullets and reacting to or tagging a well known speedster. I guess this is the Batman section since I don't want to reupload the groups of images.

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Further Comparison - Midnighter:

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Acting at the Speed of Thought - Thor

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Deathstroke:

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Midnighter: This one is indirect, but in it, Impetus is said to move faster than two whole teams (including arguably the planet's best telepath) can think, and the telepath and his team are specifically asking for Midnighter to take him down because no one else can and the character with what they thought were the best reflexes just hurt herself trying to stop him.

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Using AOE Attacks to Hit Speedsters - Thor:

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Street level characters:

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Tagging Speedsters - Thor:

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Street level characters:

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Further Comparison - Deathstroke: (The nice thing about these is that speed is specifically being mentioned along with these displays.)

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Further Comparison - Midnighter: (The nice thing about these is that speed is specifically being mentioned along with these displays.)

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Further Comparison - Hulk:

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Thor/Black Panther subsection - Just because this particular image of Thor "surprising" Silver Surfer with his speed has been used to support Thor, here's an example of Black Panther surprising Surfer with speed. What's interesting is that Black Panther displays the reflexes to perform an action at a speed that surprises Surfer.

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"Fighting Evenly" with Speedsters - Thor: This turned out to be a pretty disappointing section. Most of the support for Thor's speed comes from him "tagging speedsters" (which by now you've seen multiple examples of "street level" characters do) but when pressed for examples of him fighting them in any sort of extended battle at speed, very little is provided. I think I'll split these up.

First up, Thor vs Gladiator. This is actually multiple fights. Aside from the general lack of speed on display (aside from Gladiator successfully blitzing and disarming Thor), I'll point out that in the first fight, Gladiator specifically says he's going to stand his ground, which, if anything, suggests a lack of speed being used on his part.

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Thor vs Surfer: These two have obviously fought plenty of times, but below is what I see a lot when on this subject so I'm putting it here, it's two different battles. I'll just say, I don't see much evidence of speed being used by either party (except at the very beginning when they don't even use it to fight each other).

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Thor vs Angela: This is not one continuous fight. The first image is Thor "fighting evenly" with Angela. It's only one page but the fight ends on the next page with the pillar you see cut in the first page falling on her (I don't think that's a great testament to her speed, but its what we've got). Also, claims about Angela's own speed don't actually provide any measure and further rely on some dubious claims, so I'm a little wary of using her as an example of a speedster, but it's what we have. Following the first page though is another of Angela's fights with Thor, with comments on the speed displayed there. Not flattering for Thor, but I'll let you decide.

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Street level character: Just showing one fight here, I think it's longer than any fight Thor has had with a speedster.

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Eh, why not show another one. This is Majestic fighting 3 members of the Skein (he's killed one and is using her sword when these scans start) for an extended period of time. Their speed is on the level of Zealot (bullet blocking street level character, not a speedster).

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Further Comparison - Ultimate Quicksilver: This is to display a difference between how characters with and without speed look when fighting characters with speed.

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Explicit Speed Measures/Descriptions - Thor:

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Street level characters: Not much here, which is what I always expected to be the outcome. This is the one area where Thor goes beyond what street level characters are capable of, though it does look like Iron Fist has performed at least one similar feat.

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Further Comparison - Deathstroke: Sort of a weird one but there are several time statements in this one so I thought it should go here. Deathstroke's movements are described as him moving through frozen time and acting in instants.

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Further Comparison - Midnighter: The blink of an eye is measured at 100-400 milliseconds

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Further Comparison - Flash: I personally think Flash shows speed of an entirely different sort than what Midnighter, Deathstroke, or Thor demonstrate, and not just in how fast he goes but what he can do with speed that truly allows him to perform processes at a high level. But these are here for you to be the judge.

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Thoughts

This section isn't set in stone and it will change as I go through the images. From what I've seen so far though, Thor does not demonstrate the sort of operational speed characters like Flash do and most of his quantifiable speed feats are within the wide range of street level speed. Or put another way, when the question is put forth, "Can Thor fight at high speed?" the answer seems to be no. If fighting is a continuous action, a back and forth of blows or movements, a two-sided exchange and physical combat, then Thor doesn't do that. Characters like Flash or Quicksilver fight at high speed. Thor seems to display only the ability to deliver a single blow or similar action at a high speed, which is the same that can be said for Deathstroke, Midnighter, and "street level characters". There doesn't actually seem to be anything Thor does that can't be replicated by street level or borderline street level characters, and there are displays from "true speedsters" that Thor does not appear to match, even in his decades-old showings, where most of his "high speed" displays come from.

This is a repost from elsewhere in the thread:

If just looking at all those images has shown me anything, it's that we REALLY need to get away from this idea that one character fighting another makes their speed equal. It's ridiculous and doesn't hold up to the slightest scrutiny. If Thor "fights evenly" with a character who has super speed, then some are quick to say Thor is just as fast. But then if Thor "fights evenly" with someone much slower, what are we to take from that? To my mind, there are only three options:

  1. This new character is now automatically as fast as Thor and thus as fast as the first FTL character in the example.
  2. Thor is as slow as this second character, which is now a contradiction
  3. Thor is holding back his speed to fight this slower character

Now if we can toss out 1) on the basis that we all know Wolverine isn't as fast as the Silver Surfer (though obviously Black Panther is, just go with it) and 2) on the basis that it's an outright contradiction, we're left with 3) (or some fourth option I don't know about). And 3) seems to be what I see from the Thor Speed Truthers, that Thor really is as fast as someone like Flash or Silver Surfer but he fights slower. But aside from the existence of examples of Thor saying he could fight faster if he weren't worried about hurting people (which is not a problem confirmed speedsters ever seem to have btw), the simple response is, "Why is it reasonable to think that Thor was holding his speed back but not that it was Surfer (or Established Fast Character X) that was holding their speed back to fight Thor?" Characters "fighting evenly" should have no bearing on greater speed unless speed is specifically mentioned or clearly depicted in some way. Even in the case of "blitzing", particularly with flying characters, I don't know how much that can be expected to factor in when we don't know how much faster than normal they're going. I think too much stock in placed in who can fight whom as an indicator for speed. I thought this was clear, but the preponderance of images says otherwise, and while it does seem to be more a thought process from the Thor Speed Truther camp, it's not exclusive to them.

There is another thing I keep seeing, though this isn't from everyone, and that is that there are lot of times Thor gets hit by an unknown enemy, projectile, or energy weapon, and seemingly to head off the idea that this makes Thor slow, the excuse is that "we don't know how fast it was going and it might have been light speed so it's not a bad display for Thor." Now, and I've stated this before, I don't think every hit means something bad for the character getting hit or necessarily displays a greater amount of speed, and there are plenty of reasons for this. I'll provide just a few:

  1. Everyone gets hit. It's comics, it would be dull if this weren't true.
  2. Super fast characters fight slow all the time for in character reasons as well. I'll use my boy Majestic as an example. Most fights where he takes on randoms or even characters he knows, he fights at their speed. Sometimes he does it because he's talking to them, sometimes he does it because he doesn't fear what they can dish out, sometimes he does it because he wants to show off, sometimes he does it just because he's not in a rush. Very few characters (usually just speedsters) default to high speed when they start a fight and even then it's pretty much never their max speed when they do. And even speedsters usually don't just blitz every enemy they see on a regular day.
  3. Characters of the same speed can dodge each others attacks or just miss. Every h2h street fighter in comics has fights where one or both of the combatants avoid getting struck, and usually they take turns dodging attacks, because it's (usually) not about a vast speed difference but about skill or just knowing how to dodge or block a punch even if one doesn't have a ton of skill.

So really, I don't think Thor needs excuses for getting hit by things he "shouldn't" if he were going at "full speed". But the excuses themselves raise a question. If the reason he got hit is because the attack was at light speed, but the claim is also that he's faster than light, he STILL shouldn't get hit. If anything, the attempt at an excuse just makes Thor look worse.

This is another bit I wrote in another thread about the idea that Thor doesn't necessarily pilot mjolnir through space so its travel speed isn't necessarily connected to his personal speed.

Any number of instances suggest Thor is not making moment by moment adjustments to Mjolnir's movements:

  • Thor not knowing where an enemy was and sending mjolnir to search underground for him
  • Mjolnir opening dimensional portals and flying through space to go find Thor when Thor didn't even know exactly what was happening
  • Mjolnir being released from Thor's hand and then moving in circles even faster when not physically controlled by him
  • The many times Mjolnir has not listened to Thor (his own words) and refused to be moved
  • Mjolnir not listening to Odin and refusing to be moved
  • Jane Thor having Mjolnir do her fighting for her (I really like it every time I see it)
  • Mjolnir pretending to be Jane without her knowing (interesting here is that at one point Jane/Thor can see through Jane/Mjolnir's eyes, clearly demonstrating that the hammer's perception can be shared, and suggesting yet another way that Thor could "pilot" at high speeds without innately having perceptions that would allow for it...though I personally still think its mjolnir doing the driving)
  • Mjolnir teleporting on its own
  • Mjolnir pulling Jane/Thor through space without her permission or guidance
  • Mjolnir pulling Odin all over Asgard and destroying it in the process without his permission or guidance

These are just off the top of my head. Mjolnir clearly has a "mind" of its own and is more than capable of flying on its own. And given that its also pretty firmly established that Mjolnir is aware of Thor's wants and needs without him needing to communicate them, Thor wouldn't need to be consciously piloting even if he suddenly wanted to go somewhere else. If midway through a cross-galaxy flight that only takes a few minutes he forgets that he left the light on in Avengers tower and he desires to go back and turn it off, his thought process isn't necessarily operating at the speed he's moving at. It's like getting on a train and thinking while it's moving. You don't need to be thinking at the same rate the train is moving. It will take you the same 2 seconds to come up with the answer to 235 x 2 whether the train is moving 1 mile an hour or 1 million. The distance traveled has no affect on your processing speed. Even putting aside the possibility that while flying, Thor relies on the clearly established ability of him perceiving things as Mjolnir does, he doesn't need to.

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My Favorite Lanterns

I don't really have anything to say, I just like the idea of these two. Wish they had stuck with these upgrades for a bit longer. The only way it could be more perfect is if Hank had a Red Lantern.

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Newcomer Gauntlet

Every time I see a "Character X goes through the gauntlet" I get to feeling that maybe we should be able to write "The Gauntlet" as in, there is only one. Just one gauntlet for Comic Vine, one series of opponents that we can refer to. Why? There's not much of a why other than people write "the" which means a specific one that we're previously referred to, when really they should right "a" because they make up a new one every time. It's a language use thing that bugs me, that's all. Also, I think it would be cool. The problem, and this is why I've never done this before, is that for it to be a comic vine gauntlet, everyone would have to agree, and that would NEVER happen. If you're new here, maybe you don't realize it, but a consensus on who beats who is never going to happen on this website unless the comparisons are so one sided as to defeat the purpose anyway. The closest I've come to putting one together involved exclusively Wildstorm characters. This was for two reasons. First, I like Wildstorm, duh. Second, it meant that characters like Spider-Man, Wolverine, Batman, Superman, and Thor, didn't have to be anywhere near the list and so people didn't have to fight about placement. Even that had it's problems though. The biggest problem was that since they're wildstorm characters, few people have an accurate image of what they can do (aside from Midnighter and Majestic, and even then I wouldn't really call it "accurate"). That could end up meaning a lot more explanation that I wanted to go into. Also, Characters aren't one-dimensional, so determining the order is harder than just going off who's stronger and putting them in order. This makes the fights themselves interesting, but putting together any sort of linear increase in difficulty pretty tricky. And, maybe I'm biased here, I feel like the Wildstorm characters are trickier than most in this regard. Anyway, regardless of these issues, I decided to do it again because of the second part of the title for this blog: Newcomers.

Part of joining the Vine is learning, often unpleasantly, that the character you like most in the world, will get their teeth kicked in by The Midnighter. I kid I kid, somewhere in the middle of that sentence it got away from me because that ending was too funny to resist. But seriously, pretty early on, everyone that uses the battle forum finds out that their favorite character doesn't win every fight. This can be a painful experience. I figured, having one go-to gauntlet to see exactly where a character loses the ability to go on, might save time and maybe even be more humane since it's so impersonal. And as an added bonus, it will expose newcomers to characters they've never seen before and get them used to the process of looking up characters they don't know.

Anyway, here's what I was toying around with:

The Wildstorm Gauntlet

Swift

Grifter

-Sanity Check: Agent Wax

Holden Carver

Hellstrike

Maul

-Speed Bump: Jet

Zealot

Backlash

-Team Fortress: Gen 13

Midnighter

Apollo

-Energy Battery: Winter

Jackson King

Jenny Sparks

-Team Fortress 2: Wetworks

Jack Hawksmoor

The Engineer

Mr. Majestic

-Team Fortress 3: Planetary + The Four

-Re-roll Sanity Check: Tao

-Speed Bump 2: Professor Q

The Doctor (Swift's Revenge!)

Jenny Quantum

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What's In Character?

This springs from a post I made recently and since the thread went a different way, I'd like to continue it here. My question was originally to @killemall and I'd still like him to respond because I think his input would be worth reading, but it's also just a general question that pertains to battles on CV as a whole. I don't really feel like writing more so I'll just start with the relevant bit of the original post:

Getting off on a tangent though, during Infinity, did Thanos use a force field, telepathy, telekinesis, independent teleportation, or matter manipulation at any point? How about in his recent origin story? I think there was something in Avengers Assemble with telepathy, but what was the extent and context of that and what about the others? When was the last time he used these abilities? Sometimes I wonder what goes into people's considerations for which behaviors are "in character" and which aren't. If a character used to do something "a lot" but doesn't anymore, could their character be said to have changed? Would that be an outlandish concept since we're pretending these characters are real people anyway? Or do people prefer to hold a static concept of these characters in mind even though their use through time and portrayals under many writers would almost require something far more fluid? If this fight should so happen to start, don't worry, I'll get out of your hair, but I felt like rummaging through some thoughts.

Thanos was being used in the original thread and I am curious about the answers to the questions I posted about that character specifically as well as the general topic. He might be a good character to use as an example of what's being discussed but I'm sure there are others too.

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How To Disagree

Taken from: http://www.paulgraham.com/disagree.html

The web is turning writing into a conversation. Twenty years ago, writers wrote and readers read. The web lets readers respond, and increasingly they do—in comment threads, on forums, and in their own blog posts.

Many who respond to something disagree with it. That's to be expected. Agreeing tends to motivate people less than disagreeing. And when you agree there's less to say. You could expand on something the author said, but he has probably already explored the most interesting implications. When you disagree you're entering territory he may not have explored.

The result is there's a lot more disagreeing going on, especially measured by the word. That doesn't mean people are getting angrier. The structural change in the way we communicate is enough to account for it. But though it's not anger that's driving the increase in disagreement, there's a danger that the increase in disagreement will make people angrier. Particularly online, where it's easy to say things you'd never say face to face.

If we're all going to be disagreeing more, we should be careful to do it well. What does it mean to disagree well? Most readers can tell the difference between mere name-calling and a carefully reasoned refutation, but I think it would help to put names on the intermediate stages. So here's an attempt at a disagreement hierarchy:

DH0. Name-calling.

This is the lowest form of disagreement, and probably also the most common. We've all seen comments like this:

u r a fag!!!!!!!!!!

But it's important to realize that more articulate name-calling has just as little weight. A comment like

The author is a self-important dilettante.

is really nothing more than a pretentious version of "u r a fag."

DH1. Ad Hominem.

An ad hominem attack is not quite as weak as mere name-calling. It might actually carry some weight. For example, if a senator wrote an article saying senators' salaries should be increased, one could respond:

Of course he would say that. He's a senator.

This wouldn't refute the author's argument, but it may at least be relevant to the case. It's still a very weak form of disagreement, though. If there's something wrong with the senator's argument, you should say what it is; and if there isn't, what difference does it make that he's a senator?

Saying that an author lacks the authority to write about a topic is a variant of ad hominem—and a particularly useless sort, because good ideas often come from outsiders. The question is whether the author is correct or not. If his lack of authority caused him to make mistakes, point those out. And if it didn't, it's not a problem.

DH2. Responding to Tone.

The next level up we start to see responses to the writing, rather than the writer. The lowest form of these is to disagree with the author's tone. E.g.

I can't believe the author dismisses intelligent design in such a cavalier fashion.

Though better than attacking the author, this is still a weak form of disagreement. It matters much more whether the author is wrong or right than what his tone is. Especially since tone is so hard to judge. Someone who has a chip on their shoulder about some topic might be offended by a tone that to other readers seemed neutral.

So if the worst thing you can say about something is to criticize its tone, you're not saying much. Is the author flippant, but correct? Better that than grave and wrong. And if the author is incorrect somewhere, say where.

DH3. Contradiction.

In this stage we finally get responses to what was said, rather than how or by whom. The lowest form of response to an argument is simply to state the opposing case, with little or no supporting evidence.

This is often combined with DH2 statements, as in:

I can't believe the author dismisses intelligent design in such a cavalier fashion. Intelligent design is a legitimate scientific theory.

Contradiction can sometimes have some weight. Sometimes merely seeing the opposing case stated explicitly is enough to see that it's right. But usually evidence will help.

DH4. Counterargument.

At level 4 we reach the first form of convincing disagreement: counterargument. Forms up to this point can usually be ignored as proving nothing. Counterargument might prove something. The problem is, it's hard to say exactly what.

Counterargument is contradiction plus reasoning and/or evidence. When aimed squarely at the original argument, it can be convincing. But unfortunately it's common for counterarguments to be aimed at something slightly different. More often than not, two people arguing passionately about something are actually arguing about two different things. Sometimes they even agree with one another, but are so caught up in their squabble they don't realize it.

There could be a legitimate reason for arguing against something slightly different from what the original author said: when you feel they missed the heart of the matter. But when you do that, you should say explicitly you're doing it.

DH5. Refutation.

The most convincing form of disagreement is refutation. It's also the rarest, because it's the most work. Indeed, the disagreement hierarchy forms a kind of pyramid, in the sense that the higher you go the fewer instances you find.

To refute someone you probably have to quote them. You have to find a "smoking gun," a passage in whatever you disagree with that you feel is mistaken, and then explain why it's mistaken. If you can't find an actual quote to disagree with, you may be arguing with a straw man.

While refutation generally entails quoting, quoting doesn't necessarily imply refutation. Some writers quote parts of things they disagree with to give the appearance of legitimate refutation, then follow with a response as low as DH3 or even DH0.

DH6. Refuting the Central Point.

The force of a refutation depends on what you refute. The most powerful form of disagreement is to refute someone's central point.

Even as high as DH5 we still sometimes see deliberate dishonesty, as when someone picks out minor points of an argument and refutes those. Sometimes the spirit in which this is done makes it more of a sophisticated form of ad hominem than actual refutation. For example, correcting someone's grammar, or harping on minor mistakes in names or numbers. Unless the opposing argument actually depends on such things, the only purpose of correcting them is to discredit one's opponent.

Truly refuting something requires one to refute its central point, or at least one of them. And that means one has to commit explicitly to what the central point is. So a truly effective refutation would look like:

The author's main point seems to be x. As he says:
<quotation>
But this is wrong for the following reasons...

The quotation you point out as mistaken need not be the actual statement of the author's main point. It's enough to refute something it depends upon.

What It Means

Now we have a way of classifying forms of disagreement. What good is it? One thing the disagreement hierarchy

doesn't

give us is a way of picking a winner. DH levels merely describe the form of a statement, not whether it's correct. A DH6 response could still be completely mistaken.

But while DH levels don't set a lower bound on the convincingness of a reply, they do set an upper bound. A DH6 response might be unconvincing, but a DH2 or lower response is always unconvincing.

The most obvious advantage of classifying the forms of disagreement is that it will help people to evaluate what they read. In particular, it will help them to see through intellectually dishonest arguments. An eloquent speaker or writer can give the impression of vanquishing an opponent merely by using forceful words. In fact that is probably the defining quality of a demagogue. By giving names to the different forms of disagreement, we give critical readers a pin for popping such balloons.

Such labels may help writers too. Most intellectual dishonesty is unintentional. Someone arguing against the tone of something he disagrees with may believe he's really saying something. Zooming out and seeing his current position on the disagreement hierarchy may inspire him to try moving up to counterargument or refutation.

But the greatest benefit of disagreeing well is not just that it will make conversations better, but that it will make the people who have them happier. If you study conversations, you find there is a lot more meanness down in DH1 than up in DH6. You don't have to be mean when you have a real point to make. In fact, you don't want to. If you have something real to say, being mean just gets in the way.

If moving up the disagreement hierarchy makes people less mean, that will make most of them happier. Most people don't really enjoy being mean; they do it because they can't help it.

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Kieron Gillen on The Battle Forum

Yes, I'm taking liberties. This is from his tumblr. I would have simply liked it and not shared it, but he referenced the Wildstorm Universe and then it was over.

Characters don’t exist out of context. Characters are created as part of a universe, with a set of rules and conventions.

My go to example is the “Batman always wins”. True in the DC universe. Drop him in (say) the Wildstorm one, and the more cynical rules of that place would lead to the rich guy to be incinerated from orbit the first time he pulled on his costume and decided to cross the Authority.

More generally, science-fiction universes normally have the trope that Earth tech when facing enormously advanced aliens can do something. Iron Man’s suit can face off against hyper-advanced aliens, due to it being based on the romantic conception of science, etc. Take that to a hard Science-Fiction Universe, and Iron Man is toast. Thousands of Iron Man armours would be killed by a single Knife Missile, in Iain M Banks’ Culture universe. Take a thousand Knife Missiles to the MU, and Tony would take them down on his lonesome.

This is why Battle-board style questions can be a lot of fun, but miss certain key elements of fiction.

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