Before you start yelling, we established some ground rules for this list. The beings had to be Earth bound. Their original incarnation had to be outside of Marvel and DC. Any superpowers would only be a natural ability or used for the enhancement of a trained fighting style. The fighting ability had to be in hand to hand, short range weapons, or standard firearms. This list is intended to generate discussion, so with all of those stipulations in mind you may now proceed to yell at us. Preferably only after actually reading the list.
10. “Rowdy” Roddy Piper
The fictional Roddy Piper is badass on a level that can’t be contained by any one comic, imprint, company or fictional universe. Piper’s latest adventure is in the graphic novel Roddy Piper: Monster Killer, in which the former Intercontinental Champion kills monsters with his bare hands. In Titan Book’s WWE Heroes, Piper took on an entire cadre of corrupt police officers and terrorists. But plot twist — a 2007 action figure revealed that Piper had been a member of G.I. Joe’s mortal enemy, COBRA, all along.
Roddy Piper is a monster killing COBRA Trainer who secretly battles a mystical evil fronted by the nefarious Shadow King. That makes Piper’s entire professional wrestling career look like a Zorro-esque attempt to appear like a wuss to the general public.
David Mack’s comic book epic Kabuki has now spanned two decades and various companies. Kabuki is a codename of a Japanese assassin whose real name is Ukiko. Ukiko’s mother was a “comfort woman” as well as a stage performer who eventually became engaged to a World War II soldier known as the General. The General’s son Kai attacked and raped Ukiko’s mother the night before her marriage, during which he carved the word “Kabuki” into her back. The rape was Ukiko’s conception but the injuries eventually caused Ukiko’s mother’s death. When Ukiko was nine, Kai attacked Ukiko at her mother’s grave and carved “Kabuki” into Ukiko’s face, because apparently he had a thing for that. The General then trained Ukiko to be a master martial artist and assassin so she would never be defenseless again. Ukiko was raised to become a living weapon, wears a mask to cover her scars and took the name Kabuki as a code to reclaim the name as her own.
Kabuki is a member of a government backed league of female assassins called the Noh. She’s trained in a variety of forms of martial arts, as well as being skilled with handheld and short range weapons. Also, her mask makes her look pretty freaking cool.
8. Wesley Gibson
Comic book fans will probably tell you that the best thing about the 2008 film Wanted is that it stars James McAvoy and not Shia LaBeouf. The Wanted comic book was published in 2003 and written by the prolific Mark Millar. The “hero” is a frustrated office worker named Wesley Gibson who learns that he’s actually a super villain who will be known as the Killer. As the Killer, Wesley has the “power to end life.” He becomes an international assassin and bodyguard working for a nefarious organization of villains called the Fraternity — as a member, Wesley can commit virtually any crime without fear of repercussion.
Some of the manifestations of Wesley’s powers include deadly accuracy with firearms, the ability to redirect attacks back at his attackers, and excellent hand to hand combat skills. Wesley grows into a merciless, soulless killer who enjoys random acts of violence, so he’s not exactly the role-model of the list. Gibson’s appearance in the comics is actually modeled after rapper Eminem, who as far as we’re aware is not immune to the repercussions of any crimes he may commit.
7. Crimson Wasp
The NOW Comics version of the Green Hornet started with a female version of Kato named Mishi Kato. The rights-holders mandated a return of the “Bruce Lee Kato,” because misogyny can end the careers of fictional characters as well as real life women. Mishi was sent back to work for her uncle’s company while her brother continued on as a loyal sidekick and protector. However, Mishi would later adopt a superhero persona, the Crimson Wasp.
Mishi was an interesting character on several levels. She insisted on being the Green Hornet’s partner and not simply a sidekick. As the Crimson Wasp, Mishi would go on to a crime fighting career of her own. She fought with a variety of martial arts weapons in addition to being an expert in hand to hand combat. Mishi should also be considered a master swordsman. She would later become the grandmother of a future modern-day Green Hornet. The “Mishi Controversy” actually closely mirrored a later controversy when a female ninja turtle named Venus De Milo was brought onto the team. Neither lasted long.
6. Judge Dredd
In a dystopian future, Judge Dredd is a cloned judge who disperses street justice for a monolithic state as judge, jury and executioner. Dredd’s true face in the comics has never been seen to keep justice faceless, basically making him the ultimate Clone Trooper. Dredd is armed with his “Lawgiver” pistol and rides a “Lawmaster” motorcycle, and presumably when he kicks back to relax at night he watches legal dramas on his “Lawshower” TV. The impressive part about Dredd is that he’s risen above his peers with the same genetic makeup. He’s skilled in firearms, as well as a variety of hand to hand combat methods.
Dredd has also endured testing against other comic characters. He’s gone toe to toe with Batman, Xenomorphs and a Predator. He held his own against Batman, and fared better against a Predator than Batman did. If Batman is the end of all arguments, then what does that say about Judge Dredd?
Shi’s real name is Ana Ishikawa, and her origin story reads like a mixture of Batman, Daredevil and Punisher. Shi is the Japanese word for death, and there’s wordplay at work because Shi also sounds exactly like she, making it the perfect name for a female Japanese assassin. Ana’s father was a Japanese warrior and her mother was a Catholic missionary, but they were murdered when Ana was very young. Naturally, this lead Ana down a path of brutal assassination and vengeance. Shi was trained by her paternal grandfather in the ways of fighting, but is conflicted by her Christian beliefs. This eventually leads her to give up the Shi persona, although she’ll adopt it in order to protect the innocent.
Shi was trained to be a “Sohei,” or fighting monk. Sohei were rooted in Buddhist beliefs, and this fact alone would make Ana Ishikawa an interesting dinner date. The Sohei also favored the use of a naginata, a spear attached to a wooden staff with a curved blade. In spin-off stories, Shi has worked with Daredevil, Cyblade, Vampirella and Wolverine. Shi’s proficiency particularly impressed Wolverine, who spent a considerable amount of time in Japan and wouldn’t lightly give respect to someone trained in their fighting arts.
Blade of the Immortal is the story of an immortal samurai named Manji. Manji is tried of immortality and feels like the lack of a credible threat of death has dulled his fighting skills. Manji can lose his immortality by taking a rare poison, but there’s a catch — Manji was responsible for the death of 100 good men. In order to atone, Manji must kill 1000 evil men to obtain the poison, because community service hours were apparently out of the question. The poison would allow him to one day attain a “glorious death” in combat.
Manji has had lifetimes to perfect his fighting skills. Additionally, Manji will often take his opponents’ best weapons as a trophy, adding them to his own arsenal. The only thing that Manji truly fears is becoming a lesser warrior. The best results any opponent can have against Manji is to fight him to a draw, incapacitate him or simply flee successfully. But Manji, by his own admission, is not the ultimate fighter due to his own lack of mortality.
For all of you reader who haven’t heard of them, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are a group of four anthropomorphic turtles mutated by a strange ooze and trained in the Ninjitsu arts by a rat Sensei named Splinter. Of the four, Leonardo is the oldest as well as the one who’s the most dedicated student. In the original Mirage Comics run, Leonardo is depicted as being able to hold off an entire army of Foot Clan ninjas.
A future Leonardo was shown becoming a ninja master who founded his own ninja school while the property was with Archie Comics. Leonardo is the most passionate of the four turtles in the pursuit of mastery of the ninja arts — Donatello is a tinkerer and inventor, Raphael is too hotheaded to achieve his maximum potential and Michelangelo is generally only concerned with having fun. Given a turtle’s unusually long life span, Leonardo has the potential to develop his skills beyond the ability of a human. Plus he has natural body armor, and his mutated body isn’t as likely to break down over time.
2. Obadiah Archer
Depending on which series you read, there are two different origins for Obadiah Archer. In the 1992 series, Archer’s parents are child molesters. Archer escapes them, seeks refuge in the Himalayas and discovers that he has near perfect control over his body after a near-death experience. Buddhist monks give him refuge from those who hunt him, and train him in martial arts as well as archery. Archer’s skill in archery is considered to be something of a side effect of his perfect body control. In the 2012 series, Archer is raised by an evil sect for the express purpose of killing the immortal Armstrong, because no comic book hero is allowed to have even a remotely normal childhood.
Archer is the combination of a perfect specimen of humanity and an advanced level of training from an early age. In both series, Archer is a nearly perfect fighter capable of taking on supernatural forces with hand to hand or short ranged combat. Archer’s physical mastery also manifests itself in other ways — he’s a superior basketball player.
Backlash is the codename of a being who also goes by Marc Slayton. Slayton was originally an Atlantean who’s traveled the Earth for nearly 3000 years. In the comics, Atlantis is a society founded by aliens — Slayton had an alien father and a human mother. He only has fractured memories of his life, but he’s always been some sort of fighter or soldier because a comic about a 3000 year old knitting enthusiast would be dull. Slayton was a medieval knight, a ninja in feudal Japan and a United States Air Force Colonel tasked with investigating alien phenomena, among other military roles.
Slayton possessed the time and inclination to master almost every fighting style and weapon — he’s had the luxury of investing an entire human lifetime into the study of every style. Slayton’s preference was to use an energy whip as a primary weapon, hence the name Backlash. It’s highly unlikely that anyone could beat Backlash in simple one on one combat, so if we had to bet on a fighter it would be him.