The comic book universes are full of fictional characters who are extraordinary hand-to-hand fighters. But who among them are THE best hand-to-hand fighters in the Marvel and DC Comics fictional universes?
This list is only going to include “regular” humans and characters with (slightly) enhanced abilities, i.e., those characters that actually focus on hand-to-hand combat rather than superpowers. Superhuman characters are not on this list because such a list wouldn’t really make any sense because those characters don’t actually focus on their fighting skills, but rather on their superpowered skills and abilities.
The list is going to be presented in randomly ordered pairs (one Marvel and one DC), so it’s not going to be our individual rendition of the strongest, but rather our list of the best. So, keep reading to see the best ones out there.
Black Widow (Marvel)
Black Widow is the superhero alter ego of Natalia Alianovna “Natasha” Romanova, a fictional character from the Marvel Universe. She is one of Marvel’s most important female characters and has a very interesting backstory.
Black Widow is a very important part of the Marvel Universe and without a doubt one of its best fighters. Since she was a child, she was trained to become a sleeper agent.
Among others, the training included a lot of different fighting techniques, which turned Natasha into an excellent fighter. Later on, her powers were further enhanced by the Super Soldier serum, which made her even stronger, although she never got the powers as Captain America did.
Her athletic abilities are also amazing and she was able to hold her ground with some of the best fighters in the Marvel Universe. Her membership in the Avengers, despite not having any inherent superpowers, is proof enough that her fighting abilities are truly amazing and that she is well-respected within the superhero community. Natasha has proven many times to have an excellent skill set and is even a very capable and dangerous assassin.
Lady Shiva (DC)
Lady Shiva is the alter ego of Sandra Woosan (or Sandra Wu-San), a fictional character appearing in stories published by DC Comics. Lady Shiva is an antihero type of character, usually a vigilante and an assassin-for-hire, but is respected by Batman and the other heroes.
She is a martial arts grandmaster and is known as one of the best fighters in the DC Universe. Her origins are connected to the murder of her sister, Carolyn, by the hands of David Cain. While trying to kill Cain and avenge her sister, Lady Shiva comes into contact with the League of Assassins and Ra’s al-Ghul.
A strong female character, Lady Shive is without a doubt one of the strongest names on this list. She was trained to be a warrior and has constantly improved her skills by training with great masters and fighting strong opponents.
She is a martial arts grandmaster and the title is completely justified in her case. Her hand-to-hand combat skills are truly amazing and Lady Shiva has managed to defeat (or not lose) to many great fighters, including Batman.
Although she might not know as many martial arts as Batman, she has mastered the ones she knows to nigh perfection. She is also skilled with bladed weapons, which gives her additional abilities and approaches in a fight.
Lady Shiva is usually mentioned as a character you’d want to avoid if possible. If she’s hired to kill you, you’re probably going to end up dead, unless you’re some kind of superhero, like Batman or one of the members of his family.
Lady Shiva was a certain pick for our list and – we have to state this – she is truly an amazing character with a great backstory and really interesting development.
Shang-Chi is one of those characters that had to make this list, mainly because he was created to be a martial arts grandmaster. He is a master of chi and is commonly referred to as the “Master of Kung Fu”, which speaks enough about his fighting abilities. Shang-Chi is proficient in numerous unarmed and weaponry-based wushu styles, including the use of the gùn, nunchaku, and jian.
In later years, he gains the power to create countless duplicates of himself and joins the Avengers. When hand-to-hand fighting is concerned, you’ll hardly find a more skilled character in the Marvel Universe.
Despite having no inherent superpowers, Shang-Chi has quite often fought superpowered characters and defeated them; even Ares, the Greek God of War, has acknowledged him as one of the few mortals who can hold their own against a god without the use of magic.
He is also a sought-after teacher and has taught and sparred with a lot of different superheroes from the Marvel Universe. His students and sparring partners include the likes of Captain America, Spider-Man, and Wolverine; two of them are even on this list!
There is really no need to further elaborate Shang-Chi’s inclusion on this list as it is self-evident why one of the greatest human fighters ever would get a place on this list.
Bronze Tiger (DC)
Bronze Tiger is the alter ego of one Benjamin “Ben” Turner, a fictional supervillain/antihero appearing in stories published by DC Comics. As a child, he saved his parents by killing a burglar with a kitchen knife.
Bronze Tiger has no inherent superpowers, yet he has deserved a spot on our list without a doubt. Bronze Tiger is a great and skilled fighter. He has learned from the O-Sensei and has trained with Richard Dragon, who is considered to be among the best hand-to-hand fighters in the DC Universe.
And he was not crushed by them. He has also trained with the League of Assassins, even becoming a member of Ra’s’ secret organization. All of these facts demonstrate just how powerful Bronze Tiger really is and how difficult of an adversary he can be.
Although he is not skilled as some of the names on this list, a character that has practiced martial arts ever since he was a child would certainly be a tough opponent to defeat. Among the martial arts he has mastered are boxing, Hapkido, Jeet Kune Do, Jujutsu, Judo, Karate, Kung Fu, Muay Thai, Savate, Silat, Vale Tudo, and Taekwondo.
He is also a skilled acrobat and has extraordinary stamina. Bronze Tiger’s fighting skills have given him the reputation of being a lethal weapon. Bronze Tiger is known for defeating Batman in a fight and for fighting Richard Dragon to a standstill. If that is not enough for inclusion on our list, then we don’t know what is.
Bronze Tiger is a truly skilled and phenomenal fighter, and there is absolutely no doubt that he deserves a spot on our list.
Iron Fist (Marvel)
Iron Fist is the superhero name of Daniel Thomas Rand-K’ai, a fictional superhero appearing in stories published by Marvel Comics. Iron Fist is a martial arts practitioner and the wielder of a mystical force known as the Iron Fist, which allows him to summon and focus his chi.
Iron Fist is likewise among the best fighters in the Marvel Universe. He has been taught in advanced martial arts by one of the best teachers Marvel had to offer – Lei Kung the Thunderer.
As one of his most gifted students, Danny Rand quickly learned the secrets of the chi and the Iron Fist technique. He later operated as a superhero and he was immensely successful.
The powers of the Iron Fist can greatly increase his stamina, and although the Iron Fist is not a superpower per se, it can elevate his strength, speed, stamina, durability, agility, reflexes, and senses to a level that is almost comparable to superhuman levels.
Along with that, he is also a skilled acrobat, gymnast, and a master of all of K’un-Lun’s martial arts, as well as various regular martial arts styles, including but not limited to Shaolin Kung Fu, Aikido, Fujian White Crane, Judo, Karate, Muay Thai, Ninjutsu, Wushu, and Wing Chun.
He can likewise focus his chi inward to heal himself or outward to heal others of injury, as well as to give himself psychic senses and to telepathically fuse his consciousness with another person. Reading all of this, it becomes quite clear why Iron Fist is on our list and we have no doubt that it is a completely deserved inclusion.
Black Canary (DC)
Black Canary is the name of two fictional superheroines from the DC Comics fictional universe. The first Black Canary was Dinak Drake, one of DC’s first superheroines. Initially, she was a recurring member in stories involving the Justice League but was later linked, both professionally and romantically, with Green Arrow.
Black Canary, a character usually present in stories involving Green Arrow, has the reputation of being one of DC’s best fighters. Her abilities are really amazing, even without the “canary cry”, which was added in later stories.
Before actually becoming superpowered, she was an amazing hand-to-hand fighter and she made a career just by using her fighting and acrobatic skills. She has mastered styles such as Aikido, Boxing, Capoeira, Hapkido, Judo, Jujutsu, Kung Fu, Krav Maga, Muay Thai, Shuri-te, and Wing Chun.
Her training was also very prolific, as she has trained with some of the best fighters in the DC Comics fictional universe, including, but not limited to Wildcat, Lady Shiva, Cassandra Cain, and Wonder Woman. She has also fought and bested Batman on several occasions, which is a feat in itself.
She is also an expert motorcyclist, gymnast, a covert operative, and investigator, along with being an excellent leader and tactician. All of this is Black Canary without her “canary cry”, which one of the most powerful skills in the universe.
So, if she’s so strong and skilled without her “canary cry”, just imagine what a powerhouse she is with her special ability? There is absolutely no doubt that Black Canary deserved a place on our list and now you know the reasons for that.
The Taskmaster is a fictional character appearing in stories published by Marvel Comics. His real name is Tony Masters and he is one of the most mysterious characters in the Marvel Universe.
Due to his special ability, Taskmaster is a truly formidable foe. He can instantly imitate any movement he sees, and due to his genius-level intellect and his photographic memory, he can also utilise the techniques he had already mimicked in a fight.
This makes him very dangerous – in a fight, it seems that you’re fighting both yourself and several other great fighters. This is why Taskmaster is so tough to defeat. He is not unbeatable, but he is a real nuisance to fight and is exceptionally tough to defeat.
It is actually a good thing that he is a mercenary-for-hire and that he trains other criminals to become lackeys, because he would certainly be a very strong supervillain had he decided to pursue such a career.
Taskmaster has fought a plethora of different Marvel superheroes and was usually able to find a way of matching them, except for obviously superpowered heroes like Thor or the Hulk.
Due to his special ability and his great fighting skills, Taskmaster certainly deserved a place on this list and here he is!
Deathstroke is the alter ego of one Slade Joseph Wilson, a fictional character (usually a supervillain) from the DC Comics fictional universe. Lying about his age, Slade Wilson joined the army when he was just 16 years old.
Yeah, having Deathstroke on such a list is really a no-brainer, because he is known as being one of the best comic book fighters ever. He is enormously skilled and has been a highly-trained soldier and, later on, mercenary.
He is equally skilled in hand-to-hand combat as well as weapon-based combat and the use of firearms. He has actual experience on the battlefield and is currently working as a mercenary-for-hire and as one of the best assassins in the world.
His lack of moral values makes him a highly dangerous foe as he is ready to do anything that is necessary to win in a fight. He has often clashed with different DC Comics heroes, including Batman and the Teen Titans, whose archenemy he is usually depicted as being.
Being a super soldier, Deathstroke is also more skilled than most “regular” characters, which is why he often loses in fights only because he is a supervillain, and not because his enemies are objectively stronger than him; quite often, they are actually not nearly as strong as Slade, but a victorious supervillain would defeat the major purpose of superhero comic books.
Black Panther (Marvel)
Black Panther is actually the alter ego of T’Challa, the king and protector of the fictional African country of Wakanda. Black Panther is actually a hereditary title that is passed on to Wakandan rulers, but they have to prove themselves beforehand.
Black Panther is without a doubt one of the most skilled hand-to-hand fighters in the Marvel Universe. He has had extensive training in both modern and ancient Wakandan arts.
He has proven his fighting skills on several occasions, helping both himself and the Avengers in tight situations. The Wakandans are warriors and T’Challa, as the heir to the Wakandan throne, had to train and become a powerful warrior, which he eventually did.
He has trained with local masters, but also external characters such as the Fantastic Four, which happened in his debut appearance. He also uses a vibranium suit that additionally enhances his abilities and makes him a truly formidable foe in every aspect.
Black Panther is truly a great hand-to-hand combatant and rightfully deserves a place on this list. He has consistently proven his fighting skills and was a valued member of the Avengers on every occasion, despite not having any inherent superpowers like some other characters.
Along with his adventures with the Avengers, Black Panther has proven his fighting skills in Wakanda on so many occasions and all of that was enough to include him on our list.
Richard Dragon (DC)
Richard Dragon is the name of two fictional characters appearing in stories published by DC Comics. The first Dragon, Richard Drakunovski, was a thief trained in martial arts who, at one point in his life, decided to use all of his powers for good.
Whether it’s Drakunovski or Diaz, the character of Richard Dragon is a must-include for every list of this type. The original Richard Dragon was a sensei-type of character who rarely came into the spotlight himself, but was well-respected and had a reputation of being the best.
He had trained a lot of superheroes and he was always mentioned by the other characters as being a martial arts authority and someone you should definitely avoid fighting.
One could even say that most characters feared fighting Dragon because of his martial arts skills. Defeating him was proof enough that a character was exceptionally powerful. This is exactly why the new Richard Dragon, Ricardo Diaz, Jr., is such a formidable foe.
He has trained with Dragon and was able to kill him at one point, stealing his alter ego in the process. Diaz, Jr. is perceived as a living weapon, with a skill set that makes him a very dangerous foe. He was able to severely injure Oliver Queen but was ultimately defeated.
Since he’s a supervillain, it is quite possible – just like with the above-analyzed Deathstroke – that he loses regularly because he has to fight superheroes, but that his objective powers and skills are much higher.
In any case, both iterations of the Richard Dragon character are great hand-to-hand fighters, with the first iteration being known as one of the best there ever was. This is why they deserved a spot on out list of the best.
Wolverine is the superhero/mutant name of one James Howlett, a fictional superhero/antihero appearing in Marvel’s X-Men franchise. Wolverine is also known as Logan and Weapon X. Wolverine’s origin story involves a lot of blood and tragedy.
It’s difficult to not include Wolverine on such list. Probably the most famous mutant, Wolverine relies heavily on his hand-to-hand combat skills, which he combines with his adamantium claws.
He is one of the strongest mutants in the Marvel Universe and one of the strongest X-Men. He has been able to defeat a variety of foes, some of which have been notoriously stronger than himself.
Combining his fighting skills with his mutant abilities – adamantium claws, regeneration, durability, superhuman strength – Wolverine truly becomes a very dangerous foe that you would not want to face in direct hand-to-hand combat.
He certainly deserves a spot on our list and although we don’t make comparisons, we can freely state that Wolverine is – in addition to everything we’ve said already – one of the strongest names on this list.
Ra’s al-Ghul (DC)
Ra’s al-Ghul is a fictional supervillain from stories published by DC Comics. His name literally means “The Head of the Demon”. He is usually depicted as an enemy of Batman, but has also fought other DC Comics superheroes.
Ra’s al-Ghul has many special powers. His knowledge of the mystical arts has enabled him to use magic and he has achieved night immortality, but he is also a great hand-to-hand fighter.
Namely, he was born and raised in a time where technology was scarce so, beside mysticism, he had to rely heavily on traditional fighting skills. He has trained himself to near perfection and can easily deal with most characters in direct hand-to-hand combat.
He is also a master teacher, leading and training the League of Assassins, an organization known for its strong and skilled fighters; both Lady Shiva and Talia al-Ghul trained with him and learned from him. He is also great with bladed weapons, often using a sword when fighting.
Ra’s al-Ghul is an adversary feared by many and most people tend to avoid a fight with him. Even if one managed to defeat him, he usually just goes into a Lazarus Pit, returning young and strong, ready for a new fight.
Despite being a supervillain, Ra’s al-Ghul has proven himself to be a skilled enough fighter to get a spot on this list and there is absolutely no doubt that he would be a formidable for foe every other name on our list of the best hand-to-hand fighters.
Captain America (Marvel)
Steve Grant Rogers is a fictional character from the Marvel Universe, better known as the first and most famous character to don the costume of Captain America.
Captain America is a Super Soldier, an enhanced human character with peak abilities. He was shown to be an excellent fighter when it came to hand-to-hand combat.
He has fought the Nazis during World War II, and after his resurrection, it was him who took on the leadership of the Avengers, despite the group having several superpowered members, like Thor or the Hulk.
Captain America has a very strong influence on the other characters and represents (patriotic) ideals that are usually considered to be great for leadership. He has proven himself to be able to fight even the most skilled fighters and was successful in most battles due to his enhanced abilities.
Also, he heavily relies on the use of his Shield, which he utilizes both as a weapon for offense and as a defensive tool; the Shield’s structure makes it great for both aspects.
Captain America had to get a spot on our list as he is definitely one of the best hand-to-hand fighters in the history of comic books; due to the fact that he has no inherent superpowers, just enhanced abilities, and characteristics, Captain America has to rely on hand-to-hand combat, which is why he has perfected his skills throughout time.
He even managed to beat Iron Man to a pulp in the Civil War, which is an amazing feat, as we all know that Iron Man’s suit has a lot more powers than Captain America.
Batman was a sure contender for this list and to any fan of the Dark Knight, it is pretty clear why that is. Namely, during the creation of the Batman persona, Bruce Wayne trained with some of the best fighters in the DC Universe.
He has trained with the League of Assassins and even Richard Dragon, the best hand-to-hand fighter in the DC Comics universe according to many. He has mastered an incredible total of 127 martial arts, with some of them being aikido, ba gua, bojutsu, boxing, Brazilian jiu-jitsu, capoeira, chin na, escrima, fencing, francombat, hapkido, hung gar, jeet kune do, judo, jujitsu, kail, karate, kendo, kenjutsu, kenpo, kickboxing, krav maga, kung fu, kyudo, muay thai, ninjutsu, savate, shaolin, shorin ryu, silat, taekwondo, tai chi, varma ati, wing chun, and yawyan.
Batman has also proven to be able to hold his own against the best fighters in the DC Universe, including Deathstroke, Lady Shiva and Bronze Tiger. Batman is a truly great fighter, there is no doubt about that, and if you add his genius-level intellect and his tactical skills to the equation, Superman’s description of Batman as “the most dangerous man on Earth” is more than accurate.