Hello! My name is Ben B. Singer. I’m the creator and one of the hosts of Death Battle. Over the past couple weeks, I’ve been writing up a series of daily blogs covering each episode of Death Battle as we near the big 100th one. Because of this match-up in particular, I expect that for many of you this is your first time reading one of these Road to 100 blogs. I’d appreciate if you could read the other entries, but I know that’s a pretty big time investment so for now I’ll recap some of the important points in Death Battle’s history that led up to this. Don’t worry, I’ll be brief!
I started Death Battle in December of 2010, and the first episode to really take off was Goomba VS Koopa, a gag episode. There wasn’t anything like Death Battle at the time, so Goomba VS Koopa’s success reinforced my belief at the time that the versus community of the early 2010’s wasn’t large enough to sustain a show like this, and Death Battle should instead be tailored to a somewhat more casual audience, with victors chosen based on logic and opinions rather than calculations and specific sciences that may overwhelm viewers. It worked, and Death Battle thrived! However, if you’ve seen any of our episodes from the past few years, you’ll know that the show’s formula eventually changed to one more heavily imbued in deductions and mathematics. This all started when a dumb calculation in Zelda VS Peach (unsuccessfully played for laughs) gave me pause. I tried some new scripting and comparison methods with episodes like Link VS Cloud and Batman VS Spider-Man... and at some point Wiz and Boomstick became pretty dickish for awhile... all in preparation for the titanic Goku VS Superman.
I had always planned to do Goku VS Superman as the milestone 25th episode. It was even listed as such in the original 26 episodes I pitched to ScrewAttack and Revision3 when all this started. Once my Death Battle schedule eased up after Mario VS Sonic, I immediately began working on this one on the side. I’d have Dragon Ball playing on my screen while I ate, or a Superman comic in one hand while I brushed my teeth with the other. It was a consistent part of my life for a year and a half! During this time, both the films Man of Steel and Dragon Ball Z: Battle of Gods were announced, despite both franchises having been basically dead for years in terms of mainstream experiences. It was quite an ordeal!
For writing this episode, I reached out to several experts on Dragon Ball and DC Comics to make sure I had certain facts and thoughts right about the characters. Kanzenshuu, Dao of Dragon Ball, Superman Super Site, and Superman Homepage were awesome enough to help make sure I truly understood the characters. We also had our friends from Team Four Star back in the mix to voice the characters in a fight that may have been a little too comedic for some viewers’ tastes. Blake Robinson created a custom theme for the episode, which I believe was the first ever original music Death Battle ever had.
It’s important to note that while these people were extremely helpful and instrumental in making the episode, the final decision of who would win the battle was entirely ScrewAttack’s call.
Goku VS Superman was meant to air on December 21st, 2012, to tie into how the world was ending because we’d reached the end of the Mayan calendar, or whatever that whole crackpot theory was. We even made a way too dramatic teaser announcing it! We really wanted to promote this as an internet breaking event. We unfortunately had to delay it to get the animation finished, but when Goku VS Superman finally premiered on January 19th, 2013, the internet certainly did break.
As far as the episode itself goes, it's a pretty epic event. I still think there are plenty of problems with it, though. The calculations were a bit messy and presented as if arbitrary, there are a couple on-screen typos which confused a lot of people, our description and implementation of power scaling is misleading, and the episode is way too long with some awkward pacing, especially during the post-fight recap that just starts to draaaaaaag. But we covered a lot of good stuff! I’m still pretty proud of how much we were able to jam into that fight animation without it feeling too forced in, from kryptonite to mind reading to the magic power pole and so on. Overall, given what we were working with, I like what we did here!
I can’t say the same for Goku VS Superman 2. I’ve refrained from saying this previously because I know that without clarity it’d be easy for this to be taken out of context, but Goku VS Superman 2 is my least favorite Death Battle we’ve ever done. (Battle animation aside, of course! Torrian did a phenomenal job!) It's not really because of any particular content within the episode itself, though like the original its post-fight recap is pretty poorly paced. Rather, the biggest problem was that it was so awkwardly presented horrendously ill-advertised.
Here's the thing... after Goku VS Superman made its explosive debut, I had publicly mentioned how we cut around 20 minutes of the script to keep the episode at a watchable length. I didn’t plan on making a sequel, but I had been brainstorming ways to release that cut content. Later, ScrewAttack’s manager at the time approached me about turning some of the removed script into another episode that would serve as an extension. He wanted it to be shown at our SGC event, which was coming up fast. I figured we could do that. It wouldn’t require a lot of additional research outside of adding what little info concerning Super Saiyan God and New 52 was known at the time, so our comparatively shorter time frame wouldn’t be an issue. We had actually been getting a ton of requests to pit Superman against Super Saiyan God Goku, so it seemed like a good way to pull that off even while so little information was known concerning the form.
I cannot stress enough that Goku VS Superman 2 was never meant to be a complete re-examination of the characters. It was only meant to be a continuation of the previous episode. Unfortunately, it was instead promoted as a straightforward “Rematch of Legends,” which definitely gave a lot of people the wrong impression. I should've paid more attention to how people were interpreting the episode prior to release. It didn’t help that I wrote a line in the fight where Goku literally challenges Superman to a rematch… which makes sense in the world of the fight itself, but misrepresents the episode’s intentions. There was also some confusion over whether or not we’d be focusing exclusively on New 52 Superman. I believe this came about due to the Superman model we used for the fight and the fact that I never clarified what sources we were using ahead of time. As it was just a continuation, I didn't think such clarification was needed, but for those who believed it was a complete do-over I can certainly understand the frustration and misinterpretation of what was shown.
I still remember the moment when I walked into SGC that year and was surprised to see Goku VS Superman 2 advertising literally EVERYWHERE. I knew it would be a big deal, but I didn't realize it had become such an important part of the event's promotion. The episode was hyped up to an extreme degree, and I didn’t say or do anything to change this when I should have. What ended up happening was akin to an unintentional and completely unnecessary kick in the nuts to the Dragon Ball audience. I learned a lot from that experience. I think that was Death Battle’s biggest turning point in its journey toward what it is today.
Anyway, yesterday you all left some questions for me to answer. So let’s get to those, shall we? There’s a lot, so strap in! I’m not pulling any punches!
“If you could go back in time and tell yourself what to do differently about Goku VS Superman, what would it be?”
I’d say wait. When this episode was green-lit, the Dragon Ball franchise seemed like it wasn’t going anywhere anytime soon. Then halfway through production, surprise! Battle of Gods was announced, along with a new super form! Its very existence would essentially delegitimize this Death Battle before it was even out. Plus, if we had waited, I would have developed further experience presenting a more serious examination and could have probably written a clearer analysis that was easier for all our viewers to accept. I think this Goku VS Superman episode in particular would have benefited from coming later in Death Battle’s history, though I’m not sure how that would have affected Death Battle as a whole. This episode was pretty integral to getting us to where we are today.
“Will Goku ever get another match-up?”
I’d love to bring Goku back! Doing episodes with returning characters is always kind of iffy in that some people may see it as one less chance for a character they want to see in Death Battle. I usually base it on whether or not there’s a lot of demand to see the character again.
“Your reasoning for Superman’s victory is a no limits fallacy. That’s not a good enough argument.”
For the unaware, a 'No Limits Fallacy' is the concept that when a character's exact limits are not known and it's implied or stated they are capable of far greater feats than what is shown, then the character is deemed to have no limits whatsoever in that regard despite the fact that it's possible such limits exist and we just never seen them. This is true of the episode's argument to an extent, although it is supported by official material, such as Superman One-Million. Back in the Link VS Cloud blog, I mentioned how the 4th Death Battle rule at the time was problematic in that it allowed a character’s potential to run rampant through non-canon sources with little to no restriction. While it didn’t affect many episodes at the time, it certainly affected this one. I absolutely understand why some people contest this episode’s argument, as the rules and process of Death Battle at the time isn’t exactly what most people likely expected. Particularly those of the versus community, which has developed its own rules which Death Battle was entirely different from. Again, early Death Battle was more of an interpretative process using logic, rather than a scientific one using numbers and statistics. Given how Death Battle was structured at the time, examining the core of their characters' purpose seemed like the right call. The show’s rules have changed since then, so I’m not sure if we’d present this kind of argument for any of today’s match-ups.
“Superman may get infinitely stronger under the sun, but that takes time, so couldn’t Goku kill him before then?”
Covering this was one of the biggest reasons why I was convinced to do Goku VS Superman 2. Thanks to Supes abusing our 4th rule at the time, an extremely important reason for why we decided Superman could reach whatever power he wanted was how he could always fly to any star in any galaxy to power up for as long as he wanted. If Goku used Instant Transmission to find him, he couldn’t stick around forever because he can’t breathe in space, and Superman could just go find another star. Even if Goku could keep up, he’d eventually run out of energy while Superman would be actively gaining solar energy. This is an excellent example of how we prioritized logical interpretations over scientific calculations back then. I wish we had covered this better in both episodes. And yeah, it sounds pretty lame, which is why it doesn’t happen in either fight animation. Could you imagine how boring that’d be?
“What do you think about the feats you used to support Superman’s victory which have been debunked by others?”
Well, I’m sure there are plenty of feats we’ve showcased which could be judiciously argued against, especially from seasons 1 and 2. In some cases, there will be an element of subjectivity when it comes to interpreting feats. For example, there’s a feat where Superman, while in Limbo, lifts a book of infinite pages occupying the same space which covers every story ever written in past and future. Ultraman, who’s essentially Superman’s equal, claims that he's read the last chapter of this book, which supposedly depicts the end of all things under the villain Mandrakk. But if the book has infinite pages, how can there be a last page? Well, there's three ways to look at it. You can gauge from the context of the Superman Beyond books that Ultraman was lying, you could consider the previous statement made about the book to be false, or perhaps Ultraman is so powerful he can read past infinity. However the hell that works. Because Death Battle deals with so many ridiculously powerful and physics-breaking characters, there will be plenty of feats that everyone will interpret differently. That’s one of the reasons why I’m glad the current Death Battle analysis discussions involve so many people these days, as opposed to how it was mostly just me before we joined Rooster Teeth. If this feat were put through the Death Battle ringer today, perhaps we would gauge it differently, but generally I try to give a character and their feats the benefit of the doubt and examine them at their maximum potential, and then see if it fits with what else the character has accomplished.
“How did you guys come up with the Gravity Formula?”
While digging through Goku analyses on a variety of versus forums, I noticed that they all had one thing in common; their methods for determining Goku’s full potential were all incredibly different. It seemed nobody could agree on how to correctly measure Goku’s power levels at the end of the series, and for good reason! Goku’s power and limits are fairly inconsistent. Not nearly as drastic as in Superman’s case, but it’s still an issue I ran into. A lot of these forum arguments were talking up some incredibly over-complicated methods in order to get exact numbers, which seemed to be a recurring issue. So I intentionally tried to boil it down to something as simple as possible, with the objective of finding ballpark estimates rather than exact figures. I assumed this would be the safest bet. Whether or not it was the right move is up to you, but what sold me on the Gravity Formula was, of all things, the Flying Nimbus. The Nimbus is one of the few things in the Dragon Ball universe which has a known top speed. (It’s Mach 1.5, according to the Daizenshuu.) Based on the Gravity Formula and our calculation of the 28 hour Snake Way feat, it appeared Goku’s top speed at his peak before training with King Kai would have been right around the Nimbus’ top speed, and after his training he far surpassed it. Turns out, the last time Goku ever specifically relied on the Nimbus’ speed when he was in a hurry was around this time in the story, and from then on he preferred his own flight ability over it. It seemed like a perfect fit, and I wish we had mentioned that in the episode because it may have helped present the Gravity Formula better. As it is, a lot of people misinterpreted how the Gravity Formula works, especially in regards to Goku’s strength, which we appeared to undersell a lot when we should have been more clear about how his Ki affects it.
“I will always argue that you shouldn’t have applied Pokemon type physics to Blanka because that’s not how his electricity works compared to-”
Wait, this isn’t a Goku or Superman question… oh! It’s actually about yesterday’s blog! Nice! And yes, I agree with you, so the type comparison element hasn’t held quite as much stock in the debates for our other Pokemon related episodes... outside the Battle Royale, of course!
“So maybe Superman beats Goku when you composite them like you did, but can’t Goku defeat other versions of Superman?”
I mean, I don’t see why not? I've seen this get brought up more than a few times and it's always a little strange to me, because it's usually presented as if the Death Battle dictated that any iteration of Superman could defeat any iteration of Goku. That's not how Death Battle works. If we cherry picked different iterations of Goku and Superman, I’m sure there’d be plenty of specialized match-ups where Goku would come out on top. I think that's pretty obvious, to be honest, but also entirely open to bias through selection and omission. For example, I’d be really surprised if the Superman from the mid-90’s animated universe could stand up to Goku in Dragon Ball Z. I’d say this general idea applies to most of the match-ups we’ve done. However, Death Battle doesn’t usually focus on specific iterations like that. Aside from some very particular match-ups, I prefer to avoid the selective era approach because it involves a lot of additional personal choice from our part that would affect the fight, unintentionally or not. Also, I believe it would usually just leave more questions than answers. While we've moved away from complete composites in the past few years, this avoidance of selecting specific versions is something that has pretty much always been the case for Death Battle.
“With Dragon Ball Super and Ultra Instinct, do you think Goku VS Superman 3 would be worth doing?”
Maybe. Given how much Death Battle has changed, I honestly do have an itch to re-examine this match-up with our new methodologies. I know there’s a vocal segment of the Dragon Ball community that wouldn’t trust us with Goku ever again, and given what happened with GvS 2 I totally get that. Still, with nearly 8 years of experience and the expertise of Rooster Teeth at our backs, I think we could do a much better job now of presenting a more acceptable argument, regardless of which character wins. I probably wouldn't even want to consider as "number 3," since it would be an entirely new look as opposed to a continuation like GvS 2 was supposed to be. Frankly, I think it’s up to you guys. If you want to see it, we’ll do it!
Whew! That covers that! If a question you posted yesterday wasn’t specifically answered, it’s probably addressed by a different question or earlier in this blog. When it comes down to it, Goku VS Superman was easily one of most important episodes we’ve ever done, and it always will be.
Thank you for reading! Because of RTX coming up and a super secret project I was working on last weekend (which we’ll reveal at RTX, hue hue) I unfortunately don’t have time to write satisfactory blogs for this Thursday or Friday. I’ll be picking the Road to 100 back up on Monday the 6th as I dive into Season 2! If you’d like to keep updated on when these blogs are posted, feel free to follow me on Twitter.
Talk to you later!
-Ben B. Singer
P.S. Would you want to see Goku VS Superman get another shot, or is there a different match-up for Goku that you would prefer?