Fight Club Classics - Inside Spike's 'Deadliest Warrior'

It's the argument every dedicated comic book fan is going to have sooner or later. "Who would win in a fight between....?"

Whether it's pirates vs. ninjas or mutants vs. metahumans, the arguments often end with a "who knows?" because the answer is based on little more than a hunch.

Now a television show on Spike TV is looking to answer those questions with more than just guesses. Airing on Tuesday nights, Deadliest Warrior uses scientific data and computer game technology to pit history's greatest warriors against each other to determine who would really win. Tuesday night's episode (4/21), at 10 p.m. Eastern, will feature a match between Spartans and ninjas.

"Everybody's thought about it from time to time," said Max Geiger, the video game designer and history buff who helps host the show. "So when they pitched it to me that we were going to do all the science and the simulations, I thought, 'Oh my gosh, we could actually settle some scores with this!'"

Geoff Desmoulin, another host that is a combination biomedical engineer and karate black belt, said that when he first heard about the show, he knew it could be something special.

"It's got everything," he said. "It's got history, it's got science, it's got carnage, and it's got match-ups that we've never seen in history before, so it's got that sci-fi edge to it where you can kind of make these guys travel through time and fight each other. We've heard about bear vs. shark or ninja vs. pirate, but this is the first television show that actually has the balls to do it."

Desmoulin's "day job" involves researching impact injury biomechanics, where he recreates injuries in the laboratory to facilitate treatment and prevention. So when he's on the television set, he uses tools like pressure sensors, load cells, accelerometers, and orientation sensors to determine the actual injuries that would be inflicted by the weapons used by history's greatest warriors.

"For example, for the Viking vs. Samurai episode, you saw a load cell underneath a Viking shield," he explained. "And then the Samurai came down with what's called a kanabo, which is a big bludgeoning tool, down on top of that shield. Now, the shield didn't break apart, but the load that was transferred down onto that shield was enough to break at least one bone in that Viking's arm. In that scenario, it's not a killing blow, but it's definitely going to change that scenario. And all that data is collected for Max to do the computer simulation."

The third host, Dr. Armand Dorian, an ER doctor, does the statistical analysis on the ballistics gel torsos, which simulate skin, muscle, tissue and bones. "We get the warriors to strike these things with their weapons, and Dr. Dorian analyzes the blows to the torsos so that he can give that data to Max as well," Desmoulin explained.

Once all the data on the warrior weapons is collected and given to Geiger, he runs the simulation on a commercial game engine that's not out yet, but is developed by Slitherine Strategies in United Kingdom, makers of independent strategy games like Legion, Legion Arena, and Great Battles of Rome.

"From a simulation standpoint, the situation on the show is a dream because there is so much data. There is this whole world of scientific equipment that we get into to collect the data so this is as accurate and as scientific as possible," Geiger said.

In fact, Geiger said he thinks the only difference between the battles he simulates on Deadliest Warrior and what would really happen is that nobody is ever going to retreat. "Spike wants it very aggressive and this is all about the battle, so we don't have anyone retreat," Geiger said with a laugh. "It's a straight-up battle where they might circle around for a better shot, but they fight. And they keep fighting."

Desmoulin said the amount of preparation that goes into each episode is "amazing," as authentic weapons are gathered and simulated to make sure the show stays historically factual. "If we can't find the weapons, we have armorers who build them authentically," he said.

As for mutants vs. metahumans, don't discount it showing up. Geiger and Desmoulin said there's always a possibility of fictional characters being analyzed this way and eventually getting their chance to fight on the show.

"You know, probably 90 to 95 percent of the press that we talk to want to see fictional characters," Desmoulin said. "If you can get me some scenarios that have appeared in comic books or some footage of a cartoon, or some footage of a film, I can get some real data from that. Even girth of legs or arms, or estimates of force based upon the damage done in those scenarios could be used in something like this.

"The thing I always talk about is the Fantastic Four movie where the Thing stops the truck on the bridge," he said. "You can estimate the speed of the semi-trailer, the mass of the semi-trailer, and the damage on the asphalt, and you can pull real data from that. Everyone wants us to just blow it out of the water like that. I think it's too popular to not appear eventually in the show."

Geiger said he could imagine a special that might have match-ups like that, or even a huge tournament of champions where there's an elimination tournament based upon former shows. "I'm not sure it's going to happen anytime soon, though. There is a demand for it, but part of the appeal of the show is that it's grounded in real history," Geiger said, "so I don't know how crazy we can get with it now."

Not surprisingly, Desmoulin and Geiger said they're having the time of their lives working on the show. "It's been amazing," Geiger said. "When you're doing the show, it's like you're Charlie visiting the chocolate factory, only Willie Wonka is an insane time traveler who's pitting warriors from history against each other. And aside from that, the actual factory's pretty cool too."

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