Two evil clown creatures enter, one evil clown creature leaves. Herein, I compare Tim Curry’s portrayal of the iconic eldritch-horror-usually-presenting-as-a-clown with Bill Skarsgård’s and answer the one important question: who would win in a fight?
At first glance, the Pennyweese* are pretty evenly matched. While Curry-wise initially comes off weaker due to lower box office numbers (well, technically not even box office for Curry-wise: the 1990 movie was originally a TV miniseries), I’d argue that lots of 90s kids were afraid of the original It, whereas Gen Z seems relatively unphased by Skars-wise. Curry-wise wins when it comes to mass traumatization of a generation.
As far as powers go, both are able to shapeshift, teleport, and reality-bend. Both have horrific mouths full of rows and rows of teeth. Skars-wise can do a lot of threatening contortions that Curry-wise doesn’t engage in, and aesthetically, It’s just a lot scarier, partially due to the aide of CGI effects. Curry-wise had fewer advantages (made-for-TV standards kept it less violent, and more special effects tech in the 2010s gives Skars-wise an edge) but manages to hold Its own despite an uneven playing field. Ultimately, the Pennyweese tie when it comes to their base character stat blocks and appearances.
Skars-wise narrowly wins the killcount contest (with 9 kills directly attributed or happening on screen) verses Curry-wise, with 7 confirmed or onscreen kills. Considering that a decent percentage of these are elementary school aged children, neither is incredibly impressive, but it’s implied that both Pennyweese have many more unnamed victims (this count doesn’t include, for instance, the kids creepily suspended in the air in Skars-wise’s sewer lair). Skars-wise and Curry-wise rack up some of the same victims: for example, both kill Georgie Denborough, and they both tend to eat their prey.
So, scary creatures, definitely. But do either of them have backup? Although neither Pennywise is big on henchmen, they both have the town of Derry pretty well enthralled to ignore (King coming in hot with some social commentary here) or even participate in their atrocities (looking at you, Al Marsh). However, Skars-wise wins for one absolutely horrible reason: Its fanbase.
Reader, there are Pennywise fangirls. There is Pennywise/Reader fanfiction. There is Pennywise ASMR. There was a pretty active #clownf*cker tag on Tumblr when the first movie came out. Which leads me to believe that Pennywise has at Its command enough loyal fans to cause Significant Difficulty to anyone attempting to lay a finger on their child-eating horror of a boyfriend.
But the cute/sexualized aspect of things turns against Skars-wise when we consider the fact that Curry-wise has rarely been made into a totally non-threatening plush toy, when Skars-wise has been subjected to the fate multiple times. If you’re an eldritch horror who feeds off fear, having your likeness snuggled has to sap some power. Curry-wise is less prone to this weakness, beating out Skars-wise in the area of vulnerability to cute-ifying.
The fact remains that both Pennyweese were beaten by a group of children who harnessed the power of friendship. Sure, their adult selves had to come back to finish off the job, but a group of 11-year-olds trounced the guy who terrorized a whole town for centuries and taught Bill to cope with his stutter at the same time. Though Skars-wise seems a lot more vulnerable to taunting, as the death scene in IT: Chapter 2 consists of the Losers chanting “Clown! Clown! Clown!” the Pennyweese draw for villain durability.
Ultimate verdict: a hither-to unknown contender blows both out of the water: Book!Pennywise is infinitely cooler than both. (Yes, I was back on fanfiction dot net when the “Adjective!Character” notation was popular—what about it?)
Book-wise is a much more well-rounded baddie, and Its status as a godlike being (with an opposing force called the Turtle) is affirmed in a trippy final battle scene that shows Its true form, the Deadlights, which are beyond earthly interpretation. (Curry-wise and Skars-wise both sort-of allude to the Deadlights, but neither harness their power like Book-wise.)
Book-wise also has over a thousand pages to rack up some really chilling history, including a racially-motivated mass murder, a gang-related shootout, and several more isolated incidences of infanticide than we see in either movie. Redditor angelholme calculated that Book-wise killed somewhere between 12 and 18 thousand people during Its lifetime. While Curry-wise and Skars-wise are both powerful villains, neither is fully acknowledged as a force of nature as in the book, and the killcounts of both pale in comparison.
While both film interpretations are great in their own ways, the absolute weirdness of the book can never be fully portrayed on screen. As Pennywise knew, our own imaginations are an unlimited fear factory, and what happens onscreen can never fully compare to what the human brain can do. Thus, I’m putting my money on Book-wise in the Battle of the Pennyweese, but I’m interested to see what others think. Drop your bets in the comments!
*“Pennyweese” is the plural of Pennywise—Kayla said so.