Real life story.
The wife and I have two immensely willful Yorkies. It doesn't help that they are muscular and oversize (16 and 20 lbs. each.) For foo foo dogs they are badasses. Trust me. The younger, larger dog is very anti-social by nature and moreso after being traumatized by Hurricane Sandy. He doesn't like other dogs and will bark at them like crazy hoping to keep them away. He's also jittery.
We were walking our dogs when the youngster caught sight of a pit bull pup. The pup was already 6" taller than him in every direction and my dog barked his head off at him. I pulled him away from the pit bull and his owners, another nice couple. But then the pit bull slipped his lease and bore down on my Yorkie. A dog fight ensued. I tried to separate the dogs. My wife grabbed my dogs leash. I tried grabbing a snapping snarling pit bull until the owner grabbed his leash.
I breathed a sigh of relief and then my dog tore out of his harness and attacked the pit bull. Round two. I finally grabbed his collar and some calm was restored and immediately examined him expecting him to be wounded in a half dozen spots (they were biting like mad.)
In RPG terms I had assumed the two dogs were engaging in lethal combat attempting to injure each other (lose hit points or whatever.) What I was actually watching, I figured out later, was social combat. My dog mouthed off at the pup. The pit bull wasn't taking that crap from a Yorkie and decided to slap him down. The pit bull failed. My dog not only stood his ground but escaped to initiate a second fight to prove that he'd do whatever the Hell he wanted.
This got me thinking. Risus has the exact mechanic for such an exchange (yes you can use Risus to play a small dog: The Anything Roleplaying Game. S. Jon doesn't lie) winner picks what happens to the loser. In this case the pu was trying to make my dog shut up and submit. My dog however won and decided he'd make the pup look like an idiot. It looked very real to me though. I, a mere human, didn't know better.
Maybe super hero and villain combat is like this. A lot of sound and fury (and eyeblasts) as they fight it out but not a lot of actual injury. After al they fight a lot. If they ran a real risk of injury more of them would be dead and I mean permanently. Maybe godly combat or wizard duels are also a form of social combat. All these uberpowerful types have a secret deal going. They don't hurt each other too badly. We mere mortal wouldn't know better. That'd explain why non-powered vigilantes can hold out against people who can juggle the five boroughs of New York City. The super types can't just flatten them. There are rules. Similarly the Scarlet Speed Demon can't simply strio his foes naked and leave them cuffed to a lamp post. He is required to give them a shot at him. It's good form.
This also explains why certain anti-heroes like the Punisher are so reviled. He does not follow these rules of restraint. Everyone is on his back. Anyway GMs with a supers or other setting with wild powers might want to consider having such rules. They can also lead to a decrease in character mortality.