Sunday, May 24, 2009

1982 - Let the Game Begin!

Contest of Champions miniseries - #1-3 
June - August 1982 
Writer(s): Mark Gruenwald/Steven Frant/Bill Mantlo
Art: John Romita Jr./Pablo Marcos

The Contest of Champions launched Marvel's new initiative to publishing self-contained miniseries featuring fan-favorite characters. The success of this miniseries would launch the Hercules, Vision and Scarlet Witch, Wolverine, and Hawkeye miniseries. Jim Shooter would also carry forward this idea and create the Marvel Super-Heroes Secret Wars in 1984.

This story was originally planned to be published as a Treasury Edition as an homage to the Olympics, but when the United States withdrew from the International Games in early 1980, this project was shelved. Two years later, Marvel brushed off the dust and touched up a few things to make up for what had gone on in the Marvel Universe since and put out this miniseries which highlighted a cast of international heroes. Talisman, Sabra, Arabian Knight, Defensor, Le Peregrine, Shamrock, Blitzkrieg, and Collective Man all make their first appearance in this miniseries.

The plot is straightforward. The Grandmaster and a mysterious entity, later revealed to be Death, gather all of the Marvel Heroes and pick from them to act as champions in their competition. If the Grandmaster's team wins, Death will restore his fellow Elder, the Collector, to life. But if he loses, Death will take the Grandmaster's life. 

The first issue is rather dull as each hero gets plucked out of their daily routine. They're addressed by the Grandmaster who explains the rules and then along with Death picks their contestants. The second issue pits Daredevil, Darkstar, and Talisman against Sunfire, Invisible Woman, and Iron Fist for the first piece of the Globe of life, as well as Iron Man, Arabian Knight, and Sabra versus She-Hulk, Defensor, and Captain Britain for the second piece of the Globe of life. And, in the final issue, Vanguard, Angel, and the Black Panther face off against Wolverine, Thing, and Le Peregrine for the third piece of the Globe of life, as well as, Storm, Shamrock, and Collective Man are up against Sasquatch, Captain America, and Blitzkrieg for the final piece of the Globe of life. The Grandmaster wins the contest, but learns that Death is not a force to be challenged lightly.

While this miniseries may not stack up against some of Marvel's best stories, it's still an entertaining read. It was interesting to see some of the Marvel characters meet each other for the first time, like Wolverine and Black Panther. I also enjoy cosmic story lines involving the Elders of the Universe so with appearances by the Grandmaster and the Collector, it made this miniseries enjoyable.

As a precursor to the Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe, which would hit the market in 1983 and then the deluxe version a few years later, each issue offers a brief write-up on every Marvel character as well as listing their first appearance.

A sequel to this event was published in 1999.


  1. What was so marvelous about this was that it was so novel at the time -- in 1982 you just didn't see these guys getting together every five minutes like you do today. The "international heroes" they came up with for it, cheesy as they were, gave it a nice sensation of a real event.

  2. It is a bit old , but Daredevil met Iron Fist during Miller s tun on the title , thaty was before this mini-series came out, i think.

  3. Hey Patricio, you are correct. Jan 1982 - Daredevil #178 co-starring Power Man and Iron Fist whereas Contest of Champions #1 was in Aug 1982.

  4. I have mixed feelings about Contest of Champions. It held up better when I was younger and even say, 10 years ago. I recently read it this year, and the international heroes are just too cliched for my tastes.

    I like the cosmic angle w/Death + Grandmaster and was glad it was picked up in the Avengers/West Coast Avengers annuals later on.

  5. Loved those Avengers/West Coast Avengers Annual crossover!

  6. Anybody miss the HUGE mistake in this story. Shamrock gets the final puzzle piece and the win goes to The Grandmaster. Shamrock was on the Unknown's team.

  7. Supposedly, 'Contest of Champions' was what Marvel came up with to salvage an unpublished tabloid, 'Marvel Super Heroes' at the Summer Olympics', which, of course, was a casualty of the USA's boycott of the 1980 games in Moscow. It looks like the plot was basically the same, just re-written to remove any references to the Olympics. Spider-Man and Hulk had already appeared in a Winter Olympics tie-in, so I guess they weren't planned to appear in the 'Summer' title, anyway.



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