Champions #12

Issue Date: 
March 1977
Story Title: 
Did Someone Say…the STRANGER?

Bill Mantlo (Writer), John Byrne (Penciler), Bob Layton (Inker), A. Kawecki (Letterer), Don Warfield (Colorist), Archie Goodwin (Editor)

Brief Description: 

The Champions return home to find their ally Black Goliath battling the Stilt-Man, who has come in search of a mysterious box recently taken from Stark International. The Champions leap into action to help their friend, while the young woman currently in possession of the mysterious box enters Champions HQ. The battle continues, with each of the Champions doing what they can, but eventually the Stilt-Man high-tails it out of the area, though Black Goliath is in high-pursuit. Later, in their headquarters, the Champions meet the young woman, Regina Clayborne, with the mysterious box, who explains how she came to possess it, when suddenly, the Stranger appears. The Champions mistake his arrival for an attack, so immediately challenge him to battle, unaware that something emerges from the mysterious box. During the battle, Darkstar saves Ghost Rider’s life, though he is not grateful, and Black Goliath’s battle with Stilt-Man goes unnoticed on the monitors by the Champions, though he is successful in defeating Stilt-Man. The Stranger and the Champions are equally distracted, so no one notices the object that emerged from the box increase in mass, and swallow Regina - before engulfing part of the Stranger. The Stranger reveals to the Champions that it is the Null-Life Bomb, and explains that it will continue expanding, and engulf the universe, before exploding, destroying everything. Using his power to slow the Null-Life Bomb’s expansion, the Stranger teleports the Champions away - to collect the only object that can destroy the bomb - and moments later, the Champions find themselves in the realm of Kamo Tharn, hated enemy of Hercules, who is ready to get his revenge on the Olympian!

Full Summary: 

Champions headquarters, Los Angeles, where, the Champions are returning from another mission - only to find their ally Black Goliath battling the Stilt-Man on the roof of their headquarters. ‘I owe you, Stilt-Man, from the last time we fought!’ Black Goliath a.k.a. Dr Bill Foster exclaims, boasting that he is going to make the Stilt-Man pay - in spades.

But, before the Stilt-Man even knows what hit him, Natasha Romanova a.k.a. the Black Widow, piloting the Champions’ sky-car, moves it close to him, enabling Angel and Darkstar to fly out of it and towards the Stilt-Man, while Iceman exit’s the sky-car on an ice ramp. But when Hercules jumps from the sky-car, he almost tips it over, causing the Black Widow to scold him. While Johnny “Ghost Rider” Blaze remains in the sky-car with the Black Widow, Hercules asks the Black Widow to forgive his haste, reminding her that Black Goliath saved their lives, and so he will repay him.

Bobby “Iceman” Drake tells Hercules not to forget the rest of them. ‘Or did you forget that we settle our accounts as a team?’ he adds. Angel a.k.a. Warren Worthington III swoops downs towards the Stilt-Man, with Black Goliath cautioning him to watch Stilt-Man’s blaster. ‘It’s called the Z-Ray and it’s -’ Bill begins, but Angel smacks his fist across the Stilt-Man’s face. ‘It’s skunked, high-pockets - but good!’ Angel exclaims, while the glamorous Laynia “Darkstar” Petrovna tells Angel that he has succeeded, for the Stilt-Man has dropped his weapon.

‘You fools! I am the Stilt-Man - and my entire hydraulic exo-skeleton is a weapon!’ the Stilt-Man booms as he retracts his leg units down the side of the Champions’ headquarters, as he reaches out for the falling Z-Ray weapon. Black Goliath tells his allies that he doesn’t mean to nag, gut that the weapon of the Stilt-Man’s has more snap, crackle and pop and than an ocean of rice krispies. ‘Snag it before he snags us!’ he urges. ‘Consider it done, Goliath!’ Darkstar exclaims as she encases the Z-Ray gun in a Darkforce funnel. ‘What -?’ the Stilt-Man gasps, before he moves towards Darkstar, exclaiming that she has enclosed the Z-Ray within some kind of shadow. Laynia replies that it is called the Darkforce, and admits that she does not understand why it serves her. ‘Serves me it does, and well!’ Laynia adds as she opens the funnel, revealing the crumbled remains of the Z-Ray after she crushed it.

‘Woman! Know that it took me months to devise that gun! Months of pain while I rotted behind bars - lost in a second!’ the Stilt-Man exclaims, while Darkstar watches as he grows taller and taller, then without warning, grabs her, suggesting to Darkstar that she think on those years while he crushes the life out of her.

While Darkstar struggles with the Stilt-Man high over the street that runs alongside Champions’ headquarters, down below, a young woman with an afro observes the goings-ons, and tells herself that she thought she would be safe at Champions’ HQ, but even there he came after her. But, she also tells herself that she was a fool to run back out into the street, as that is just what the Stilt-Man wants. She rushes back into Champions’ HQ, thinking to herself that the Champions will beat him. ‘They got to! They gotta help me get rid of this box!’ she exclaims, still clutching the box, she knows that she has seen what it can do - what it did to Jerry - and what it can do to a lot more people if it isn’t destroyed.

The woman presses a button inside the elevator - and moments later, arrives on the 24th floor, which leads to the rooftop, where Ghost Rider exclaims that the Stilt-Man still has Darkstar. ‘That may be, spooks - but not for long!’ Iceman exclaims as he slides down to the street on an ice-pole, remarking that he has taken a liking to Laynia, and boasts that no walking sardine can is going to hurt her. ‘Let’s see how well Stilty walks on a street that’s turned to ice!’ Bobby exclaims as pours ice onto the road around Stilt-Man - only for it to melt away almost instantly. Hercules tells Iceman that it was a noble try, but that the villain radiates heat beneath the pods that hold him aloft.

Hercules rushes towards the Stilt-Man, pointing out that Stilt-Man has shifted is weight to the side that was entrapped. ‘And ‘tis for Hercules to show him the folly of his deeds!’ the Olympian booms, smashing his powerful body against the Stilt-Man, who topples to the ground. ‘He’s not kidding! I felt that all the way through my armor!’ Stilt-Man tells himself as he drops Darkstar, while wondering who are these beings, and how did he stumble into this mess of super-heroes - including Black Goliath, whom he thought he had killed - when all he wanted was the girl with the glowing box - bursting with more power than he had ever dreamed possible.

Darkstar and Black Goliath join Hercules and Iceman on the ground, and Black Goliath cautions everyone to be careful, ‘Just cause the man’s down, doesn’t mean he’s out!’ he adds, to which Bobby points out that Black Goliath knows the Stilt-Man better than they do. The Stilt-Man decreases his leg size, while thinking to himself that he must get his enemies into position. ‘Me? I just me the dude last week!’ Black Goliath tells Iceman, while Hercules declares that it appears their foe is defeated, but Darkstar notices that Stilt-Man is tensing, and about to strike - but her warning comes too late, as Stilt-Man suddenly shoves his legs forward at a furious speed, his feet smash into Black Goliath and Hercules. ‘Using the power of my hydraulic lifts to catch you off guard - and smash you into oblivion!’ he exclaims.

Up on the rooftop, Angel, Black Widow and Ghost Rider watches the situation below. ‘Stilt-Man is holding them off! How!?’ Ghost Rider exclaims. ‘By turning their - our - own overconfidence against us!’ the Black Widow replies. ‘Yeah? Well, we’ll see how long that lasts - when the Avenging Angel power-dives a call!’ Warren exclaims as he leaps from the rooftop and flies downwards, with Natasha warning him to be careful. ‘The Stilt-Man’s no fool!’ she exclaims. ‘As if I haven’t been a mutant long enough to know how to take care of myself!’ Warren calls back as he begins flapping his wings in the Stilt-Man’s face. ‘Wings! Accursed wings tearing a my eyes 0 like that Falcon that almost blinded me!’

Warren wonders what gives with the Stilt-Man, ‘All I do is flap my little pinions and he starts screaming like Oedipus - covering his eyes!’ Warren exclaims, before the Stilt-Man lashes out with an extended fist, ‘Get away from me, carrion fowl!’ he shouts, batting Warren away. ‘Like the Widow said - over-confidence!’ Warren exclaims as he falls towards Hercules, who awaits him with open arms and asking if he is okay. ‘Only my pride, Herc!’ Warren admits.

Back on the rooftop, Ghost Rider thinks to himself that the stilt-walking skunk is tearing his teammates apart. ‘He’s already walked out of ice - but he hasn’t reckoned with hellfire, yet!’ before Ghost Rider begins firing intense hellfire down towards the Stilt-Man, who exclaims ‘This is insane! The sky is raining fire - and my pods are sinking into molten tar!’. Moments later, Stilt-Man realizes that he cannot move, to which the Black Goliath remarks that he is glad to hear it. ‘Cause I want you to hold that pose while I knock you off the map!’ he exclaims, only for the Stilt-Man to eject his legs from his base-pods, ‘I’m afraid not, Goliath!’ he boasts as he then strides over high-rise rooftops, exclaiming that he may have been stopped from reaching the box and the girl carrying it, ‘But I won’t be held by a second rate group of heroes!’ he exclaims, adding that no one will ever cage the Stilt-Man again.

‘Gone! He just walked off, covering miles in a single step! And there wasn’t a thing we could do to stop him!’ Bobby exclaims. Hercules tells the young mutant that it would be best to save their self-reproach and seek after the villain. ‘Uh-uh, muscles! No way! I’m gonna end this the way it started - just me and him - even if it’s to the death!’ Black Goliath boasts as he rushes after the Stilt-Man.

Hercules, Iceman, Angel and Darkstar, all tired after the recent battles, make their way back to the penthouse of their HQ, where the Black Widow greats them, before introducing her somewhat over-zealous teammates to Mrs Reggie Clayborne - the target of the Stilt-Man’s attack. ‘So you’re the girl he wanted!’ Iceman exclaims. ‘That’s right, Bobby! Or rather, he was after the box Mrs Clayborne was carrying!’ Natasha explains. Mrs Clayborne suggests that she should tell her story. The frightened woman tells the heroes that Jerry - her “old man” - is into drugs real bad, and got himself messed up with a bunch of gangsters to get money.

‘Anyway, he done stole this box from Stark International. I tol’ him to take it back an’ I walked out on him when he wouldn’t!’ Mrs Clayborne declares, revealing that when she came back, Jerry was gone and the box was glowing. ‘I got scared and then I remembered hearing about the Champions on the TV…how you help the “common man” and…well…I’m common, and I need help!’ Mrs Clayborne pleads. Hercules puts a hand on Mrs Clayborne’s shoulder and swears to her that she shall have help. Hercules adds that if the box she carries does belong to Tony Stark, then he must be contacted. ‘Mayhap we will learn that the disappearance of thy “old man” is in some way linked to the strange glow that doth surround the box, and - ehh?’ Hercules remarks, stopping his sentence short when the inner wall of the Champions’ headquarters suddenly burns with the light of the sun, as Hercules points out.

Not quite though, but the aurora of color is indeed magnificent, as well as momentarily blinding. Before any of the Champions can even begin to recover their sight or senses, the cosmically mighty being known as the Stranger comes striding through the solar blaze that was once a wall! ‘Humans! Hear me! There is not much time!’ the Stranger booms. ‘By my mace!’ Hercules gasps. ‘Holy smokes!’ Bobby exclaims. The Stranger announces that they possess a device of his creation - a bomb capable of destroying this entire star-system. ‘You must surrender it to me at once!’ he announces.

‘Wait a minute! This “bomb” can wipe out Earth - and you expect us to just fork it over - to you? A guy who’s tried to destroy Earth before?’ one of the Champions asks. ‘Idiots! I am here to save you! But - there is no time to make you understand!’ The Stranger exclaims as he reaches towards Mrs Clayborne he exclaims ‘You! You bear that which I seek!’. The woman leans backwards, telling the over-sized entity to stay away from her, while Bobby informs his teammates that the Stranger is after Mrs Clayborne.

‘He shall not reach her!’ Laynia exclaims as she encases the Stranger’s head within a Darkforce field. ‘The Darkforce will blind him until he can be made to explain -’ Darkstar begins to say, only for beams of energy to pour out of the Stranger’s eyes, and through Darkstar’s field, smacking into the blonde heroine. ‘Woman, you are a fool! How can you blind one who can see in the blackness of interstellar space?’ the Stranger asks. ‘That cups it, Stranger! You just blew whatever credibility you might’ve had!’ Bobby exclaims, concerned for Laynia.

Blaze tries to calm Bobby down, but Iceman tells Blaze to shut up: ‘That big weirdo just messed with a lady I like!’ Bobby exclaims as he bombards the Stranger with ice. ‘Blast it - maybe he was just defending himself from her attack!’ Ghost Rider suggests to Iceman. The news report on the television behind the battle reports that Black Goliath and Stilt-Man are battling still in L.A., though it goes unnoticed by the confused Champions. ‘Drake won’t listen! He’s gone too far to understand - that I only become the “Ghost Rider” when there’s danger around - and since I’m still Johnny Blaze, I’ve either blown a fuse - or the Stranger wasn’t lying about being here to save us!’ Blaze thinks to himself while Iceman continues his attack on the Stranger.

Suddenly, the Black Widow jumps in front of Blaze, telling him to either help or get out of the way as she blasts the Stranger with her Widow’s Sting. ‘Widow, no! You don’t -’ Blaze begins to shout - but the Stranger releases a blast of energy from his hand, knocking the Black Widow into Blaze, who suddenly transforms into Ghost Rider. ‘Oh, man - that did it! If there wasn’t danger before, there is now - to the Widow!’ Johnny thinks to himself as he sees that the Black Widow is unconscious. He wonders if he read the Stranger wrong. ‘What if he is out to get us? I think it’s time I quit trying to think this out - and let hellfire decide!’ Ghost Rider decides as he bombards the Stranger with his hellfire: ‘Back, mortal - or immortal, whichever you are!’ Ghost Rider warns the Stranger. ‘Reel before the hell-spawned power of the Ghost Rider!’

The Stranger shields himself from the hellfire, while remarking that he has wandered worlds where Hell would be deemed a paradise. ‘And if they held no threat to the Stranger - why should you?’ the Stranger booms as he causes a shocked Ghost Rider to levitate: ‘And BEGONE!’ the Stranger booms as he throws Ghost Rider out the exterior window.

Meanwhile, the news report announces that Police have cordoned off Hollywood Boulevard, and that serious doubts have been expressed as to Black Goliath’s ability to deal with the menace of the Stilt-Man.

Mrs Clayborne looks at the glowing box, and exclaims that this is all Jerry’s fault. ‘If he hadn’t kept the - the BOX! Something’s coming out of it!’ she suddenly yells.

However, nobody is paying much attention to Regina Clayborne - which may well be the story of her life - as well as a big mistake for everyone else.

Darkstar stands on the edge of the building - at the smashed window, knowing that Angel is too far away to reach Blaze in time. ‘Only the Darkforce can help him now!’ she exclaims as her mighty power extends from her, and wraps around Ghost Rider, mere inches from the street below. ‘She caught me!’ Ghost Rider shouts, looking at the concrete in front of him. Moments later, after Ghost Rider has been reeled in like a fish on a crackling black line however, Darkstar praises Lenin that she was in time, to which Blaze snaps ‘Very impressive - almost enough to make me believe your defection is for real! But that’s what you want, isn’t it - our belief?’ Ghost Rider asks Darkstar.

‘Defection? I don’t understand’ Laynia replies, to which Ghost Rider just shrugs, turning from her. The sound of the battle reminds Darkstar and Ghost Rider that this is not the time for questions - or answers, while Hercules calls out to the Stranger, challenging him as he holds up a large metal beam.

On the continuing news report, a startling new development is announced as Black Goliath rips off one of Stilt-Man’s legs and begins to beat the villain with his own leg.

The Stranger melts the metal beam that Hercules attempts to attack him with, ‘Can I not make you understand that my mission here means salvation?’ the Stranger asks.

Unbeknowst to the battling heroes, Regina Clayborne sits beside what remains of the box - nothing - now, the box has been covered by a the thing which moments ago emerged from it. ‘And nobody else sees it!’ Regina exclaims. ‘They’re all so busy fighting! Got no time for me!’ she exclaims, before, suddenly, she gets sucked inside the strange object. ‘It’s like the whale that swallowed Jonah!’ she thinks to herself, before she begins screaming for help.

Regina’s scream is heard by the Stranger: ‘That scream! It has begun!’ he announces, while Bobby exclaims ‘Warren, now - while he’s turned away!’. Angel does as his long-time friend suggests, though mutters ‘First the Widow, and now the junior Champion is giving orders! Maybe you folks don’t realize it - but the Angel doesn’t need to be told what to do!’. But with that, Warren flies towards the Stranger, fists ready, and smacks the cosmic being in the face. ‘Fools! You have doomed us all!’ the Stranger shouts as he grabs Angel in his fist.

Suddenly, ‘Look…behind him! What in blazes is that?’ Angel exclaims as the Stranger’s right leg is swallowed by the same contraption that engulfed Regina Clayborne. For the first time, the fighting stops, as six competing egos realize there may be something more involved here than a testing of strength.

And, still caught up in their dealings with the Stranger, no one notices the television report, which announces that it is over - Black Goliath has beaten the Stilt-Man.

As more of the Stranger’s body becomes engulfed in the mysterious contraption, the cosmic being declares that this is the reason he journeyed to this wretched planet. ‘Gaze on the Null-Life Bomb - the danger I sought to save you from!’ the Stranger booms, pointing out that the bomb was reactivated and allowed to trigger itself while he was fighting the humans. ‘And even now I can see you do not grasp what I am saying!’ the Stranger exclaims, an exasperated look on his face. The Stranger tells the Champions that, had they let him finish earlier, he would have told them that he had forsworn the bomb’s original purpose - as he was made to see that what he had perceived as the irrational chaos-element in man, was in truth, reason of a kind incomprehensible to him. With that, the Stranger begins a tale…

Flashback images, narrated by the Stranger:

The Stranger remarks that the Silver Surfer saw the value in the human species - and fought to preserve humanity when the he, the Stranger, first brought the Null-Life Bomb to Earth. The Stranger explains that while he and the Silver Surfer battled, the bomb was found by one self-less human who succeeded in disarming it - at the cost of his own life. The Stranger then departed Earth, contemplating that noble act, and questioning his own judgment of humanity, while the bomb remained on Earth - inert, or at least the Stranger thought.

The Stranger reveals that mere Earth-days ago, he sensed that the Null-Life Bomb had somehow been re-armed, and journeyed to this solar system, intending to save the world and return the device - only he was delayed on Earth’s Moon, by another matter which currently concerns him. The Stranger continues, explaining that he arrived at this place with but seconds to spare - precious seconds which the Champions have now wasted. The Stranger explains that the bomb has begun its expansion. ‘And though it seems to pass harmlessly through solid objects it encounters, nothing once engulfed can escape. Not even…the Stranger!’. The cosmic being informs the Champions that the Null-Life Bomb will grow to encompass the Earth - the entire star system - and when it reaches the limits of its expansion, it will solidify and contract, crushing and destroying all within!


‘There is no way now that I can reach the one object in all the universe that can stop the bomb once detonated! It is…over!’ the Stranger exclaims. ‘Wait! If a way exists -’ Black Widow quickly replies, but the Stranger, now completely engulfed save for one hand, remarks that he senses the Black Widow’s thoughts, and declares that if he can slow the bomb’s growth from within… ‘Perhaps you six -’ he exclaims while the six Champions stand beside the Null-Life Bomb. ‘We six what?’ asks Angel. ‘I dunno, Warren, but from the funny way he’s waving his hand at us, I got a feeling something’s gonna happen!’

Indeed, something does happen…and the heroes find themselves transported through space - not that they are aware of it at that moment.

But at the Champions’ HQ, over sunny Los Angeles, the Null-Life Bomb begins to spread through the building and into the busy streets around it. ‘Look! Something’s growing right through the walls of that new Champions’ building!’ someone shouts, pointing upwards. ‘What is it? What in the name of the Lord does it mean?’ someone else asks. ‘It means they’re just like the rest of their kind - carrying out all kinds of crazy experiments and not giving a damn about us “mere humans” below!’ another shouts.

Of course, the unsuspecting civilian could not be more wrong about the Champions, who suddenly materialize in a strange concrete structure. ‘Where - where are we?’ Angel asks as he takes in the strange surroundings. Hercules frowns as he tells his teammates to prepare themselves. ‘They will be upon us any moment!’ the Prince of Power announces. ‘They?’ Natasha asks. ‘The Beast-Men, milady! Evil servants of he who is called…Kamo Tharn!’ Hercules exclaims as Kamo Tharn and his savage Beast-Men arrive on scene, surrounding the Champions.

‘Cursed though I be with blindness, well do I know that voice!’ Kamo Tharn exclaims as he stands on a platform over the Champions. ‘It is he, my subjects! He whole stole my life - my rune staff - ‘tis Hercules! And by my holy word, this time he shall DIE!’ booms Kamo Tharn….

Characters Involved: 

Angel, Black Widow, Darkstar, Ghost Rider, Hercules, Iceman (all Champions)

Black Goliath

The Stilt-Man

Mrs. Reggie Clayborne

The Stranger

Kamo Tharn



In Flashback Illustrations:


Silver Surfer

Adam Warlock

The Stranger

Selfless human

Story Notes: 

The indicia incorrectly dates this issue as March 1976.

Black Goliath previously fought the Stilt-Man in Black Goliath #4.

Stilt-Man was almost blinded by the Falcon in Captain America (1st series) #191.

The Stranger’s recollection about the Null-Life Bomb is courtesy of the story which took place in Silver Surfer (1st series) #5. The Null-Life Bomb then reappeared in the Black Goliath mini series, leading to this issue.

The “other matter” the Stranger is currently concerned with is a reference to the acquisition of Adam Warlock’s soul gems, as chronicled in Marvel Team-Up (1st series) #55.

Hercules destroyed Kamo Tharn’s rune staff in Thor (1st series) #235.

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