Champions #4

Issue Date: 
March 1976
Story Title: 
Murder at Malibu

Chris Claremont (guest writer), George Tuska (artist), Vince Colletta (inker), I Watanabe (letterer), P. Rache (colorist), Marv Wolfman (editor)

Brief Description: 

Hercules and the Black Widow are stretching their legs on a Malibu beach when they are attacked by an old man. Strangely, he has the strength and speed of someone a quarter his age. Hercules manages to take him out, but several goons arrive to take the man away. When Hercules then defends him, the goons zap both Hercules and the Widow, and take them to San Marino State Hospital. There, an insane genius named Dr. Edward Lansing explains that the man they fought was his prototype super-soldier. He has been trying to replicate the original serum that created Captain America, in order to create a race of great warriors. The man they fought was his first success after numerous failures. Hercules tries to fight Lansing, but the doctor threatens to kill the Black Widow if he struggles. He then brainwashes the two heroes, and sends them to kill their three teammates, in order to complete the brainwashing process. They attack Angel and Iceman, who are relaxing at Warren’s house with Ivan Petrovich. They are joined by several more mutates controlled by Dr. Lansing. During the struggle, they realize their friends are under some kind of control, but this doesn’t make them any easier to stop. Soon, Ghost Rider appears, and he joins the struggle. Fortunately, the Black Widow’s mental toughness shines through, and she manages to break her programming before she kills Ivan. She manages to take out Dr. Lansing, and breaks the control box he is using to order them around. Lansing makes a run for it, but he fails to realize in time that his control box means he has no control over his mutates. They murder him without mercy. By dawn, the police are on their way, and Angel makes an impassioned speech, reminding his colleagues that the world needs people like them - the Champions.

Full Summary: 

(Malibu, California)

Hercules and the Black Widow walk along the beach. Hercules is annoyed at Pluto’s recent actions, but Natasha says the war is over, and he should give it a rest. Pluto gambled, and he lost. Hercules thinks not. There’ll be no ending so long as Pluto lives to covet his father’s throne. Behind them, on a sand dune, an unseen foe stalks them.

Suddenly, he leaps from the dune and attacks Hercules. Natasha cannot see who he is due to all the loose sand; but first things first. She loses her coat, and delivers a deft kick to the aggressor’s chest. Surprisingly, he gets up immediately. He’s not just strong; he’s fast too. She kicks him again, but is prevented from providing a fight-ending chop by an incoming wave. It distracts Natasha long enough for her foe to grab her.

Unable to break free, she can’t do anything about his punch, which almost knocks her out. He throws her around like a rag doll, saying, “Billy’s gonna kill you,” repeatedly. Hercules picks himself up out of the sand, and sees his teammate in danger.

Sensing he will not reach in time, he instead punches the ground with tremendous force. The shock wave causes Billy to lose his balance, and he drops the Widow. Hercules then heads towards him, but finds that Billy’s anger and hatred pushes him on. He smashes Hercules in the face, but the Olympian replies with a solid punch of his own. Billy is sent flying into a nearby rock.

Natasha walks back to Hercules, and they see their assailant clearly for the first time. They can’t believe it. Billy is an old man - though he possesses the strength and physique of a man a quarter his age. Billy pleads with them not to hurt him no more. He’ll be good. The tag on his green shirt reads, ‘San Marino State Hospital.’ Natasha assures him that they won’t hurt him, and calls for Hercules to get Billy back to Angel’s house and have Ivan phone for an ambulance.

Suddenly, six uniformed goons appear, and tell Natasha it won’t be necessary. They are armed with rifles, and they want Billy back. Hercules stands between them and Billy, and he informs them that Billy is now under his protection. One of the goons raises his gun, which appears to be no ordinary weapon. He tells Hercules that, if he wants to get involved, then he’s going to have to pay the price. Hercules and the Widow both fall to his weapons’ blast.

(San Marino State Hospital)

In this ageing building, Dr. Edward Lansing sits behind a large desk as his goons bring in Hercules and the Black Widow before him. He welcomes them to the hospital, and tells them he is honored to have them as guests. Hercules takes offence at this remark and breaks his shackles as if they were made from paper. He immediately takes out the nearest guards, but Dr. Lansing flicks a switch that sends an electrical charge through Natasha’s neck brace. He warns Hercules to yield, or his beauteous companion dies.

Hercules submits, but asks his keeper his name. Natasha interjects, and says he is Dr. Edward Lansing… and he is insane. Grabbing a comb to sort out what’s left of his hair, Lansing replies that he is hardly insane; he is a visionary. He is a man who will expand the frontiers of human knowledge. Natasha calls him a butcher. Lansing asks to be allowed to explain his work to Hercules, so he can make up his own mind.


Dr. Lansing explains that he wasn’t always as Hercules sees him now, director of a tenth-rate hospital. Once, he held a full professorship at a great teaching hospital. But, the administration disapproved of his theories and methods. They dismissed him, so he came to San Marino - a dumping ground for those society wishes to ignore, or forget. They are the old, the sick and the mentally infirm.

His dream, he continues, was to recreate the legendary super-soldier serum, to create a race of invincible warriors. He experimented on the population of outcasts. No one was interested in their fate, or cared. After years of failure and of deaths recorded as ‘accidental,’ he succeeded. He created his mutate, his warrior supreme.


Billy was his prototype. He managed to escape which is why Hercules ended up fighting him on the beach. Unfortunately, Lansing adds, the process seems to affect the men mentally. It tends to turn them into childlike simpletons or mindless beasts. But, it’ll work out in time.

Hercules has heard enough. He lashes out at the guards once again, saying that butcher is too kind a word for someone such as he. He’ll see Lansing damned before he torments another in this place. Lansing holds the remote control in his hand, and warns, “At the cost of the Black Widow’s life, immortal?” Hercules once again backs down. Dr. Lansing smiles. He’s pleased that Hercules has some feeling for the Widow as it makes his job that much easier. Hercules tells him to enjoy his triumph whilst he can. He has won the battle, but not the war.

The Black Widow apologizes to Hercules, but he says there’s no need. They will yet prevail. Lansing laughs like a madman. He informs Hercules that it is he that will prevail. When he’s finished with them, he cackles; they’ll tell him their innermost secrets, and serve him as blindly and loyally as any of his mutates.

(Angel’s beach house - an hour after sunset)

Warren is dressed in his red and yellow Angel outfit, and chatting with Ivan Petrovich, the Black Widow’s friend. Bobby sits nearby clutching an X-Men comic. Ivan’s worried about Natasha. He explains that she’s been gone all day without a message, a phone call - nothing. Warren replies that she’s not a kid. She can take care of herself. Bobby adds that besides, she’s out with Hercules. What could happen to them? He had to ask.

Suddenly, Hercules comes crashing through the exterior wall, followed by the Black Widow and several of Dr. Lansing’s mutates. Hercules cries, “In the name of the master, all within these walls must die!” Bobby drops the comic book, and asks if this is some kinda joke. Warren asks him to look in Hercules’ eyes. This is no joke. Their friends want them dead!

Angel takes to the air to avoid Natasha’s initial lunge. Hercules takes a swing at Bobby, but he ducks, and creates a patch of ice beneath him, causing the Olympian to lose his balance. The other mutates jump on Bobby, and Ivan is forced to get in on the action. He chops one of the mutates, but wonders who on Earth they all are. They’re swarming all over the house.

Suddenly, Bobby changes to his ice form, and throws away several of the mutates. As he prepares to blast them with ice, Hercules punches him, and Bobby is sent reeling through another exterior wall. He lands at the feet of Dr. Lansing who is operating a control box. The two Champions are performing better than he had hoped. With Iceman surrounded by both Hercules and a group of mutates, Dr. Lansing orders them to administer the coup de grace, for the moment the Black Widow and Hercules kill their friends, his conditioning will be compete.

As he ends his sentence, he turns at the sound of a motorcycle engine. Over a sand dune, he sees Johnny Blaze heading straight for him. In mid-flight, Johnny turns into the Ghost Rider, his flaming skull serving notice that whoever these guys are; they’re bad news.

Angel takes advantage of this distraction, and flies right into Hercules, but fails to knock him over. Hercules says that his courage is great, but he and his companions face one who has stood blow-to-blow with Thor. He swipes at the incoming Ghost Rider, and knocks him clean off his bike, withstanding one of the Rider’s strongest bolts of hellfire. Iceman picks up the pace, laying ice layer upon layer on Hercules. Unfortunately, he is so powerful that even this cannot hold him. He soon faces all three at once but, in his mind-controlled rage, he is virtually unstoppable.

Ivan, meanwhile, continues to fend off the mutates. The Black Widow attacks him, and manages to catch him with a kick. Ivan attempts to reason with her, and explains who he is. It does no good, as Natasha’s mind-control is too powerful. They battle hard, each throwing blows at the other, and parrying as many as they can. Eventually, the Black Widow manages to get on top of Ivan, and he begins to strangle him. As she squeezes ever tighter, she says, “Nothing personal, friend.” This appears to shake her out of her miasma. She stops squeezing, and sits up. She repeats the word, friend. “You, you are a friend… my mind, burning as if it’s on fire inside. Can’t… think.” She suddenly comes to the realization of what she has done, and asks Ivan to forgive her.

Lansing is furious and calls for her to kill Ivan, who she has at her mercy. Natasha turns and sees him. He is carrying a weapon, and again orders her to kill Ivan. She replies that he should worry more about his own life, because she’s coming for him. With the mind-control broken, Lansing blasts away at Natasha, but her agility keeps her safe from danger. She asks what’s with the toy. Lansing replies that it’s no toy; it is a neural disrupter that will fry her nervous system in an instant. Natasha swivels in mid air, replying that it will only do that if it hits her. She tumbles to the ground, and spins, landing a two-footed kick in Lansing’s face. He flails backwards, and drops the gun.

He lands hard, losing his glasses in the process. He immediately begins to search for his control box, as he still controls Hercules. He sees it nearby but, as he reaches for it, the Black Widow’s foot stomps on it, smashing it to pieces. Natasha tells him it’s just him and her now. Lansing stands, and makes a run for it. He wishes to rally his mutates. As he heads toward them, he suddenly realizes that, without the box, he no longer controls them either. They show no mercy, and beat Dr. Lansing to death.


Hercules watches the mutates, shuffling around Lansing’s body, waiting for the police to take them away. Warren catches up with Hercules, and asks if he’s okay. He’s been out there all night. Hercules replies that he is well past his… brain sickness. Warren tells him that the cops will be there soon. They’ll make sure that Lansing’s mutates will be well looked after. Hercules turns, with fire in his eyes. “Looked after, aye - but they can never be cured! They can never regain the humanity Lansing stole from them!” He says they were innocents, and trusted Lansing to care for them. He repaid their trust by destroying their souls.

Warren objects to Hercules shouting at him like this. He replies that there is evil in the world, and Lansing was part of it. But, there’s good as well, and the Champions are part of that. The question is, do they do anything about it, or do they sit around crying in their beer? Like it or not, he continues, they’ve got power, and he hopes the responsibility to use it wisely. Surrounded by his fellow Champions, he adds that they can help those who can’t help themselves; the innocents, the victims of people like Lansing. The world still needs Champions.

Characters Involved: 

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



Dr. Edward Lansing

Ivan Petrovich


Dr. Edward Lansing

San Marino inmates

Story Notes: 

Pluto failed to take Olympus from Zeus in the last issue.

The super-soldier serum Dr. Lansing wished to replicate is the same serum that gave Captain America his additional strength and agility.

Issue Information: 

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