Champions #5

Issue Date: 
April 1976
Story Title: 
The economy is so bad that…

Tony Isabella (writer), Don Heck & John Tartag (artists), John Costanza (letterer), Janice Cohen (colorist), Marv Wolfman (editor)

Brief Description: 

Warren Worthington inherits a fortune from his parent’s estate, but this news is in complete contrast to the bankruptcy facing Stuart Clarke. His company has been hit by a combination of competition, and economic slump. Bitter, he feels he must revive his fortunes, and he knows a way to do it. Meanwhile, Ivan Petrovich thinks it’s too soon for the Black Widow to hook up with another superhero outfit, but Natasha feels that, this time, things might just work out. Over at UCLA, Richard Fenster is fired from his job, but the newly minted Angel offers him the position of business manager of Champions, Inc., which Fenster readily accepts. Stuart Clarke, meanwhile, puts on his exo-skeleton, which he’d been developing, and decides to rob a bank - though one that is F.D.I.C protected. Iceman happens to be passing during the robbery, and he confronts Clarke. Unfortunately, the exo-skeleton makes Clarke much too powerful, and Bobby is swept aside. The other Champions arrive and pitch in. Clarke’s strength is awesome, and he rivals even Hercules in the power stakes. After a prolonged battle, Clarke finally seizes the advantage, threatening the unconscious Angel with death if they don’t back off.

Full Summary: 

The high-flying Angel, Warren Worthington, is with Bobby Drake in the offices of Emerson Bale. He is one of the world’s finest legal minds, and he has some interesting news for Warren. The family estate has been fought over by Warren’s relatives, but as a dear family friend, Bale has Warren’s interests at heart. He’s followed Angel’s exploits with the X-Men in the news, and feels he could put the money to far better use than the relatives he refers to as sharks. They claim that his parents wouldn’t have made him sole beneficiary if they’d known he was the Angel, but Bale thinks that’s poppycock.

Bale hands Warren a partial list of holdings, which he and Bobby take a look at. They can’t believe it. “That’s more money than God makes,” exclaims Bobby. Warren throws the papers into the air, and pronounces, “I’m rich… I’m rich!

Meanwhile, Stuart Clarke’s lawyer is in a heated argument with his client. Clarke owes money to the government, to his sub-contractors and to the lawyer himself. Ignoring the problem isn’t helping matters. The lawyer, Crawley, informs him that, if he’d sold out two years ago, he’d be a rich man. But now, Clarke must declare bankruptcy. Clarke grabs Crawley by his jacket’s lapels and calls him a spineless worm. Clarke Futuristics means the world to him. He put his soul into the company, and he asks how he could sell his soul to some corporation.

He throws Crawley backwards, and tells him he’s to blame for all of this. Clarke thinks he should have planned for this recession. It’s tough enough competing with all the big outfits before the idiots in Washington started running the economy into the ground. “Why didn’t you plan?” he screams. No answer is forthcoming from the terrified lawyer, so Clarke lets go and fires him, adding that he’ll get in touch the next time he wants a dream destroyed. He needn’t worry about his creditors either. “I’ll find a way to pay them back.” He storms out into the street, and screams the sentence again. A passer by recognizes his frustrations; thinking that between the L.A. smog and the Republicans, they’re all gonna flip out before long.


Natasha Romanov, the Black Widow, is chatting with her friend, Ivan Petrovich. She asks him to tell her what’s up. He’s been pouting like Gary Cooper in High Noon. He’s concerned about the call she received from Warren Worthington about the new Champions team. He thinks it’s too similar to the Avengers, or even her relationship with Daredevil. Each time she ties herself to anybody, she gets burned, and he doesn’t want to see it happening again. He asks what makes her think this time will be different. “What makes you think you won’t get hurt again?”

Natasha pictures her teammates in her mind. She replies that it’s nothing that makes any logical sense. It’s just a feeling she has. She thinks the Champions are really a lot like loners. She doesn’t feel that Iceman or Angel ever felt truly comfortable in the X-Men. It didn’t allow them much individual growth. Johnny Blaze belongs to a west that doesn’t exist anymore. As for Hercules, on Olympus he was a man amongst Gods, but on Earth he’s a God amongst men. She just thinks it might work this time. Ivan doesn’t add anything further, but guesses she should play it her way, and prays he can pick up the pieces later.

Nearby, Hercules joins a game of American Football with some skeptical UCLA students. The figure they can take him, but Natasha knows they don’t have an inkling of what they’re getting into. Seconds later, Hercules has crossed the goal line, and the entire team is sprawled on the ground; one thinking if it’s too late to try out for the debating team.

While the UCLA Bruins have second thoughts on their athletic endeavors, Richard Fenster emerges from a building saying he’s been fired, out loud. He can’t believe it. It’s like they blame him for the damage Pluto’s army caused to the campus. Unfortunately, he now has to tell Hercules and the Widow that the university no longer requires their services. He wonders what’s next for him. Out of nowhere, Angel swoops down and grabs him, taking him high into the air. “How about business manager of Champions, Inc.?” asks Warren.

Fenster quickly finds himself being carried along on one of Bobby’s ice-slides. Warren adds that his first job will be to find them a suitable headquarters; nothing too big. Twenty or thirty floors ought to do it. Fenster stutters, caught out by this exhilarating ride. Iceman asks him what the matter is. “Cold feet?” With little else on the horizon, Fenster accepts their proposal.

Meanwhile, Stuart Clarke returns to Clarke Futuristics, and he’s in a lousy mood. He feels the deck was stacked against him from the start, even though he was first with his product. He could never supply it as economically as Stark or Roxxon. He had high hopes for his exo-skeleton uniform. He enters the lab, and begins putting on his creation. He thinks it could have revolutionized modern police work. But, when
Stark’s L.A. operation started work on a similar project; it got all the fat government contracts.

As he connects all the straps on his outfit, he wonders if there’s another way he can utilize his investment. As each section of his outfit is snapped into place, thoughts that once wouldn’t have entered his mind take shape. He is not an inherently evil man, but he’s been pushed beyond the point of reason. He pauses before slipping on the mask but, as they say, he thinks, time is money. He has an insane plan to save his flailing business.

Miniature generators charge the exo-skeleton costume, and boot jets flare into life. The costume is mainly red, with a yellow band across the mid-section and with a yellow face mask. He smiles inwardly at the gut-level justice his scheme offers. He plans to take what he needs to revive Clarke Futuristics from F.D.I.C protected banks. He figures that this way, no real people will suffer loss. The bank’s losses will be covered by the government - the very government whose ill-conceived policies caused the recession which has put his business in such dire straits. He takes to the air. In one hour, he will be the most wanted man in Los Angeles.


Seated around a large table, the Champions discuss their future. Warren hasn’t been able to contact Ghost Rider and Bobby is still with Richard Fenster, but he feels there’s no reason they can’t get the ball rolling. Hercules says he seeks to include him too swiftly. He came there at the behest of the beauteous Black Widow. He cares not for Warren’s desire to place the ‘lion of Olympus’ at the command of mere mortals. Ivan sarcastically comments that he’ll get his violin. Natasha tells Herc that it’s not exactly what Warren has in mind by the Champions becoming ‘store-front superheroes.’

Warren tells him that he’s palled around with other superheroes long enough to know that most of them are too involved in their own affairs, vital as they may be, to be of much help to the common man. He thinks the Champions can change that. He reminds him of their battle with Dr. Lansing’s goons, and how they helped his patients be free of him. Warren thinks they’ve got power, and that equals responsibility in his book. Can he walk away from that? Hercules replies that he speaks with conviction, and so, for the time being he will join them.

Bobby Drake wanders the streets, lost in thought. He hopes Warren can sell the idea to the others. It’ll make his decision to quit easier. Unlike Warren, he doesn’t wish to lose his secret identity. He knows what effect that would have on the rest of the Drake family. He passes a couple of bystanders who feel a sudden shiver as he walks by. Bobby thinks that he may want to chuck the whole Iceman bit - someday.

As he passes a National Bank window, he notices a disturbance inside. He can see Stuart Clarke in his costume, and realizes it’s being robbed. The manager is reluctant to open the safe, but using the augmented strength the costume offers him, Clarke simply rips the door off its hinges. Bobby ices up immediately, read for action. He wonders if the Champs will pay for all the threads he’s freeze-dried out of existence with this quick-change number.

He slides into the bank and creates an ice battering ram. “Gangway, folks!” he warns, as he makes his way through the bank towards his intended target. Clarke smashes the ice with ease, and sends Iceman flying through a window. If the battering ram hadn’t absorbed the brunt of the punch, he’d have been busted into as many pieces as the window. Clarke charges him, so Bobby creates a barrage of ice blocks which he hurls at Clarke. He shrugs them off with ease, and picks up a street lamp, yanking it clear out of the ground. He swats Bobby with it, and Bobby knows that, if he connects properly, he’s a gonner.

Fortunately for Iceman, Angel appears and pulls him clear of danger. “Didn’t your mom and I warn you to stay away from the neighborhood bully, junior?” he asks as they head skywards. Luckily, he’d heard about the bank raid on the radio and thought he’d check it out himself. Clarke swings the lamppost around, and prepares to swat them both with it. Hercules has other ideas. He grabs the post, and between them, they crunch it like it was made of paper. Herc tosses it away, but Clarke keeps coming. Herc says he’s like a man crazed. Clarke punches Hercules, and even manages to momentarily faze him; asking if a madman could develop an armor powerful enough to fell even a swaggering Olympian. Hercules responds in kind, and knocks Clarke clean into a wall, which shatters upon impact.

Clarke appears to be down and out. Hercules stands over him, and will never understand how a mortal can gain such power, and yet do so little with it. “I suppose Ares is a boy scout,” comments Warren. Natasha asks him not to make light of Hercules, but Ivan reckons the Olympian will be too busy congratulating himself to take offense. Hercules informs them that Ares is the god of war. It is his nature to act as he does. Suddenly, Natasha tries to warn him, but her call comes too late.

Clarke has recovered, and he grabs Hercules from behind, smashing his face into the asphalt. He tells her they hadn’t figured on his rig’s protective power. Angel takes to the air, and Bobby goes on the attack. Natasha is concerned that they don’t appear to have a battle plan, and reckons they don’t stand a chance. Iceman lays on the ice, encasing Clarke in a cube of solid ice. Clarke’s exo-skeleton makes short work of this prison, and he busts out in no time. Bobby is hit on the forehead by a chunk of ice, and Angel reckons he has one opportunity to take Clarke down before he starts on him.

He punches Clarke in the head from behind, but cries in agony as his fist makes contact. Clarke grins, and informs him that his helmet is made of the same invincible alloy as the rest of his armor. He swats Warren away like a fly, and figures he’d better grab some money before the cops arrive. Before he can get far, though, the Black Widow launches her own offensive. Her Widow’s bite makes almost no impact, and Clarke swings for her; not wishing to be stopped by a mere woman.

Ivan and Hercules close in, but Clarke smashes Ivan in the chin, before being hurled against a car by Hercules. The car crumples, and is then used as a weapon by Clarke, who tosses it with ease at his assailants. Iceman manages to create a defensive wall to protect them, and once the car has gone, Herc smashes the wall, wishing to put an end to this. Natasha calls for him to wait, and Bobby tells him to listen. The creep has got them by the short hairs.

Clarke orders them to back off. Clutching the unconscious Angel by his blond hair, he warns them that, if they come one step closer, he’ll smash his fist right through the Angel’s skull!

Characters Involved: 

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

Rampage/Stuart Clarke

Ivan Petrovich

Emerson Bale and his secretary


Los Angeles bystanders including Anna and Rose

Football team

Richard Fenster

Bank employees

(in flashback)

Black Widow, Hercules (both Champions)

Dr. Lansing’s goons

Story Notes: 

Gary Cooper starred in the classic 1952 movie, High Noon, co-starring Grace Kelly and Lloyd Bridges.

Stark Industries, at the time, was owned by Tony Stark, and was predominantly a weapons supplier to the government. Roxxon is the ultimate in dodgy corporations that involve themselves in shady dealings throughout the Marvel Universe. One of Roxxon’s subsidiaries was Brand Industries, where Hank McCoy performed the experiment that transformed him into his blue flurry look.

Pluto and his cohorts fought our heroes at the UCLA campus in Champions #1.

F.D.I.C. stands for Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation.

The cover features Stuart Clarke in costume. It erroneously shows red bands above and below his belt that shouldn’t be there. He also wears yellow gloves throughout the issue. Then again, Hercules’ headband should be brown and not red.

Although Stuart Clarke is called Rampage on the cover; he isn’t referred to by that name during this story.

Hercules and the Black Widow fought Dr. Lansing’s goons in the previous issue.

The Ghost Rider doesn’t appear in this issue. He is busy in his own title.

Issue Information: 

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