Contest of Champions (1st series) #1

Issue Date: 
June 1982
Story Title: 
Chapter 1: Gathering of Heroes!

Mark Grunwald, Steven Grant & Bill Mantlo (writer/script), John Romita, Jr & Pablo Marcos (pencils/inks), Joe Rosen (letters), Michele Wolfram & Christine Scheele (colors), Mark Grunwald & Tom DeFalco (editors), Jim Shooter (editor-in-chief)

Brief Description: 

The Grandmaster and his unnamed opponent kidnap every known hero away from Earth. They send them to a specially made arena. After the heroes get some time to recover and wonder what’s going on, the Grandmaster introduces himself and his opponent to the group. The Grandmaster explains that he has made a deal with his opponent, who wishes to remain nameless, as each chooses twelve champions. If his team wins, the Grandmaster will be given the power to restore the life of his deceased brother, the Collector. If he loses, he forfeits his life as well. And if the heroes refuse to work along, Earth will remain in the stasis it is in now. The Grandmaster and his opponent explain the game rules. Each team must find four objects of life and death that are scattered on the four corners of the Earth. After the Grandmaster and his opponent have chosen their champions, they separate them into teams and send them to Earth. Let the games begin!

Full Summary: 

The beginning, somewhere in the cosmos…
While observing all of Earth’s heroes, a male alien entity raises its hand, asking his companion if they are agreed. Earth is the star sector that has the most super-heroes. He asks if they shall be their pawns in the upcoming event. The other entity agrees, since their chosen ones must be mighty, in a contest where the stakes are life… and death! The other entity says that it’s time to move to Earth.

Meanwhile, at Avengers Mansion, the Avengers are busy training. Iron Man and the Vision occupy themselves with running 50 rounds around the mansion. Wonder Man tests his strength and is coached by the Scarlet Witch. The Avengers get a visit from former teammate, the Beast, who is now with the Defenders.

The Beast says that he dropped by to work out because the Defenders don’t have this kind of equipment at their headquarters. He playfully bounces around, annoying both Captain America and the Wasp. Janet van Dyne tells him to cut it out, joking that Hank must be a little rusty now that he doesn’t play with the big leagues anymore. The Beast takes that as an insult and playfully challenges the team of heroes and suggests to have a party afterwards.
The Avengers try their best, but the Beast dodges them all. The Avengers decide to stop trying it individually and to catch the Beast like a team. They outnumber him, but suddenly, they get teleported away!

At the same time, above the Arctic Circle on the frozen island of Nonanya Zemlya, the villanous Red Ghost laughs at the fact that the Soviet State has labeled him an enemy.

The Red Ghost laughs that the very scientific genius the state mocked will unleash a series of earthquakes, which are be powerful enough to topple their greatest cities. But the Ghost has to stop his attack, as he in turn gets attacked by the Soviet Super Soldiers!

The Crimson Dynamo explains to the Red Ghost that the sensors in his armor led them right to his secret hideout. The Dynamo fires an energy beam at him, but the Red Ghost turns intangible. Not even Vanguard’s mallet can harm the Red Ghost in this state. The Red Ghost takes out his gun, explaining that while he may be intangible, that doesn’t mean that he can’t harm his enemies. He fires, but luckely the Soldiers dodge. Darkstar commands her teammates to dismantle the Red Ghost’s machinery, while she unleashes her Darkforce and imprisons the Red Ghost in it. Red Ghost begs for mercy, but the Soldiers don’t listen to it and rush over to him to knock him out. Suddenly, a bright light appears, and the Super Soldiers are gone! The Red Ghost is left behind and doesn’t understand what’s going on.

At that exact moment, half a world away, the Fantastic Four “enjoy” a party that’s thrown in their honor. The spokesman introduces the leader, Reed Richards to the guests. Ben is bored and doesn’t want to listen to another of Reed’s speeches. Johnny jokes about it, but Sue tells them to knock it off, because it’s not Reed they want to hear, but… Ben! The Thing can’t believe it but stands up anyway. As he wants to begin to talk, the same light from before appears and teleport the Fantastic Four away!

Meanwhile, the Canadian team Alpha Flight returns and flies home, recovering from their recent reconnaissance mission. Northstar can’t wait to be back at Ottawa. Sasquatch asks why, because he liked it in the wilderness. So did Snowbird, the demi-goddess announces. Aurora prefers to go back to Quebec and teach at the school again. A thinking Shaman says that there is much to be recommended about both worlds. Their leader, Guardian, isn’t much interested in that and leaves the philosophy to Shaman. The bright light appears again and teleports the team away, leaving their plane behind.

Meanwhile, the X-Men are busy fighting some training robots in their Danger Room, as the light also teleports them away.

In Harlem, the heroes for hire, Iron Fist and Power Man have located a hidden location of some gangsters. They attack them, but are teleported away as well.

While climbing on a building, Spider-Man’s spider-sense tries to warn him, but he realizes to late that he too is teleported away.

At a fashionable club in Soho, Hellcat and Valkyrie enjoy a night out and watch Dazzler singing. They too vanish, but luckely the public believes that it’s all a part of Dazzler’s closing act.

Over Staten Island, Moon Knight and Daredevil are lifted away on a helicopter. Moon Knight warns Daredevil that they are surrounded by a bright, red light, but the blind Daredevil doesn’t notice until they get teleported away.

The teleportation even includes to the Savage Land, where Ka-Zar and his partner Shanna are the victims.
In Greenwhich Village, at his sanctorum, Dr. Strange meditates with the Devil-Slayer until they too get teleported away.

High above the streets of San Francisco, Spider-Woman finds herself defeated and imprisoned by the Gypsy Moth. The villainess is certain that she is victorious, but then Spider-Woman vanishes.

Over the Hudson River, the Machine Man streches his robotic legs, but he too disappears.

In upstate New York, at the Energy Research Center, Quasar thanks Jack of Hearts for his assist. Jack notices them glowing and thinks that Quasar’s energy is leaking, but before Quasar can explain, they are gone!
Meanwhile, somewhere in the great Southwest, the battle between the Hulk and Leonard Samson gets disturbed by the teleporting.

High above the Andes, even the Eternals get all teleported away. And it matters not if one’s powers stem from the supernatural, as the Son of Satan, Daimon Hellstrom, vanishes. And so does the mighty Thor. All with exceptional abilities are taken. From the American Indian super-hero Red Wolf, to the Japanese samurai known as Sunfire. Elsewhere, England suddenly finds itself bereft of the crimson costumed hero Captain Britain, who was enjoying a flight with his companion, the Black Knight.

Even in the hidden city Atillan, the Inhumans and their newest family member Quicksilver can’t fight the mysterious red light.
High above France, the hero called le Peregine vanishes. In Australia, while preparing for a meditation, the Talisman too disappears. In Argentinia, Defensor tries to defend himself from an army of attackers when he gets teleported away. In Northern Ireland, a group of school children watch how their lives are rescued by the heroine Shamrock, until she disappears.
In Israel, Sabra is busy fighting some enemy troops. She is winning, but then disappears. In the people’s republic of China, the Collective Man tries to defend himself from an army of armed swordsmen.

In Saudi Arabia, the Arabian Knight flies on his carpet when he gets teleported. And over West Germany, the teleportation beam spirits off the electrically charged hero Blitzkrieg.

And so, all the startled heroes find themselves in a huge arena! The heroes begin to talk among each other, trying to figure out what happened and where they are. Thor flies towards the External Icarus, but neither God knows what’s happening. Shaman feels a strange force at work. Alpha Flight notice Wolverine standing among them and go to him. Wolverine thinks that they are behind it somehow, but Guardian says that they are as surprised as he is. Sasquatch jokes to the Beast that he is one of “Earth’s mightiest heroes”. The Beast jokes back.

Iron Man notices Vanguard and the Crimson Dynamo and suspects the Russians are behind all this, but they too know nothing.

Shamrock coolly notices Captain Britain, and that he is wearing the symbol of Great Britain. Captain Britain also notices that Shamrock wears the green colors of Ireland on her costume. The mutual dislike is instant.

Iceman walks to Darkstar, saying that it’s been a while since they saw each other after the Champions disbanded. Bobby compliments Laynia on her new costume. Darkstar thanks him, saying that she has thought a lot and fondly about him ever since she left the Champions.
Machine Man walks towards the android Vision and they search their databases in an attemp to understand what’s going on, but they can’t come up with any previous similar event.

The Collective Man walks over to the X-Men, Sprite and Colossus. He asks why Piotr doesn’t use his powers to serve the Russian State, like he does for China. Colossus explains that he feels that it’s best that his powers serve the entire world, as a member of the X-Men.

The Black Panther notices Captain America staring, and asks him what’s going on. The one moment, T’Challa says, he was with his subjects in Wakanda, and the next, he is here. Captain America says he knows and is as surprised as he is. Cap tries to figure out who of their enemies has the power to do all this.

Elswhere in the arena, two wall-crawlers say ‘hi’ to each other. Spider-Man and Spider-Woman joke about it. Hellstrom goes to Dr. Druid, informing him that he senses that this is not the work of the devil. Dr. Druid agrees, believing that this goes beyond the work of anything mystical.

The Black Knight explain to the Arabian Knight and Defensor that his Ebony Blade is mystical in origin. The Arabian Knight says his sword is too, and suggests they test their skills one day. Defensor says that he goes into battle carrying his golden shield.

Windshear and Karnak walk over to Prince Namor and ask him if he knows what’s going on. Unfortunately, the Sub-Mariner doesn’t, but wants to ask Dr. Strange if he might know some answers. The Human Torch scouts the arena and reports to the Thing that every super hero of Earth is present.

Quasar says that he didn’t know that there were so many of them. Ben takes the opportunity and introduces Johnny and Quasar to each other. Suddenly, the Hulk begins to feel hot. Dr. Strange explains to Namor that he has no clue who their kidnapper is. Moondragon does a mental scan, but they don’t do much more than simply ascertain that the arena they are in is somewhere in space. Professor X corrects them, they are in Earth orbit. But even he can’t learn who built this place and why they are here. The heroes grow impatient and want to know who brought them here: a friend or a foe. The heroes stop their talking, when the same bright light from before shows up again and are introduced to the ultimate gamesman… the Grandmaster!

The Grandmaster’s companion, a hooded woman whose face is obscured, explains to the heroes that they have been brought here to fight the greatest tournament their world has ever seen. The heroes get angry when they learn that all this is just about a stupid game. The Grandmaster explains that the glow that brought the heroes here is keeping the entire Earth in stasis. And if the heroes refuse to cooperate, it will remain that way forever.
The Grandmaster explains the game rules. There are four objects, quarters of the gleaming golden globe of life, will be hidden at the four corners of the Earth. The Grandmaster reveals that he and his faceless opponent will each choose twelve champions to seek out the objects. Whichever of their group first gets the objects, wins.

And if he wins, the Grandmaster says, he can restore the life of his dead brother, the Collector! The Grandmaster explains that like he himself, his brother is immortal and one of the elders. Cursed with the gift of prophecy, the Collector foresaw the coming of a great evil, and thus set about collecting those whose super powers and abilities might oppose that dark day. But the Collector was discovered and slain. His murderer turned out to be Korvac, who upon sending his life in an act of cosmic suicide, undid virtually all the damage he had done to the moment of his death. All, that is, except the restoration of the Collector himself. And unfortunately, the Grandmaster says, not even he, who has the power of life and death, can restore life to an immortal.

So the Grandmaster went in search of someone who could, and found his opponent, who wishes to remain nameless for now. The Grandmaster wants to begin to choose the fighters. The female insists that if the Grandmaster wins, the Collector’s life will be restored, but if he loses, the Grandmaster will join his brother in oblivion.
They begin to chose, but exclude all the immortals, including the Inhumans, the Atlanteans, Eternals and the aliens who stay on Earth. The Grandmaster picks Captain America first. The Grandmaster knows from his thoughts that Cap doubts, but if he wins, the Grandmaster promises to never bother Earth ever again.

The gathering goes on. The Grandmaster’s champions become Captain America, Talisman, Darkstar, Wolverine, Captain Britain, Defensor, Sasquatch, Daredevil, the She-Hulk, le Peregine, Blitzkrieg and the Thing. His opponent chooses next, and her champions are: Iron Man, Vanguard, Shamrock, Iron Fist, Storm, the Arabian Knight, Sabra, Angel, the Invisible Girl, the Black Panther, Sunfire and the Collective Man. Let the games begin!

Characters Involved: 

Colossus, Cyclops, Nightcrawler, Professor X, Sprite, Storm, Wolverine (the X-Men)
Angel, The The Beast, Daimon Hellstrom, Gargoyle, Hellcat, Iceman, Valkyrie (the Defenders)
Aurora, Guardian, Northstar, Sasquatch, Shaman, Snowbird (Alpha Flight)
Crimson Dynamo, Darkstar, Ursa Major, Vanguard (the Soviet Super Soldiers)
Captain America, Iron Man I, Vision, Wonder Man, Scarlet Witch, Wasp (all Avengers)
Human Torch II, Invisible Girl, Mr. Fantastic, the Thing (the Fantastic Four)
Black Bolt, Crystal, Gorgon, Karnak, Lockjaw, Medusa, Triton, Quicksilver (the Inhumans)
Ajak, Hero, Makkari, Icarus, Reject, Sersi (the Eternals)

Arabian Knight, Black Knight, Black Panther, Blitzkrieg, Captain Britain I, Collective Man, Daredevil, Dazzler , Defensor, Devil-Slayer, Dr. Strange, Dr. Druid, Falcon, Hulk, Iron Fist, Jack of Hearts, Jocasta, Ka-Zar, Leonard Samson, Machine Man, Moondragon, Moon Knight, Multiple Man, Namor the Sub-Mariner, Power Man, le Peregine, Red Wolf, Sabra, Shamrock, Shanna the She-Devil, She-Hulk, Silver Surfer, Spider-Man, Spider-Woman I, Sunfire, Talisman I, Tigra, Thor, Windshear (other heroes)

The Grandmaster
Death (unnamed)

Gypsy Moth (enemy of Spider-Woman I)
Red Ghost (enemy of the Super Soldiers)

Harlem gangsters (unnamed)
people and staff holding ceremony for the Fantastic Four (unnamed)
people at Dazzler’s concert (unnamed)
villains attacking Defensor and Sabra (unnamed)

in the Grandmaster’s explanation:
Black Panther, Black Widow I, Captain America, Iron Man, Hercules, Vision, Wonder Man, Yellowjacket I (the Avengers)
the Collector

Story Notes: 

“Contest of the Champions” (it’s full name is: Marvel Super Hero: Contest of the Champions) is Marvel Comic’s very first limited series.

Several people have pointed out the inanity of Iron Man exercising in his suit of armor which basically does all the work for him. The Collector was killed during the famed ‘Korvac Saga’ in the pages of the Avengers.

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.

At the end of the story, there is a quick overview of all current existing super-heroes of the time. This issue goes from hero names beginning with the letter A-K.

Some heroes are first introduced in this series and later on, some of them are never (or rarely) used afterwards. Those heroes are the Arabian Knight, Blitzkrieg, Collective Man, Defensor, Talisman I, Peregine and Shamrock. Most of them are actually more or less national stereotypes, with Blitzkrieg being an especially unfortunate case, as ‘Blitzkrieg’ is a German word usually associated with Nazi warfare.

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