Champions #1

Issue Date: 
October 1975
Story Title: 
The world still needs Champions!

Tony Isabella (writer), Don Heck (penciller), Mike Esposito (inker), Dave Hunt (letterer), Petra G (colorist), Marv Wolfman (editor)

Brief Description: 

Five heroes, with an unusual variety of backgrounds, are brought together by coincidence in Los Angeles. Former X-Men, Angel and Iceman, are wandering through the UCLA campus when they are faced with flying, green Harpies, who are looking for someone. Iceman uses his ice powers to protect an innocent student, and the two heroes end up in a prolonged battle with the Harpies. The Black Widow is at UCLA for a job interview, and both she and her friend, Ivan, wind up facing a group of Amazon warriors, who appear from a portal in the room. They are after Venus, who is currently living and working at the university under the pseudonym Dr. Victoria Starr. The Black Widow saves Venus from their clutches, and takes her outside to safety. Ghost Rider just happens to be passing through and is confronted by Cerberus, a large, shape-changing being. Fearing even his power might not be enough, Ghost Rider opts to retreat. As he does so, he finds Hercules, who has just fought off an attack by a group of mutates. He joins Ghost Rider on his bike, and they soon find the other three heroes being pursued by the Amazons and Harpies. Hercules jumps off to deal with Cerberus, whilst Ghost Rider aids the others. Soon, the Harpies and Amazons are incapacitated and Venus calms down the mutates with her own powers. Just as they congratulate each other, Pluto arrives, flanked by Ares and Hippolyta. He says that Hercules must wed Hippolyta, and Venus must marry Ares before the day is done, or the universe will die!

Full Summary: 

(UCLA campus, California)
Two former X-Men, Warrington Worthington III, better known as the Angel, and Bobby Drake, also known as Iceman, are strolling through the campus and chatting about where they really belong. Bobby appreciates Professor Xavier getting him a scholarship, but he’d go back to the X-Men today. Unfortunately, the X-Men are no longer the team he grew up with. He mentions that Hank is now making it big with the Avengers, and wonders if that might be the way to go. Warren offers a reality check, asking if he thinks they’d really fit in with that group.

Mysteriously, a strange hole appears in mid-air in front of them, and out of it pours a quartet of mean, green Harpies. One of them grabs the first student who happens to be present, and demands that he tell them where Venus is. Before he can answer, Bobby creates a chunk of ice and projects it at the Harpies’ temple with a ‘thrud.’

Warren is concerned about Bobby using his powers whilst still in his civilian identity. “What about your parents?” Bobby replies that by the time anyone figures out where that icebolt came from, they won’t see Bobby Drake; they’ll see Iceman. His clothes shatter as his body becomes ice, and Warren asks him to hold the Harpies while he gets into costume. Bobby seems relieved that he is back in action once again.

The four Harpies close in on him, but he forms an ice-sled, which barges them out of the way. He then freezes one of them in an ice cube while they are still in flight. This causes them to drop like a stone, but another catches Bobby unawares from behind, and knocks him off balance. She orders her sisters to slice him to ribbons with their claws, but Angel arrives in the nick of time, and socks one of them in the jaw. Bobby is surprised that Warren, though in costume, isn’t wearing a mask to conceal his identity. Somebody’s bound to recognize him. The two heroes gather their thoughts, and Warren informs Bobby that he has made a decision; one he took before his mom died. “There’ll be no more hiding. For better or for worse, from here on in, the Angel goes public.”

Meanwhile, Natasha Romanov, otherwise known as the Black Widow, nervously waits for her interview at the university. She is accompanied by her friend, Ivan Petrovich. She asks him what he honestly thinks of her chances. He asks her to relax. The ad said they needed someone to teach Russian. Unless she’s forgotten her mother tongue, she should be a shoe-in for the job. Natasha hopes he’s right. They’re just about broke, and she needs this job badly. Ivan wonders if she wants the job to help her forget about Matt Murdock. She replies that it isn’t that. What she and Matt had was good while it lasted. They simply pushed their luck and kept the game going for too long. Ivan can see that she clearly isn’t over the relationship.

Suddenly, a glow appears in the room, and a group of Amazon warriors step forth. The leader points at Natasha, and informs her that they have come for Venus. They know she is there somewhere, and Natasha will conceal her at the cost of her own mortal life. Ivan reacts immediately, not liking the way she is waving her sword around. He lets her have it on the chin, and calls Natasha to strip for action. She removes her skirt, which is the only thing she is wearing in addition to her all-in-one black body suit.

Ivan grabs the leader around the neck, but is cracked on the head by a sword handle. Natasha then faces the group alone. One of the Amazons asks her leader if they should deal with the Black Widow, but she wants her for herself. Natasha taunts her by telling her that she gathers she is used to terrifying people with her oversized knitting needle; “But the Widow doesn’t scare!”

Approaching the room, oblivious to the action going on inside, Dr. Victoria Starr is on her way to interview Natasha for the post of humanities professor. It isn’t really her job to do this, but she really wants to meet the famous Natasha Romanoff. She is really Venus and, in her guise as Dr. Starr, she appears to have acquired an almost human curiosity.

As she appears in the doorway, one of the warriors points at her. Venus can’t believe Hippolyta’s Amazons are there. The leader orders her warriors to grab her, but the Black Widow has other ideas. She charges at them, using her widow’s bite to temporarily confuse her opponents. Venus informs Natasha that she can’t fight the Amazons; they’re the most fiercely-trained warriors in Olym… their world. Natasha doubts her K.G.B taskmasters were any less demanding in preparing her curriculum but, as she unleashes another blast, she feels it may be prudent to seek a strategic withdrawal. Unfortunately, this means leaving Ivan behind.

As a dagger lands in the wall, inches away from her head, she uses her widow’s line to swing herself and Venus from the window and off to safety. As they swing, Venus tells Natasha that she needn’t concern herself with Ivan. She has arranged his safety. Natasha wonders just how she could have done that, and demands an explanation of who she is, and why these warrior women pursue her.

Johnny Blaze is riding through the UCLA campus, and sees the terrified looks on the kid’s faces. He wonders what’s going on, so he stops and asks. One of the students points, and informs him that there’s some kind of thing back there. Johnny has been enjoying being a free man, yet his freedom has made his life increasingly complicated. He wonders why this should be so. He will find no relief for his puzzlement here; only danger. Suddenly, a strange mallet flies past his head, missing him by inches.

He guesses there must be a fracas, as he is beginning to change, just like he did when the Trapster attacked. It’s too bad for whoever threw that thing, he thinks, because now, on top of fighting Johnny Blaze, the world’s greatest stunt rider, he’s now got to deal with the Ghost Rider!”

Still riding his motorbike, the Ghost Rider approaches the wielder of the mallet, a giant calling himself Cerberus, guardian of the depths. The giant warns Ghost Rider to hold fast. No one must pass him, for his master will brook no interference with his plan to crush the man-god! Ghost Rider replies that his master appears to be a member of the same club as an old acquaintance of his and, that being the case, he can take his plan and stuff it!

He unleashes a blast of hellfire at Cerberus, who cowers under the attack. However, he tells Ghost Rider that he was created to be many guardians and, what one is ill-equipped to battle, another can destroy. He changes form into that of a giant dog. Ghost Rider gets it now. Cerberus is the guardian of Hades in Roman mythology. Judging from the way he’s flashing his pearly whites at him, his bark isn’t even in the same ballpark as his bite. He opts to vamoose at high speed, narrowly avoiding Cerberus’s attack.

Enjoying the Californian sunshine is a somewhat unique lecturer; his subject being ‘Mythology: What it means to you.’ The speaker is none other than Hercules. He meets with Richard Fenster, a lecture agent at the university. He hopes Hercules can wow the audience tonight, as he needs to score some points with the campus brass. Hercules assures him that he has nothing to fear. When he tells the young people of the glories of Olympus, they wilt swoon with wonderment. Fenster hopes so. The last off-beat speaker he hired didn’t work too well; a real Hitchcock type. He asks Hercules to picture, “A mop-haired New York writer who spends all his time writing about some blood-thirsty barbarian he called Co- ulp!” Hercules wonders why fear crosses Richard Fenster’s face like a bleak shadow. He soon gets his answer.

He is grabbed from behind by one of a group of mutates. Hercules tosses the beasts aside and picks up the podium, which he hurls at them. Unfortunately, he is attacked from behind and struck on the back of his skull. This only serves to anger the big guy, and he grabs the hammer his assailant wields and crushes it within his vise-like grip. His foe tells him that he is the most savage mutate of all and, in all the years he has ruled, only Thor has ever defeated him. Hercules lands an almighty punch, stating that, whatever Thor can do, he canst accomplish more mightily.

He is beset on all sides by the rest of the mutates, who actually crash him through the wall of the university. He fights on as they fall, knowing he will not be injured by a mere drop to the ground from a great height. Ghost Rider, meanwhile, despite riding at speed is still concerned about the pursuing Cerberus. Luckily, he notices Hercules fighting the mutates and realizes this is an opportunity he cannot miss. As the Olympian throws his opponents around like rag dolls, he is approached by Ghost Rider. He wonders what new enemy dares to lay his hand upon him in the midst of battle, but the Rider tells him to just grab a seat and swing onto the cycle. Ghost Rider assures him that he’s on his side, and tells him he’ll clue him in once he’s on board.

Hercules does as he is asked, sensing true valor within the Rider, despite having a voice that reeks of evil. Rider points ahead of them, and informs Hercules that the whole campus is going crazy. Before them, they can see the Black Widow, Venus and the two former X-Men being pursued by the sword-wielding Amazons and the flying green Harpies. Hercules leaps from the bike, asking Ghost Rider to do what he can to help them. He will deal with the devil hound on their trail. Rider wonders how the winged terrors will react to a burst of hellfire. His blast scatters the Harpies, and one of them calls for them to flee, as this unnatural fire can destroy them.

Hercules uses his awesome strength to pummel Cerberus, telling him it has been ages since he didst vanquish him and drag him from the pits of Hades. Still, he remains his master. Iceman is relieved that the cavalry’s arrived and figures it’s time for him to cut loose. He unleashes waves of ice that freeze the Amazons in their tracks. Their leader calls for her sisters to use their swords and hack themselves free. They can then turn their sharp steel on those who attempt to keep the goddess from them.

Angel notices that both the Harpies and Amazons are recovering quickly, and also sees the mutates approaching. Venus asks the Black Widow to delay them as long as she can, and asks Warren to fly her above their attacker. Warren does as requested, and Natasha uses her stinging widow’s bite to keep the mutates at bay. Once airborne, Dr. Starr reveals her true colors and, as her green outfit becomes the pink costume of Venus, she uses the golden girdle around her waist to try and affect their assailants.

Venus has the power of love over man and god, but her powers affect the mutates differently than she anticipated. They bend their knees as their minds begin to reel. This renders them harmless. Hercules congratulates his cousin, but says that, given time, he could have accomplished the same end. He asks if Natasha is okay, and she replies that she is, but she’s terribly confused. She asks what’s going on there.

Venus explains that apparently their foes were seeking to capture her for some reason. Iceman comments that one could hardly blame them for that, but the Ghost guy said the mutates were after Hercules. Angel wonders if someone else may be involved; somebody running the whole magilla.

Out of nowhere, a white blast causes the whole group to reel in agony. A voice from above tells Angel that he is indeed a base fool. Of course there is someone else behind the weaving of the day’s events. Someone with power enon to smite them all with but a single blast. Natasha can feel her strength draining from her, and Iceman feels like he’s been run over by a Mack truck. He sees another hole appearing, just like the ones the Amazons charged out of. Venus’s face widens in horror as she recognizes the new parties.

Hercules calls the newcomers villains. He tells them they have perpetrated their final scheme upon the prince of power, but he is told to be silent. The man standing before him brings a decree from Hercules’s own father - their lord, Zeus. “Heed the words of Pluto, Hercules, for the dread ruler of the underworld doth merely echo the words of Zeus.” He informs Hercules that, before the day is done, he shall wed Hippolyta, standing to his left, queen of the Amazons, and serve loyally as her prince consort. Venus, on the other hand, will become the spouse of Ares, standing to Pluto’s right. Should either of them resist these matches, he adds, “The universe dies!”

Characters Involved: 

Angel, Black Widow, Ghost Rider, Hercules, Iceman


The Harpies
Amazon warriors

Dr. Victoria Starr / Venus
Richard Fenster

UCLA students
Ivan Petrovich

Story Notes: 

Up to this point, the Black Widow, who debuted in Tales of Suspense #52, had been an Avenger, had a solo run in Amazing Adventures and teamed up with Daredevil in his own title. Ghost Rider debuted in Marvel Spotlight #5 and, after a brief run in that title, he moved onto his own title, Ghost Rider (1st series). This continued throughout his tenure with the Champions. Hercules, the son of Zeus, first appeared in Incredible Hulk (1st series) #3. Like the Black Widow, he also enjoyed a period as a member of the Avengers, before moving on to an extended run in Thor’s solo series. Angel and Iceman both left the X-Men in X-Men (1st series) #94, when a new team took over.

While it would not be depicted until years later, Warren’s mother died in X-Men: The Hidden Years #15.

Beast joined the Avengers as a probationary member in Avengers (1st series) #137.

Ghost Rider was attacked by Trapster in Ghost Rider (1st series) #13.

Richard Fenster first appeared in Thor (1st series) #139.

Venus actually had her own series in the late 1940’s/early 1950’s.

Pluto, Cerberus, Hippolyta all first appeared between Thor (1st series) #127 to 131.

The lead mutate was defeated by Thor in Thor (1st series) #163.

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