Comic Book / Contest of Champions

http://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/contest.jpg
The first Contest.
Contest of Champions is the name of three Marvel Comics Mini Series that featured superheroes being forced to fight against each other.

The first series, published in 1982, was the first limited series produced by the company as well as the precursor to the concept of the Crisis Crossover. It was originally conceived as a tie-in to the next Olympic Games. Although the deal fell through, Marvel still published the story without any sports-related material. It was written by Mark Gruenwald, who included pages describing the various heroes in each issue, which began the concept of the "superhero encyclopedia" that would later be expanded into the Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe.

In its story, an immortal alien called The Grandmaster gathers all of Earth's superheroes and chooses some of them as pawns in a game with a mysterious hooded woman (revealed in the end to be Death itself) with the resurrection of his brother, The Collector, as the prize, and all of humanity as hostages. Ultimately his team wins but he must die to bring his brother back to life, which he agrees to do.

The story was adapted as an episode of the animated series Fantastic Four: World's Greatest Heroes, but using only characters from that series.

In Contest of Champions II, Earth's heroes are abducted by aliens who organize a friendly tournament, or so they say. In fact, they have the surrounding areas full of nanites that cause the violent tendences to rise, leaving only Iron Man (due to sealing his armor) and Shadowcat (due to her intangibility) with a clear mind. Eventually, the aliens reveal themselves to be the Brood, who use the tournament as a way to pick the better hosts among the heroes. The Brood Queen uses Rogue's powers against herself to possess her body, and then takes the powers of the tournament champions. Some of the losing heroes oppose her until she loses most of her powers, and then Warbird confronts the queen-in-Rogue's-body until the queen leaves Rogue's body. Then the heroes return to Earth.

The third series starts after the end of Secret Wars (2015), with The Maestro and The Collector having set up a death-match tournament on the shattered remains of Battleworld, where the heroes and villains of different worlds fight for their cause. The prize itself is nothing less than power over every reality.

Contest of Champions II was written by Chris Claremont, with issues 1 to 3 penciled by Oscar Jimenez and inked by Eduardo Alpuente, issue 4 penciled by Michael Ryan and issue 5 penciled by Jimenez and inked by Ryan.

A third series called Contest of Champions, which is a tie-in to the video game Marvel: Contest of Champions, launched as part of All-New, All-Different Marvel in 2015. The series is written by Al Ewing.

The first series was also loosely adapted as the multi-part Season 3 finale of Ultimate Spider-Man.

Tropes used in Contest of Champions I:

  • Anthropomorphic Personification: Death.
  • Balancing Death's Books
  • Blatant Lies: The Grandmaster promises Earth's heroes that he would never use them as pawns again if they won for him. He (or more likely, the writer) seems to have forgotten about this since.
  • Captain Ethnic: Some of the International Heroes used can be seen as this.
  • The Chessmaster: The Grandmaster. Not so much for his acts here, as for the later revelations of his true plan. (See Thanatos Gambit below.)
  • Cosmic Entity: Both The Grandmaster and Death.
  • Excuse Plot: It was all a means to show off Marvel's International Superheroes (for once).
  • Honor Before Reason: The Grandmaster apparently.
  • A House Divided: None of the heroes worked together, not even with their own teammates. This may have been just so they would be free to fight their rivals one-on-one.
    • Some of the ethnic heroes refused to work together because of their national conflicts; e.g., the Egyptian Arabian Knight and the Israeli Sabra.
  • Let's You and Him Fight: The heroes needed very little provocation to fight each other. The matches were:note 
  • Loads and Loads of Characters: Every superhero on Earth, in fact, though only 24 (12 on each side) actually participated in the "game" and six of them were all-new heroes.
  • Multinational Team: The playing teams can be seen as this, though the American heroes outnumbered the non-American ones. The latter were:
    • Blitzkrieg (Germany), Collective Man (China), Defensor (Argentina, though erroneously indicated to be from Brazil), Peregrine (France), Shamrock (Ireland), Talisman (Australia), Sunfire (Japan), Darkstar (the Soviet Union), Vanguard (also Soviet), Sabra (Israel), Arabian Knight (Egypt) and Sasquatch (Canada).
      • Wolverine is from Canada, but most of the time works in the United States with the X-Men.
      • Also in the X-Men, Storm grew up in Africa but was born in New York.
      • Black Panther comes from his own fictional African country, Wakanda.
      • The Black Knight inherited the identity of a British medieval hero but was born in Massachusetts and is active in America.
      • Iron Fist is also an American raised in a Chinese mystical land, but now lives in America.
  • Original Generation: The heroes Blitzkrieg, Collective Man, Defensor, Peregrine, Shamrock and Talisman all were created for this series. (The other international heroes used had been introduced before.)
  • Plot Coupon: The Globe of Life, whose four parts were hidden on four different parts of the Earth for the heroes to find. It was needed to resurrect the Collector.
  • Race Lift: Talisman is supposedly an Australian Aborigine, but is drawn as if he were a bald white man and colored brown.
  • The Reveal: Death kept her identity secret until the last issue, though fans of the Adam Warlock series might have recognized her earlier.
  • Sci-Fi Writers Have No Sense of Scale: The unknown rival tried to entice her team by offering to extend the existence of Earth's sun by a million years if they won. Unfortunately for her, the sun has still about a billion years left so a million would be an insignificant addition. Not to mention that humanity might not even exist by the time it winks out.
  • Series Continuity Error: The plot got resolved only because the writer forgot who was on whose team: It would have resulted in a draw otherwise.
  • Thanatos Gambit: It was later revealed (perhaps retconned) in an issue of The Avengers that the Grandmaster knew what the price for reviving his brother was all along; in fact, that was his true plan: to die so he could be allowed into Death's realm—to take it over! Then it's inverted. After the Grandmaster was defeated by the Avengers, Death exiled him from her realm forever, thus giving him what he really wanted from the start: true immortality.

http://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/contest_of_champ.jpg
The third Contest.

Tropes used in Contest of Champions (2015):

  • Adaptation Expansion: The comic has a much more concrete storyline, in contrast to the Let's You and Him Fight Excuse Plot of the game.
  • All Just a Dream: When Tony is dismissed by the Collector, everyone thinks he was vaporized, leaving only his damages suit behind. Instead he was returned home, where he wakes up in bed and convinces himself it was all just a dream.
  • An Arm and a Leg: Venom's right hand is sliced off by Ares, but it doesn't phase him much.
  • Anyone Can Die: Ewing says that unlike the game, characters can (and will) die on Battlerealm.
  • Back for the Dead: The Sentry from Earth-1611 - who first appeared in 2008's The Age of the Sentry #1 - is killed by Punisher 2099.
  • Back from the Dead:
    • Ares makes his return after having been killed by the Sentry during Siege, only as issue 2 reveals without actually having come back in the first place (he was dragged out of the afterlife to fight).
    • Daredevil's mentor Stick is also resurrected as one of the Maestro's fighters.
    • In issue 3, the Maestro brings back Night Thrasher. Though Issue 4 kinda of averts this as they reveal that he never really died in the Stamford incident due to the Collector's intervention. Dwayne was less than pleased that Collector took away his ability to at least die with dignity alongside his teammates after the colossal screw-up which caused the first Civil War event.
  • Big Bad: The Collector and the Maestro on one side, The Grandmaster and Punisher 2099 on the other.
  • Badass Cape: Venom wears the shredded remains of Spider-Man's costume as a cape. Maestro takes it as an indicator that this incarnation of Eddie Brock was Ax-Crazy enough to go through with killing Spider-Man, and considers recruiting Carnage to oppose him.
  • Beyond the Impossible: The crystals warriors are kept in are meant to keep them out until they're needed. Ares manages to wake up and break out of his, something the characters thought was impossible.
  • The Cameo: Phobos of Secret Warriors makes a brief appearance in the Elysian Fields with his father in issue #2.
  • Canon Immigrant: Contest of Champions marks the official debut of White Fox, a heroine from South Korea. She made her first appearance in Avengers: Electric Rain, a Korean-only web manhwa launched to promote the South Korean release of Avengers: Age of Ultron.
    • Guillotine is a unique case. She was created for the video game, but technically appeared in the comic first since the first issue was released before she was added to the in-game roster.
  • C-List Fodder: When choosing fighters from the mainstream Marvel Universe, the Maestro and the Collector purposefully go for lesser known characters whose disappearances won't garner a lot of attention. The first confirmed fatality is Gun-R, a Korean superhero who had never appeared before this series.
  • Continuity Nod:
    • Tony Stark mistakes The Maestro for a different future Hulk he's met, the one from the opening arc of Avengers Vol 4.
    • The Grandmaster states in issue #2 that he swore a long while back not to interfere with Earth-616 anymore, as happened way back in the first competition, which is why none of his choices are from there.
    • When Phobos appears, the narration notes his involvement in the events of Secret Warriors.
    • In issue 3, the two teams are sent to a universe based on Ultimate End.
  • Cool People Rebel Against Authority: Rick Jones Hulk has this attitude, complaining to Venom about "the Man" always trying to control him.
  • Cool Sword: Guillotine's blade is capable of cutting through pretty much anything, including the near-indestructible shield of Captain America. It can also uses the spirits of its previous owners to attack anyone it doesn't want to touch. The only setback is that it's alive, bloodthirsty, and wielding it means the owner's soul is bound to it forever.
  • Dangerously Genre Savvy: The Maestro declines to kidnap any S.H.I.E.L.D. agents or Inhumans, on the grounds that someone would likely notice and find out about them.
  • Dead Alternate Counterpart:
    • Bullseye murdered her reality's Daredevil, and Foggy Nelson for good measure.
    • Before the story began, the Maestro murdered an alternate Tony Stark and stole his armour.
    • Madame Hydra had her world's Night Thrasher personally executed, and is shocked to see his Earth-616 counterpart alive and well. Night Thrasher kicks her in the face on the behalf of his late alternate self.
  • Do Not Call Me Paul: As can be imagined, The Maestro is very insistent he is no longer Bruce Banner.
  • Enemy Mine: Stick and the Sentry arrange a secret alliance to betray everyone. They're one-upped by Maestro and Punisher 2099, who kill them and reveal they arranged an alliance even earlier.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: In the All-New, All-Different Marvel Point One one-shot that serves as a prologue, the Maestro rejects Carnage as an option, for being too crazy for him.
  • Everything's Better with Dinosaurs: Devil Dinosaur appears in the first issue. A Hydra Devil Dinosaur. Then Gamora kills it.
  • Evil Smells Bad: Gomora remarks that the Venom they're up against smells much fouler than the one she's comrades with.
  • Expendable Alternate Universe: For the same reasons listed in C-list fodder, prominent Marvel Universe heroes are off-limits as anything other than ringers. To work around this, the Grandmaster instead kidnaps alternate universe versions of prominent characters like Venom and the Hulk.
  • Fantastic Racism: Guillotine's blade refuses to strike Venom, since it regards alien blood as "unclean".
  • For Want of a Nail: Most of the Grandmaster's fighters are from alternate universes that are similar to the mainstream universe, but with some very significant divergences. For instance, Venom managed to kill his world's Spider-Man, while The Incredible Hulk never evolved out of his Joe Fixit persona from the 1980's.
  • Genre Throwback: One of the contestants is The Sentry from "The Age Of The Sentry", so he talks like a Silver Age superhero, and acts like one too.
  • Goofy Print Underwear: Underneath his symbiote, all Eddie Brock has on is his Spider-Man boxer shorts.
  • Groin Attack: Ares tries one of these on The Maestro. It actually works.
  • Hearing Voices: Venom has auditory hallucinations of Peter Parker, and acts as though they're best friends.
  • Hero of Another Story: Gun-R, a Korean superhero who'd been violently killed in the games, was supposedly one of South Korea's most famous superheroes.
  • Hyperspace Arsenal: Maestro's armour stores weapons he's taken from the champions of other universes, and allows him to teleport them in on command.
  • Irony: According to Word Of God, at one point, the Contest of Champions video game was going to be a loose adaptation of the original Secret Wars crossover. Though this was abandoned, the new series is now connected to the 2015 Secret Wars series.
  • The Knights Who Say Squee: Outlaw is awestruck when he meets Night Thrasher.
  • Knight Templar: Bullseye describes her reality's Stick as one of these, dismissing anyone who didn't measure up to his standards.
  • Know When to Fold 'Em: Why Stick isn't fighting the Maestro. He's a blind martial artist, and the Maestro is a Hulk. He can't win that fight, and he knows it. He advises everyone else to do the same, but gets ignored. Ares, not normally one to listen to anybody, takes his advice.
    Stick: You can't fight 'em. You think nobody's tried. She tried-
    Guillotine: Oui. I tried, and wound up right back in my crystal. While you stood and watched.
    Stick: 'cause I'm not a damn idiot. You fight someone you're not ready to fight, you lose. Every time. Be smart, you heroes. Keep it in your damn pants for a change.
  • Laser-Guided Amnesia: The fate of any Ringer sent home, so as to prevent them from telling about the contest.
  • Late-Arrival Spoiler: Like most of the All-New, All-Different Marvel titles, this series gives away the ending to Secret Wars (and that Battleworld was abandoned after whatever went down there), due to that series not having ended before this one started.
  • Legacy Character: Guillotine is one, going all the way back to the French Revolution. Not by choice, though. The cursed sword her family has wielded insists on it's wielder continuing the line. Some of her ancestors have been heroes, some decidedly not.
  • Let's You and Him Fight: The whole plot revolves aroung the Collector and the Grandmaster plucking heroes and villains from across the Multiverse to fight in a Multiplayer Online Battle Arena-style tournament.
  • Living Legend: Night Thrasher is lauded by Outlaw as Captain America + Black Panther + Iron Man.
  • Macguffin: The Iso-8 (or Neutronium, if you like), a whole sphere of which grants it's wielder reality-warping power. The Collector has almost a whole sphere, and The Grandmaster has the remaining chunk. The whole contest is to see who gets to keep all of it (and naturally, The Maestro wants it for himself).
  • Multinational Team: White Fox (South Korea), Guillotine (France), Outlaw (England), and many more.
  • Mummies at the Dinner Table: Venom keeps part of his universe's Spider-Man's uniform tied around his neck, and talks to it as though it were the real Peter Parker. Strangely, he seems to think he and Spidey are best friends, despite the fact that he killed Spider-Man in the first place.
  • Mythology Gag:
    • The universal designation for the "Ultimate End" reality is Earth-61610, a mix of the Marvel U's Earth-616, and Ultimate Marvel's Earth-1610.
    • Bullseye's comments regarding Guillotine are inversion of what regular Bullseye said to Elektra when he killed her, all the way back when. Added irony for it being an Elektra saying it to someone else.
  • Nice Job Fixing It, Villain: The Maestro and the Collector think that using D-list heroes will prevent anyone outside of Battlerealm from realizing what is happening. Instead, the death of an obscure Korean hero named Gun-R is what causes White Fox to begin investigating the disappearances.
  • Non-Action Big Bad: The Collector. Justified, as without the Iso-8 Sphere, he's a somewhat fragile immortal. He has to resort to threats, bluffs and aforementioned sphere to keep everyone doing what he says.
  • The Nothing After Death: What Stick experienced after dying, as opposed to going to some manner of afterlife.
  • Off with His Head!: Ares kills Joe Fixit this way in issue 4.
  • Original Generation: The comic introduces a French heroine named Guillotine.
  • Patchwork World: Battlerealm
  • Plot Armor: Enforced Trope. The creators have said that while big time heroes like Iron Man, Hawkeye, Captain Marvel and the new Captain America can show up, they only do so as "ringers" that get mindwiped and sent back home after their fights.
    • This is stated in-universe in the All-New, All-Different Marvel Point One one-shot. The Collector and the Maestro steer clear of kidnapping prominent heroes like the Avengers or the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. out of fear that their absence will be noticed and bring unwanted attention to Battlerealm.
  • Pragmatic Adaptation: The comic adapts the events of the game for the mainstream Marvel Universe canon, tying it to the fallout from Secret Wars.
    • The video game is outside of Marvel canon, and as such, has a mixture of current outfits/identities (such as Carol Danvers as Captain Marvel) and classic ones (such as Venom being Eddie Brock instead of Flash Thompson). In order to make sense of this in the comic (which takes place in the Marvel Universe and is explicitly canon), Al Ewing made it so that one team largely consists of Alternate Universe characters instead of the current, mainline Marvel characters. Thus, we get the modern versions of Iron Man and Captain America fighting alongside the classic versions of other heroes and villains without any resulting Continuity Snarls.
  • Retired Badass: Nigel Higgins, aka Outlaw, the British Punisher. Or he was, until he gets dragged into the contest.
  • The Reveal:
    • In the one-shot that introduces the series, the Silver-Age style Sentry from The Age of the Sentry appears briefly. Issues 2 and 5 reveals that he can turn into The Void, like his Earth-616 counterpart once could.
    • Issue 2 reveals the Grandmaster's partner in the game. The Punisher 2099.
    • Issue 4: The Maestro and Gallows are working together.
  • Revenge: Ares wants revenge on The Sentry for tearing him in half and strewing his guts across Asgard, either not knowing or caring that he's not the same Sentry as the one who did that to him.
  • Running Gag: People mistaking Outlaw for a pirate Punisher.
  • Super-Powered Evil Side: The Void briefly takes over the Sentry twice, knocking out most of the other combatants the second time.
  • Super Senses: White Fox has astoundingly good smell, able to distinguish what reality something is from (or isn't, in some cases).
  • Technical Pacifist:
    • Outlaw has sworn off killing, but that doesn't mean he won't shoot your ass with his non-lethal ammunition (which still hurts like hell).
    • The Sentry doesn't want to fight, because if he does he risks the Void coming out. He will fight if he has to, but he won't kill.
  • Teeth-Clenched Teamwork: The Maestro isn't exactly happy about working for the Collector.
  • The Bus Came Back:
    • The Rick Jones Hulk is from an old issue of What If?.
    • The Sentry is explicitly stated in issue 4 to be the one from the Age of The Sentry miniseries.
  • The Masquerade Will Kill Your Dating Life: Back home, Guillotine had to deal with a Parisian inspector who wanted nothing better than to remove her bloodline's influence on his city, unaware the woman he was chasing was his own fiancée.
  • Time Crash: The remains of Battlerealm, according to the opening narration of the prologue.
  • Totally Radical: The retro-60s Rick Jones Hulk mixes this with Hulk Speak for a strange effect.