Contest of Champions
is the name of two 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 powers, and then Warbird confronts the queen-in-Rogue's-body (her two favourite persons
) until the queen leaves Rogue's body. Then the heroes return to Earth.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.
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).
- Fridge Brilliance: The places where the fights took place (the Arctic, a wild west ghost town, the tomb of a Chinese emperor and the Amazon jungle) were all devoid of human life. This might have been a subtle clue to the identity of Grandmaster's challenger.
- Fridge Logic: If everyone on Earth was paralyzed during the game, shouldn't there have been millions of accidents as a result? Perhaps the players arranged it so they would not happen.
- Also, if only 24 heroes were needed, why gather *all of them?* Perhaps so they would not interfere with the contest?
- 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 later 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.
- 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.