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Comic Book / Champions (1975)

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Holy crap, it's Hercules, Iceman, Black Widow, Ghost Rider, and Angel! But why? It makes no sense!

The Champions of Los Angeles — generally shortened down to simply "the Champions" up until another team came along with that name — was a West Coast Team of superheroes consisting of Hercules, Iceman, Angel, Black Widow, Ghost Rider, and a new character named Darkstar. Black Goliath (Bill Foster) also served as the team's scientific advisor. The team was created by Tony Isabella and Don Heck.

The history of why the team exists is interesting: at the time it came out, Giant-Size X-Men #1 had come out and the X-Men had become popular again, but, of the original five X-Men, Chris Claremont only wanted to use Cyclops and Jean Grey. Beast had already become a member of The Avengers, leaving the last two of the original X-Men, Iceman and Angel, in comic book limbo. So Tony Isabella came up with an idea to do a road-trip book with Angel and Iceman, but editor Len Wein insisted that the team have at least five members, including a woman, a strong man, and someone with their own book. Hence: Black Widow, Hercules, and Ghost Rider.

The book itself begins with Angel and Iceman attending UCLA as students. They quickly get roped into fighting the Greek god Pluto alongside Black Widow, Hercules, and Ghost Rider. After defeating Pluto, they decided to become a team operating out of Los Angeles, while Angel bankrolled with the group. During issue #10, a new member joined: Darkstar or Laynia Petrovna, a Russian superhero who was part of a team that was supposed to bring Black Widow back to Russia. Instead, she switched sides and joined the Champions, where Iceman developed a crush on her. At the end of the series, she told him she didn't feel the same way and then left for Russia again.

Tony Isabella wrote the first two issues, co-wrote the third with Bill Mantlo, and then passed off the writing duties to Chris Claremont for the fourth issue. Isabella returned with issue #5, with Bill Mantlo taking over with issue #8 and becoming the de facto writer for the rest of the book. The book itself ended with issue #17 and the team officially disbanded in Peter Parker, The Spectacular Spider-Man #18 (also written by Mantlo).

Despite the book ending in 1978, the team has occasionally gotten back together again. There was, surprisingly, an X-Force / Champions Annual in 1998 where the team reunited and teamed up with X-Force to battle Pluto again. The entire team has never really reunited since, although most of the members came back together Iceman vol 3 #6 to mourn the passing of Black Widow (don't worry, she got better) in a storyline called "Champions Reunited."

In 2016, a new team of teenage superheroes calling themselves the Champions would emerge and find a lot more success.

The 1975 Champions included the following tropes:

  • Action Girl: Black Widow, Darkstar
  • Battle Cry: Lampshaded by Iceman: "Too bad we don't have a catchy assembly call! Y'know like 'Champions Convene' or something!"
  • Butt-Monkey: The team itself after their book ended. For years, whenever the Champions were brought up, people either wondered how they were ever a team or made fun of them, culminating in Kate Bishop using the apparently arbitrary makeup of the team as a distraction for some mooks.
  • California University: Averted. The first few issues take place mainly on the campus of the completely real UCLA, where Iceman and Angel were attending as students, Black Widow was taking a job teaching the Russian language, and Hercules was there to give a lecture on Greek mythology.
  • Everybody Hates Hades: The first villain they face is Pluto. (He's also the last villain they face if you include the X-Force / Champions Annual.)
  • Heel–Face Turn: Darkstar
  • Home Base: Angel had the Champions Headquarters in a building he was constructing in downtown LA. Unfortunately, since construction took so long, the team actually broke up before it was ready, so the team's actual base was pretty much just Angel's home.
  • Sensual Slavs: Both Black Widow and Darkstar. Sexy Russian superheroines.
  • The Smurfette Principle: For the first nine issues, Black Widow was the only female member of the team. Thankfully, in issue #10, Darkstar joins the team.
  • West Coast Team: Marvel's first, predating the West Coast Avengers.
  • The Worm That Walks: One of the villains that first appeared in this book was Swarm, the Nazi made of bees. He went on to have a longer career than the book itself did.