Contest of Champions #1-3
Issue(s): Contest of Champions #1, Contest of Champions #2, Contest of Champions #3
The story itself is very straightforward. Just about every known hero...
...plus a number of new heroes from around the world...
...are teleported to an arena in space.
A sub-set of the heroes are organized into two teams...
...one representing the Elder of the Universe known as the Grandmaster, and the other representing a mystery character...
...who turns out to be the incarnation of Death.
If the Grandmaster's team wins, he gets his brother the Collector back from the dead. If Death's team wins, the Grandmaster dies. If the heroes refuse to participate, the Earth will be held in suspended animation for all eternity.
Since nothing was compelling the heroes to try their hardest, it might have been clever for Death's team to just let the Grandmaster's team win, but everyone's too earnest for that and no one challenges the set-up. So instead, lots of fights.
Straightforward as the plot ought to be, the writers fumble it. In the final contest, Death's team wins, but it was incorrectly reported as a win for the Grandmaster's team. In reality, the Contest resulted in a tie, but the plot acted as if the Grandmaster had won (Grandmaster seems to have problems keeping the rules straight in his contests). Years later, this plot hole would be addressed (sort of) in a crossover between West Coast Avengers annual #2 and Avengers annual #16. In the meantime, here's what they say in the lettercol for Avengers #228:
And speaking of [No-Prizes], this editorial office recently awarded over 1000 n-p's to those nimble-eyed Marvel mavens who caught the scorekeeping error in Contest of Champions #3... Guess Death had the game rigged even more than we thought, letting G.M. win when he actually only tied.
The end result at this point is that the Collector is raised from the dead, but there's a catch - the Grandmaster is required to give his own life to make it happen.
The heroes are then all returned to Earth.
This series introduces a number of heroes representing countries from around the world, including Shamrock from Ireland, Talisman from Australia, the apparently oddly named Le Peregrine from France...
...and Defensor from Argentina. None of these characters had much staying power. It also uses a number of obscure international characters (most previously created by Mantlo and introduced during Hulk's World Tour that ran from Hulk #256-261), including the Soviet Super Soldiers, Sabra from Israel, the Arabian Knight, and China's Collective Man.
The story isn't very good, but Romita's artwork is very nice, and the scene where all the characters are held in the arena and spend a little time talking with each other before the Grandmaster and Death show up is cute.
Quality Rating: C
Chronological Placement Considerations: From a continuity point of view, this is a bit of a headache, even after Bob Layton's effort to make sure the book gelled with current events. It has to take place while the Hulk is still "dumb" (so, before Hulk #269). It has to take place after the X-Men return from space (Uncanny X-Men #167; but see the Considerations section for Hulk #277-279 for an alternate placement for them). Takes place before Ka-Zar gets shot in the head (Ka-Zar the Savage #18). Has to take place after the Black Knight returns to the present day in Avengers #226. See the entries for Incredible Hulk Weekly and Marvel Super Heroes #377-383 regarding Captain Britain and the Black Knight's appearances.
The biggest conundrum is presented by the Defenders. Beginning in Defenders #106, the team is away in another dimension. Half of the team, including the Hulk, Sub-Mariner, and Dr. Strange (all of whom appear in this series), do not return until Defenders #115. But Nighthawk dies in issue #106, and the Devil-Slayer goes to jail some time after Defenders #110. Captain America #268 takes place directly before Defenders #106, and Captain America #276 takes place before Fantastic Four #250, which must take place before Uncanny X-Men #167 (see individual entries for the reasons why). And the X-Men issue must take place before Contest of Champions. We'd like the whole run of Defenders #106-115 to take place after Contest of Champions, so that Nighthawk can be alive and Devil-Slayer not incarcerated, but due to the above chain of events, it's just not possible.
To solve this, the MCP assumes that the Defenders run actually takes place before Contest of Champions. It solves the Nighthawk problem by assuming that the Nighthawk that appears here is actually the Squadron Supreme version. There's no evidence that this would be the case; no other heroes from the Squadron Supreme universe were included, for example. But there really isn't a better solution, so i've taken the same approach here. Luckily, Nighthawk doesn't actually talk in these issues.
It solves the Devil-Slayer problem seemingly just by ignoring it. That's not entirely negligent: Defenders #110 doesn't actually show Devil-Slayer going to jail. It just shows him working through his emotional problems and then there's an epilogue at the end that takes place "four months later" where Dr. Strange reads a letter from the Slayer's wife saying that he's voluntarily turned himself in. It's possible that some time in between the main story in Defenders #110 and the epilogue that the Devil-Slayer returned to visit Dr. Strange, and during the visit they were whisked away to the Contest. But it doesn't really work well; the idea is that after Slayer has his emotional breakthrough with his wife, he spends some time working out his issues and turns himself in. Nonetheless, we're stuck with that solution.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: Contest of Champions TPB
Inbound References (13): show
A recent issue of "Back Issue" detailed the history of this series and what characters got redrawn into what other characters.
Posted by: Mark Drummond | September 18, 2011 1:40 AM
cant believe they missed a wheaties endorsement with this one.
Posted by: kveto from prague | October 15, 2011 1:20 PM
Not only was this series intended to be a Summer Olympics Treasury, but Marvel also intended a separate Winter Olympics Treasury starring Spider-Man and the Hulk, to be written by Bill Mantlo and drawn bt Herb Trimpe.
Posted by: Mark Drummond | April 8, 2012 2:22 AM
If anything I just blame Korvac for the rule mess. The Grandmaster using Korvac in the mess of events last time lead to the whole massive set of events that lead to Korvac becoming a god, which lead to the Collector's death, which lead to Grandmaster using another game to get the Collector back and probably why Death took pity on him and gave him an extra point even when it was a tie.
And none of this would have been needed if Grandmaster just didn't use Korvac the first time!
Posted by: Ataru320 | July 24, 2013 4:38 PM
Just re-noticed Mark's comment: that Spider-Man & Hulk at the Winter Olympics story was published, in Marvel Treasury Edition #25. It actually has some (very minor) significance in that it's the first appearance of the Mole Man's super-outcasts (e.g. Landslide) and i think also shows some development in the Mole Man's relationship with Kala.
Having trouble getting my hands on it, though...
Posted by: fnord12 | July 24, 2013 5:09 PM
Geez someone even remembered Red Wolf.
Posted by: david banes | September 14, 2014 2:35 AM
Comic Book Legends Revealed just had a feature on how Ms.Marvel got changed into She-Hulk:
Posted by: Michael | June 5, 2015 10:57 PM
That CBR link also answers a question i had on the Marvel Treasury Edition #25 entry. It shows that the original art had some very specific Olympics stuff going on.
Posted by: fnord12 | June 5, 2015 11:14 PM
"We'd like the whole run of Defenders #106-115 to take place before Contest of Champions, so that Nighthawk can be alive and Devil-Slayer not incarcerated, but due to the above chain of events, it's just not possible..." Did you mean after?
Posted by: Morgan Wick | June 6, 2015 12:45 AM
Yup, thanks Morgan.
Posted by: fnord12 | June 6, 2015 11:33 AM
The Squadron Supreme Nighthawk "fix" may be with regards to Squadron-verse Nighthawk (and them mistaking him for their Nighthawk) in #112-114.
Posted by: Scott | November 26, 2015 5:04 PM
Every time I see the international heroes introduced in this miniseries I have an overwhelming urge to shout out "Ethnic stereotypes of the world unite!"
Posted by: Ben Herman | March 27, 2016 12:40 PM
Shouldn't the Black Knight still be a statue at this point? I thought the mini-series where they unfreeze him wasn't until 1990?
Posted by: Cradicus | August 16, 2016 3:24 AM
The Black Knight was restored in Avengers #225-226, then re-petrified in the 290s issues of Avengers. This is inside that gap.
Posted by: Omar Karindu | August 16, 2016 6:05 AM
IIRC, the second time he invoked the curse, he didn't turn into a literal statue. He had issues with mobility and needed an exo-skeleton.
From the wiki entry - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_Knight_(Dane_Whitman)#The_Blood_Curse
"When the Sub-Mariner used the sword to kill his wife Marrina, who had become a monster, the blood curse was revived. The curse began to transform Whitman's body into the same mystic metal as the blade. He was forced to don an exo-skeleton when the curse's creeping paralysis began to affect his mobility."
Posted by: clyde | August 16, 2016 12:02 PM
Hilariously, the "Argentinian" Defensor introduces himself in #2 as “Gabriel Carlos Dantes Sepulveda of Brazil”; I guess those South American countries are all alike, right?
Posted by: Matthew Bradley | June 6, 2017 4:16 PM
Fnord usually notes when there's some contradictory or complimentary examples of the Illuminati retcon, but he surprisingly missed one in this... during the crowd scenes in #1, there's one panel where Doctor Strange, Mr. Fantastic, Iron Man and Professor X are seen consulting together about what's going on and trying to solve the mystery.
Posted by: AF | July 7, 2017 1:00 PM
That's pretty funny. Probably Black Bolt was just off panel going "Dudes, be cool!"
Posted by: Andrew | July 7, 2017 9:45 PM
Someone should do a story featuring a battle in the streets of Paris between Le Perergrine and Batroc. Savate and stereotypical accents, climax at the Eiffel Tower!
Posted by: Brian Coffey | July 8, 2017 12:15 AM
That has the sounds of a Scott Lobdell Marvel Comics Presents story all over it.
Posted by: AF | July 8, 2017 6:03 AM
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