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 in a crossover between Avengers annual #16 and the West Coast Avengers annual #2. 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.
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 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.
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 Implant? N
Reprinted In: Contest of Champions TPB
Inbound References (4): show
3-D Man, Ajak, American Eagle, Angel, Ant-Man (Scott Lang), Arabian Knight, Aurora, Beast, Black Bolt, Black Knight (Dane Whitman), Black Panther, Black Widow, Blitzkrieg, Blue Shield, Brother Voodoo, Captain America, Captain Britain, Collective Man, Collector, Colossus, Crimson Dynamo V, Crystal, Cyclops, Daredevil, Darkstar, Dazzler, Death, Defensor, Devil-Slayer, Doc Samson, Dr. Druid, Falcon, Gargoyle (Defender), Gorgon, Grandmaster, Guardian, Guardsman II, Gypsy Moth, Havok, Hawkeye, Hellcat, Hellstorm, Hercules, Hulk, Human Torch, Iceman, Igor, Ikaris, Invisible Woman, Iron Fist, Iron Man, Jack of Hearts, Jocasta, Ka-Zar, Karnak, Le Peregrine, Living Mummy, Lobo II, Lockjaw, Luke Cage, Machine Man, Madrox the Multiple Man, Medusa, Mikhlo, Mockingbird, Moon Knight, Moondragon, Mr. Fantastic, Namorita, Nightcrawler, Nighthawk (Squadron Supreme), Northstar, Paladin, Peator, Polaris, Professor X, Quasar, Quicksilver, Red Ghost, Red Wolf (Will Talltrees), Redwing, ROM, Sabra, Sasquatch, Scarlet Witch, Sersi, Shadowcat (Kitty Pryde), Shaman, Shamrock, Shanna the She-Devil, She-Hulk, Shroud, Snowbird, Spider-Man, Spider-Woman (Jessica Drew), Stingray, Storm, Sub-Mariner, Sunfire, Talisman (Australian), Texas Twister, Thing, Thor, Tigra, Torpedo, Triton, Uni-Power, Union Jack (Joey Chapman), Ursa Major, Valinor, Valkyrie, Vanguard, Vision, Wasp, Werewolf By Night, Whizzer, Wolverine, Wonder Man
A recent issue of "Back Issue" detailed the history of this series and what characters got redrawn into what other characters.
cant believe they missed a wheaties endorsement with this one.
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.
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!
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...
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