Marvel Treasury Edition #25
Issue(s): Marvel Treasury Edition #25
So what was it about this particular issue that made me break down and get a Treasury sized book? Well first off all there's just my completionist nature; it's one of the few issues to have a full-length story that hasn't been reprinted. But this issue is also "important" (as always, relatively speaking) for two reasons. The first is that it introduces the Mole Man's super-powered Outcasts and is a chapter in the wars of Subterranea and Bill Mantlo's treatment of the Mole Man as a sympathetic character. The second is that this is a thematic prequel to Contest of Champions.
You're probably aware that Contest of Champions, Marvel's first line-wide limited series "event", was originally intended as a tie-in for the 1980 Olympics. When the US pulled out of the Summer Olympics, Marvel decided not to publish the issue, but no one told the inker, Pablo Marcos, and a couple years later he turned in the pages and Marvel reconfigured the story to update the continuity and then released it in the new limited series format, and the rest is history. But it was originally going to be a Treasury book, like this one. This story takes place during the 1980 Winter Olympics, which the US did participate in (in fact, it was held at Lake Placid in upstate New York, where this story is set). This story, with the same writing team as Contest of Champions, is very specifically an Olympics story; i don't know if when Contest of Champions was going to be a direct Summer Olympics tie-in it might have also more specifically referenced the Olympics, at least in the script if not the plot & art (it seems the answer here is yes, even in the art). One thing that is for sure is that this story drops the phrase "Contest of Champions" a number of times. So it's interesting to see this as a kind of prototype for Contest of Champions.
The story opens with the Outcasts kidnapping a Soviet figure skater named Maria Karsov. Peter Parker, covering the Olympics as a photographer for the Daily Globe, arrives on the scene as Spider-Man.
The Outcasts - Digger, Landslide, Boulder, and Water Witch - have powers that are self-explanatory.
They're able to hold Spider-Man off, but the twist is that they say they mean no harm to Karsov.
However, while they're fighting, Karsov is captured in a giant gem and pulled below the surface.
The Outcasts worry what their "master" will think about that, and consider trying to catch Spider-Man so that they can prove he interfered, but they are driven away by the authorities, who bring with them bright lights that the Outcasts are very vulnerable to. So the Outcasts flee, and so does Spidey.
It turns out that Karsov is the third Olympic athlete to have been kidnapped. The first two were Claude LeBron, a French bobsledder, and Bobby Kyle, a Canadian hockey player.
Unbeknownst to everyone at the Olympic village, another kidnappee is the Hulk. And we learn that the Lava Men are involved in the kidnappings.
Of course, no puny gem is going to hold the Hulk.
"Fire Men are called Lava Men?" has to be one of the best lines of dialogue ever written.
After several pages of the Hulk terrorizing the poor Lava Men, he chases them into a cave and meets their mistress. It's Kala, a Subterranean ruler with only two appearances prior to this, one in 1963 and one in 1972.
The next kidnapping victim is another athlete, this time the American skier, Brad Rossi, who happens to have gone to Midtown High School with Peter.
After he is kidnapped...
...Peter tries to investigate as Spider-Man, but runs into the Outcasts again, and this time they capture him. He wakes up in the Mole Man's lair.
The story is that Kala is fighting the Mole Man for access to the Fountain of Youth, which the Mole Man now controls after the defeat of Tyrannus. There is a big underground war going on.
The Mole Man identifies the Outcasts as "surface humans who chose to dwell in my kingdom because they were unwanted on the surface". I wonder if they are mutants that might have otherwise become Morlocks. Interesting possibilities there.
Both sides feel like they need reinforcements. Mole Man tries to recruit Spider-Man to help him, noting that he's tried to stop Kala from kidnapping the Olympic athletes but also threatening to level the Olympic village with one of his Earth-Mover devices.
The Lava Men, meanwhile, comically struggle to get the Hulk into some gladiator gear while Kala tries to feed the Hulk enough mind-controlling drugs to actually affect the massive brute.
Since he's clearly not ready, Kala turns to the athletes that she's kidnapped. The dialogue is clunky, with silly exposition that no one would actually say ("Though you may have the power to translate...") and people finishing each other's sentences just because there's no more room in the panel.
Rossi's girlfriend Heather is also kidnapped, and she knows right away what's going on.
But when Heather is zapped with an aging ray, the Olympic athletes feel compelled to agree to fight.
If you're wondering what a bunch of Olympic athletes are going to do in a war between two Subterranean races, you just haven't read enough comic books.
Oh my god, everything about that is so awesome.
But it actually doesn't come down to total war anyway. The Mole Man calls up Kala and suggests that instead they have a Contest of Champions.
Kala agrees, knowing that she has a ringer in the Hulk, who her troops have finally managed to get into the gladiator gear.
For whatever reason, the two Subterranean rulers decide to have their Contest on the Olympic fields.
"Miraculously, no one is killed!" as the fields are raised above the ground.
When the Mole Man sees that Kala is using the Hulk, he brings out Spider-Man, not that Spider-Man is exactly equal to the Hulk in fighting ability.
It does say something about the Mole Man that he was willing to let the contest be his Outcasts vs. Kala's super-athletes until she cheated. But that does raise a question. We can accept that the way Mantlo is writing the Mole Man, he'll honorably abide by the contest and grant access to the Fountain of Youth if his side loses. But Kala is clearly cheating. So if she loses, won't she also just start the war up again? So what does the Mole Man gain from this? As it turns out, it's a moot point, but he does seem a little gullible here.
So, big fight. Hulk's armor doesn't last long.
The writing is definitely a dumbed down kiddie oriented affair, which isn't surprising considering that Marvel probably expected a younger audience to be included due to the Olympics tie-in.
The other members of the contest each have their own little game to play. Boulder is trying to score a goal on the hockey player, the ice skater has to skate close enough to touch the Water Witch, etc..
Kala also tries to cheat by having her Lava Men bomb the field, but she didn't count on Maria Karsov's Communist-nurtured sense of fairness.
During the battle, Kala's helmet is broken, resulting in her rapidly aging. This renders her unrecognizable or maybe unworthy to her Lava Men subjects, effectively ending the war (Kala actually had humanoid subjects at one time, but it's said that she's been banished from that kingdom).
Mole Man takes pity on Kala and agrees to let her use the Fountain anyway, but Brad Rossi's girlfriend Heather shows up to say that she escaped and found the Fountain of Youth, but that it's now destroyed.
Mole Man takes Kala in to his kingdom anyway, because everyone is beautiful in the dark.
The Hulk then pounds the Olympic fields back into the ground and leaves, and Spidey has a final message for us.
As i said, a silly story, but fun. Herb Trimpe's art always has a Jack Kirby-esque style that i very much enjoy at the Treasury size.
There's a two page spread where we see some other denizens of Marvel (characters and creators) at the Olympics. I'm going to split it in half for crowd spotting purposes. On the left, we can see the Fantastic Four, Daredevil, and Black Widow. I think that's also probably Dr. Strange behind Peter Parker, but the MCP doesn't list him.
On the right we have the backs of the heads of artist Herb Trimpe and his wife Linda Fite, identified by dialogue. Don't know if they guy with the glasses or the guy with the cigar are supposed to be anyone.
Just Easter Egg cameos, but it does make you wonder why the the FF and DD & BW didn't help out during the fight!
The inside back cover advertises the upcoming Marvel Super Heroes at the Summer Olympics story.
It doesn't happen quite that way and it definitely wasn't coming that summer, but that will of course eventually be Contest of Champions.
Quality Rating: C-
Chronological Placement Considerations: This issue is context free (except Peter is working for the Globe, not the Bugle). I'm just placing this at publication date; it can fit into any regular gap in the various characters' appearances.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (4): showBlack Widow, Boulder (Outcasts), Daredevil, Digger (Outcasts), Hulk, Human Torch, Invisible Woman, Kala, Landslide, Mole Man, Mr. Fantastic, Spider-Man, Thing, Water Witch (Outcasts)
Kala being the Mole Man's bride is later forgotten about after this issue, except for Rom 28- Roy Thomas will explain that in 1991 as the Mole Man having forgotten about her.
Posted by: Michael | February 28, 2015 3:30 PM
I did notice in Hulk 250 that many of the heroes who would eventually show up in Contest of Champions showed up there first even if they had to push Contest of Champions back. I sort of assume from this that Hulk 250 was probably printed thinking the Contest of Champions/Summer Olympics crossover was going to go through in 1980 after all prior to the pushback. (but because of this, we instead get them introduced through the Hulk World Tour) Further thinking about who was in the Contest of Champions focus, having characters who were needing/getting more exposure (the X-Men such as Wolvie and Storm) and heroes who were just starting to emerge that year and could need exposure themselves (Shulkie falls in this category) ended up being the major players alongside the international heroes of the game between the Grandmaster and Death, thus showing it was written for 1980 and not 1982.
Posted by: Ataru320 | February 28, 2015 7:12 PM
That first paragraph does sound pretty mad Fnord, but we wouldn't want you any other way :)
Posted by: Berend | March 1, 2015 6:20 AM
Oh, now I have a better notion of why Contest of Champions summoned Olympians, Eternals and Asgardians only to announce that they could not participate. It was supposed to emulate the Olympics premise, as opposed to being a straight cosmic stakes tale.
Posted by: Luis Dantas | March 1, 2015 10:48 AM
Realizing now that Carol was in the ad for the original "Contest of Champions" pre-Avengers 200 and Annual 10, it sadly does make me think that Shulkie would have just been one of the "multitudes" or just not used altogether in the original plan. Its sort of sad but it does also sort of show how Jen just ended up a survivor in the midst of Carol's crummy send-off (pre-Binary and beyond) and what would ultimately happen to Jess. (plus someone suggested she was out of her leagues against Tony...well who knows, maybe the Grandmaster helped her tap into her Hulk potential ;p)
Posted by: Ataru320 | June 6, 2015 9:58 PM
In that crowd panel, doesn't anyone wonder why Matt Murdock, a blind man, is enthusiastically "watching" the ski jump contest?
Posted by: Tuomas | June 24, 2015 4:42 AM
Along those same lines, Natasha is POINTING at the skier for the benefit of... who? It seems she's there with Matt and he's the only one who is really in a position to follow what she's pointing at as he's essentially "looking" over her shoulder. But she's asking a LOT of his radar sense.
Posted by: Dan H. | July 8, 2017 4:23 PM
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