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Friday, January 7, 2011

Contest of Champions

In what arguably was the first limited series in comics, Grandmaster and the personified entity of Death mystically transported almost every hero on Earth for consideration in the three-issue Contest of Champions (June, July, August 1982).

Dr. Strange, Mr. Fantastic, Professor X, and other leading minds tried to discern why everyone had been summoned until Grandmaster and Death finally outlined the rules of the competition.

In four scavenger hunts situated on different parts of the Earth, three heroes from each side would compete against each other to locate a corner of a mystic globe. If Death's team won, she would add one-million years to the life of Earth's Sun. If Grandmaster's team won, he would stop using Earth's heroes in competitions.

Grandmaster chose:

  • Captain America, Talisman, Darkstar, Captain Britain, Wolverine, Defensor, Sasquatch, She-Hulk, Daredevil, Peregrine, Thing, and Blitzkrieg.
Death selected:
  • Iron Man, Vanguard, Shamrock, Iron Fist, Storm, Arabian Knight, Sabra, Invisible Girl, Angel, Black Panther, Sunfire, and Collective Man.

Official ground rules stated that participation was limited to humans (including mutants). That forbade androids, extraterrestrials, and gods from taking part in this particular competition.

I'd like to imagine that some additional ground rules also came into play.

Given that all 24 of the chosen heroes participated without question, Grandmaster and Death may have sensed which of the summoned heroes felt strongly enough to fight for one cause over the other (further narrowing which combatants were available to each side). This interpretation adds depth to the series by revealing the characters' values. It's telling that Daredevil, who had outsmarted the Grandmaster once (Giant-Size Defenders #3), now fought for Grandmaster's conditional pledge to stop coercing Earth's heroes into battle.

Another unspoken rule must have been that in the event of a tie, Death won. This explains why Death declared herself victorious at the end of the series even though Grandmaster's team won two of the four challenges.

Contest of Champions was reminiscent of an earlier challenge between Grandmaster and the time-traveler Kang, which pinned Nighthawk and other members of the Squadron Sinister against four of Earth's mightiest heroes: Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, and Goliath (Clint Barton).

Each of those one-on-one battles also took place on a different part of the Earth (Avengers #70).

1 comment:

Brian said...

I loved Contest of Champions. Though most of the heroes created for the miniseries pretty much disappeared afterward, it was nice to see those cool additions from other countries. I remember picking up each issue and being excited about seeing my heroes fighting each other!

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