Dedicated to the definitive superhero non-team.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Pawns of the Grandmaster

Nighthawk may have reformed from a life of crime, but the Grandmaster wasn't about to forget his ties to the one-time villain. In Giant-Size Defenders #3, the extraterrestrial game-player forced Nighthawk to enlist the help of five other heroes and participate in a cosmic wager. Dr. Strange, Valkyrie, Sub-Mariner, Hulk, and Daredevil all accepted the challenge—some more begrudgingly than others.

Following the rules of the contest, the heroes squared off against animal-like creatures summoned by the intelligent robot called the Prime Mover. If the Defenders won, the Earth would be spared; if they lost, the Grandmaster would give the Prime Mover enough power to enslave the planet.

The Defenders won the challenge, yet their problems weren't over. The Grandmaster unexpectedly declared that the people of Earth were "uniquely suited to selective breeding to produce and entire world of super-powered pawns." Although the heroes were not strong enough to stop these plans, there was still hope.

Basically viewing Grandmaster as a compulsive gambler, Daredevil challenged him to a double-or-nothing coin toss. If the Grandmaster won, he would get the Earth and the moon. But the Grandmaster lost, relinquishing his claim on the planet. In the privacy of his own thoughts, the "man without fear" acknowledged that his extraordinary senses had enabled him to tell how the coin would land even before it was tossed.

Artistically ahead of its time, the issue included two pages where the dialogue and actions were described in typewritten prose, instead of through multi-panel scenes with word balloons.

Giant-Size Defenders #3. January 1975. "Games Godlings Play!" Steve Gerber, Jim Starlin, and Lein Wein plotted this tale together. Then Jim did the layouts, Steve wrote the script, and Dan Adkins, Don Newton and Jim Mooney finished the art. Charlotte Jetter lettered it, Glynis Wein colored it, Roy Thomas edited it, and aren't these credits ridiculously complicated?

Nighthawk battled the "man without fear" in Daredevil #62 (reprinted in Giant-Size Defenders #5).


The Groovy Agent said...

Excellent summary of a fabulous issue! Those pages with the prose/art blew my mind the first time I saw them. Gerber and Starlin were geniuses who were always experimenting and moving the medium forward.

The only thing that marred the whole issue was the ending; according to the dialogue, DD won the coin toss, but if you look at the art, the Grandmaster won. I think some lucky dude got a no-prize in the next issue for catching that gaffe.

I really dig this blog!

Anonymous said...

Another great entry! I'll have to look for that Daredevil issue now!

Anonymous said...

My dream Defenders creative team would have been Steve Gerber and Jim Starlin OR Steve Gerber/Keith Giffen/Klaus Janson

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