Story Mark Gruenwald, Bill Mantlo and Steven Grant
Script Bill Mantlo
Pencils John Romita Jr.
Inks Pablo Marcos
Lettering Joe Rosen
Coloring Andy Yanchus and Patricia DeFalco
Additional Art Bob Layton
Cover Dated June 1982
Happy St. Patrick’s Day! What better way than to celebrate with the first appearance of Shamrock, Ireland’s leading superhero! I own five of her appearances, so we can do this for a little bit.
Contest of Champions was the very first Marvel Limited Series.
Issue opens with two cosmic characters, who are suppose to be a mystery at the moment. We get a classic floating heads of all the heroes by JRJR. Which is cool unless your favorite fictional character doesn’t really have a distinctive head.
Kitty has only had a few masks over her career. She had the classic X-Men black sock, and there was the time that sock had a giant yellow X on it. Her green and orange costume had green diamonds over her eyes and during Excalibur, she had the blue domino mask. For the most part, during these floating head montages, it is hard to figure out which brunette lady is suppose to be Kitty. There was a time that they would put her hair in a ponytail and that was how you could tell. Makes it hard when you are trying to collect every appearance and not sure if that is her only appearance in an issue. It all goes back to how you market yourself, I suppose.
The two cosmic beings have decided that they will use Earth’s superheroes in their contest as that planet has the most superbeings. One of them implies that the stakes are life and … death, which once the reveal happens, is a cheesy line.
We catch up with the Avengers, who at this time are – Captain America, Iron Man, Vision, Scarlet Witch, Wasp and the lousy Wonder Man. They are working out and are being treated to a guest, Beast. Vision and Iron Man are jogging. Wanda is testing Simon’s strength, or trying too, he’s complaining about how the weights are not heavy enough. He’s the worst.
Wasp and Captain America are doing their gymnastics routine and Beast is fouling it up, trying to be playful. Beast is there as the Defenders don’t have a fancy facility like the Avengers. To try to make it up to them, Beast challenges the Avengers to fight him, and if he can survive for a full minute, then they have to stop working out and party with him upstairs.
So the Avengers try to grab him, not working together so he prevails for the first thirty seconds. Then the team realizes that no one force can stop them when they are united and agree to work as a team. Which I like as that’s how their narration box starts at the beginning of their comic series. Which I like those little caption boxes, I’m pretty sure they are not used anymore but in the 80s, you couldn’t escape them. I liked how the Spider-Man titles had the same overall premise but would each have a few unique sentences to distinguish themselves.
Right as the Avengers are going to attack en mass, they and Beast are teleported away in a red glow.
Over in Russia’s Nonanya Zemiya, Red Ghost is fighting Russia’s Soviet Super Soldiers – Crimson Dynamo, Darkstar, Ursa Major and Vanguard. Which I really like crossovers and events as they work as wonderful time capsules on what was happening with comics at that time.
Due to Red Ghost having one of the best powers in the business, intangibility, he phases through most of their attacks and is able to counter many of them. Shame we don’t get to see any of his Space Apes, in these pages.
Darkstar is able to use her powers to imprison him, and tells her team to dismantle the machines. Then the heroes are teleported away in a red glow and I’m not sure if they did destroy the machines so Red Ghost is probably set up to cause those earthquakes now.
The Fantastic Four are at a party in their honor. Johnny and Ben are not enjoying themselves, and Sue is getting tired of them. Reed gets up to make a speech. Turns out, he’s only introducing Ben as that’s who they are there to hear from. Which is odd as why would the speaker introduce Reed so Reed can introduce Ben? Except for the surprise reveal. Which is also a jerk move as now Ben has nothing prepared to say. Good going, Reed! Luckily, they get teleported away and thus, Ben is only slightly embarrassed.
Alpha Flight are coming back from a mission where they were surrounded by nature. Half the team wishes they could be outside more and the other half are ready to get back to their lives. We are now entering the phase of the title where the characters are pretty much given two panels, one to show us the characters and the second to disappear.
The X-Men – Cyclops, Wolverine, Nightcrawler, Storm and the stupid Colossus are in the Danger Room. They are teleported away. We do not see Kitty or Xavier.
Iron Fist and Luke Cage are in Harlem, doing their business when they are teleported away.
Spider-Man is wall crawling and a guy is complaining about it when Spider-Man disappears. To the guy, it looks like he turned invisible. Whereas, other people actually see the red glow.
Hellcat and Valkyrie are enjoying a Dazzler show when all three disappear. No one notices the lady Defenders but they think Dazzler’s disappearance is part of her act. Good thing it was at the end of the show and not the beginning.
Moon Knight is telling Daredevil about the red glow and poor Daredevil can’t see it but he can feel it. They teleport away and I’m not sure what happens to Moon Knight’s helicopter, I suppose it crashes.
Ka-Zar and Shanna are teleported away from the Savage Land.
Dr. Strange and Devil-Slayer, the first character, I’m not familiar with, are both teleported away from Strange’s Sanctum Sanctorum.
Gypsy Moth is about to get a clear victory over Spider-Woman (the first one, the second one isn’t even a thought yet) when Spider-Woman disappears. Which I like that for the most part, the heroes were most relaxing or exercising and only a few were actually fighting anyone else.
Machine Man, who I thought was Stilt Man as his legs are super long.
Qusar is thanking Jack of Hearts for the assist. Poor Jack thinks that Quasar’s losing control over his energy powers as they disappear. This is the earliest of Jack of Hearts appearances, I mostly know him from the later days of Avengers, right before the Disassemble storyline.
Hulk is about to fight Doc Samson when they both teleport away. Poor Doc Samson looked like he just wanted to talk to the Hulk.
The Eternals disappear, and I’m not that familiar with them outside that they are creations of Jack Kirby.
Daimon Hellstrom disappears.
Red Wolf disappears.
Captain Britain disappears, unfortunately, he’s wearing that horrible Pre-Excalibur costume.
Black Knight disappears.
The Inhumans disappear, which are Black Bolt, Medusa, Crystal, Quicksilver, Gordon, Karnak, Triton and Lockjaw.
Then we get to the page of first appearances. France’s le Peregine, Australia’s Talisman, Argentina’s Defensor and Ireland’s Shamrock.
Isreal’s Sabra (not her first appearance), China’s Collective Man, Saudri Arabia’s Arabian Knight and West Germany’s Blitzkrieg, these last three all making their first appearance.
I like how these new characters are suppose to be the superhero representatives of their respected countries but they are not the Captain America’s of their countries. They have unique looks and powers.
In the back of the issue, along with what will one day become the format of the Official Handbooks of the Marvel Universe, is a brief origin of this limited series. It was meant to tie in with the 1980 Olympics but the United States boycotted so it no longer made sense to make a comic book tie in. So two years later, they updated these first pages so that it reflected the then continuity and they had their first Limited Series. There are hints that future limited series will star – Wolverine (amazing!), Hercules, Hawkeye and Vision. The last three, I’ve never heard of.
With the turn of the page, we get JRJR’s awesome two page spread of all the heroes in a giant ceiling stadium. I like how Daredevil is looking in a difference direction than most of the other heroes. Everyone is looking around and trying to figure out what is happening. Ant-Man is on Namor’s shoulder, which could have been a bad thing but the King of Atlantis lets it fly.
Then we get some fun pairings. Thor finds the External Icarus, neither knows what is up. Wolverine accuses Alpha Flight of being behind this, which is odd as this seems way out of their league. Beast makes a Big Foot joke to Sasquatch, “Do they call you Big Foot?” “No, they call me Sir” which is awesome as that’s not the Sasquatch I know.
Iron Man sees Russia’s Vanguard and Crimson Dynamo and suspects Russia is behind it, because its the early 80s. People are making horrible first impressions, and accusations.
Shamrock sees Captain Britain in his horrible costume and they are cold to each other as you know, Northern Ireland and England’s long lasting feud. Which is clever to show the heroes not being above it.
Iceman sees Darkstar and he likes her new costume. They were in the Champions together.
Machine Man and Vision meet up, and neither has any information in their stored memory banks to provide a clue.
Now we get confirmation that Kitty is there, as she’s standing with Colossus as Collective Man approaches. He wants to know why Colossus doesn’t serve Russia like how he does China. Colossus states it is because he wants to use his powers for the benefit of the entire world instead of one nation. Which I wish we had one or two more panels as what a jerk thing to say without some extra dialogue about how it would be an honor to represent one’s nation and such. Kitty gets no dialogue and the only hero she meets that isn’t already a teammate is Collective Man.
Black Panther finds Captain America, Cap is trying to figure out who could have teleported all of the heroes here.
Spider-Man and Spider-Woman both find each other, calling each other ‘Wall Crawler’ it is a cute single panel.
Thankfully, Dr. Druid and Hellstorm confirm that the devil isn’t behind it! Imagine if that was where the story was heading? Good thing Spider-Man doesn’t need or want for something as that could take the story into a third direction!
Black Knight, Arabian Knight and Defensor all would like a chance to test their swords against each other and so would I!
Windshear, Karnak and Namor are talking and Namor wants to get Dr. Strange’s input.
Human Torch tells Ben that every superhero on the planet is there. Quasar is surprised there are as many heroes as there are. Ben introduces Quasar to Johnny, which I like, as we could have gotten a slew of mini fights breaking out but instead people are in shock and trying to find friends or fellow swordsmiths.
Then we get the panel that will set us down a path, decades later. From this issue to Bendis’ New Avengers 7 (in 2005) 23 years later, we get the meeting. Xavier, Dr. Strange, Reed Richards and Iron Man find each other and huddle up. So amazing that Bendis saw this and created an entire history off of this. I like how Namor looking for Strange earlier plays into this. The only one missing is Black Bolt, and I imagine that he can’t ditch his fellow Inhumans so find this group. Mockingbird is standing close enough to the group, that you would think she would have been part of the group – representing super spies and women. Shanna is shown walking away from the group. Super fun how this would be thrown away panel actually is pretty cool in that the leaders of their respected fields are shown communicating and how long it takes to have this brought up again.
Then the big reveal happens. Grandmaster and a cloaked lady, who modern readers will instantly know who it is, arrive. It has taken this long to set up the premise.
Grandmaster wants to restore his brother, the Collector, back to life, he died during the Avengers’ Korvac Saga. He needs to pick 12 champions and his lady friend will pick 12 champions. If Grandmaster wins, his brother will be alive and if he loses, then he dies as well.
The heroes, naturally, get upset that this entire endeavor is a silly game to restore one bro’s life or have two dead bros.
Grandmaster tries to quiet them with the threat that if the heroes don’t play along the Earth will stay in its stasis field, forever!
So the rules are that the Globe of Life is going to get quartered and the heroes have to receive the pieces. Who gets the most pieces, wins.
Before they chose, they exclude some groups such as all the immortals, the Inhumans, the Atlanteans (who should just be Namor at this point), Eternals and the aliens to to the planet. So Thor is probably eliminated. Thus, making this as fair of a fight as possible.
Grandmaster chooses Captain America first, which makes sense, go for the best. Cap isn’t thrilled about the situation and Grandmaster, reading his thoughts, announces if he wins, he will not bother Earth again.
So the issue ends with the two teams chosen. Since I’m not planning on reviewing the next three parts (Kitty is in all three) and Shamrock isn’t in the second part so next year, the plan is to review the third one, unless I do it before then. The cloak lady is Death, herself. The very same as who Deadpool falls for.
Grandmaster’s Team is – Captain America, Talisman, Darkstar, Wolverine, Captain Britain, Defensor, Sasquatch, Daredevil, She-Hulk, le Peregine, Blitzkrieg and Thing.
Four Americans, Two Canadians, two attorneys and a very international group.
Deaths’ team is – Iron Man, Vanguard, Shamrock, Iron Fist, Storm, Arabian Knight, Sabra, Angel, Invisible Woman, Black Panther, Sunfire and the Collective Man.
So annoying how she is still referred to as Invisible Girl in this issue, twenty years after her creation. Already seems like Death has the lesser of the two teams. I might just be saying that due to Angel being on her team and he doesn’t have a bat or a gun.
Makes complete sense that all the new characters have made the team. Death’s team also has four Americans on it, and two X-Men (and members who haven’t really worked together yet).
I also like how we get the first of three times Iron Man and Captain America have had teams against each other.
Some of the notable entries in the back of the issue are :
Acroyear – Karnak
Angel / Ant-Man (Scott Lang) / Aurora / Beast / Black Bolt / Black Knight / Black Panther / Black Widow Brother Voodoo / Bug / Captain America / Captain Britain / Clea / Crystal / Cyclops / Dardevil / Darkstar / Dazzler / Doctor Stange / Falcon / Havok / Hawkeye / Hellcat / Hercules / Hulk / Human Torch / Invisible Woman / Iron Fist / Iron Man / Jocasta
All entries get Hero Name, Real Name, two sentences regarding powers and background and first appearance.