Monday, February 9, 2009

1970's Flashback: The Champions

“The avenging Angel! The deadly Black Widow! Johnny Blaze, the Ghost Rider! Hercules, Prince of Power! The incomparable Iceman! Five fighters for justice, united to battle for the common man … because the world still needs heroes!” - Prologue from The Champions.

The Champions was published between 1975-1978 as Marvels first team comic to be set on the West Coast, rather than their usual New York City locale.

Originally, writer Tony Isabella had wanted the Champions to be a three-man group consisting of former X-Men Angel & Iceman, and newly created superhero Black Goliath. However, once the decision was made to give Black Goliath his own book, he was removed from consideration for team membership (?; see below). Editor Len Wein then insisted that the team contain at least five members, so Isabella added established heroes: Black Widow (who served as the team’s leader), Hercules and Ghost Rider. Apparently, Captain Marvel, Power Man, and Son of Satan were also considered before settling on Ghost Rider as the editorially-mandated team member who also already had his own title (what the...?). New character Darkstar, was added as a member in Champions #10. Black Goliath did eventually become a guest member in issue #11. Had the series continued, the team reportedly was to expand to include Jack of Hearts.

The Champions series (which was originally going to be called Giant-Size Champions, with the published material that comprised regular issues #1-3 of The Champions intended for Giant-Size Champions #1) only lasted for seventeen issues, despite art duties from veterans Don Heck, George Tuska and future comics superstar John Byrne. During their heyday, the group appeared in Super Villain Team-Up #14, Ghost Rider (vol. 2) #17, Godzilla (vol.1) #3, Iron Man Annual #4, Avengers (vol. 1) #163 and Hulk Annual #7 (1978). The story of the team’s dissolution was later told in flashback in two issues of Peter Parker, The Spectacular Spider-Man (#17-18) which pitted Spidey, Angel & Iceman against former Champions villain Rampage.

The Champions have been the butt of many jokes over the years, but fans often mention them today with fondness. There were plans to introduce a new team membership under that name in the wake of Marvels Civil War crossover, but the trademark had inadvertently lapsed and now another company currently holds the rights to the Champions name, so they really aren't likely to reappear ever again.


Wayne Skiver said...

I really liked this book! I love oddball teams anyway (Hence my fondness for the Defenders) I'm missing about 6 issues of this series, I need to track em down, :-)

Chuck Wells said...

The Defenders is real favorite of mine too, Wayne.

Had I worked at Marvel during those years, I would have taken either team line-up and then added:

Black Goliath
Ms. Marvel
Iron Fist
Power Man
Captain Mar-Vell
Brother Voodoo
Shanna the She-Devil
Doc Samson
Moon Knight
Red Wolf
Son of Satan

Toss in the Defenders (Dr. Strange, Sub-Mariner, Hulk, Silver Surfer, Valkyrie & Nighthawk) or the Champions (Hercules, Black Widow, Ghost Rider, Angel & Iceman)and I seriously doubt that any other Marvel team could have beaten them.

Anonymous said...

Good old Champions.

I still wish that I had found Champions #7, the continuation to Champions 6, the first (and only) Champions comics I'd bught.

I especially liked the fact they were based in Los Angeles, something different from the New York centric comics Marvel produced.