Thursday, December 18, 2014

THE LEGION OF SUPERHEROES ADVENT CALENDAR - DAY EIGHTEEN


Adventure Comics vol.1 No.373 (October 1968)
“Would it help if we told you we’re direct descendants of Barry Allen?”

Superman wasn’t the only hero whose legacy persisted into the 30th century; clones of the core members of the present-day Justice League are “currently” running around the future as Justice League 3000, while the Legion has otherwise boasted members of the Shazam Family, the Green Lantern Corps and, like Don and Dawn Allen here, descendants of the Flash (they turn out, in fact, to be his son and daughter).

Possibly the most inglorious fate of any future descendant of a modern-day hero, though, is Oli-3 Queen. A perfect lookalike for his famous ancestor – right down to the fancy chin-spinach – Oli-3 hasn’t picked up the family bow (at least yet) but makes his credits as a Metropolis tour guide.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

THE LEGION OF SUPERHEROES ADVENT CALENDAR - DAY SEVENTEEN


Adventure Comics vol.1 No.267 (December 1959)
“Serves him right, the criminal!”

In their second-ever appearance, the Legion returns to the 20th century not to praise Superboy, but to punish him. Having misinterpreted some frankly quotidian footage of the Boy of Steel destroying a bunch of things – I mean, even in the days before smartphone cameras and YouTube, every rube with a home movie camera must have caught footage of Superboy wrecking something for the greater good at some point – the trio of super-teenagers return from the future to lock Superboy away.

Lured to a planet initially designed as a shrine to Superboy’s accomplishments and populated by unnamed super-humans from some unidentified place or time – ostensibly they appear to be meant to be Legionnaires, but there are hundreds of them! – Superboy is imprisoned in a kryptonite cage by his former friends. To add insult to injury, they've been busy turning the town – including his foster parents and his own dog – against him.

It all works out in the end, of course, and Superboy seems perfectly pleased to see his fair-weather friends cheer for him, having been set straight.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

THE LEGION OF SUPERHEROES ADVENT CALENDAR - DAY SIXTEEN

Adventure Comics vol.1  No.377 (February 1969)
“They’re releasing mind-expanding gas at us!”

The Legion goes psychedelic!

An obvious reality of any story set in the (ever-moving) distant future is that it’s necessarily written from a contemporary perspective – and despite supposedly telling tales of another era, the stories seem to reflect a lot of modern sensibility. Here, just barely ahead of The Summer of Love, readers watched the once-stoic Legionnaires of a far-flung tomorrow have a freak-out and a bad trip all at once.

If the visuals weren't sufficiently reminiscent of the youth culture of the time, perhaps the juvenile sense of humor which prompted the naming of the mind-altering anti-Legion gas “Preparaton L” will do the job.

Monday, December 15, 2014

THE LEGION OF SUPERHEROES ADVENT CALENDAR - DAY FIFTEEN

The volley of needles harmlessly bouncing off of Superboy's mug is hilarious.

Superboy Starring the Legion of Super-Heroes No.201 (April 1974)
“There’s just one slight drawback…”

The Legion try-outs have been a tradition in the Legion books practically since the team’s inception, as is the tradition of the applicants who are utter, grotesque, explosive failures.

Above is pictured Porcupine Pete, the superhero who inaccurately but dynamically shoots super-tough porcupine quills from his body. Other Legion rejects from this particular tryout include Green Boy (can turn anything green), Polecat (smells bad), and Lester Spiffany (a rich idiot).

Many of the Legion’s rejected applicants, including Petey there, end up joining the Legion of Substitute Heroes (an unofficial Legion cavalry which holds their meetings in a cave because they have general low self-esteem and probably clinical depression).

Sunday, December 14, 2014

THE LEGION OF SUPERHEROES ADVENT CALENDAR - DAY FOURTEEN


Adventure Comics vol.1 No.307 (April 1963)
“I’m puzzled…”

The tradition of the Mystery Legionnaire is a longstanding one, including Element Lad here in his debut as “Mystery Lad”, whose transmutative abilities are mistaken for almost every other super power under the sun.

Also showing up masked and mysterious in the Legion docket are Sensor Girl (Princess Projectra), Sir Prize and Miss Terious (Star Boy and Dream Girl), Marvel Lad a.k.a. Legionnaire Lemon (Mon-El) and Reflecto (Superboy).

Saturday, December 13, 2014

THE LEGION OF SUPERHEROES ADVENT CALENDAR - DAY THIRTEEN

Legion of Super-Heroes vol.4 No.13 (November 1990)
“there’s been … enough killing …”

Cosmic reboots meant that the far-distant future of the Legion of Super-Heroes was a persistently changing landscape. The loss of the Superman Family from their history – temporarily, anyway – meant that the Legion had to embrace alternatives, such as Kent Shakespeare (codename: Impulse, just a scootch before Bart Allen showed up bearing the same name). With his Superman-like powers, familiar build and glasses, Kent was clearly meant to evoke the idea of the Man of Steel, although he was originally unrelated. A few more reboots fixed that, making him the 31st century inheritor of the Superman Dynasty ... at least for now.

Kent Shakespeare was joined in his incarnation of the Legion by Laurel Gand, codename: Andromeda, who filled in much of the missing backstory formerly involving Supergirl. Her ancestor, the time-tossed Mon-El, served as the Legion’s inspiration, standing in for Superboy.

No one stood in for the Legion of Super-Pets, to the best of my knowledge.

Friday, December 12, 2014

THE LEGION OF SUPERHEROES ADVENT CALENDAR - DAY TWELVE

Legion of Super-Heroes vol.2 No.265 (July 1980)
“EEE-AAAYY!!! !!!”

The Legion of Super-Heroes was surprisingly slow to integrate, considering the millennium that had passed between the modern day and the world of the future; sure they boasted a green-skinned and an orange-skinned member from the start, plus the blue-skinned Shadow Lass later on, but to paraphrase Green Lantern’s great foe The Old Black Scold Who Wandered Up To Him On The Street One Day In That Denny O’Neil Comic: “What about the black skins?”

It seems unlikely that the 30th century would be populated entirely by white people, particularly as they currently only comprise, using that Global Village of 100 model, about thirty percent of the world population. Of course, the issue was that It Was A Different Time™ and even those members of the earlier Legion which had reportedly been originally envisioned as non-white – Karate Kid and Ferro Lad, specifically – were whitewashed.

It wasn’t until the Seventies and Eighties before the question of where all the different ethnic groups had gone was uncomfortably answered – um, they fled to their own planets and dimensions. Well, could you blame them? Representing North America’s indigenous populations, Dawnstar’s people colonized a distant world (and grew wings) while Tyroc’s people (descendants of the African slave trade) disappeared into an other-dimensional island which spirited away every two-hundred years (and which paralleled European social and cultural evolution in the interim … looks like someone with otherwise best intentions accidentally pressed the Oops! All Colonialism! button over at the DC offices).

Thursday, December 11, 2014

THE LEGION OF SUPERHEROES ADVENT CALENDAR - DAY ELEVEN

Nowadays, there's an app for this. 

Adventure Comics vol.1 No.342 (March 1966)
“Guilty”

Thom Kallor  - a.k.a. Star Boy – kills an assailant in self-defense, but nonetheless faces court martial for violating the Legion’s primary rule against homicide. An unusual issue which involves much in the way of courtroom proceedings, the key scene comes when the entire roster of the Legion is asked to vote on the matter – including two of its 20th century members, voting in absentia.

Matter-Eater Lad – a superhero who can consume all matter at lightning speeds – has been played as a comedic character in portrayals from the 1990s through the present, but he was originally often portrayed as a vicious scold, stern authoritarian, and sometimes just a goddamn dick. Here, he casts one of the votes which results in Star Boy being expelled from the Legion of Super-Heroes.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

THE LEGION OF SUPERHEROES ADVENT CALENDAR - DAY TEN

"Your eyes are leaking."
Adventure Comics vol.1 No.311 (August 1963)
“I … we … loved you!”

Romance flourishes early on in the Legion, the only super-group within the comics landscape of the time in which the members frequently held “kissing parties” and routinely dated within the ranks.

When a misunderstanding and teenage tempers cause a rift between the Legion and its unofficial, subordinate cavalry in The Legion of Substitute Heroes, it’s one-time Legion reject Night Girl who attempts to mend the wounds between the two teams. Here, she pours out her heart to Legion co-founder Cosmic Boy, her eyes brimming with tears as she balks at confessing her love. To his credit, Cosmic Boy is like “Dur okay whatevs lol bye.” What a guy!

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

THE LEGION OF SUPERHEROES ADVENT CALENDAR - DAY NINE

They're suspicious because they all take Judo.
Adventure Comics vol.1 No.347 (August 1966)
“One member is gone…”

The Legion suffers saboteurs, spies and turncoats more often than any other half-dozen superhero teams. Here, it’s recognized that one of their two newest members – Karate Kid and Nemesis Kid – is a  double-agent for the aliens Khunds, the warlike race whose name you must never say when you have a head cold.

The Legion are quick to accuse, and luckily Nemesis Kid is even quicker to surrender, since they actually accused Karate Kid at first and Nemesis Kid only mistook the overheard confrontation for having his cover blown. Also, the guy’s name was “Nemesis Kid”, how could the Legion NOT know he was the baddie?


Monday, December 8, 2014

THE LEGION OF SUPERHEROES ADVENT CALENDAR - DAY EIGHT

There's a battle royal on the card for Wrestlemania CMLXXXIII
Adventure Comics vol.1 No.364 (January 1968)
“BUMP!”

It’s a big universe, but not a big enough universe for two competing teams of legionnaires – The Legion of Super-Pets takes umbrage at callous treatment by their human counterparts, and so defect to another planet. When their primate masters come to retrieve them, it’s a fight! Fight! Fight! Quick, someone turn to wax paper! Fight!

The membership of Comet the Super-Horse has always been kind of a weird one, as the equine “super-pet” was born a human, retains human thoughts and emotions, and transforms back into a human whenever a comet happens to be passing in the nearby sky. When he takes such an opportunity to infiltrate the Legion in his human guise, he’s promptly accepted, although he’s promptly demoted back to a “pet” when the comet’s effect wears off. That’s gotta be one bitter horse.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

THE LEGION OF SUPERHEROES ADVENT CALENDAR - DAY SEVEN

Well, he's got a type!
Superboy vol.1 No.217 (June 1976)
“I know lots of pretty girls … but there’s something about her…”

Superboy makes the acquaintance of a beguiling young brunette in a barely-there bikini, unaware until the end of what must be a regular risk he runs when visiting the 30th century – she’s his direct descendant. Great-great-great-granddaughter Laurel Kent is not only an immediate recipient of Superboy’s lineage – complete with reduced Kryptonian powers of invulnerability – but apparently bears an uncanny resemblance to Superman’s foredestined wife. Flirtation – HASTILY CALLED OFF!

Laurel ultimately becomes one of the casualties of shifting continuities in the DC Universe, and is ultimately revealed to be a deadly robot sleeper agent – A “Manhunter” - during the Millennium event, rather than Superman’s descendant at all. I guess they coulda hooked up after all, probably wouldn’t have been too weird.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

THE LEGION OF SUPERHEROES ADVENT CALENDAR - DAY SIX

Lightning Lad has got to feel like a fuckin' idiot right now.
Adventure Comics vol.1 No.293 (February 1962)
“My plan to have four super-animals simultaneously attack the globes, succeeded!!”

As a 30th century super-force against crime, injustice and evil, the Legion has not only an entire galaxy of disparate lifeforms from among which to choose its members, it has all of history at its disposal. Not surprisingly, the Legion chooses to double-down on fellow super-powered allies of their inspiration, Superboy. They’ve got Superboy’s “big brother” Mon-El, his cousin Supergirl, but with much of the thousand years of Superman’s upcoming history shrouded in mystery, they have pick ‘em where they can find ‘em.

Such a selection is The Legion of Super-Pets, assembled at a time when the Legion was very much an adjunct of the Superman universe rather than its own entity. Consisting of Comet the Super-Horse (a human archer magically transformed into a super-powered stallion), Supergirl’s pet cat Streaky (whose powers are derived from “Kryptonite-X”), and Superman’s fellow Kryptonian survivors Krypto the super-dog and Beppo the super-monkey, the quartet is assembled to drive off powerful space brains whose immense offensive capabilities are useless against animals. Phew!

The Super-Pets had their own headquarters, official roster, and even team tryouts. Because of course they would.

Friday, December 5, 2014

THE LEGION OF SUPERHEROES ADVENT CALENDAR - DAY FIVE

School picture day for future super-idiots.

Adventure Comics vol.1 No.329 (February 1965)
“Who need Earth Legion?”

Bizarro-Superboy visits the 30th Century with the express purpose of creating his own rival Legionnaires, a Bizarro Legion of Super-Heroes formed by a passing glance from the Imperfect Duplication Ray from which all Bizarros spring.

The Bizarro Legion is, of course, a roaring success in Bizarro eyes – Bizarro-Brainiac 5 is a genuine twelfth-level idiot, Bizarro-Saturn Girl can tell exactly what’s in Bizarro’s head (“A brain!”), Bizarro Invisible Kid can’t turn his clothes invisible and Bizarro Chameleon Boy prefers to stay in the shape of a Bizarro Crying Hyena.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

THE LEGION OF SUPERHEROES ADVENT CALENDAR - DAY FOUR

Subdued by the power of Kinbaku.

Superboy vol.1 No.221 (November 1976)
“That vile hag!”

In their 1970s incarnations, the chaste adolescents of the Legion stripped out of their name-branded pajama togs and into skin-bearing, hip-hugging, downright sexy short-shorts and bikini tops. While other branches of the DC Universe were embracing socially aware storylines about the environment and racial harmony, the Legion seemed to be the one corner where the sexual revolution gained any sort of traction.

Here, bare-chested leather daddy Grimbor – “The Chainsman” – wraps up a barely-dressed Shadow Lass in a restrictive, full-body gimp suit on behalf of his inamorata, the pert alien redhead Charma whose super-power causes men to worship her and women to try to murder her. All sorts of sex and violence blurring here in the future…

Surely there were many alien races in the 30th Century which failed to fit into either biological crèche, so I’m not sure how (for instance) a self-perpetuating asexual alien lifeform might've responded to Charma's either-or gender-divide of a super-power, but I’ll assume “indifference”.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

THE LEGION OF SUPERHEROES ADVENT CALENDAR - DAY THREE

But behind them all, there's another tape which reads "Love Kitties".

Adventure Comics vol.1 No.300 (September 1962)
“Great Scott! Look at these Hate Tapes…”

The Legion is bedeviled by URTHLO, a seemingly unstoppable super-being who hides his identity behind a solid-lead fright mask. Only defeating the villain by means of a genuine Hail Mary pass (they liberate doomed Legionnaire Mon-El from The Phantom Zone long enough to smash the baddie, but barely have time to return him to his exile before a fatal lead poisoning claims his life!), the Legion discovers that Urthlo is a robot duplicate of the adult Lex Luthor, sent through time to destroy his greatest enemy and his super-hero pals  and powered by “Hate Tapes” – discs which read “Hate Superboy”, “Hate Legion of Super-Heroes” and merely “Hate Hate Hate.” Well, you know what they say about Haters.

Wait a minute – URTHLO spells LUTHOR! WOW! He IS a genius!

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

THE LEGION OF SUPERHEROES ADVENT CALENDAR - DAY TWO

Whoa whoa whoa Mon-El, who said anything about Hitler?

Adventure Comics vol.1 No.314 (November 1963)
“Hitler’s right!”

The villainous Alaktor manages to switch the personalities of Superboy, Ultra Boy and Mon-El – the Legion’s three most powerful members – with the minds of history’s greatest villains. Respectively, that’s Adolf Hitler, John Dillinger and Nero, so the above panel is not merely the moment when Mon-El adopted white supremacy.

It’s amazing that, in the thousand years between 1963 and 2963, no greater villain than John Dillinger rose to infamy, but who are we to judge the world of the future? Maybe the 30th century has a real thing about those creepy, edge-of-the-upper-lip mustaches.

Monday, December 1, 2014

THE LEGION OF SUPERHEROES ADVENT CALENDAR - DAY ONE

Your Humble Editor is taking the month of December off to recharge his batteries and prepare new Gone&Forgotten material for 2015 – but the site itself won’t be taking a break! Every day for the next three weeks, you’ll be able to open a new entry on your 2014 Gone&Forgotten Legion of Super-Heroes Advent Calendar (because they debuted in Adventure Comics, get it?). Relive the most gone and forgotten moments of the premiere teenage super-frat of the far future, beginning with…


That's actually a futuristic "space-tattoo".

Adventure Comics vol.1 No.247 (April 1958)
“Why … uh … I just do my job!”

No sooner does the Boy of Steel, Clark S.Superboy  Esquire, long for teenage fellowship to ease the singular superheroic burden of his dual identity than three teens from the 30th Century show up on his doorstep. With their names written on the front of the jerkins like the slowest kids at Summer Camp, Lightning Lad, Saturn Girl and Cosmic Boy – whose “magnetic  eyes of super-power” sound like a real menace at the knife shop in the mall – take Superboy on a whirlwind tour of the future, including far-flung ice cream shops carrying all the flavors of the imagination (NINE of them!) and substandard quality control conditions at nearby robot factories.

After an unnecessary hazing ritual, Superboy is made a full-fledged member of the group with which his name would one day become synonymous. Now let’s all get badges that say “Super Hero Club” on them!

Thursday, November 27, 2014

TRULY GONE & FORGOTTEN : CAPTAIN MARVEL

Which is it, "hold still" or "split?" Make up your mind, man ...
Why, it’s Captain Marvel – and we all love Captain Marvel, don’t we? Sure we do – WHIZ radio! SHAZAM! Tawky Tawny! The Big Red Cheese! Loads of abject racism!

Of course, not even the original Captain Marvel is Captain Marvel any more, and this particular Captain Marvel – despite his red suit and magic word – is a character cut from whole different cloth. In fact, he’s cut from a whole bunch of different cloths, he’s the android Captain Marvel, and he makes like a banana!

Created by Carl Burgos (creator of the original Human Torch) and published by M.F.Enterprises for a trio of issues and a guest shot in a pair of all-villains book all put out in 1966, this Cap only lightly resembles the hero from who he’s borrowed his superheroic sobriquet. Rather than an orphaned street urchin whose magic fairy godfather bestows on him the powers of the gods, Cap-Two was an amnesiac Furby with cheap joints.

"Why did I say any of this? Who am I talking to?"
Cap debuts in a darkened house, suffering complete memory loss and setting quite a tone for his debut. As he paces the structure, bits and pieces of his memory return – an alien world! Brilliant scientists! A war against evil! His teeth falling out! Taking a test he didn’t prepare for and also he’s in his underwear! Some of those might just be anxiety dreams, actually.

As an aside, this may be Cap’s first blackout, but it’s not his last. The character has a particular predilection for losing consciousness; he might actually experience more blackouts than your average adult male Kennedy. You have to wonder how often  these happen off-panel, and how long it’ll be before it winds up in a Memento situation.

Blackouts aside, Cap’s mental meanderings take us to the alien world of his origin, where it’s revealed that he is – despite appearances – not a human but actually a “Human Robot.” This is, I think, the same thing basically as a “Meatless Burger” or non-alcoholic beer.

Built “for the good of man,” Cap proves his undeniable worth by immediately falling to bits.  Instructed by one of his creators to repeat after him, Marvel unquestionably obeys, uttering the word “SPLIT.” For his willingness to participate, he’s rewarded by having his arms and legs fall off.

Obediently uttering the followup incantation, “XAM,” Marvel finds himself spontaneously reattached to his disparate parts. "Hello again, toes!"

As a superhero, Marvel possesses a phenomenal intellect and possibly some telepathic powers, not to mention the ability of flight, super-strength, eyeballs that shoot both laser beams AND electric rays,  and general overall toughness, but this spontaneous on-command self-quartering is his top-of-the-list,  go-to ability.

"What's this? I tried to grab this guy's
dick, but he split into pieces!"
Primarily, according to his scientist overlords, the reason he can split is to "make repairs to your body..." (The hell?) and to - and this is a favorite of mine - "to prevent an attack from more than one person." That seems overly optimistic to me. "Blast, there's more than one person, but luckily fewer than four people, attacking me right now. Haha, the joke will be on them. HERE COME MY LIMBS!" Why not just use your laser-beam eyeballs?

"HERE COME MY LIMBS" would've been my first choice for Captain Marvel's battle cry, by the way.

Actually, Cap could dissect himself into a startling array, basically at every joint and then some. Every finger could split independently at the joint, the arm at the elbow, wrist and shoulder, his pelvis could detach, his legs split at the hip, knee and ankle .... heck, I suppose his toes could probably separate independently, too. Oh, and his head could fly around independently too, just like Sir William Gull at the end of From Hell. XAM!

Cap's got that "magic word" weakness of having a common term as his mantra. If I knew the guy, I would've abused it.

"Well, time for dessert Captain. Which would you prefer, salted liver with anchovy gravy or a banana split?"
"Um, the one that isn't the liver."
"You want the liver? No problem! Eat it all up!"
"No, I want the other one. The thing with the bananas"
"Say it Cap."
"Alright. I want ... the ... banana SPLIT (THUD)."

Shortly after building the Fallapart Boy Robot, the scientists of Cap's native world blow up, alongside everyone else. Non-chalantly rocketing to Earth (Says he, witnessing his planet's destruction "Now I'll have to find a new home." No kidding) Marvel falls into one of those aforementioned blackouts and is taken under the wing of an Earth boy.

"...and now I'm clearly in Hell."
M.F.Enterprises were surely aware of Cap's shared namesake, evidenced if only by the presence of Marvel's young ward. Introduced in the first story only as "Billy...from the USA,” he's later given the full name of Billy Baxton, a short hop-skip-and-jump from the original Marvel's identity of Billy Batson.

Marvel’s powers stem from a magic element he keeps in a disco medallion, an element known only as “X.” To be clear, it is not ChemicalX, Element X, Alloy X or even Cherry-flavored X-Pops, it is merely “X”.  You can clearly identify it because the medallion has a large, sans-serif “M” on it.

If this Captain Marvel is famous for anything more than juggling his body parts, then he’s famous for name theft – besides swiping his own nom de spandex from Fawcett’s famous flagship character, his foes include The Ray (aka The Bat), Plastic Man, Dr.Fate and a guy who resembles Crimebuster baddie Iron-Jaw. And then there’s a shrinking character named TinyMan and I just cannot believe MF didn’t swipe Doll Man’s then-unused alias.

On a final note, the first issue cover is one of the most catastrophic cover scenes in the history of the medium. Not only is young Billy tied to a dangerous machine, but that machine is clearly reading that it is ready to blow even as an electrical monster of some sort is rising from it and reaching towards Billy with scary lightning mitts, all the while he's surrounded by menacing alien robots with terrible facial hair while Captain Marvel bursts into the ship only seconds away from a raging wall of water under the baleful gaze of ANOTHER type of alien, armed, watching the events below unfold through the UFO's canopy while even MORE UFO's fly in the skies in the background. What, didn’t they have time to light Billy on FIRE, too?


Wednesday, November 26, 2014

GONE&FORGOTTEN REVISITED: CONTEST OF CHAMPIONS

"...the whole room probably smells of B.O. and wet spandex."

Say, what do you think of when you recall the Eighties? Big hair? Skinny ties? Family Ties? Awakening to strange, new urges while watching Van Halen's “Hot for Teacher” music video? Well not me, no sir! I think of MARVEL SUPER-HERO CONTEST OF CHAMPIONS! No, just kidding, I think of the Van Halen's “Hot for Teacher” video. Just like you.

Contest of Champions was Marvel's premiere Big Event Super-Hero All-Invitational Clusterfuck-slash-Gangbang long before Secret Wars and the all of the other Big Events which have basically become the de facto publishing schedule for both big companies anyway. If you want a vision of the future, imagine never not having superheroes fighting each other forever.

 Released in the Summer of 1982, the series was actually originally intended as a Marvel Treasury Edition which, for the folks who missed that particular era of publishing, was an oversized tabloid edition comic, largely passe come the early 1980s. They stood about half-as-high as your average comic book reader of the day, and if you had a stapler and enough patience you could build a treehouse fort out of them.

The Contest of Champions Treasury Edition was meant to coincide with the 1980 Olympics, which – for those of you who’re also weak on your Cold War playground politics – was taking place in Moscow and was boycotted by the USA along with about five dozen other countries, although I’m not sure what the effect was on their treasury-sized comics. For Marvel, at the very least, it meant that, as a promotional project, the book had very little to go on, and at worst might’ve seemed to have been rubbing salt in the geopolitical wounds.

"Flamboyant Atomic Samurai?"
Did he write his own intro?
Instead, C-of-C was reimagined as a self-proclaimed innovation called a “Limited Series.” An editorial blurb in the back of the first issue celebrated Marvel’s apparent ingenuity at having developed, for the first time in history, a new type of comic series which only ran a “finite” number of issues. This is as opposed to those comics which are running an infinite number of issues. I wonder who they’ll get for art chores of Fantastic Four # 115,576,986,193,000,000,000 … it’s an anniversary issue after all!

Never mind that Marvel was actually picking up the scraps. Competitor DC Comics had already done the mini-series as early as 1979, when Contest of Champions was still earmarked for a format only slightly smaller than the side of a shed. For the record, DC had managed to shove World of Krypton, The Krypton Chronicles, The Phantom Zone, The Untold Legend of Batman and Secrets of the Legion of Super-Heroes out the door before C-of-C debuted, although I guess to be fair those were billed as “mini-series.” Worlds of difference

Contest of Champions comes to u courtesy of the Dudley Boys of early Eighties comic writing: Steven Grant, Bill Mantlo and cruiserweight underdog Mark Greunwald, whom I assume did all the heavy lifting on keeping the superheroes properly categorized. That’s a lot of cooks for one stew, but outside of comics’ premiere obsessive-compulsive collector of spandex oddities Roy Thomas, I can’t think of many writers I’d be happier to have in the saddle.

The premise of the book involved a high-stakes competition staged between cosmic entities The Grandmaster and Marvel’s skull-headed Death figure, using the superheroes of planet Earth in a worldwide game of Capture the Flag.

Appropriately for the original Olympic-theme of the book, when we join the heroes it’s to catch the Avengers in the middle of a regularly-scheduled workout. Wonder man lifts weights, Cap and Beast and performing acrobatics, and Iron Man and the Vision are jogging, for no reason at all because one of those guys is in a highly advanced suit of technological armor which does all of his work for him and the other guy is a tireless android. So. I dunno, enjoy your run, guys. Maybe they’re doing it to raise Breast Cancer Awareness.

Across the globe, other superheroes are teleported away from their meals, workouts and general downtime (which, hey, not unlike what happened to the DC heroes in their Strange Sports baseball game, recently mentioned, as a matter of fact), and deposited in the Grandmaster’s Cosmic Game Dome – renamed OfficeMax Arena back in ’08 – in such a way that it apparently really hurt The Falcon’s feelings.

Oh hey c'mon little Falcon guy, it'll be all right.

Before the action gets underway, we’re treated to several pages of characters walking around and introducing themselves to the readers by way of awkwardly wedging their names into every sentence. It goes a little something like this:

Captain America: “IRON MAN, what's happened?”

Iron Man: “I don't know, CAPTAIN AMERICA. THE VISION and I were going to ask MACHINE MAN if he knew!”

Vanguard: “DARKSTAR, URSA MAJOR and I, VANGUARD, of the SOVIET SUPER SOLIDERS would also like to know! Let's ask our friends IKARIS and FIREBIRD!”

Ant-Man: “Sure, NAMOR, SPIDER-WOMAN, HAWKEYE, DR.STRANGE and THE THING were just asking SASQUATCH, RED WOLF, THE TEXAS TWISTER, BROTHER VOODOO and the pre-natal POWER PACK if they had any ideas!”

Iron Man: “And what was their answer ANT-MAN? Or didn't even REED RICHARDS of the FANTASTIC FOUR know?”

Thundra: “I, Thundra, have mighty strength greater than any man's!”

All: (pause)

Thundra: “Uhh … oh, such as THOR, STINGRAY, or … shit, I dunno, THE PROWLER! That guy, in the cape, whoever he is! That's the Prowler, right? Sorry guys.”

Exeunt

Ultimately, Hulk neglects to go apeshit and kill anyone in the crowd, and the meet-and-greet settles down. Grandmaster and Darth Vader spill the rules, which are that each of them will pick twelve representatives from the gathered heroes of Earth who will compete against one another in contests to locate the four segments of some big damn magic space-globe. Four segments. So they’ll be playing for the best … three out of four, I guess, and in the case of a tie, it comes down to dodgeball.

Oh, would you two just
fuck already?
ROUND ONE:
The Grandmaster’s team of Daredevil, Darkstar and an Australian aboriginal superhero named Talisman face off against “The Unknown”s team of Iron Fist, Sunfire and Invisible Woman.

If it’s a competition for whose internal dialogue doesn’t have a stop button, points go to Daredevil, who muses throughout the story that he's no longer in the space arena, Darkstar's a young woman, Sunfire's taking off, having people around confuses his radar sense, he's blind, he HAS radar sense, it's cold in the arctic, his dad was a boxer, the ice confuses his radar sense, the ice no longer confuses his radar sense, the water confuses his radar sense, SOMETHING confuses his radar sense, he has to concentrate, the prize is being lifted from his hands, and SHUT UP DAREDEVIL!

At least he gets the first segment, though. WINNER: GAMEMASTER

ROUND TWO:
We’re in an unnamed Old West ghost town (possibly Scottsdale, if we mean “culturally”) where the Grandmaster’s team is She-Hulk, an armored hero named El Conquistador, and Captain Britain in his incredibly ugly, awesome original costume, while Hoody McSpooky’s team is Iron Man, the Arabian Knight and Israel’s number one superhero, Sabra.

Naturally, Sabra and the Knight get into a little snit here, because of the historical enmity between Israel and, uh, whatever Arabic nation the Knight is supposed to be from, given that everything about him is clearly Persian. Anyway.

This chapter’s a hotbed of political and social issues, with regional confrontations ruling the battle between Sabra, Britain and the Knight, with Sabra, She-Hulk and Iron Man musing on male chauvinism. For its eight-year old audience, this must have been a heady political scenario. Also, it's killing a couple panels before someone gets zapped by mind lasers POW POW BAWOOOM!!!

Despite being everyone’s least favorite partner, the Arabian Knight grabs the next segment and it’s WINNER: UNKNOWN (aka Death).

This image is disturbingly erotic.
ROUND THREE:
Somewhere on an Asian steppe or something, the Grandmaster’s team of the Thing, Wolverine and French idiot Le Peregrine face off against the Unknown’s Vanguard, Black Panther and Angel. It goes to the team with Wolverine, I call it, there, let’s just watch wrestling instead.

The Grandmaster, the cosmic embodiment of gamesmanship, had all of Earth’s heroes at his disposal and he ended up choosing Peregrine, whose power is flight. I assume his opponent picking Angel is just taking the piss. If your only requirement for a player is “Flight,” then you literally have pretty much every superhero ever at your disposal, and they’ve all got additional powers beyond “Has Batroc the Leaper’s cellphone number of speed dial.”

Anyway, Ben Grimm wrecks a Chinese landmark so it’s WINNER: GRANDMASTER.

ROUND FOUR:
Lastly, Captain America, tastefully named German hero Blitzkrieg and Alpha Flight’s Sasquatch represent the Grandmaster in an Amazonian confrontation with the Unknown’s team of Storm, Shamrock and China’s The Collective Man. Collective Man, for you fans of state-controlled birth allowance facts, has a really amusing power for a Chinese national - he's actually five identical quintuplets who can merge into one being. My guess is, you're a set of Chinese quintuplets, you LEARN to merge into one solitary baby boy FAST.

Again, Grandmaster is a brilliant tactician but he sent the furry hero whose thick coat makes him suitable for arctic conditions to the Amazon rainforest. Anyway, there’s a cute scene where Blitzkrieg pretends not to recognize what South America looks like. OPA SENT PHOTOS, HERMANN.

Captain America manages to get outsmarted by Irish mutant Shamrock, so that’s definitely not getting written down in the diary. With that, the Unknown’s team grabs its second piece of the Cosmic Terry’s Chocolate Orange, and so it’s a tie game OR as the caption explains, “GRANDMASTER -3 UNKNOWN -1 “ fucking what hold on?

Apparently it’s important to let the Grandmaster win, despite the fact that the game should have ended in a tie, or possibly Hulk and the Thing had a farting contest for a tiebreaker, I dunno. The end result is that the Grandmaster wins, his brother is returned to life and sent off to be played by Benicio Del Toro, and then Death claims Grandmaster’s life in return. The heroes react to this by letting it happen, possibly because they were completely arguing about the scores.

"I am, 'ow do you say, 'a feeb''!"


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