Thursday, June 12, 2014


For the sake of accuracy, the Champions don’t completely fit in here, because they’re not forgotten – the individual members of this unusual teaming of five at-the-time unaffiliated Marvel Comics C-Listers, for one thing – and this is incredibly unusual in the modern landscape of superhero comics – are all still alive. More than that, they’re remembered – just about any long-time comic fan with more than, say, five years under the belt of even a light diet of titles from Marvel may have at least heard reference to the short-lived assemblage.

You can't establish your authority in L.A. until you run over a black guy.
They are, however, gone, inasmuch as the U.S.Patent and Trademark Office long ago ruled that Marvel had sufficiently neglected the title long enough that its use as a comic book title is pretty much the exclusive property of Heroic Publishing, the folks who produce The Champions role-playing game.

“Neglect”, however, is a pretty good way to approach the Champions, since they seem to have been a team assembled on various whims and published by chance. Originally, the book’s creator – Tony Isabella – had planned to make it a threesome consisting of the newly-liberated Iceman and Angel, teamed with Isabella’s Black Goliath character. Goliath was yanked off the table when he got his own short-lived book, Hercules and the Black Widow were yoinked from The Avengers and Daredevil, and editor Len Wein demanded a  fifth member so a cavalcade of lesser-knowns were lined up, including Captain Marvel, Luke Cage and Son of Satan, before Ghost Rider – the only superhero based on a biker tattoo - was decided upon.

Also there were giant robot nazi bees.
Even though the Champions end up light on diversity in the traditional sense, you nonetheless end up with one weird superheroic sewing circle – a Greek God, a former Soviet spy, two mutants and a demon biker from Hell.  Black Goliath even managed to hang out with the team for a while, as did would-be Sovet defector Darkstar, which as far as I’m concerned makes them both team members. Same goes for Godzilla, whom the team ineffectually battled while the King of Monsters was licensed by the House of Ideas. Unfortunately they never met The Shogun Warriors, The Micronauts or Werewolf By Night. The Champions’ rogues gallery is small but hilarious, including “Rampage” (a.k.a. The Recession Raider), sort of a dollar-devalued Iron Man, and SWARM, the Man Made Of Nazi Bees Who Would Shoot Nazi Bees At You From His Bee Arm. I had the action figure.

Meanwhile, the Champs found themselves facing every class of villain from evil Greek God Pluto to galactic powerhouse The Stranger (whose power is that it feels like someone else is doing it to you), members of the Soviet Super Soldiers, MODOK, Magneto, Dr.Doom and, of course, Stilt-Man.

The team didn’t make it past seventeen issues, all published amidst scheduling flubs and packaging errors which kept the Champs from ever achieving their full potential – they didn’t even get an entry in either of the first two Official Handbooks of the Marvel Universe, which is why I made one for them.

1 comment:

Wooly Rupert said...

That'll do, pig. Seriously, just because they "lost" the Champions name, call 'em the Los Angeles Champions (like a sports team) funded by the city to handle all the weird West Coast stuff that gets ignored by the NY super types. I'd buy that for a dollar (but not an additional 2.99)

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