Friday, August 3, 2012

Let the Games Begin


Karen: In his Olympics post, Doug mentioned he and I had discussed doing a post or posts on comics with a competition theme. Unfortunately it doesn't look like we share a lot of the titles we had considered. But that shouldn't be a barrier to our discussing comics with sports, competition, or gaming themes. Some that come to mind: Marvel's Contest of Champions mini-series, with its international heroes; Marvel Two In One Annual #7, with all the super-strong heroes pitted against the Champion, an intergalactic boxer; the tabloid-size classic, Superman vs. Muhammad Ali; the Grandmaster and Collector using the Avengers and Squadron Sinister as pawns in Avengers; all of the many Superman vs. Flash races...and many more we haven't thought of! What are some of your favorite stories in this category?
 

12 comments:

Anonymous said...

I know I’m going to get boo-ed off the stage here, but I have a soft spot for the Secret Wars. I remember reading beforehand that it was basically dreamed up to sell plastic figures and thinking it was going to be the biggest debacle ever and actually it turned out to be fun, cleverly structured and very hard to predict what was going to happen.

Ironically, I never read contest of champions (although it preceded SW) because I thought it was just some kind of non-canonical gimmick unrelated to the rest of the Marvel Universe (bear in mind that we had never the term ‘limited series’ then.....those were the days !!).

One thing I always liked about the Grandmaster is that it was (to my memory) never ‘sensationally revealed’ that his games were actually something far more meaningful relating the Gods / Celestials / insert Big Cheese Of Choice. He just played chess with real beings for the sake of it purely because he was a cosmic nutter. Excellent.

Richard

david_b said...

Agreeing with Richard on the non-canonical gimmick. I vaguely remember reading 'Contest' back in the mid-80s, and thought it was alright as a one-shot, nothing all that inspiring or memorable.

Of all the supposid 'contests' mentioned, they all fall into the 'nothing-more-than-a-gimmick' category. Perhaps it's more fitting as a DC concept, I never thought it fit comfortably in the Marvel Universe. Oh, of all the 'match-ups' construed for someone's entertainment, I personally liked Marvel Feature 11 with Kurrgo and the Leader matching up Benjy and Hulk, but that had awesome Starlin art and wonderful, breezy pacing to keep it interesting.

As for Secret Wars, I liked it for what it was designed to do: A merchandising tie-in. I don't like thinking of it as canon; in fact, it would have perhaps fared better for most Marvel Comic fans if it weren't. But, it was a big hit for Marvel, gave us lots of action figures and puffy stickers, along with some generally good Zeck art.

J.A. Morris said...

It's not great, but I'll always have a sentimental attachment to the tabloid 'Spider-Man vs. The Hulk at the Winter Olympics' from 'Marvel Treasury Edition' #25.
It's a fun story, got some nice art by Herb Trimpe, with a good old school villains in the form of Mole Man and Kala.

Plus, that's an Olympics I remember very well (Eric Heiden, "Miracle On Ice"). I'll always associate the comic with the Lake Placid games.

When it was first published, I thought 'Contest of Champions' was the coolest thing ever. I still like it, but it's not as great as I remember. I didn't even catch the "error" in the story until years later!
I like that MTIO Annual story, but it always bugged me that Champion easily beats so many of the heroes. I know he's the "Champion of the Universe", but I felt like it reduced some of them to C-list status, while the Thing goes toe-to-toe with him for several rounds. But MTIO was Ben's book, so I guess it's good to be The Thing!

Garett said...

The Superman/Ali comic is pretty good, but I think I'd've enjoyed it more as a kid--just read it for the first time a couple years ago. Did anyone read this when it came out? I didn't see any copies for sale in my city until the recent printing.

The Gamesters of Triskelion episode of Star Trek was a great one, with Kirk, Chekov and Uhura battling in that unusual arena.

Edo Bosnar said...

Not sure if it counts - although I don't see why not - but I really like that story in Giant-size Defenders #3, in which the Defenders plus Daredevil are the Grandmaster's champions in a game against some other cosmic gamesman.
And I always kind of liked Contest of Champions, but I really don't get all the love for that Marvel 2-in-1 annual. I always thought it was cop-out that the Champion rather arbitrarily disqualified the Hulk and Thor from fighting him - obviously because he was afraid of getting his butt kicked...
On the DC side, I always kind of liked that admittedly silly story in which the heroes play a baseball game against the villains - I read it in that Strange Sports Blue Ribbon Digest, but it was reprinted from some other book in the early '70s. I especially like the part where Plastic Man stretches out his foot to look like a base to fool the villains.

Anonymous said...

JA – you get the gold medal for actually managing an Olympic tie in.

Unfortunately, the committee has had to disqualify you for ‘it’s good to be the Thing.’

Richard

J.A. Morris said...

Thanks Richard, it's interesting to note that 'Contest of Champions' started out as 'Marvel Superheroes at the Olympics' but that didn't happen due the the U.S. boycott of the 1980 Moscow games.

One of my favorite Grandmaster moments came in 'What If' #32 (which means it didn't "happen"). Grandmaster challenged Korvac to a game, Korvac simply said "I do not play games" and zapped him into oblivion. Game over.
http://siskoid.blogspot.com/2010/06/what-if-avengers-had-become-pawns-of.html

Anonymous said...

I've commented before that if the Marvel universe stopped creating characters (heroes/villains) right around the Contest of Champions I would be fine with that---very few subsequent characters have made an impact on me, IMHO.

And I've always been blown away about the "mistake" in Contest of Champions---i can't remember what happened, but the gold "discs" the contestants were fighting for just didn't add up to the final result/winner. What an editorial goof.

starfoxxx

humanbelly said...

Don't know why this caught my eye, but Ron Wilson's take on that Eternal- "Champion"- in MTIO Annual #7 looks an awful lot like. . . Ron Wilson! (Well, maybe an "idealized self-portrait", at least. . . )

HB

dbutler16 said...

My two favorites are Marvel Two-in-One Annual #7 with the Champion, and Conest of Champions. I really loved Contest of Champions, and, having re-read it recently (as well as Marvel Two-in-One Annual #7) I thought it held up pretty well. I loved the Olympic aspect, and I really loved seeing all of the international heroes, many of whom were created just for CoC. CoC actually had some good competition which didn't all end in cop-outs, as is often the case in superhero competitions, and I thouht the premise for the competition was decent,considering it can't be easy to come up with a reason for heroes to be partcipating in such a thing.

William said...

What about the big "Marvel vs. DC / DC vs. Marvel" mini series from the 90's?

The plot revolved around two powerful brothers, one from the DC Universe and the other the Marvel Universe. They become aware of the other's existence, and challenge one another to a series of duels involving each universe's respective superheroes, with the losing universe ceasing to exist.

The gimmick was that the fans voted on who would win each battle. It resulted in Batman defeating Captain America and Wolverine beating Lobo. There were also some strange match-ups like Spider-Man vs. Superboy, and Thor vs. Captain Marvel (instead of Superman).

The strangest part was that the end of the first mini-sieres, spawned another mini-series called "Amalgam" where the Marvel and DC Universes actually fused together and formed the "Amalgam Universe" where all the characters were combinations of Marvel and DC heroes. Such as Dark Claw (which merged Wolverine and Batman), Spider-Boy (Spider-Man and Superboy), and Super Soldier (Captain America and Superman) to name a few. Each new Amalgam character even got their own title for a couple of issues until everything was resolved and everything returned to "normal", and Marvel and DC became their own separate universes once again.

It was definitely the most ambitious, and far reaching Marvel/DC crossover ever done, and it was all pretty interesting at the time. However, it mostly seems to be forgotten, as I never see it mentioned much these days.

Garett said...

Hey William, I thought the best of those amalgam comics was Dr. Strangefate. I wanted more of this character and creative team.
http://www.comicbookresources.com/?page=article&id=18663

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