Tuesday, May 12, 2015

This Cover Made Me Buy This Comic Book

Doug: Lots to love about this one, folks. What sayest thou? Good cover, or bad? Did you have this book?


Edo Bosnar said...

I say: good cover, and yes, I had this book - although it wasn't a case of the cover making me buy, rather I bought it on the cheap with a whole stack of other Champions books a few years after the series folded.
Black Goliath, although he never "officially" joined, was a nice addition to the team.

Humanbelly said...

Oh yes, I have this book. I had bought the title faithfully throughout its run, so although the cover didn't compel me to make the purchase, it still made me pause to appreciate it (there at the spinner rack at Harding's Supermarket), 'cause the largely-unmemorable covers up to that point had been a perfect representation of the true mediocrity that the book had pretty much been up to that point. Bill Mantlo (speak of the devil!) had been an apt replacement for directionless Tony Isabella a few issues before, and Bob Hall was certainly no worse than an uninspired Don Heck-- but this is the issue where John Byrne came on board, and the book really did become good. Enjoyably good. But, much like the original run of the X-Men, it was clearly too little, too late, and the book was cancelled after issue #17. Had there been a bit more patience in the sales dept, issue #11 might have been seen as the issue where the Champions really took off and became a mainstay group book for a good, long run.


jeirich said...

If Byrne improved that book, it would be a first. An overexposed mediocrity who serves as the sort of anti-Kirby: an artist who can suck the vitality and power out of any character and situation.

Anonymous said...

Great cover - but then, great Gil Kane covers were by no means unusual at mid-70s Marvel, so I don't think that was the reason I bought this particular comic.

I got it because it was there in front of me and on sale, and while the only issue of the Champions I'd read before was terrible... come on, a team with both the Black Widow AND Ghost Rider in it? How could you not give that at least a second chance?
Which meant I got an introduction to John Byrne's work; he went on to much better things, of course, but the first time always has its own appeal.
The writing was still terrible, though. Really uninspired third rate Marvel formula stuff.


Anonymous said...

Funnily enough, though, I don't entirely disagree with the comment above mine.
It all seemed so different back then...


Garett said...

I think nearly every other cover of the Champions is better,from the getting-me-to-buy-it point of view. Crashing a ship into Black Goliath doesn't make me want to open this up and see the story-- the scenes and villains on other covers are more tantalizing. The execution of this cover is ok, but not enough. If it was a giant version of one of the Champions, I'd say how did they get that way, and be intrigued.

On the subject of John Byrne: he's one of the artists who has changed the most in terms of my opinion of his work. I guess that means I've changed! Where I found his art fresh back in the day, now I find it sorta soft, not powerful enough. Maybe he seemed fresher in comparison to the older generation of artists back then. There was a light effortless quality to his art. But Byrne's lightness now feels like a lack of substance to me. I do prefer a rougher art that I can grab ahold of, like Kirby.

One artist who's shot way up in my opinion is Johnny Craig. I remember seeing some of his Marvel and DC art as a kid, and thinking it was quite mediocre. I recently picked up his EC compilation Fall Guy For Murder--marvelous! Great light and shadows, details, faces, staging. Plus he wrote his own stories! Recommended!

Karen said...

Of course I had this book, Champions was one of those titles I bought, always wishing it was better than it actually was. I don't know that the cover got me to buy it though; not that there's anything wrong with it -it's pretty standard Gil Kane explosive action stuff, which is good. But I think I would have bought it regardless, because I was almost willing this book to rise above mediocrity.

As much as everyone (OK, almost everyone) talks about how John Byrne elevated this book, I really enjoyed Bob Hall's artwork when he came on board. I thought he and Bob Layton were refreshing and I certainly more fun than either the Tuska or Heck art we'd been getting.

Jeirich, I might be mistaken, but i think you're new to the blog. In any case, welcome. I also noted your other comment on the Gil Kane post. I think you are one of the few folks around here (the only?) to express such a thoroughly negative view of Byrne, although their have been negative comments to be sure. At the time, I thought his work was exciting. Today,I still find his early stuff -the Iron Fists, Champions, X-Men -very good. I can't stand his FF work though, and I think a lot of the praise for X-Men should go to Terry Austin, an artist in his own right who tends to make any penciller look fantastic.

Humanbelly said...

You're right, Karen, I don't think I could say a word against Bob Hall. He has a quality similar to Sal B's where everyone he draws looks familiar and "correct", y'know? IIRC, he was the rather unsung artist on the Avengers for a lot of the Zodiac/Mantis arc, wasn't he? The art was clean and clear, which was probably a major boost to all of the convoluted storylines in play during that era.

Nah, Jeirich-- can't buy into a "It's Byrne, therefore it's Bad" mindset at all. As Karen mentioned, the step-up from Heck and Tuska to Hall on this title was huge, and I do think young Byrne inched it up even further. Reading the book as a teenager, my first reaction was "Wow, the art's GREAT! Who is this guy??"-- no kidding. I completely remember that moment.

And Garrett, I dunno-- other than the cover for issue #1, my feeling is that the rest of them up to that point were mostly by-the-book, auto-pilot, indistinguishable group battle shots. #11 is distinctive in that it's a great, dynamic POV on what was a rather throw-away moment of crisis in the story. Context isn't quite as important to me as the simple visual hook. This is the cover (well, and #1) that I identify with the whole series.

And really, I did like the direction Mantlo was going with creating a for-real superteam (w/ all the trappings and trimmin's), and working new characters into the fold (Darkstar, probably Blk Goliath). He created a sense where I was looking forward to the next issue-- until there wasn't going to be one.

HB (on the contrary side today, it seems. . . )

Doug said...

The big draw for me (and I was a regular buyer as well) was the presence of Black Goliath on the cover. As I've mentioned numerous times, the super-size guys were always a favorite of mine as a kid.

What exactly is Hercules doing, anyway?


Humanbelly said...

Ha! That's a good question, Doug! As is often the case, the "What's going on here?" factor of the cover does tend to break down under slightly closer scrutiny, doesn't it? Either Herc fell plumb out of the ChampCraft (or whatever it was called), and is holding on to an invisible handle. . . or else he decided to take a timely powder and bail out (which it really does look like), and VERY ungallantly left Natasha behind to absorb the impact. Boy, and he was supposed to be carrying a secret torch for her around then, too!

Similarly, how in the world did Bobby end up UNDER the vehicle, and what the heck is he holding onto??

Also-- how much superstrength/invulnerability comes with the Supersize package? 'Cause this impact should kill Goliath immediately, no question. (Think of it like taking a bobsled to the center of the chest at 100 mph or so. . . )

Also-- how in the world can anyone other than little Natasha fit in that darned thing? Herc's a huge guy. Where do his legs go??

Ha! See? This is one of those "Because. . . comics" things, isn't it?

HB yet again

Garett said...

Hey HB, Black Goliath didn't interest me as a character. So crashing a ship into him is boring for me in terms of the character drama here. He's drawn well. I like the pose and foreshortening.
Here are the Champions covers to compare: http://www.comic-covers.com/Marvel/MarvelC-D/Champions/
I think the villains like Pluto, the Griffin and others make for more exciting covers to draw me in to read. Plus I'm a Hercules fan, so when he's in the center of the action I like it! But I can see what you're talking about with a visual hook for this cover.

J.A. Morris said...

Well, the only reason I bought it was because in 1985, I was trying to get every issue Byrne drew (that was within my price range) and this was listed in 'Focus On John Byrne'.
I've since gone back and read all the earlier stories and I agree with Karen about Mantlo vs. Isabella. And Bob Hall also brought his solid Marvel "House Style" pencils shortly before this issue.

I haven't soured on Byrne's Bronze Age art at all, still looks great in my eyes. There was a time in the early 2000s where Byrne's online presence made it difficult to enjoy his work. But since then, I've learned to "separate the art from the artist."

I should mention that this issue (and the next 2) features Bob Layton's inks over Byrne. So Layton fans may want to give this one a try.

Doug said...

HB --

I believe you are referring to Bob Brown, who did notable runs on Daredevil and Avengers, the latter including the issues of which you speak as well as the Avengers/Defenders War.


Dr. Oyola said...

I've never seen this cover, but I'd buy it right now if I could based on cover alone.

Anonymous said...

This cover's pretty good; I didn't have this comic back in the 70s, but I've read it since then. I always thought Bill Foster was underused (or ill-used, maybe). Champions is one of those comics I want to like, but the stories just aren't that good.

Mike Wilson

Edo Bosnar said...

HB, re: "It's Byrne, therefore it's Bad" - that's a good way of summing up the backlash once he stopped being a fan favorite. And yes, his personality certainly doesn't help matters, does it?

Also, I think HB is right about not overthinking that cover; otherwise, given that Bobby is already hanging off the bottom at the moment of impact, it means that he was already knocked out by something else. Maybe they're actually swinging back because they already rammed that thing into poor old BG once before?

Humanbelly said...

Bob BROWN-- thank you, Doug! Definitely getting my generic Bobs mixed up, here. . .

Edo: Wow, that would be a MAJOR superhero fail, wouldn't it? Bill's trying to catch them, and they keep mowing him down every time? Sheesh--

I think. . . I think the sequence may have been reminiscent of (or even a nod to?) the opening of Avengers #63, where there's a breathless, overwrought, near-death action sequence because. . . the quinjet fails to land properly on the mansion rooftop. I mean, of all the functions that they should be darned sure can NEVER fail in the middle of a city. . .
But even as a kid or teen, it made me crazy that dangerous near-crashes like this could happen, and there never seemed to be any repercussions or sense of dire responsibility or anything. Just, "Hmm, have to check out those stabilizers this afternoon, I guess.".


pfgavigan said...


I'm late to the party, but only because I had to go and refresh my memories regarding The Champions. I remembered buying it regularly, but not why I did.

As to the cover, Gil Kane was a master at producing them. Dynamic action and, if we we're lucky, actual representation of what was in the book. This got my attention, got me to pick it up but it was the contents that got me to buy it.

How can I convey the excitement that I felt watching this new artist develop? This guy I had seen in a couple of Charleston books, drawings of some funky little robot. Sure, he had a lot to learn, but the potential was there. Sometimes the pencils bordered on the cartoonish, some times the pacing wandered or the faces seemed standardized. But there was energy in those lines, that style.

Maybe it was the enthusiasm of youth that propelled the Canuck at the time. He definitely was a tyro, but one who was willing to learn, at the time. Skilled inkers such as Layton, Sinnott, and Colletta accentuated the positive and reduced some of the excesses that would reemerge later unchecked by other hands.

That energy definitely infused Mantlo. Maybe there was more collaboration behind the scenes in terms of plotting, but I now remember being more entertained by Mantlo's styles, felt that he was getting better at giving the different characters their own voices, their own concerns.

Yeah, everyone did their job on this book and did it well. Mr. Kane got me into the party and Mr. Mantlo and Mr. Byrne kept me there. And in keeping with final thoughts I'd like to add that while The Champions comic book for me is only a faded memory, it's still a good one.

Yours in nostalgia


pfgavigan said...


Sorry to ask this question, but how did the artist Bob Brown get into this thread? The only Bob I can remember connected to The Champions was one time Marvel editor and future playwright Bob Hall.

Extremely sorry if I muddled the waters.


Anonymous said...

Yeah, I'd buy that. It looks like a fun super-brawl. Not as fun as Champions vs. Godzilla, though :)

I like Byrne up through the mid-'80s, especially when paired with Austin or Layton. Unfortunately, his scripting never matched his art, and then his art became something I lost interest in. I remember reading X-Men Classic reprints, occasional FF back issues, and Man of Steel (add Giordano to the list of good Byrne inkers) and then seeing his work on the Amalgam one-shot Amazon and wondering what happened.

I know Bob Hall's work from Valiant's Shadowman. I really liked it, the level of detail and clarity was appealing. He did draw some Avengers in the '80s, between Milgrom and Buscema during Stern's run. I had no idea he was active in the industry during the '70s.

- Mike Loughlin

Humanbelly said...

No, no, the waters were clouded by the stirred lake-bed of my own faulty memory, PFG. Getting my Browns and my Halls incorrectly interchanged. And I did earlier look up Bob Hall, then, and it was neat to see that he's this wildly energetic, polymath theater professional! How utterly cool. . .

(Ha! And he has the requisite Artistic Director ego that comes with the job-- his own website refers to him as a "legendary" comic book artist. He's fine, sure, but-- legendary? Yep, he's certainly got that Bullpen Bulletin influence workin' for him-!)


Martinex1 said...

I would have bought this issue off of a spinner rack if I saw it at the time. I bought it much later to fill a Champions hole.

The last handful of Champions covers we're better than the first.

The only thing that I did not like is the grim Hercules head in the corner box. Always looked too small to me, and I always thought the team should be represented, and it wasn't as cool as the iconic lone Vision on the Avengers.

I liked both Hall and Byrne most of the time. Byrne is right up there with the greats for me. Easily recognizable. Good storyteller. And the quirks don't bother me. I think Hall was really good on Squadron Supreme.

Anonymous said...

OK we have Avengers Assemble, now what would be the Champions' rallying cry? Hmm how about 'Champions Convene!'? :)

The Champion was one of those titles which showed promise but was ultimately done in by external factors, the usual suspects being changing creative teams, the dreaded Deadline Doomsday and general editorial apathy.

Great cover by the master Gil Kane. No one could convey dynamic action on a comicbook cover quite like him. I'm not as much into Black Goliath or other giant heroes like Doug; I was more into Hercules or Thor.

Jeirich, I think you're being a little too harsh on Byrne here. I loved his X-men run, and while I'm not his biggest supporter, even the most jaded fan would have to agree that his artwork was a step up from Tuska and Heck here. So, he did take the art on this series up a notch quality-wise, but in the end even he could not save this series from cancellation.

- Mike 'champion eater' from Trinidad & Tobago.

Garett said...

I liked Bob Hall's Armed and Dangerous comic, written and drawn by him. It had a B+W look like Sin City, but a story that was all its own. He was a regular contributor at the old yahoo John Buscema group, big fan of Buscema. He talked a bit about his theatre work, and I remember telling him it would be cool if he wrote and drew a comic based on the theatre.

david_b said...


Absolutely LOVE the cover, if nothing else than for that hip Cadillac-styled flying craft.. Not even bucket-seats. Wow.

As for Byrne, I'm down the middle with him. Back in the day, his first work must have been amazing, compared to the then-current artists. I didn't see his work until the later Avengers stuff (issues 170s-180s) and a few of his MTU issues and it was quite polished. But agreeing with others here, on other titles, it seemed very weak and boring (re: later FF, DC's Superman relaunch, later Avengers.., etc), like very sweet icing without the cake.

That being said, I'd love to check out the later Champions. I scarcely saw it on newsstands and most likely it had the Heck or Tuska art which didn't gell too well at the time.

Redartz said...

Late checking in, but wanted to add my two cent's worth. As for today's cover; I found it to be pretty standard Kane. Solid, but nothing to write the editor about. During that era of almost ubiquitous Kane covers, I actually looked forward to the occasional Romita cover.

As for Byrne, count me as a big fan. His FF run in the 80's is landmark. I had no problem with his writing, but did feel (and still do) that his art looks better when inked by someone other than himself (Terry Austin obviously comes to mind)...

keythd23 said...

What drew me to this book was the beginning of a great teaming of John Byrne with Bob Layton and a vast upswing in quality. Prior to this the title was floundering, plagued by the constant changing of creative teams that Marvel was plagued with at the time and generally directionless. Number 11 gave the series a fresh start with great writing and art. The Kane cover was icing on the cake. Sadly the Champions was already on borrowed time and would be canceled 6 issues later. Still issues 11 - 13 were a high point of the Bronze era especially the storyline dealing with the ever inscrutable Stranger.

keythd23 said...

What drew me to this book was the beginning of a great teaming of John Byrne with Bob Layton and a vast upswing in quality. Prior to this the title was floundering, plagued by the constant changing of creative teams that Marvel was plagued with at the time and generally directionless. Number 11 gave the series a fresh start with great writing and art. The Kane cover was icing on the cake. Sadly the Champions was already on borrowed time and would be canceled 6 issues later. Still issues 11 - 13 were a high point of the Bronze era especially the storyline dealing with the ever inscrutable Stranger.

Dougie said...

I loved this comic! I loved Darkstar, Black Goliath, Kaa and even the idea that Two-Gun Kid might have been an Avenger. At that point, no Avengers comics were available in my part of the West of Scotland- perhaps because of the weekly reprint title. I longed to see this oddball assemblage with Moondragon, Hellcat, the Beast and Matt Hawk. By 1978, the reprints had caught up and I'd learned that dream team had never quite existed.

I never thought Ghost Rider belonged on the team but otherwise, I enjoyed the very brief Mantlo/Byrne period.

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