Wednesday, August 12, 2015

But We Haven't Ended the Story Yet!--Part 2

The Champions was a fun series. It came into existence in 1975 and seemed to have been created to randomly toss together established heroes who (with the exception of Ghost Rider) were not being used elsewhere. Hercules and Black Widow were not active with the Avengers at that time. Angel and Iceman had recently left the X-Men when the new team members had been introduced. Tossing Ghost Rider on a team seems odd (and his presence was sometimes a little awkward in the series), but what the hey. Every superhero (or cursed-by-the-devil stunt cyclist) should have a chance to join a team, right?

It ran for 17 issues, plus a guest-star appearance in Godzilla. That Godzilla issue, by the way, contains one of single most entertaining moments in comic book history. The Champions are in San Francisco, trying to drive off the big monster. The Golden Gate bridge is damaged and Hercules throws a chunk of it at Godzilla--only to miss and accidentally knock a SHIELD helicarrier out of the sky.

An ongoing plot point in The Champions involved their headquarters--an L.A. skyscraper built with Angel's family fortune. The contractors used shoddy materials, so the security system was always either failing or actively trying to kill the heroes.

The 17th issue ends with the Champions defending their HQ against Sentinels, who had pursued some frightened mutants into the building. The robots are defeated, but then that's it. The series is cancelled.

But writer Bill Mantlo was able to borrow Spider Man for a brief time to finish up the Champion's story. In Peter Parker, Spectacular Spider-Man #17 (April 1978), Peter is sent to L.A. to get pictures of the break-up of the Champions. So obviously something has happened off-stage.

Angel--the only one left at the headquarters--explains that the various heroes suddenly decided it was time to move on for various personal reasons right after the Sentinel fight ended. Only Angel stayed, hoping to reform the group, only to discover that "the world does just fine without us."

It's actually a bit abrupt and not completely satisfying for anyone who had enjoyed The Champions. Another option might have been to have the Champions still together, teaming up with the webslinger, and allowing the events of the story to convince them it was time to call it quits. Or perhaps the Champions could have stayed together, available to pop up in other books when a writer wanted to use them. This second option, though, might have limited the availability of the individual characters to appear as needed. Angel, for instance, played a role in the X-Men's Death of Jean Grey story arc a short time later.

Also,  readers of a Spider-Man book are looking for a story that revolves around Spider-Man, so turning it into a Champion story (a book many of the readers probably hadn't been following) would admittedly have been a little unfair.

Oh, well. Bill Mantlo is incapable of writing a story that doesn't entertain you at some level. The ensuing story involves more shenanigans with the malfunctioning HQ, plus a villain who has mind-controlled Iceman to get belated revenge on the Champions.

This leads to a great fight scene illustrated by Sal Buscema. It begins in Peter Parker #17, with Iceman's identity initially concealed from both Spidey and the readers, then concludes in issue #18.

Iceman's identity is revealed, but the mind-control makes him hate Angel and Spider-Man to the point of wanting to kill them. And the story does a pretty good jog of pointing out just how powerful Bobby Drake can be if he isn't worried about hurting people.

In an inspired tactic, Spidey breaks the mind-control with a sudden shock--caused by carrying Iceman out of the building and into the scalding heat of a nearby car wash. The bad guy is defeated and Angel sics his lawyers on the building contractors. I also enjoy a moment in which Spider-Man isn't sure if Bobby Drake has a secret identity, so provides him with a web mask so that no one will recognize him coming out of the car wash.

So,though Peter Parker #17 & #18 doesn't really give us an emotionally satisfying end for the Champions, it does give us a cool fight scene and remind us of the importance of always knowing where the nearest car wash is located.


  1. Loved the Champions although Ghost Rider was a bad fit.

    1. I noticed when I re-read the stories in the trade paperbacks that Ghost Rider wasn't used for quite a few of their stories. He's a character that just doesn't fit comfortably into a team environment.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...