Tuesday, July 30, 2013

LEST WE FORGET: Retitle The Champions

Despite having a first class ticket to ride, some of comics best miss the train and often get left to aimlessly wonder the platform, all but forgotten. In Lest We Forget, I pluck a limbo-lingerer's need for a comeback. Today, it's Marvel's quirky team: The Champions.

Digging back through my X-Force comics over the last few days, I came across X-Force / Champions Annual '98, and was struck by what a great group this line-up really was. A diverse bunch of almost mismatched characters, personalities and humour, by the books end, I was left hoping to see the original West Coast super-team return.

WHY THEY ARE COOL: Street Level Heroes
God, spy, millionaire, ghost or mutant, the core roster of The Champions doesn't need to be touched. While some Marvel books treat the team as a bit of a joke, there's nothing funny about how Russian spy (and current hot Avenger) The Black Widow would perceive working alongside Johnny Blaze's alter-ego, The Ghost Rider, let alone how both would handle the confidence and attitude of Hercules!

Sure Natasha and Herc were lovers in the original series and then teammates in the core 90's Avengers title, but that doesn't mean the magic has all been written. Just look at the other two of the core five, Angel/Archangel and Iceman from the X-Men - they're still going strong despite being part of that Marvel teams original line-up as well! 

These tales were imaginative and off-beat, two flavours today's comic collecting audiences crave. I mean what other team buys a second-hand Quinjet off the Avengers, or fights the Hulk, unknowingly delaying him from getting to the hospital to give Jennifer Walters the blood transfusion that will turn her into the sensational She-Hulk?

Throw in the next ring of teammates, Black Goliath and Darkstar (who first appeared here), and The Champions would step up to take a podium finish once more. I mean heck, who didn't like that last Hercules series? This would be that - just upsized in fun and adventure! 'Nuff said!

HOW I’D KEEP THE CHAMPIONS IN FIRST PLACE: The team's former nemesis Pluto, God of Tartarus, is scared and on the run through the streets of Moscow, a society dark enough to have shadows deep enough for him to hide in. Amassing his own mob by ways of protection, he trips across contacts that alert The Black Widow, and she and Hercules travel to investigate, aided by Darkstar. 

With nigh biblical events occurring across the frozen countryside as forces track the hidden God, Iceman and Archangel, sensing Apocalypse's return also give chase. Only it is not the next evolution in evil that is behind this hunt, but rather the origin of the nature, Mephisto. Out to add Tartarus to his dominion in Hell, only a reunited Champions can stand in his way, and only if they can convince Johnny Blaze to renounce the peace he has finally found, to blaze the highways once more.

 What do you think? 


  1. I remember the Champions - a smashing series, much missed from my childhood, people forget some real talents worked on the book; Heck and Byrne for two.
    I liked it for having a female [Black Widow] being team leader, a rarity for the time.
    The Champions were almost the flip side of the Defenders, a satisfying mix of ordinary villains and off-the-wall weirdos, with a team ethic who had even less in common but still had a structure all their own in teamwork. When Darkstar joined it got even better but by that time the book was on its way out unfortunately.
    As for the members themselves; I only got it for Natasha Romanoff [my little sister was named after Natasha when she was born in '71] who Id followed over from Daredevil, and that was all really. Hercules? Didn't rate him much, except for his overbloated appearances in Avengers at the time.
    I suppose Iceman and Angel were included to keep X-fans interest going in the between period since their X-Men book was cancelled and before the New X-Men [with its international team] were introduced. After all, the Beast was in the Avengers back then, so Marvel were doing good business keeping the characters alive. Ghost Rider I only knew from back-up strips in old British weeklies.
    Yeah - great stuff, the Champions!

  2. Hey Karl, thanks for backing me up on this one - thought I might be a case of one hand clapping!

    It was ages before I got started calling Angel and Iceman X-Men, I just saw them as Defenders first and foremost, that being the title I first discovered them on. Having them team up with Ghost Rider and Widow here as well, was just too cool for words. I mean an angel with a demon - it writes itself!

    Thanks for sharing those great memories mr!

  3. I hated the Don Heck art. It looked rushed as hell, and well below the legend's own standards. But Bryne yes. Wish he could've stayed on, but then he was doing X-men or about to do X-men around that time so.....

    But yeah the concept still has legs, even if someone like a Jeff Parker were to tackle it via retro adventures. It could still work, just need to get all the ducks in a row, and figure out a damn good creative to work magic.

    Lest we forget indeed!:)

  4. I think so Dale, after all not everyone wants to be an Avenger do they?

  5. LOVE the Champions!

  6. There we go - that's four of us sorted - this snowball has to only pick up momentum I reckon! Here's hoping it's one of the new titles Marvel are teasing will be announced in January.

    Thanks Doug!

  7. Count me in. I also like Angel's headband look but I may be alone on that one; I think it's an amsuing riff on the halo. If I were reviving the Champions, I'd take a leaf out of much-missed Californian DC book Infinity Inc. and give it a film industry theme.

  8. Could work, could work. Although how would the Champions concept work/fit in the new Marvel Now environment?

  9. Thanks Dougie, that would be awesome - and open the door possibly for WonderMan to join the team as well. Thanks for the comments!

    Dale, I've already said how I'd bring them back but for an ongoing premise, I'd have them as the guys who think theres a need for a team between A and X, one who hunts the bizzare those two won't touch. It'll let them tour some of Marvel's great locations across the globe all with a camera crew in tow. But each time they submit footage execs are like 'so what about stopping this c-lister, The Avengers just bet Kang. No deal.'

  10. I think the Champions and the Defenders are probably too closely defined in scope for todays Marvel to differentiate between the two - Id have loved to have seen a team-up with them back in those days tho.
    One thought occurred to me today - if memory serves me correctly [I don't have any issues to hand so may be mistaken...] didn't Chris Claremont first work with John Byrne on the later issues, several years before their legendary collaboration on the X-Men? That alone should mark out the Champions as a major first.

    Another thing that rocked my clock as a child seeing it in the book - in one of the later issues [maybe the final issue iirc] the Champions' skyscraper building was lit up at night with a giant 'C' which I thought was STUNNING.

  11. Nice - thanks for sharing those memories mate, as always, much appreciated. I'm away from my desk at the moment answering this via phone, so not sure on the John and Chris thing, I think the two first worked together on an issue of Spider-Man's team-up title, featuring Wasp and Hank, but if they did here, it wouldn't be that far behind it!

  12. IIRC, the last half-dozen issues of Champions were by Bill Mantlo and Byrne. There may be some confusion because as Mantlo succeeded Isabella on Champs, Claremont replaced Isabella on Black Goliath.
    Claremont did however produce issue 4 with George Tuska. I also think the first Claremont/Byrne comic was Iron Fist.