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Contest of Champions is the name of two Marvel Comics Miniseries that featured superheroes being forced to fight against each other.

The first series (published in 1982) was the first limited series produced by the company as well as the precursor to the concept of the Crisis Crossover. It was originally conceived as a tie-in to the next Olympic Games. Although the deal fell through, Marvel still published the story without any sports-related material. It was written by Mark Gruenwald, who included pages describing the various heroes in each issue, which began the concept of the "superhero encyclopedia" that would later be expanded into the Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe.

In its story, an immortal alien called The Grandmaster gathers all of Earth's superheroes and chooses some of them as pawns in a game with a mysterious hooded woman (revealed in the end to be Death itself) with the resurrection of his brother, The Collector, as the prize, and all of humanity as hostages. Ultimately his team wins but he must die to bring his brother back to life, which he agrees to do.

The story was adapted as an episode of the animated series Fantastic Four: World's Greatest Heroes, but using only characters from that series.

(Needs information on Contest of Champions II)

Tropes used in Contest Of Champions I:

  • A House Divided: None of the heroes worked together, not even with their own teammates. This may have been just so they would be free to fight their rivals one-on-one.
    • Some of the ethnic heroes refused to work together because of their national conflicts eg. the Egyptian Arabian Knight and the Israeli Sabra.
  • Anthropomorphic Personification: Death.
  • Balancing Death's Books
  • Blatant Lies: The Grandmaster promises Earth's heroes that he would never use them as pawns again if they won for him. He (or more likely the writers) seems to have forgotten about this since.
  • Captain Ethnic: Some of the International Heroes used can be seen as this.
  • The Chessmaster: The Grandmaster. Not so much for his acts here, but rather for the later revelations of his true plan. (See Xanatos Gambit below).
  • Cosmic Entity: Both The Grandmaster and Death.
  • Excuse Plot: It was all a means to show off Marvel's International Superheroes (for once.)
  • Fridge Brilliance: The places where the fights took place (the Arctic, a wild west ghost town, the tomb of a Chinese emperor and the Amazon jungle) were all devoid of human life. This might have been a subtle clue to the identity of Grandmaster's challenger.
  • Fridge Logic: If everyone on Earth was paralyzed during the game, shouldn't there have been millions of accidents as a result? Perhaps the players arranged it so they would not happen.
    • also, if only 24 heroes were needed, why gather *all of them?* Perhaps so they would not interfere with the contest?
  • Honor Before Reason: The Grandmaster apparently.
  • Let's You and Him Fight: The heroes needed very little provocation to fight each other. The matches were:[1]
  • Loads and Loads of Characters: Every superhero on Earth, in fact, though only 24 (12 on each side) actually participated in the "game" and six of them were all-new heroes.
  • Multinational Team: The playing teams can be seen as this, though the American heroes outnumbered the non-American ones. The later were:
    • Blitzkrieg (Germany), Collective Man (China), Defensor (Argentina, though erroneously indicated to be from Brazil), Peregrine (France), Shamrock (Ireland), Talisman (Australia), Sunfire (Japan), Darkstar (The Soviet Union), Vanguard (also Soviet), Sabra (Israel), Arabian Knight (Egypt) and Sasquatch (Canada).
      • Wolverine is from Canada but most of the time works in America with the X-Men.
      • Also in the X-Men, Storm grew up in Africa but was born in New York.
      • Black Panther comes from his own fictional African country, Wakanda.
      • The Black Knight inherited the identity of a British medieval hero but was born in Massachusetts and is active in America.
      • Iron Fist is also an American raised in a Chinese mystical land but now lives in America.
  • Original Generation: The heroes Blitzkrieg, Collective Man, Defensor, Peregrine, Shamrock and Talisman all were created for this series. (The other international heroes used had been introduced before.)
  • Plot Coupon: The Globe of Life, whose four parts were hidden on four different parts of the Earth for the heroes to find. It was needed to resurrect the Collector.
  • The Reveal: Death kept her identity secret until the last issue, though fans of the Adam Warlock series might have recognized her earlier.
  • Sci-Fi Writers Have No Sense of Scale: The unknown rival tried to entice her team by offering to extend the existence of Earth's sun by a million years if they won. Unfortunately the sun has still about a billion years left so a million would be an insignificant addition. Not to mention that humanity might not even exist by the time it winks out.
  • Xanatos Gambit: It was later revealed (perhaps retconned) in an issue of The Avengers that The Grandmaster knew what the price for reviving his brother was all along: in fact, that was his true plan- to die so he could be allowed into Death's realm- to take it over! After being defeated by The Avengers, Death exiled him from her realm forever, thus gaining him what he really wanted from the start- true immortality.

Notes

  1. note that these fights were picked by the heroes themselves, not the game's players
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