With no sign of any Captain Britain appearances in this weeks Secret Wars comics I thought it would be fun to have a look at a past Cap crossover, the Contest of Champions.
Published in June 1982 Contest of Champions was a three issue mini series written by Mark Gruenwald, Steven Grant and Bill Mantlo, John Romita JR handled the art. This series apparently has a few distinctive firsts, it’s said to be Marvel’s very first limited series, it’s possibly the first title to ever feature nearly every Marvel Character who was “alive” at the time, and may well have been the inspiration for the Marvel Universe series. I can’t validate the authenticity of these claims, but I can guide you through Captain Britain’s fairly substantial part in this series. Firstly though the plot.
Every hero from Earth is kidnapped by a chap named the Grandmaster and his unknown associate – later revealed to be Death – who tell the heroes that twenty-four of their number will be chosen and split into two teams, the first to find four mystical artifacts wins the contest. With that the teams are chosen, and Captain Britain seems to be on what certainly could be the winning team.
The full line up on the Guardian’s side is Captain Britain, Captain America, Talisman, Darkstar, Wolverine, Defensor, Sasquatch, Daredevil, Peregrine, Blitzkrieg, She-Hulk and the Thing.
They square off against Death’s team which consists of Iron Man, Vanguard, Iron Fist, Shamrock, Storm, Arabian Knight, Sabra, the Invisible Woman, Angel, Black Panther, Sunfire and the Collective man.
Studying the line up now I can say to me I’ve never seen a more diverse line up of heroes, except in Nextwave. Anyway on with the contest, Captain Britain and some of his team mates are teleported to the Wild West to search for one of the missing mystical artifacts.
While Defensor chats up She-Hulk, Cap broods….
before setting out on his own, because that’s apparently what he does best.
It isn’t long before he faces off against the Arabian Knight.
Points deducted for casual racism, don’t do it again Cap.
The contest ends in of all things a draw but that’s not what intrigues me about this series, but rather it’s the colorful cast of characters and the depiction of Captain Britain that draws me to this tale.
Firstly hats off to Marvel for doing a major cross over in just three issues, if this comic came out today it would be bloated with tie-in titles, spin offs and anything else Marvel could cram into its schedule. Next when I look at the story Captain Britain doesn’t really come off all that bad apart from his disrespect of super heroes from outside the UK. Sure Romita draws him with a marvelous flock of hair that wouldn’t look out-of-place on an eighties pop star, but as it’s Romita and I’m a big fan of his art I’m willing to forgive. I mean who doesn’t like his excellent kinetic depiction of Cap doing his acrobatics, which is surely the highlight of his art in this series.
What also strikes me about this team-up is that the heroes are gathered from all around the world, according to Wikipedia the countries represented are,
“Blitzkrieg (Germany); Collective Man (China); Defensor (Argentina); Peregrine (France); Shamrock (Ireland); and Talisman (Australia).”
Plus I reckon we have Captain Britain for the UK, Sasquatch and Wolverine for Canada, Black Panther for Africa/Wakanda, Sunfire for Japan, Arabian Knight for Saudi Arabia and Sabra for Israel. So the Contest of Champions is perhaps also the first and maybe the only comic to feature an extensive line up of heroes, many of which don’t call the USA their home.
So there we have Contest of Champions, a series I thoroughly enjoyed simply because it does the job it sets out to do in that lots of heroes fight each other. Sure the plot is wafer thin but name me a Marvel crossover that isn’t, the title isn’t afraid to have fun and feature some great fisticuffs with heroes who had never met before, and in some cases never meet again. Of course I’m biased as Captain Britain is in the Contest and not just for a couple of pages either, sure his appearance isn’t his best but then again it’s not his worse cross over, at least he managed to finish with both of his eyes this time.
Have you read Contest of Champions, if so what are your thoughts on it ? let me know in the comments below.
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