Captain Britain in the crazy Contest of Champions

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.

Captain Britain in Contest of Champions team up

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.

Captain Britain in Contest of Champions 1a

While Defensor chats up She-Hulk, Cap broods….

Captain Britain in Contest of Champions 1

before setting out on his own, because that’s apparently what he does best.

Captain Britain in Contest of Champions

It isn’t long before he faces off against the Arabian Knight.

Captain Britain vs Sinbad 1

Points deducted for casual racism, don’t do it again Cap.

Captain Britain vs Sinbad


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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6 thoughts on “Captain Britain in the crazy Contest of Champions

  1. This was a great little series and it was great to see Captain Britain featured so prominently.

    Just a shame that, as usual, Marvel US can’t quite get things right. Blue gloves and boots, and Cap talking about the Star Sceptre when he’s drawn with his original Quaterstaff.

    The beginning of Marvel US total disregard of Cap and his mythology, costume, support characters etc. So carefully built up and respected in his Marvel UK appearances.

    I think that they’re just jealous that our country’s hero is just so much better than theirs.

    Love the hair though.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. The blue boots and gloves are following Marvel UK’s Hulk Comic covers, which featured those changes to CB’s costume. Gruenwald was obviously confused by the Star Sceptre/staff, what it looked like and what it could do, but then by that point so was I – Hulk Comic’s Black Knight strip had featured CB with an ornate metal staff that was neither his original extendible staff with the buttons, or his Star Sceptre which allowed him flight and had that hook-thing on the end which might well have been a bottle-opener; obviously someone decided to split the difference and just colour his old staff gold.

    As I recall, the Hulk Comic staff demonstrated no useful powers in the Black Knight’s strip, though when CB got his makeover under Davis he did get the forcefield and flight functions incorporated into his new costume, suggesting that the new staff did have the powers of the old.

    As for Contest of the Champions itself, I was angry with it at the time as it portrayed CB in his old incarnation which suggested to me that Marvel US didn’t care what was going on with Marvel UK; however, the comic was a lot of fun and did provide exposure for a lot of the more obscure international heroes, and I think Gruenwald deserves credit for not making the whole thing US-centric, which would have been pretty standard at the time.

    IIRC, the next appearance by Captain Britain in a US book was the Hulk comic where the Hulk is granted amnesty for his rampages, and Brian is wearing his old costume there, too. I think Uncanny X-Men Annual #11 was the first Marvel US publication that I saw the Davis revamp of Captain Britain in (big thrill to see it finally in a US publication, and X-Men at that!), though I found out later he had appeared New Mutants Annual #2.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s a fine line with Captain Britain appearances, it’s good to see him take his place alongside other heroes but if it’s done badly I get cross. I can accept continuity mistakes in the seventies and eighties but seriously did no one speak to each other even on the phone.

      I certainly agree with your views on Champions it’s a fun read that does more than your usual cross over fare


  3. Deadpool’s Secret Secret Wars #1 has a fun Deadpool Contest of Champions which includes chars like Howard the Duck and some of the less high-profile heroes. It starts off with Deadpool upset he wasn’t picked for the original contest. It’s pretty fun, as you might expect.

    Liked by 1 person

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