Back in the 90s, my brother and I were serious comic collectors and one day he brought home his first and only issue of Wizard. Flipping through that one brought me to the back where various issues of just about everything was priced, with titles and covers from various ages, and that’s when I saw the cover for The Champions #15. They were a Marvel superteam I’d never really heard of before, but the team line-up promised on the cover was just so weird. The image itself showed Ghost Rider Johnny Blaze riding away from a horde of giant bees with the Black Widow, saying their combined powers couldn’t stop the mysterious Swarm.
Ghost Rider was on a team with Black Widow? And the other three members were Angel, Iceman, and Hercules? That’s nuts. Well, Comic Bento sent along a small reprint of five issues from that series, namely 1-3 and then 15-16. How was it?
Truth be told, nothing particularly special.
On the surface, that does seem to be a random selection of characters Marvel had lying around, but not that much if you consider we have two of the original X-Men in there, and they start the story hanging out together, and then two sometime Avengers. I don’t know if Hercules had joined the Avengers by then, but Black Widow mentions recently breaking up with Daredevil when she arrives on the scene. Really, 80% of these guys are team players. The biggest question mark is Ghost Rider seeing he’s more of a horror character than a superhero.
That actually extends somewhat to how the team formed. Greek god-related monsters are attacking UCLA. Iceman and Angel, feeling sorry for themselves for being left out when the other original X-Men are all busy either with the Avengers or a new team of X-Men, are visiting the campus. Black Widow is meeting a friend nearby. Hercules is a guest lecturer on the Greek Gods for a mythology series. Another Greek god, guest star Venus, is close to where the Widow is. Really, the only one who doesn’t seem to have a good reason to be there is Ghost Rider as he seems to be literally passing through when everything gets weird.
Also weird? When Hercules and Venus are captured by the evil Pluto, the Widow and the two mutants apparently decide to hit the beach while feeling bad about themselves. Was it really just to give an excuse to draw Black Widow in a bikini? Probably.
Actually, I will say this for the volume in question, random issues included notwithstanding…the artwork gets better as it goes along. Don Heck’s work at the beginning is fine. George Tuska comes in on #3 and his work is a lot better. Then there’s actually some nice artwork from John Byrne in the final two issues included.
But there wasn’t really anything worth mentioning here, truth be told. The Champions barely register as a team. Even with a guest star like Darkstar or the fact Black Widow was the team leader (how many teams had female leaders back then?), I didn’t see much worth writing home about. Super teams work best when they have a purpose to hang out together, and the Champions lack that. The stories were functional, but nothing special. Six out of ten giant bees.
NEXT BOX: That’s it for the “Titans” theme box. Next month is another single-publisher box, this time Marvel with the theme “The Mighty”. Stick around for that soon.