THE CHAMPIONSMedium: Comic books
Published by: Marvel Comics
First Appeared: 1975
Creators: Tony Isabella (writer) and Don Heck (artist)
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in the market for a new team of superheroes during the latter part of 1975. Indeed, the original concept from which The Champions evolved wasn't very group-like — according to writer/creator Tony Isabella (It the Living Colossus, Everett True), it was intended as a superhero "buddy" series, starring Iceman and The Angel, recently turned loose from the updated X-Men, and now stumbling through the world on their own. He saw the wealthy Angel and the middle-class Iceman as an "odd couple", whose adventures together would be worth reading.
But editor Len Wein (Teen Titans, Brother Voodoo) saw them as a two-man group, and mandated that a group must have at least five members. One must be super-strong, one must be female, and at least one must have his own comic. Hence, the addition of Marvel's version of Hercules as the strong guy, The Black Widow (fresh from a relationship with Daredevil) as the female guy and The Ghost Rider as the guy with a title of his own. Thus revised, The Champions debuted with a cover date of October, 1975.
With no shared past to bring the five together, Isabella and artist Don Heck (Ant Man, Iron Man) started off with the usual ploy of having them happen to run into one another, all trying to right the same wrong. In this case, it was an Olympian plot to force Marvel's version of Venus into an unwanted marriage. It took three issues to get past that and have the heroes decide to stay together as a group. The Angel bankrolled the operation, which then went into business as ground-level heroes, geared more toward the problems of ordinary folks than most super-teams, which tend to concern themselves with world beaters and cosmic menaces.
A few months after the launch, Isabella went to work for DC Comics, where he created Black Lightning. Later issues were written by Bill Mantlo (Captain Universe) and drawn by George Tuska (Buck Rogers), John Byrne (Iron Fist) and others. Shifting creative personnel didn't enhance what had been rather an unfocused concept right from the start. Neither did the addition of a new member, Darkstar, never seen before and seldom since. The Champions never really caught on with 1970s readers (tho it seems to have many fans in retrospect), and ended after only 17 issues. The last was dated January, 1978. Shortly afterward, they were seen one last time, in a guest appearance with Spider-Man, where they disbanded permanently.
Marvel used the name again for a completely unrelated outfit calling itself Champions of Xandar (name of the planet they protected), an outgrowth of an obscure late '70s character called Nova. The original Champions all turned up later as individuals, among the many series-less superheroes kicking around in Marvel comics. But as a group, they're so irrevocably gone, they didn't even rate an entry in The Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe.