Sunday, February 04, 2007

The Past Looked Better with The Rose Colored Shades - A Review of Champions Classic Volume 1

Sat down and actually read this bad boy and this comic really was a bad idea, written poorly and for the most part drawn badly. This collection comprised the first eleven issues of the series and it is a testament to somebody that it made it that far.

Tony Isabella is credited with conceiving the series and therefore will get the lion's share of the blame, but as the editor, Marv Wolfman deserves equal blame. Add to that the pulse deadening delineations of Don Heck and George Tuska and a bi-monthly schedule and the book was almost doomed from the beginning.

The first three issues involved how the team got together and the insane plot of Pluto trying to force Hercules and Venus to marry Ares and Queen Hippolyta in order to over throw Zeus. Just typing the plot makes me laugh. This was really a poorly conceived plot. Angel, Iceman, the Black Widow, Ghost Rider and Hercules all happen to be on a west coast college campus when various attacks occur to capture Hercules and Venus. The hilarity ensures and after three issues and a triumphant result our group returns to earth (as the climax occurred in Olympus). At this point the group actually hasn't started yet. In issue #4 we have a fill-in by writer Chris Claremont and at the end they declare themselves the Champions.

Issues #5 & #6 featured the first super villain who could be you, as the recession of the late seventies caused him to take his poor man's Iron Man armour and rob banks to pay his company's bills. Thus was born Rampage. It was so bad and in addition to that inane plot, the Angel finds out instead of being just rich, he is Bruce Wayne rich. We also have the Black Widow's aide de camp (as some heroes had in those days) Ivan was tagging along in the adventure and often being a focal point of the story.

Issues #7 - #10 brought many changes to the creative staff. Bill Mantlo became the writer with issue #8, along with Bob Hall on art and Archie Goodwin as editor. The overall story focused on the Black Widow and Ivan as a group of Russians were trying to recapture them and take them back to the homeland (hey we like using homeland now - funny how that works). This four issue "masterpiece" actually held together a little better and we ended up with Darkstar (a Russian super-heroine) switching sides and becoming a Champion member (without so far actually joining the group). I think I would have to credit the uptick in quality to Archie Goodwin. He was lauded as a superior editor and the book immediately got better with the new team. The problem was this was still a group trying to start up. A sub-plot was that the Champions were announcing themselves the the West Coast as a super-team of the people. Still by issue #10 the group had not even gotten started and the book was normally on a bi-monthly schedule. So you are almost two years into a book with no real direction.

Issue #11 brought in John Byrne as a new discovery to pencil the book. The art took a quantum leap forward. Byrne was a breath of fresh air and his early art was not 100% stylized at that point. The book contained Black Goliath, Hawkeye and Two-Gun Kid as guest stars in a one and done adventure, where our group beat off some bad guy aliens. A solid and enjoyable effort.

So by issue #11 the book had it's first really well done issue, but still the cast was a hodgepodge of characters that did not organically fit together. Also Don Heck and George Tuska were solid draftsman and did decent layouts, but much of Marvel's old inking staff were heavy handed and did no favors for the artists at all. The art is chunky and block like with no real sense of flow. No disrespect for those artists, but they were not the strongest silver/bronze age artists on the block and when Vince Colletta inked you, you had no chance.

So my nostalgic remembering of how this book had been a camp kind of fun is now replaced with the reality that the first ten issues of this book were really bad and getting to mediocre or okay by issue #11. Not a book for the ages and this trade is being sent away for others to enjoy and mock.


  1. The funny part... I just bought Champions Vol 2. Why? Because of the early Byrne art. No other reason. I picked up the singles years ago and realized how bad they were. It saved me from making the mistake with the trade.

  2. Was it me or did Byrne-Colletta work prett well?

  3. Byrne-Colletta did work well. One of the few times that I like Colletta's inks. But the question, is it a factor of C- putting more time in or B's art just being that strong.

  4. OUCH! You have very little respect for the old-timers. Vince Colletta produced thousands of comics, Don Heck drew almost that many, who else did you disrespect? Man-Oh-Man, I want to see how great your creations are because if you can disparage Colletta you must be one hell of an artist. What? You're not an artist? Never wrote, penciled, inked, lettered or colored even one comic book? What the heck do you know about "flow"? I am a very nice person but I think I hate you. Very unusual for me. Regards, Fat Boy