Bronze Age Beginnings

Sunday, 20 March 2011

The Demon and the Demi-God!

Every now and then I search eBay for Marvel Bronze Age and look for something I don’t have, looks interesting, and is cheap. I figure it's pot-luck, but if I’m not paying more than I would for a modern comic then I have nothing to lose (except maybe 20 minutes).

The Champions, more than any other Marvel team, seem to me to be the most emblematic of the Bronze Age; more so than the All-New X-Men (a re-invention of a Silver Age team) and The Defenders (which formed ‘officially’ just as the Bronze Age began) it inexplicably captured the imagination of this particular 10 year old boy with its first issue in 1975.

Starring a motley crew of Silver Age characters and one Bronze Age invention, it was forged at the height of Marvel’s Bronze Age – when it seemed a new concept (good or bad) was being published every other month.

That being said, despite an intriguing mix of characters, it never particularly worked. Hampered initially by some uninspired Don Heck art and a concept in search of a direction, it improved towards the end of its short life with the arrival of John Byrne on art but completely failed to fulfil its potential.

So, for 30p I snagged The Champions #10 (Jan 1976) by Bill Mantlo and Bob Hall. And for 30p I got the skrag end of a skirmish between The Champions and three of Russia’s super-heroes (and a super-villain). No foot notes, no re-cap pages, but it didn’t matter. That old saying about every comic being someone’s first is true, but every comic I read as a kid was my first and what I didn’t know made me want to read more. Sod having everything explained to me, I just wanted something that excited me to read the next issue (and maybe scour the second-hand bookstalls for the previous issues). This didn’t really excite me though.

Angel, Iceman, Hercules and Ghost Rider have been imprisoned underground by Darkstar (hence the cover) while the Black Widow and Ivan, and some other guy, are held captive aboard a ‘hovering supersonic craft’. Turns out that that the Crimson Dynamo is Ivan’s presumed dead son, who wants revenge on his old Dad because of some brainwashing.

I have no idea why The Griffin (an American?) is piloting the craft.

A fairly uninspired fight closes the comic, but what would have brought me back next month was the ‘defection’ of Darkstar. The Champions really needed another female member.

The art by Bob Hall was certainly an improvement over Don Heck, and Bill Mantlo was the go-to Marvel Bronze Age writer who more often than not turned in an entertaining comic. This just wasn’t one of them.


  1. I loved this series, partly because it was the first Marvel team book which let me get in on the ground floor, with #1. Great characters, a new locale in LA … why the heck hasn't Marvel done a proper revival? I know the Order was going to be the Champions but someone else had nabbed the name, but I never took to Matt Fraction's characters, or storytelling. Gimme back Natasha, Bobby and co.

    Has there ever been a better Angel costume than that (Neal Adams?) look?

  2. Bob Hall, or just about anyone for that matter, would have been an improvement over the Bronze Age work of Don Heck...



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