Friday, September 11, 2015

Making a Splash: One Order of Champions, Hold the Byrne!

Dig it, Groove-ophiles! The Champions were, indeed, at best a "B" level super-team in the Marvel Universe, but they could'a been contenders! The weird mish-mash of X-Men Angel and Iceman, Avengers Black Widow and Hercules, and the supernatural 'cycle-ridin' Ghost Rider was a puzzler for fans and writers alike t'would seem. It didn't help that the mag went through artists like Bruce Banner goes through shirts, either! Don Heck, George Tuska, Bob Hall, and John Byrne, along with an army of inkers, plied their trade in The Champions yellowing pages, but none long enough to help get a firm grip. Ah, well, besides Byrne's art, I dug Tuska and Hall's takes, too. I don't get fans who compare Heck to Tuska--to me there's a world of difference between 'em, and Tuska's beefy, action-oriented style was a-ok with moi! Since I already ran the Byrne Champs splashes here, today I'm gonna run the others--with a special surprise a the end! (Well, a surprise for the 11 of you who've never read the last ish of The Champions...)

See? I'd always wished Tuska could've been inked by Patterson or Layton, but in the end, at least they got Byrne to ink him! And just 'cause Ol' Groove loves ya, here's another full-pager by Tuska/Byrne...
No wonder they got cancelled! How rude is it to have your backs to the audience? Really!


  1. The only comparison I can see between Heck and Tuska is era, they both were reliable journeyman artists in the Marvel Bullpen during the heyday. Both can be seen as "hacks", a term I don't particularly cotton to, but which does accurately describe artists who used a range of reliable poses and layouts to tell a story straight and with minimum fuss. I had to decode some of Jim Starlin's or Barry Smith's pages but I never got lost on a George Tuska page, and rarely on one of Don Heck's.

    The Champions always had that "B Team" feel to it, despite my affection for many of the characters. Angel is my favorite X-Man and gets some decent play here. Widow has come into her own recently, but always seemed to get stiffed by Marveldom generally. Hercules is a dang great character when handled properly, but often wasn't. Ghost Rider always seemed misplaced on the team, so I don't much think about him in regard to the Champions though he was there from the beginning.

    As you note, the creative teams changed with the wind and it was difficult to gather a sense of what they wanted the characters to do. Clearly they slapped them together with a hope, but then seemed to forget the point of the exercise.

    Rip Off

  2. The Champions started out on a low point artwise with Heck/Esposito then began to tick up with every art change till reaching their zenith with Byrne/Layton. This great art team seemed to have an effect on Bill Mantlo as his stories sharply improved. I especially liked issues 11 - 13. The last issue was a pleasant surprise with John Byrne Inking George Tuska. He brought a Byrne high tech gloss to Mr. Tuska's competent pencil; important since the storyline involved the Sentinels. Too bad the prolific Mr. Byrne was in such high demand as a penciler (and later writer). It would have been nice to see him ink others in the Marvel Universe besides himself.

  3. Looking at that splash to #3 was akin to a 9-year old's girly mag back in the Bronze Age!




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