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Comic Book Urban Legends Revealed #34!

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This is the thirty-fourth in a series of examinations of comic book urban legends and whether they are true or false. Click here for an archive of the previous thirty-three.

Let’s begin!

COMIC URBAN LEGEND: Jimmy Carter’s diplomatic policies led to the Contest of Champions.


In late 1979, Soviet forces invaded Afghanistan. The United States saw this as a gross diplomatic violation, and President Jimmy Carter threatened the USSR with the following diplomatic ultimatum – pull their forces out of Afghanistan by February 20th, 1980, or the United States would boycott the 1980 Summer Olympics, which were being held in Moscow.

The USSR did not pull their forces out, and as a result, in March, President Carter announced that the United States would be boycotting the Summer Olympics in Moscow, and a number of countries joined in (the previous Olympics had ALSO had a boycott of the Games by a number of African countries, protesting the tour of the New Zealand rugby team in South Africa). A total of about 50 countries joined the United States in the boycott.

As you might imagine, such a boycott affected many people (including NBC, which had just spent a record amount on the rights to broadcast the games), and one group that was also affected was Marvel Comics.

In early 1980, Marvel released Treasury Edition #25, which was titled “Spider-Man vs. Hulk at the Winter Olympics!”

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Written by Mark Gruenwald, Steven Grant, Bill Mantlo (with art by Herb Trimpe and Bruce Patterson), the story depicted a battle between the Mole Man and Kala over the control of the de-aging waters under Mole Man’s control. Kala kidnapped a number of Olympic Athletes and gave them weapons based on their skills, and forced them to battle for her against Mole Man’s super-powered servants.

Overall, it was a pretty hokey story.

In any event, at the end, there was an ad for a SEQUEL to this story, ANOTHER Treasury Edition.

The title? Marvel Superheroes at the SUMMER Olympics.

The ad features a number of Marvel Superheroes, plus a few unfamiliar faces. What it basically was was the exact comic that was later turned into Contest of Champions (which was also written by Mark Gruenwald, Steven Grant, Bill Mantlo.

Notice how the Contest of Champions featured the debut of a number of international heroes?

JUST in time for the international games!!

However, the boycott forced Marvel to sit on the project, only to revisit it two years later, change the format from a Treasury Edition to a mini-series, and adapt the content for any changes made since 1980.

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What makes this especially amusing is, if you recall, the Contest of Champions featured a text page where Marvel crowed about how innovative they were for introducing the concept of “Limited Series.” Forgetting the fact that, at this point, DC had done about five mini-series (only not called “Limited Series”), but this project was not even INTENDED to be a mini-series at first!!

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“What makes this especially amusing is, if you recall, the Contest of Champions featured a text page where Marvel crowed about how innovative they were for introducing the concept of “Limited Series.” Forgetting the fact that, at this point, DC had done about five mini-series”–Typical Marvel bullshit. “House of Ideas” my ass. The only original ideas they had were detrimental to the industry.

This possibly deserves a rez, but there’s also a question of “Was there any concept of Blackest Night when Emerald Twilight started?” I remember reading somewhere that the Yellow Corps symbol was based on the Paralax costume from this arc.

Marvel has a lot of good points going for them when they just focus on doing good work. Whenever they brag like that or take potshots at DC, it makes them seem classless and stupid.

When all they really need to do is focus on coming up with good books. Which they do. Consistently. Their books generally outsell DC. But are they so insecure about their own brand that they need to belittle their competitors and glorify their own “innovations?”

This only serves to highlight the fact that MOST of their innovations were just DC ideas which they took to the next level, or beat them to the punch (Secret Wars coming out before CRISIS), or outright bad ideas (One More Day.)

I caught this column due to Joe here, but read for the GL stuff. (since we’ve been discussing it on recent CBLR and DC 75 moments). Is there any existence of the “original” GL 48 and 49? I assume they were somewhat far along with the book when they scrapped it. And that’s cool that Bill Willingham was the penciller on 48. Did not know that. Wonder if part of why there’s no credits on 49 (besides not wanting to cover up any of that sweet cover) is because they weren’t sure WHO was doing the book yet.

What’s Darryl Banks doing now?

Well, just clicked into this from the current abandoned and forsaken storyline (Hal got over Coast City and moved on vs Hal went nuts) to find this listing, and what’s amazing is how similar this seems to be with what DC did to shake up the character with the new 52 (two factions of Guardians fighting during the Rise of the Third Army and Wraith of the First Lantern) and Sinestro being reinstated to the Green Lantern corps (and Hal getting demoted) Not that is was the first time the Guardians split…see the Crisis on Infinite Earths and Guy Gardner’s comeback for that or even Krona) but wow…talk about coming full circle.

I don’t know that I would say DC came full circle as much as I would say they pulled out the book of what’s been done before (published or not) and gave us “an exciting new direction.”

Those Emerald Twilight covers are awesome.

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