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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.
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!”
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.
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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