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This Comic Is Good – Marvel Two-in-One Annual #7

The Annual for Marvel Two-in-One in 1982 did not come with a lot of hype, so not only was it a really good comic book story, but it came as a real surprise at the time. As unheralded as it was when it was released, the comic has persisted as one of the strongest Annuals Marvel has ever produced, and the comic was influential enough to be homaged (homaged or lifted wholesale?) by Dexter’s Laboratory over a decade later.

It is a good comic book.

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One of the striking aspects of this comic (by Tom DeFalco and Ron Wilson) is that it manages to fit in so much story into one annual. There is more story in this one Annual than there was in all four issues of Countdown: Arena or Contest of Champions (one AND two!), and the story was better – and all with such a simple premise.

Some intergalactic dude named the Champion comes to Earth and picks a bunch of the strongest heroes on Earth and challenges them to a fight – he goes around to different planets and tests their greatest fighters – if they prove worthy, the planet is allowed to survive. If not, he destroys the planet.

It is determined that the fight will be a big boxing match at Madison Square Garden, simulcast all over the world.

Obviously, the heroes of Earth don’t just say, “Yeah, okay, that sounds fine. Carry on.” They all team up and try to get around the Champion’s prodigious powers, and the issue features many cameos from other heroes, and it is impressive how well DeFalco does with the characterizations of the various Marvel heroes that he uses.

Of the heroes chosen, Doc Samson is considered not up to task (as he’s not trained as a fighter), Namor refuses to sully himself with a boxing match, Thor is disqualified because of his inability to fight without a hammer (as he needs it to stay Thor) and Hulk is disqualified for refusing to play by the rules.

That leaves Sasquatch, Wonder Man, Colossus and Thing.

Sasquatch is beaten pretty easily, but Colossus truly shows his mettle (intended…hehe) by almost lasting a full round (no one has ever lasted two rounds) against the Champion despite being brutalized.

Wonder Man cracks a bit under the pressure and is disqualified, so it comes down to the Thing.

And this Ron Wilson drawing from the issue should tell you how prepared the Thing was for the fight.

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Pretty darn cool looking, no?

Anyhow, the Champion and the Thing spar for three rounds, with the Thing being totally pummeled, but refusing to cave. The ref calls the fight after three rounds, but the badly beaten Thing rises to his feet and argues the call,

“Hold it! This fight ain’t over yet… not by a long shot! Ya only won on a technicality! Ya didn’t really beat me! Ya’ll never beat me! I’m just too stupid… and ugly… ta know when to quit!”

The Champion agrees that while he could kill the Thing, he could never truly defeat his spirit.

He is honored by the Thing’s bravery, and leaves Earth unharmed.

The Thing basks in his victory for Earth, and then collapses into a heap, as he is near-death.

There’s a neat follow-up issue by DeFalco in the regular title where he shows the Thing recuperating from this fight.

Overall, a great one-off issue. A lot of fun and a nice insight into the mind of the Thing.

Recommended.

58 Comments

100% agreed.

What makes a book like this so much more inspiring than a book like Superman for All Seasons is that rather than telling you nonstop that the protaganist is heroic and beating you over the head with gushing accolades, all the while the godlike hero is doing little more than verbally sparring with a pudgy businessman, this book SHOWS you heroism in action by actually having the protaganist risk his life and almost make the ultimate sacrifice. The “tell, not show” problem is another reason why I never liked Maggin’s Superman tribute issue, as it was just wall-to-wall fellating of a godlike guy who was pretty much cakewalking through the most uninspiring challenges he could.

I am almost certain this issue is referenced in the early issues of the late 80s Silver Surfer series.

I am almost certain this issue is referenced in the early issues of the late 80s Silver Surfer series.

I believe the Champion made an appearance during Englehart’s run, yes.

And then the Champion lost his power gem to Thanos during Starlin’s Thanos Quest mini-series.

More recently, the Champion appeared in She-Hulk.

This issue is referenced in Silver Surfer #1 of the Englehart/Rogers run.
The Surfer meets the Fantastic Four while he’s trying to escape Earth and suddenly the Champion attacks them.
The thing recognizes him and refers to the event of Marvel Two-In-One Annual#7.

I also remember it’s the Thing who finds out a way for the Surfer to pierce Galactus’s barrier.

In the follow-up issue with the Thing in the hospital, an army of super-villains attack him in his weakened state. Dr. Doom hears about it and declares that he will not fight an invalid and nobly sits that one out.

I’m pretty sure this was collected in a TPB called “Marvel’s Greatest Battles” or something like that.

I forgot that Ron Wilson was into boxing big time.

Oh wait — Super Boxers. Never mind.

Totally disagree. 7 year old Matt bought this comic with his own money at a 7-11 in 1982 and even then I thought it was really dumb. I was not happy to have blown TWICE the price of a normal comic on a WWF wanna-be story. Subsequent re-readings, at each stage of mental development, have only confirmed this. This is an awful comic. I was embarrassed that a great comic like Silver Surfer #1 even mentioned it.

Now, on the other hand, another double-sized MTIO epic from the same period, #75, where Blastaar steals Annihilus’s control rod? That’s awesome.

Philip Trostler

January 29, 2008 at 3:42 pm

I’ve always wanted to track this down. I’d love for there to be more of these “classic” This Comic Is Good.

It’s a shame what they did to the Champion afterwards; going from a guy who has spent eons mastering the fighting arts of the universe to pretty much a brainless thug who uses the Power Gem to beat up his weaker opponents.

This issue is great, but the Dexter’s Laboratory episode it inspired might have been even better, if only for the chant: “Mon-key. Mon-key. Mon-key…”

I’ll have to agree with Matt Bird on this. DeFalco’s run on MTIO was a low point both for him and the series. He wouldn’t write a comic that was even borderline half-decent until the Machine Man mini. In his early years he was Marvel’s worst writer.

Back when I was a camp counselor, we were required to tell Devotion before bed, which was usually a inspirational song or story. I would always tell this story, and the kids just loved it.

I loved the issue.
I remember scouring back issues for MTIO, looking for interesting guest stars–and this one fit the bill.
One of the best MTIO’s ever.

P-TOR, that’s awesome. I wish I could go back and tell 7-year old me that his dollar wasn’t truly wasted, because one day that comic would inspire a fine parody. Still, the Dexter’s Laboratory episode does seem to concur with my initial hypothesis that this was the first of many attempts to push Marvel into WWF territory.

I loved the issue.
I remember scouring back issues for MTIO, looking for interesting guest stars–and this one fit the bill.
One of the best MTIO’s ever.

I’d say easily the best Marvel Two In One ever. And I think Defalco was the title’s best writer. (Which is odd, ’cause Steve Gerber, who wrote the first few issues, is usually my single favorite writer in mainstream comics.)

I’m not sure it’s ever been equaled in the “hero looks like a badass but still loses” genre.

I second Philip Trostler’s suggestion for more “classic” This Comic Is Good posts. But I also second Jack Norris on De Falco.

MarkAndrew, the best MTIO ever? Easily the best MTIO ever? That’s some mighty strong language there, Padre. I think I might allow as how it easily isn’t the worst ever…

Because that would be Thing/Blue Diamond…

DeFalco’s MTIO was unreadable for the most part. When I was re-reading my MTIOs a few years back (I had 51-100 and a smattering of ones before then) I ended up just flipping thru most of the DeFalco run because they were so boring or poorly written. This annual was not his worst work, but it was rather heavy-handed (appropriate for a boxing issue, I guess) and I sold it on eBay along with the rest of the last few years of the title. They all went for about a quarter apiece.

Isn’t there also a little bit of The Champion in Allen the Alien from Robert Kirkman’s Invincible?

Best MTIO ever would be the two-parter Thing/Jocasta/Machine Man vs Ultron story. How can you not like a story that ends with Machine Man reaching down Ultron’s throat and pulling his guts out?

That was also the issue where Jocasta ‘died’ after her poor treatment by the Avengers.

I am in shock that there are people who didn’t like this book.

I compulsively look for copies of this comic, buying it again and again just so I can read it right then and there.

If Dark Phoenix is my favorite comic story, this is right up there with my favorite single issues of all time.

Well, now that makes two of us in shock.

I can’t say the subject matter is something I’d get compulsive about reading, but my, that is a beautiful portrait of the Thing.

SanctumSanctorumComix

January 30, 2008 at 9:09 am

Best single issue of Two-In-One would be # 99.
ROM : Spaceknight & Ben Grimm fighting Wraith Witches on Halloween?

C’MON!

I also have a soft spot for # 44.
Thing tells a bed-time story to Franklin about the time he fought with HERCULES against some greek demon.
Of course, the fact that it’s one of the first I bought in my youthful days might have something to do with it.

And, of course, # 1 JUST because it’s got the MAN-THING and one of the BEST COVERS EVER.

~P~
P-TOR

Picking the best issues of MTIO is a hard task, as the series as a whole was pretty awful, but I’d have to guess MTIO #50 where Ben goes back in time to meet his original (circa FF #1) self is a candidate. Also, #51, where the Thing plays poker with the Avengers and Nick Fury (art by Frank Miller) is a real fun one. Most of the Project Pegasus series (#53-#58) is very good as well. But, the best EVER was Annual #2, the first part of the Death of Warlock story. Hard to argue with that one I’d think.

Best MTIO for me is the Sandman issue – not a dry eye in the house!

I think that writing an ongoing monthly title where Ben Grimm teams up with a different character every single month had to have been one of the most thankless tasks ever. Hell, even someone utterly brilliant like Alan Moore would probably be tearing his hair out after writing a couple of dozen issues, screaming “I can’t do it any more!!!” So I think it’s harsh to be so critical of Tom DeFalco’s work on MTIO.

The same goes for anyone else who ever wrote that series, as well as for Marvel-Two-In-One… remember the entry on how that title’s storytelling engine was probably an utter nightmare if you were the poor schlub writing it.

Um, whoops! I meant to type Marvel Team-Up. That was the one with the nightmare storytelling engine, i.e. Marvel’s ultimate loner, Spider-Man, teams up with someone new every single issue. At least Ben Grimm was in the Fantastic Four, so he was used to being a team player, albeit a grumpy one.

I would definitely agree that there were a number of better issues of Marvel Two-in-One than this one, but this was still a fine comic.

And it ranks quite high on Marvel’s list of Annuals.

Oh, come now. Now it’s one of the best Annuals ever published, too? Did DeFalco save your life in the war, or something?

And Ben: MTIO wasn’t an impossible book to write. DeFalco just stunk out the joint on it, that’s all. Perfectly understandable, considering that in those days he could not write for shit.

Also, I like John Seavey, but I think he’s off-base with MTU: I would call it an excellent storytelling engine, in fact.

OhmiGod I love Team-Up books!

MarkAndrew, the best MTIO ever? Easily the best MTIO ever? That’s some mighty strong language there, Padre. I think I might allow as how it easily isn’t the worst ever…

GAH! BAD! The Blue Diamond issue was spectacular! The one where he “dies” and evolves into a greater love/cosmic conciosness? Great Stuff!

Worst issues… Yeah, there were a lot of ‘em.

I’d nominate the that Spider-Woman four parter where Alicia turns into an insect monster thing.

Or the Scarecrow one, which was doubly disapointing because the Scarecrow stories in Dead of Night were so nifty.

Or one of those later ones with the video game tie-in stories. I think there were two of them, back to back, from different writers and artists.

Best single issue of Two-In-One would be # 99.
ROM : Spaceknight & Ben Grimm fighting Wraith Witches on Halloween?

C’MON!

Hmm. That’s one of, like, four issues I haven’t read.

I also have a soft spot for # 44.
Thing tells a bed-time story to Franklin about the time he fought with HERCULES against some greek demon.
Of course, the fact that it’s one of the first I bought in my youthful days might have something to do with it.

I bought that one yesterday. :) The framing sequences were great, the actual story just so – so.

And, of course, # 1 JUST because it’s got the MAN-THING and one of the BEST COVERS EVER.

Judged on COVERS I’m right there with you.

The actual story wasn’t a patch on any of Gerber’s other Man-Thing stuff. BUT I’d cheerfully call the two Man-Thing issues of Marvel Team-Up two of the best of THAT series.

Picking the best issues of MTIO is a hard task, as the series as a whole was pretty awful, but I’d have to guess MTIO #50 where Ben goes back in time to meet his original (circa FF #1) self is a candidate. Also, #51, where the Thing plays poker with the Avengers and Nick Fury (art by Frank Miller) is a real fun one.

Agreed and agreed. I’d put both of those in the top five.

Most of the Project Pegasus series (#53-#58) is very good as well.

Yeah, the art was nice. Byrne AND Perez. And it was a neat concept.

The pacing and story development were Godawful, though. But I’d still probably call it one of the top ten stories, though. Cause the goodness of the good outweighs the awfulness of the bad.

But, the best EVER was Annual #2, the first part of the Death of Warlock story. Hard to argue with that one I’d think.

Second part, I believe.

And I wasn’t a super-huge fan of this one. Just too dang many characters getting in the way of the core of the story, which was Warlock vs. Thanos to the death(s). Some nice touches in this story: Spider-man sneaks up on the Thing, Thor and Benjy vs. Thanos, the one single tear in the last panel – But it was hard to fit in an actual character arc with 16 million guest stars all runnin’ around.

I feel like I’m in some sort of weird mirror universe here. I mean, praise for early DeFalco? How old were people when they first read this? I was about 12-13. Plok and I, and the one or two people we knew also into comics (no net back then obviously, and we were ignorant of any fan groups at the time), used to spend hours ripping on how crappy we thought DeFalco was in his early years. When he finally started turning out half-decent work, it was a genuine (though pleasant) surprise.

The Blue Diamond issue was spectacular?

What?

Good gravy, now I am in shock.

I didn’t care overmuch for the Project Pegasus stuff, but I liked it okay. I liked the ROM thing much better (having started out hating ROM, I was slowly warming up to him — now I wish he could come back again). Any story involving bedtime stories for Franklin I think gets a pass just on that alone, and MTIO #50 and #100 were fine. Obviously my favourites are the Gerber issues, but one I have a lot of fondness for is the Claremont/Brown Thing/Black Widow story…if we’re talking about MTIOs that show Ben Grimm doesn’t know the meaning of the word “quit”, that’s my sentimental pick for #1.

And just to be clear, I’m happy to read DeFalco now — who can fail to be charmed by Spider-Girl? Fabian Niceiza was another guy like this, I couldn’t stand him when he first came around, so when he got on Thunderbirds I was amazed to find out how much better he’d gotten as a scripter. Now I’d probably read a book if Nicieza was writing it, huh, go figure.

And just to be clear, I’m happy to read DeFalco now — who can fail to be charmed by Spider-Girl?

Right here.

In theory it’s the kind of thing I like. Spider-man centric. Young hero. Young female hero. All of those are plusses in my book.

In practice… It’s completely unreadable for me. I dunno… I LIKE a lot of old comics. I just can’t stomach current comics that try to be like old comics.

Correction, I was 16-17 when this came out. Somehow I was thinking of another book with a 1977 cover date I was looking at online just before coming here.

So young to be so jaded, MarkAndrew!

What about that Thing/Widow MTIO, though?

Count me in the “liked this annual” camp.

Fun with guest stars, although I remember as a kid wishing Hercules and Power Man were in there (although looking back, Power Man would have gotten killed, but Hercules not only would have been strong enough to put up a good fight, he would’ve been into the whole competition thing more than anybody else).

It seems like Sasquatch was appearing all over the place around this time, what with this annual, Hulk, and Contest of Champions. It nicely whetted the appetite for an Alpha Flight book.

As I recall, Silver Surfer #1 had the Surfer mopping the floor with Champion, which I thought was dumb, since in this annual his power is compared to Galactus.

Myself, I’m surprised he didn’t put Champion’s power level on a par with Eternity or the Living Tribunal, or God or something.

Or Hyperstorm?

Oh no, that’s right: Hyperstorm’s way more powerful than God.

Sheesh, I thought Silver Surfer #1 rehabilitated Champion.

Jack N, There is a big difference between a 12 year old’s and 16 year old’s world view, its pretty much “I hate the world, and everything in it” at that age, and the optimism and “fun” of being 12 is long gone. It would be interesting to note what comics you DID like at that age. (or remember liking anyways)

Seriously though, Im in my early 30′s now and consider myself a pretty discerning comic reader, but a big superhero boxing match involving most of the heavy hitters of the Marvel U, and an omnipetent Alien?? Thats what comics are about!!

Oooh, can I answer that? Because John Byrne was knocking it out of the park on Fantastic Four at the time this MTIO was published.

Incidentally, MarkAndrew — we do agree about that wretched Alicia/Spider-Woman thing. Worst use of “It can’t be! Not…YOU!” on a cover ever.

I was a regular reader of MTIO. What I liked about it (same with MTU, Brave & the Bold, and the only Superman book worth reading, DC Comics Presents) was that you *never* knew what character was going to wander in. I loved being introduced to characters I’d never heard of, and would impatiently plod through the big names waiting for the next undiscovered gem to surface.

How can you people be blowing off the Project Pegasus saga? Or the multi-parter where Ben went to jail? There was lots of good stuff in the pages of MTIO if you’re just looking for some fun stuff from yesteryear.

That being said, I thought the Champion annual was kind of lame – I thought the art was weak and I hate it when they introduce new characters for the sole purpose of seeing a hero finally get defeated. I have the same complaint about Bane and Doomsday.

All due respect, Brian, but I never thought I’d live long enough to see anyone praise this piece of dreck. Did we even read the same comic? Stupid plot, lame villain, tone-deaf dialogue, dull and ugly art: yeah, *those* are the makings of a classic. Of course, team-up title addict that I was (and still am) I enjoyed it purely on its appeal as a brainless punch-em-up but I’d never go so far as to call it “good.” Sorry.

I have this comic but I haven’t read it in years. I remember enjoying it when I first got it, except for one aspect of the art. The Champion’s “manager” was some alien multi-armed something-or-other who made it quite clear he was not the physical type – but he had standard superhero-comic musculature: well defined biceps/triceps, six-pack, zero bodyfat. AIR he was even in the OHOTMUDE and it listed him as one who engaged in “no regular excercise.” In this age of Image art it seems like no big deal but at the time I was pissed. Yes, I realize it’s a very small thing to be pissed about.

Awesome issue. There’s a similar one (my brain is telling me it’s #86, but who knows) where a half-dazed Ben Grimm wanders through the Everglades after surviving a rocketship crash that’s of similar dimension — he just WILL NOT QUIT.

I really like early DeFalco. Coincidentally, I just picked up a run of Dazzler (you heard me!) on eBay this week and the early DeFalco issues are lots of fun, packing in a bunch of guest stars, soap opera drama, and super-hero action. Reminds me a lot of early Spidey, although not as grim and certainly not as groundbreaking. Two-Fisted Tom also saved the Machine Man revival (the original series after Kirby left) after a really boring issue or two scripted by IIRC Marv Wolfman.

I think there’s a lot of antipathy towards DeFalco from comics fans of my generation because Marvel deteriorated so much under his watch as E-i-C. But that’s not really fair — his management failures don’t have much bearing on his writing, and anyway all that multiple titles, heavy crossovers, and chromium covers stuff was imposed on DeFalco from the men upstairs. Perhaps he should have fought it more vehemently, but he had a ringside seat for what happened to the last guy who tried to maintain some integrity across the line.

So young to be so jaded, MarkAndrew!

What about that Thing/Widow MTIO, though?

I had to haul out my Essential Two In One and reread, ’cause the only thing I remember from that story was the last panel.

And, yeah, that was pretty darn good! MThe art was definitely better than in Annual 7, and the Thing and the Widder-Woman had a nicely comfortable relationship.
If I ever get around to doing the Top Ten issues of Marvel Two In One (which I’ve been planning in my head for a while, but will probably have to come after the Top Ten Marvel Team Ups and Top Ten Brave and the Bolds) that will certainly make my list.

The Champion’s “manager” was some alien multi-armed something-or-other who made it quite clear he was not the physical type

Yeah, that bothered me too, actually.

I tracked this down on your recommendation, Brian, and it was worth it. Sure, the concept is pretty goofy and it’s not without its glaring flaws, but it’s a pretty damn fun superhero comic.

Aside from the awesomeness of the final fight itself, the highlight has gotta be Iron Man’s explanation for the perfectly good question of why She-Hulk wasn’t invited: “Maybe our alien’s a male chauvinist!”

This really is one of my favorite single issues of a comic book. Come on, what’s not to love? An all-powerful alien coming to Earth to judge its people via boxing? And people buying tickets to see it in Madison Square Garden, with the ring surrounded by an impenetrable force field? The Vision getting scouted for the fight and then ruled out for being a robot? Doc Samson getting hilariously curbstomped – by a TRAINING MACHINE – and probably made fun of by everyone else off panel? Namor throwing himself out into space rather than agreeing to fight? Thor in boxing trunks and gloves, but still carrying his hammer? The Champion of the Universe completely wussing out and disqualifying the Hulk because he knows in his heart he would lose? The Thing bleeding?

And the very best part: the X-Men try to sneak down to ringside, and their disguises consist of Cyclops and Wolverine in trenchcoats, with Cyclops in a fedora and Wolverine in a Gilligan bucket hat. I’ve always mentally filled in the argument that surely preceded that scene, with Scott finally pulling rank and reminding Wolverine that he beat his ass judo style in the past in order to get Wolverine to put on the Gilligan hat.

Anyway, kind of the best thing ever, this comic.

That was a wonderful book, one of only a handful of Marvel Two-in-ones that have survived all the numerous purges and several desperate thinnings of my collection over the last twenty-five years, up there with the Project Pegasus, Serpent Crown and Sandman issues.
I can remember the day I bought it! What I’m having trouble with is the realization that the old girlfriend who I was with that day would be 44 now.
Wow.
How’d that happen?

I have been looking for this comic for the last 15 years. I used to have a copy of it but lent it to someone (stupidly). I think the story line in this comic is one of if not the best ever. It defines the spirit of what every man (or woman) should be. When I recount the story I still get tears in my eays.

som una mierda

I have this comic and it is in near mint condition. Am wondering if anyone knows its value?
I have many old comics that I would like to learn the value of. Does anyone know of a website that gives this information? Thanks for any information you are willing to share with me.

I am also interested in selling this comic as well as my others, if anyone is interested and can direct me to information showing its true value, I would consider selling it. Thanks again.

This comic book is exactly what Marvel has been missing for the last 10 years. A story that gets the read emotionally attached to a hero, this book alone made the Thing my favorite super-hero growing up. A great homage to this sort of story is Thing: Last Line of Defense.

one of my favorite comics i ever had. thanks for posting this. i could never remember what comic this story was in…thank you, thank you. finally, i know. i have been looking for this for info for 20 years or more. :P

As a young boy I loved this issue and was one of the reasons why the Thing was my favorite hero. The Thing was a loveable loser. He wasn’t the strongest or the smartest and certainly not the fastest. He didn’t have some really cool superpower. He was just a regular blue collar guy who had an unfortunate accident and was turned into a freak made of orange rock. The Thing had what most of the other superheroes were lacking- personality, humility, self-depracting humor and most importantly, HEART. That’s what made him so special to me as a young boy reading comic books, he had that ‘never say die’ attitude. He refused to quit and would die before doing so. He was a good role model for kids, albeit a fictitious one. This issue, while far from perfect, with some laughable dialogue,etc, is a shining example of why the Thing was such a special character, he saved the planet, not with brute strength but with heart. I agree with some of the critics of this issue regarding some aspects of the story and some of the corny dialogue, but I still enjoy it and have it framed in my office hanging prominently on the wall next to photos of Roberto Clemente and Paul Newman, some other heroes of mine.

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