|Publication date||October 1975 - January 1978|
|Number of issues||17|
|Main character(s)||Angel; Black Widow; Darkstar; Ghost Rider; Hercules; Iceman|
|Writer(s)||Chris Claremont, Tony Isabella, Bill Mantlo|
|Penciller(s)||John Byrne, Bob Hall, Don Heck, George Tuska|
|Inker(s)||John Byrne, Vince Colletta, Mike Esposito, Frank Giacoia, Bob Layton, Bruce Patterson, John Tartaglione|
The Champions are a team of superheroes appearing in American comic books published by Marvel Comics. The team first appears in The Champions #1 (October 1975) and was created by writer Tony Isabella and artist Don Heck.
Writer Tony Isabella developed the concept of a new team of superheroes and originally wanted the roster to consist of former X-Men Angel and Iceman, and the newly created Black Goliath. Black Goliath became unavailable when the character debuted in his own title, forcing Isabella to rethink the concept. Editor Len Wein insisted on at least five members, and Isabella added three established heroes: Russian spy Black Widow (team leader), the Greek god Hercules, and the supernatural avenger Ghost Rider. Captain Marvel, Power Man, and the Son of Satan were all considered for the final place on the roster before selecting Ghost Rider. Writer and publisher David Anthony Kraft is credited with naming the team, with the title originally intended to be published in Giant-Size format as Giant-Size Champions. Production difficulties, which caused a three-month delay between the first and second issues, prevented this. The title was eventually published as The Champions, and ran for seventeen issues from October 1975 to January 1978. In addition to Don Heck, artists who drew the series include George Tuska, Bob Hall, and John Byrne.
The team battled established Marvel villains such as Pluto; the Griffin; the Titanium Man and Crimson Dynamo; Warlord Kaa; the Stranger; Kamo Tharnn; and new foes such as Rampage and Swarm. Russian heroine Darkstar joins the team, and Black Goliath eventually guest stars in the title. The second-to-last issue continued a story involving a power struggle between villains Doctor Doom and Magneto from the title Super-Villain Team-Up. The last issue's storyline involving an attack by the Sentinels is referenced in the title Peter Parker: The Spectacular Spider-Man, which explains in flashback how the team disbanded.
The group briefly reunite in a X-Force/Champions Annual. In a humorous issue of the second volume of The Thing, the character Flatman — a member of the misfit team the Great Lakes Avengers — wins a poker tournament and renames his team the Great Lakes Champions, despite protests from Hercules. An issue of The Incredible Hulk features a flashback to a period when the Champions were still together. The team mistakenly attack the Hulk, with the delay almost killing a gravely ill Jennifer Walters.
In 1987, Heroic Publishing began using the name "The Champions" for a role-playing game series which has been adapted into comic books. The United States Patent and Trademark Office ruled that Marvel had abandoned its trademark of the name and could no longer use it, causing a planned 2007 revival of the series was renamed The Order. This has since been resolved with Marvel announcing a new "Champions" series set to debut following their Civil War II event.
- Champions Classic vol. 1 collects The Champions #1-11, 208 pages, July 2006, ISBN 978-0785120971
- Champions Classic vol. 2 collects The Champions #12-17, Iron Man Annual #4, Avengers #163, Super-Villain Team-Up #14 and Peter Parker, the Spectacular Spider-Man #17-18, 216 pages, January 2007, ISBN 978-0785120988
- Isabella, Tony (w). "Cables of Champions (text article)" The Champions 6 (June 1976)
- Isabella, Tony (w), Tuska, George (p), Colletta, Vince (i). "Black Goliath" Black Goliath 1 (February 1976)
- Markstein, Don (2009). "The Champions". Don Markstein's Toonopedia. Archived from the original on April 14, 2012. Retrieved January 20, 2013.
Editor Len Wein...saw them as a two-man group, and mandated that a group must have at least five members. One must be super-strong, one must be female, and at least one must have his own comic. Hence, the addition of Marvel's version of Hercules as the strong guy, The Black Widow (fresh from a relationship with Daredevil) as the female guy and The Ghost Rider as the guy with a title of his own.
- Sanderson, Peter; Gilbert, Laura, ed. (2008). "1970s". Marvel Chronicle A Year by Year History. Dorling Kindersley. p. 171. ISBN 978-0756641238.
Created by writer Tony Isabella and artist Don Heck, the Champions consisted of Angel, Iceman, Hercules, the Black Widow, and Ghost Rider.
- The Champions at the Grand Comics Database
- Walker, Karen (July 2013). "'We'll Keep on Fighting 'Til the End': The Story of the Champions". Back Issue! (TwoMorrows Publishing) (65): 17–23.
- Isabella, Tony (w), Heck, Don (p), Esposito, Mike (i). "The World Still Needs...the Champions!" The Champions 1 (October 1975)
- Isabella, Tony (w), Tuska, George (p), Colletta, Vince (i). "The Man Who Created the Black Widow" The Champions 7 (August 1976)
- Mantlo, Bill (w), Hall, Bob (p), Layton, Bob (i). "The Battle of Los Angeles!" The Champions 9 (December 1976)
- Mantlo, Bill (w), Byrne, John (p), Layton, Bob (i). "The Shadow from the Stars" The Champions 11 (February 1977)
- Mantlo, Bill (w), Byrne, John (p), Layton, Bob (i). "Did Someone Say...the Stranger?" The Champions 12 (March 1977)
- Mantlo, Bill (w), Byrne, John (p), Layton, Bob (i). "The Doom That Went On Forever!" The Champions 13 (May 1977)
- Isabella, Tony (w), Heck, Don (p), Tartaglione, John (i). "The Economy Is So Bad That..." The Champions 5 (April 1976)
- Mantlo, Bill (w), Byrne, John (p), Esposito, Mike (i). "The Creature Called...Swarm!" The Champions 14 (July 1977)
- Mantlo, Bill (w), Hall, Bob (p), Giacoia, Frank (i). "One Man's Son Is Another Man's Poison!" The Champions 10 (January 1977)
- Mantlo, Bill (w), Hall, Bob (p), Perlin, Don; Vohland, Duffy (i). "A World For the Winning!" Super-Villain Team-Up 14 (October 1977)
- Mantlo, Bill (w), Hall, Bob (p), Esposito, Mike (i). "A World Lost!" The Champions 16 (November 1977)
- Mantlo, Bill (w), Tuska, George (p), Byrne, John (i). "The Sentinels Hunt Again!" The Champions 17 (January 1978)
- Manning, Matthew K.; Gilbert, Laura, ed. (2012). "1970s". Spider-Man Chronicle Celebrating 50 Years of Web-Slinging. Dorling Kindersley. p. 101. ISBN 978-0756692360.
Bill Mantlo was the regular scribe of both Peter Parker, The Spectacular Spider-Man and The Champions...The Champions had recently been cancelled, and Mantlo decided to tie up a few of the title's loose ends in his other comic.
- Mantlo, Bill (w), Buscema, Sal (p), Hunt, Dave (i). "Whatever Happened To the Iceman?" Peter Parker: The Spectacular Spider-Man 17 (April 1978)
- Mantlo, Bill (w), Buscema, Sal (p), Hunt, Dave (i). "My Friend, My Foe!" Peter Parker: The Spectacular Spider-Man 18 (May 1978)
- Isabella, Tony (w), Robbins, Frank (p), Colletta, Vince (i). "The Salvation Run!" Ghost Rider v2, 18 (June 1976)
- Mantlo, Bill (w), Tuska, George (p), Perlin, Don (i). "The Doomsday Connection!" Iron Man Annual 4 (August 1977)
- Shooter, Jim (w), Tuska, George (p), Marcos, Pablo (i). "The Demi-God Must Die!" The Avengers 163 (September 1977)
- Moench, Doug (w), Trimpe, Herb (p), DeZuniga, Tony (i). "A Tale of Two Saviors" Godzilla 3 (October 1977)
- Bierbaum, Tom; Bierbaum, Mary (w), Shoemaker, Terry (p), Parsons, Sean; Candelario, Harry (i). "Demon From Within" X-Force / Champions '98 1 (1998)
- Slott, Dan (w), Dwyer, Kieron (p), Dwyer, Kieron (i). "Last Hand" The Thing v2, 8 (August 2006)
- Pak, Greg (w), Frank, Gary (p), Sibal, Jon (i). "Warbound, Part 1" The Incredible Hulk v3, 106 (July 2007)
- Cronin, Brian (January 28, 2010). "Comic Book Legends Revealed #245". Comic Book Resources. Archived from the original on January 20, 2013. Retrieved January 20, 2013.
Marvel did seek and was granted registration of the trademark it was using for that title. That registration, however, was not granted until several months after the title had ceased publication. In the mid-80s, on the basis of that registration, Marvel contested registration of the mark Hero Games was using at that time for its Champions role-playing game. The trademark board took notice of Marvel’s abandonment of their earlier mark, and cancelled that registration.