Friday, November 25, 2016

And They Shall Call Him... Champion! (Marvel)
Marvel Two-In-One Annual #7 When: October 1982 Why: Tom DeFalco How: Ron Wilson

The Story So Far...
When the clock strikes Clobberin' Time there ain't nobody better than the ever lovin' blue-eyed Thing! As a charter member of the Fantastic Four he's had the duty of bruising with some of the meanest, toughest fighters in the galaxy - and it's earned him quite a reputation!

Enter: Proja - The Promoter Supreme!

Charged with signing worthy opponents to face The Champion of the Universe - he sees big box office potential in match between Thing and his client! Madison Square Garden is the only arena that could stage this once in a lifetime brawl, but you can't have a main event without an undercard!

Stepping into the ring to challenge The Champion first is a God of Thunder! Will he upstage the Elder of the Universe, or find himself humbled by a being even greater than a god? Let's get ready to rumble!

Tale of the Tape...
Strength: Champion 7 (Omnipotent)
Intelligence: Thor 4 (Tactician)
Speed: Champion 3 (Athlete)
Stamina: Champion 7 (Unstoppable)
Agility: Draw 2 (Average)
Fighting: Champion 7 (Living Weapon)
Energy: Thor 5 (Lasers)

This week the gloves are on! We've got ourselves the first battle in a bona fide boxing tournament! The prize on the line is the Undisputed Championship of the Galaxy! It's a honor just to be selected to fight for the title. Let's take a closer look at our powerful pugilists!

In the blue corner is the challenger! Hailing from the realm of Asgard, he is a member of The Avengers and the Norse God of Thunder! With a Comic Book Fight Club record of 6-7-1, I give you: Thor!

We know Thor loves a fight, so he's gonna take this challenge head-on. He's one of the toughest guys in the universe. We've seen him fighting the likes of Juggernaut, Hulk, Destroyer, Super-Skrull, Superman, Captain Marvel - no problem! Strength and toughness aren't going to be a issue - but there are some gaps in his game that could really cause him some problems.

For one, this is a competition setting. There are rules. If this were a guy like Hercules, I'd have more confidence in adapting to the format. Usually Thor's in touch with the elements, he's got the sky at his back, and a battlefield to use. Here, he's gotta stay grounded. He's gotta work within the intimacy of the squared circle. Most problematic of all: he's gotta put the hammer down!

We saw separation from Mjolnir cause Thor to come unglued against Beta Ray Bill [Thor #337], and even Ghost Rider was able to use a thrown hammer to his advantage [Avengers #214]. A spell cast by Odin means if Thor's separated from the hammer for more than sixty seconds - he will revert to the human form of Dr. Donald Blake! A major factor in the loss to Bill!

Technique and form could be a real problem for Thor. He's a brawler, a warrior. Against an army of trolls, he can rely on barreling through them. Against today's opponent, he's going to face finesse and a scientific approach to boxing. He may be able to take a few blows, but he'll have to rely on haymakers to finish the fight quickly. A risky strategy that could leave him open to a clinical dissection!

Fighting in the red shorts is the champion! An Elder of the Universe, he possesses the might of the power primordial! To this point, he has beaten the very best the cosmos has to offer! With an unblemished record, he is recognized in all known systems as Tryco Slatterus: Champion of the Universe!

The Champ has had eons to perfect his fighting technique, and possesses the strength and power to carry it off. His reputation speaks for itself, but it doesn't include a lot of known experience with Earth fighters. That could lead him to under estimate the competition, although it isn't his usual modus operandi.

Many years after this tournament we know he'll be in possession of the Infinity Gem of Power, and its removal will be key to allowing She-Hulk to get the better of the Champion in a rematch fight [She-Hulk #8]. No such dependency or technicality is present here. The Champion is still very close to his prime!

Ordinarily, diversity of offense would be Thor's tape advantage. Under the circumstances of this special prize bout, The Champion has to be the overwhelming favourite. The hammer separation factor is a huge disadvantage!

The Tape: Thor Ranking: Thor (#23)

What Went Down...
At the champion's prerogative Thor waits alone in the ring for the impending match. A dazzling burst of energy signals the arrival of his opponent - a towering vision draped in a hooded gown, title belt around his waist!

Thor instantly recognizes the fighting pedigree of the Elder - a warrior born, in his words. Champion hears his thoughts. As they meet in the centre to receive the referee's instructions, The Champion dismisses Thor's inner musings and his claims of godhood. Enough to compel Thor to embrace "unnecessary" combat!

The bell rings, prompting both fighters to move in from their corners. They square off, Thor making the first move with a wild left! He finds only air as The Champion effortlessly side steps the blow!

The Champ takes full advantage of Thor's attempts at slugging, moving in fast to clobber the thunderer with a glove to the face! Speed and finesse are clearly in Champion's favour!

Thor, still in possession of his enchanted hammer Mjolnir, uses a two-fisted grip to thrust the mallet into Champion's mid-section. The mighty blow sends the aggressor stumbling backward -- vulnerable to a follow-up strike!

Pressing the advantage, Thor announces the pure power he faces in Mjolnir! With an all mighty toss, the hammer hurtles toward the unarmed boxing champ -- who makes no attempt to avoid it!

Instead, Champion stoically admires the formidability of the weapon flying directly at him. it then disappears -- mere inches from impact! Deemed unbefitting of the ring, the hammer is exiled by Champion to the unnamed expanse of a far-off nether dimension!

Thanks to Odin's enchantments - the hammer reappears within the gloved grasp of a stunned Thor! The Champion chooses to respect the inherent link. The referee disqualifies Thor for his use of an illegal weapon. In an instant, he is returned to Chicago with hammer and garb restored.

The Hammer...
By the rules of the contest: Champion of the Universe is winner via disqualification! You cannot throw a hammer in a fist fight. Lesson learned!

We don't necessarily adhere to the same strict standards of unarmed combat on The Comic Book Fight Club, so this is a battle that requires further deliberation.

On the one hand, Champion is the controlling influence that ends the fight. He halts Thor's hammer, banishes it to another universe, then sends hammer and opponent back to Earth. A reasonable argument for Champion's victory, but one that ultimately rests on avoiding the fight.

For that reason, our record must show that the meeting between Thor and Champion ended in a no contest - or a draw! They both struck offensive blows, but there was no outcome. A battle to be revisited one day in the future, with any luck!

If you read The Tape section of this entry [above], you know Champion of the Universe did eventually entertain another tournament of opponents! That one ended in a back-to-back rematch with She-Hulk. It was one of the highlights of Dan Slott's first and most exciting year with the heroine. One of many loving references in the series to the Marvel Universe and its storied history.

It's easy to see why Slott would go back to The Champion and his original premise. Across the many stories about aliens looking for a fight, Marvel Two-In-One Annual #7 ranks top among them! Remarkable, then, that it hasn't been revisited more often!

There was at least one fantastic follow-up issue that shows Thing recovering in the hospital. A fun story about other heroes keeping villains at bay, only for the Sandman to sneak in and... share beer and cigars with his wounded foe!

What's always been missing, in my mind, was title lineage. To the best of my knowledge, there was never a rematch between Thing and The Champ. Nor any notable title defenses by Thing. Champion's status as an Elder of the Universe would instead lead him into grand cosmic plots involving the Power Gem, or a scheme to destroy Galactus. The story of his championship comeback - a missed opportunity, in my mind!

Of course, if you know nothing else about this famous issue, it's that main event between The Thing and The Champion that's kept readers talking for decades.  It was  a legendary highlight that demonstrated the heart and determination fundamental to the character of Benjamin J. Grimm! An instant classic! One that overshadows the rest of the issue!

Only the studied fan will know that Champion challenged Thor, as well as a short list of other powerful Earth heroes. I hope in the coming months we'll be able to follow the tournament to its conclusion.

No matter how brief, each bout tells the reader something interesting about the fighter. Prince Namor never even gets in the ring, royally refusing to indulge "such folly". Doc Samson comes up short in the training stages - a fine brawler, but a man of the mind - not the fist. Hulk, Sasquatch, Colossus, Wonder Man and Thing make up the rest of the card. Written and arrangement very much in the booking mindset of any good pro wrestling event, complete with consideration for what each result means to the character on exit.

In the case of Thor - I love the attention to detail given to his need to remain in possession of his hammer. If he hadn't brought Mjolnir into the ring, he would've had sixty seconds before reverting to Dr. Donald Blake - no match for The Champ! An easy way of avoiding any difficult questions. Thor is swiftly taken out of the running without ever actually losing. Convenient, smart!

Future readers can find out if those subsequent battles have made it onto The Comic Book Fight Club by following character links, or diving into the archive of the Issue Index! Arranged by publisher and series, it's as easy as scrolling down to Marvel, Marvel Two-In-One, and selecting the appropriate issue numbers!

This entry concludes our big November of fisticuffs inspired by the release of Doctor Strange! In theatres now, the movie caps things off with a cameo by Chris Hemsworth's Mighty Thor. Read all about that in our recent Hero of the Week spotlight and stay tuned for more as we crawl toward the end of a massive 10th Anniversary Year of Secret Wars on Infinite Earths!

Winner: No Contest (Draw)
#23 (--) Thor [+1 draw]
#309 (+5) Champion of the Universe [+1 draw]

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