The definitive issue-by-issue collecting guide and trade reading order for Marvel’s The Champions comic books and omnibus, hardcover, and trade paperback collections. Find every issue and appearance! Part of Crushing Krisis’s Crushing Comics. Last updated November 2018 with titles scheduled for release through July 2019.
Reading and Collecting The Champions
The Champions is one of Marvel’s most unusual teams, with a strange history both on the page and behind the scenes.
The team began its life as a pitch by writer Tony Isabella. While the details have grown hazy over the years, one thing is certain – Isabella had designs on Angel and Iceman, the two X-Men left over after the original team was splintered by the arrival of the Giant Size X-Men team, and the other three characters – Hercules, Black Widow, and Ghost Rider – were thrust upon him. The title was written entirely by Isabella and then by Bill Mantlo (with Claremont filling in on #4) along with a merry-go-round of artists.
The series opens with them all five characters on the UCLA campus, each for their own reasons, when it comes under assault by a strange group of anachronistic villains. They turn out to be agents of the god Pluto, who intends Hercules to be wed to Hippolyta!
Despite this oddball set-up, The Champions weirdly worked well. It’s a series about heroes being heroes because they simply cannot help it, joined together by proximity more than friendship or destiny. It gave Iceman and Angel a chance to breath away from Cyclops and Jean. It gave Black Widow a rare chance to shine after her breakup with Daredevil – she would go on to become the team’s chairman. And, it showed just how brutal and terrifying Ghost Rider could be – as he tended to have an unsettling effect on his teammates.
If fans took interest, this team could have become the de facto West Coast version of the Avengers years before that team made its debut. Alas, despite Marvel’s best efforts to promote the book it ended early, with its epilogue shuffled into a pair of Spider-Man issues.
That was the end of The Champions for forty years – unusual, given Marvel’s propensity for reviving their intellectual property every so often. In this case, it was because they were barred from doing so! While Marvel’s Champions were dormant, Heroic Publishing had began publishing a Champions comic book to support their popular 1980s role playing game.
Whether Marvel wanted to get the gang back together or not, they couldn’t – so Iceman and Angel returned from X-Factor to the X-Men in 1991, Black Widow and Hercules anchored the “Leather Jacket” Avengers, and Ghost Rider briefly expanded into his own franchise in the 90s.
Flash forward to 2016. Marvel is launching a youthful new team in the wake of Civil War II featuring characters like Miles Morales and Ms. Marvel that is quite deliberately not The Avengers. What could they be called? While the obvious answer seems like it ought to be “New Warriors” (especially with Nova on the team!), Marvel’s editorial team got a twinkle in their eye and asked Legal if they might be able to revive The Champions trademark – and they could!
That’s how we got a new Champions team so unlike the first one – it’s literally just an IP grab by Marvel of their own IP!
Surprisingly, this new Champions turned out to have some real staying power. Marvel’s youngest generation of heroes were never quite the right fir for the Avengers team they hero-worshipped as kids. They’re much more compelling when they are left to their own devices.
- The Champions of Los Angeles
- Marvel’s Young Champions
- ANAD Marvel & Marvel Legacy
- Champions (2016) #19-27 (2016 – 2018)
- Marvel Fresh Start:
- Champions (2016) #19-27, Annual 1,
& Infinity Countdown: The Champions (2018) #1-2 (2018 – 2019) by Jim Zub (2018 – present)
- Champions (2019) #1-10 (2019 – 2020) by Jim Zub
- Champions (2020) #1-10 & Outlawed (2020) #1 by Danny Lore, Luciano Vecchio, & Eve Ewing
- Champions (2016) #19-27, Annual 1,
- ANAD Marvel & Marvel Legacy
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The Champions (1975) #1-17
This run has been collected in full in a trio of formats – first a pair of Classic trades, later a single hardcover Masterwork, and finally in a matching paperback. They’re covered below in descending order of quality, followed by an issue-by-issue reading guide.
as a hardcover Masterwork edition…
Marvel Masterworks: The Champions (2016 hardcover, ISBN 978-0785196921 / digital)
Collects the entire Champions run on one of the largest Marvel Masterworks of all time! Collects Champions (1975) #1-17; Iron Man (1968) Annual (1970) #4; Avengers (1963) #163; Super-Villain Team-Up (1975) #14; Spectacular Spider-Man (1976) #17-18, Hulk (1968) Annual 7
as a single Complete Collection…
Champions Classic: The Complete Collection (2018 paperback, ISBN 978-1302911805 / digital)
A paperback version of the Masterworks collection. Collects Champions (1975) #1-17; Iron Man (1968) Annual 4; Avengers (1963) #163; Super-Villain Team-Up (1975) #14; Spectacular Spider-Man (1976) #17-18, and Hulk (1968) Annual 7
as a pair of Classic Collections…
The Champions Classic, Vol. 2 (2007 paperback, ISBN 978-0785120988 / digital)
Collects Champions (1976) #12-17, Iron Man (1968) Annual 4, Avengers (1963) #163, Super-Villain Team-Up (1975) #14 and Peter Parker, the Spectacular Spider-Man (1976) #17-18. (This skips Hulk (1968) Annual 7, which was first included with Masterworks, above, and then in the subsequent Complete Collection.)
as collected by single issue, and including guest appearances…
Some of the team breaks for other appearances after three, but none of them are as “The Champions.”
#4: Only collected per above
Ghost Rider (1973) #17 shows two panels of Johnny Blaze meeting with the team during a “busy weekend.”
#5-6: Only collected per above
Avengers (1963) #151 is a story framed by news coverage of the Avengers and their impending line-up change. As one of the cutaways from the coverage, we get a page of the Avengers watching – with Hercules and Black Widow reminiscing about their time with the team while Iceman and Angel get nostalgic for their days as the original X-Men.
Marvel Fanfare (1982) #10 contains a two panels of flashback to a period where the team was happily assembled, including Ghost Rider, and Angel was wearing his deep-V chest-baring costume – placing it no later than issue #7. Similarly, Incredible Hercules (2008) #114 features Hercules briefly hallucinates that he’s still with his Champions teammates at some point prior to issue #7.
#7: Only collected per above
Punisher War Journal (2007) #17 has Rampage flashing back to a portion of his fight with the team in issue #7 for a couple of panels.
Gambit and the Champions: From The Marvel Vault (2011) #1 occurs during #7; it is listed in the next section.
#8-10: Only collected per above
Marvel Treasury Edition (1974) #13: Not collected. This issue isn’t primarily a Champion issue – they aren’t the featured stars of any of the anthology stories. However, at the end of the issue Matt Murdock is daydreaming about Natasha, and we cut to a cute two-page scenes of The Champions enjoying a picturesque holiday season in Los Angeles thanks to Iceman. Elements of this story may be included in Marvel Holiday Magazine 2010 – which is confusingly label as “#16” though it’s simply an annual holiday mag.
X-Men: First Class Finals (2009) #3’s backup story of questionable continuity has a brief panel of the Champions in this period.
#11-15: Marvel Universe by John Byrne Omnibus (2016 oversize hardcover, ISBN 978-0785195603)
Collects The Champions (1975) #11-15; Marvel Preview (1975) #11; Avengers (1963) #164-166 & 181-191; Power Man (1974) #48-50; Marvel Premiere (1972) #47-48; Captain America (1968) #247-255; Silver Surfer (1982) #1; Incredible Hulk (1968) #314-319; Wolverine (1988) #17-23; and material from Marvel Fanfare (1982) #29
Between #13-14, Ghost Rider (1973) #23 shows Blaze driving away from the Champions on the first page, with the team expressing their increasing unease with him as he disappears into the distance.
#14-15: Collected in “No Time For Losers” and “John Byrne,” both listed above. A brief half page of flashback in Peter Parker, The Spectacular Spider-Man (1976) #36 recaps this period.
Godzilla (1977) #3 AKA The Champions #15.1: Essential Godzilla (2006 paperback, ISBN 978-0785121534)
Part of a three-issue campaign to promote The Champions in other titles. It’s a pity Marvel doesn’t have the rights to re-collect this comic in color, as it’s a full-scale battle between The Champions and Godzilla in the San Francisco bay! Definitely worth a read if you can track it down.
Iron Man (1968) Annual 4 AKA The Champions #15.2: Collected above. Also, see Guide to Iron Man. The team is featured heavily in this issue as they battle with Iron man against MODOK. Though the issue ends with by teasing a direct continuation in Champions #16, the team makes some other appearances in this period.
Avengers (1963) #163 AKA The Champions #15.3: Collected above. Also, see Guide to Avengers (1963). This is a knock-down, drag out fight between Iron Man and the Champions as orchestrated by an old foe of Hercules. It’s a really fun battle!
Super-Villain Team-Up (1975) #14: Collected above. The Champions only appear in the final panel of this issue, where Doctor Doom scores an impressive victory over Magneto, who manages to flee to the Avengers to request their aid – to find that it’s too late! They have already fallen under the sway of Doom! Magneto managed to free his old foe Beast, who reports that the Fantastic Four and Uncanny X-Men are not on the world to assist them … but, The Champions are! This was the final issue of SVTU until it made a comeback the following year, so the story continues to Champions (which is why this non-Champions issue tends to be collected along with their series).
#16: Collected in Super-Villains Unite: The Complete Super-Villain Team-Up (2015) and Essential Super-Villain Team-Up (2004)
Giant-Size Hulk (2006) #1: See Guide to Hulk. An editorial note in this flashback story places it directly after issue #16. This issue has been collected in many places, but I’m not sure which have included this story in specific (most likely collect the 2nd story, set during Planet Hulk)! I think your best bet is Giant-Size Hulk (hardcover).
The Incredible Hulk (2000) #106 refers to the the Giant-Size story in flashback. Black Widow: Deadly Origin (2010) #3 also contains a page of flashback to this period.
#17: Only collected per above
Peter Parker, The Spectacular Spider-Man (1976) #17-18: Collected above. Also, see Guide to Spider-Man, Peter Parker (1963 – 2010). This story acts as an epilogue to the Champions series.
Hulk Annual 7: Collected above; also, see Guide to Hulk. This is Angel and Iceman’s next appearance, and is collected alongside Champions.
All of Marvel’s 1998 annuals were team-ups. Several were between a current run and a series or character that did not have a current ongoing series.
Annual 1998: See Guide to X-Force.
This retcon issue, written in the 90s but not published and later re-drawn. It occurs during issue #7 for most characters.
Iceman (2017) #6-7: A modern-day reassembly of The Champions! See X-Men Ongoings.
Marvel’s Young Champions
This new youthful version of The Champions feels a bit more like the New Warriors – a team of disparate Marvel Heroes whose one commonality may be their lack of interest in being in The Avengers.
In this case, it’s due to the perceived bad behavior of the adult heroes in Civil War II, which drove young members like Ms. Marvel, Nova, and Spider-Man off of the team. Here they are joined by Amadeus Cho as Hulk, the young Cyclops, and Vision’s daughter Viv from his solo series.
as recollected in digest-size paperbacks…
as originally collected…
#1.MU: This is a Monsters Unleashed tie-in issue; see Guide to Marvel Universe Events – Monsters Unleashed for collection information. It’s also collected in Vol. 3, below.
Monsters Unleashed: See Guide to Marvel Universe Events – Monsters Unleashed. The team appears throughout this fun-filled monster mash event.
Secret Empire: See Guide to Marvel Universe Events – Secret Empire. The team appears throughout the Secret Empire event; their issues #10-11 tie-in to the event.
Fresh Start: Champions (2016) #19-27, Annual 1,
& Infinity Countdown: The Champions (2018) #1-2 (2018 – 2019)
Jim Zub takes over the title with #19 with a line-up of Ms. Marvel (Kamala Khan), Hulk (Amadeus Cho), Nova (Sam Alexander), Miles Morales (Spider-Man), Viv (the daughter of Vision), Ironheart (Riri Williams), Wasp (Nadia Pym), Snowguard.
#19-21: Vol. 4: Northern Lights (2018 paperback, ISBN 978-1302909826 / digital)
Also collects Infinity Countdown: The Champions (2018) #1-2. Unlike many event tie-ins, this pair of issues by series writer Jim Zub has a massive impact on the ongoing story of the team. See Marvel Universe Events for further collection information.
#22-27 & Annual 1: Vol. 5: Weird War One (2019 paperback, ISBN 978-1302915056 / digital)
Champions is relaunched in 2019 with Jim Zub still writing.
This Champions relaunch was originally intended to run alongside a youth-focused event called Outlawed that would spin off additional new series – including a relaunch of New Warriors. When the event ran across Marvel’s pandemic pause in 2020, the event was truncated. Most of the story wound up contained in the first volume of Champions as well as in Power Pack (2020) – see Guide to Powerpack.
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