script by Tom Defalco, pencils by Ron Wilson, inks by 6 staffers

Marvel Comics, 1982

This is the second best comic I have ever read about intergalactic space-boxing.

The first would be, of course, Superman vs Muhammad Ali. But this thing is even more straightforward.

It starts with The Thing posing for a sculpture for Alicia Masters. On page 2 an alien appears. On page 3 the alien explains that he arranges intergalactic boxing matches against a career fighter called The Champion. On page 4 the alien teleports The Thing (against his will) off to space. By page 8 all of the rest of the dudes on the cover have been abducted as well. They train with space equipment until page 20 while their teammates back on Earth wonder what happened to them. Pages 23-40 all take place in the ring as one hero after another faces off against The Champion, until The Thing is the last competitor. Dare I spoil the ending…?

I was astonished by this comic’s flat out sincerity and bull-headedness about having a fun time. There’s no baggage. It’s like a 6-year-old wrote this thing. “Let’s just get all the strongest heroes of the Marvel universe boxing for as many pages as possible and as soon as possible!” It certainly does communicate in clichés, but not the usual pretentious superhero clichés. The heroes don’t meet and start fighting each other. The Champion does not have any ulterior plans to take over the Earth — he just likes boxing and enjoys being challenged. There’s no underhanded titillation. It’s not over-narrated. There is no Marvel-istic internal turmoil and gnashing of teeth (TM). At most, Colossus thinks to himself: “They are heroes who possess far more experience than I! Colossus must follow their lead!” Some characters are eliminated in training because their personalities are a naturally bad fit — they aren’t forced through it to the end for story purposes.

I’m not really a Thing fan like an inordinate number of other people are. If I was, a comic this not-imbecilic would send me over the moon.

I would say I enjoyed the training scenes more than the actual boxing matches, perhaps because the interesting designs of the alien trainers are a treat. Otherwise, from looking at it, I would guess Ron Wilson was hired to be a Kirby clone, and he performs his task with shameless gusto.

Most of the time when I think about Big Two comics from around this era, only the bloated stupidity and artifice comes to mind. Somehow this comic managed to slip through the cracks. I mean, it’s not Shakespeare, but I suppose it’s sort of Hemingway.

KS

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Kumar Sivasubramanian is the writer of Weird Crime Theater.