Champions (of Los Angeles)

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The Champions debuted with great fanfare as the first major super-hero team in Los Angeles, but for all its money, power and promise, the eclectically mismatched group lacked unity and direction, and its history was short. The team began with an attack on the UCLA campus by the rogue Olympian god Pluto, who sought to force his fellow gods Hercules and Venus (both UCLA lecturers at the time) into marrying Hippolyta and Ares as part of a plot to overthrow Olympian monarch Zeus. Hercules and Venus resisted with the aid of super-spy Black Widow, demon cyclist Ghost Rider, and mutant heroes Angel, and Iceman. Pluto's plot was foiled, and while Venus chose to return to Olympus, the other five heroes decided to remain together as a new super-team, the Champions.

The driving force behind the group was the wealthy Angel, who created a "Champions, Inc." corporation to finance and administer the team with the aid of business manager Richard Fenster and lawyer Emerson Bale. The idealistic Angel envisioned the group as "heroes for the common man" who would be more accessible to the general public, though in practice they fought the same sorts of exotic menaces other super-teams did, such as mad scientist Dr. Edward Lansing's Super-Soldiers and the armored maniac Rampage (embittered engineer Stuart Clarke). Angel nominated Black Widow as team leader, a choice readily endorsed by her fellow Champions, and her old friend Ivan Petrovich often assisted the group. Ivan's estranged son Yuri would attack the Champions as the Crimson Dynamo alongside Griffin, Rampage, and fellow Russian super-agents Darkstar and Titanium Man (Boris Bullski); but the heroes triumphed with the aid of Darkstar, who switched sides and defected to join the Champions.

The size-changing Black Goliath became an unofficial part-time Champion, serving as the team's technical adviser as scientist Bill Foster; he and other Stark Industries technicians helped design the team's high-tech skyscraper headquarters (the Champions Building) and a custom aircraft (the Champscraft), both of which proved defective due to faulty materials used by corrupt contractors. Despite their technical difficulties, the Champions battled menaces such as Shadow Realm's Warlord Kaa, Stilt-Man, the null-life bomb, the Possessor (Kamo Tharnn), Swarm, Godzilla, MODOK, A.I.M., Typhon, Magneto, Doctor Doom, the Sentinels, Vanisher, Blob, Lorelei (Savage Land), and Unus, sometimes alongside allies such as Hawkeye, Two-Gun Kid, the Stranger, S.H.I.E.L.D., Iron Man, Beast, and the Avengers.

In the end, though, the Champions were their own worst enemy: Ghost Rider and Darkstar were never fully accepted by the others, Iceman was a reluctant super-hero, Hercules was a loose cannon, and internal tensions fueled near-constant bickering until the Champions finally disbanded. Everyone quit except the Angel, who closed up shop, liquidating the group's assets; he and Black Widow later donated a repaired Champscraft to the Thunderbolts super-team. Angel and Iceman would remain friends and frequent partners, serving together in several other super-groups, some of which Angel financed. Black Widow and Hercules became lovers but soon drifted apart, though they have served together with the Avengers. Darkstar returned to Russia before her apparent death in action with the X-Corporation. The five founding Champions recently reunited to help X-Force thwart a new scheme by Pluto, but parted amicably after Pluto's defeat. Whether the Champions will ever make a lasting comeback remains to be seen.

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- Marvel Editorial Staff