Being a child of a certain era – as well as a fan of the 1970s Marvel book The Champions – I was kind of fascinated by Tom Brevoort’s Formspring thoughts on the team, and the series:
CHAMPIONS was the poster child for what Roger Stern used to call “fake books”–books without a viable core concept that worked, that only existed by editorial fiat bringing that particular set of characters together. While there were some fun issues, as a series it was kind of a mess from start to finish. It was originally pitched as an Iceman and Angel buddy-book, but the Editor in Chief at the time wanted it to be a team book–which meant, according to him, that it needed a woman, and a strong guy, and somebody who had their own title to anchor it. That became Black Widow, Hercules and Ghost Rider. And the ostensible concept of the series was that they were “The Team For The Common Man.” Not a common man among them, mind you, and they didn’t really get involved in much that a common man could relate to, but there it is. Five characters with virtually nothing in common who hung out together in a skyscraper because that’s what the book said they’d do.
I read that and thought, at first, “Well, he’s not wrong; Champions was a book without a real hook,” before thinking… well, so was Defenders in its prime, and so was Avengers in the early days, especially in the “Cap’s Kooky Quartet” era. Was the true failure of Champions, then, not that it had no organic reason to exist, but that it wasn’t entertaining enough to make readers overlook that…?
(It also made me wonder how many of today’s team books would pass the “fake book” test – and whether there’s a modern-day equivalent for team books that exist because the franchise has become overextended, as in the X-Men and Astonishing X-Men series.)