Filing Cabinet of the Damned

Wednesday, June 28, 2006


I’ve read next to nothing of their actual comics. But man, I’ve always loved the idea.

Dig it, hep cats: The Challengers of the Unknown.

They have one of the ass-kickin’est hooks in comics:

A giant monster threatens Mumbai! Space aliens are kidnapping thousands of people! Mad scientists have united to create an unstoppable robot army! Armageddon is nigh!

Who can save us?

A godlike man with amazing powers?

A space cop with a magic ring?

An Amazon princess?


All we got is four regular guys. No super-powers, no magic, no legendary gods. All they have is toughness, smarts, and courage. Lots and lots of courage.

It’s an inversion of the Superman power fantasy: rather than the readers enjoying the idea of being greater and more powerful than the rest of the world, the Challengers revel in the idea of a world that’s big, powerful, and nasty, but where the good guys win anyway.

They’re about guts and brains beating out overwhelming force, about feeling small in the face of a dangerous and powerful world and fighting like hell regardless.


The only old-style Challs story I own is an issue of the Super-Team Family where they travel to the Bermuda Triangle and save Henry Kissinger. It was beautiful seventies cheese.

The idea of the Challs has been revived three times in the last fifteen years. The first, the Jeph Loeb/Tim Sale miniseries, tried to update the original team, to mixed results. The second, by Steven Grant, was an X-Files-esque series about the paranormal. The third, by Howard Chaykin, was a weird political satire unrelated to the original idea. All of them were worth reading.

But dammit, I like the "Four Regular Humans Versus Time-Travelling Dinosaurs Bent on World Conquest" approach. There has to be a way to make that work again today. Dang it.


  • Talk to Karl Kesel, who set an entire Superman issue between two panels of their original series.

    Course, since Kirby basically took the idea and jazzed it up for Marvel as the Fantastic Four, it'd be hard to do the Challs now without looking like an FF ripoff.

    By Blogger Steven, at 7:50 PM  

  • Man it sounds like Sgt. Rock teamed up with Batman to fight some aliens. That makes me want to freak out!

    By Blogger joncormier, at 8:52 AM  

  • The Challs appeared in Adventure Comics for a stretch too. I remember one issue, where their plane was sabotaged because the mob wanted to kill one of them specifically. So, the plane crashes, and the Challengers walk away from the wreckage again.

    Afterwards, back at their apartment or headquarters or whatever, the one that was the mob's target is freaking out quite a bit; while the rest of the team is watching tv, paying the bills, and so forth. Just another day.

    Man, I would totally watch a Challengers tv show, in any of the three versions.

    By Blogger googum, at 1:29 PM  

  • The Challengers are one of my all-time faves, and I even liked the three modern mini-series.

    Like you said, there's something appealing about ordinary people fighting super-menaces and saving the day.

    In fact, it might be better as an animated series or movie than a comic book - where somebody would turn them into "Fear Factor" or "Jackass" type adventurers.

    By Blogger Marc Burkhardt, at 2:58 PM  

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