CHALLENGER

Real Name: Unrevealed

Identity/Class: Extraterrestrial

Occupation: Challenger

Group Membership: Elders of the Universe (Collector/Taneleer Tivan, Contemplator/Tath Ki, Gardener/Ord Zyonyz, Grandmaster/En Dwi Gast, Possessor/Kamo Tharnn)

Affiliations: The Black Order (Black Swan, Corvus Glaive, Ebony Maw, Proxima Midnight, Supergiant);
formerly
the Elders of the Universe (Collector/Taneleer Tivan, Contemplator/Tath Ki, Gardener/Ord Zyonyz, Grandmaster/En Dwi Gast, Possessor/Kamo Tharnn), Hulk (Bruce Banner)

Enemies: Avengers (Beast/Hank McCoy, Brother Voodoo/Jericho Drumm, Cannonball/Sam Guthrie, Captain America/Steve Rogers, Falcon/Sam Wilson, Hawkeye/Clint Barton, Rogue/Anna Marie, Scarlet Witch/Wanda Maximoff, Squirrel Girl/Doreen Green, Synapse/Emily Guererro, Wasp/Janet Van Dyne, Wasp/Nadia, Wonder Man/Simon Williams), Grandmaster (En Dwi Gast), Hulk (Bruce Banner), Voyager (Va Nee Gast)

Known Relatives: None

Aliases: The Grandmaster, Grandmaster Prime

Base of Operations: The Far Shore; formerly the Grandmaster's Cosmic Game Room, mobile throughout the realm outside of reality

First Appearance: (voice only): Avengers VI#676 (March, 2018);
(seen): Avengers VI#677 (March, 2018)

Powers/Abilities: The Challenger was an Elder of the Universe, a being considered the sole survivor of his species, and as such, he was rendered unable to truly die. Among his many cosmic powers, the Challenger had superhuman strength sufficient to hold down fellow Elder of the Universe, the Grandmaster, and go toe-to-toe against the superhumanly strong Hulk. He also possessed superhuman durability, allowing him to withstand physical attacks from the Hulk with minimal damage and shrug off a combined assault from the Avengers.

He could cosmically resurrect deceased beings via unrevealed means and had high-level psychic abilities including telepathy, which allowed him to broadcast his thoughts across the vastness of space and to as much as an entire planet's population at once. As part of these psychic abilities, the Challenger also possessed telekinesis, sufficient enough to blow apart a living being composed of ionic energy such as Wonder Man.

The Challenger was also capable of firing cosmic energy from his fists and could emit a short burst of energy from his body that could forcefully repel anyone within a short radius of his body.

Lastly, the Challenger could also teleport across interstellar distances and seemingly create spatial portals to teleport beings to other locations in space.

Height: Presumably variable; usually 9' (by approximation)
Weight: Presumably variable; usually 1500 lbs. (by approximation)
Eyes: White; glowing yellow or red when enraged and glowing blue when in pain
Hair: Bald

History: (Avengers VI#689 (fb) - BTS) - The being later known as the Challenger shared evolutionary traits with avian life forms.

(Avengers VI#690 (fb) - BTS) - The being later called the Challenger was once a noble traveling gamesman.

(Avengers VI#679 (fb)) - After becoming the last survivor of his sentient alien race, the being later known as the Challenger began calling himself the Grandmaster and was friends with En Dwi Gast and the other Elders of the Universe, even to the point where he considered the other Elders his brothers. Made deathless by his status as an Elder of the Universe, the Challenger and En Dwi Gast were close friends, each devoting their immortal lives to the pursuit of playing games. During a game of chess with his constant opponent, En Dwi Gast, the Challenger was questioned by Gast as to why he had begun calling himself the Grandmaster and the Elder later known as the Challenger explained that the other Elders had begun naming themselves after what they did and he suggested that Gast call himself the Gamesman or the Competitor. Feeling as if there could only be one Grandmaster, the two Elders began upping the stakes of their games until finally, the two played a game for the title of the greatest gamer of them all. As the two played, Gast reminded the Challenger of the stakes and he repeated the punishment for the loser: banishment from reality until its end, reminding Gast that they could still stop the game. Gast then asked if they truly could stop before placing the Challenger in hypercheck, winning the game and causing the Challenger's banishment. As the Challenger was banished, he pleaded with Gast, reminding En Dwi Gast that they were brothers, but Gast only smiled and claimed his name was now the Grandmaster.

(Avengers VI#690 (fb) - BTS) - Banished outside reality, the Challenger was driven mad by thoughts of Gast's relentless need for dominance in their games.

(Avengers VI#679 (fb)) - The Challenger floated for what seemed like an eternity until the day that reality ceased to exist. At that point, the Challenger began his journey back to reality to challenge the new Grandmaster to a rematch. Once meeting back up with Gast, the newly-dubbed Challenger opted to play a rematch with the same stakes and penalties for cheating.

(Avengers VI#687 (fb)) - The Challenger and the Grandmaster decided to use Earth as the game board for their rematch game of champions, agreeing to use a handful of Avengers as obstacles in the game, enough to keep things interesting while not enough to stop the game.

(Avengers VI#676 (fb) - BTS/Avengers VI#687 (fb)) - The Challenger chose the deceased Thanos pawns known as the Black Order as his champions, resurrecting them for the rematch game against the Grandmaster.

(Avengers VI#681 (fb)) - After returning the Black Order to life, the Challenger informed Corvus Glaive that he had been restored to life and in return, would serve the Challenger his cause. Ordering the Black Order to capture cosmic pyramoids in a game against the Grandmaster and his champions, the Challenger promised that if the Black Order succeeded, he would reward them with power beyond measure.

(Avengers VI#686 (fb) - BTS) - The Challenger also secretly recruited the Hulk, knowing that the Hulk would always survive and come back even if physically killed.

(Avengers VI#676 - BTS) - While playing the rematch game against En Dwi Gast, the Grandmaster, the Challenger communicated with his champions, the Black Order, and agreed with the Grandmaster that the rules of engagement had to be followed. Remarking that his opponent spoke true, the Challenger insisted that his champions not engage the Grandmaster's Lethal Legion until the cosmic pyramoid was activated in the area. He then suggested the Black Order gather themselves, survey themselves and prepare for the coming trials.

(Avengers VI#677) - Together within the Grandmaster's Cosmic Game Room, the Challenger and Grandmaster discussed their game and when Grandmaster remarked that he would miss Earth, as they seemed to somewhat understand the competition. A grumbling Challenger, however, commented that both Earthlings and the Grandmaster himself understood nothing and further remarked that his pawns, the Black Order, now controlled Earth and the game had not even officially begun. The Challenger then sarcastically allowed the Grandmaster to indulge in his sentiment, as he felt it might bring the Grandmaster comfort when he ceased to exist. Momentarily silenced by the Challenger's harsh words, the Grandmaster then suggested they begin the game by choosing their first elemental pyramoids. While the Grandmaster sentimentally chose Earth, the Challenger called the Grandmaster a weakling and chose fire instead.

(Avengers VI#678) - When the Grandmaster mused that he had thought the Earthlings would have figured out events by now, the Challenger remarked that the Grandmaster's thoughts were just the latest of the Grandmaster's many errors, grumbling that the Grandmaster was also using the Lethal Legion as his pawns when the Challenger's own pawns, the Black Order, were an honed fighting unit that had served one of the most feared creatures in the universe. The Challenger then accused the Grandmaster's Lethal Legion as being nothing more than dregs, mercenaries and space trash, to which the Grandmaster replied that the trash might end up surprising the Challenger. Remarking that he always played the game to win, the Grandmaster reminded the Challenger that he of all people knew that and suggested they both study the game board.

(Avengers VI#679) - After the Avengers' Human Torch seemingly sacrificed himself to acquire one of the Grandmaster and Challenger's pyramoids, the Challenger sat seething, thinking the Grandmaster pompous, preening, pathetic and weak. As he thought how, in any game, there is a player who surpasses all others, the Challenger began to think the Grandmaster had grown soft before he finally stood up and grumbled about the Grandmaster suggesting they consult the rule book after Human Torch's interference, all the while wondering how he was ever friends with the Grandmaster. A short time later, the Challenger remarked how funny it was that the Grandmaster had the opportunity to even the score of the game and instead, one of the game's obstacles retrieved the pyramoid. The Challenger then continued, commenting that the game board itself was a better game player than the Grandmaster, who replied that if he had wanted an easy game, he would have picked easy terrain instead of one that had stymied the Elders of the Universe on several occasions. Reminding the Challenger how the Avengers had tamed the Phoenix, bested Thanos and even altered Galactus' nature, the Grandmaster asked if the Challenger was actually afraid of the game's challenge. Growing angry, the Challenger announced that he was only called the Challenger because the Grandmaster had stolen his name as he grabbed the Grandmaster in a chokehold. Reminding the Grandmaster of the stakes of their game and the penalties for cheating, the Challenger was asked if twisting the Grandmaster's head off would be considered cheating and the Challenger relented, remarking that he would allow the Grandmaster to keep his head since he was winning the game at present. The Grandmaster then weakly informed the Challenger that it was time for their next round of moves and that the Challenger had first pick. Challenger immediately picked air, leaving the Grandmaster with the water pyramoid as he remarked on the Challenger being a player short after the Black Order member called Black Dwarf had been taken off the board. Laughing, the Challenger revealed that he was never a player short and had kept one of his champions in reserve to act as an ace in the hole.

(Avengers VI#682) - When Avengers ally Red Wolf secured one of the pyramoids, again removing one of them from the Challenger and Grandmaster's game, the grumbling Challenger expressed concern the game obstacles (the Avengers) were more trouble than they were worth but the Grandmaster assured the Challenger that the Avengers would soon learn that their cosmic game could not end in a draw. When Grandmaster sarcastically mentioned that the Challenger might wish for a draw, Challenger warned Grandmaster to be careful, as he might attempt to forfeit the game completely, but the Grandmaster replied by smiling and commenting that he would then die a winner. The Grandmaster then claimed his right to the final pyramoid, the one of the soul, which the Grandmaster placed within the hospital housing Avengers butler Edwin Jarvis, prompting the smiling Challenger to remark on how the pyramoid's location would summon the Avengers in force, who might try to claim the pyramoid as they had previously. Further commenting on how the Avengers' claiming of the pyramoids was an amusing strategy, the Challenger reminded the Grandmaster that he had his own strategies like the game "piece" he held in reserve. The Challenger then proclaimed his hate and vengeance for the Grandmaster and telepathically reached out with his mind to contact his reserve piece, the resurrected Hulk.

(Avengers VI#684 (fb)) - With the Hulk now awakened from his supposed death, the Challenger asked to speak with the Hulk.

(Avengers VI#684) - After the teleporting Voyager teleported away with the final pyramoid in the game between Grandmaster and the Challenger, the Challenger and Grandmaster viewed the events with the Challenger accusing the Grandmaster of being behind the events. When Grandmaster remarked on how humans made such useful pawns, the Challenger noted that despite the Grandmaster's millennia worth of skills, humanity had continuously defeated him. Soon realizing that Voyager had not teleported far, the Challenger mentally sent the Hulk on a rampaging quest for the final pyramoid and sarcastically asked if Grandmaster thought his Lethal Legion could actually defeat the Hulk. When the Grandmaster claimed they would see and the Hulk next seemingly broke the spine of the Lethal Legion's Captain Glory, the Challenger smiled and agreed.

(Avengers VI#685) - Remarking on how the Black Order's Black Swan used Earth's rotation to speed up the Black Order's travel to the final pyramoid, Challenger smiled and admitted that it seemed almost dishonorable to be scoring points against the Grandmaster at such a late stage in their game, unaware that Grandmaster was mentally contacting Voyager, his daughter, to have her re-enter the game.

(Avengers VI#686) - As the Hulk fought Wonder Man, who was attempting to prevent the Hulk from getting to the final pyramoid, the Hulk explained that the Challenger had recruited him because he would always survive, prompting Wonder Man to inform Hulk that the Challenger was only using the Hulk. Wonder Man nearly reached the Hulk on an emotional level by reminding him how he had been at peace until the Challenger recruited him, refusing to let the Hulk have peace. As the Hulk's rage grew, the Challenger mentally ordered the Hulk to get to the vault housing both Voyager and the final pyramoid, provoking the Hulk by asking the Hulk not to tell him he was going to be brought down by a group of puny humans. Announcing to Grandmaster that victory was in grasp, the Challenger asked the Grandmaster to watch as the Hulk claimed the final prize. Provoking the Hulk to acquire the final pyramoid, the Challenger was pained when the Hulk instead smashed the final pyramoid. A confused Challenger fell to his feet while the Grandmaster gloated about how tragic it was that the Challenger had both overestimated and underestimated his final playing piece, and how the Hulk had hurt the Challenger by committing a foul, causing a negative point against the Challenger. The Grandmaster then summoned Voyager, who instead revealed to the Avengers that the Grandmaster had planted her within their ranks to turn the group from obstacles into pawns in his game against the Challenger. Upon witnessing Voyager's confession from the Grandmaster's Cosmic Game Room, the Challenger accused the Grandmaster of being a charlatan, stacking the deck before the game had even begun. Announcing the game to be over and broken, the Challenger angrily told the Grandmaster that he brought dishonor to all of the Elders of the Universe but when the Grandmaster calmly remarked that he had only taken advantage of a gray area in the game rules and offered a rematch, the Challenger blasted the Grandmaster through the torso.

(Avengers VI#687) - The Challenger stood silently over the burnt streak on the ground that was once the Grandmaster, unaware that Voyager was informing the Avengers about the entire game between the two Elders of the Universe. Announcing that the Grandmaster had cheated by using his daughter Voyager as a pawn, the Challenger proclaimed that the Grandmaster would not thwart him, even in death, and remarked that their game would be completed even if the Challenger had to destroy both the pieces and the playing field to end the game. Teleporting to Earth, the Challenger caused massive natural disasters during his touchdown on the planet, where he proclaimed Earth to be a pestilence upon the universe that needed to be purged.

(Avengers VI#688) - Pounding a flag into the ground, the Challenger announced to Earth that while the Grandmaster considered Earth special, he did not and Earth no longer served a purpose in the game between the Elders of the Universe. Admitting that he longed to hear the praises of his victory in the game, the Challenger gave the population of Earth five minutes to praise him on his victory as he proclaimed himself Grandmaster Prime. As the Avengers confirmed the Challenger's touchdown at Avengers Mansion and came up with a plan to stop the Challenger and correct the natural disasters affecting Earth, the Hulk overheard their conversation and leapt away to confront the Challenger, who was shocked to find a statue featuring a monster like the Hulk on the grounds of Avengers Mansion. After remarking that he would be doing the "primitives" of Earth a favor by destroying them, the Challenger was met by the Hulk, who savagely attacked the Elder. Shocked that the Hulk could actually hurt him, the Challenger fought back, soon hurling the Hulk, through a spatial portal of his own creation, into outer space. Unaware that a squad of Avengers had made their way to the Grandmaster's Cosmic Game Room to correct the machine that held Earth functioning properly in space, the Challenger was next met by Wonder Man, whom he fought. Rogue and Falcon soon joined in but the Challenger swatted them aside as Quicksilver managed to free the superhumans that had been held in stasis during the Grandmaster and Challenger's game.

(Avengers VI#689) - Now freed from stasis, more Avengers joined in the assault on the Challenger, who remarked on how pitiable Earth was. Knocked back by Rogue and Cannonball, the Challenger blasted back all Avengers present, proclaiming that the Avengers had now lost the element of surprise. Holding the Avengers at bay, the Challenger soon noticed the Grandmaster's daughter Voyager among the Avengers and directly attacked her. Reminding her how much of the attack was her own fault as a spy for the Grandmaster, the Challenger was hit by a renewed attack from the Avengers, who protected their newest ally. When the pacifist Wonder Man opted to try to talk to the Challenger, the Elder blasted Wonder Man in half and commented that it was mad that the strongest of all the Avengers wanted to talk to him. Denouncing Earth as a planet of gnats, the Challenger was next hit in the eyes by sting blasts from both Wasps, Janet Van Dyne and Nadia, before continuing his attack on the Avengers while simultaneously blocking the Avenger Synapse from accessing his mind. Synapse soon managed to access the Challenger's mind when Falcon managed to connect to the Challenger due to his evolutionary connection to avian life forms and used her connection to affect the Challenger's pain receptors. The other Avengers then piled onto the Challenger, grounding him and the Challenger feigned defeat long enough to blast the Avengers away, noting that the Avengers had succeeded in annoying him. When the Avengers began to falter to the Challenger, Beast suggested Voyager use her memory-affecting powers to remind the Avengers what they were fighting for. Rallied by her own memories, Scarlet Witch then cast a spell that augmented the Avengers' powers enough to defeat the Challenger, shattering his armor. Upon the Challenger's defeat, Earth was restored to its natural place in orbit.

(Avengers VI#690) - Feeling responsible for the Challenger's madness due to her father's machinations, Voyager informed the Avengers that she hoped to rekindle some of the kindness the Challenger once possessed. Refusing an offer to join the Avengers, Voyager promised to return to Earth if the Grandmaster ever got Earth caught up his games again and she soon teleported away with the Challenger's unconscious form in tow. Taken to the Far Shore, the farthest point of life and death, the Challenger was shackled and Voyager showed him the new memories the Avengers were building as they rebuilt from the destruction caused by the Challenger and Grandmaster's cosmic game. Denouncing the memories as ridiculous, the Challenger promised that when he broke free of shackles, he would kill both Voyager and the Grandmaster. When he asked Voyager if she thought the Avengers would save her, the Challenger was told that she thought the Avengers could save him as they had her. Proclaiming Voyager a fool, the Challenger asked that until he did break free of his shackles, he would like to see what occurred next.

(Quicksilver: No Surrender#1 - BTS) - Still running faster than he ever had before, Quicksilver recalled the game between the Challenger and the Grandmaster and how he had run fast enough to stop the blue energy that was holding Earth's superhumans in stasis during the game.

Comments: Created by Mark Waid, Al Ewing, Jim Zub and Pepe Larraz.

Some online sources list the Challenger as being mentioned in Avengers VI#680 but I could find no mention of him in that issue.

In Avengers VI#679, artist Pepe Larraz (who original sketches can be seen to the left) had this to say about creating the Challenger:
"When I started designing the Challenger, since he was a very temperamental Elder, I knew he had to be a massive bad guy, maybe as big as the Hulk. I always want my designs to be based on silhouettes--this way I can find a unique shape. I don't like to just dress a human figure. In this particular case, I based the design on triangular forms, because the pyramid is stable, almost impossible to move, just as he is.

For the face, I wanted him to have it painted, but in an alien way, something that implies a meaning we do not know. For me, it is important when I design an alien being to give the feeling of depth, the impression that there's a lot of his culture you're not going to understand, because he's from another part of the universe, and you're not supposed to understand it. I tried some geometric designs for the face painting and, after asking the creative team of NO SURRENDER, we ended up agreeing on the final one. As a funny detail, he has no belly button because he was never born."

Profile by Proto-Man.

CLARIFICATIONS:
Challenger has no known connections to:


images: (without ads)
Avengers VI#685, p2, pan1 (Challenger, main image)
Avengers VI#679, p18, pan4 (Challenger, headshot)

Avengers VI#679, p15, pan2 (younger Challenger playing chess during the time as the Grandmaster)
Avengers VI#679, p2, pan1 (Challenger, eyes glowing)
Avengers VI#682, p16, pan2 (small image of full body Challenger)
Avengers VI#688, p3, pan5 (Challenger with speared flag as Grandmaster Prime)
Avengers VI#690, p21, pan3 (Challenger in shackles)
Avengers VI#679, bonus features page (original Challenger sketches by Pepe Larraz)


Appearances:
Avengers VI#676 (March, 2018) - Mark Waid, Al Ewing, Jim Zub (writers), Pepe Larraz (art), Tom Brevoort (editor)
Avengers VI#677 (March, 2018) - Mark Waid, Al Ewing, Jim Zub (writers), Pepe Larraz (art), Tom Brevoort (editor)
Avengers VI#678 (March, 2018) - Mark Waid, Al Ewing, Jim Zub (writers), Pepe Larraz (art), Tom Brevoort (editor)
Avengers VI#679 (April, 2018) - Al Ewing, Jim Zub, Mark Waid (writers), Kim Jacinto (art), Tom Brevoort (editor)
Avengers VI#681 (April, 2018) - Al Ewing, Jim Zub, Mark Waid (writers), Kim Jacinto, Mike Perkins (art), Tom Brevoort (editor)
Avengers VI#682 (April, 2018) - Al Ewing, Jim Zub, Mark Waid (writers), Sean Izaakse (art), Tom Brevoort (editor)
Avengers VI#684 (May, 2018) - Jim Zub, Mark Waid, Al Ewing (writers), Paco Medina, Joe Bennett (art), Tom Brevoort (editor)
Avengers VI#685 (May, 2018) - Jim Zub, Mark Waid, Al Ewing (writers), Paco Medina (pencils), Juan Vlasco (inks), Tom Brevoort (editor)
Avengers VI#686 (May, 2018) - Jim Zub, Mark Waid, Al Ewing (writers), Paco Medina (pencils), Juan Vlasco (inks), Tom Brevoort (editor)
Avengers VI#687 (June, 2018) - Mark Waid, Al Ewing, Jim Zub (writers), Paco Medina (pencils), Juan Vlasco (inks), Tom Brevoort (editor)
Avengers VI#688 (June, 2018) - Mark Waid, Al Ewing, Jim Zub (writers), Kim Jacinto, Stefano Caselli (art), Tom Brevoort (editor)
Avengers VI#689 (June, 2018) - Mark Waid, Al Ewing, Jim Zub (writers), Pepe Larraz (art), Tom Brevoort (editor)
Avengers VI#690 (June, 2018) - Mark Waid, Al Ewing, Jim Zub (writers), Pepe Larraz (art), Tom Brevoort (editor)
Quicksilver: No Surrender#1 (July, 2018) - Saladin Ahmed (writer), Eric Nguyen (art), Alanna Smith (editor)


First Posted: 05/26/2018
Last updated: 05/26/2018

Any Additions/Corrections? please let me know.

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