EXCLUSIVE: Kindt Revives Contest of Champions in "Infinity: The Hunt"

In the four-part miniseries "Infinity: The Hunt," the unlikely trio of Hank Pym, Wolverine and She-Hulk come together in order to enroll the students of the Marvel Universe in an all-new Contest of Champions. Writer Matt Kindt ("MIND MGMT," "Justice League of America") is joined by artist Steven Sanders ("S.W.O.R.D.") to revive Marvel's classic cosmic concept as part of the publisher's "Infinity" event.

The original "Contest of Champions," released in 1982, was Marvel's first limited series. The story, written by Mark Gruenwald with art by John Romita, Jr. and Bob Layton, featured the Marvel superheroes (including Wolverine and She-Hulk) being used as pawns in a massive death match between Elder of the Universe, the Grandmaster and Death for the life of Grandmaster's fellow Elder, the Collector. A subsequent, unrelated series, "Contest of the Champions II," by Chris Claremont and pencilled by Oscar Jimenez and Michael Ryan, was released in 1999 featuring the Brood and the Brood Queen as the villains and again, Wolverine and She-Hulk as contestants.

As for September's take on the ultimate winner-take-all competition, in an exclusive conversation with CBR News, Kindt explains that shortly after Marvel's teenaged superheroes engage in the ultimate king of the hill exercise, the events of "Infinity" crash into their reality asThanos arrives on Earth to deliver an even greater challenge for the planet's best and brightest students.

Kindt also reveals he was tasked with developing a number of new characters in order to populate the various superhero schools around the world. Of course, the Eisner Award-nominated writer will also be using some of his favorite existing Marvel characters -- provided they survived Arcade's "Avengers Arena," that is.

CBR News: Essentially, this is a gathering of the best and brightest young heroes the Marvel Universe has to offer in a winner-take-all contest, but beyond that, what are we going to see?

Art by Slava Pasarin

Matt Kindt: I don't know how much I want to say just yet but in terms of "Contest of Champions," we use it to set up the bigger story. I've also written maybe 15 all-new characters that are from different schools from around the world, like the Wakandan school and the Latverian school and the school from Atlantis. There are going to be a bunch of different schools competing in this contest. And the heart of the story is these new characters mixing with some of the students from the existing schools, like Jean Grey's.

That's really what attracted me to the project. Working with the characters that we're all familiar with like Wolverine and She-Hulk, but also getting to create whole new characters. That is the most fun. I have a huge document with all their backstories and powers. I spent a lot of time developing these characters. It's hard to come up with a superpower that hasn't been done before! There are different ways to do that. You can be interesting and fun and kind of work with where the students are coming from and where they live. And there are the cultural differences, as well, to explore, which was fun.

Can you tell us about a new character that you are introducing?

Hmm. Let me think of one of my favorite ones. One of the kids from the Wakandan school gets his power from eating vibranium chips. You know the kids that eat lead paint chips and that's kind of poisonous. Well, this is worse than lead paint because it's vibranium chips. He gets some pretty weird powers off that.

And you will also be featuring, obviously, some existing Marvel U teenaged superheroes -- can you give us any names at this point?

I picked from who was available. A lot of the characters I couldn't get to, because they're gone because of "Avengers Arena." But I got to pick a few of my favorites. Quentin Quire is one of the guys that I really like a lot. He's going to be cool. And Genesis is another one. They'll probably both have pretty big roles in it.

As a kid, I loved things like "Contest of Champions," "Laff-A-Lympics" and even "Battle of the Network Stars" because you would get to see all of your favorites facing off against one another in races and feats of strength.

Oh, yeah. "Contest of Champions" was one of my favorite comics when I was a kid. It was really the first time things like that happened. "Secret Wars" and "Contest of Champions," they hadn't really done stuff like that with all the characters all at once. The main reason "Contest of Champions" was so cool was because you had all of these characters from all over the world -- all these weirdoes. There were characters from Argentina and China that you'd never seen before. That was cool.

In this reimagining, you have three team leaders that wouldn't necessarily come to mind as a the obvious choices: Hank Pym, Wolverine and She-Hulk. Were those your choices or did the project come with those leads?

They gave me a bunch of choices. Some characters were obviously off the table because they were off doing something else, but they game me a list and said, "Pick three." I had some choice and ended up with three of my favorites.

Based on your past projects, Hank seems like a character right up your alley, but Wolverine and She-Hulk are a bit different from what we're used to seeing you write. Are you looking forward to having Jen and Logan bust out and smash things up?

I'm not sure how big a role those guys are going to have just yet. They're setting everything up, but I'm not exactly sure how big a part they are actually going to play.

But I love all of these characters. I remember John Byrne's "She-Hulk." I liked that. I also remember She-Hulk when she was in "Fantastic Four." John Byrne was doing that too. I definitely have a history with these characters -- it's just not a public one.

Now, this being an "Infinity" tie-in, Thanos plays a role in this story, too. Once you include the Mad Titan, an earthbound Contest of Champions turns cosmic pretty quickly, right?

There is so much cosmic stuff in the Marvel U. And I love it. I go to all of the movies and I was super-excited -- and at the same time super-shocked -- when they announced "Guardians of the Galaxy" was the next movie. I couldn't believe it. I thought for the movies Marvel would shy away from the cosmic stuff because they'd be scared to do it but now they're going for it. It's pretty cool, and it's exciting to be writing some of those cosmic characters.

Your creator-owned project "MIND MGMT" is critically acclaimed, commercially successful and is being developed as a movie by Ridley Scott. You have two or three projects cooking at DC Comics, too. How did this project at Marvel Comics come about?

They just called me up and asked me if I'd be interested in doing something. When they told me what was going on and the big "Infinity" event thing and gave me an outline of what they wanted, I said, "Sure." I've never done anything like this before and I'll try anything once. Again, I got to come up with a bunch of new characters and now we'll see if I can't have some fun with it.

It's funny because I'm working on some stuff tied into "Trinity War" too so it's hard just keeping it all straight. If Thanos shows up in my DC books instead of Darkseid, you'll know I've been staying up too late! [Laughs]

Matt Kindt and Steven Sanders' "Infinity: The Hunt" debuts in September from Marvel Comics.

Tags: marvel comics, matt kindt, ant-man, wolverine, she-hulk, hank pym, contest of champions, infinity, steven sanders, infinity the hunt

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