The Annual for Marvel Two-in-One in 1982 did not come with a lot of hype, so not only was it a really good comic book story, but it came as a real surprise at the time. As unheralded as it was when it was released, the comic has persisted as one of the strongest Annuals Marvel has ever produced, and the comic was influential enough to be homaged (homaged or lifted wholesale?) by Dexter's Laboratory over a decade later.
It is a good comic book.
One of the striking aspects of this comic (by Tom DeFalco and Ron Wilson) is that it manages to fit in so much story into one annual. There is more story in this one Annual than there was in all four issues of Countdown: Arena or Contest of Champions (one AND two!), and the story was better - and all with such a simple premise.
Some intergalactic dude named the Champion comes to Earth and picks a bunch of the strongest heroes on Earth and challenges them to a fight - he goes around to different planets and tests their greatest fighters - if they prove worthy, the planet is allowed to survive. If not, he destroys the planet.
It is determined that the fight will be a big boxing match at Madison Square Garden, simulcast all over the world.
Obviously, the heroes of Earth don't just say, "Yeah, okay, that sounds fine. Carry on." They all team up and try to get around the Champion's prodigious powers, and the issue features many cameos from other heroes, and it is impressive how well DeFalco does with the characterizations of the various Marvel heroes that he uses.
Of the heroes chosen, Doc Samson is considered not up to task (as he's not trained as a fighter), Namor refuses to sully himself with a boxing match, Thor is disqualified because of his inability to fight without a hammer (as he needs it to stay Thor) and Hulk is disqualified for refusing to play by the rules.
That leaves Sasquatch, Wonder Man, Colossus and Thing.
Sasquatch is beaten pretty easily, but Colossus truly shows his mettle (intended...hehe) by almost lasting a full round (no one has ever lasted two rounds) against the Champion despite being brutalized.
Wonder Man cracks a bit under the pressure and is disqualified, so it comes down to the Thing.
And this Ron Wilson drawing from the issue should tell you how prepared the Thing was for the fight.
Pretty darn cool looking, no?
Anyhow, the Champion and the Thing spar for three rounds, with the Thing being totally pummeled, but refusing to cave. The ref calls the fight after three rounds, but the badly beaten Thing rises to his feet and argues the call,
"Hold it! This fight ain't over yet... not by a long shot! Ya only won on a technicality! Ya didn't really beat me! Ya'll never beat me! I'm just too stupid... and ugly... ta know when to quit!"
The Champion agrees that while he could kill the Thing, he could never truly defeat his spirit.
He is honored by the Thing's bravery, and leaves Earth unharmed.
The Thing basks in his victory for Earth, and then collapses into a heap, as he is near-death.
There's a neat follow-up issue by DeFalco in the regular title where he shows the Thing recuperating from this fight.
Overall, a great one-off issue. A lot of fun and a nice insight into the mind of the Thing.