Challengers of the Unknown

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Challengers of the Unknown When acquaintances miraculously survive a plane crash unscathed, they conclude that since they are "living on borrowed time" they should band together for hazardous adventures. The four — pilot Kyle "Ace" Morgan, daredevil Matthew "Red" Ryan, strong and slow-witted Leslie "Rocky" Davis, and scientist Walter Mark "Prof" Haley — became the Challengers of the Unknown. Soon famous, the Challengers accept many "unknown challenges" from the Pentagon, mad scientists, and people with a problem. Over time the "Challs" establish the hollowed-out Challengers Mountain as headquarters. Later they adopt an hourglass logo to symbolize time running out. They encounter genies, common and sophisticated thieves, rocs, aliens and robots good and bad. Their adventures later veer toward superheroics, and take in everything from occult menaces to Bermuda Triangle mysteries. The Challengers travel through space, time, and other dimensions. They encounter the likes of the Doom Patrol, Deadman, Swamp Thing, Jonny Double, and the Sea Devils, with whom they fight the criminal group Scorpio. June Robbins, a computer genius and archaeologist, joined the Challengers for many adventures as an "honorary" or "girl" Challenger.

The scripts for the first stories are often credited to Dick and Dave Wood, two brothers who also wrote other Kirby-illustrated material, such as the "Sky Masters of the Space Force" comic strip; but others have claimed that Kirby created the Challengers himself or together with former partner Joe Simon. The stories had weird menaces, fistfights, wild vehicles and gadgets, spectacular terrain, daring escapes, and a sense of humor.

The group debuted in Showcase #6 (Feb. 1957). The inspiration for the Challengers' adventures were old serials, war movies, and drive-in science fiction.[citation needed] Superhero comics had mostly vanished from about 1949 to the mid-1950s revival of the Flash, seen as marking the return of the superheroes to popularity, had occurred only four months earlier, in Showcase #4.

The most noted influence of this creation was Kirby's next major continuing series, The Fantastic Four, which was essentially the Challengers as a superhero family, complete with a similar origin. Both groups were quartets who resolved to band together after a crash landing; but the Challengers lacked the strong characterizations and much of the humor that distinguished the Fantastic Four. In Challengers of the Unknown #3, Rocky was shot into space and returned with multiple superpowers including invisibility, flame throwing, freeze-ray throwing, giant-growth, super-speed and super-strength.

The series continued in Showcase for three more appearances (#7, 11, 12) then moved to its own title, considered among Kirby's most notable in that period. After 12 issues total, Kirby moved on, and the title continued through issue #75 (Aug.-Sept. 1970, followed by intermittent reprint and revival issues from 1973-78). The Challengers were canceled with issue #77 in 1971. In 1973, three reprint issues were put out (#78-80).