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Supervillain Origins: Grandmaster

VO: Dan Paradis
Written by Craig Butler When you’re practically as old as the universe, you have to have some kind of hobby to keep from getting bored. Welcome to WatchMojo.com and today we will explore the comic book origin of the Grandmaster. Have an idea for what our next video should be? Check out the suggest page here: WatchMojo.commy/suggest.php
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When you’re practically as old as the universe, you have to have some kind of hobby to keep from getting bored. Welcome to WatchMojo.com and today we will explore the comic book origin of the Grandmaster.

As with most comic book characters, there are often re-imaginings and different versions to a character’s past. We have chosen primarily to follow the storyline which unfolded in 1969’s Avengers #69-71 and which was expanded upon in 1978’s Avengers #174, 1982’s Contest of Champions #1, and 1987’s Silver Surfer #4.

The Grandmaster’s shtick can be summed up in one word: Games. The dude is only happy when he’s playing some wacked out game for outrageous stakes. As one of the Elders of the Universe, who have been around since just after the Big Bang, he’s got years of experience perfecting his craft. On top of that, his super intellect and his ability to access something called the power primordial, which he uses to control life and death, also make him quite formidable.

Not a lot was revealed about the Grandmaster in his first appearance, way back in 1969. In this tale, the Avengers were kidnapped by Kang the Conqueror, a villain from Earth’s future. Turns out that a year ago, Kang had been mourning the loss of his beloved Ravonna when a strange figure appeared in his ship. It was the Grandmaster, who challenged him to a game. If Kang won, the Grandmaster would grant him the power of life and death; if Kang lost, the Grandmaster would obliterate all life on Earth.

Both Kang and the Grandmaster had chosen human “pawns” to use in this Game of the Galaxies. Kang selected the Avengers, while the Grandmaster created a group he called the Squadron Sinister. See, the Grandmaster’s home planet is filled with living computers that can do just about anything he wants, including conjuring up superpowered bad guys.

What followed was the first part of the game, in which the Avengers battled the Squadron in four separate contests. Due to the unexpected interference of the Black Knight in one of these contests, it was determined that the first round was a stalemate.

In the second round, three of the Avengers were sent back to the 1940s to battle the original versions of Captain America, the Sub-Mariner and the Human Torch. Kang’s team won this battle handily.

Because he had won only half of the game, the Grandmaster made Kang choose: power over life or power over death. Despite his desire to bring Ravonna back to life, Kang’s hatred overcame him and he chose the ability to bring death to the Avengers. But by phrasing it that way, he sealed his doom, as the Black Knight showed up again –and because he was not an Avenger, he defeated Kang. And with a wave of his hand, the Grandmaster departed in search of other games to play.

But Fast forward to 1978, when another Avengers foe, the Collector, revealed that he was part of a group known as the Elders of the Universe –and that the Grandmaster was also a member of this exclusive club of immensely powerful and incredibly old beings. After the Collector had been killed, the Grandmaster arranged one of his high-stakes games with Death herself in order to try to bring his “brother” back to life.

A few years later, the Grandmaster revealed that he and his so-called brothers were actually the last remaining survivors of various ancient races. The key to their long lives was that each had a massive obsession with one thing which kept them alive. The Collector collected things, the Grandmaster got off on gambling.

There’s not really much more known about the Grandmaster’s origins, but that hasn’t stopped him from bringing his gamesmanship to other media. He has made his mark in a number of Marvel’s animated TV offerings, not to mention in Jeff Goldblum’s cinematic take on the character. On the page or on the screen, he’s definitely a player.
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