One of the Rocket Racer’s most prominent appearances in the last decade was in a backup story attempting to retroactively insert the character Deadpool into the Marvel Super Heroes Contest of Champions story, with intended comedic intent. When Deadpool became popular for being this irreverent naughty super-character, it was very popular to insert him places so he could mock things. But if the story was done purely for comic effect, does it matter to the Rocket Racer’s history? Well, I need to find out, because Rocket Racer is in this story, but not in the actual Contest of Champions story. So where is the truth?
Well, first we should take a look at the characters who have been retconned into the Contest of Champions to see if they could have canonically been there. Here’s the main characters:
Rocket Racer: Obviously we start with the most important one. Contest of Champions occurred in 1982, a point in Rocket Racer’s history that is largely unrevealed. His haircut is a flat top like he would go on to sport in his ’90s appearances, but there’s no reason he couldn’t have had that for a while back then. His gear looks a little different, but he’s always tinkering with that. Would he, at that point in his career, have qualified to be considered a “superhero” by these cosmic entities? Well, if they think about him the way I do then obviously, yes, he would. Overall, I see nothing that prevents Bob from having been there in canon.
Deadpool: Back when I strongly cared about Deadpool, I put a lot of thought into his chronology. Could he have been present in a comic set in 1982. Well, it’s complicated, but yeah. I don’t need to get into that here, but even before it came temporarily de rigueur to retcon Deadpool into the history of the Marvel Universe, I could have made a case for it. Anyway, this story is about him being there, so it’s not even worth debating. What is worth considering is whether he’d have been summoned among all the other heroes, given his less-than-heroic nature. Here’s the thing that explains both that and why it isn’t utterly impossible that these cosmic forces would bother to listen to Deadpool at all: Deadpool has a weird connection with the living concept of Death, this is established Deadpool lore, and one of the cosmic entities doing this Contest is Death herself. Certainly that gives us a way to pave over any problems here and lets me say that this could be canon.
Frog-Man: The timing seems to just barely work out for Frog-Man to have made his first appearance and then gotten scooped up into the Contest of Champions. The Frog-Man we see in this story is never unmasked and never says anything (except, for some reason “ribbit” once), but maybe young newbie hero Eugene is just nervous about being in a big superhero event all of a sudden. That said, his personality doesn’t really shine through here. Costume details are incorrect (most notably the boots) but I would accept either artistic error or maybe he just was trying some different things early on and that just happened to be what he was wearing when he got summoned to the Contest (his eye colour is correct, oddly). But here’s another theory: what if this isn’t Eugene? This guy is not as large as Eugene for one thing. What if this is his father, trying on the uniform again for the first time in a long time and getting summoned to this thing. Would the cosmic entities have made that mistake? I don’t know, but I like the idea that Vinnie got to have a weird adventure one time. Either way, I judge that there’s nothing here that can’t be canon.
Howard the Duck: The Contest of Champions is well after he first appeared and actually falls into a gap after the cancellation of his book and his more modern returns. He’s wearing pants and this is after he started wearing pants. Would the cosmic entities have considered him a “super hero” worthy enough to be summoned to this contest (even Howard questions that within the story), but he has fought villains and teamed up with other heroes and stuff. If the Hulk counts, why not Howard? I see nothing here that can’t be canon.
Doop: Doop would not make his first appearance for almost two decades after the Contest of Champions. But still, when he did finally appear, he was given one of those mysteries origins that stretches way back. The details aren’t known, but he probably dates back to the Cold War, so Marvel’s sliding timescale or not, he’d be around in the era of Contest of Champions. Here’s the one thing I noticed: He’s got the “X” insignia on his belly. If this appearance is way before he was in X-Force or X-Statix, why would he have that, right? So I checked out the story that the Internet thinks may be his earliest chronological appearance (aside from this one) and it was in “I (Heart) Marvel: My Mutant Heart” to see if it could help me. It doesn’t. Somehow that story manages to give us no clear look at Doop’s belly. I don’t see any sign that the X is there, but I also can’t confirm it isn’t. Is the X just a natural thing on Doop (well, as natural as anything about Doop could be)? I simply have no way of knowing. So either that or artistic error means I see nothing here that means this can’t be canon.
So that’s our main cast. I’m willing to say all of that works.
But what about all the characters in the background? Well, yes, this is where PDR find lots of continuity errors.
- First, there’s some characters who ought not to even be there. Rocket Raccoon and Groot for example, and with both appearing as they would in the modern comics rather than they would have in 1982. But those two specifically I can write off. They appear in a panel that kind of looks like the character selection screen for a fighting game and the scene also includes Dr. Doom. Doom definitely should not be at the Contest of Champions. If he had been summoned there, he would have made it known. Doom is not one to stand at the back of the crowd. So, if Doom wasn’t there, I say we can write off all the Select Screen characters who don’t appear in the actual story, including Rocket Raccoon and Groot. I write it off, I say!
- What else? Well, Ares, the god of war is there for some reason, and he’s in the costume he wore in the then-modern era. The cosmic forces pulled a handful of gods into this thing, so gods can apparently count as superheroes. But Ares? I thought he was mostly treated as a villain back in those days. But then, I’m not overly familiar with that side of the Marvel Universe. Looking at the comics that he appeared in on either side of the Contest, it seems like he may not have been actively supervillaining, just hanging out among the Olympian god. Maybe that counts? The costume still seems wrong.
- And speaking of incorrect costumes: Storm is shown in the background with her iconic mohawk look, but in the actual Contest of Champions book, she had a different look. And here’s the thing: one the “Select Screen” image she has the look she’s supposed to have! That’s frustrating. So even within this story Storm’s costume is inconsistent, and the correct one is the one I wrote off.
- And then there’s Shamrock, a character who first appeared in the Contest of Champions. It makes sense that she’d show up in the background for this story. What doesn’t make sense is that they’d have her in a costume that isn’t the one she wore in Contest of Champions. Someone gave this artist a reference for Shamrock that WAS NOT the Contest of Champions book they were specifically aiming to imitate. It makes no sense.
- Also, the Hulk’s pants in this are ripped shorter than they are in Contest of Champions. Look, I’ll allow it. He maybe ripped the pants some more. Hulk wasn’t chosen to fight in the Contest. Probably got bored..
I could go on, but I’m reaching even my limits here. All the main characters of the story could have conceivably been at the Contest of Champions, and the background crowd shots are full of errors we’d have to write off as artistic license or something. So have I answered anything? Not really. Whether the story is in canon or not is up to the owners and creators of the Marvel Universe and, frankly, I don’t think any of them care about the matter.
But this is all about the Rocket Racer and nobody cares more about him than I do. So do I think he was at the Contest of Champions? Well I’ll say this: If the cosmic forces came along and brought all the superheroes of Earth to their game and they didn’t bring Bob there, then they did it wrong.