With the conclusion of the Challengers of the Unknown story in Adventure 497 (March 1983), the book becomes entirely reprints. This made for a very disappointing 500th issue later in the year. Such a missed opportunity.
Nor is this final chapter of the Challengers origin anything particularly special. Bob Rozakis and Alex Toth wind things up adequately, but there is nothing in the five-part tale that makes one glad it was printed.
They figure out that none of them was the intended victim, that is was a man named Johnny Green, a friend of Red Ryan, who was also supposed to be on the flight. Johnny was owed money by the casino owner Red was in debt to, and the bomb was planted so he could avoid paying off the man.
The fight in the casino is the best scene, but even still, the solution is wholly unsatisfying, with none of the team being the inadvertent cause of the crash.
The Challengers of the Unknown next appear three years down the road in an issue of DC Comics Presents. A couple of year after that they get a decent mini-series of their ownn.
The Challengers of the Unknown story has its penultimate chapter in Adventure 496 (Feb 83), by Bob Rozakis, Alex Toth and Frank Giacoia.
Investingating Professor Haley’s story, they discover that the dead uncle is really still alive. He had faked his death, but then dies anyway.
Red Ryan gets confronted by a casino owner he is in debt to. The man is accused of plotting the murder, but defends himself by pointing out that with Red dead, he would never get the money he is owed.
The story concludes next issue.
The Challengers of the Unknown story in Adventure 495 (Jan 83), by Bob Rozakis, Alex Toth and Frank Giacoia, has better art than the previous chapters, but not much of a story.
After dismissing Rocky’s gambling enemies as suspects last issue, they discuss possible enemies of the other three men. Ace Morgan wound up earning the ire of some Inuit after discovering gold on their land, and Red Ryan ran afoul of Central American revolutionaries.
Professor Haley talks of being disinherited by his uncle before his death, in favour of his cousin, and the story has so little to it that it almost begs to be the important one.
Adventure 494 (Dec 82) continues the origin of the Challengers of the Unknown, with a focus on the boxer, Rocky Davis, in this Bob Rozakis/George Tuska story.
Rocky is the first to suspect he was meant to be the victim, and he recounts the events of his last fight, when he wound up drugged while in the ring.
Despite this, he managed to win, causing huge losses for the gamblers who had arranged the doping and bet against him.
Rocky leads the group to the gamblers, and a good rough house fight ensues. Rocky gets shot, but the bullet bounces off his belt buckle. Although behind the drugging, it becomes clear the gamblers were not behind the bombing.
The story continues next issue.
The Challengers of the Unknown begin their run in Adventure 492 (Oct 82), making them the last original series featured in this comic.
The story, written byBob Rozakis, with art by George Tuska, is a 5-part retelling of their origin. The Challs had last appeared teaming with Superman and Batman in the pages of World’s Finest Comics the previous year, but the last time they had their own series was the brief revival of their comic in the mid-70s.
Red Ryan, Professor Haley, Ace Morgan and Rocky Davis were all heroes in their respective fields, flying out to California for the taping of a tv program about them. Ace was the pilot on the flight as well. The place gets caught in a storm and crash lands.
Best page in the story.
The four men survive, and feel that they have cheated death, and are “living on borrowed time,” and at this point, in most tellings of the tale, they simply form a team called the Challengers of the Unknown in order to spend this extra time having wild adventures. But in this version, they discover there was a bomb aboard the place, so the crash was intentional, and set out to discover who tried to kill them.