As the Marvel Cinematic Universe continues to expand its cast of heroes and villains, comic book enthusiasts are thrilled at the addition of the characters they have read about for decades. With the release of the upcoming Thor: Ragnarok, audiences will be introduced to one of the oldest characters in Marvel Universe: The Grandmaster.
As a member of the cosmic group the Elders of the Universe, the Grandmaster's unyielding obsession for games and puzzles has led to the manipulation of both superheroes and villains of the Marvel Universe. His use of high-stakes prizes and promises have driven many characters to fight their own allies and even led to the slaying of their own. His inclusion in the MCU, as played by Jeff Goldblum, brings another cosmic aspect to the overall storyline and may lead to the inclusion of new celestial beings to follow.
In this article, we will explore the comic origins of the Grandmaster and highlight some of the many ways in which he was pushed various characters to commit both humorous and horrific acts for his amusement. We will also explain how this role fits into the MCU and its future.
Here are the 15 Things You Didn’t Know About Grandmaster.
15 He Started Out As Neither A Good Guy or Bad Guy
The Grandmaster made his first appearance in the Marvel Universe in 1969 in Avengers issue#69. Created by Roy Thomas and Sal Buscema, his role in the comics had not yet been defined. In this story, he appeared before Kang the Conqueror and decided to challenge him to a competition. Kang could either win the power to resurrect his love Ravonna or Grandmaster would destroy Kang’s planet.
Clearly, this was not the behavior of a hero, but he wasn’t considered a villain either. The Grandmaster simply enjoyed playing high-stakes games and challenging heroes and villains alike. He took more pleasure in the challenge than the actual results. This has led the Grandmaster to find opponents throughout the Marvel Universe whenever he was bored and needed means to entertain himself.
14 An Elder Of The Universe, One of The Oldest Living Beings
Very little is known about the background of the Grandmaster and his home planet. Originally going by the name En Dwi Gast, his race was among the first intellectual being created after the Big Bang occurred. Additionally, he is a member of the influential cosmic group known as the Elders of the Universe.
Known to be the last survivor of their respective races, the Elders spend their time indulging in their personal obsessions and hobbies. The Collector premiered as the first Elder in 1966, with the group finally being established in 1978. Additional members of this organization include Ego the Living Planet (depicted in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 as a Celestial) and The Champion of the Universe.
They have often teamed up to try to challenge villains and superheroes but frequently find themselves at the losing end of their battles.
13 He is a Master of Millions of Types of Games
Grandmaster’s obsession with manipulation was deeply rooted in his love for games and chance. Blessed with a virtually ageless life, he has lived for centuries learning the various games and competitions throughout the universe. He has a particular fondness for pitting two opponents against one another over unreasonable circumstances (i.e. bringing back a deceased loved one, destroying a planet, etc...)
As an Elder, the Grandmaster has considerable powers tied to his use of "power primordial," remnants left over from the Big Bang. With these abilities, he is able to travel through time and space without any sustenance to maintain his life. With these abilities, along with his superhuman intellect and skills in judging probability, he has found unwilling victims throughout the multiverses within Marvel Comics. No one is safe from his sadistic games.
12 He is The Brother of the Collector
Each member of the Elders of the Universe stands as the last of their race, existing without any additional familial bonds or relationships. Their collective has been together since the beginning of the universe and will continue to be together for centuries to come. As such, their own group has developed forms of familial-like bonds and friendships instead.
One such relationship exists between the Collector and the Grandmaster. As we reported earlier this year, “Although they are from different species and therefore are not related by blood, being part of the same group such as the Elders can build a bond like that of a brotherhood.”
This relationship between the two characters will also carry over into the Thor: Ragnarok, though the MCU version of their relationship with vary from their comic book origins. We may even get a chance to see them working together in future movies in the MCU.
11 He Enjoys Torturing The Avengers In His Games
While the Grandmaster did not show favoritism when selecting his contestants (they could be superheroes or villains), he definitely enjoyed torturing the Avengers whenever he could. Whether tested as a team or picked on individually, these heroes suffered numerous times in his challenges.
In Avengers issues #69-70, the team was kidnapped and used in the game between Kang the Conqueror and the Grandmaster. Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, and Goliath were scattered to across the globe and forced to battle one-on-one at historic landmarks against Kang’s chosen opponents. They have even been forced to fight one another in a desperate attempt to stop the extinction of humanity and the planet Earth.
Though they have been his victims in countless matches, on occasion, the Avengers would resort to their other methods of manipulation (or downright cheating) to outdo the Grandmaster. Whatever it took to bring an end to another of his torturous games.
10 He Can Resurrect Most Living Beings
Among his skills gained from the "power primordial”, the Grandmaster has the ability to resurrect the dead. Often awarded as a “prize” for the pawns of his twisted games, this ability can bring back anyone who has been dead for less than 30 hours.
This ability, however, does have its limitation, as discovered during the series Marvel Super Hero Contest of Champions. He failed to resurrect the Collector after he had been killed (during the Korvac Saga), discovering he inability to bring back his fellow Elders of the Universe. Instead, he challenged Death to a contest that utilized every hero known to Earth as their gamepieces.
In the end, the Grandmaster bested Death only to find out that a life must be given in order to resurrect the Collector. In a surprising turn of events, the Grandmaster willingly gave his life so that his “brother” could return.
9 He is Essentially Immortal (Thanks to Lady Death's Punishment)
Despite how arrogant and manipulative the Grandmaster might be, his affinity for game playing actually worked to the benefit of the Elders - just not in the way that you would think (it wasn’t because he won a challenge).
In collaboration with The Collector, the Grandmaster tricked the East and West Coast Avengers to fight amongst themselves during their annual baseball game. Serving as a distraction, the two Elders then focused on kidnapping Lady Death and stealing her powers. After the competition left only Captain America and Hawkeye alive, Hawkeye convinced the Grandmaster to instead participate in a game of chance. Challenged to choose which of his remaining two arrows was unbroken, the Grandmaster (with the help of Barton cheating) selected the broken arrow and lost the competition.
Lady Death resurrected the deceased Avengers and banished the Grandmaster and his fellow Elders from ever returning to her realm - effectively making them immortal - in Avengers Annual, #16.
8 Pitted the Justice League and Avengers against each other
In the most recent crossover between the Justice League of America andthe Avengers, 2003’s JLA/Avengers, the Grandmaster makes an appearance to create an epic showdown between the two teams.
In order to save his universe from being destroyed by DC Comics villain Krona, the Grandmaster proposed a game to him. However, their teams were switched so that the Avengers represented Krona and the JLA represented the Grandmaster.
Forced to participate in a galactic scavenger hunt for 12 items, the two teams partnered up to win for Grandmaster to save the universe. Angered at this act, Krona defeated Grandmaster and Galactus (the “prize” if he won) but was defeated by Grandmaster after he used the 12 collected items to trap him in-between their two comic galaxies.
7 Tricked the Hulk into Battle in Exchange for Resurrecting His Deceased Love
Looking for a simple source of amusements, the Collector and the Grandmaster decided to have a face-off between two teams of their choosing. Once again playing on the weaknesses of the heartbroken, the Grandmaster convinced the Hulk to participate in a challenge with the promise of bringing back his love Jarella. However, the stakes for this game included a battle to the death with a team of his choosing.
In Hulk issue #10, readers saw the Hulk with his team (Silver Surfer, Doctor Strange, and Namor the Sub-Mariner) transported to various points of time where they had each lost the loves of their lives. In addition to facing these painful moments, they were pitted against a team chosen by the Collector: Baron Mordo, Tiger Shark, Red Hulk, and Terrax (aka the Offenders).
In the end, the Defenders won and the Grandmaster gave Jarella’s body to them. However, Red Hulk attacked the Grandmaster and killed him. The Collector decided to quit the game with the “prize” never being fully restored. Poor Hulk…
6 Defeated by Daredevil in a Coin Toss For The Future of Earth
Though known as a master of various games of ability, strategy, and intellect, the Grandmaster always been a sucker for a game of chance. Moreover, in that weakness, his challengers have found a way to take advantage of his gullibility, effortlessly shifting the win in their favor.
In Earth Giant-Size Defenders issue #3, the Defenders (along with Daredevil) became involved in a challenge between the Grandmaster and Prime Mover, Doctor Doom’s mechanized weapon against S.H.I.E.L.D. Fighting to prevent the enslavement of the Earth, the Defenders won the contest for the Grandmaster.
Although he promised to leave Earth as it was, he reneged on his promise and threatened to use the planet as a breeding ground for more “pawns.” Daredevil then challenged the Grandmaster to one last game of chance: a simple coin flip. Using his amplified sensory skills, he was able to predict the out of the game and bested the Grandmaster.
5 Held a Deadly Roller Derby Competition
Given how often the Grandmaster utilized love as a weapon (or a prize) to manipulate people, you would think he would be above such a concept. However, the Elder of the Universe found himself in the grips of Cupid’s arrow when he fell for the mutant singer Dazzler.
Interestingly, his methods of wooing her did not involve dinner invitations, candy, or flowers. Instead, he arranged a roller derby with her, Misty Knight, and Colleen Wing against villains from the Marvel Universe. Forget greeting cards, roller-skating games of death are the way to go!
Surprisingly, things did not go as planned and Dazzler was not won over by this act. She dismissed his expressions of love and rejected him in X-Men: To Serve and Protect issue #4. Dejected, the Grandmaster finally left Earth and returned to the cosmos to lick his wounds.
4 He Was The Possessor Of The Mind Stone...until Thanos Stole It
At the hearts of both the Marvel Comics and Marvel Cinematic Universe movies lie the coveted Infinity Gems (or Stones). By using the six power stones, along with the Infinity Gauntlet, the wielder could possess the power to control the universe.
As one of the most well-known seekers of this power, Thanos had been on a determined hunt to collect all the stone. His travels eventually lead him to the Grandmaster, who was the possessor of the Mind Gem. The Elders of the Universe had plans to use the Infinity Gems to essentially reset the universe and become the new collective “Galactus”. However, Thanos interrupted their plans and managed to steal most of the collected gems from them.
As Grandmaster possessed the final Mind Gem, Thanos then challenged him for the stone. In one of the rare moments of dishonesty, the Grandmaster tried to cheat to ensure his victory. Unfortunately, Thanos also cheated and ultimately took possession of the gem in the comic Thanos Quest issue #2.
3 His Character Has Ties to the TV Show Seinfeld
Although most fans recognize the character from the comics alone, the Grandmaster has actually had a history of appearances in several of Marvel’s animated series. His first appearance was in the 2006 series Fantastic Four: World's Greatest Heroes. Also, he has appeared in Ultimate Spider-Man: Web Warriors and Guardians of the Galaxy. His appearances have been limited to just a few appearances in these shows with three different voice actors used in each case.
However, fans of the classic TV sitcom Seinfeld got a welcomed surprise when a familiar voice took on the Grandmaster character. Actor John O'Hurley, famous for his role as the character J. Peterman, voiced the game-player elder on The Super Hero Squad Show episode "Whom Continuity Would Destroy." He would later reprise the role for the Marvel Super Hero Squad: The Infinity Gauntlet video game.
2 His Change of Appearance was Due to Jeff Goldblum
Actor Jeff Goldblum was chosen to bring the character of the Grandmaster to life in Thor: Ragnarok. Known for this staccato line delivery and quirky mannerism, we expect Goldblum to bring an interesting take on the intelligent game master. However, comics fans have noticed that the Grandmaster does not have his usual blue skin.
While this may be discouraging to some fans, director Taika Watiti offered an amusing explanation for the change. As we shared in our article earlier this year, Watiti explained: “Because he [Jeff Goldblum] did another movie where he was blue.” Fans will recall that Goldblum played a blue character in the 1988 film Earth Girls Are Easy. He further elaborated that “Goldblum’s unique style encouraged him to not obscure the actor too much, so that he could shine on his own.”
This respect for Goldblum’s craft undoubtedly provided the ability for the actor to bring his best performance to the movie (which even included improvised scenes).
1 The Differences In The MCU Verison
As expected, the inclusion of the Grandmaster character to the Marvel Cinematic Universe required a few changes to fit into the timeline. Although he reigns as one of the Elders of the Universe in the comics, the Grandmaster in the MCU has a varied past.
This version of the character is the ruler of Sakaar. To those not familiar with this planet’s comic history, it was the location for the 2006 Planet Hulk storyline. Given that various elements from this arc have been incorporated into Thor: Ragnarok, we are not surprised that the action of the movie takes place on this very planet.
His relationship to the Collector, however, will remain intact as they will still be portrayed as a brother, albeit in a different sense. No longer a “brother” through the Elders, the relationship between the Collector and the Grandmaster could be based on blood relation or another lasting “bond” between them. Fans have even surmised that the Grandmaster may even be a Celestial (just like Ego the Living Planet).
Thor: Ragnarok is out in theaters now. Do you have any Grandmaster trivia to share? Leave it in the comments!