Marvel Studios Countdown: Some Backstory On Jeff Goldblum's Grandmaster In 'Thor: Ragnarok'

Marvel Studios Countdown: Some Backstory On Jeff Goldblum's Grandmaster In 'Thor: Ragnarok'

Apr 12, 2017

The first trailer for Thor: Ragnarok has arrived and with it, our first look at Jeff Goldblum in action as The Grandmaster. He’s not the most well-known of Marvel’s cosmic characters, but the actor in the role is so beloved, everybody seems to want to know more about this comic book character. Grandmaster first appeared in Avengers #69 (from Roy Thomas and Sal Buscema, Oct. 1969) in a wager against Avengers’ time-traveling despot Kang the Conqueror. Most people likely know Grandmaster from Marvel’s “Contest of Champions.”

You may have heard of the popular mobile fighting game Marvel: Contest of Champions, but the game gets its name from a comic book mini-series (Marvel’s first, actually) titled Marvel Super Hero Contest of Champions. It was originally planned as a special event book to celebrate the 1980 Olympics, with classic Marvel characters and all-new international superheroes mixing it up in a globe-trotting scavenger hunt. Ultimately, the United States ended up boycotting the Olympics that year, due to the Soviet Union’s involvement with Afghanistan, so the project was shelved.

The project was unearthed by Marvel editors a couple of years after the initial work was done. They made some minor art and story changes to bring the project back to life and onto comic spinner racks in 1982. The plot introduces the Grandmaster and his secret opponent forcing the Marvel heroes into a game wherein two teams retrieve four artifacts from around the world. If Grandmaster amasses the most artifacts, his brother, the Collector, will be returned to life (Collector was dead at the time in the comics). If he loses, he will die.

Fans of the movies will pick up on The Collector from Guardians of the Galaxy. Yes, that means Benicio Del Toro and Jeff Goldblum are alien brothers in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (which also explains their similar looks). They’re both Elders of the Universe, ancient, seemingly immortal beings from the dawn of creation.

As for the contest, we won’t spoil the details of the outcome, or who the mystery opponent is, should you ever want to read the story yourself. It’s been collected and reprinted as Avengers: The Contest, though it’s not exclusively an Avengers tale - the competing teams have characters as varied as Daredevil, Wolverine, Iron Fist, and the Thing.

Since then the Grandmaster has made sporadic appearances in The Incredible Hulk and Silver Surfer comics, amongst others. Interestingly, he’s actually not in “Planet Hulk,” the comic storyline which Ragnarok seems to borrow heavily from. Yes, Hulk participates in otherworldly gladiator games, but it’s the Emperor of a planet called Sakaar that rules over the brutal games. If you haven’t checked out that comic, it’s one of the best Hulk adventures in recent years. In the trailer, it certainly appears as if Grandmaster is the force behind the battle between Thor and Hulk. It adheres to the fidelity of the character and his interest in games, if not being 100% plot-faithful.

It also seems to position Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson) as Grandmaster’s lackey, which certainly seems out of character for her, but we’ll find out the whys as the film gets closer. We covered that characters history here, before casting was even complete. Grandmaster typically operates without assistance, but always wagering with or against someone.

Goldblum has been given a lot of leeway to give the character a life beyond the printed page. Concerning Grandmaster, Goldblum told Empire, “He’s a hedonist, a pleasure-seeker, an enjoyer of life and tastes and smells. I thought, ‘I can do that, I’ll bet!’ I’m working on my part every day. I’m a sponge, researching. [Taika Waititi] is encouraging me to improvise and make it my own.”

Thor: Ragnarok, a Taikia Waititi film starring Chris Hemsworth and Cate Blanchett opens November 3, 2017. There are 206 days until release.




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