The Grandmaster is a mysterious being that is thought to be one of the oldest beings ever. He has a fancy for board-games, and other similar games. One such game that he enjoys partaking in is manipulating two superhero teams into fighting each other to the death. He once possessed the Mind Gem, in which time he was nearly unstoppable, but had it stolen from him by Thanos.
Like all the Elders of the Universe, the Grandmaster’s origin is lost in the early history of the universe. It is known that he is one of the oldest living beings in the universe. Like other Elders, he is the survivor of one of the intelligent races that evolved in one of the first galaxies to form after the “Big Bang”, the cataclysmic event in which the universe was created. Although his race became extinct and even his native galaxy died as the ages passed, the Grandmaster, like the other Elders, lived on, having become virtually immortal. As the relatively few survivors of the earliest period of the universe, the Elders regarded themselves as figuratively being brothers.
The Grandmaster has spent his extraordinary long life in pursuit of amusement through the playing of games. He has traveled throughout the known universe studying many civilizations’ forms of games and play to the point of mastering them. He then began to devise his own types of tournaments and contests, challenging various opponents to games of skill and chance for high stakes.
Capable of traversing space, time and the dimensions, the Grandmaster once journeyed to the alternate Earth inhabited by the Squadron Supreme to stage a contest with the time-traveling Scarlet Centurion. The Grandmaster’s standard method of playing games was to choose a team of champions to do combat with another team selected by his opponent. The Grandmaster used the Squadron Supreme as pawns for his games, while the Scarlet Centurion assembled various of the Squadron’s enemies as the Institute of Evil. Winning the contest, the Grandmaster determined to create is own Squadron since the original Squadron was unwilling to participate in further games.
Returning to his own universe he traveled to Earth and transformed three men ( Doctor Spectrum, Nighthawk, and the Whizzer) into counterparts of the Squadron members. He also created a counterpart to the Squadron’s Hyperion out of non-living extra dimensional matter and invested it with consciousness and artificial memories. These four counterparts became the criminal team known as the Squadron Sinister.
The Grandmaster then journeyed to the time period of Kang the Conqueror (a temporal counterpart to the Scarlet Centurion) to engage in a contest against him. After Kang’s champions, the Avengers, defeated the Squadron Sinister, the Grandmaster drafted the World War II heroes, the Invaders. If Kang won, the Grandmaster would briefly grant him the power of either life or death. If Kang lost, the Grandmaster would destroy the Earth. Fortunately, Kang’s champions triumphed.
Later, having returned to the 20th Century, the Grandmaster used Daredevil and the Defenders as his pawns against Doctor Doom‘s artificial creation the Prime Mover. Winning this match, he decided to take control of the Earth as a breeding ground for superhuman-powered pawns for his games, but gave up the Earth after losing a bet with Daredevil.
Although the Grandmaster can resurrect most living beings after their deaths, he cannot do so with virtually immortal beings like himself who are killed. Therefore the Grandmaster was unable to resurrect his “brother” the Collector, after he had been murdered. The Grandmaster challenged Death itself to a game. If Grandmaster won, then the Collector would live, but if he lost, then he too would also die. The Grandmaster and Death each selected teams from among Earth’s superhumans to do battle in a contest of champions. The Grandmaster’s team won, but Death revealed in order to bring the Collector to life, the Grandmaster would have to forfeit his own life. Compelled by his sense of gamesmanship to see the game through to its end, the Grandmaster died and the Collector returned to life.
However, Death then challenged the Collector to a game, apparently with the resurrection of the Grandmaster as the stakes. The outcome of the game is unknown, but the Collector is known to have survived and the Grandmaster has been seen since. The Grandmaster then used the Avengers and an incarnation of the Legion of the Unliving in another contest against Death, in which he won immortality for himself and all of the Elders.
Later the Elders of the Universe plotted to kill Galactus by using the Infinity gems against him. This plan failed and Grandmaster was subsequently devoured by Galactus as punishment. But since he could not be killed, he and the other Elders survived inside of Galactus, making him extremely ill and on the verge of death. They were released by Master Order and Lord Chaos and assisted Galactus in defeating the In-Betweener.
The Elders were then confronted by a power seeking Thanos for their Infinity Gems. Thanos acquired all the gems except Grandmaster's Mind Gem. He saved the hardest for last. Grandmaster was well aware of the approach Thanos would take and already had a game prepared. His own gem was rigged to be transported to another dimension and destroyed upon his loss or his death. Grandmaster had no intention of losing his gem. He battled Thanos in a virtual reality type game, where Thanos' superior tactics and fighting experience put him on top. But Grandmaster did something he rarely does, he cheated. But he did not know that Thanos knew this and Thanos cheated as well. He thought he was playing against Thanos but he was actually playing with a recreation of Thanos' with the gems power. Thanos took his gem and left him trapped in his own game. Thanos gained ultimate power shortly thereafter.
Grandmaster later gathered together a new Squadron Sinister.
Grandmaster later recruited the Hulk and the Defenders in a contest against the Offenders, a team of villains gathered by the Red Hulk to serve as the Collector's fighters. At the close of the battle, the Grandmaster was killed by Red Hulk.
The Grandmaster later returned to life somehow, and captured Dazzler, Misty Knight and Colleen Wing. He was revealed to have an infatuation with Dazzler, and pitted the women against dozens of villains in a deadly roller derby.
After the destruction of Doctor Doom's Battleworld, the Grandmaster entered into a new Contest of Champions with the Collector. He recruits Punisher 2099 as his Summoner, but the entire competition is thrown into chaos when the Maestro usurps the Contest for his own ends. Af the end of the competition, the Grandmaster and Collector are shown to have trapped the Maestro in the Collector's trophy room.
Powers and Abilities
Like all other Elders, the Grandmaster is a member of one of the first sentient races in the universe and possesses various superhuman abilities.
Power Primordial: The Power Primordial is residual energy left over from the Big Bang that created the current Marvel Universe. The Grandmaster is the last member of his race and he, like all other Elders, maintains his powers and himself through monomaniacal obsessions, with his being games. Like all Elders, the Grandmaster has purposely channeled the energies of the Power Primordial through countless years of training. In the case of the Grandmaster, he has channeled the Power Primordial for an all around effect such as granting himself superhuman physical, mental, and energy manipulative capabilities.
- Superhuman Strength: The Grandmaster possesses some degree of superhuman strength, the limits of which aren't clearly defined. However, the upper limit of his strength does not exceed 25 tons.
- Superhuman Speed: The Grandmaster can run and move at speeds that are beyond the physical limits of the finest human athlete.
- Superhuman Stamina: Due to the unique effects of the Power Primordial, and the extent in which the Grandmaster has focused this energy for the evolution of his physical form, his musculature produces no fatigue toxins. As a result, he has limitless physical stamina in all activities.
- Superhuman Durability: The Grandmaster's body is virtually invulnerable to physical injury. He can withstand powerful impact forces, exposure to temperature and pressure extremes, exposure to the vacuum of space, and powerful blasts of energy without being injured.
- Immortality: Although there are a number of beings claiming to be immortal, the Grandmaster and the other Elders are true immortals. Death itself has banned the Elders from it's realm. As a result, the Grandmaster cannot be killed by any means. Although he can sustain physical injury, no injury can threaten his continued existence. The Grandmaster is also completely immune to all diseases and the aging process. Prior to being banished by Death, the Grandmaster was still functionally immortal in the sense that he was immune to aging and disease and he could rapidly regenerate almost any damaged bodily tissue. However, it was possible for him to be killed. He also doesn't require food, water, or even air to breathe and can survive indefinitely in a complete vaccum.
- Superhuman Agility: The Grandmaster's agility, balance, and bodily coordination are enhanced to levels that are beyond the natural physical limits of even the finest human athlete.
- Superhuman Reflexes: The Grandmaster's reflexes are similarly enhanced and are superior to those of the finest human athlete.
- Superhuman Intellect: The Grandmaster has devoted much of his time into channeling the Power Primordial to increase his intellect over the millenia. As a result, his intellect is vastly superior to those of an ordinary human. He is a genius in all scientific fields and has created technology far surpassing that of Earth's current level of technology.
- Psionics: The Grandmaster also possesses vast psionic powers including telepathy and telekinesis. He can use his telepathy to read the thoughts of most other beings, control their actions, erase memories, create false memories, or fire mental bolts to stun a being into unconsciousness. He can also move and manipulate objects with his mind, even if the object is extremely heavy, with little to no effort.
- Energy Manipulation: The Grandmaster has also devoted much of the Power Primordial into granting him the ability to manipulate vast amounts of energy for a variety of purposes. The most common of those purposes includes the projection of immensely powerful blasts of concussive energy, heat, and cold. He can use his powers to literally resurrect dead beings no matter how badly damaged or dispersed they might be. He can also use these powers to restore to full life beings that are on the verge of death. He can bestow this power over life and death to mortal beings, though only for a few minutes. The Grandmaster can also molecularly manipulate the matter of most objects, beings, and substance even over a global scale. The Grandmaster can also use his powers to teleport himself and others across galactic distances or to transverse space itself under his own power at faster than light speeds.
The Grandmaster's great intellect affords him extensive expertise in all areas of science. He devotes most of his time, however, to planning and playing games by using less powerful beings as pawns. He has no skills as a combatant but the sheer scope of his abilities make him formidable in battle, though he loathes physical confrontation in and of itself.
Since the Grandmaster is a true immortal, it isn't known if he does currently have any weaknesses. Prior to the Elder's being banished by Death, the Grandmaster's continued life and vitality was dependent upon his personal obsession of games. If he were to have willingly given up his obsession, it could have proven fatal.
In Other Media
- The Grandmaster appears in the Fantastic Four: World's Greatest Heroes episode "Contest of Champions," voiced by French Tickner.
- The Grandmaster appears in the Super Hero Squad Show episode "Whom Continuity Would Destroy," voiced by John O'Hurley.
- The Grandmaster appears in the 4-part Ultimate Spider-Man episode "Contest of Champions," voiced by Jeff Bennett.
- The Grandmaster appears in the Guardians of the Galaxy episode "Take the Milano and Run," voiced by Jason Spisak. In the series, he is an alien who runs a Vegas-style space station known as Conjunction, which is famous for its rich gambling scene. He reappears in the episodes "Space Cowboys" and "Fox on the Run" as well.
- The Grandmaster makes a cameo appearance in Planet Hulk.
- The Grandmaster makes a surprise cameo appearance in the end credits of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, portrayed by Jeff Goldblum.
- The Grandmaster appears in Thor: Ragnarok, portrayed by Jeff Goldblum. This version of the character is the ruler of Sakaar, where he forces captives to fight in gladiator games for his own amusement.