The book was plotted by Len Wein, Steve Gerber, and Jim Starlin. Starlin did the layouts, Gerber scripted, and several artists provided the finishing touches.
Wein’s was hired by Marvel for his ability to write superhero stories–by which I mean, stories about superheroes. Action. Adventure. But his real gift was an editor. In this book, he helped establish the basic premise for several Marvel “events” that would follow in the future: Grandmaster hijacks some heroes and forces them to play a game. Yeah, it’s the direct plot of Contest of Champions, which, in turn, was the foundation for Secret Wars.
Steve Gerber in this book has entire half pages of text. Like a novel. He’d famously do similar text-heavy comics in the pages of Howard the Duck–the title where Marvel really let the creator off the leash.
And as for Starlin…Check out this scene, in which a hero is beaten by a villain’s tail:
Look familiar? If you’re a Starlin fan, it should. He used a similar layout for one of the most impactful (no pun intended) stories of his career, Dreadstar #10, in which the titular hero beats a villain to death with a chain:
There’s also this scene, which I swear has a parallel in Contest of Champions, but, unfortunately, I can’t seem to find my copies of that comic:
Am I right? Isn’t there a big coin toss sequence with a very similar layout somewhere else?