The Defenders Fansite

Dedicated to the definitive superhero non-team.


Saturday, July 13, 2019

The Priorities of Paladin

The mercenary Paladin, who served briefly as one of the Last Defenders, makes a worthy candidate for discussion of character class in Dungeons & Dragons. Historically defined as a royal knight, a Paladin in the classic rules for the D&D role-playing game was bound to a strict moral code described as Lawful Good. The D&D source book Deities and Demigods classified King Arthur as a Paladin.

The Marvel character Paladin, on the other hand, did not adhere to such narrow criteria. While Paladin's line of work regularly brought him in opposition to evil-doers, he was motivated by a desire to get paid by his clients rather than by a desire to do good deeds. When circumstances led Paladin to meet other superheroes, he wondered why they chose to fight crime for free. Unlike Luke Cage, who also made crime-fighting his professional career, Paladin described himself as a soldier-of-fortune rather than a hero-for-hire.

Given his cavalier disposition, it's unlikely that Paladin spent much time worrying if his code name was in fact a misnomer. He once joked, however, that Janet Van Dyne called herself the Wasp because she was a White Anglo-Saxon Protestant (Peter Parker, The Spectacular Spider-Man #105).

Paladin got his first solo story in Marvel Premiere #43 (Aug. 1979). The character made his first appearance in Daredevil #150 (Jan. 1978).

Saturday, June 29, 2019

Magics

Marvel Chillers #1 (Oct. 1975) was the first in a two-part story that brought Modred the Mystic from the time of King Arthur to the present. The title page of that first issue included a block of text announcing that Marvel was ushering in a brand-new era of stories with magics.

That new era did continue—with one caveat: most Marvel references to magic ending with the letter s favored an alternate spelling of magicks (with the letter k).

This nuanced spelling was evident when Modred guest-starred in Marvel Two-In-One #33 (Nov. 1977) and faced a mud-monster that spoke of Merlin's magicks (with k). While wielding the book Darkhold in Avengers #186 (Aug. 1979), Modred would boast how his raging powers now exceeded mere spells and magicks (with k).

Characters in other stories followed this spelling convention. When traveling back to 14th century England in Avengers #209 (July 1981), several of Earth's mightiest heroes again heard of magicks (with k). Likewise, in Marvel Team-Up #112 (Dec. 1981), Dr. Strange reflected on the arcane magicks of the serpent cult from #111.

A notable exception to this spelling trend appeared when Wong discussed magics (without k) in Dr. Strange #55 (Oct. 1982). Wong's spelling differed from the sorcerer's reference to his own magicks (with k) in Dr. Strange #34. That being said, there's no evidence that Wong's definition differed from that of Dr. Strange.

Sunday, June 23, 2019

Magicks

When traveling across dimensions in Defenders #4 (Feb. 1973), Dr. Strange faced the evil conjurer Fragon. In the midst of combat, Fragon used the term magicks (spelled with k) to describe the sorcery of Dr. Strange. The British version for the story from Rampage #5 retained this alternate spelling. In both versions, the word magicks appeared in bold, as comics often do when introducing a name or term.

The word magicks would stay in comic book lexicon—without the bold lettering for emphasis. Although Dr. Strange typically used the conventional spelling of magic, he referred to his own magicks (with k) in a showdown against rival sorcerer Cyrus Black in Dr. Strange #34 (April 1979).

Pronounced the same with or without the k, the alternate spelling would suggest a distinct meaning. While no hard and fast rules would apply, generally speaking, characters from the past or from another dimension seemed more likely to favor the alternate spelling.

When the X-Men traveled to Limbo in Uncanny X-Men #160 (Aug. 1982), the demon Belasco spoke of his own magicks. The hero Nightcrawler, in turn, described that dimension as magickal (also spelled with k). Events from that story led to Illyana Rasputin becoming the hero Magik (adopting a personalized spelling without c). In most other contexts, Illyana's teammates in the New Mutants spelled magic the usual way.

In other instances, the alternate spelling (with k) accentuated the difference between the past from the present. The Canadian hero Shaman contrasted the healing power of his traditional magicks to the effectiveness of modern medicine in Alpha Flight #2 (Sept. 1983). Exposition in Gargoyle #2 (July 1985) delineated the modern era from a time of ancient magick (singular).

These distinctions, however, remain subjective, as the criteria for including the letter k might vary from issue to issue within a comic book series.

Monday, June 17, 2019

X-Factor

Well before the original members of the X-Men formed the group X-Factor, an arcade game titled X-Factor appeared in Marvel Two-In-One #94. Power Man, Iron Fist, and Thing took turns playing the challenging arcade game, which involved outmaneuvering obstacles while navigating through a maze—and had no connection to mutant affairs.

One of the other games seen at the arcade was titled The Invaders, with no apparent ties to the World War II super team by that name.

Marvel Two-In-One. Vol. 1. No. 94. December 1982 "The Power Trap!" David Anthony Kraft (scripter), Ron Wilson (penciler), Ricardo Villamonte (inker), Joe Rosen (letterer), George Roussos (colorist), Jim Saliscrup (editor), Jim Shooter (editor-in-chief).
Published the same month as New Defenders #152 (Feb. 1986), X-Factor #1 reunited Angel, Beast, and Iceman with the rest of the original X-Men. A problematic premise of the new series was that Marvel Girl (Jean Grey) was a different character from Phoenix and therefore did not die in X-Men #137.

Saturday, June 15, 2019

Olympian Alignments

An earlier post looked at several Asgardian characters in in terms of their alignment from the the classic Dungeons & Dragons source book Deities & Demigods (later titled Legends & Lore).

To follow up, here are the D&D alignments listed for a number of characters in Greek mythology, better known by their Roman names to the Defenders.

Neutral Evil: Hades (god of the underworld and death). Known by the Roman name Pluto, this god fought the non-team in Defenders #2-4 (Volume 2).

Chaotic Neutral: Poseidon (god of seas, oceans, streams, and earthquakes). Worshipers include all who depend on the sea. To this point, Sub-Mariner invoked this god by his Roman name whenever he exclaimed, "By Neptune's Trident!"

Deities & Demigods also assigned the Chaotic Neutral alignment to the demigod Heracles from classical mythology. I would describe the Marvel hero Hercules (Roman spelling) as Neutral Good during his modern adventures as a superhero, including his involvement in Defenders for a Day.

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