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Sunday, July 6, 2008

Giant-Size Flashbacks

Five giant-size issues of the Defenders from the 1970s brought readers up to speed on the history of their favorite heroes. Along with new content, these 68-page issues reprinted solo stories that first appeared a decade or more before the Defenders formed.

Giant-Size Defenders #1 framed the reprinted pages within an original story. To help Valkyrie learn more about her teammates, Clea consulted an arcane book she had skimmed, then cast a spell to reveal the early exploits of Dr. Strange, Sub-Mariner, and Hulk.

Unbeknownst to Clea, the spell inadvertently sent the three men into their own pasts, requiring Dr. Strange's years of training to reverse the magic. In addition to demonstrating the sorcerer's extensive experience, the reprints gave context to other members of the group. Pages from The Incredible Hulk #3 showed how much Dr. Banner and his alter ego had relied on the friendship of teenager Rick Jones before meeting the Defenders. And a Sub-Mariner reprint traced the Atlantean's heroism back to World War II.

Subsequent giant-size issues each began with a new Defenders story, set within the regular series continuity. The reprinted content in those issues then simply ran as a bonus feature, without any magical window-dressing. Giant-Size Defenders #2 even reprinted a story from Black Knight #4 (originally published in 1955), unexplicitly acknowledging the medieval hero's tertiary connection to Valkyrie.

The image at the top appeared on the cover from Strange Tales #121, illustrating Dr. Strange's back-up story that issue. Giant-Size Defenders #4 reprinted that tale of "Witchcraft in the Wax Museum."

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