Dedicated to the definitive superhero non-team.


Saturday, December 20, 2014

The Offenders

In one of his cosmic challenges, the Grandmaster plucked Dr. Strange, Namor, Hulk, and Silver Surfer from different points in the past to battle the Offenders, a team of antagonists from the present.

If the heroes won, the Grandmaster would spare the lives of their romantic interests. But if the Offenders won, they could kill the heroes (Hulk #10).

  • Fighting for Clea, Dr. Strange faced rival magician Baron Mordo.
  • Fighting for Dorma, Namor battled the cybernetically enhanced Tiger Shark.
  • Fighting for Jarella (not Betty Ross), the Incredible Hulk defended against Red Hulk (a.k.a. General "Thunderbolt" Ross).
  • Fighting for Shalla-Bal, Silver Surfer clashed with Terrax.

Still loyal to Galactus at this point, this early version of Silver Surfer was in disbelief to hear that he would one day break his allegiance to Galactus and that Terrax would become the world-conquerer's next herald (#11).

In an act of betrayal, Red Hulk stole the scythe from Terrax and absorbed his teammate's cosmic energy, and then seized control of the Silver Surfer's board. These actions did not bode well with Galactus, who easily depleted Red Hulk's energy. As a further penalty for breaking the rules of the competition, Grandmaster returned the four heroes and the Offenders to their proper times with no memories of the events that had transpired (#12).

Jeph Loeb wrote Hulk #10-12 (April, June, July 2009). Ed McGuinness pencilled those issues.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Black Panther vs. Black Dragon

Everett K. Ross, special attaché for the U.S. State Department (and no apparent relation to Betty), awoke one day to find himself mystically transformed into the body of Mephisto. Turning for help, Ross arrived on the doorstep of Dr. Strange (Black Panther #34).

To his surprise, however, Ross was greeted (er, attacked) by the entire non-team from Defenders (Volume 2). Although Ross easily identified Hulk and Namor, he had trouble remembering the correct names for Valkyrie, Hellcat, Nighthawk, and even Dr. Strange—much less Silver Surfer.

As Ross explained that he wasn't really Mephisto, Dr. Strange sensed a spirit force that reminded him of Iron Fist. Just then, a mysterious figure impersonating Ross arrived on the scene and defeated everyone (Black Panther #35). The culprit responsible for the ruse was none other than Chiantang (a.k.a. the Black Dragon), an old enemy of Power Man and Iron Fist.

Not long afterward, Chiantang created a mystic imbalance within Iron Fist that set the hero into battle against Black Panther. (#39). Under this diabolical influence, the green portions of Iron Fist's costumed turned red—a visual phenomenon that harked back to Black Dragon's first attempt to corrupt Iron Fist (Power Man and Iron Fist #119).

Black Panther. Vol. 2. No. 34. September 2001. "Hell(o), I Must Be Going." Priest (writer), J. Calafiore (guest artist), Livesay (guest inker), Sharpefont & Paul Tutrone (lettering), VLM (colorist), Mike Raicht (assistant editor), Mike Marts (editor), Joe Quesada (editor in chief), Bill Jemas (president).
Black Panther. Vol. 2. No. 35. October 2001. "Masks." Priest (writer), J. Calafiore (guest artist), Livesay (guest inker), Sharpefont & Paul Tutrone (lettering), VLM (colorist), Mike Raicht (assistant editor), Mike Marts (editor), Joe Quesada (editor in chief), Bill Jemas (president).

Monday, November 10, 2014

Daimon and the Duck

Before they became heroes in Marvel Comics Super Special #1, the founding members of the rock band KISS materialized from a young woman under psychiatric supervision.

Called to investigate, Daimon Hellstrom determined that evil forces were not responsible for the unusual occurrence. Rather, the young woman had latent psychic talents that may have caused her to tap into a parallel universe. But Hellstrom assured doctors that the phenomenon was unlikely to reoccur (Howard the Duck #13).

Convinced nonetheless that the young woman was possessed by evil spirits, the misguided Revered Yuc kidnapped her. When Hellstrom came to the rescue, Reverend Yuc mystically removed the hero's chest pentagram and demonic powers. Hellstrom was relieved at first, until he saw that emblem unexpectedly branded on Howard the Duck (#14).

Along with Hellstrom's pentagram, mystic trident, and superhuman powers, Howard also inherited a volatile personality hellbent on retribution (which Hellstrom struggled long to control as the Son of Satan).

Hellstrom chased after the demonically driven duck, and then grabbed the mystic trident from Howard's hands, returning things to normal (or rather, as normal as they had been).

Howard the Duck. Vol. 1. No. 13. June 1977. "Rock, Roll Over, and Writhe!" Steve Gerber (writer/editor), Gene Colan (penciller), Steve Leialoha (inker), Jim Novak (letterer), Jan Cohen (colorist).
Howard the Duck. Vol. 1. No. 14. July 1977. "A Duck Possessed!" Steve Gerber (writer/editor), Gene Colan (penciller), Klaus Janson (inker), Jim Novak (letterer), Irene Vartanoff (colorist).

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Power Rings

While most issues of Tales to Astonish (Volume 2) ran only reprints of Sub-Mariner adventures, #13 included a new back-up story.

Still sour after his losing battle against Sub-Mariner, Silver Surfer, Valkyrie, and Dr. Strange (Defenders #6), evil magician Cyrus Black decided to direct his anger against just one member of the Defenders.

To accomplish his goal, Cyrus Black offered three children magic rings that promised to fulfill their wildest dreams—turning them into versions of Hulk, Captain America, and Spider-Man.

Following the wizard's commands, the transformed children attacked Nighthawk, who was flying nearby. Taking off his own ring (a family heirloom worn under a glove), Nighthawk coaxed the transformed trio to follow his lead and remove their magic rings. The idea worked, and the children returned to normal.

Tales to Astonish. Vol. 2. No. 13. "Deadly Game!" Naomi Basner (writer), Alan Kupperberg (penciler), Bill Wray (inker), Christopher Warlock (letterer), Gaff (colorist), Jim Shooter (editor).
The cover story ("Death, Though Shalt Die!"originally appeared in Sub-Mariner #13 (May 1969).

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Runners-Up

The monthly calendars that ran on the back covers of Marvel Age magazine often pictured comic book characters in the squares for holidays—along with many in-jokes.

As a call back to his unsuccessful presidential campaign in 1976, Howard the Duck appeared in the Election Day square for November 6, 1985.

The content in other squares was often random. Meet the Hulks… on November 23, 1985, pictured the Incredible Hulk, She-Hulk (Jennifer Walters), Xemnu (a recurring foe of the Defenders), wrestler Hulk Hogan, and a fifth character who I do not recognize as a "Hulk" from that era.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

On a Hot Tin Roof

In her short-lived comic book series, the Cat repeatedly faced male opponents who underestimated her capabilities specifically because she was a woman. In the Cat Scratches letters column, readers commented on the feminist themes within the series, and the portrayal of the title character. Here is one letter published in The Cat #4 (June 1973).

Dear Stan,

THE CLAWS OF THE CAT was well-written, well-drawn, well-inked, well-lettered, and well-colored. So what am I writing about? I'm writing about a comic mag that is good, but is flawed and will be ruined by Women's Lib sayings.

Equal pay for equal work is fair and just, and it's the right way. But all that stuff about "male chauvinist pigs" and women being "sex objects" is a lotta (CENSORED). Anyway, what's wrong with being a sex object?

Bryan Newman

Here was the editorial reply:

Apparently, Bryan, you've never been whistled and leered at on a street corner. Or had a sensitive extremity pinched in an elevator car. Or been treated with disdain because you dared show some grain of intelligence. Or been refused a job because you might become pregnant.

But those are the things that are wrong with being a "sex object". And the whole point is … people shouldn't be treated as any kind of object! We don't consume human beings the way we do noodle soup. Or at least … we're not supposed to Think of it.

Meanwhile, we're glad you're enthusiastic about the CLAWS OF THE CAT. And, while we do plan to soft-pedal the rhetoric (and let the plots make our point instead), we felt we had to answer your query directly.

Till next ish: purr softly … and carry a big stick!

The Cat #4, however, was the last issue of the series. The character next appeared in Giant-Size Creatures #1, when she transformed into Tigra.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Dream Sequence

During a dream sequence in Alias #21, on-again, off-again hero Jessica Jones imagined herself standing among Sub-Mariner, Hulk, Silver Surfer, Dr. Strange, Nighthawk, and Valkyrie.

With the exception of Nighthawk, these were the same Defenders seen in flashbacks in Alias #25. Given her retcon history, of course, all accounts of Jessica Jones entail an added layer of subjectivity.

Monday, September 22, 2014

When Did Jessica Jones Battle the Avengers and Defenders?

Through a series of flashbacks, Jessica Jones described how she retired from her career as a costumed adventurer after the nefarious Purple Man emotionally manipulated her—inadvertently leading her into battle against two groups of heroes (Alias #25).

Jessica Jones: And, oh yeah, not only was it the Avengers that I happen to side swipe … But I pick a day where the Avengers and the Defenders, the old school classic Defenders, are doing some big team-up.

When exactly did this skirmish take place?

The following Avengers appeared in the flashbacks: Scarlet Witch, Thor, Iron Man, Captain America, Vision, Wasp, Beast, Jocasta, Wonder Man, and Ms. Marvel (Alias #26). That lineup loosely approximated the roster from Avengers #195-199 (May-Sept. 1980), including one or two heroes who were on leave but still appearing in the series at the time.

As for the Defenders, the flashbacks pictured Dr. Strange, Namor, Hulk, Silver Surfer, and Valkyrie (in her original costume). In other words, they appeared to be the non-team from Defenders #6 (June 1973). Perhaps time travel was responsible for the team-up between the "old school classic Defenders" and the later group of Avengers.

It's also possible that the early combination of Defenders temporarily regrouped around the time of Avengers #195-200. This simpler explanation requires some shoe-horning, however, since Clea used sorcery to redesign Valkyrie's costume in Defenders #47, and Valkyrie was magically unable to return to that original costume again until Defenders #89 (Nov. 1980).

After facing the Defenders and Avengers, Jessica Jones fell into a coma until receiving help from telepath Jean Grey of the X-Men. This would have occurred prior to the death of Phoenix (a.k.a. Jean Grey) in X-Men #137 (Sept. 1980) rather than after the return of Jean Grey in Avengers #263 (Jan. 1986), when all of the teams had vastly different members.

Brian Michael Bendis wrote the Alias series, which ran 28 issues.

Friday, September 12, 2014

His and Hers

A curse from the evil wizard Yandroth that compelled Silver Surfer, Sub-Mariner, Hulk, and Dr. Strange to band together later accentuated the most intimidating aspects of their personalities. Instead of protecting humanity, the four heroes set out to impose their own brand of tyranny as The Order, the title of a six-issue limited series packaged with Defenders (Volume 2).

Dressing the part, Sub-Mariner brought back his jacketed threads from Super-Villain Team-Up, and Dr. Strange returned to the masked costume he wore shortly before forming the original Defenders.

Appropriately enough, the gray-skinned Hulk appeared in The Order #1-4. Yet his hedonism proved so bothersome that Dr. Strange magically transformed Hulk into the green goliath who fought alongside the original Defenders. But when that brutish Hulk rejected the world-conquering ideals of the Order, Dr. Strange turned him into the "Professor" Hulk with the intelligence of Bruce Banner.

Perhaps because Yandroth had once taken the form of a woman (Defenders #119), removing the curse required a female analogue to each member of the Order.

To this end, Nighthawk, Hellcat, and Valkyrie (Samantha Parryington) sought help from Namorita and She-Hulk (cousins of Sub-Mariner and Bruce Banner), along with Clea, who leveraged a magical attack that caused Silver Surfer to "bleed" light, which took the form of a new cosmic heroine called Ardina (The Order #4).

Accompanying the Defenders on their quest to stop the Order was Dr. Christopher Ganyrog, Scientist Supreme on Yandroth's homeworld of Yann, located in the system of Geulischwarz (The Order #5). Furthering the theme of female characters derived from males, Ganyrog referred to his adventuring partner as Romantic Objective Pamela.

Jo Duffy and Kurt Busiek wrote The Order #1-6 (April-September 2002).

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

The Order of the Order

On one hand, The Order was a six-issue limited series featuring the Defenders. On the other hand, The Order was a continuation of Defenders (Volume 2), which ran for 12 issues.

Through a creative use of cover numbering, The Order #1 combined both perspectives and displayed 1 with 13 nested inside.

Likewise, The Order #2 displayed 2 with 14 nested inside. The pattern continued through the duration of the series, with The Order #6 displaying 6 with 18 inside.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Assembly Required

The alternate reality in What if? Age of Ultron #2 flashed forward to a speculative future where a salty Wolverine assembled a one-time team consisting of Spider-Man, Hulk, and a new Ghost Rider (a call back to the Secret Defenders from Fantastic Four #374).

Long retired from his crime-fighting days as Spider-Man, the Peter Parker in this future was living in Rutland, Vermont. He moved there, at least in part, because of the city's tradition of throwing memorable Halloween parades.

Hulk, meanwhile, was now decidedly non-violent and residing on Mount Song, China. Through the practice of Zen meditation, the green goliath had found peace of mind in his own right—without integrating the personality of Dr. Bruce Banner.

What If? Age of Ultron. No.2. June 2014. Joe Keatinge (writer), Ramon Villalobos (artist), Ruth Redmond (colorist), VC's Joe Sabino (letterer), Jon Moisan (editor), Axel Alonso (editor in chief).

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

What If ... Defenders?

In a series of intertwined tales, What if? Age of Ultron (2014) explored how repeated attempts to travel back in time might cause the multiverse to come apart at the seams.

As one timeline unraveled, Wasp died inexplicably during a conversation with Henry Pym (then Giant-Man) about his initial plans to create Ultron. After that treacherous machine turned on him and the Avengers, Pym (now Yellowjacket) joined a team of Defenders consisting of Black Widow, Nick Fury, Falcon, Silver Sable, and Shang-Chi (Master of Kung Fu). But Ultron defeated them as well.

Another tear in the fabric of reality brought about the unanticipated death of Thor. The Defenders from before now included technologist Lieberman (a.k.a. Microchip) instead of Pym. While the team faced an army of Frost Giants and the Norse doomsday serpent Jormungand, Black Widow recovered the hammer Mjölnir that had belonged to Thor and earned the title of Thunder God.

The featured panels come from What If? Age of Ultron #1 (top) and #3 (bottom).

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Silver Skrull

When numerous heroes of Earth traveled to a moon of Saturn to mourn The Death of Captain Marvel, a spy was among them.

Sent to gather information about the heroes, a shapeshifting agent from the Skrull Empire came disguised as Devil-Slayer. After seeing that the real Devil-Slayer was also there, the Skrull changed form to masquerade as the Silver Surfer instead.

The real Silver Surfer, meanwhile, was still trapped on Earth at the time. The former herald to Galactus only learned of the charade in when he encountered the Skrull double in Silver Surfer #14 (Volume 3).

Silver Surfer. Vol. 3. No. 14. August 1988. "Silver Mirrors!" Steve Englehart (story), Joe Staton (pencils), Joe Rubinstein & José Marzan (inks), Ken Bruzenak (letters), Tom Vincent (colors), Craig Anderson (editor), Tom DeFalco (editor in chief).

Friday, August 1, 2014

Happy Birthday, August!

The back covers of each issue of Marvel Age in 1985 featured a monthly calendar with fun illustrations on most dates. Each month acknowledged the appropriate astrological sign by picturing a member of the Zodiac gang, such as the villainous Virgo on August 23.

The square for August 27 pictured Angel, Beast, Valkyrie, and Gargoyle wishing a happy birthday to Defenders artist Don Perlin.

Monday, July 28, 2014

The Ruby of Domination

Roll Call: Valkyrie, Dr. Strange, Sub-Mariner, Hellcat, Daimon Hellstrom, Hulk, and Gargoyle.

Dr. Strange summoned an assortment of Defenders to the Sanctum Sanctorum to see if one of them might draw out Bruce Banner's mind within the Hulk, who Dr. Strange temporarily subdued with a spell of somnambulance (Marvel Fanfare #20).

As Dr. Strange stepped into his study, the evil wizard Xandu trapped Dr. Strange in another dimension and mystically prevented him from calling any of the Defenders to his aid. But all was not lost. With time in short supply, Dr. Strange created a magical portal to contact Thing.

Using the powerful Ruby of Domination, Xandu magically coerced Hulk into battling Thing. Unable to overpower the green goliath on his own, Thing instead destroyed the Ruby of Domination—thereby weakening Xandu and freeing Dr. Strange. The ordeal left Dr. Strange too fatigued to further pursue any magical means of bringing peace of mind to the Hulk (Marvel Fanfare #21).

Thing guest-starred in Defenders #20 but still regarded himself as a member of the Fantastic Four during that appearance.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Portfolio Page

Marvel Fanfare #20 (May 1985) closed with several stand-alone pages of artwork by Charles Vess. The portfolio included this full-page image of the New Defenders.

Roll Call: Gargoyle, Iceman, Valkyrie (riding Aragorn), Cloud, Angel, Beast, and Moondragon.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Mental Block

In Dr. Strange #59 (June 1983), the master of the mystic arts learned that Dracula was again at large. The disturbing news jogged the sorcerer's memory of his initial encounter with Dracula in Dr. Strange #14 (May 1976).

Seven years in real time elapsed between the publication of those two issues, but characters within the world of comics tend to experience time at a slower rate. According to Dr. Strange's account in #59, barely two years had passed since he met the Lord of Vampires in #14.

Yet only after summoning the all-seeing Eye of Agamotto from his mystic amulet did Dr. Strange recall a more recent encounter from Defenders #95 (May 1981), when Dracula had invaded the Sanctum Sanctorum under the influence of the Six-Fingered Hand. How could Dr. Strange have forgotten such a pivotal event? The sorcerer suspected that Mephisto was responsible for obstructing his memory and numbing his awareness of Dracula.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Dire Consequences

The New Defenders joined forces with several other super teams to stop the extraterrestrial Dire Wraiths from conquering the Earth in Rom #65.

In the aftermath, Valkyrie was the first to ask how the captured Dire Wraiths should be punished. While other heroes hemmed and hawed, Rom the Spaceknight ultimately followed his modus operandi by using his Neutralizer Beam to banish the Dire Wraiths to Limbo (#66).

ROM. Vol. 1. No. 66. May 1985. "The Day After!" Bill Mantlo (story), Steve Ditko & Steve Leialoha (art), Janice Chiang (letters), Petra Scotese (colors), Mike Carlin (editor), Jim Shooter (editor in chief).

Monday, June 30, 2014

Distress Call

In an indirect cross-over, Yellowjacket received a call in Avengers #189 that his wife, the Wasp, was stranded in Las Vegas following her adventure in Defenders #76-77.

Borrowing an Avengers Quinjet, Yellowjacket arrived to find that Wasp, Hellcat, and Valkyrie had stumbled into a plot orchestrated by the Mutant Force and a band of warrior women obeying the commands of Mandrill. The predicament drew attention to a seldom-mentioned curse that limited Valkyrie's fighting skills against other women at this point in her crimefighting career.

The villains soon captured Yellowjacket (#78) and then trapped Wasp in a jar like an insect. Fingers covering the air holes in the lid prevented Wasp from succumbing to Mandrill's mutant pheromones, but Hellcat and Valkyrie fell under his power to bend the will of most women (#79).

Wasp managed to escape, and Nighthawk arrived late on the scene to rescue the other heroes (#80).

Ed Hannigan wrote Defenders #78-80.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

The Original Gargoyle

Years before Isaac Christians became trapped in the body of a demon, a Soviet scientist briefly used the codename Gargoyle (The Incredible Hulk #1).

Like countless masterminds who would follow, the original Gargoyle was intent on enslaving the Hulk. After seeing that the subdued Hulk had reverted to the form of Dr. Bruce Banner, Gargoyle confessed that he longed to be rid of his own mutations—side effect of bomb research he had conducted for the Soviet government.

Lo and behold, Dr. Banner explained that through the selective use of radiation he could in fact return Gargoyle to an ordinary human being. Although this meant losing his superhuman intelligence, Gargoyle agreed to the procedure.

Dr. Banner, meanwhile, was just beginning to understand his own transformations into the Hulk, which resulted from exposure to gamma rays while risking his life to save teenager Rick Jones.

The Incredible Hulk. Vol. 1. No. 1. May 1962. By Stan Lee + J. Kirby.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Ode to Etrigan

Daimon Hellstrom and Gargoyle likely owed some creative debt to The Demon, a series that Jack Kirby created for DC Comics soon after leaving Marvel.

The debut issue introduced readers to Jason Blood, a demonologist with a conspicuously long lifespan. During one of his supernatural investigations, Jason entered a crypt protected by living gargoyles.

Within the crypt, Jason felt compelled to read aloud a mystic inscription that would cause him to involuntarily change back and forth into the demon Etrigan.

Although Etrigan had previously served Merlin the magician and continued to fight against the forces of evil, Jason largely despised transforming into the inhuman creature.

The above images come from The Demon #1 (September 1972). Jack Kirby wrote and illustrated the original series, which ran for 16 issues. Supporting characters throughout the run included Jason's friends Harry Matthews and Randu Singh (who had E.S.P.), and romantic interest Glenda Mark.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Avengers/JLA/Etc.

The highly anticipated Avengers/JLA limited series merged two publishing universes in a four-issue crossover. The final issue of the reality-bending event included cameo appearances of other heroes.

One panel showed Nighthawk, Red Guardian, Gargoyle, and Valkyrie rescuing children from a natural disaster. It was noteworthy to see Red Guardian flying (one of the powers she gained from the Presence only after leaving the Defenders) but without the the energy glow that routinely accompanied all of her superhuman abilities.

Avengers/JLA #4. © 2003. "The Brave & the Bold." Kurt Busiek (writer), George Pérez (artist), Tom Smith (colorist & separator), Comicraft (letterer).

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Beware the Over-Mind

Breaking his oath of noninterference, Uatu the Watcher warned the Fantastic Four of the impending threat of Over-Mind (Fantastic Four #113).

The Watcher later described how Grom, champion warrior among the extraterrestrial Eternals, underwent a scientific procedure long ago to gain the mind power of one billion people and become the evil Over-Mind (#115).

Soon after arriving on Earth, Over-Mind telepathically coerced Mr. Fantastic to turn against his teammates before they could formulate a plan to stop Over-Mind's wave of destruction.

Intent on conquering the world himself, Dr. Doom became an unlikely ally to the remaining members of the Fantastic Four. Yet even the psionic-refractor that Dr. Doom invented did little to halt Over-Mind.

A form of deus ex machina occurred with the arrival of the mysterious Stranger. A composite being from the planet Gigantus, whose ancient inhabitants were enemies of the Eternals, the Stranger had power enough to shrink down and imprison Over-Mind within a mote of dust (#116).

Archie Goodwin wrote Fantastic Four #113-116. John Buscema pencilled those issues.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Last Words

Captain Mar-vell turned down a chance to join the Defenders, but they didn't hold that against him (Defenders #62-63).

When the cosmic champion was on his deathbed with cancer, the non-team joined other heroes of Earth in paying their last respects to the Kree warrior in The Death of Captain Marvel graphic novel (1982).

While most everyone remained somber during Mar-vell's final hours, sidekick Rick Jones chastised other heroes for selfishly having invented their own super powers when they could have been searching for a cancer cure. Death in comic books had more significance then than it has today; heroes at that time did not readily return from the grave.

With no word balloons, we can only imagine what transpired between Hercules and Devil-Slayer in the moments leading up to this page from the Captain Marvel graphic novel.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Payroll

Nighthawk had paid Luke Cage for a period of time to work as a member of the Defenders. So when Nighthawk decided that he needed to hire additional recruits in The Last Defenders #3, he rather poetically approached Erik Josten, the reformed villain who began his costumed career using the alias Power Man.

After losing a fight with Luke Cage over use of the name (Power Man #21), Erik Josten changed his code name to Smuggler and then to Goliath before settling on the heroic identity of Atlas.

In addition to hiring Atlas, Nighthawk also recruited the mercenary Paladin and the anti-hero Junta.

Paladin previously turned down membership to the Defenders specifically because they didn't pay (Defenders #62-63). Appropriately enough, The Last Defenders #3 flashed back to a scene of numerous heroes who did join the non-team (without Paladin) one fateful day.

The Last Defenders. Vol. 1. No. 3. July 2008. "The Movement You Need." A Casey-Muniz-Smith-Comicraft-Fabela-Brennan-Wacker-Quesada-Buckley Production.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Defend Comics

This year Free Comic Book Day lands on Saturday, May 3, 2014. The book that looks most interesting to me this year is Defend Comics, by the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund. Created in 1986, the CBLDF is non-profit organization dedicated to protect the First Amendment rights pertaining to comics and graphic novels.

Sample pages from Defend Comics illustrate topics surrounding the freedom of speech, including the history of the Comics Code.

As an aside, the original version of the Comics Code from 1954 banned many themes associated with horror and fantasy literature. Note the following item under General standards—Part B:

Scenes dealing with, or instruments associated with walking dead, torture, vampires and vampirism, ghouls, cannibalism, and werewolfism are prohibited.

The revised Comics Code from 1971 loosened those initial restrictions:

Scenes dealing with, or instruments associated with walking dead, or torture, shall not be used. Vampires, ghouls and werewolves shall be permitted to be used when handled in the classic tradition such as Frankenstein, Dracula, and other high calibre literary works written by Edgar Allen Poe, Saki, Conan Doyle and other respected authors whose works are read in schools around the world.

This revision allowed for a hero billed as The Son of Satan, the transformation of the original Cat into Tigra the Were-Woman, and a storytelling genre that would become the bedrock of the Defenders.

Monday, April 21, 2014

On the Edge of Forever

When Dr. Strange cast a cloaking spell to disguise both himself and Sub-Mariner as ordinary people in Defenders #4 (Volume 3), he took wardrobe advice from Star Trek. The spell logically dressed Sub-Mariner in a stocking cap to cover his pointed ears, much like the hat Mr. Spock wore in The City of the Edge of Forever to cover his similarly pointed ears. Dr. Strange, meanwhile, wore a red, flannel shirt reminiscent of the shirt Capt. Kirk wore that same episode.
Note the reverse symmetry regarding the other color choices: While Kirk's jacket was brown and Spock's hat was blue, Sub-Mariner wore a brown hat and Dr Strange had a blue jacket.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Hulk, Hulk, Gray Hulk

Bruce Banner's irritable alter ego had gray skin during his initial transformations in The Incredible Hulk #1 (May 1962), and then began turning green with #2. Throughout his early exploits and quarrelsome dealings with the original Avengers, Hulk was befuddled at times but remained reasonably articulate nonetheless.

By the time the Defenders formed in Marvel Feature #1 (December 1971), however, Hulk's vocabulary was simplistic. This held true throughout his lengthy membership with the non-team (outside of the rare occasion when Hulk retained the brains of Bruce Banner).

When Banner later began transforming regularly into the gray-skinned Hulk, his verbal skills returned to the level they had been during Hulk's first appearances. This gray variation of the character was now distinct from stupefied green Hulk.

Yet the gray version of Hulk retained a modicum of loyalty to Sub-Mariner and Dr. Strange just the same. When the three heroes teamed up in The Incredible Hulk #370-371 (June-July 1990), they considered the adventure a reunion of the original Defenders.

In making their re/acquaintance, gray Hulk took to referring to Stephen Strange as Steve instead of calling him Magician as green Hulk had done.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Fantastic Four Roast

Comedically covered by Fred Hembeck, Fantastic Four Roast #1 informally commemorated the 20th anniversary of Fantastic Four #1 (Nov. 1961).

Numerous heroes attended the event, with Hulk, Dr. Strange, Nighthawk, Gargoyle, Hellcat, Daimon Hellstrom, and Valkyrie (with Aragorn) arriving together as Defenders.

Iceman and Angel understandably arrived with their former teammates in the X-Men. Yet when time came to roast the Fantastic Four, those two mutants got up and assembled with the Avengers.

Unlike Quicksilver (who arrived with the Inhumans but roasted with the Avengers), neither Iceman nor Angel had ever been Avengers. Reluctant to chalk this up as an in-joke or flat-out oversight, I've long suspected that Iceman and Angel initially were intended to join in Avengers #211.

The Defenders, incidentally, did not stand up as a group to roast the Fantastic Four, but Dr. Strange and Hulk were among the many heroes to make individual speeches.

Fantastic Four Roast. Vo. 1. No. 1. May 1982. "When Titans Chuckle!" Fred Hembeck (story & layouts), Jim Shooter (plot assist & editing), Almost Everybody (art), Joe Rosen (lettering), Wein / Yanchus (coloring), Irving Forbush (catering).

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