Dedicated to the definitive superhero non-team.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Prequels and Sequels

A multi-part story that wrapped up loose ends for the hero Omega (whose series had been cancelled) reunited Hellcat with Moondragon and Wasp, heroes she had worked with in the Avengers.

Omega had never guest starred with the non-team before, but made a cameo appearance in Defenders #39.

More important than the main plot, however, was the worthwhile character study Defenders #76-77 provided of two women who had been only footnotes in Defenders history up to that point.

When husband Yellowjacket came out of retirement (Giant-Size Defenders #4), Wasp continued her leave of absence from crimefighting, at his request (and made only a non-powered cameo appearance that issue).

But in #76-77, free of patriarchal expectations, the Wasp acted with more confidence and intelligence than she had shown in almost two decades of comic book stories. Though a founding member of the Avengers, Wasp said she never had an opportunity to fly an Avengers' Quinjet until helping Valkyrie and Hellcat on that mission.

Telepathically sensing that Hellcat was in need of assistance, Moondragon returned to Earth to aid the Defenders (having made a one-panel cameo in #44). But the emotionally-complicated Moondragon chided Hellcat for scarcely developing her psionic abilities since leaving Titan, the moon of Saturn where she had trained.

Although Valkyrie had minimal interaction with Moondragon, Wasp warned the Asgardian warrior that Moondragon's arrogance was hard to take.

Claiming that the other heroes had botched the mission to save Omega, Moondragon ended the adventure demanding that the Defenders never summon her again. But as time would tell, this was only the beginning of Moondragon's involvement with the team. The self-proclaimed goddess eventually returned as a reluctant member of the New Defenders, with Valkyrie serving as her Odin-appointed parole officer.

The Omega plotline also brought back Ruby Thursday, still holding a grudge after fighting the Defenders several times before as a member of the Headmen.

Steven Grant wrote Defenders #76-77, and Herb Trimpe illustrated those issues.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Defenders Dialogue: Women Rolemodels

Throughout much of the original series, female heroes played a prominent role in the Defenders. At a time when many teams featured only one superpowered woman, the Defenders often had an even split among the sexes.

This letter from Defenders #76 (October 1979) emphasized the part comics can play in shaping readers' ideas about gender equality.

Dear Al and Jo,

In DEFENDERS #69, Nighthawk makes the comment, "You just beat up a girl who was trying to reason with you," in reference to Hellcat, who is a mature, grown, intelligent woman. Women need female heroes to give them a dream, just as men do. It's a small point—maybe a little girl reading the story didn't even notice it. But the mental impression will remain: no matter how far a female advances, even to superhero-dom, to the world she's still a girl. This does not describe Hellcat, nor does it describe any of Marvel's super-women.

This is important. It's a personal concept that many of us are struggling with. Please give us women the extra support, using the female superheores for whom you, yourselves, felt the need.

Marilyn Teplitz
State College, PA

Editor Allen Milgrom responded on behalf of himself and writer Mary Jo Duffy.

This particular point agonized Jo as she was writing the story in question, but, ultimately, she opted to go with how Nighthawk would speak rather than what her personal feelings would have her write. Still, your comments hit close to heart—and we promise to take your goals and feeling into consideration in the future.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

In the Corner Pocket

I miss the way Marvel Comics once displayed character headshots in the upper-left cover corner of team books.

For the Defenders, that tradition began with their debut appearance in Marvel Feature #1, with founding members Hulk, Sub-Mariner, and Dr. Strange featured in the boxed-in corner.

During the 1970s, Nighthawk, Valkyrie, and Hellcat were the only new members to earn a slot in the upper corner of the Defenders series.

Things started to shake up in 1980, when guest-star Black Panther accompanied longtime members of the team in the corner of Defenders #84 (and again in #86).

In the months ahead, the cover corners changed almost every issue, showcasing returning members, such as Daredevil and Daimon Hellstrom—and making room for newcomers like Gargoyle and Beast.

I generally prefer when all of the faces fit within the box.

Routinely overlooked, Clea finally received corner attention on the covers of Defenders #102-103.

Though from a distance they might look alike, the headshots of foundational-member Silver Surfer and new-member Iceman had enough detail to keep them distinct. Speaking of detail, Moondragon's corner image gained a headband to reflect her appearance among the New Defenders.

During Assistant Editors' Month in 1984, the corner showed a characakture of Marvel staffer Ann Nocenti dressed as the high-flying Angel. Near the end of the original series, the Defenders corners began to feature reduced-size headshots of most of the team and a full-body image of one of the heroes.