Dedicated to the definitive superhero non-team.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

The Marvel Heavyweights

Hulk and Sub-Mariner, the two physically strongest members of the Defenders, were also two of the hardest heroes to pin down in terms of strength.

The Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe (first edition) placed Hulk lifting up to 90 tons when he was calm, with the ability to lift more than 100 tons when angry. Prince Namor, meanwhile, was slated with the ability to lift 40 tons on land and 75 tons underwater.

Two years earlier, Amazing Spider-Man Annual #15 (1981) made an initial attempt to classify heroes by their physical strength. Breaking the fourth wall, the humorous back-up feature also included many of the heroes' reactions to their ranking.

Hulk: Bah, Hulk should be in a class by himself!
Thor: Forsooth, there is not a match for my mighty thews in all midgard!
Hercules Nay, friend Thor, if Hercules be on Earth, thou art but a close second!
Iron Man: With a potent enough energy source I can charge my armor to this power level--for about two seconds.
Wonder Man: Er … I want to be an actor, not a super guy!

Black Bolt: (empty word balloon)
Doc Samson: I am as strong as a calm Hulk--too bad the Hulk is never calm.
Sasquatch: I haven't met Spider-Man yet, but I once took on the Hulk for fun. (See Incredible Hulk Annual #8.)
Sub-Mariner: Beneath the sea, Namor's strength is supreme. On land, I am still a force to be reckoned with!
Thing: Of all the bum raps I ever got, this beats 'em all! I ain't no crummy second-rater!
Thundra: If I ever run into that web-headed fool, I will squash him for having dared to place me in this category.
Vision: At my maximum density, my strength is most devastating.

Spider-Man and several Defenders fell among the Super Mediumweights or below.

Edward Hannigan illustrated the first-edition covers for The Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe (1983).

The Marvel Mediumweights

Two years before The Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe stated precisely how much each character could lift/press, Amazing Spider-Man Annual #15 (1981) included a lighthearted back-up feature ranking many popular heroes by their physical strength.

Here's a list of the characters who fell at Spider-Man's strength level and below, along with some of their retorts to the web-slinger. It wouldn't take long for Marvel to establish that Colossus and She-Hulk truly belonged among the Heavyweights.

Colossus: I am still a teenager, Tovarisch. You wait until I am grown.
Ghost Rider: Blazes to you all!
Giant-Man/Black Goliath: I may not be the strongest hero in town, but I am the biggest.
Power Man: Jiminy Christmas--I've got better things to do than stand around posin' with these turkeys.
She-Hulk: Wait until you know me better, Spider-Man. You'll change your mind about my power.
Silver Surfer: I need not rely on super brute strength, for mine is the power cosmic.
Spider-Man: This is my strength class folks.
Valkyrie: I am the foremost warrior-goddess of Asgard--and you presume to mock my might by ranking me here?

Aquarian: The greatest strength of all is the strength to refrain from violence.
Beast: (looking at Spider-Woman) Hubba-Hubba.
Captain Britain: As the embodiment of the fighting spirit of ancient Britain, my power is many times human level.
Nighthawk: By night I'm twice as strong as any human--by day, I'm an invalid.
Spider-Woman: Spider-Man, you have some nerve putting me in a class beneath yours.
Tigra: I'll show you my strength if you'll show me yours.
Werewolf by Night: Grrrr.

A final category included heroes at peak-human strength: Black Panther, Captain America, Daredevil, Falcon, Hawkeye, Iron Fist, Ka-Zar, Moon Knight, Shroud, Wolverine, and Ant-Man (Scott Lang).

This back-up feature carried the title: "Just How Strong Is … Spider-Man?" Script and Layouts: Mark Gruenwald.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

The Case of the Mystery Cover

Here's what looks to be cover art for a not-yet published adventure that pits a classic group of Defenders against the villain Arcade.

To the best of my knowledge the Defenders never faced Arcade, but I'd love to see how they'd fare against the death traps of Murder World.

I spotted this illustration on Comic Vine, a source for many of the images that appear on this site.

John Byrne appears to be the illustrator, and the copyright line reads 2009. If you have more information about this eye-catching artwork, please post a reply!

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Famous Fan Appeal

An interview this week at offers some fun perspective into the appeal of the early Defenders.

In the interview, TV writer and radio host Tom Scharpling discusses why he tended to read "the second tier books of the day," including Defenders, Power Man and Iron Fist, and Doctor Strange.

Here's an excerpt:

I always weirdly gravitated towards the Defenders over the Avengers, because the Avengers just had everything locked down and were on it.

… and the Defenders were just this group of third stringers, where it's like, "Ugh, these guys are losers, and they don't like each other either!"  Guys would just check out for huge stretches.  For some reason the messiness of that appealed to me.  Just how chaotic that was.