Dedicated to the definitive superhero non-team.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Plant Attack

Uncertain about her true past, Cloud fled the Secret Empire after Defenders #123 and now found sanctuary among the New Defenders.

But the team's mountainside mansion was not always the safest place to be.

When a destitute man arrived unexpectedly, the heroes who were home at the time invited the stranger inside to offer him help. No sooner did the man walk through the front door than he transformed into a giant plant-creature (#132).

When Moondragon attempted to subdue the plant-man with her thoughts, he retaliated. When she got back on her feet, Moondragon stated that she could not affect the creature, as its mind had regressed to something akin to a savage impulses.

Valkyrie's sword, Cloud's lightning, Gargoyle's bio-energy blasts, and Iceman's standard attacks proved almost useless against the vicious vegetation. More than once the heroes thought they defeated the creature only to watch it further mutate and regrow.

The usually calm Angel half-panicked when he spotted one of the plant's spores latched to his back. The winged hero flew as high into the atmosphere as he could until the thin air caused the seed to fall off. But that still left the bulk of the plant-monster growing stronger inside the mansion.

Ordering everyone else to evacuate, Iceman devised one of the most innovate plans of career. He intended to use dehydration to defeat the plant. Situated by a window, Iceman froze water molecules in the air to create massive amounts of ice outside, drying out the air inside until the plant could no longer survive.

Defenders. Vol. 1. No. 132. June 1984. "The Phantom of Gamma Ray Flats." Peter B. Gillis (writer), Don Perlin (artist), Kim De Muilder (inker), Janice Chiang (letterer), Christie Scheel (colorist), Carl Potts (editor), Jim Shooter (editor-in-chief).

Friday, October 16, 2009

What's Eating Bobby Drake?

Iceman was one of the last heroes you'd expect to have angst. Physically, he could easily pass for a typical human—something most of his teammates couldn't do. And he lacked the mythic turmoil that inherently plagued so many Defenders.

But for existential Bobby Drake, the ability to choose whether or not to be a hero was the source of his problems. After leaving the original X-Men, his interest in studying accounting at college seemed to come more out of a desire to be conventional than a deeper interest in the field.

Revisiting some of the plot threads from his days in the Champions, Iceman's 1985 limited series forced the hero to face the on-the-fence position that he carried with him into the Defenders.

More a psychological journey than an adventure story, the limited series ultimately asked Iceman to decide to be the leader of his own life, independent of his parents' wishes or the expectations of his super-powered friends.

And though he did decide to stay with the New Defenders, there was no guarantee that Iceman would be happy.

J.M. DeMatteis wrote Iceman's limited series. The story was set soon after New Defenders #130.

Monday, October 12, 2009

State of Mind

Defenders #129 opened with a jarring predicament. The seasoned heroes found themselves under attack by the New Mutants, teenage students at Professor Xavier's School for Gifted Youngsters.

Angel, Beast, and Iceman were decidedly passive during the fight. As original members of the X-Men, they spent their youth battling older and more experienced opponents. Now, years later, they were reluctant to attack the newest students at their alma mater.

Gargoyle dissuaded Valkyrie from slaying the New Mutants until Moondragon saw through the troubling situation. The entire battle was an illusion. In reality, the Defenders were in holding cells, captives of the Secret Empire, and resisting attempts to be brainwashed.

Led by Professor Power, this latest incarnation of the Secret Empire intended to broadcast subliminal messages prompting the United States and the U.S.S.R. to enter into nuclear war—so a dystopian empire might emerge from the ruins. Several Defenders had been imprisoned by the Secret Empire before (Captain America #268). But this time there was a personal reason for manipulating the heroes.

Professor Power's son was traumatized as a result of his experiences fighting in the Vietnam War. When Professor X was unable to reverse the son's condition, Power sought to get back at Xavier by taking revenge on three of his earliest students, along with their latest allies. To hold his own in combat, Professor Power had his own mind psionically transferred into the body of his physically healthy (but comatose) son—land equipped himself with a battlesuit.

By tapping into Gargoyle's energy-draining abilities, Moondragon psychokinenically freed the team.

When time came to face Professor Power, Moondragon had her own turn at revenge. She caused Power's conscious mind to suffer the repressed mental anguish of his son (Defenders #130).

J.M. DeMatteis wrote Defenders #129-130 along with Marvel Team-Up #118 and #124, which established Professor Power's background and motivation.

Friday, October 9, 2009

They Might Be Giants

Only days had passed since their unofficial first mission (Defenders #125), but the Beast was already concerned that the newly revamped Defenders lacked solidarity (#126).

When Beast suggested that the team form a charter and nominated himself as leader, Valkyrie restated her prior objections to such plans. Iceman, meanwhile, tripped over his words defending the Beast (landing one observant reader a No-Prize).

But there was more chaos underfoot than anyone realized. Twice that issue, simultaneous thought-balloons showed Angel and Iceman romantically wondering about Moondragon, a woman who had mind-controlled them both in Avengers #211, before Odin limited her powers (Avengers #220). What came across as humorous serendipity in Defenders #126—with Angel and Iceman thinking the same words—brilliantly foreshadowed events that no reader could have foreseen at the time.

The more immediate threat that issue was Leviathan, a S.H.I.E.L.D. scientist accidentally transformed into a giant, rampaging neanderthal.

Valkyrie had bravely faced giant opponents before. Now in her true Asgardian body (since Avengers Annual #11), she was the physically strongest member of the New Defenders.

But Valkyrie was not invulnerable. To her surprise, one blow from the towering opponent almost did her in, prompting Gargoyle to fly her safely out of the way. Ultimately a coordinated group effort was needed to defeat Leviathan.

Defenders. Vol. 1. No. 126. December 1983. "State of the Union!" J.M. DeMatteis (writer), Alan Kupperbert (guest artist), Janice Chiang (letterer), Paul Becton (colorist), Carl Potts (editor), J.M. Shooter (chief).

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

The Importance of Being Gargoyle

Introduced as a reluctant opponent in Defenders #94, Gargoyle nevertheless became the first hero to originally appear in the series. All previous members of the team, and heroic guest stars, had appeared first in other series—or took over the reigns for someone else.

This was only one of several ways that Gargoyle stood out.

Comic books are filled with relatively young heroes, as well as the magically immortal. But a hero who gains superhuman powers later in life is rare indeed.

To save his hometown from economic ruin, Isaac Christians had made a pact with a demon. According to the deal, the town of Christiansboro, Virginia, would financially thrive if the elderly man would agree to temporarily serve the forces of evil as a gargoyle, furthering a larger plot to destroy the Defenders.

But this Gargoyle didn't have the heart of a villain. Instead of leading the Defenders to defeat, he tried to warn them. And because he did not keep up his side of the bargain, Isaac Christians would stay trapped in his demonic form indefinitely.

For all his regrets, the hero with bat-wings and orange hide kept a mild disposition much of the time. Through lineup changes and the formation of the New Defenders, Gargoyle remained a steady reminder of the mystical and often cryptic history of the team.

This image of Gargoyle first appeared in The Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Nighthawk's Ranch

One of the earliest posts on this site showed rough schematics of Dr. Strange's Sanctum Sanctorum, the original headquarters of the Defenders. Here at last is an image of Nighthawk's ranch, which served as the group's base of operations from Defenders #17-75.

Keith Giffen illustrated this view of the Defenders' Hang-Out, which appeared in #50, and David Kraft wrote that issue.