Dedicated to the definitive superhero non-team.

Friday, December 24, 2010

To Thine Own Self Be True

Of all the evil mutants the Defenders faced, Mandrill seemed the most driven by vengeance. As Mandrill described it, the torment he experienced as a child justified his criminal objectives.

Unusual appearance notwithstanding, Mandrill's mutant pheromones enabled him to enslave a Fem-Force army of women. The women of the Defenders were just as susceptible to the intoxicating effects, turning them against their own teammates (Defenders #90).

Hulk: Why does Valkyrie fight against Hulk? Valkyrie is Hulk's friend!
Valkyrie: Bumbling brute! Such as yourself could never be a friend of the Valkyrie! Stand away, or feel the sting of my blade, Dragonfang!
Hulk: Hulk doesn't understand--but if Valkyrie wants to hurt Hulk … Hulk will have to hurt Valkyrie.

Even with such chaos underfoot, the battle against Mandrill and his Fem-Force revealed how much the Defenders had come together as team.
  • Hulk remained calm under pressure. When a mind-controlled Valkyrie drew her sword at the Hulk, he tried to reason with her before fighting.
  • Valkyrie outgrew her allegory. Early incarnations of Valkyrie were decidedly feminist clichés (Avengers #83; Incredible Hulk #142). Seeing the character mind-controlled to join the one-dimensional Fem-Force showed how far removed Valkyrie of the Defenders truly was from such caricatures.
  • Hellcat honed her psychokinesis. Despite her inability to control her psionic abilities since learning of them in Avengers #151, Hellcat successfully used the paranormal Shadow Cloak she acquired in Defenders #60 when attacking the women under Mandrill's command.
  • Nighthawk lived up to his position as leader. After noticing that an electrical shock could free someone from the Mandrill's mental hold, Nighthawk used his resources at Richmond Industries to develop a bracelet that would emit an electrical pulse to protect against the villain's hypnotic power (Defenders #91).
  • Daredevil returned! After several guest appearances as attorney Matt Murdock, the man without fear returned in costume to accompany the non-team during this adventure.

Defenders. Vol. 1. No. 90. December 1980. "Mind Over Mandrill!" Ed Hannigan (writer), Don Perlin and Pablo Marcos (artists), Diana Albers (letterer), George Roussos (colorist), Al Milgrom (editor), Jim Shooter (final arbiter).
Defenders. Vol. 1. No. 91. January 1981. "Defiance." Ed Hannigan (story), Don Perlin and Pablo Marcos (art), Diana Albers (lettering), George Roussos (coloring), Al Milgrom (editing), Jim Shooter (ed-in-chief).

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Secret Origins of the Headmen

Three of the four criminals who would later form the Headmen first appeared in tales published in science-fiction and suspense anthologies. Those cerebral stories ran as reprints in Weird Wonder Tales #7 (December 1974).

Dr. Arthur Nagan led a group of aging men on a jungle expedition in the story titled "It Walks Erect!" Building on his prior research, Nagan exchanged internal organs from each of the men with those of a captured gorilla. The procedure made the men feel young and vigorous while greatly weakening the ape. As a form of retaliation, a group of gorillas attacked Nagan and placed his head on the body of an ape, turning him into a Gorilla-Man.

Before ever becoming Shrunken Bones, Jerry Morgan was a scientist with big ambitions. But when not even his step-brother believed in him, Jerry threw out the experimental vapor he'd been developing. In irony of ironies, step-brother Sam happened to walk through the cloud of Cellular Shrinkage Vapor. Inadvertently reduced to a few inches in height, Sam Morgan was a "Prisoner of the Fantastic Fog."

The mysterious Chondu attracted his share of critics early on when speaking of the powers of the mind. But he proved the nay-sayers wrong, and even acted heroically, in his debut adventure titled "The Wrath of Chondu!" When an escaped convict threatened to murder Chondu on the street, the mentalist made the criminal's gun vanish—then mystically banished the crook to limbo.

"It Walks Erect!" originally appeared in Mystery Tales #21 (Sept. 1954).
"Prisoner of the Fantastic Fog" first appeared in World of Fantasy #11 (April 1958).
"The Wrath of Chondu!" originally ran in Tales of Suspense #9 (May 1960).

Monday, December 13, 2010


If Beast had been a member of the Defenders during their skirmishes with the Headmen, he most certainly would have exchanged barbs with Gorilla-Man.

While the face of Arthur Nagan (Gorilla-Man) looked nothing like Henry McCoy (Beast), from the neck down Gorilla-Man bore a striking resemblance to Beast, after further mutation added fur to the hero's already ape-like anatomy (Amazing Adventures #11).
The above portrait of Gorilla-Man first appeared in The Official Guide of the Marvel Universe. Beast's profile image from that edition appears with the post titled Beast: The Intellectual Unconventional.
Amazing Adventures. Vol. 2. No. 11. March 1972. "The Beast!" Stan Lee (editor), Gerry Conway (scripter), Tom Sutton (artist), Syd Shores (inker), Sam Rosen (letterer).

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Four Heads Are Better Than One

The four criminal geniuses known collectively as the Headmen were a group of super-villains the Defenders could truly call their own.

In their first major storyline, the Headmen kidnapped Nighthawk (Defenders #32) and abducted Dr. Strange, Hulk, and Valkyrie as part of a twisted plot to swop minds and bodies (Defenders #33). Although the other Defenders escaped intact, Nighthawk required surgery to place his brain back inside his head (Defenders #35).

With their plans foiled, the Headmen to turned against each other. Known for their distinct appearances, Shrunken Bones, Gorilla-Man, and Ruby Thursday experimented on their teammate, Chondu the Mystic. The operation changed Chondu from the most conventional looking member of the Headmen to the strangest of them all.

  • A horn protruded from his forehead.
  • His teeth became fangs.
  • His tongue was that of a serpent.
  • Clusters of lampreys replaced his arms.
  • Crimson bat-wings spread from his back.
  • His legs ended in knife-sharp talons.

Chondu was so horrified when he awoke to discover his altered form that he went berserk.

Reading between the lines, the villain's magical influence might explain why the police arrested Valkyrie for using excessive force when apprehending Chondu. Any bias against Valkyrie was short-lived, however. After Valkyrie broke out of jail (#39) a judge dismissed all charges against her (#40).
Defenders. Vol. 1. No. 33. March 1975. "Webbed Hands, Warm Heart!" Steve Gerber (story), Sal Buscema (layouts), Jim Mooney (finished art), Annette K. (letterer), Phil. R. (colorist), Marv Wolfman (editor).
Defenders. Vol. 1. No. 35. May 1975. "Bring Back My Body to Me, To Me…!" Steve Gerber (writer), Sal Buscema and Klaus Janson (artists), John Costanza (letterer), Petra Goldberg (colorist), Marv Wolfman (editor).

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Flame On!

Before Spider-Man became the regular headliner, Marvel Team-Up often gave the Human Torch top billing instead. Two of the issues with Johnny Storm are of special interest to the Defenders.

While on the lookout for a villain with temperature powers, Human Torch saw Iceman in the area. Jumping to the wrong conclusion, the Torch tried to apprehend the mutant hero. The battle of fire against ice was reaching a stalemate when the other X-Men arrived and cleared up the misunderstanding. Human Torch and Iceman then joined forced against Equinox, a criminal with hot and cold powers (Marvel Team-Up #23, coinciding with events in (Defenders #15-16).

When an evil spirit took possession of his friend Wyatt Wingfoot, the Human Torch enlisted the help of demonologist Daimon Hellstrom. After ridding the spirit from Wingfoot's body, an over-zealous Hellstrom announced plans to kill Wyatt Wingfoot just the same. The Human Torch intervened, of course. And though his flame powers were little match against the "soulfire" of Daimon Hellstrom, the fight lasted just long enough for the Son of Satan to come to his senses instead of committing murder (Marvel Team-Up #32).

Even when Hellstrom used his mystical talents for good, those powers were nevertheless evil in nature—and could get the best of him. (This was particularly true early in his career, and it explained Hellstrom's initial reluctance to assist the Defenders in Giant-Size Defenders #2.)

Marvel Team-Up. Vol. 1. No. 123. July 1974. "The Might of the Frozen Inferno." Len Wein (writer), Gil Kane (artist), Mike Esposito (inker), Glynis Wein (colorist), C. Jetter (letterer), Roy Thomas (editor).
Marvel Team-Up. Vol. 1. No. 132. April 1975. "All the Fires in Hell…!" Gerry Conway (author), Sal Buscema and Vince Colletta (artists), Artie Simek (letterer), Janice Cohen (colorist), Len Wein (editor).

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Visions of Valkyrie

Of all the examples of similar cover designs throughout the course of the Defenders, the most deserving instances of parallelism honored turning points for Valkyrie.

Defenders #4 marked the introduction of Valkyrie into the team. With the horse Aragorn at her command, there was no mistaking this Valkyrie (Barbara Norriss) for the previous incarnations of the character. Defenders #66 appropriately reworked the cover layout to reintroduce Valkyrie during a milestone trip to Asgard (where she left the troubled mind of Barbara Norriss behind).

#130 wasn't a landmark issue for Valkyrie, but the striking surrealism of the cover conveys her depth of character just the same.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Matt Murdock: Attorney without Fear

Daredevil was a welcome guest star in the Defenders. In fact, his real-life identity as attorney Matt Murdock was probably more valuable to the team than his costumed persona.

Here are a few examples:

  • When police arrested Valkyrie for appearing to use undue violence against an opponent, Matt Murdock got those charges dropped (Defenders #40).
  • When Nighthawk faced legal troubles due to problems with his company's finances, Murdock did what he could to help (Defenders #88).
  • Murdock drafted the document that led to the celebrated amnesty of the Hulk (Incredible Hulk #279).
In short, the Defenders owed a lot to Matt Murdock!
This image of Daredevil appeared in the first edition of The Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Love Lost

Not long after Valkyrie regained her true Asgardian body and knowledge that her real name was Brunnhilda, Thor regained his memory that the two of them had been romantically involved in the distant past (Thor #296).

Thor tried to tell Valkyrie the news in Marvel Team-Up #116, but she rebuffed him. Noting that Thor was acting strangely when he tried to open up, Valkyrie exclaimed that her life was confusing enough without any more revelations. The response was humorous yet oddly consistent.

During the handful of times they worked together during crossover story arcs, Valkyrie and Thor had treated their shared ties to Asgard as almost incidental, showing no particular interest in each other. This benefited Valkyrie greatly as a character.

Keeping her back story independent allowed Valkyrie to grow as a character in her own right. If she and Thor had been depicted as a couple from the start, Valkyrie easily could have become overshadowed by the thunder god in the way that Clea was deferential to Dr. Strange or Wasp was so often an accessory to Yellowjacket.

As an aside, soon after Marvel Team-Up #116, Valkyrie expressed her own romantic feelings toward Sub-Mariner. But the Prince of Atlantis was emotionally unavailable (Defenders #116). That said, I think Valkyrie and Namor would have made an interesting couple.

J. M. DeMatteis wrote Marvel Team-Up #116 and Defenders #116.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

A Defender Apart

With a magic sword, the power to travel through dimensions, and a knack for fighting demons, Devil-Slayer worked better as a solo character than as a member of the Defenders (where various teammates already possessed each of his identifiable traits).

Marvel Team-Up #111 gave Devil-Slayer a chance to shine more or less on his own, while acknowledging his affiliation with the non-team. In that story, while the rest of the Defenders were captured, Devil-Slayer joined Spider-Man in foiling a plot by the Serpent Cult.

To trick the two heroes into helping them secure a magic lizard-totem from the hands of a Spider-God statue, six members of the cult mystically disguised as Sub-Mariner, Dr. Strange, Gargoyle, Hulk, Valkyrie, and Clea. But Spider-Man outsmarted the cultists into revealing their true, reptilian forms.

The real Defenders escaped at the end of the issue.

Marvel Team-Up. Vol. 1. No. 111. Nov. 1981. "Of Spiders and Serpents!" J. M. DeMatteis (writer), Herb Trimpe (penciler), Mike Esposito (inker), Diana Albers (letterer), Bob Sharen (colorist), Tom DeFalco (editor), Jim Shooter (editor-in-chief).

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Revealing Weaknesses

In one of his several battles against the Defenders, Nebulon psionically disguised himself as a an Atlantean named Dorma, then hypnotically seduced the Sub-Mariner to send his armies against his teammates (Defenders #93).

When the Defenders finally fell unconscious from Sonic Scrambler technology, "Dorma" boasted about turning the heroes' weaknesses against them.

  • Dr. Strange's lips were sealed, unable to mouth spells.
  • Son of Satan was parted from his trident.
  • Hulk lay sleeping in a cage of sommonolomists.
  • Valkyrie was guarded by two female soldiers, and striking other women would cause her harm.
The argument about Valkyrie's weakness may have been premature, as the guards could not stop Valkyrie from lashing out at "Dorma," soon breaking through the disguise and revealing Nebulon's true identity.

Defenders. Vol. 1. No. 93. March 1981. "The Woman Behind the Man!" J. M. DeMatteis (writer), Don Perlin, Joe Sinnott and Friends (artists), Diana Albers (letters), George Roussos (colors), Al Milgrom (editor), Jim Shooter (ed-in-chief).

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Seventh Sense

Staged as a "months ago" flashback, Defenders #57 began with the the image of Ms. Marvel rising from the Orb of Agamotto in the Sanctum Sanctorum of Dr. Strange. The eerie set-up largely served to link Ms. Marvel to the paranormal.

Then, returning to the regular continuity of the series, Mr. Marvel appeared unexpectedly at the Defenders' door step asking for their help. Her "seventh sense" had warned her that, before the night was over, someone would try to kill the Defenders. Of course, given how often the Defenders were in danger, Ms. Marvel could have shown up almost any issue and delivered the same prediction.

The adventure that ensued brought Clea, Hulk, Hellcat, Nighthawk, and Valkyrie, against the forces of A.I.M. (Advanced Idea Mechanics), connecting with events in Ms. Marvel's own series.

Defenders. Vol. 1. No. 57. March 1978. "And Along Came … Ms. Marvel." Chris Claremont (guest writer), Tuska & Cockrum (guest artists), Dan Green (inker), P. Iro (letterer), F. Mouly (colorist), G. Conway (plotter), A. Goodwin (editor).

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Once a Defender...

With Dr. Strange, Valkyrie, Nighthawk, and Yellowjacket captured by the Sons of the Serpent, Bruce Banner (a.k.a. the Hulk) knew he needed help thwarting the foes. As a result, Defenders #24 became the first in a two-part reunion, of sorts, bringing back several additional allies of the team.

In her first attempt at using the Crystal of Agamotto, Clea got the ball rolling by telepathically summoning several heroes who had lent a hand to the non-team in the past. The effort worked, and Daredevil, Power Man, and Daimon Hellstrom arrived to accompany the Hulk against the villainous organization.

I like this issue for accenting the history and dynamics of the team. Yet for all its strengths, Defenders #24 invariably reminds me of Giant-Size X-Men #1, in which Professor X used his Cerebro technology to telepathically summon mutant allies to help Cyclops rescue the original X-Men. With a May 1975 cover date, that milestone X-Men adventure appeared one month before this issue of the Defenders.

Defenders. Vol. 1. No. 24. June 1975. "--In the Jaws of the Serpent!" Stever Gerber (writer), Sal Buscema (artist), Bob McLeod (inker), Tom Orzechowski (letterer), Phil Rachelson (colorist), Len Wein (editor).

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Blame It on Madame MacEvil

How appropriate that in her first appearance Moondragon referred to herself as Madame MacEvil (Iron Man #54). She was one of numerous Defenders who made their debut as villains. Hidden in an undersea vessel, Madame MacEvil used advanced technology to seize control of Iron Man's armor, forcing him to battle Sub-Mariner. With half-human, half-Atlantean physiology, Prince Namor would make the ideal scientific specimen for Madame MacEvil—if she could compel Iron Man to defeat him. But Iron Man's mind was still intact, and he tried to explain that he wasn't in control of his actions while attacking Namor. Considering how often they had battled over the years, it's little surprise that the Prince of Atlantis wasn't convinced. While secretly observing the fight, Madame MacEvil squabbled with her ship's computer. She and the machine took turns throwing insults back and forth, calling each other too cold or too emotional. Iron Man eventually regained control of his armor and flew off, leaving the Prince of Atlantis understandably confused. At the end of the issue, neither of them knew that Madam MacEvil had orchestrated the dispute.

Iron Man. Vol. 1. No. 54. January 1973. "Sub-Mariner: Target for Death!" Mike Friedrich (script), George Tuska (pencils), Vinnie Colletta (inks), Artie Simek (lettering), Roy Thomas (editing), Story idea & helping hand from: Bill Everett.

Thursday, June 10, 2010


Two other blogs were kind enough to recognize The Defenders Fansite with Kreativ Blogger and One Lovely Blog Award earlier this year. So the time feels right to do some acknowledging of my own.

Dispatches from the Arrow Cave was the first superhero blog I began following. I especially enjoy the posts on Green Arrow's insurmountable array of trick arrows.

Why do bad things happen to smart villains? Silver Age Comics answers this question with an inspiring series of panels labeled When I'm the Evil Genius.

The extensive issue-by-issue coverage at Justice League of America Satellite ultimately prompted me to create this blog surveying the Defenders. My favorite JLA posts are those labeled new member, which also tell when heroes chose not to join.

Although the topic seldom crops up in Defenders discussions, scientific literacy is one of my areas of interest. I highly recommend the conscientious section on Daredevil Science at The Other Murdock Papers.

Fortress of Baileytude deserves credit for having the most comically complete bio About The Guy Writing This Blog. On that site, I recently began listening to the postcast Tales of the Justice Society, reporting on the heroes of Earth 2 and the memorable Hostess ads that filled comic books for many years.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Defenders Dialogue: Seeing Is Believing

The letters page in Defenders #2 addressed the death-defying pronouncements made on many comic book covers of that era—and the proclamations at the end several early Defenders adventures.

Dear Stan, Roy, Ross, and Bill,

Just a few comments on M.F. #3.

The cover was no good because of what Titan says. The Hulk is obviously not dead. You keep having villains on the covers using similar phrases like, "They're dead at last!" or "I've won at last! I've killed him" I wish you'd start showing on the cover what happens in the book.

The story was well done and very original, not like any I've read before. Keep Everett on the inks, please.

One problem: you can't have, at the end of each issue, the Sub-Mariner or the Hulk claiming, "Don't call on us in earth's next hour of need. We won't come!" This would ruin everything. If the Defenders split, as Subby keeps saying, please, please give the mag to Doc Strange. Remember, he can never give up his powers again.

Rick Keefe
Etters, Pa

The creators replied to the letter by referencing a 1972 issue of Captain America with cover dialogue suggesting that the hero might die.

If you picked up CAPTAIN AMERICA #152 (and we're sure you did), you saw our plea for opinions on how to do the covers. We aren't sure whether we should take artistic license on them or not, so we're taking a poll, and your "not" vote has been dutifully recorded, Rick.

Now, you must remember that the Defenders are not the Avengers. They are three unique individuals who band together due to the need or common goal or to help a friend—not because they are a formal group have have consciously decided to stay together. If they get mad at each other, they could all go their separate ways, without a backward glance. We sure hope they don't, though.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Dr. Strange and the Avengers

Not long before the Defenders formed, the master of the mystic arts sought the help of Black Panther, Hawkeye, and Vision to stop a netherwordly threat (Avengers #61).

One of the highlights of the issue was hearing the characters' interactions with one another. Although Dr. Strange was one of the first Marvel characters introduced in the 1960s, the Avengers assembled in #61 had little knowledge of the sorcerer's powers at the time.

During the story, Dr. Strange performed emergency surgery to save the Black Knight—who then accompanied the other heroes in a fight against the ice demon Ymir and fire demon Surtur.

Although the operation was a success, the doctor's hands shook during the procedure as a sign of the nerve damage that ended his surgical career. The trepidation led to Red Guardian joining the Defenders. Early in the series, Dr. Strange used magic to again rescue the Black Knight (Defenders #11).

I'm glad that Dr. Strange ditched the face mask by the time the Defenders formed; he looked more approachable without it.

Avengers. Vol. 1. No. 61, February 1969. "Some Say the World Will End in Fire … Some Say in Ice!" Stan Lee (editor), Roy Thomas (writer), John Buscema (artist), George Klein (inker), Sam Roben (letterer).

Thursday, May 13, 2010

The Once and Future Valkyrie

Before Barbara Norriss became Valkyrie in Defenders #4, but after the Enchantress called herself Valkyrie in Avengers #83, another woman assumed the guise of Valkyrie.

In a tale laden with symbolism about social justice, the splash page of The Incredible Hulk #142 opened by quoting the inscription from the Statue of Liberty:

Give me your tired, your poor…
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free…!"

Although Hulk probably did not read those words, he nevertheless climbed up the Statue of Liberty to find a quiet place to sleep. As the general public started to panic, college student and political activist Samantha Parrington talked the green-goliath off the copper-green landmark. Parrington hoped that her family's wealthy connections might find the Hulk an area where he could live without constant persecution.

As an expression of radical chic, the Parryingtons even invited Hulk to a get-together at their home. Yet the villainous Enchantress sabotaged any plans to help the Hulk by casting the valkyrie spirit into Samantha's body. In her temporary new form, Valkyrie obeyed the wishes of the Enchantress and battled the Hulk.

With a skillful maneuver, Valkyrie hit a pressure-point on the Hulk's neck. This rendered the half-ton hero unconscious long enough for Valkyrie to drag him to the top of a skyscraper. To send a brutal message to all male chauvinists, Valkyrie then pushed Hulk over the ledge. And still he survived.

Before any fighting could continue, the Asgardian magic wore off, returning Samantha Parrington to her true form. In the heat of the moment, Hulk returned to his form as Bruce Banner. Neither of them remembered the allegorical battle that had transpired. Parrington did not become Valkyrie again until the 12-issue Defenders series published in 2001.
The Incredible Hulk. Vol. 1. No. 142. August 1971. "They Shoot Hulks, Don't They?" Stan Lee (editor), Roy Thomas (writer), Herb Trimpe and John Severin (artists). Inspired by the book Radical Chic by Tom Wolfe. Lettered by A. Simek.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The Color of the Defenders

The Essential Defenders collections of classic stories from the 1970s use a yellow-with-red nameplate treatment on the cover of each volume.

Yet numerous variations appeared on the covers of the actual issues.

Here's a look at just some of the ways colorists treated the Defenders nameplate during the original series.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

To Be or Not To Be?

Although the Defenders appeared in only a flashback panel in Captain America #179, the thoughtfully told story is worth recapping.

At a time when political disillusionment led Steve Rogers to set aside his iconic shield and stop adventuring as Captain America, a surprise attack from an arrow-slinging adversary got him back into battle.

Golden Archer: Thou art all of which I have heard--and less in the same stroke. For though dost seek to deny any rightful heritage! Yet I know thee, varlet--and though thou knowest me not, there be a great debt to be settled 'twixt thee and me!

After several cajoling speeches and attacks, Steve Rogers realized he was not facing the sometimes-villainous Golden Archer of the Squadron Supreme. Instead, he was dodging arrows from his longtime friend Clint Barton (Hawkeye) in disguise.

But what were Hawkeye's reasons for staging the fight? In one of his more sentimental moments, the archer recalled how inspirational the Star-Spangled Avenger had been to him—even when Hawkeye left the Avengers to go solo or team up with other super-types. Alliances alone didn't define a hero.

Hawkeye's pep talk following the mock attack prompted Steve Rogers to put his own politics aside and fight crime incognito as "Nomad, the man without a country" (beginning in Captain America #180).

Captain America. Vol. 1. No. 179. November 1974. "Slings and Arrows!" Steve Englehart (prose), Sal Buscema (pencils), Vince Colletta (brushes), Orzechowski (letters), P. Goldberg (colors), Roy Thomas (editor).

Thursday, April 15, 2010

The Rhyme and Reason of Dr. Strange

By the Vapors of Valtorr! Dr. Strange was known for his colorful catch phrases. And from time the time, the master of the mystic arts even cast his spells in rhyme.

For example, in Defenders #1, Dr. Strange used these magic words to revive a dehydrated Prince Namor:

Omnipotent Oshur,
From beyond thy nameless sphere--
Let the captive lie immersed!!!

The sorcerer supreme had plenty of poetic license when it came to rhyming. Although he spoke no magic words when protecting Sub-Mariner and Hulk with crimson bands of Cyttorrak in #1, he chanted the following rhyme in #109 to encircle a duel between Valkyrie and the Enchantress:

By the crimson bands of Cyttorrak
which kept Polymeth chained,
I conjure strands of primal force
to keep this clash contained!

On the debut mission of the Defenders, Dr. Strange recited the following timeless words to halt the Omegatron doomsday device (Marvel Feature #1):

List, ye powers that rule the Fourth Dimension…
Rise--Your sceptres herald time's suspension…
Save this world--this jewel--this blessed terra--
Let each moment's flight become an era!

And let's not forget the spell Dr. Strange cast to erase traumatic memories from the minds of Philip Le Guin's parents (Defenders #117):

In the name of Cosmic Mercy
and the Lotus heart of peace
Let remembrance of this vanish
Let your pain now find release

By the Hoary Hosts of Hoggoth! The non-formulaic approach to magic worked to the benefit of Dr. Strange. Since he was not bound by rhyme, the magician came across as all the more commanding when he chose to speak in verse.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Fansite Hits #100

To celebrate this 100th post of the Defenders Fansite, I've decided to list when Marvel's earliest superhero titles reached their centennial issues, as originally published in Marvel Age #100 (May 1991).

As the star of Journey into Mystery, Thor technically tops the chart. Hulk and Sub-Mariner tie for second place, as the featured heroes from Tales to Astonish.

  1. Journey into Mystery #100 (January 1964)
  2. Tales to Astonish #100 (February 1968)
  3. Captain America #100 (April 1968)
  4. Fantastic Four #100 (July 1970)
  5. Amazing Spider-Man #100 (September 1971)
  6. Avengers #100 (June 1972)
  7. Sgt. Fury and His Howling Commandos #100 (July 1972)
  8. Daredevil #100 (June 1973)
  9. X-Men #100 (August 1976)
  10. Iron Man #100 (July 1977)
  11. Conan the Barbarian #100 (July 1979)
  12. Marvel Team-Up #100 (December 1980)
  13. Master of Kung-Fu #100 (May 1981)
  14. The Defenders #100 (October 1981); this centennial cover appeared in the fansite's second post.

As Fred Hembeck pointed out in Marvel Age #100, Patsy Walker (the future Hellcat) reached issue #100 (April 1962) of her own series before any of the superhero titles above.

Patsy Walker #100, appropriately enough, highlighted her fan club.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Howard the Defender

In one of their classic adventures, the Defenders foiled an assassination attempt against Howard the Duck, the 1976 presidential candidate for the All-Night Party (Marvel Treasury Edition #12). Even by then, of course, the Defenders were well accustomed to offbeat occurrences.

Nighthawk: We specialize in weird villains--

Led by Dr. Angst, the self-described master of mundane mysticism, the band of assailants parodied several comic book clichés.

Reminiscent of an early Valkyrie, the powerhouse Tillie the Hun boasted that she could beat any man—and even promised to marry the Hulk if she lost the fight. The green goliath refused to smash a woman but wasn't romantically interested either way.

After he was knocked unconscious early into the adventure, Dr. Strange managed to telepathically guide Howard the Duck to use magic against his would-be assassins. The duck demonstrated such promise that Dr. Strange offered to tutor him in the mystic arts. But Howard wasn't interested.

Marvel Treasury Edition. No. 12. 1976. "The Duck and the Defenders." Steve Gerber (writer), Sal Buscema & Klaus Janson (artists), Joe Rosen (letterer), Marie Severin (colorist).

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Sub-Mariner, the Sea-Monkey?

Prince Namor's half-human heritage explains why his skin is pinkish instead of blue. Or so we're led to believe.

But recurring ads from 1970s comic books suggest another clue into the hero's unique appearance. Could the legendary Atlantean have been born of sea-monkeys instead?

The passing resemblance is hard to ignore. And the embarrassment of sea-monkey ancestry could explain Namor's persistent moodiness and temperamental ego. It's an idea worth entertaining on April Fools' Day.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

The Defenders, Essentially

Determining who was or wasn't a Defender is more art than science, as many heroes were ambivalent about their involvement with the group.

Essential Defenders Vol. 3 reprints an entry from an early edition of The Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe that lists the more-or-less core members. This list excludes some of the on-again, off-again Avengers who briefly called themselves Defenders, along and some recurring allies and heroes who joined after #125.

It's ironic that hero-for-hire Power Man (who's on the cover of this Essential volume) didn't make it on the list. Although Clea does appear below, she was instrumental on several missions before actively joining the Defenders.

Doctor Strange
(Stephen Strange, mystic)
Founding member

(Prince Namor of Atlantis)
Founding member

(Bruce Banner, physicist)
Founding member

Silver Surfer
(Herald of Galactus)
First active in Defenders #2

(Brunnhilda, Norse goddess)
First active in Defenders #4

(Kyle Richmond, financier)
First active in Defenders #15

Son of Satan
(Daimon Hellstrom, demonologist)
First active in Giant-Size Defenders #2

Red Guardian
(Tania Belinsky, neurosurgeon)
First active in Defenders #36

(Alien sorceress)
First active in Defenders #39

(Patsy Walker, housewife)
First active in Defenders #44

(Eric Simon Payne, cultist)
First active in Defenders #57

(Isaac Christians)
First active in Defenders #94

(Henry McCoy, biochemist)
First active in Defenders #104

(Alien possessed by telepaths)
First active in Defenders #115

(Warren Worthington III, businessman)
First active in Defenders #125

(Robert Drake, student)
First active in Defenders #125

(Heather Douglas, priestess)
First active in Defenders #125

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Definition of a Non-Team

Promoted as a non-team throughout most of the original series, the Defenders never agreed on what being a team even meant.

During a chance encounter with the Hulk, Hawkeye was confused to learn that the green goliath was on his way to see Dr. Strange (Defenders #7). But Valkyrie and Sub-Mariner were around the corner, ready to explain their different perspectives about how the unlikely allies now worked together.

Valkyrie: That's easy, Hawkeye. Stephen Strange is our leader in the Defenders!

Namor: Hold, Val! Jump to no conclusions, Archer--the Defenders is merely a name, and no more. At times we battle together against a common foe--but the Defenders is not an alliance … There is no leader, no rules, no charter such as in your Avengers.

Valkyrie: At any rate, Hawkeye, we were also going to Stephen's Sanctum. Why not join us?

Namor: For the walk only, Archer!

Had they contrasted themselves to the X-Men or Fantastic Four—rather than the Avengers—the differences between the teams wouldn't have seemed so great. Of course, even those similarly informal groups had a shared origin or standardized uniforms—for more cohesion than the Defenders usually had.
Defenders. Vol. 1. No. 7. August 1972. "War below the Waves!" Steve Engelhart and Len Wein (plot and script), Sal Buscema (art), Frank Bolle (inker), June Braverman (lettering), Glynis Wein (color), Roy Thomas (editing).

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

A Tale of Three Titans

When a powerful weather-controlling device threatened to destroy not only Atlantis but the entire planet, Prince Namor sought out the help of Silver Surfer and Hulk (Sub-Mariner #34-35).

Even though the Surfer wasn't an original member of the Defenders, this previous alliance—dubbed the Titans Three—helped grandfather him in as a foundational Defender.

Given their menacing pasts, the titanic trio drew suspicion when a group of Avengers spotted them riding over the ocean on the cosmic surfboard. Old hostilities and misunderstandings caused a fight to break out between the two teams, fueling an us-versus-them rivalry that bled into the early Defenders.

During the encounter, long-time Avenger Clint Barton wondered if he should retire his giant-size powers as the hero Goliath and return to his earlier guise as an ordinary-sized archer. Given this set-up, it's no surprise that he soon reclaimed the name Hawkeye and for a short time even called himself a Defender.

Sub-Mariner. No. 34. February 1971. "Titans Three!" Stan Lee (editor), Roy Thomas (writer), Sal Buscema (artist), Jim Mooney (inker), Art Simek (letterer).

Sub-Mariner. No. 35. March 1971. "Confrontation!" Stan Lee (editor), Roy Thomas (writer), Sal Buscema (artist), Jim Mooney (inker), Jean Izzo (letterer).