Dedicated to the definitive superhero non-team.

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).