Dedicated to the definitive superhero non-team.

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).