Dedicated to the definitive superhero non-team.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Coming Attractions

When Marvel Age magazine began publication in 1983, the Coming Attractions section featured promotional blurbs about upcoming comics.

Here is a sampling of Coming Attractions about the Defenders as they transitioned from a non-team to the New Defenders.

Marvel Age #2 (May 1983):

  • DEFENDERS #122—Written by J.M. DeMATTEIS. Pencils by DON PERLIN. The Iceman Cometh! Hellcat and the Son of Satan Goeth! And for you action lovers, you'll be knocked off your pins as—the Beast gets a dog and picks up his old mail!!!

Marvel Age #6 (September 1983):
  • DEFENDERS #126—Remember Moondragon? Remember how her arrogant personality turned her from a hero to the most incorrigible AVENGERS villainess of all? Well, she's in the DEFENDERS—and Valkyrie on orders from Odin has to teach her humility and cooperation! Needless to say, our newest ensemble of Defenders is in for some growing pains as a team. Don't miss "State of the Union," written by J.M. DeMatteis and penciled by Don Perlin.

Marvel Age #15 (June 1984):
  • THE NEW DEFENDERS #135The New Defenders may not be your ordinary team of super heroes—but they've never met an adversary like this! He's Blowtorch Brand—and he's not your average arsonist! Angel, Beast, Iceman, Gargoyle, and Moondragon have to stop him—before he reduces New Mexico to a pile of ashes! "The Fire at Heaven's Gate" is written by Peter B. Gillis, penciled by Don Perlin, and inked by Kim DeMulder!

Marvel Age #17 (August 1984):
  • NEW DEFENDERS #137The New Defenders face a fight to the finish—with one of their own members! Will the Gargoyle have to sacrifice his own life to save that of his friends? Also, more on Cloud, one of the most unusual super heroes to be introduced in years! And it's all for six dimes! Written by Peter B. Gillis, penciled by Don Perlin and inked by Kim DeMulder! 60¢.

Marvel Age #25 (April 1985):
  • NEW DEFENDERS #143—What a choice Moondragon must make! Should she die a horrible death, and thus spare the world from being destroyed by a monstrous evil force—or should she live and accept the almost limitless power that can be hers, by agreeing to forever become the immortal tool of the Dark Dragon? All that the New Defenders can do is watch—helpless! "Another Runner" written by Peter B. Gillis, penciled by Don Perlin and inked by Kim DeMulder. 65¢.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

In with the New

This image appeared in Marvel Age #11 (February 1984) alongside an interview with Peter B. Gillis about his writing plans for the New Defenders, beginning with #131. Gillis continued to script the New Defenders through #152, when the series ended.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Gargoyle against Himself

In breaking a proverbial pact with the devil, 78-year-old Isaac Christians resolved himself to being trapped indefinitely in the body of a demon (Defenders #94).

But Gargoyle's limited series raised an important question: What became of Isaac's original body?

A return trip to his hometown of Christiansboro disclosed the unpleasant truth that when Isaac's mind entered the body of the demon, the demon's spirit entered Isaac's physical self.

With that revelation, the hero battled the vindictive gargoyle-spirit, who blamed Christianity for the demise of ancient magick.

Though published in 1985, Gargoyle's limited series had a degree of Gothic suspense reminiscent of nineteenth-century horror stories.

J.M. DeMatteis wrote the Gargoyle limited series. Mark Badger illustrated the four-part tale. The above image of Isaac Christians appeared in #1.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Necessary Evil

One of their most challenging sagas pit the Defenders against an alliance of evil demons calling themselves the Six-Fingered Hand.

Along with long-timers Dr. Strange, Valkyrie, and Hellcat, the Son of Satan and Gargoyle were principal members of the non-team at the time.

Given the group's open mind when it came to demon-heroes, Ghost Rider might have seemed like an obvious choice for membership. But Ghost Rider's brazen disposition made the Defenders think twice before seeking his help against just one member of the Six-Fingered Hand (Defenders #96).

With Ghost Rider on their side, the Defenders defeated the demon Fashima, and a cult of followers led by rock singer Asmodeus Jones (no direct connection to the villain Asmodeus from Giant-Size Defenders #2).

Ghost Rider's alter ego, Johnny Blaze, returned for a guest appearance in Defenders #145. Ghost Rider later became a founding member of the Secret Defenders.

Defenders. Vol. 1. No. 96. July 1981. "The Rock and Roll Conspiracy!" J.M. DeMatteis (writer), Don Perlin and Joe Sinnot (artists), Diana Albers (letterer), George Roussos (colorist), Al Milgrom (editor), Jim Shooter (editor-in-chief).

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Soul Searching

A storyline that began in Defenders #120 emphasized that the pentagram on Daimon Hellstrom's chest was emblematic of the "darksoul" he inherited from his father. When the villain known as Miracle Man absorbed Hellstrom's powers, he gained the chest emblem as well. Though often equated with demonic magic in the comics, the five-pointed star became an important symbol in ancient Greece for highly intellectual reasons that had nothing to do with good vs. evil. The subject crossed my mind during a recent viewing of Donald in Mathmagic Land, a film I hadn't thought about in years. The classic Disney short set the pentagram in a far more positive context. But perhaps the Son of Satan never watched Donald Duck.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

To Hell and Back

Unable to find an antidote for the poison that a Skrull had slipped Beast's ex-girlfriend, Vera Cantor (Avengers #209), Mr. Fantastic suggested that they seek the help of Dr. Strange (Defenders #105).

The master of the mystic arts took the lead as the trio ventured into the extra-dimensional realm tied to the Resurrection Stone. They did not realize it at the time, but the malevolent spirit of the gemstone had mentally lured the three heroes to that dimension to harness their life force. The battle ended as the entity transformed Dr. Strange, Mr. Fantastic, and Beast into crystalline statues, frozen within the magical realm.

They weren't the only ones trapped in another dimension.

After their epic mission to hell (Defenders #99), one of the Defenders had not returned to Earth (#101). Daimon Hellstrom, the Son of Satan, remained a prisoner in his father's domain.

As he tortured his son, the Lord of Lies added insult to injury by flatly describing the interdependence between good and evil, and the conflicted nature of evil itself (#105).

Satan: Still, I have my role to play--you have yours! We are sworn enemies--we must fight each other through eternity! But know that, behind the facades--your father loves you! I do not expect you to fully comprehend this, Daimon. Few could without going mad. That is why this memory will fade from your mind … leaving behind only a glimmer of what you've learned. Now--return to your human friends, whelp! The sight of you sickens me!

Cast out of hell, the Son of Satan materialized in the home of Dr. Strange, where the Resurrection Stone had restored itself. Using his own magic, Hellstrom instinctively destroyed the gemstone once and for all—thereby freeing Beast, Mr. Fantastic, and Dr. Strange. Hellstrom then used his healing powers to return Vera Cantor to health.
Defenders. Vol. 1. No. 105. March 1982. "… Rising … " J.M. DeMatteis (writer), Don Perlin & Joe Sinnot (artists), Shelly Leferman (letterer), George Roussos (colorist), Allen Milgrom (editor), Jim Shooter (editor-in-chief).

Friday, April 1, 2011

The Butler Did It

Beast had become something of a ladies' man during his time with the Avengers, shedding much of the social awkwardness of his youth. When a chance encounter reunited him with Vera Cantor, his steady girlfriend during his days in the original X-Men, the now-blue hero invited her to Avengers Mansion to catch up (Avengers #209).

As the couple got reacquainted over tea with some of Beast's new teammates, Vera suddenly fell unconscious. A Skrull impersonating Jarvis the butler had poisoned her (while the real Jarvis was on vacation).

The Skrull demanded that the Avengers partake in a dangerous journey through time to retrieve the legendary Resurrection Stone. The Skrull promised that once the crystal was in his hands, he would repay the Avengers by using its magic to save Vera.

Utilizing time-travel technology from Fantastic Four headquarters, Wonder Man, Vision, and the Scarlet Witch accompanied Beast on a journey to the year 1364 to battle an evil sorcerer who held one-half of the Resurrection Stone—then landed in 1945 Nazi Germany to retrieve the second half before returning to the present.

Having come face to face with the horrors of the Black Plague and the Holocaust, Beast decided that power over life and death was too much for anyone to possess. Rather than hand over the crystal to the Skrull, and rescue Vera, Beast destroyed the Resurrection Stone.

Skrull: You crushed it! But that is … impossible! My plan was perfection! The vagaries of human love should have assured me victory!

Mr. Fantastic placed Vera Cantor in a suspended animation tube to keep her alive until an antidote might be found. Searching for a cure might be what Beast had in mind when he decided to leave the Avengers to pursue scientific research (#211). And that quest ultimately led to his joining the Defenders.

To be continued…
Avengers. Vol. 1. No. 209. July 1981. "The Resurrection Stone." J.M. DeMatteis (scripter), Alan Kupperberg (penciler), Dan Green (inker), Janice Chiang (letterer), Ben Sean (colorist), Jim Salicrup (editor), Jim Shooter (editor-in-chief).