Dedicated to the definitive superhero non-team.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Out of Sight, Out of Mind

The collective being called Over-Mind seemed intent on staying with the Defenders as it transitioned from a non-team into a "new" group. Yet the character inexplicably vanished from the series after Defenders #122 … just before the debut of Cloud in #123.

Not until #149-150 did the New Defenders learn of the intertwining events that transpired between those two earlier issues.

When stars in an area of space began to disappear, a cloud of mass from a sentient nebula journeyed to Earth in search of help. Over-Mind sensed the nebula's thoughts and traveled into the void of space to investigate the phenomenon on his own.

New to Earth, the sentient Cloud tried making contact with a young couple, Carol Faber and Danny Milligan—only to witness their automobile skid off the road and crash. The accident left them both comatose. Psychically traumatized, Cloud acquired the paranormal ability to assume the appearance of the two humans (alternating between female and male forms), while forgetting its own true nature.
This image of Over-Mind appeared in The Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

The Andromeda Strain

For all his complaints about helping the Defenders, Prince Namor's exploits with the team made a lasting impression on at least one citizen of Atlantis.

When sexism within the Atlantean military prevented a female commander from gaining further promotions, she circumvented the glass ceiling by heading to the United States. Taking the heroic name Andromeda, she sought to follow in Namor's steps and become a Defender. After joining the heroes in battle at the end of New Defenders #146, Andromeda became a full member of the team in #148.

Unlike the half-human prince, Andromeda was a full Atlantean with naturally blue skin. She required advanced science to breathe air on the surface of the Earth and alter her appearance to pass as Caucasian in her civilian alter ego as Andrea McPhee.

For all the intrigue surrounding the legend of Atlantis, the sea kingdom from Marvel Comics never lived up to its literary potential. Career opportunities aside, I don't blame Andromeda for wanting to leave.

The above image of Andromeda comes from the pages of the New Defenders #152, the last issue of the original series.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Mutant Affairs

During one of Beast's public lectures about his life as a superhero, Adrian Castorp, a musician who was persecuted for being a mutant, challenged the hero to take his role as a public figure more seriously. Instead of relying on humor, why didn't Beast discuss the discrimination mutants faced?

The message struck home, prompting Beast to found a movement advocating that mutants only need sensitivity, tolerance, and equal rights (New Defenders #142). As an homage to Adrian Castorp, who happened to have six fingers on each hand, the symbol for M.O.N.S.T.E.R. was a fist with six fingers (no connection to the Six-Fingered Hand).

Based on the letters column, reader response to the mutant storyline was favorable. The following letter on the topic appeared in #151.

Dear Peter, Don, Kim, Janice, Michele, & Carl,

I'm writing to thank you for THE NEW DEFENDERS #142. I think this was the best of THE NEW DEFENDERS so far. I'm glad to finally see some intelligent Homo Sapiens in the Marvel Universe. Seeing people who accept mutants as people is an overwhelming joy. I thought this story was very touching.

I guess one of the reasons I liked this story so much was because of Adrian Castorp. He, like the first born male in my family, has six fingers on each hand. Just thought you'd like to know you really hit home with this one!

I guess this makes me a mutant too, huh? I wish you would consider making another character like him. You could even use my name!

Keep up the good work.

Bill Lawrence
Montclair, NJ
The above image comes from the New Defenders. Vol. 1. No. 142. April 1985. "M.O.N.S.T.E.R." Peter B. Gillis (writer), Don Perlin (penciler), Kim DeMulder (ink), Michele Wrightson (colorer), Janice Chiang (letterer), Carl Potts (editor), Jim Shooter (editor-in-chief).

Monday, September 12, 2011

Defining the New Defenders

In launching the Marvel Super Heroes role-playing game during the mid 1980s, TSR published a line of adventure modules and sourcebooks showcasing characters from the comic books.

Although the Defenders never had their own game supplement, "The MARVEL-Phile" article in Dragon #100 included Marvel Super Heroes game stats for three members of the New Defenders.

With her matter-of-fact fighting abilities, Valkyrie made for a straightforward transition into game terms. Stats for her horse Aragorn appeared as well.

Game mechanics for Gargoyle were more complicated than most, as writer Jeff Grubb captured the nuances of the hero's energy-drain powers.

Notes for Cloud, the newest of the New Defenders, were necessarily enigmatic—describing the character's alternate forms while adding that the truth about Cloud's identity remained unknown.

As for the other New Defenders, game stats for Beast and Moondragon previously appeared in the sourcebook Avengers Assembled! The X-Men sourcebook titled Project: Wideawake had included stats for Iceman, Angel, and Candy Southern.

The above image of Cloud, from The Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe, was one of the illustrations included in Dragon #100 (August 1985).
Dragon #100 also featured the article "Creative Conjuring," in which Eric Walker proposed variant rules for the magic of Dr. Strange and other spell-casters in the Marvel Super Heroes game.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Leader of the Pack

Candy Sothern absolutely shined during her debut in X-Men #31, when a chance encounter reunited her with "childhood sweetheart" Warren Worthington III. The two knew one another before Warren entered Professor Xavier's School for Gifted Youngsters as Angel, and then would become romantically involved as young adults.

Though originally introduced in dialogue with the last name Sothern (without the letter u), further appearances clarified that her last name was Southern (with a u) by the time Angel joined the Defenders.

As far back as Defenders #121, Beast and Valkyrie were at odds about who should lead the team, while Gargoyle dodged the debate. That push-pull dynamic helped explain the group's eventual decision to appoint Candy Southern as leader of the New Defenders (#138).

For all her intelligence and poise, Candy had no real qualifications to lead a super-team—except what she might have learned through osmosis over the years as Angel's girlfriend. So she was understandably surprised that the heroes selected her for the position.

While in charge, Candy focused her attention on improving the security system of the group's headquarters (#145), acting more like an honorary leader than the real thing. But a non-leader was all the New Defenders could agree on at the time.

The top panels show Warren Worthington's reunion with Candy Sothern in the X-Men. Vol. 1. No. 31. April 1965. "We Must Destroy the Cobalt Man!" Good-as-gold editing by: Stan Lee. Solid-silver scripting by: Roy Thomas. Platinum-plated penciling by: Werner Roth. Iridium-bright inking by: Jon Tartaglione. Lead-lined lettering by: Sam Rosen.
The bottom panels show the heroes and housekeeper Dolly Donahue expressing their support for Candy Southern as leader of the New Defenders. Vol. 1. No. 138. December 1984. "Three Women." Peter B. Gillis (story), Don Perlin (pencils), Kim DeMulder (inks), Janice Chiang (letters), Petra Scotese (colors), Carl Potts (editor), Jim Shooter (editor-in-chief).