Dedicated to the definitive superhero non-team.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Comics Economics

Comic books allotted me an early opportunity to track inflation, as I observed prices increase gradually during the 1970s and 1980s.

Here's an overview of how cover prices increased during the original run of the Defenders series.

The first 12 issues of the Defenders originally sold for 20¢ apiece.

Prices rose to 25¢ on #13 (May 1974). A yellow burst saying STILL ONLY 25¢ appeared on the covers of #35 and #37.

Notice how 25¢ then appeared inside a circle on the cover of #38.

Prices increased to 30¢ with #39 (Sept. 1976), and then to 35¢ with #53 (Nov. 1977).

Issues #64 to #70 included a white burst saying STILL ONLY 35¢. Note how 35¢ appeared in red on #68, instead of the usual black type.

Prices for standard-size issues continued to rise by a nickel or dime every one to three years.

40¢ beginning with #71 (May 1979).

50¢ beginning with #87 (Sept. 1980).

60¢ beginning with #103 (Jan. 1982).

65¢ beginning with #142 (April 1985).

Each issue of Giant-Size Defenders sold for 50¢ on stands in the 1970s. Afterward, double-sized issues of the Defenders increased incrementally in price by a quarter.

75¢ for double-sized #100 (Oct. 1981).

$1.00 for double-sized #125 (Nov. 1983).

$1.25 for double-sized New Defenders #150 (Dec. 1985) and again for #152 (Feb. 1986), when the series ended.

Monday, November 14, 2011

The Defenders Yet to Come

This promotional image for Point One tipped off fans that an upcoming cast of Defenders would factor into the 64-page one-shot.

Framed as a series of possible realities observed from the Watcher's home on the moon, each story within the issue held together on its own—while setting the stage for comics slated to release in 2012.

A tale of particular interest found Stephen Strange in uncharacteristically good spirits, at home in his role as "The Shaman of Greenwich Village."

But Dr. Strange fell sullen as he tried to help a man named Joe Mitchell who was trapped in a state of waking-sleep. Entering Joe's mind, Dr. Strange saw a one-panel vision of Silver Surfer, Red She-Hulk, Sub-Mariner, Ant-Man, Nick Fury, and Iron Fist, who delivered a word of warning.

Iron Fist: We either shut the engines down, or the universe will break. Doc. The impossible is everywhere now…

Certain that the vision came from the future, Dr. Strange set out to decipher stacks of notebooks that Joe had kept over the years while writing "The Compleat History of Greenwich Village."
Point One. November 2011. The Defenders tie-in occurs in "The Shaman of Greenwich Village." Matt Fraction (writer), Terry Dodson (penciler), Rachel Dodson (inker), Sonia Oback (colorist), VC's Clayton Cowles (letterer), John Denning (asst. editor), Arbona & Brevoort (editors).

Six other stories foreshadowing comic books of 2012 also appear in Point One.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Introducing the Secret Defenders

Well after the original Defenders disbanded, Dr. Strange recruited Ghost Rider, Hulk, and Silver Surfer to do battle against the dreaded Dormammu. In a thought balloon at the end of that adventure, the master of the mystic arts first used the term "Secret Defenders" Dr. Strange #50 (Feb. 1993).

The phrase took hold one month later, with "Suddenly: The Secret Defenders" appearing on the cover of Fantastic Four #374 (featuring Spider-Man, Hulk, Ghost Rider, and Wolverine) and the launch of a new series with The Secret Defenders #1 (starring Wolverine, Nomad, Darkhawk, and Spider-Woman). Much in the way that episodes of Mission: Impossible opened with photos of the secret agents, these two issues each began with Dr. Strange perusing Tarot cards while deciding whose help to enlist.

Far more a non-team that the original Defenders had been, the Secret Defenders boasted a different combination of heroes each mission. The Secret Defenders ended at #25.

Fantastic Four #374 and Secret Defenders #1 both had cover dates of March 1993.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Listening to the Lunatik

Of all the opponents the Defenders faced, Lunatik was the most insufferable. As if being a serial killer wasn't bad enough, Lunatik persistently littered his speech with popular song lyrics and catch-phrases of the 1970s.

Growing up in that era, I got some satisfaction in recognizing when Lunatik was quoting the cuckoo bird from Cocoa Puffs or Mick Jagger from the Rolling Stones. But identifying the Lunatik's source material was no guarantee that he was making much sense. The Defenders, in fact, tried their hardest to tune him out.

Lunatik turned out to be not one man but several—each a splintered version of an extra-dimensional tyrant named Arisen Tyrk. The truth came out after drama professor Harrison Turk revealed that he too was one of the fragmented selves.

Reading between the lines, I now see the distracting use of quoted material in the Lunatik stories as an indirect indictment against popular culture.

The above image comes from Defenders #70, the issue when Professor Turk revealed he had a connection to Lunatik.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Alpha Flight and the Defenders

Sure, they might have been introduced in a battle with the X-Men, but the members of Alpha Flight soon had more in common with the Defenders. After losing their ties to the Canadian government in X-Men #140, Alpha Flight worked largely as a non-team throughout most of their original series, with a different combination of heroes taking part in each adventure.

As a physician turned medicine man, Michael Twoyoungmen had a career path that paralleled that of Stephen Strange. Though Shaman's magic concentrated largely around nature, his medicine pouch also gave him the ability to transport the team to other dimensions—a hallmark power of Dr. Strange.

A back story in Alpha Flight #11 told how Bruce Banner's transformation into the Hulk inspired Walter Langkowski to experiment with gamma rays, leading to his own transformation into Sasquatch. At a point when Sasquatch began to succumb to Hulk-like rage, Shaman bound him with vegetation (Alpha Flight #12), reminiscent of the Crimson Bands that Dr. Strange used at times to immobilize the Hulk.

Of all the heroes in Alpha Flight, Northstar was arguably the least content, yet Dr. Strange once enlisted his help on a mission with the Secret Defenders. The Canadian mutant accompanied Hulk and Nova in Secret Defenders #11.
The above illustrations by John Byrne come from X-Men #120 and Alpha Flight #12.