Dedicated to the definitive superhero non-team.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Defend Comics

This year Free Comic Book Day lands on Saturday, May 3, 2014. The book that looks most interesting to me this year is Defend Comics, by the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund. Created in 1986, the CBLDF is non-profit organization dedicated to protect the First Amendment rights pertaining to comics and graphic novels.

Sample pages from Defend Comics illustrate topics surrounding the freedom of speech, including the history of the Comics Code.

As an aside, the original version of the Comics Code from 1954 banned many themes associated with horror and fantasy literature. Note the following item under General standards—Part B:

Scenes dealing with, or instruments associated with walking dead, torture, vampires and vampirism, ghouls, cannibalism, and werewolfism are prohibited.

The revised Comics Code from 1971 loosened those initial restrictions:

Scenes dealing with, or instruments associated with walking dead, or torture, shall not be used. Vampires, ghouls and werewolves shall be permitted to be used when handled in the classic tradition such as Frankenstein, Dracula, and other high calibre literary works written by Edgar Allen Poe, Saki, Conan Doyle and other respected authors whose works are read in schools around the world.

This revision allowed for a hero billed as The Son of Satan, the transformation of the original Cat into Tigra the Were-Woman, and a storytelling genre that would become the bedrock of the Defenders.

Monday, April 21, 2014

On the Edge of Forever

When Dr. Strange cast a cloaking spell to disguise both himself and Sub-Mariner as ordinary people in Defenders #4 (Volume 3), he took wardrobe advice from Star Trek. The spell logically dressed Sub-Mariner in a stocking cap to cover his pointed ears, much like the hat Mr. Spock wore in The City of the Edge of Forever to cover his similarly pointed ears. Dr. Strange, meanwhile, wore a red, flannel shirt reminiscent of the shirt Capt. Kirk wore that same episode.
Note the reverse symmetry regarding the other color choices: While Kirk's jacket was brown and Spock's hat was blue, Sub-Mariner wore a brown hat and Dr Strange had a blue jacket.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Hulk, Hulk, Gray Hulk

Bruce Banner's irritable alter ego had gray skin during his initial transformations in The Incredible Hulk #1 (May 1962), and then began turning green with #2. Throughout his early exploits and quarrelsome dealings with the original Avengers, Hulk was befuddled at times but remained reasonably articulate nonetheless.

By the time the Defenders formed in Marvel Feature #1 (December 1971), however, Hulk's vocabulary was simplistic. This held true throughout his lengthy membership with the non-team (outside of the rare occasion when Hulk retained the brains of Bruce Banner).

When Banner later began transforming regularly into the gray-skinned Hulk, his verbal skills returned to the level they had been during Hulk's first appearances. This gray variation of the character was now distinct from stupefied green Hulk.

Yet the gray version of Hulk retained a modicum of loyalty to Sub-Mariner and Dr. Strange just the same. When the three heroes teamed up in The Incredible Hulk #370-371 (June-July 1990), they considered the adventure a reunion of the original Defenders.

In making their re/acquaintance, gray Hulk took to referring to Stephen Strange as Steve instead of calling him Magician as green Hulk had done.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Fantastic Four Roast

Comedically covered by Fred Hembeck, Fantastic Four Roast #1 informally commemorated the 20th anniversary of Fantastic Four #1 (Nov. 1961).

Numerous heroes attended the event, with Hulk, Dr. Strange, Nighthawk, Gargoyle, Hellcat, Daimon Hellstrom, and Valkyrie (with Aragorn) arriving together as Defenders.

Iceman and Angel understandably arrived with their former teammates in the X-Men. Yet when time came to roast the Fantastic Four, those two mutants got up and assembled with the Avengers.

Unlike Quicksilver (who arrived with the Inhumans but roasted with the Avengers), neither Iceman nor Angel had ever been Avengers. Reluctant to chalk this up as an in-joke or flat-out oversight, I've long suspected that Iceman and Angel initially were intended to join in Avengers #211.

The Defenders, incidentally, did not stand up as a group to roast the Fantastic Four, but Dr. Strange and Hulk were among the many heroes to make individual speeches.

Fantastic Four Roast. Vo. 1. No. 1. May 1982. "When Titans Chuckle!" Fred Hembeck (story & layouts), Jim Shooter (plot assist & editing), Almost Everybody (art), Joe Rosen (lettering), Wein / Yanchus (coloring), Irving Forbush (catering).