Dedicated to the definitive superhero non-team.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Breaking the Ice

Putting his X-Men days behind him, Bobby Drake began attending college at the University of California, Los Angeles. There, as Iceman, he became a founding member of the Champions.

Bobby updated his costume to make a stronger impression on his teammates, most notably new member Darkstar (Champions #14). The two heroes dated briefly until Darkstar abruptly decided to return to her homeland of Russia (#17).

After the Champions disbanded, Bobby met a woman named Teresa "Terri" Sue Bottoms and invited her to vacation with him at the summer home of Warren Worthington (who no longer hid his heroic identity as Angel). Terri was starstruck to meet the winged mutant, much to the chagrin of Warren's longtime girlfriend Candy Southern (Incredible Hulk Annual #7).

Bobby kept his own mutant powers secret from Terri Sue as they continued dating in Marvel Two-in-One #76 (June 1981). That same month, however, a guest appearance in Uncanny X-Men #146 (June 1981) revealed that Iceman had his eyes on someone else.

Iceman: (Thinking) And to think I could be at school, romancing Sheila Delaney, the cute lady from the dorm next door.

Iceman had returned to the X-Men to help rescue Candy Southern and other friends and family of the mutant team who had been kidnapped by the assassin Arcade.

Uncanny X-Men #145, incidentally, had established that Bobby was now a college sophomore and attending school on the Eastern Seaboard.

This panel from Uncanny X-Men #145 shows Iceman as a fan of the band KISS, whose members had crossed over into superhero comics.

Later, when almost every hero on Earth found themselves gathered together in Contest of Champions #1 (June 1982), Iceman took a moment to reconnect with Darkstar in one of the most touching scenes from that issue.

By this time, a theme had emerged in Bobby's love life. The women, like Darkstar, who knew he had mutant powers didn't want a lasting relationship with him, though for different reasons (Judy Harmon, Lorna Dane).

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Love on the Rocks

While a student at Professor Xavier's School for Gifted Youngsters, Bobby Drake became smitten with a young woman named Zelda who worked at a coffee house in Greenwich Village (X-Men #7). They remained an item for the next 40 issues.

Zelda even organized Bobby's 18th birthday party (#32), but all the while she never learned that he was secretly Iceman. During this same period, classmates Henry McCoy (Beast) and Warren Worthington (Angel) kept their mutant identities secret from their dates as well.

Bobby's romantic life took and unexpected turn when he met Lorna Dane, a mutant who had spent a lifetime hiding her naturally green hair (#49). Almost immediately, Bobby felt protective and possessive of Lorna. But Bobby's passion went unreciprocated, as Lorna instead fell in love with Alex Summers (Havok), who joined the X-Men soon afterward.

This scene of Iceman and Lorna Dane comes from X-Men #51.

Bobby then spent weeks getting up the nerve to ask another (unidentified) woman on a date, only to send her home early so he could discreetly use his powers as Iceman (Amazing Spider-Man #92). Iceman had misconstrued that Spider-Man—widely considered a menace at this time—was intending to harm Gwen Stacy (girlfriend of Spider-Man's alter ego, Peter Parker).

In retrospect, this issue was eerily prophetic, as Spider-Man would later be blamed unfairly for Gwen Stacy's death (#121-122).

Amazing Spider-Man #72 (Jan. 1971) was published between X-Men #67 (Dec. 1970) and #68 (Feb. 1971). X-Men #67-93 reprinted earlier issues in the series. Iceman resigned in X-Men #95 (Aug. 1975).

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Tip of the Iceberg

One of the first posts on this site described how Bobby Drake once introduced himself—not as the hero Iceman—but instead as Beast's boyfriend, Lance (New Defenders #131). Bobby was joking at the time, but a recent story line adds new context to that scene.

In a conversation with a younger version of himself who had traveled forward through time, Iceman recently acknowledged that he is in fact gay but has kept it a secret all these years because he already had a hard enough time dealing with the stigma of being a mutant (Uncanny X-Men #600).

From this perspective, it's worth considering how Iceman's romantic life originally unfolded during his formative years.

A back-up story titled "The Iceman Cometh" (X-Men #44) showed teenage Bobby Drake dating a young woman named Judy Harmon shortly before joining the X-Men.

Bobby: You know, even though we've only dated a few times—I already feel I know you better than anyone! It's like you're the only person in the world who really matters to me!
Judy: Bobby—are you trying to say that … you're in love with me?

Before Bobby could answer, a group of thugs attacked the young couple. Bobby used his mutant abilities in self-defense, but Judy was so mortified to witness Bobby's powers that she fled. In retrospect, that early rejection left a lasting scar on the young hero.

When Jean Grey arrived as the first female student at Professor Xavier's School for Gifted Youngsters, the original X-Men began vying for her attention. Everyone, that is, except one.

Iceman: A girl … big deal! I'm glad I'm not a wolf like you guys!

Angel: I'm glad, too. Who needs extra competition from Iceman?!
The flashback from X-Men #138 captures events from X-Men #1. Upcoming posts will continue to examine Iceman's romantic history.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

True Neutral: Libra

The old-school Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Players Handbook and Dungeon Masters Guide described True Neutral not as an alignment of detachment (characteristic of Uatu the Watcher) but rather as an alignment that actively enforced balance between opposing sides. Libra from the android version of the Zodiac embodied this take on True Neutral.

Morally complex, Libra closely observed the well-matched battle between the villainous Zodiac and the heroic non-team to evaluate whether his intervention was necessary (Defenders #50).

Later, when a television documentary prompted numerous heroes to temporarily join the Defenders, Libra sensed an imbalance between the scales of law-and-order and chaos. To restore the equilibrium, Libra joined teammate Sagittarius in recruiting a throng of super-villains to to commit crimes while calling themselves Defenders (#64).

  Lawful Good    Neutral Good    Chaotic Good  
  Lawful Neutral    True Neutral    Chaotic Neutral  
  Lawful Evil    Neutral Evil    Chaotic Evil  

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Neutral Evil: Humbert Carpenter

In his one-shot appearance in New Defenders #131, underground scientist Humbert Carpenter articulated a set of self-centered objectives that fit under the umbrella of Neutral Evil from Dungeons & Dragons.

Unable to acquire grant support for his experiments, Humbert persevered on his own until achieving the scientific breakthrough that gave his nephew superhuman powers.

To show the world the experiment was a success, Humbert sent his impressionable nephew (codenamed Walrus) to demonstrate his strength by attacking several heroes. All the while, Humbert cautioned his nephew against excessive property damage, but only because mass destruction wouldn't garnish the same level of notoriety as defeating a hero.

  Lawful Good    Neutral Good    Chaotic Good  
  Lawful Neutral    True Neutral    Chaotic Neutral  
  Lawful Evil    Neutral Evil    Chaotic Evil  
The above panel shows nephew Hubert (a.k.a. the Walrus) and uncle Humbert. The pair were an homage to the Lewis Carroll poem The Walrus and the Carpenter.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Lawful Evil: The Secret Empire

The Secret Empire was a recurring enemy of the Defenders as well as Captain America. With its rigid chain of command, jingoistic aims, and a pattern of abducting and manipulating super-humans, the subversive organization easily met the criteria for Lawful Evil under the early alignment classifications from Dungeons & Dragons.

  Lawful Good    Neutral Good    Chaotic Good  
  Lawful Neutral    True Neutral    Chaotic Neutral  
  Lawful Evil    Neutral Evil    Chaotic Evil  
In this panel from Defenders #106, Daredevil, the Son of Satan, and Dr. Strange are disguised as Secret Empire guards while infiltrating the organization's headquarters.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Neutral Good: The Champions

At face value, mutants Angel and Iceman had little in common with Hercules, Black Widow, or Ghost Rider—outside of the fact that they were all living in Los Angeles at the same time.

Whatever differences they might have had, however, the group largely put them aside while working together as the Champions.

Motivated by a general belief that the world still needs heroes, the short-lived super-team captured the spirit of Neutral Good under the classic alignment system from Dungeons & Dragons.

  Lawful Good    Neutral Good    Chaotic Good  
  Lawful Neutral    True Neutral    Chaotic Neutral  
  Lawful Evil    Neutral Evil    Chaotic Evil  
The silhouetted image above comes from the closing page of Champions #4.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Chaotic Neutral: Rufus T. Hackstabber

A recurring character in the pages of Master of Kung Fu, taxi driver Rufus T. Hackstabber made an unexpected appearance in New Defenders #148. With his propensity for reckless driving, sexual innuendo, and comedic banter, the Groucho Marx lookalike could be a minor source of tension for the heroes he met.

Of the classic nine alignments from Dungeons & Dragons, Rufus T. Hackstabber demonstrated the waggish side of Chaotic Neutral, much like Groucho's on-screen persona.

  Lawful Good    Neutral Good    Chaotic Good  
  Lawful Neutral    True Neutral    Chaotic Neutral  
  Lawful Evil    Neutral Evil    Chaotic Evil  

Hackstabber was undoubtedly named after Groucho's character Rufus T. Firefly from the 1933 Marx Brothers film Duck Soup.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Lawful Neutral: Grandmaster

This series of posts about the old-school alignment system from Dungeons & Dragons wouldn't be complete without the Grandmaster.

To settle disputes with other beings, the Grandmaster customarily challenges his opponents to strategic games, with rules agreed upon by both parties. These games often require heroes and villains to act as pawns for each side, pitting groups with opposing views against one another.

Given his well-structured approach, and his overall detachment regarding the concepts of good and evil, I reason that the Grandmaster is best classified as Lawful Neutral.

  Lawful Good    Neutral Good    Chaotic Good  
  Lawful Neutral    True Neutral    Chaotic Neutral  
  Lawful Evil    Neutral Evil    Chaotic Evil  
The accompanying image comes from Squadron Supreme #9. Here, the Squadron represents the Grandmaster in a challenge while the Institute of Evil represents the Scarlet Centurion.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Chaotic Evil: The Devil's Daughter

While Daimon Hellstrom turned against his demonic father by fighting on the side of good, his sister, Satana, played the role of succubus, seductively murdering men and stealing their souls.

She may have been born to be bad, but Satana also had free will. She repelled the thought of blind obedience and assured others she was acting on her own accord. Given her capricious brand of malevolence, I consider her Chaotic Evil under the classic alignment system from Dungeons & Dragons.

Satana: … But you'll find Satana yields to no man. Not our father … and not you!

  Lawful Good    Neutral Good    Chaotic Good  
  Lawful Neutral    True Neutral    Chaotic Neutral  
  Lawful Evil    Neutral Evil    Chaotic Evil  
Marvel Spotlight. Vol. 1. No. 24. October 1975. "Walk the Darkling Road!" Chris Claremont (author), Sal Buscema (artist), Bob McCleod (inker), John Costanza (letterer), Diane Buscema (colorist), Len Wein (editor).

Monday, November 9, 2015

Lawful Good: Beast

Don't let his boisterous demeanor fool you. Of the nine alignments popularized in Dungeons & Dragons, the bouncing blue Beast was Lawful Good by the time he joined the Defenders.

Following an impressive run as a member of the Avengers, Beast began to adventure regularly with the non-team beginning in Defenders #104. But instead of accepting the Defenders as an informal group of heroes who happened to work together, Beast was responsible for molding them into the New Defenders, with an official leader, government clearance, and advanced security system.

In short, the longer Beast was with the New Defenders, the more they looked like the Avengers.

  Lawful Good    Neutral Good    Chaotic Good  
  Lawful Neutral    True Neutral    Chaotic Neutral  
  Lawful Evil    Neutral Evil    Chaotic Evil  
Beast's time with the Avengers spanned #137-#211.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Chaotic Good: Non-Team

To keep in step with an online meme, this is the first in a series of posts looking at the Defenders through the lens of the nine alignments popularized in early editions of Dungeons & Dragons.

The first word of an alignment tells if a character favors Lawful (social order) or Chaotic (individualism). The second word describes a character as Good or Evil. The option of Neutral falls between each pair, with True Neutral in the middle.

  Lawful Good    Neutral Good    Chaotic Good  
  Lawful Neutral    True Neutral    Chaotic Neutral  
  Lawful Evil    Neutral Evil    Chaotic Evil  

In a conversation from Defenders #6 (Vol. 2), Sub-Mariner asked Nighthawk why he remained so loyal to the group. Nighthawk explained that being part of the Defenders allowed him to work on the side of good without all the rules and regulations of a team like the Avengers.

Heroes with a variety of alignments may have joined the Defenders over the years, but this loosely structured non-team approach that so encapsulated the Defenders was inherently Chaotic Good.

Defenders. Vol. 2. No. 6. "Rumble in the Sky." August 2001. Kurt "Ugly-Man" (dumb writers) Erik "Funny-Head" Larsen (puny artists) Al "Big-Ears" Gordon, Chris Eliopoulos (letters), Gregory Wright & Tom Smith's Color Arts (colors), Marc Sumerak (hates Hulk), Tom Brevort (hounds Hulk), Joe Quesada (won't leave Hulk alone), Bill Jemas (leave Hulk alone—or Hulk will smash!)

Monday, October 26, 2015

The Slayer

Politics took center stage when Captain America (Steve Rogers) and Nomad (Jack Monroe) faced the Slayer in Captain America #294.

Wearing Devil-Slayer's costume (stolen from Project: PEGASUS *), the Slayer was remarkably adept at using the mysterious Shadow Cloak to teleport and draw arsenal from other dimensions.

Yet this wasn't the real Devil-Slayer (Eric Payne). Defenders #110 had closed with an epilogue indicating that Devil-Slayer had turned himself into the authorities for crimes he'd previously committed.

Instead, it was David Cox, a conscientious objector who was brainwashed by super-villains into attacking the heroes. Even under this mental manipulation, the Slayer's deep-rooted principles as David Cox did not allow him to kill Nomad when given the chance.

With reflection, Captain America noted that becoming a pacifist can require more courage than choosing to fight. This was a perspective that Nomad hadn't considered.

* A government energy research center. (That's how the footnote within the issue identified the project, rather than spelling out Potential Energy Group/Alternate Sources/United States.)

Captain America. Vol. 1. No. 294. June 1984. "The Measure of a Man!" J. M. DeMatteis (writer), Paul Neary (penciler), Josef Rubinstein (inker), Diana Albers (letterer), Bob Sharen (colorist), Mark Grunewald (editor), Jim Shooter (editor-in-chief).

Friday, October 23, 2015

Now -- Get Six Titles For the Price of Five!!

This ad for comic book subscriptions appeared in Defenders #64 and other Marvel titles with a publication date of October 1978, the same month cover prices began saying STILL ONLY 35¢.

The ad stands out for giving Nighthawk equal prominence as Iron Man and Conan, who each had solo titles at the time.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Big Shot

Power Man and Iron Fist #112 (Feb. 1985) introduced a physically unassuming character named Gordy, head of Special Mission Intelligence—Law Eenforcement Division (S.M.I.L.E. for short).

Although Gordy typically appeared with red hair, the cover of #114 depicted him with black hair and a striking resemblance to a young Billy Joel. But why?

Seeing how the cover caption described Gordy as very, very dangerous, my best guess is that using Billy Joel's likeness for the leader of the ironically titled S.M.I.L.E. was a subtle nod to these lyrics from his song "Only the Good Die Young" (1977).

You might have heard I run with a dangerous crowd
We ain't too pretty, we ain't too proud
We might be laughing a bit too loud
But that never hurt no one

Outside of that cover, there's little evidence that Gordy was created as an homage to the popular singer/songwriter; #114 revealed that Gordy's ex-wife was named Elaine, and lyrics from Billy Joel's song "Big Shot" (1978) made reference to a restaurant by that name. But in the overall scheme of things, I'd chalk that up as a coincidence.

They were all impressed with your Halston dress
And the people that you knew at Elaine's

And the story of your latest success
Kept 'em so entertained

In fact, Billy Joel's first wife was named Elizabeth, and #114 went on sale shortly before his marriage to second-wife Christie Brinkley

"Big Shot" was the first recording on the album 52nd Street (1978). "Only the Good Die Young" was from The Stranger (1977). Graham Geiger illustrated Power Man and Iron Fist #114.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Invaders: No-Prize?

The following letter from Invaders #6 (May 1976) asked artist Frank Robbins and writer Roy Thomas about inconsistencies in the way Sub-Mariner appeared in publications from the 1950s and his appearances in the Invaders (retroactively set in the 1940s).

Dear Frank and Roy:
One question that keeps cropping up in THE INVADERS' letters pages is this: Should the Invaders be part of the regular Marvel Universe? I say that, as of now, they cannot without at least two contradictions. Those two are: Sub-Mariner's wings on his feet, and his ability to fly. He did not get the wings and flying power till SUB-MARINER #38 (February 1955). Do I get a no-prize or anything? I like most anything that is relatively free.
H. Keating DuGarm, Jr.

Then you'd better take to breathing deeply, lad—'cause the petulant Prince Namor did indeed possess those nutty little wings on his feet (which somehow, astoundingly to us all, give him the power to fly for short distances like a flying fish) when he first appeared in the pages of MARVEL COMICS (later MARVEL MYSTERY COMICS) #1, 1939. It was only in the 1950's that, for a few months, he was drawn without them—and that's a period which, despite our reprinting those timeless tales from time to time, we prefer largely to ignore. Or, if you prefer, you may assume that he lost them (along with much of his once superhuman strength) for a few years, only to regain them in the issue of SUB-MARINER you mentioned. You paid your money, H. Keating, so you can take your choice. But a no-prize? It looks as if this isn't the month for readers of THE INVADERS to rake those in, friend!

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Before Brunnhilde

At the request of Winston Churchill, several Golden Age heroes joined forces to battle the Axis Powers in Invaders #1, retroactively set in late December 1941.

Although Captain America and the original Human Torch had second-thoughts about calling themselves the Invaders, proposing alternate names ranging from the Protectors to the Revenge Squadron, Sub-Mariner convinced the team to use the term that Churchill suggested.

Soon after they arrived in Europe, the Invaders encountered a mysterious woman with golden eyes and only a vague recollection of her past. But the woman soon recalled that she was a marooned extraterrestrial who had escaped from the clutches of Nazi villain Brain Drain (Invaders #2).

As an homage to the Richard Wagner opera, Brain Drain had called the extraterrestrial woman Brunnhilde. But her actual name was MCM-XLI (the Roman numeral MCMXLI translates to 1941), and she despised being objectified as a legendary valkyrie.

Lacking the willpower to escape on their own, three male extraterrestrials still remained under Brain Drain's mental control. They answered to the names Donar (god of thunder), Froh (god of lightning), and Loga (god of thunder).

Though set in the past, Invaders #1-2 were published the same months as Defenders #26-27 (August-September 1975). The superhero Valkyrie was well-established by this time, but her identity as the real Brunnhilde went unrevealed until Avengers Annual #11.

Roy Thomas wrote Invaders #1-2. Frank Robbins illustrated those issues.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015


Following a jaunt through some of the most absurd corners of the multiverse, She-Hulk and traveling companion Howard the Duck encountered a band of villains who originally battled the Defenders (Marvel Treasury #12).

Led by the mystical Dr. Angst, the reunited team of villains also included Tillie the Hun, Black Hole, Spanker, and Sitting Bullseye—but with updated costumes (Sensational She-Hulk #16-17).

Together, the obscure criminals sought to dominate the Insipiverse, a world of all-pervasive spiritual torpor, aesthetic monotony, and intellectual inertia.

She-Hulk and Howard foiled the plot.

Steve Gerber wrote The Sensational She-Hulk #16-17 (June-July 1990). Bryan Hitch pencilled those issues.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Postmortem Mall

In the midst of a near-death experience, She-Hulk found outside a 67-story-tall purgatory called the Postmoderm Mall (Sensational She-Hulk #53).

Touring this comedic afterlife with Bucky Barnes (Captain America's sidekick during World War II), She-Hulk spotted heroes and villains alike. Mimic retained the iconic powers of the original X-Men, which he had lost by the time of his apparent death (Incredible Hulk #161).

Several adversaries of the Defenders perviously targeted by the Scourge of the Underworld also occupied the entertainment complex, including Ringer, Miracle Man (now working in the mall as a hairstylist), and Melter (taking a fitness class along with Nighthawk, mourned in Defenders #107).

The Sensational She-Hulk. Vol. 2. No. 53. July 1993. "Death Becomes Her." Michael Eury (writer), Darren Auck (guest penciler), Mike DeCarlo (inker), Brad Joyce (letterer), Glynis Oliver (colorist), Renée Witterstaetter (editor), Tom DeFalco (editor in chief).

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Flag Waving

The baron of Yinsen City was dead. Hostile invaders from Mondo City were invading the utopian metropolis, and the Defenders were all-but stripped of their powers.

Only through the diplomacy of outsider Captain Britain (Dr. Faiza Hussain) did the two domains achieve a state of peace (Captain Britain and the Mighty Defenders #2).

Out of appreciation, the Defenders gave Captain Britain a flag, with a design drawn out of their own fragmented memories. Yet the heroes had no clear recollection of Great Britain or the symbolism of the British flag.

Captain Britain: … Right now we all get to decide what it means.

Had their memories been intact, the heroes might have known that the flag of Britain combined the red cross of St. George (patron saint of England), the white saltire of St. Andrew (patron saint of Scotland), and the red saltire of St. Patrick (patron saint of Ireland). Each of these saints is steeped in lore, such as the legend of St. George slaying the dragon and the legend of St. Patrick driving the snakes out of Ireland.

Captain Britain and the Mighty Defenders. No. 2. October 2015. "… And Mine Is a Faith in My Fellow Man." Al Ewing (writer), Alan Davis (penciler), Mark Farmer (inker), Wil Quintana (colorist).

Monday, August 24, 2015

The Mighty Defenders

The multiverse was destroyed!

The heroes of Earth-616 and Earth-1610 were powerless to save it!

Now, all that remains is Battleworld!

A massive, patchwork planet composed of the fragments of worlds that no longer exist, maintained by the iron will of its god and master, Victor von Doom!

Each region is a domain unto itself!

Something was amiss in Yinsen City well before a costumed figure called Captain Britain illegally entered the walled metropolis. Like Captain Britain (Dr. Faiza Hussain), the Defenders who protected that domain had vivid dreams that they were in fact following in the footsteps of deceased heroes (Captain Britain and the Mighty Defenders #1).

Spider Hero (Hobie Brown), for example, had a vision that he gave up his pervious guise as the Prowler following the death of the original Spider-Man (Peter Parker).

Rescue (Ho Yinsen, baron of the city), dreamt that he had invented his suit of technological armor with a dying Tony Stark. (In the original Marvel continuity, it was Yinsen who died after helping Stark build his Iron Man armor in Tales of Suspense #39.)

Other Defenders in this timeline included Kid Rescue (Antonia Yinsen, the baron's daughter), White Tiger (Ava Ayala), and She-Hulk (Jennifer Walters). Also the Thor if this domain, She-Hulk carried a gavel instead of a hammer (suggesting her former career as an attorney).

As an aside, Prowler and the original White Tiger (Hector Ayala) were both Defenders for a Day.

Captain Britain and the Mighty Defenders. No. 1. September 2015. "Theres Is a Land with a Wall Around It …" Al Ewing (writer), Alan Davis (penciler), Mark Farmer (inker), Wil Quintana (colorist).

Monday, July 20, 2015

Defenders of the Earth

When Marvel launched Star Comics in the 1980s to appeal to young readers, one of the titles added to the imprint was Defenders of the Earth. The short-lived series reintroduced several characters who originally appeared in newspaper comic-strips during the 1930s.

  • Flash Gordon, a football hero turned space adventurer. His classic nemesis, Ming the Merciless, became the overarching enemy of the Defenders of the Earth.
  • Mandrake the Magician, a mentalist with hypnotic and illusion-casting abilities. An updated version of his colleague Lothar fought alongside the heroic team as well.
  • The Phantom, an athletic jungle adventurer rumored to be an immortal ghost.

Like other Star Comics, Defenders of the Earth took place outside of the the mainline Marvel Universe. But Mandrake and the Phantom certainly would have meshed well with the Defenders non-team.

Early in my career, I had the opportunity to work for Bob McCoy (son of Wilson McCoy, one of the early illustrators of the Phantom). Bob told stories of modeling adventurous poses as a youth, so his father would have a point of reference when he drew the comic strip.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Not According to Plan

One of the X-men's earliest enemies was an extraterrestrial known as Lucifer (no relation to Daimon Hellstrom). But the antagonistic alien vanished into obscurity after his appearance in Captain America #178 (Oct. 1974).

Dominus, another agent from Lucifer's homeworld, later set out to conquer Earth. Establishing his base of operations in the Arizona desert, Dominus prepared to encounter the New Defenders (including three of the original X-Men who had battled Lucifer).

Dominus also anticipated fighting the Rangers, who had formed by answering a distress call intended for the Avengers in The Incredible Hulk #265 (Nov. 1981).

The would-be conquerer ultimately suffered defeat in West Coast Avengers #24 (Sept. 1987). In their defense, however, the New Defenders were no longer a team by that point and the Rangers were rather loosely organized to begin with—as suggested with Red Wolf's guest appearance in New Defenders #139 (Jan. 1985).

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Freudian Fun

What better place for happy-go-lucky Hellcat to face her personal demons than the pages of What The--?! Switching back and forth between the two genres of teen-humor and superhero comics, Patsy Walker saw her life as Hellcat collide with her deceptively picturesque past (#7).

Within the bending reality, teenage Patsy Walker's clothing options included an ironically out-of-place X-Men uniform. Meanwhile, boyfriend Buzz wore star-spangled shorts—with a caption crediting their design to Lynda Carter (TV's Wonder Woman). Buzz, of course, later became the villain Mad-Dog.

As Hellcat, Patsy discovered that her biggest threat wasn't a costumed super villain—it was her demanding mother! Returning from the grave in the haunting guise of Death, Mrs. Walker long considered her daughter a disappointment.

In a surrealistic move, Hellcat ripped her mother off the page and out of her life.

What The--?! Vol. 1. No. 7. April 1990. "Patsy Walker." Richard Howell (script, art, letters & colors), Terry Kavanaugh (editor), Tom DeFalco (editor-in-chief).

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Air Mail

Beginning with New Defenders #137, the series changed the name of the letters column from Defenders Dialogue (as it appeared through #136) to Air Mail.

Incorporating Angel into the new Air Mail heading jazzed up the letters page and drew attention to the high-flying hero, who played more or less a supporting role within the series.

This design also harked back to early issues of the X-Men (#4-13, #15-22), which pictured Angel flying alongside the nameplate on the cover.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Happy Birthday, May!

When monthly calendars started to appear on the back covers of Marvel Age magazine in 1985, the insignia for the Fantastic Four often occupied the 4th square of each month.

Defenders references were infrequent.

Iceman appeared in the square for May 18, 1985, wishing happy birthday to Alan Kupperberg (who pencilled the Iceman limited series and a run on the New Defenders.

As an aside, Iceman celebrated his 18th birthday in X-Men #32 (May 1967).

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Through the Shadow Cloak

As Hellcat tried persuading Valkyrie to go with her to a disco, an other-dimensional sorcerer named Lambert opened a magical portal to transport Hellcat from Earth to his homeworld by way of the Shadow Cloak (borrowed from Devil-Slayer in Defenders #60).

On a hunch that She-Hulk was key to saving his ever-shrinking world from obliteration, Lambert reinstated Hellcat's psionic abilities (lost when Moondragon absorbed Hellcat's psionic energy to replenish her own strength in Defenders #77) and convinced Hellcat to use the Shadow Cloak to bring the green heroine into his realm (Savage She-Hulk #13-14).

But Lambert's subatomic universe now metaphysically existed within She-Hulk's own bloodstream, so summoning She-Hulk left her trapped within a paradoxical vortex. There she encountered Man-Wolf (Stargod of the other realm) and eventually used his mystical gem to save the dying world—and return both herself and Hellcat safely to Earth.

Hellcat invited She-Hulk to join the Defenders, but she declined membership at that time. As for Valkyrie, she eventually accompanied Hellcat to see disco singer Dazzler.

The Savage She-Hulk. Vol. 1. No. 13. February 1981. "Through the Crystal!" David Anthony Kraft (writer), Mike Vosburg & Frank Springer (artists), Michael P. Higgins (letterer), Carl Gafford (colorist), Jo Duffy (editor), J. Shooter (ed-in-chief).
The Savage She-Hulk. Vol. 1. No. 14. March 1981. "Life in the Bloodstream." David Anthony Kraft (story), Mike Vosburg & Frank Springer (art), Michael Higgins (letterer), Carl Gafford (colorist), Mary Jo Duffy (editor), Jim Shooter (editor-in-chief).

Monday, April 6, 2015

Even More Coming Attractions

Expanding on earlier posts, here are additional promotional blurbs about the Defenders from the Comic Attractions section of Marvel Age magazine.

Marvel Age #1 (April 1983):
  • DEFENDERS #121—Written by J.M. DeMATTEIS. Pencils by DON PERLIN. The Defenders are put in a bizarre position in "Savior" as, on an Indonesian island, they fight to stop the all-powerful Miracle Man from … saving the world? Also: a major turning point in the lives of Daimon Hellstrom and Patsy Walker.

Marvel Age #5 (August 1983):
  • DEFENDERS #125—Written by J.M. DeMATTEIS. Pencils by DON PERLIN. Inks by KIM DeMULDER. It's the one we've been leading up to. To save the world, the Defenders must — break up! But from the ashes rises a new team! Would you believe — the Ex X-Men!? Also, Hellcat's wedding! The debut of Mad Dog! And the Mutant Force returns! Whew! So much action we took 48 pages to tell it!

Marvel Age #8 (November 1983):
  • DEFENDERS #128—What is Project: Sublimate? Let's just say that 1984 arrives a year early, as the most far-reaching of all Defenders sagas draws toward its dramatic conclusion! Written by J.M. DeMatteis, and featuring the outstanding penciling of Alan Kupperberg!

Marvel Age #14 (May 1984):
  • THE NEW DEFENDERS #134The New Defenders have nothing to fear—do they? When a maniacal killer comes to the Defenders' Aerie in the New Mexico Rockies, he brings death with him! And he brings it … one victim at a time! Not for the weak of heart! Plus: we've been hinting about the relationship between Cloud and Moondragon! Now you get to see their lives take a bizarre turn! "Manslaughter" is written by Peter B. Gillis, penciled by Don Perlin, and inked by Kim DeMulder!

Marvel Age #29 (August 1985):
  • THE NEW DEFENDERS #147Hotspur is just a demon who loves to have fun! The New Defenders discover that his idea of fun is destroying property and killing people! But what can the New Defenders do? The villain has the power to warp their minds anyway he wishes! "… And Games" is written by Peter B. Gillis, pencilled by Don Perlin and inked by Art Nichols. 65¢.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Meet the Press

Soon after his losing battle in Defenders #104, the magician named Ian Fate returned in Marvel Team-Up #122 (one of many cross-over stories between the two series).

Demoralized and downtrodden, Fate felt an emotional connection to the misunderstood creature called Man-Thing. The feeling was mutual, and Man-Thing accompanied Fate from the swamplands of Florida to New York City.

On the streets of Manhattan, Peter Parker's "Spider Sense" began to buzz as Ian Fate and a suspiciously disguised Man-Thing made their way to Daily Bugle newspaper.

With Man-Thing (no longer disguised) at his side, Fate begged editor J. Jonah Jameson to use his journalistic influence to stop all suffering and violence among humanity. Standing on principle, Jameson countered that he had a responsibility to report the news as he saw it and not promote an idealized vision of the world.

When Jameson refused to cooperate, Fate punched him, which prompted a confused Man-Thing to grab Fate.

Spider-Man, who had followed Fate and Man-Thing to the Daily Bugle, entered the scene. But the web-slinger's intervention caused Man-Thing to go on a rampage. In the end, Fate teleported both himself and Man-Thing back to the Florida swamp where they had met.

Marvel Team-Up. Vol. 1. No. 122. October 1982. "A Simple Twist of … Fate." J.M. DeMatteis (scripter), Kerry Gammill (penciler), Mike Esposito (inker), Diana Albers (letterer), Bob Sharen (colorist), Tom DeFalco (editor), Jim Shooter (editor-in-chief).

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

The Son of--?!

An issue of What The--?! included a satire about a ban on hellish terminology at Marvel. As a result, Son of Satan became Son of Santa, with a Christmas wreath appearing on his chest in place of his signature pentagram (#8).

As the comedic story progressed, the hero changed again—this time becoming Son of Stan, with a costume combining elements of several other characters created by Stan Lee.

What The--?! Vol. 1. No. 8. July 1990. "The Son of Satan/Censored." Kurt Busiek (diabolical script), James W. Fry III (fiendish pencils), Brad K. Joyce (malevolent inks), Chris Eliopoulos (demonic letters), Kris Renkewitz (infernal colors), Terry Kavanagh (most heinous edits), Tom DeFalco (exorcist in chief).

Monday, March 23, 2015

The Harder They Fall

Reading almost like an epilogue, Captain America #338 found the title character (then John Walker) and Buck (Lemar Hoskins) on assignment to recapture the escaped Professor Power and mop up any other at-large lackeys of the Secret Empire.

The biggest threat the duo faced was Leviathan (accurately shown here with black hair, as opposed to the white-haired rendition from the cover of New Defenders #126).

In the heat of battle, Captain America (Walker) killed Professor Power (who was already at death's door following his defeat in New Defenders #130). Ashamed at what he had done, the patriotic hero questioned whether he even deserved to wear the uniform of Captain America.

Captain America. Vol. 1. No. 338. February 1988. "Power Struggle." Mark Gruenwald (writer), Kieron Dwyer (penciler), Tom Morgan (inker), John Morelli (letterer), Gregory Wright (colorist), Ralph Macchio (editor), Tom DeFalco (the boss).

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Shambling Mound

A previous post likened several of the Defenders to characters (or monsters) from Dungeons & Dragons.

The D&D ad that ran in Defenders #98 accentuated the similarities between the fantasy role-playing game and the superhero comic book.

The comic-strip style ad that month depicted a party of adventurers encounter a Shambling Mound, a semi-intelligent creature composed of vegetation.

Coincidentally, in that very issue, the Defenders met Man-Thing, a semi-intelligent creature composed of vegetation.

In the ad, Grimslade the magic-user cast a charm spell to stop the monstrous Shambling Mound.

In the Defenders story, Dr. Strange entered into his astral form to face the demons that had gained control of the typically timid Man-Thing.

Defenders. Vol. 1. No. 98. August 1981. "The Hand Closes!" J.M. DeMatteis (writer), Don Perlin / Joe Sinnott (artists), Allen Milgrom (editor), Jim Novak (letterer), George Roussos (colorist), Jim Shooter (editor-in-chief).

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Dog Days

Canine characters were a recurring theme among the Defenders.

As Beast began to consider himself a mainstay member of the group, he decided to get a pet dog. Introduced in Defenders #122, Sassafras would remain a loyal companion and provide (unnecessary) comic relief throughout the run of the New Defenders.

Determined to stop ex-wife Patsy Walker (a.k.a. Hellcat) from marrying Daimon Hellstrom, Buzz Baxter assumed the criminal identity of Mad-Dog (#125).

The hero Red Wolf helped the New Defenders on one occasion. Although Beast indirectly asked Red Wolf to become a regular member of the team, Red Wolf's strong ties to Cheyenne nation prevented him from uprooting (#139).