Dedicated to the definitive superhero non-team.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Knight of the Living Dead

When the evil Enchantress turned the Black Knight to stone in Defenders #4, Dr. Strange tried unsuccessfully to reverse the spell. Left with no other options, the magician kept the statue safely in his Sanctum Sanctorum.

On the heels of a cross-over event that spanned Avengers #115-118 and Defenders #8-11, the Defenders fought alongside the Black Knight in the flesh during a trip to his original time period of the 12th century.

But what became of the statue of Dane Whitman, the Black Knight?

Unexpectedly gaining consciousness in Avengers #157, the stone statue took revenge against his former teammates for forgetting about him. Breaking into Avengers Mansion, the powerful statue single-handedly defeated several of Earth's mightiest heroes. When it came his turn to face the statue, however, the android Vision explained that the statue wasn't truly the Black Knight after all. The soul of Dane Whitman had actually returned to the 12th century when his body turned to stone. After learning the truth, the statue crumbled into pieces.

But what had caused the statue to suddenly gain consciousness? Perhaps it was a delayed side effect of Dr. Strange's earlier attempt to restore the statue to life.

Avengers. Vol. 1 . No. 157. March 1977. "A Ghost of Stone!" Gerry Conway (writer/editor), Don Heck (guest artist), Pablo Marcos (inker), Gaspar Saladino (letterer), Don Warfield (colorist).

Friday, October 6, 2017


The recent loss of former teammate Black Widow brought Iceman, Angel, Ghost Rider, Hercules, and Darkstar back to Los Angeles to grieve—and also to reminisce about their days as Champions (Iceman #6).

The group learned that their former headquarters was now a fitness center, and Iceman felt all the more smited when someone mistook him for the Silver Surfer.

In his plain-clothes identity as Bobby Drake, the now-out hero kissed a man for the first time while on an impromptu date. The evening ended abruptly, however, with the arrival of Sentinels (which the team fought in Champions #17, the last issue of their original series).

Sina Grace wrote Iceman #6 (December 2017). A back-up story by Robbie Thompson recounted the hero's origin and personal history, including a flashback to the fight scene from the cover of New Defenders #126.

Monday, October 2, 2017

Losing Power

During a time when Thing lost his superhuman powers and returned to the human form of Ben Grimm, the Fantastic Four hired Power Man to step in as the team's resident heavy-hitter. But how did Power Man's strength compare to that of the Thing?

When Power Man fell under the evil influence of the Puppet Master in Fantastic Four #170 (May 1976), Mr. Fantastic designed an exo-suit to give Ben Grimm the rocky appearance he had as the Thing and increase his strength many times. While wearing the suit, Ben Grimm seemed evenly matched against Power Man.

By Fantastic Four #171 (June 1976), Ben Grimm's strength inside the exo-suit increased even more—now surpassing Power Man and matching 90% of Thing's previous strength. Ben resumed his place among the Fantastic Four and soon transformed back into his rocky form.

From as early as Fantastic Four #12 to as recently as #166, Thing was among a handful of super-strong characters with a long history of holding their own against the Hulk. Power Man, on the other hand, didn't claim to compete with the green goliath. In-story context consistently gave the impression that Hulk was a notch stronger than Thing, and that Thing was stronger than Power Man. As Hulk's estimated strength continued to increase over the years, Thing's relative strength increased as well. Power Man's strength level, meanwhile, didn't escalate.

The Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe (1983) originally noted that Hulk could comfortably lift (press) 90 tons and had been able to lift well over 100 tons while angry, whereas Thing could lift (press) 85 tons in peak condition. Rather than stating how much Power Man could lift, the original handbook instead noted that Power Man could punch through several feet of most modern, conventional building materials such as brick, concrete, and masonry; and with repeated blows, can rupture 4-inch steel plate.

Even though Power Man once filled in for the Thing, comic books and related references have tended to downplay Power Man's superhuman strength while emphasizing his invulnerability instead.

These images from Fantastic Four #170 show Ben Grimm learning about the exo-suit and then wearing the exo-suit while fighting Power Man.

Monday, September 18, 2017


Although the current incarnation of the Defenders has few ties to previous versions of the non-team, former member Daimon Hellstrom made a surprise guest appearance in Defenders #5 (November 2017). The issue established that Hellstrom dated Jessica Jones before she became involved with Luke Cage. Based on Hellstrom's hissing reaction to the couple, he's still sore about the breakup with Jones.

One a separate note, the cover nameplate stands out as one of the most creative in Defenders history—with a bullet shooting through the word Defenders, drawing contrast to Luke Cage's bulletproof skin.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Namor the Neutral

A previous series of posts discussed the Defenders through the lens of the nine-alignment system from Advanced Dungeons & Dragons.

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

Early versions of the Players Handbook also included a Racial Preferences Table, noting how humans, elves, and other humanoids generally regarded one another within the game. For example, half-elven characters preferred elves and other half-elves while having tolerance for gnomes and humans.

Using this approach lends insight into the character of Sub-Mariner, who has preferred his Atlantean heritage, while his feelings about humanity could range from neutrality to tolerance to antipathy to hatred.

This explains how Sub-Mariner could work alongside the forces of good to defend Atlantis (or the entire planet), while taking a neutral stance when only the surface world was in danger, and even aligning with evil-doers when it served the best interest of Atlantis.

For what it's worth, elves from Dungeons & Dragons have no connection to the maniacal Elf who made recurring appearances throughout the original Defenders series.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Round Up the Defenders

This ad for appears on the back cover of Defenders #4 (and other comics with a publication date of October 2017). The scene of Luke Cage, Jessica Jones, Iron Fist and Daredevil vacationing at Big Mountain Ranch is reminiscent of Nighthawk's ranch—home to an earlier version of the non-team.

The Defenders logo at the bottom of the ad, interestingly, comes from a previous run of the Defenders (Volume 4) rather than the current series (Volume 5).

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

In Name Only

While repurposing the original nameplate, the latest team billed as the Defenders is decidedly dissimilar to the original non-team.

Starring the characters from the new TV mini-series, the comic book features super-powered couple Jessica Jones and Luke Cage (Power Man), as well as Cage's longtime crimefighting partner Iron Fist and informal ally Daredevil.

An in-story interview with Luke Cage at the end of Defenders #1 (August 2017) noted how he had been a member of a few super-teams, including the Defenders. Within the interview, Cage responded that most super-groups are more or less families—including the Defenders. It is unclear if the hero meant the Defenders in general or, more specifically, the latest version of the team. As of #2, the current combination of Defenders have been too busy battling the underworld to stop and discuss a group name.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Love at First Sight?

Hellcat had her first opportunity to meet Daimon Hellstrom (a.k.a. Son of Satan) in Defenders #62-64, when he and numerous other heroes sought membership to the non-team. Yet there's no evidence that the two characters even noticed each other at the time, as they never even appeared together in the same panel those issues.

Several other prospective Defenders, on the other hand, did take an interest in Hellcat (who was already a regular member of the non-team). In fact, Captain Ultra and Jack of Hearts got into an argument over which of them Hellcat liked best. Ultimately, though, she didn't care for either of them.

Hellcat eventually made the acquaintance of Daimon Hellstrom in Defenders #92, when he began adventuring with the non-team regularly. They professed their love for each other in #122.

The top image comes from Defenders #92. The bottom image comes from #92. Hellstrom's previous guest appearances with the Defenders all occurred before Hellcat joined the team in #44.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Happy Birthday, June!

Monthly calendars appeared on the back cover of Marvel Age magazine in 1985, with humorous images filling most squares.

Nighthawk from Earth-S appeared on June 18, wishing happy birthday to Mark Gruenwald (author of the 12-issue Squadron Supreme limited series published that year).

Meanwhile, Silver Surfer marked the first day of summer on June 21.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Iceman (Not Abomination)

What's perhaps most surprising about the debut issue of Iceman's new series is seeing how little the title character has matured since his limited series (1985).

After all this time, the hero remains estranged from his parents, who still disapprove of his mutant powers in Iceman #1 (August 2017).

The new series introduces a fanatical villain who hates mutants for religious reasons. Adding insult to injury, the new villain doesn't even recognize Iceman—prompting the hero to list his crimefighting credentials in the heat of battle.

As his modus operandi, the new foe repeatedly refers to mutants as an abomination (no connection to Hulk's longtime foe who answers to that name).

The gamma-green villain named Abomination first appeared in Tales to Astonish #90 (April 1967). This image of the character comes from The Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe.

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