Dedicated to the definitive superhero non-team.

Friday, December 28, 2018

Happy New Year!!

At various times during its publication history, Marvel Age magazine ran a one-month calendar on the back cover, noting the birthdays of Marvel staff and including comedic bits. The calendar for December 1985 had room for a cheerful illustration wishing everyone a Happy New Year!!

Comic books and other magazines often display a cover date set a few months in the future of the release date. In this case, that December 1985 calendar appeared on the back of Marvel Age #35 (cover date March 1986).

This makes Valkyrie's appearance in the New Year's scene especially noteworthy, as the future of the character was indeterminate as of New Defenders #152 (cover date February 1986). Given the character's longstanding history with the Defenders, I'm glad Marvel's creative team featured her in the end-of-the-year celebration.

That December calendar also noted Marvel staff with birthdays that month, most notably Stan Lee on December 28.

Monday, December 24, 2018

Stop the Train

The Defenders: The Best Defense #1 brought together four iconic members of the non-team, with Silver Surfer's board rescuing Sub-Mariner, and a future version of Dr. Strange enlisting the help of present-day Hulk. The story also included a surprise return of Nebulon (last seen in humanoid form in Avengers Annual #11).

The ultimate nemesis for the reunited Defenders, however, was the Conductor, a cosmic entity steering a metaphysical train that devours realities for fuel. Aspects of the Conductor are reminiscent of the Concordance Engines foreshadowed in Point One and appearing in Matt Fraction's 12-issue, time-traveling run on the Defenders (Volume 4). I'd like to imagine this is more than a coincidence.

This image of Nebulon in his true form comes from The Defenders: The Best Defense #1 (February 2019).

Monday, December 17, 2018


Silver Surfer: The Best Defense #1 revisits the character's origin and melancholic status as the herald of Galactus. Breaking up the drama is a young bystander who is under the impression that the Silver Surfer's actual name is Harold.

The hero's given name, of course, is Norrid Radd.

Silver Surfer: The Best Defense. No. 1. February 2019. Jason Latour (writer/artist), VC's Clayton Cowles (letterer), Alanna Smith (associate editor), Tom Brevoort (editor).

Saturday, December 15, 2018

Strange Ways

Dr. Strange: The Best Defense #1 shows the sorcerer late in life—arguably the last defender of a desolate Earth. Keeping him company is the enchanted head of Hulk, mystically modified to grow more powerful by absorbing magical energy. The story ends in an explosive showdown with Dr. Strange and Hulk against the malevolent Dormammu.

Furthering the subplot from previous Best Defense stories, a character in a ghost costume stabs another unsuspecting alien victim at an unspecified place and time.

Dr. Strange: The Best Defense. No. 1. February 2019. Gerry Duggan (writer). Greg Smallwood (artist). VC's Cory Petit (letterer). Alanna Sith (associate editor), Tom Brevoort (editor).

Saturday, December 8, 2018


The first two issues of The Best Defense have little in common, yet they introduce a shared subplot that promises to tie the stories together. Immortal Hulk: The Best Defense #1 includes an interlude in which a figure in a ghostly white sheet stabs a four-armed purple alien. The murderer utters a few words in English, while the victim speaks a minor Rimworld dialect.

Namor: The Best Defense #1 takes place in Atlantis, except for one page that is set Elsewhere. There, a similar scene occurs; this time with the ghost-clad figure stabbing a reptilian alien. The primary story with Namor references the Defenders of the Deep, with no hints that he might join forces with Hulk or other members of the original Defenders.

Immortal Hulk: The Best Defense #1 focuses almost entirely on Bruce Banner while using a creative technique to peer into his subconscious. Intermixed throughout the main story are reprinted panels from Hulk's original series—including his volatile partnership with Rick Jones.

The accompanying image from Incredible Hulk #1 (1961) was reprinted in Immortal Hulk: The Best Defense #1.

Friday, November 23, 2018

The Daring Defenders

During the 1970s, early adventures of the Defenders ran as reprints in Rampage, a weekly series published with a large-size format in the United Kingdom.

Rampage #5 (November 15, 1977), for instance, reprinted Defenders #4 along with an early issue of Nova.

Modifications to the original Defenders story were limited to changing the words armor and favor to the British spellings of armour and favour. Footnotes from Defenders #4 were updated in Rampage #5 to cite U.K. reprints rather than the U.S. comics where the stories first appeared. The original interior art reprinted in black-and-white.

Rampage covers ran in full-color with new text that regularly billed the non-team as the daring Defenders, whereas promotional material in the United States described the heroes as the dynamic Defenders. Although dynamic might describe the eclectic nature of the team, daring certainly sounds more heroic.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Defenders of the Deep

The latest run of the Avengers introduced a new team of underwater adversaries called the Defenders of the Deep. Sub-Mariner formed the super-group to enforce his longstanding demand that humans steer clear of the ocean (Avengers #9-10).

Most members of the Defenders of the Deep were established criminals, including Tiger Shark, Orka, King Crab, Manowar, Echidna, the Piranhas, and Bloodtide (a.k.a. Water Witch). The exception was the heroic Andromeda, whose Atlantean partisanship fueled her involvement with the group.

Aside from a fondness for the word Defenders, this configuration of denizens from the deep had no substantive ties to the original non-team of Defenders that Sub-Mariner helped found or the New Defenders that Andromeda later joined.

This image of the Defenders of the Deep comes from Avengers #9 (December 2018).

Monday, October 29, 2018


Dr. Strange #29 began with a telephone call from Yellowjacket describing how a statue of the Black Knight had seemingly come to life (Avengers #157). The phone conversation was a subtle reminder that Yellowjacket had worked alongside the Defenders during a break from the Avengers.

As soon as the call ended, Nighthawk arrived at the Sanctum Sanctorum with an unrelated request for help investigating the mysterious death of a research scientist with ties to Richmond Enterprises. The investigation led Nighthawk and Dr. Strange into battle against the nefarious Death-Stalker.

The most dramatic part of the story came, however, when Clea offered to accompany Nighthawk and Dr. Strange … and Dr. Strange insisted she stay home instead. Clea had successfully worked with the Defenders, so why prevent her from participating in this mission? Was Dr. Strange overly protective of Clea because she was his apprentice? Or because they were romantically involved?

Or were his motives selfishly driven? Was Dr. Strange afraid that Clea might eventually outshine him as a sorcerer? Did he fear that Clea would leave him once her mystical training was through? Either way, the unequal footing within the relationship was driving Clea away.

Dr. Strange. Vol. 1. No. 29. June 1978. "He Who Stalks!" Roger Stern (writer), Tom Sutton (penciler), Ernie Chan (inker), Annette K. (letterer), Petra G. (colorist), Archie Goodwin (editor).

Saturday, September 15, 2018

ABC's of Law

The Defenders legal drama of the 1960s inspired a short-lived comic book series by Dell Publishing based on the CBS television show. The inside front cover of #1 (September-November 1962) included these four legal definitions.

Alimony—Allowance for support, ordered by a court, which a husband pays to his wife if she is not living with him. Alimony ceases with the death of the husband.

Barratry—A wilful and unlawful act committed by the master of mariners of a ship, as a result of which the owners of the vessel sustain loss or injury.

Corpus-Delciti—Literally, "the body of the crime". While it is commonly thought to refer to a corpse, the term actually means the existence of the essential fact which proves the commission of a crime … such as finding stolen goods on the person of an alleged thief.

Deforcement—The act of withholding property to which another person holds the rights, but of which he cannot gain possession.

The above image appeared with the definition of Barratry in Defenders #1.

Monday, September 3, 2018

Master of the Martial Arts

A crossover event that spanned Defenders #8-11 and Avengers #115-118 caused the two teams to clash in a series of skirmishes.

One of the biggest surprises in the multi-part story came when Black Panther and Mantis teamed up against Dr. Strange.

While facing the two Avengers, Dr. Strange revealed that his studies in the Himalayas included not only the mystic arts but also the martial arts (Defenders #9).

Although Dr. Strange held his own in physical combat remarkably well, he eventually defeated Black Panther and Mantis with these magic words.

In the exalted name of the eternal Vshanti--
And other gods beyond and below--
Let the strength and cunning of these, my enemies--
--from their mortal bodies flow!

The above image of Mantis and Black Panther comes from Defenders #9 (Vol. 1).

Sunday, September 2, 2018

Trick Arrows

Soon after joining the non-team in Defenders #7, Hawkeye upgraded his assortment of trick arrows. The master archer got to show off his new arsenal in #9, during crossover event that pitted the Defenders against the Avengers.

At the beginning of one clash, Hawkeye used an arrow with a boomerang effect to snatch from Iron Man's hand a fragment of the mystical Evil Eye that the two groups were competing to obtain.

Hawkeye then shot an explosive arrow that Iron Man identified as a "Blast Arrow" (although Hawkeye himself didn't use this term).

The archer's next two arrows, however, took Iron Man by surprise. One arrow released a burning acid that could melt through his armor. The other arrow was magnetic, pulling Iron Man's arm sideways as it flew by and thereby ruining his aim.

Hawkeye stayed with the Defenders through #11; it's indeterminate whether any of the other arrows he used as a member of the non-team had specialized effects.

The Defenders. Vol. 1. No. 9. October 1973. "Divide … and Conquer." Steve Englehart (author), Sal Buscema (artist), Frank McLaughlin (inker), Artie Simek (letterer), P. Goldberg (colorist), Roy Thomas (editor).

Thursday, August 30, 2018

The Secret of Seraph

Introduced as a formidable operative of the Secret Empire, Seraph led a mission to kidnap the Vision in Defenders #123. Yet in a surprising turn of events, Seraph then helped the Defenders defeat the Secret Empire in #129-130. Here, Seraph revealed herself to be a Soviet agent who had infiltrated the Secret Empire to thwart the criminal organization's plot to manipulate the United States and Soviet Union into starting the next world war.

While undercover, however, Seraph had used her psionic powers to give Cloud false memories that the Secret Empire had killed her parents, turning Cloud's loyalty away from the Secret Empire and to the side of the Defenders. Cloud's complicated true past remained unknown until #149-150.

This panel of Seraph comes from New Defenders #130.

Saturday, August 25, 2018

The Best Defense

I am happy to see that plans are underway for the formative members of the Defenders to regroup later this year. Promotional images feature Hulk, Sub-Mariner, Silver Surfer, and Dr. Strange.

The most recent comic book version of the Defenders ended at #10 with Iron Fist, Jessica Jones, and Luke Cage re-establishing Heroes for Hire. This should help readers differentiate the two teams.

I recognize of course that viewers of the recent Netflix series will continue to identify the Heroes for Hire and Daredevil as the Defenders even as the comic books veer another direction.

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Asgardian Alignments

A classic Dungeons & Dragons source book titled Deities & Demigods (later Legends & Lore) placed mythological gods and heroes from numerous cultures within the popular game system.

Below are the D&D alignments Deities & Demigods listed for several Norse gods who also had an impact on the Defenders.

Chaotic Good: Thor (thunder god).

Neutral Good: Odin "All Father" (supreme ruler of the gods); this alignment aptly describes the hero Thor during his time as a founding and recurring member of the Avengers.

Chaotic Evil: Loki (god of mischief, strife and fire); he teamed up with Dormammu in the a cross-over event that spanned Avengers #115-118 and Defenders #8-11.

Neutral Evil: Hel (goddess of death); her name is spelled Hela in Defenders #66-68 and other Marvel publications.

Chaotic Neutral: Valkyries "Choosers of the Slain"; the temperament of the hero Valkyrie steadies after #66-68, ending the the inner turmoil between her true self and the spirit of Barbara Norriss.

Monday, July 16, 2018

Bearing a Resemblance

While looking through back issues in my collection, I noticed that the covers of Avengers #169 (March 1977) and Uncanny X-Men #139 (November 1980) bear a resemblance to one another. Each cover shows members of the respective teams facing three threats—with a polar bear in the upper right of both covers. In all transparency, the polar bear on the X-Men cover is actually the shapeshifting hero Snowbird of Alpha Flight.

In addition to defeating an actual polar bear in the Arctic Circle, Black Panther impresses his fellow Avengers by providing the final answer on a challenging crossword puzzle. A twelve-letter word that means "producing sweat"? Sudoriferous!

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

The Most Startling Non-Group in Comics History!

This ad for The Defenders appeared at the bottom of the letters page of Daredevil #150 (January 1978).

Published the same month as Defenders #55, the ad pictured Nighthawk, Valkyrie, Hulk, and Hellcat, who would remain core members of the team for the next few years.

Sunday, March 18, 2018


The latest comic book series of the Defenders—chronicling Daredevil, Luke Cage, Jessica Jones, and Iron Fist's crusade against organized crime—concluded with Defenders #10.

Making a cameo appearance that issue, Hellcat noted that she remembered every detail of Reed Richards and Sue Storm's wedding yet at times had forgotten events that actually had happened to her. That remark was telling. In a serialized medium with decades of history—and, by the nature of the work, revamped continuity—only so many comic book stories have a lasting impact on the characters or the storytelling universe. Over the years, not every published issue remains key to the ongoing narrative.

On a related note, it's getting hard to keep track of every Defenders relaunch attempted over the last ten years, when I began writing this blog; I don't begin to predict what versions of the team might appear in the future. In the meantime, this blog provides me with space to continue reflecting on their past.

Brian Michael Bendis wrote Defenders #10 (April 2018).

Saturday, March 10, 2018


When I recently purchased Marvel Treasury Edition #16, I wondered if the collection included Defenders #25 because of the similarity between the two covers—but that appears to be a coincidence.

Rather, the treasury reprinted Marvel Feature #1, Defenders #4, and Defenders #13-14 in an oversized format.

Marvel Treasury Edition #16 (1978) also contained a pin-up of Nighthawk's ranch and two-page image from Defenders #50, picturing characters who did not appear in the four collected issues.

The Defenders previously guest-starred with Howard the Duck in Marvel Treasury Edition #12.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Daredevil Meets Power Man & Iron Fist

The cover may have said Daredevil … Meets Power Man & Iron Fist, but Daredevil #178 (January 1982) wasn't the first time they made each other's acquaintance.

Power Man met Daredevil in Defenders #24 (June 1975).

All three heroes worked together in Marvel Team-Up Annual #4 (1981).

Daredevil #178 was, however, the first of a two-part crossover that continued in Power Man & Iron Fist #77 (January 1982).

Interestingly, when Iron Fist and Daredevil later faced one another in Contest of Champions #2 (July 1982), Iron Fist introduced himself as though they had never met—or as if Iron Fist knew that Daredevil's radar sense enabled the blind hero to detect a silhouette but not see the details of someone's costume.

Monday, February 26, 2018

The Return of Over-Mind

Upon the destruction of their homeworld (a.k.a. Earth-S), the surviving members of the Squadron Supreme escaped to the dimension where most of Marvel's superhero comics take place.

The Squadron's arrival had an unusual effect on Over-Mind, who had once enslaved the team (Defenders #113).

Although six psychics collectively known as the Chorus had subdued Over-Mind, he returned to his original personality of the warlord Grom and soon regained mental control of the Squadron Supreme (Quasar #13-14).

The mysterious Stranger, a former enemy of Over-Mind, intervened to stop the powerful foe yet again. Numerous members of the Watchers witnessed the battle, as did the admittedly outclassed hero called Quasar (#15-16).

Mark Gruenwald wrote Quasar #13-16 (August-November 1990). Mike Manley penciled those issues.

Friday, February 23, 2018

Continued in Quasar

Quasar may have been a Defender for only a day (back when he was still called Marvel Man), but several story lines from the original run of the Defenders continued in Quasar's solo series, which took the hero into the far reaches of the cosmos.

Quasar #19, for example, unexpectedly brought back Gargoyle—one of several heroes who appeared to die in New Defenders #152 but later returned.

Quasar #19-20 also featured Red Guardian and Presence, who left Earth in Defenders #56 and were last seen in The Incredible Hulk #258-59.

Mark Gruenwald wrote Quasar #19-20 (February-March 1991). Greg Capullo penciled both issues.