Dedicated to the definitive superhero non-team.

Saturday, November 28, 2020

The Making of Mandrill

At the time of his debut in Shanna The She-Devil #4 (June 1973), the villain Mandrill worked with an accomplice named Professor Skecher. Mandrill had the superhuman power to compel women to do his bidding, and the heinous Professor Skecher would tattoo Mandrill's facial markings onto the face of each follower. Sketcher himself had no visible tattoos. The adventurer Shanna O'Hara surprised both men with her athleticism and her ability to resist Mandrill's influence.

By the time the Defenders faced Mandrill, Professor Skecher was out of the picture and Mandrill's new female followers (the Fem-Force) were not tattooed in his image.

Monday, November 23, 2020

Dungeons of Doom

The covers of Shanna The She-Devil (Feb. 1973) and Marvel Two-In-One #68 (Oct. 1980) each promoted a Dungeon of Doom! The dungeons inside the two issues, however, could not have been more different.

For Shanna, the dungeon was minimalistic. Captured by the underlings of crimelord El Montano, Shanna found herself bound on the floor of a holding cell. Imprisoned alongside Shanna were her two trained leopards, Biri and Ina. Although the heroine described El Montano's men as jackals, there were no actual jackals in the cell (in spite of the cover image). Shanna easily escaped, defeating the sword-bearing jailer standing guard at the cell door.

Thing and Angel, on the other hand, ran into each other at a new disco called Zanadu Zone, only to find themselves caught in the secret dungeon undearneath. Filled with mechanical traps and robots, the dungeon was the brainchild of Toad (one of the villainous Defenders for a Day and an original member of the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants). After escaping, a sympathetic Angel agreed to pay off Toad's debts and finance a fun house called Toadland. Candy Southern was Angel's date to Zanadu Zone and again to Toadland.

Friday, November 20, 2020

All the World's a Stage

Dr. Strange #55 found the sorcerer supreme distraught. Clea had ended their relationship two issues before … a decision some time in the making.

Acting as a mystical guide, Dakimh the Enchanter visited Dr. Strange, who was experiencing visions that his life lacked substance—an understandable fear for a sorcerer who spent so much time traveling across dimensions. To Dr. Strange, his teammates in the Defenders were now a facade and his home was no more real than a theatrical set. Wandering outside, he saw a movie marquee promoting the film Doctor Strange II: Beyond Raggadorr! To the world, Dr. Strange was a fictional character.

An element of reverse psychology was at work here. In presenting Dr. Strange with visions that nothing in his life was real, the story showed the sorcerer how much he still had left.

This image from from Dr. Strange #55 (Oct. 1982) features Dakimh and Dr. Strange, with visions of Gargoyle, Daimon Hellstrom, Hellcat, and the Sanctum Sanctorum.

Saturday, November 14, 2020

Mythology Lessons

Defenders #92 placed the non-team into pairs, with each heroic duo searching for various missing persons … missing persons who were in fact personified aspects of the entity Eternity. Mystically teleported by Dr. Strange, the mission took Hellcat and the Son of Satan to a temple in India, and Nighthawk and Hulk to a Russian village.

Meanwhile, Valkyrie and Sub-Mariner traveled to Patras, Greece, where a harpy reportedly had swooped down and carried off one of the missing men. Oddly, though, the flying creature in question resembled a gigantic bird rather than the bird-women of Greek mythology. During their quest, Valkyrie and Sub-Mariner also faced interference from Glaucus, a transformed fisherman from Greek mythology. With his fish-like tail, Glaucus emerged from the water and attacked the two heroes unexpectedly. It was left unsaid whether either hero actually recognized Glaucus or wondered whether the giant bird was technically a harpy.

During their teammates' journeys, Dr. Strange and Clea tried to magically restore Eternity itself.

The Defenders. Vol. 1. No. 92. February 1981. "Eternity … Humanity … Oblivion!" J.M. DeMatteis (writer), Don Perlin & Pablo Marcos (artists), Diana Albers (letters), George Roussos (colorist), Al Milgrom (editor), Jim Shooter (editor-in-chief). The so-called harpy in this story had no connection to the super-villain Harpy.

Friday, November 13, 2020

The Arrows of Golden Archer

In several of his comic book appearances, Golden Archer of the Squadron Supreme seemed to fire ordinary arrows. Other times, such as Defenders #113, he suffered defeat before taking his first shot. There were instances, however, when Golden Archer used specialized arrows in step with the superhero genre.

Avengers #147 (May 1976) showed Golden Archer wielding an explosive Detonation Arrow similar to Hawkeye's Blast Arrow, along with an ultra-sonic Siren Arrow with sonic effects resembling the vocal powers of Squadron member Lady Lark.

Squadron Supreme #4 (Dec. 1985) depicted a wider array of weaponry, as Golden Arrow fired Magnesium Flare Arrows, as well as an arrow that produced smoke to provide cover. He also referenced a Parachute Arrow that he did not have on hand at the time.

Acknowledgment goes out to the blog Dispatches from the Arrowcave for a series of posts about the trick arrows of Green Arrow, the DC hero who inspired the creation of Golden Archer.

This image of Golden Archer comes from Avengers #147.

Thursday, November 12, 2020

Becoming Blue Eagle

While Nighthawk was the only member of the Defenders with a direct counterpart in the Squadron Supreme (a group pf heroes from a parallel Earth), other similarities existed between the teams. Although the two would never meet, Red Guardian—a Soviet crimefighter who joined the Defenders during the Cold War—had a politically contrasting counterpart in the Squadron.

Introduced in Avengers #85 (Feb. 1971), the Squadron Supreme included a headstrong hero originally called American Eagle. Upon meeting the Avengers, American Eagle jumped to the conclusion that the Avengers were enemy Communists.

American Eagle: I think they're a bunch of Reds--or at least Commie-symps!

The Squadron Supreme limited series would provide more background about the patriotic character, whose given name was James Dore. He was in fact the second hero on his Earth called American Eagle, as his father fought crime under that alias in an earlier group of crimefighters known as the Golden Agency. The limited series alluded to a falling out between the father and son, which could account for the younger character's decision to adopt a non-political costume and change his alias to Cap'n Hawk (as seen in Avengers #148; Defenders #112-114).

After his father's death (Squadron Supreme #1), Cap'n Hawk changed his costume and codename once more, now calling himself Blue Eagle (a nod to his original name of American Eagle and, indirectly, to his early distrust of Reds! Blue Eagle died in combat against the Redeemers, a band of heroes and villains who challenged the Squadron's Utopia Program (Squadron Supreme #12).

This image of Blue Eagle (left) comes from the deluxe edition of The Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe. Interestingly, the original entry for the Squadron Supreme in TOHOTMU #10 (Oct. 1983) listed James Dore as Condor, a codename he never used in the comic book stories. The preliminary design for Condor resembed the costume the character would wear as Blue Eagle.

Monday, November 2, 2020

Red Ghost of the Sea

Defenders #7-8 creatively repurposed an establish character. Red Ghost, who had demonstrated the ability to mentally command apes after bombarding them with cosmic rays, found them increasingly difficult to control. As a result, the villain decided to try out his power on porpoises—also highly intelligent mammals and perhaps more responsive to his commands. Red Ghost's new modus operandi found him an ally in the Atlantean conquerer Attuma.

Red Ghost tried to expand his powers even more, using advanced technology to mentally command Sub-Mariner, and then Valkyrie and Hawkeye (during his short time with the Defenders). The mental tampering had a side effect for Valkyrie, who as already internally conflicted with the mind of of Barbara Norriss, causing her to halluscinate monstrous images (foreshadowing events in Defenders #64).

Dr. Strange ultimately freed the others from the influence of Red Ghost by creating a mystic shield to prevent cosmic rays from reaching Earth.

This panel of Red Ghost comes from Defenders #7 (Aug. 1973).

Sunday, November 1, 2020

The Secret Origin of Dr. Druid

As Dr. Druid grew in prominence, the similarities between his origin story and the origin of Dr. Strange became hard to overlook. Avengers Spotlight #37 reconciled this coincidence while reinvigorating the character.

Within the issue, Dr. Druid learned that the lama who had sent for and trained him in the Himalyas some time ago was none other than the Ancient One who went on to train Dr. Strange. The world needed a magical protector before Dr. Strange was psychologically ready to learn the mystic arts, so the Ancient One selected Dr. Druid as a precursor to Dr. Strange—cultivating the powers of the ancient Britons that Dr. Druid inherited.

With this revelation, Dr. Druid felt repentant for his manipulative behavior as a member of the Avengers. Further, he underwent a physical transformation, appearing as he might have looked a few years before his initial meeting with the lama (a.k.a. the Ancient One). Dr. Druid retained this younger body, with a full head of hair, during his time with the Secret Defenders.

Avengers Spotlight. Vol. 1. No. 37. October 1990. "Interlude in a Peaceable Kingdom!" Roy & Dann Thomas (writers), Bob Hall (penciler), Win Mortimer (inker), Rick Parker (letterer), R. Witterstaetter (colorist), Mark Gruenwald (editor), Tom DeFalco (editor in chief).

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