Dedicated to the definitive superhero non-team.

Thursday, September 16, 2021

Cat and Mouse

Patsy Walker became Hellcat almost incidentally in Avengers #144 (Feb. 1976), when she found a costume of the heroine formerly known as Cat (now Tigra). The alias Cat, however, did not go to waste.

Just one month later, Master of Kung Fu #38 (March 1976) introduced Shen Kuei, a Chinese martial artist who also answered to the name Cat. In contrast to Hellcat, who did not use a superhero insignia, Shen Kuei had a cat silhouette tattooed on his chest.

A well-matched adversary to Shang-Chi (a.k.a. Master of Kung Fu), Shen Kuei boasted that he began training in the martial arts at age four. Shang-Chi countered how he began training at age three. Under a complicated set of circumstances, Shen Kuei believed that Shang-Chi was sent to kill him. The two men stopped fighting when Shen Keui realized that this was not the case (#39).

Shen Kuei appears prominently on the cover of Master of Kung Fu #39 (April 1976).

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Defenders Dialogue: Built by Yandroth

The letters page in Defenders #8 addressed a discrepency between dialogue from the non-team's first mission and the panel below from issue #5. Acknowledging the inconsistency, the editorial staff awareded one reader with a sought-after no-prize.

Marvel Madmen,

According to DEFENDERS #5, we should not be here now. Observe. Page 18, panel 1: the Omegatron says "I am the Omegatron, built by Yandroth, scientist supreme, to atomically disintegrate this planet." Notice, he said his creator's name. Check.

In MARVEL FEATURE #1, it was explained that when the Omegatron said his maker's name, the world would explode. He said it and the world is still here.

I claim a no-prize.

Also, leave Valkyrie in the DEFENDERS. She would make a good member. I'm glad the Hulk left. Please, Steve, let's keep it that way.

RFO, KOF, FFF Christopher Coleman
Fitchburg, Mass.

Chris, we tried hard to think of a way out of this one, hoping all the while that what Yandroth meant was that his machine would bring doom when it said his name at the correct time—but a quick check of MARVEL FEATURE #1 shows him mumbling "…once, and only once, it shall speak my name…", so we're caught like rats in a trap. You win true believer; the no-prize is yours, right after Roy gets through beating up Steve with it.

Sunday, September 12, 2021

Weird Wonder Tales

While writing a recent blog post about the comic book series Weird Wonder Tales, I spotted something unexpected on the TV show Fame. The episode Teachers, which originally aired in Fall 1982, included a scene with high-school student Danny Amatullo (Carlo Imperato) intently reading issue #15 (April 1976). We can only wonder how many viewers identified the comic book at the time.

Weird Wonder Tales #15 reprinted science-fiction stories originally presented in Chamber of Darkness #4, Strange Tales #95, and Tales to Astonish #25.

Wednesday, September 8, 2021

Defenders #2 (Nov. 2021) transported the team from the present-day Eighth Cosmos back in time to the Sixth Cosmos—specifically to the technologically advanced planet of Taa. There, the Silver Surfer encountered the infant Galen, who would grow up to become Galactus. Out of a sense of compasion, the Surfer used the power cosmic to instill in the child an understanding that might help him resist the hunger he would eventually experience as a devourer of worlds.

This image of Galactus comes from The Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe.

Tuesday, September 7, 2021

The Squadron Symmetry

At the time of their appearance in Defenders #113, the Squadron Supreme had a dozen active members—each corresponding in varying degrees to a member of the Justice League of America. That being said, not everyone in the Justice League up to that point had a Squadron counterpart—and that's not all bad. Creatively speaking, making the Squadron even larger could have had diminishing returns and shortchanged the team's originality.

For example, a Squadron homage to Elongated Man could have felt reminiscent of Mr. Fantastic (featured in Defenders #105), and a Squadron equivalent to Red Tornado could have overshadowed the Vision (who would play a central role in #123). As for the Phantom Stranger and honoary JLA member Snapper Carr, these characters were too tertiary to warrant counterparts in the already sizeable Squadron.

As much as I liked the dynamic that married couple Hawkgirl and Hawkman brought to the Justice League of America, the Squadron sufficed with a singular winged weaponsmith in Cap'n Hawk (a.k.a. Blue Eagle).

As a pleasant surpise, the Squadron Supreme limited series would establish that an extraterrestrial Skrull helped found the team, matching Martian Manhunter's place as a founding member of the JLA. From that point on, however, the order of new recruits to the Squadron did not always follow the same order as the JLA.

Green Arrow (the basis for Golden Archer of the Squadron Supreme) joined in Justice League of America #4, becoming the team's first new recruit. For the Squadron, the first new member was Tom Thumb (a loose approximation of the Atom, who joined in JLA #9).

Monday, August 30, 2021

Dr. Druid and the Missing Link

Historically speaking, Weird Wonder Tales #21 (March 1977) contained the most unusual appearance of Dr. Druid. In the story, Dr. Druid led a scientific expedition in seach of the missing link to prove that humans had evolved from apes.

In the mountains of Borneo, Dr. Druid got more than he bargained for when he encountered a giant primate called Gorgilla. After Gorgilla saved the explorers from a Tyrannosaurus Rex, Dr. Druid decided not to capture Gorgilla and instead let the creature live in peace.

Though pictured in costume on the cover, Dr. Druid did nothing superhuman within the issue. That's because the story initially ran in Tales to Astonish #12 (October 1960) and featured an ordinary scientist named Scotty—not a superhero. The reprint changed the character's appearance and name to Dr. Druid while keeping the other original material intact.

A flashback to a lecture he attended in college set Dr. Druid's expectations for how the missing link might look.

Tuesday, August 17, 2021


The first installment in a five-part limited series, the recently released Defenders #1 provided a new take on early concepts of the non-team. The story began with the Masked Raider making the acquaintance of Dr. Strange by threatening the sorcerer with a gun. As the two men sized up one another, Dr. Strange used his oft overlooked skill as a brown belt to defend himself before offering to hear the Masked Raider's concerns over tea.

Relying on a Tarot deck for guidance, Dr. Strange identified with the Magician card and saw the Masked Raider as the Hierophant card. Oddly, both cards appeared upside down, as did the next three cards that Dr. Strange harnessed to mystically summon a fresh combination of heroes to face a looming threat.

The card of Judgment summoned the Silver Surfer, a former herald to Galactus (who promises to play a role in the limited series).

The High Priestess card summoned Betty Banner (née Ross). Now known as the Red Harpy, this unique identity harks back to her previous transformation into Harpy. I much prefer this take on the heroine over her former alias as Red She-Hulk, which felt derivative on several levels.

The most apropos reveal was the Lovers card for Cloud, a cosmic being metaphysically merged with a young romantic couple.

For those keeping track, this relaunch of the Defenders is officially Volume 6 with regard to publication history. I hope that the limited series adds momentum for the Defenders to continue as an informal group of magical, monstrous, and misanthropic heroes.

Defenders. No. 1. October 2021. "Eighth Cosmos: The Magician." Al Ewing & Javier Rodríguez (storytellers), Álvaro López (letters), VC's Joe Caramagna (inks), Wil Moss & Sarah Brunstad (editors). The issue inclues a MARVEL REMEMBERS page honoring influential Defenders writer David Anthony Kraft (1952-2021).

Tuesday, July 27, 2021

I, Robot

When Kyle Richmond became paralyzed during the day, regaining his Nighthawk powers only at night, he employed Luann Bloom as a nurse. An adherent of modern medicine, Luann was skeptical of any attempt the Defenders might make to cure Kyle through mystical means. With Dr. Strange out of town, Clea assured Luann that Kyle's affliction was indeed mystical in nature and required further analysis (Defenders #102).

Luann: What kind of analysis, Clea? The kind that requires a bubbling cauldron and the eye of newt?

Although Luann had Kyle's best interests in mind, she was painfully unaware of her own true nature. As she later learned (#119), Luann was a robot programmed by an extra-dimensional tribunal to covertly collect information about the Defenders. After much analysis, this tribunal would eroneous warn Dr. Strange, Hulk, Sub-Mariner, and Silver Surfer against fighting together again (#125).

This panel comes from Defenders #119. The bulk of that issue was a flashback story, showing data that Luann's computer brain had gathered from Nighthawk.

Sunday, July 25, 2021

Blast from the Past

By delving into the psyche of their mentor, X-Men #106 underscored the reasons why several members of the mutant team left … eventually finding their way to the New Defenders.

At the X-Mansion, the "new" X-Men were training in the Danger Room with Cyclops, the only member of the original team who didn't resign in #94. To everyone's surprise, Angel, Iceman, Beast, and Marvel Girl appeared out of nowhere, wearing their original matching uniforms. With deep-seated hostility, these former X-Men called the new members everything from animals to circus freaks, while accusing Cyclops of going astray.

Oddly, by this point Marvel Girl had transitioned to Phoenix, Angel and Iceman were in the Champions, and Beast was an Avenger. Clearly, something was amiss!

The former X-Men turned out to be mental projections from Professor X: more specifically, manifestations from the evil side of his personality that he typically kept in check. Recent mental strain, however, had caused Professor X to temporarily lose his bearings. The incident revealed that, at least on a subconscious level, Professor X resented the original team for adopting individualized costumes and forging their own identities (#39); similarly, he harbored disdain for the independently inclined new members of the team.

X-Men. Vol. 1. No. 1. Aug. 1977. "Dark Shroud of the Past!" Claremont • Mantlo • Brown • Cockrum • Sutton • Rosen • Yanchus • Goodwyn production! The cover mentioned that Angel was back without revealing the apparent return of other members. When the real Angel did rejoin in #137-148, he felt out of step with Professor X and found the new members wanting.

Friday, July 23, 2021

Strange Tales with Bobby Drake

Strange Tales #120 shed light on the social life of Bobby Drake during his early days as Iceman. Published the same month as X-Men #5 (May 1964), Iceman was disappointed that another classmate had plans with Jean Grey, the only female student then enrolled at Professor Xavier's School for Gifted Youngsters. Although Bobby hadn't taken an interest in Jean in X-Men #1, he seemed to have a change of heart.

Iceman: Gosh, Professsor X … whenever I get up the never to ask Jean for a date, the Angel or Cyclops, or somebody beats me to it!
Proessor X: Well, the day is still young, Bobby! Why don't you go to New York and see the sights?

Hoping to meet someone special, Bobby decided to take a day cruise around New York. While aboard the boat, Bobby struck up a conversation with a female passenger named Doris—only to learn that she was dating Johnny Storm, publicly known as the Human Torch of the Fantastic Four. As fate would have it, modern-day pirates also came aboard. Preserving his secret identity, Bobby assumed his veneer as Iceman and fought alongside Human Torch to defeat the pirates.

Given recent storylines depicting Iceman as gay, I think it is possible to read Strange Tales #120 through a queer lens, interpreting Iceman's conversation with Professor X and attempt to meet a woman as ways of hiding his homosexuality. Either way, Bobby's luck with women would improve upon meeting Zelda at Coffee A Go-Go in X-Men #7.

Strange Tales. Vol. 1. No. 120. May 1964. "The Torch Meets the Iceman!" Deftly written by: Stan Lee. Dazzlingly drawn by: Jack Kirby. Dramatically inked by: Dick Aywers. Distinctively lettered by: S. Rosen.

Saturday, July 10, 2021

Nighthawk's Rogues

Seeing how Batman developed one of the most recognized rogues' galleries in comic book history, it stood to reason that the version of Nighthawk in the Squadron Supreme would have a rogues' gallery of his own. Although we don't know every supervillain Nighthawk might have faced, Squadron Supreme #7 identified Remnant, Mink, and Pinball as the hero's oldest foes.

  • Remnant, the most esoteric of the trio, could pull a magic carpet and other items from the "bottomless pocket" in his costume.
  • Mink armed herself with claws and a poisonous perfume spray. A flashback in #9 revealed that Mink had once been a member of the Institute of Evil, a supervillain team that often battled the Squadron.
  • With the ability to expand into a rubblike sphere, Pinball had powers similar to the DC hero Bouncing Boy from the Legion of Superheroes.

This image of Nighthawk, Remnant, Mink, and Pinball comes from Squadron Supreme #9. The hero and villains formed an unlikely alliance to end the Utopia Project introduced in #1.

Friday, July 9, 2021

The Making of Marvel Man

Marvel Man was largely unknown when he joined the Defenders for a Day. During his debut in Captain America #217, the character had introduced himself as Marvel Boy—differentiating himself from an earlier hero with that same name—only to become Marvel Man in #218.

The original Marvel Boy had appeared in comic books published in the 1950s by Atlas Comics (the immediate predecessor to Marvel Comics). The character's origin story tied to recent history. In 1934, to escape the threat of Hitler, scientist Matthew Grayson fled Earth in a spaceship, taking his infant son with him. They arrived on Uranus, where young Bob Grayson developed intuitive telepathic abilities, like the planet's peaceful inhabitants. As a young adult, Bob returned to Earth to stop crime as Marvel Boy, wearing Uranian wristbands that could generate a blinding light.

The character made a jarring return in Fantastic Four #164-165. Now calling himself Crusader, the former hero went on a rampage and then vanished, leaving behind his wristbands. From there, Anthony Stark's crew developed the wristbands worn by the new Marvel Boy/Man in Captain America #217-218.

Following the events in Defenders #62-65, Marvel Man guest-starred in The Incredible Hulk #233, with his name highlighted on the cover. Marvel Man could use his wristbands to fly and manipuate energy in various ways. His confidence plummeted, however, when a boy told him that Marvel Man was a dopey name. In #234, the hero changed his name to Quasar, distinguishing himself from other recognizable Marvel characters, including Captain Marvel and Ms. Marvel.

Monday, July 5, 2021

Adapting Alice

In the opening paragraph of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, protaganist Alice asked, What is the use of a book without pictures or conversations? This telling question would make the 1865 novel ripe for a comic book adaptation, specifically Marvel Classics Comics #35 (1978). Titled Alice in Wonderland, the comic-book retelling stayed faithful to Lewis Carroll's original text, with slight modifications. For instance, the comic book changed the name of the Hatter to the Mad Hatter, as he became commonly known in popular culture.

Within the comic book, Alice looked similar to her depiction in the 1951 animated Disney film. Most other characters in the comic, however, resembled the illustrations of John Tenniel originally published in the novel. In fact, the comic book reproduced some of Tenniel's artwork on the inside back cover, along with the poem You Are Old, Father William; in the novel, that poem appeared in the chapter with the Caterpillar (a character who would cross over to superhero comics and meet Dr. Strange.)

Abridging the story for space left the Marvel Classics Comics adaptation with the following chapter order:

  1. Down the Rabbit Hole
  2. The Pool of Tears
  3. A Caucus-Race and a Long Tale
  4. The Rabbit Sends in a Little Bill
  5. Advice from a Caterpillar
  6. Pig and Pepper
  7. A Mad Tea-Party
  8. The Queen's Croquet-Ground
  9. Who Stole the Tart
  10. Alice's Evidence

The following two chapters did not appear in the comic book:

  • The Mock Turtle's Story (although a scene with the Dutchess moved to chapter VIII)
  • The Lobster-Quadrille

Additionally, Marvel Classics Comics did not incorporate material from the 1872 sequel, Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There. Nevertheless, Defenders #131 drew inspiration from a poem within that novel by introducing a supervillain called the Walrus and a scientist with the surname Carpenter.

Friday, July 2, 2021

Polaris and Havok warrant joint attention as Defenders for a Day. After all, both heroes had been on-again, off-again members of the X-Men and remained overshadowed by related characters.

Although her mutant green hair made Lorna Dane visually distinct, Lorna's magnetic powers intrinsically linked her to the X-Men's earliest foe, Magneto. As a result, Lorna received the monicker "Magneto's daughter" well before she adopted the heroic name Polaris. Similarly, by the time Alex Summers became Havok, his older brother, Cyclops, already held the mantle of field leader of the X-Men.

Joining the Defenders, even for a day, presented Polaris and Havok with an opportunity to continue their crimefighting careers without comparison to other mutants. To this point, the two heroes did not even interact with one another directly during their appearances in Defenders #62-65, prompting others to respond to them individually and not as a pair.

On the topic of individuality, #62 spelled Havok like the word havoc (ending in c). This was not a lasting change, however, as #63 returned to the established spelling of his codename (ending in k).

Lorna Dane appeared on the cover X-Men #50, with interior text hailing her as the daughter of Magneto. X-Men #97 pitted Cyclops against Havok in a story titled "My Brother, My Enemy!"

Sunday, June 27, 2021

Boy with a Gun

The cover of Avengers #218 was particularly disturbing, with a boy pointing a gun to his head. Having arrived at Avengers Mansion seeking help, the boy could not convince the heroes to take him seriously until he pulled out a gun and shot himself. Iron Man, Thor, Captain America, and Wasp were beside themselves as they witnessed the boy's body disintegrate … only to return to life within minutes.

The boy claimed to be a reincarnation of Morgan MacNeil Hardy, an inventor who had died of mental backlash resulting from his Psi-Augmentor (Captain America #264). The boy explained that he had lived numerous lifetimes, always returning to life as a child after he died. In the past, he would have no memory of his earlier incarnations. Because of the Psi-Augmentor, however, the boy now retained the anguished memories of Morgan MacNeil Hardy and knowledge of his perpeptual existence.

Desperately wanting to end this cycle, the boy snuck aboard a scientific probe headed to the Sun. Instead of permanently dying, the boy mutated into a plasma monster and returned to Earth. Defeated by the Avengers, the creature exploded into nothingness, then regrew to a boy—seemingly unburdened by the knowledge of his past selves.

A flashback to Captain America #264 showed the four telepaths who initially tested Morgan MacNeil Hardy's Psi-Augmentor. Two of them died from the mental backlash. The survivors, Ursula Richards and Philip Le Guin, were two of the six telepaths who would subdue Over-Mind.

Avengers. Vol. 1. No. 218. April 1982. "Born Again (and Again and Again…) J.M. DeMatteis (scripter/co-plotter), Don Perlin (layouts), Joe Rosen (letterer), Christie Scheele (colorist), Jim Salicrup (editor), Jim Shooter (co-plotter/editor-in-chief).

Saturday, June 19, 2021

Routine Seven

When battling the Mutant Force in New Defenders #125, Iceman called over to Angel, asking if his teammate remembered Routine Seven—an apparent callback to their training as original members of the X-Men. Acknowledging the reference, the high-flying Angel grabbed the villain Shocker by the arms, flew well above the rooftops, and then dropped Shocker, who cried out for HELLLLP! Iceman used his powers to soften the Shocker's fall by catching the defeated villain in a mound of snow.

The X-Men were known for their intense training in the Danger Room, so one can only imagine what other combat routines the mutant heroes had memorized. Were there only seven? Or were there many more?

Monday, June 14, 2021

Behold, the Vision

Marvel Mystery Comics #13 (November 1940) marked a turning point for the comic-book anthology. Up until then, the western crimefighter known as the Masked Raider had appeared in every issue, with #12 encouraging readers to return for "another Masked Raider adventure next month!" Instead of bringing back the Masked Raider, however, #13 introduced a character more in step with the superpowered heroes who had featured most prominently in the series.

The new character was Aarkus, a visitor from another dimension with the uncanny ability to materialize through smoke or vapor. Readers would know the character better as the Vision during his three-year run.

Whereas the Masked Raider had been grounded in historical fiction, the Vision often faced enemies with supernatural or science-fiction themes. Like other superheroes of his day, the Vision also battled Nazis during World War II. Aarkus had no connection to the synethezoid Vision, who would appear in print two decades later.

The covers of Marvel Mystery Comics promoted the Vision as a sensational new feature. Vision received cover billing again on #16 and #18. The above panel comes from #14.

Saturday, June 12, 2021

Behind the Masked Raider

Unlike many Golden Age heroes who eventually fell into obscurity, the Masked Raider remained a background figure even during his own era. The western crimefighter premiered in Marvel Comics #1 (Oct. 1939), the same comic book that introduced Sub-Mariner and the original Human Torch. Renamed Marvel Mystery Comics, the anthology series continued to include stories starring the Masked Raider in #2-12.

Disguised in a black mask and riding a white horse named Lightning, the Masked Raider apprehended bank robbers and swindlers under the backdrop of the California Gold Rush. Historical facts were vague within the stories, although literary character Pecos Bill made a guest appearance in #9.

Being a western hero made the Masked Raider something of an anomaly. With the notable excepction of jungle adventurer Ka-Zar, most of the other characters to appear regularly in Marvel Mystery Comics had superhuman powers and a modern setting. As such, the Masked Raider never appeared on the covers, and #8 was the only cover to list him as one of the characters featured within the publication.

The above panel comes from Marvel Comics #1, when Jim Gardley decided to become the Masked Raider.
The Golden Age crimefighter Angel, who featured prominently in the Marvel Mystery Comics, had no connection to Warren Worthington III of the New Defenders. The hero Electro, listed on the cover of #8, had no connection to the villain Electro from Defenders #63-64.

Wednesday, June 9, 2021

Le Defenders

Georges Batroc, known commonly as Batroc—or Batroc the Leaper—was one of numerous supervillains to briefly pose as Defenders. In word balloons, the French speaker habitually called himself Batroc ze Leaper, signalling his accent. That being said, Batroc made an uncharacteristic word choice in Defenders #64. In one panel, which included ze three times, Batroc referred to the heroic non-team as le Defenders. In this instance, it is curious that Batroc did not say les Defenders, as the French word les is the plural translation of the while le is singular. Batroc's full text from that panel appears below, with the French word gendarmes for police:

Follow Batroc ze Leaper, my fiendish friends, and we shall lose le Defenders in ze subway!
Already, we have left ze gendarmes far behind!

In the heat of the moment, spelling discrepencies are understandable. For instance, the mercenary Paladin introduced himself as Palladin (with an extra l) during his guest appearance in Defenders #62 and again in #63.

This image of Batroc first appeared in The Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe.

Sunday, June 6, 2021

Revisiting Wertham

I recently reread Seduction of the Innocent, psychiatrist Fredric Wertham's infamous book taking aim at the comic book industry. This time around, I paid particular attention to arguments I didn't cover in my initial post about the 1954 publication. As one example, Wertham criticized Millie the Model and similar comic books for setting unrealistic beauty ideals for girls.

Among his other concerns, Wertham asserted that the visual storytelling of comic books caused children to develop poor reading habits, such as picture reading: reading only the title and maybe the text on those pages with particularly violent or sexually intriguing illustrations. To Wertham, even comic books stating that "crime doesn't pay" were harmful as they showed children how to become criminals.

In writing Seduction of the Innocent, Wertham acknowledged that some psychiatrists regarded his claims as overzealous. Wertham countered that such colleagues made the mistake of seeing juvenille delinquents as fundamentally flawed while ignoring the pernacious influence of comic books. In another generalization, Wertham characterized comic book writers as dissatisfied with their own work.

For clarity, Wertham distinguished comic books from the newspaper comic strips, which he described as intended for adults and subject to tigher publishing standards. Here, Wertham employed a double standard, dismissing Flash Gordon and other comic books derived from newspaper strips as mere caricatures of the originals. In short, even comic books of the highest quality were inherently tainted by virtue of being comic books.

Millie the Model #55 (August 1954) appeared in print the same year as Seduction of the Innocent. Decades later, Millie guest-starred in Defenders #65.
Flash Gordon was one of several Golden Age adventurers reintroduced in the Defenders of the Earth limited series published in 1987 under the Star Comics imprint of Marvel Comics.

Friday, May 28, 2021

Contemplating the Titans

Conceptually, the Teen Titans and the Defenders have little in common. The founding members of the Teen Titans were sidekicks to adult DC heroes, while the founding members of the Defenders were highly powerful and individualistic Marvel heroes. After hearing the podcast Titan Up The Defense, which discusses classic issues of each team on alternating weeks, I decided to look for commonalities between the two super groups. Here are a few examples:

  • Aqualad, a founding member of the Teen Titans, has Atlantean parallels to the Sub-Mariner, a founding member of the Defenders.
  • Robin (Nightwing), the original leader of the Teen Titans, was the longtime sidekick to Batman; Marvel Comics patterned Nighthawk after Batman.
  • Superhuman strength, weaponry, and a mythological background makes Wonder Girl analogous to Valkyrie.
  • Daughter of the demonic Trigon, the mystical Raven corresponds to Daimon Hellstrom, the Son of Satan.
  • With green skin and the power of transformation, Changeling (Beast Boy) has superficial similarities to the Hulk.
  • Three of the New Defenders began fighting crime as teenage members of the X-Men.
The Brave and the Bold #54 (July 1964) marked the beginning of the Teen Titans, when three sidekicks teamed up. The young heroes soon landed their own seires, which ran 53 issues, and then found new popularity with the launch of The New Teen Titans #1 (Nov. 1980).

Friday, May 14, 2021

Two In One

Feeling out of his element, the curmudgeonly Thing accompanied the Defenders on a paranormal investigation that shed light on the background of Barbara Norriss (née Denton), the young woman tragically intertwined with the persona of Valkyrie (Marvel Two-In-One #6-7; Defenders #20).

At the heart of the drama was Alvin Denton, a destitute man who believed his wife, Celestia, had died in an automobile accident. Celestia Denton, however, not only survived the automobile accident: she also joined the cult of the Nameless Ones responsible for sacrificing her daughter, Barbara, to another dimension. Since Dr. Strange had led the Defenders in rescuing Barbara, and the Enchantress had tied Barbara to the spirit of Valkyrie (Defenders 3-4), the cult intended to balance the score by sacrificing Dr. Strange and Valkyrie.

To make matters more complicated, Alvin carried a magical harmonica sought after by the Enchantress and her loyal henchman, the Executioner. The harmonica's magic was limited, however, and of no use to the Enchantress by the time she claimed the item. Toying with Alvin and the heroes, the Enchantres temporarily transformed Valkyrie back to the persona of Barbara Norriss, who remained in a state of madness as a result of her time trapped in another dimension. After Valkyrie's mind returned to Barbara's body, the heroine learned that Barbara was married to a man named Jack Norriss, spurring interpersonal concerns for both characters.


Saturday, May 8, 2021

The Defenders at Fifty

This year marks the fiftieth anniversary of Marvel Feature #1 (Dec. 1971), the first appearance of the Defenders. While I enjoy many of their early stories, particularly Defenders #13-16, I'd select #89-138 as my favorite fifty-issue run on the original series.

Given those preferences, it should come as no surprise that I think the preview cover of an upcoming Defenders series looks promising. The image shows the mysterious Masked Raider prompting Dr. Strange to bring together a new team of Defenders. Depicted on Tarot cards, the prospects are largely heroes who were Defenders at one point or another during the original series, including several members of the New Defenders.

As a non-team throughout much of their history, the Defenders attracted mystics, monsters, and iconoclasts while never gaining the foothold of the Avengers, X-Men, or Fantastic Four. In the thirteen years that I've been blogging about the Defenders, I've lost track of the numerous attempts to revamp the team, from Iron Man's vision for the Last Defenders to Heroes for Hire adopting the name Defenders more recently. All that being said, I hope this upcoming incarnation, with its nod to the past, will have some staying power.

Friday, May 7, 2021

All Winners Squad

Sub-Mariner has never been much of a team player—for good reason. A generation before he reluctantly joined the Defenders, the Prince of Atlantis had a turbulent experience with another superhero team in All Winners Comics #19 (Fall 1946).

The theft of several artifacts from a major museum prompted the original Human Torch and sidekick Toro to summon Captain America (with sidekick Bucky), Sub-Mariner, Miss America, and Whizzer. Known as the All Winners Squad, the group discovered a series of riddles left behind by a criminal mastermind called Isbisa. When the word romaN appeared among the clues, Human Torch asked Namor if he had orchestrated the crime as a practical joke. Namor felt insulted by the implication; only at the urging of Toro did Namor decide to stay with the team. The All Winners Squad regrouped two issues later to thwart Future Man and Madame Death (#21).

Coincidentally, Toro wore only trunks and boots as a costume and might have been mistaken for Namor's sidekick until activating his flame powers and thereby resembling a shorter version of the Human Torch.

The historical significance of the All Winners Squad diminished when retroactive continuity placed the Invaders during World War II, forming five years before the All Winners Squad.


Saturday, May 1, 2021

Out of Obscurity

A somber tale from Marvel Comics Presents #40 (mid-December 1989) found Over-Mind living in Millwood, New Hampshire, the site of extensive toxic waste leakage. Needing a sense of a purpose after leaving the Defenders, Over-Mind decided to use his mental powers to alleviate the Millwood residents of their distress by making them believe they were still in good health. The powerful telepath removed the mental illusion once medical help arrived to treat the townspeople.

In a change of pace, Over-Mind and numerous other characters who had appeared in Marvel Comics Presents joined forces in What The--?! #9 (Oct. 1990). The story parodied Giant-Size X-Men #1, with Over-Mind, Paladin, El Águila, and numerous other heroes replacing the original Echs-Men. Sunfire was the only character in that spoof who also appeared in Giant-Size X-Men #1.

Scott Lobdell wrote "…Anything" (Marvel Comics Presents #40) and "Second Guesses" (What The--?! #9), showing he had a sense of humor about his own work.

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Sub-Mariner Meets the Creature from the Black Lagoon

In 1954, the same year that The Creature from the Black Lagoon premiered in theaters, Prince Namor faced a menace with a striking resemblance to the Hollywood monster. The story opened with Namor showing his friend Betty Dean a letter asking for help. The ambiguous letter was signed by a Professor Zunbar (Sub-Mariner Comics #35).

Going to the address on the letter, Namor entered a waterfront building only to find himself overpowered by a pair of mechanical robots. The robots reported to Professor Zunbar, who intended to surgically tranfer Namor's brain in the body of Elmer, a green amphibion the professor had created. Among his character flaws, Elmer was afraid of water.

Namor narrowly escaped from the surgical table and turned Professor Zunbar over to the police. As for Elmer, the creature apparently died when a box of nitroglycerin he'd gotten hold of exploded.

Triplicate explanation points appeared at the end of several sentences of dialogue in the story, appropriately titled "Vengeance!!!"

Saturday, April 24, 2021

The Hellcatmobile

In an apparent nod to the Batmobile, Defenders #63 introduced the Hellcatmobile. But where did Hellcat get her new set of wheels?

Defenders #59 showed Hellcat pining for a red vehicle that belonged to Nighthawk (with KYLE 3 written on the back). Since Nighthawk didn't seem inclined to hand the car over to her, there might be a more creative explanation. Defenders #61 showed Hellcat practicing with the Shadow Cloak she had on loan from Devil-Slayer. Perhaps Hellcat used the Shadow Cloak to pull her own Hellcatmobile from another dimension.

This panel featuring the Hellcatmobile comes from Defenders #63.

Friday, April 23, 2021

Even More Marvel Super Heroes - 1982

To round out coverage of the Marvel Superheroes - 1982 biographies from Contest of Champions, this post reproduces the profiles of those heroes known in hindsight as Defenders for a Day. Keep in mind that, by the time of publication, Black Goliath had become the second Giant-Man, and Marvel Man had changed his name to Quasar. Also, while the profile for Tagak mentions the leopard Opar, and the profile for Falcon mentions the bird Redwing, neither of these animals accompanied the heroes as Defenders for a Day.

For good measure, I've included the profiles for Captain Marvel, Ms. Marvel, and Paladin (who, arguably weren't Defenders for a Day). Profiles for Ms. Marvel and Son of Satan link to related posts where they also appear.

(Real name unrevealed) Would-be hero possessing flight, strength, and other powers but has a vulnerability to fire. Nationality unknown. Current whereabouts: unknown. First appearance: FANTASTIC FOUR #177.

(Sam Wilson, social worker) American who uses an anti-gravitic suit with wings to fly, and has a nigh-telepathic link with his falcon Redwing. Former member of the Avengers. Current whereabouts: New York City. First appearance: CAPTAIN AMERICA #117.

(Alex Summers, archaeology student) American mutant whose body generates cosmic energy that can be siphoned off into explosions. Brother to Cyclops. Occasional member of the X-Men. Current whereabouts: Rio Diablo, New Mexico. First appearance: X-MEN #58.

(Uses no regular alias) Olympian born man-god possessing super-strength. Son of Zeus. Former member of the Avengers. Current whereabouts: Hollywood, California. First appearance: THOR ANNUAL #1.

(Daniel Rand, investigator/bodygaurd) American-born trained in the martial arts in the dimension city of K'un-Lun, master of the "iron fist" technique. Currrent whereabouts: New York City. First appearance: MARVEL PREMIERE #15.

(Jack Hart, student) American endowed with strange energy, enabling him to fly and shoot energy rays, and computer-analyze machinery at a glance. Current whereabouts: Earth. First appearance: DEADLY HANDS OF KING-FU #22.

(Real name unknown) American mercenary possessing great agility and fighting prowess. Wears a bullet-proof vest and carries a gun. Current whereabouts: New York environs. First appearance: DAREDEVIL #150.

(Lorna Dane) American mutant with the ability to control magnetism. Current whereabouts: Rio Diablo, New Mexico. First appearance: X-MEN #49.

(Wendell Vaughn, security chief) American wielding a pair of power-bands from Uranus, capable of tapping any power source and transforming that energy into solid objects or force-beams. Also enables him to fly. First appearance (as Marvel Man): CAPTAIN AMERICA #217. First appearance (as Quasar): HULK #234.

(Daimon Hellstrom, occult expert) American whose father is an arch-demon. Possesses supernatural strength and wields a trident and rides a chariot driven by fiery horses. Occasional member of the Defenders. Current whereabouts: New York City. First appearance: MARVEL SPOTLIGHT #12.

(Dr. Walter Newell, oceanographer) American who uses special deep-sea suit, enabling him to breathe underwater, withstand the ocean's pressure, swim with great speed, and glide throught the air for short distances. Also uses an electrical sting-blast. Current whereabouts: Hydrobase, Atlantic. First appearance: SUB-MARINER #19.

(No other name known) Extra-dimensional humanoid with great athletic ability and fighting prowesss. Though blind, he is able to see by telepathic link to his pet leopard, Opar. Current whereabouts: his home dimension. First appearance: DAREDEVIL #72.

(Brock Jones, ex-football player, ex-insurance agent, high school coach) American who wears strength-enhancing suit enabling him to fly at great speeds. Current whereabouts: Clairton, Virginia. First appearance: DAREDEVIL #126.


(Bill Foster, physicist) Black American who could mentaly stimulate growth in height and mass up to about twenty-five feet. First appearance (as Bill Foster): AVENGERS #32. First appearance (as Black Goliath): POWER MAN #24. First appearance (as Giant-Man): MARVEL TWO-IN-ONE #55. Reason for retirement: radiation poisoning weakened body.

(Carol Danvers, ex-security agent, freelance writer) American who possessed ability to fly, super-strength, heightened reflexes, and a precognitive Seventh Sense. Former member of the Avengers. First appearance: MS. MARVEL #1. Reason for retirement: loss of powers.

(Richard Ryder, student) American who possessed super-strength and the ability to fly. First appearance: NOVA #1. Reason for retirement: loss of powers.

(Hobie Brown, window washer) Black American who used various gimmicks to fight crime. First appearance: AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #78. Reason for retirement: voluntarily gave up costumed identity to devote time to civilian life.

(Hector Ayala, student) Puerto Rican who used mystic amulets to grant heightened strength, speed, agility, and fighting ability. First appearance: DEADLY HANDS OF KING-FU #22. Reason fore retirement: loss of amulets granting power.


(Mar-vell, captain in Kree militia) Alien humanoid of the Kree Empire who had superhuman strength and fighting skills, photonic powers enabling him to fly, and a zen-like "cosmic awereness" which enabled him to perceive things extransensorily. First appearance: MARVEL SUPER-HEROES #12. Died from cancer in THE DEATH OF CAPTAIN MARVEL graphic novel.

This panel from Contest of Champions #1 spotlights the three founding members of the Defenders: Hulk, Sub-Mariner, and Dr. Strange.
The background features Human Torch, Thing, and Quasar (formerly Marvel Man).

Saturday, April 17, 2021

More Marvel Super Heroes - 1982

Heralded as the first limited series, Contest of Champions was also groundbreaking for its appendix of Marvel Super Heroes - 1982. Biographical entries appeared for heroes who had been active up to that point (with sections on inactive and deceased heroes). While recognizing that this material was decidedly concise, in hindsight I am surprised that the listings for Clea and Silver Surfer did not note their membership in the Defenders.

In contrast, however, I am not surprised by the other heroes who had appeared in issues of the Defenders yet weren't described as members. By and large, these characters did not regard themselves Defenders—even within the parameters of a non-team. For example, Thing and Mister Fantastic remained members of the Fantastic Four while assisting the Defenders. Even Hawkeye, who briefly considered himself one of the Defenders, did so largely to spite the Avengers.

With the exception of the Defenders for a Day (who will get their own post), here the entries for those heroes who appeared in the original series through 1982 and weren't referenced as Defenders in Contest of Champions.

(Dane Whitman, physicist) American descendant of Arthurian-age champion who wields the ebony blade of his ancestor, and rides a winged horse. Last seen in Twelfth Century Britain, but is known to be back in the present. Current whereabouts: Britain. Former member of the Avengers. First appearance: AVENGERS #48.

(T'Challa, tribal leader of Wakanda) Jungle-born African possessing great natural strength, agility, and heightened senses. Former member of the Avengers. Current whereabouts: Africa. First appearance: FANTASTIC FOUR #52.

(Steve Rogers, artist) Recipient of the Super-Soldier formula endowing him with great strength, agility, and stamina. Carries a shield. Member of the Avengers. Current whereabouts: New York City. First appearance: AVENGERS #4.

(No other name known) Sorceress from an alien dimension with minor mystic abilities. Current whereabouts: her home dimension. First appearance; STRANGE TALES #126.

(Matt Murdock, lawyer) Blind American with heightened senses and incredible agility and fighting prowess. Uses billy club as a weapon. Current whereabouts: New York City. First appearance: DAREDEVIL #1.

(Clint Barton, security chief) American who has mastered the art of archery and uses various trick arrows. Occasional member of the Avengers. Current whereabouts: New York vicinity. First appearance: TALES OF SUSPENSE #57.

(Reed Richards, scientist/adventurer) American possessing cosmic ray-derived power of super-malleability. Able to stretch any part of his body to great lengths and mold his pliant flesh into numerous shapes. One of the great intellects of the world, he is the leader of the Fantastic Four. Husband of the Invisible Girl. Current whereabouts: New York City. First appearance: FANTASTIC FOUR #1.

(Healther Douglas) American-born priestess of Titan, trained in the martial arts, telepathy, and psychokinesis. Daughter of Drax the Destroyer. Occasional member of the Avengers. Current whereabouts: vicinity of the Earth. First appearance (as Madame MacEvil): IRON MAN #54. First appearance (as Moondragon): DAREDEVIL #105.

(Marc Spector, mercenary; alias Jake Lockley, cab driver; Steven Grant, millionaire) American possessing great natural strength and agility and mastery of martial arts. Uses crescent-darts, a truncheon, and glider-cape. Current whereabouts: New York vicinity. First appearance: WEREWOLF BY NIGHT #32.

(Charles Xavier, headmaster) American mutant with the psionic powers of telepathy and astral projection. Founder of the X-Men. Confined to a wheelchair. Current whereabouts: Salem Center, New York. First appearance: X-MEN #1.

(Norrin Radd) Humanoid alien from Zenn-La with cosmic powers to rearrange molecules and shoot energy-blasts. Rides an idestructable flying surfboard. Former herald of Galactus. Current whereabouts: space. First appearance: FANTASTIC FOUR #48.

(Peter Parker, college student/freelance photographer) American possessing super-strength, super-reflexes, incredible agility, the ability to stick to virtually any surface, and a danger-detecting "spider-sense." Uses a chemical web-shooting device enabling him to swing from the rooftops entangle persons or things, and create simple objects such as shields and spheres. Current whereabouts: New York City. First appearance: AMAZING ADULT FANTASY #15.

(Benjamin Grimm, adventurer) American possessing super-strength and a rock-like epidermis making him impervious to virtually all harm. Member of the Fantastic Four. Current whereabouts: New York City. First appearance: FANTASTIC FOUR #1.

(Janet Van Dyne, heiress) American with the ability to shrink to insect-size and fly by means of surgically-implanted membrane-wings. Shoots a bio-electric "wasp's sting." Member of the Avengers. Ex-wife of Henry Pym (Yellowjacket), who concocted her powers. Current whereabouts: New York City. First appearance: TALES TO ASTONISH #44.

(Simon Williams, ex-industialist, aspiring actor) American possessing enormous strength and near-invulnerability. The chemical processes of his metabolism have been replaced by some strange form of energy. Former member of the Avengers. Current whereabouts: Hollywood, California. First appearance: AVENGERS #8.


(Johnny Blaze, motorcycle stunt rider) American who through sorcery became the host-body for a blazing skeletal demon who is abile to create objects out of mystic flame, project soul-scalding Hellfire, and is super-strong and nearly impervious to harm. First appearance MARVEL SPOTLIGHT #5. Reason for retirement: Blaze is no longer able to control the demon and force him to use his powers for good.

(Carol Danvers, ex-security agent, freelance writer) American who possessed ability to fly, super-strength, heightened reflexes, and a precognitive Seventh Sense. Former member of the Avengers. First appearance: MS. MARVEL #1. Reason for retirement: loss of powers.

(Henry Pym, biochemist) American who invented serum enabling him to reduce to insect-size. Used bioelectric "stings." Former husband to Janet Van Dyne (Wasp). First appearance (as Dr. Pym): TALES TO ASTONISH #27. First appearance (as Ant-Man): TALES TO ASTONISH #35. First appearance (as Giant-Man): TALES TO ASTONISH #49. First appearance (as Goliath): AVENGERS #28. First appearance (as Yellowjacket): AVENGERS #59. Reason for retirement: began criminal career.


(Real name unknown) A humanoid "organic robot" from an unspecified planet trained to be a perfect warrior. Possessed super-strength, enabling him to leap long distances, etc. Had empathic link with another organic robot, James-Michael Starling. First appearance OMEGA #1. Died from a gunshot wound in OMEGA #10.

Contest of Champions featured a list of Super Heroes of Other Worlds, Other Times included Prester John (pictured here in Defenders #11), as well as members of the Guardians of the Galaxy and Squadron Supreme.
Another section listed Quasi Heroes, including Alpha the Ultimate Mutant, Howard the Duck, Man-Thing, Nick Fury, and Rick Jones.

Saturday, April 10, 2021

Clea, the Mystic Maiden!

Defenders #53 included a back-up story that introduced Nicodemus, an ambitious villain with advanced technology and a powerful incantation to steal the magical energy of others. His longterm goal was to overpower Dr. Strange and claim the title of Sorcerer-King!

For his first target, Nicodemus ambushed Clea. But when Clean found herself mystically drained, she turned the tables on Nicodemus by knocking him out with her fist. The five-page tale gave Clea a rare chance to shine.

As for what happened next, Dr. Strange would confiscate Nicodemus' ancient tome, dismantle his machinery, and wipe his mind of any memories of what he had done. When the power-hungry villain returned just the same, Dr. Strange defeated him (Marvel Fanfare #5).

Defenders. Vol. 1. No. 53. Nov. 1977. "Clea, the Mystic Maiden!" Naomi Basner (script), Sandy Plunkett (pencils), Tony Salmons (inks), Joe Rosen (letters), Marie Severin (colors), Archie Goodwin (editor)
Defenders #54 included a back-up tale titled Fury Times 5! Additional back-up stories might have worked well given the non-team format of the team.

Thursday, March 11, 2021

Revisiting Red Guardian

The Incredible Hulk #250 included a dynamic page with Silver Surfer gliding through the sky, attracting the attention of heroes across the globe. The upper-left panel showcased the Soviet Super Soldiers, with Darksatar and Crimson Dynamo flying through the air. In the background, Red Guardian stood between Vanguard and (apparently) Ursa Major. The panel raised a question of continuity, as Ursa Major would receive his codename and join the Soviet Super Soldiers in #258-259; at the same time, Red Guardian continued to work alongside the Presence. Although a shoehorned explanation might suffice, the page could be taken symbolically, illustrating the international presence of superheroes, including many who would appear in The Contest of Champions.

The Incredible Hulk. Vol. 1. No. 250. August 1980. "Monsters!" Bill Mantlo and Sal Buscema; John Costanza (letters), G. Roussos (colors), Al Milgrom (editor), Jim Shooter (editor-in-chief).

Saturday, March 6, 2021

To Abin Sur, With Love

The Squadron Supreme had twelve active members when they fought the non-team in Defenders #113. The Squadron Supreme limited series that followed would reveal a former member of the Squadron: a Skrull who helped found the group. Adding to the decided parallels between the Squadron Supreme and the Justice Leage of America, the green-skinned Skrull was a nod to J'onn J'onzz, the Martian Manhunter.

That Skrull turned out to be a counterpart to another character from DC Comics as well. In presenting the origin of Dr. Spectrum, Squadron Supreme #4 showed how the hero received his Power Prism as a gift after saving the Skrull's life. The Skrull, therefore, was analogous not only to Martian Manhunter but also to Abin Sur, the dying extraterrestrial who gave Green Lantern his Power Ring. I admired the clever and economical storytelling in blending two DC characters into one character in the Squadron Supreme. As a fan of this version of the Squadron Supreme, I also enjoyed seeing any glipse into the early years of the team.

Tuesday, March 2, 2021

What if ... Thor Had Joined the Defenders?

Today's blog post takes inspiration from Marvel's classic series that asked, "What if…?" In that vein, I consider how a key decision in the formation of the Defenders might have unfolded differently.

On that fateful day when Dr. Strange formed the Defenders (Marvel Feature #1), Prince Namor was his first recruit. In need of a second ally with great physical strength, the sorcerer reluctantly selected the Hulk. Dr. Strange summoned the green goliath only because Silver Surfer was trapped on Earth and couldn't travel with them to another dimension, and because Dr. Strange presumed that Thor was unavailable. But what if Dr. Strange hadn't jumped to that conclusion? And what if Thor was indeed available? In other words, What if … Thor had joined the Defenders?

In this speculative timeline, Dr. Strange, Namor, and Thor would found the non-team. During their early adventures, the thunder god would prove as capable a Defender as the Hulk had been in the original published stories.

Without the Hulk, however, the events from Defenders #7 would play out differently. In the original story, Hawkeye tried to capture the Hulk and then accepted Valkyrie's offer to join the Defenders. (Valkyrie herself joined in Defenders #4.) Yet if Hulk had no ties to the Defenders, Hawkeye would not have met the non-team at that time, much less join them.

This change in lineup would affect the crossover event spanning Defenders #8-11; Avengers #115-118, when the two teams clashed. As originally published, Thor of the Avengers battled Hulk of the Defenders, while Iron Man of the Avengers squared off against Hawkeye of the Defenders. In this alternate version, Thor of the Defenders would battle Iron Man of the Avengers. In both versions, the teams would put their differences aside at the end of the story. Not everthing would balance out so evenly, however.

Nighthawk's membership into the Defenders (#13-14) would inevitably lead the non-team to meet Power Man and then battle the Wrecking Crew (#17-19). Here, fate would change irrevocably. The original story required Hulk to return to his alter ego as Bruce Banner and save the day by deactivating a dangerous Gamma Bomb. Unlike Banner, Thor's alter ego of Donald Blake was a physician, not a physicist. Without Bruce Banner's know-how, the Gamma Bomb would detonate and kill 20 million people. As a result, this story would end in tragedy, just like many tales published in the series What If…?

This panel with Dr. Strange and Bruce Banner comes from Defenders #19.

Saturday, February 27, 2021

Monstrous Alignments

The Defenders encountered their share of monsters. As such, recent posts about the alignment system from Dungeons & Dragons prompted me to look up the alignment of various creatures as described during the formative years of the game. In doing so, I consulted a softcover introductory rulebook for D&D (1974) and the hardcover Monster Manual (1977) for Advanced Dungeons & Dragons.

Although there was general agreement between the two publications, I was surprised to see different alignments listed for several monsters. With Aragorn in mind, I saw in the introductory rulebook that Pegasi were Lawful Good and served only Lawful Good characters. Meanwhile, the Monster Manual entry for Pegasus listed the winged horses as Chaotic Good and willing to serve characters of any good alignment.

While reflecting on Dracula, I found another example of varying interpretations of alignment. The Vampire entry from the introductory rules listed Lawful Evil as the monster's alignment while the corresponding Monster Manual entry began, "The most dreaded of the chaotic evil undead is the night-prowling vampire." These different perspectives about certain monsters showed the subjective nature of the alignment system, especially when describing those with nuanced or complex behavior. I imagine that I'll revisit the topic of alignment again with respect to the Defenders.

Saturday, February 20, 2021

The Timing of Rhyming

The Rhyme and Reason of Dr. Strange, one of the most popular posts on this fansite, looked at the sorcerer's use of rhyming verses when casting spells. Defenders #9 provided another example of Dr. Strange rhyming while spell-casting. The magician's rhymes, however, were not necessarily elegant. Take, for example, these magic words that Dr. Strange uttered in #72:

By Hoggoth's Hoary Hosts,
By the venerated ghosts,
Let the beasts awake again,
Let the wings be free of pain.

Hosts and ghosts surely rhyme—but the pronunciation of again does not typically rhyme with pain even though the spellings are similar. That being said, Dr. Strange's spells seemed to work whether or not they rhymed.

Friday, February 19, 2021

Turning Points and Trolls

On two occasions, the appearance of trolls marked turning points for the Defenders. The first instance came in Defenders #64, when Valkyrie entered a berserker rage while imagining that everyone around her was a fiendish troll. The frightening hallucination was a side effect of Valkyrie's internal conflict with the mind of Barbara Norriss. Afterward, Valkyrie journeyed to Asgard in a quest to regain her peace of mind and, eventually, her own Asgardian body.

Valkyrie and teammates eventually faced actual trolls in New Defenders #139. During this encounter, the monsters took a special interest in the Asgardian headband worn by Moondragon. As a form of punishment, the god Odin had placed the headband on Moondragon's head to limit her powers. Although Moondragon desperately wanted the headband removed, she telekinetically kept the trolls from prying it off her; Moondragon's resistance was driven out of concern that others might think she was as evil. With the trolls defeated, the magical headband serendipitously disappeared soon afterward, signifying that Moondragon demonstrated humility (at least for the time being).

This panel comes from Defenders #64.

Wednesday, February 10, 2021

Cover Versions: Power Man and Iron Fist

Power Man and Iron Fist #50 changed Luke Cage's solo series into an ongoing team-up with Danny Rand. From that point on, the cover art often appeared symmetrical, giving equal weight to both characters. A handful of examples appear below.

Cover art for Power Man and Iron Fist #101 pictures Colleen Wing and Misty Knight, recurring characters in the series.
The cover of #104 is a powerful example of imperfect symmetry.

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