Dedicated to the definitive superhero non-team.

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.

Friday, February 5, 2021

Lawful Good: Tom Thumb

Tom Thumb, resident inventor of the Squadron Supreme, played a pivotal role in bringing forth the Utopia Program on the Squadron's homeworld. Tom's most notable invention was a behavior modification machine designed to rehabilitate criminals by conditioning them to detest illegal thoughts … essentially compelling them to act in accordance of the Lawful Good alignment from Dungeons & Dragons. The behavior modification machine, along with other aspects of the Utopia Program, invited criticism for encroaching on civil liberties.

After developing cancer, Tom Thumb traveled to the 40th century to steal a Panacea Potion from the Scarlet Centurion, only to find upon returning home that the fabled cure was nothing more than penicillin and a few complex vitamins. Before his death, the conflicted hero regretted compromising his principles out of desperation (Squadron Supreme #9). Tom Thumb was an example of a character who extolled the virtues of Lawful Good despite deviating from that alignment.

  Lawful Good    Neutral Good    Chaotic Good  
  Lawful Neutral    True Neutral    Chaotic Neutral  
  Lawful Evil    Neutral Evil    Chaotic Evil  
This panel from Squadron Supreme #10 recalls when Tom Thumb joined the team. On a surface level, Tom Thumb's below-average height was reminiscent of the DC hero Atom (as the Squadron was an homage to the Justice League of America). Unlike Atom, however, Tom Thumb did not have the power to change size. Rather, Tom Thumb's aptitude as an inventor earned him a unique place in the Squadron.

Tuesday, February 2, 2021

Chaotic Good: El Aguila

First appearing in Power Man and Iron Fist #58, the vigilante El Águila became a recurring character in the series. Also called the Eagle (translated from Spanish), the swashbuckling character combatted various forms of injustice—from street crime to police brutality (putting him at odds with law enforcement). By following his conscience and maintaining his independence, El Águila embodied the Chaotic Good alignment from Dungeons & Dragons. He even turned down an offer to join Heroes for Hire because he felt some of their clients were unscrupulous.

  Lawful Good    Neutral Good    Chaotic Good  
  Lawful Neutral    True Neutral    Chaotic Neutral  
  Lawful Evil    Neutral Evil    Chaotic Evil  
This image of El Águila comes from The Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe.