Dedicated to the definitive superhero non-team.


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.

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