Dedicated to the definitive superhero non-team.

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!"

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