Dedicated to the definitive superhero non-team.

Tuesday, June 27, 2023

Leadership Leanings

Before he began vying to lead the Defenders, Beast gained some practical experience in X-Men #137. During a showdown against the Imperial Guard, the mutant heroes split into two teams, with Beast leading Colossus, Storm and Wolverine. While Beast had demonstrated his ingenuity on plenty of occasions, this may have been his first time acting as a group leader.

Introduced in X-Men #107, the initial Imperial Guard consisted of thinly veiled stand-ins for the Legion of Superheroes from DC Comics. Not until #137 did the Imperial Guard add a handful of unique members.

This panel from X-Men #137 (Sept. 1980) shows the mutants' first encounter with Warstar, a symbiotic addition to the Imperial Guard.

Friday, June 23, 2023

Cat out of Hell

Hellcat #4, from the character's 2023 limited series, included a callback to Defenders #94 (April 1981). During the non-team's crusade against the Six-Fingered Hand, the demon Avarrish briefly transformed Hellcat into a devil-like monster. That frightful version of Hellcat stood in contrast to the happy-go-lucky veneer she long projected as Patsy Walker.

Wednesday, June 21, 2023

Orrgo the Unconquerable

Defenders #9-10 (Volume 2) featured the powerful extraterrestrial named Orrgo the Unconquerable! After briefly siding with the Headmen, however, Orrgo decided to depart from Earth. Orrgo promised that no one from his planet would return until humanity was destroyed by others—or had destroyed itself.

A version of Orrgo originally appeared in Strange Tales #90 (Nov. 1961). In that fateful tale, Orrgo exhibited vast control over mind and matter, eventually placing humankind in a mental trance. But Orrgo's actions had unintended consequences. A circus gorilla broke out of his cage after his hypnotized master neglected to feed him. Sensing that Orrgo was somehow responsible for the predicament, the enraged ape slew the extraterrestrial as he slept.

Saturday, June 17, 2023

Wonder Twin

It's easy to draw comparisons between Sub-Mariner and Aquaman from DC Comics. But Sub-Mariner had another counterpart among the Super Friends. With pointed ears and black hair, Zan of the Wonder Twins physically resembled the Sub-Mariner.

Zan and sister Jayna made their debut in 1977 on The All-New Super Friends Hour. The two teens from the planet Exxor joined the ranks of Superman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, Batman and Robin. While Jayna could take the shape of animals, Zan could become various forms of water, including steam and ice objects. The aquatic nature of his powers strengthened Zan's similarities to Sub-Mariner. In terms of personality, however, the even-keeled Zan had little in common with the boastful Prince of Atlantis.

Thursday, June 15, 2023


When the Defenders faced the villain Mandrill, he led an army of women called the Fem-Force (Defenders #90-91). Mandrill's first female ally, however, was Nekra. Born with chalk-white skin and fangs, Nekra's vampire-like appearance made her an outcast since childhood. As a mutant power, Nekra gained invulnerability and superhuman strength when she felt hate—similar to the way the Hulk became more powerful when angry.

Soon after splitting from Mandrill, Nekra found an enemy in Spider-Woman. In contrast to Mandrill, whose mutant pheromones could allure women, Spider-Woman produced alarm pheromones that made others ill at ease. She received this medical diagnosis—a secret side effect of her spider powers—in her civilian identity as Jessica Drew. Ironically, Spider-Woman's pheromones had an inverse effect on Nekra, inducing in Nekra a sense of trust, which reminded her of Mandrill, which thereby intensified her hatred (Spider-Woman #16).

Nekra's original entry from The Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe noted that she could lift (press) about 10 tons at peak strength.

Friday, June 9, 2023

Sunken Continents

During the early years of the Silver Age, Atlas/Marvel Comics published a variety of stories about Atlantis. For instance, Journey into Mystery #63 (Dec. 1960) introduced Goliath, who came from the sunken continent to conquer land-dwellers. But Goliath soon retreated to Atlantis after humans tricked him into thinking that enormous extraterrestrials were invading Earth's surface.

Other creative tales of Atlantis appeared in the issues below:

The return of Golden Age hero Sub-Mariner in Fantastic Four #4 (May 1962) codified his Atlantean heritage within Marvel Comics. Adjusting for continuity a decade later, Where Monsters Dwell #10 (July 1971) retold the story of the aquatic goliath from Journey into Mystery #63, this time changing the sunken continent to Mu and renaming the would-be conquerer Gigantus (thereby avoiding confusion with the superhero Goliath).


Wednesday, June 7, 2023

What Worried Wertham?

For the fourth consecutive year, I decided to reread and blog about Seduction of the Innocent, Fredric Wertham's influential tome attacking the comic book industry. One argument that I previously overlooked was Wertham's belief that the abundance of illustrations within comic books stifled the imagination, as evidenced by children reproducing graphic images from comic books in their own drawings.

In Wertham's opinion as a psychiatrist, comic books lacked the constructive escapism often found in fairy tales. He cited reports of boys hurting themselves by leaping from high places while pretending to be superheroes. He added that even comic books extolling the dangers of drug addiction invariably taught children how to use heroin and other narcotics. Such hazards, according to Wertham, were compounded because comic books were themselves habit-forming. At the time of his writing in 1954, approximately 90 million comic books sold each month in the United States.

While conceding that other factors might also contribute to juvenile delinquency, Wertham cautioned adults against underestimating the negative impact of comics. The following excerpt from Seduction of the Innocent comes from the closing paragraph of Chapter II:


Once in the waiting room of the Clinic I saw a little boy crouched over a comic book, oblivious to everything around him. In passing I could see the title of this story he was reading. Big capitals spelled out T A R Z A N. Surely, I thought, the adventures of Tarzan are harmless enough for juveniles of any age. But I was misled, as many parents no doubt are. … Tarzan was not the whole title of the story I had seen the boy in the waiting room reading. There was a subtitle "The Wyoming Killer" and two other headings, "From Police Files" and "A True Crime Story." The story was not about Tarzan, but about a hero who robbed a bank and shot five men to death.

Over the past century, several companies did publish comic books based on the Tarzan novels of Edgar Rice Burroughs. Marvel's monthly Tarzan series ran 1977-79.