Tuesday, December 20, 2011

It's too weird...call The Defenders





Last week, Dorkland did a blog post about The Defenders.  Inspired by this (don't let it get to your head, Chris), I wanted to offer a few thoughts on the book myself.

The Defenders harkens me back to the sunny days of my youth when the majority of what I read were Marvel Comics.  It's probably been since 2000 or so since I regularly read anything Marvel and there was a long era of abstinence before that point as well.  But I digress..

The comic book series concerned heroes who were outsiders with strong streaks of individuality.  This stood in stark contrast to The Avengers, who were most of the publisher's flagship characters at the time.  The Avengers had a headquarters, an organizational charter, government restrictions, and probably HR rules and a mission statement to boot.  The Defenders had none of this.  They were, as Marvel touted them, a "non-team" team of superheroes.

The first Defenders were formed in a crossover of Dr. Strange, the Hulk, and Namor the Sub-Mariner.  The three came together to stand against the threat of extra-dimensional beings called The Undying Ones. The good guys won of course.  In a subsequent story arc, Namor enlists the help of the Silver Surfer to fight a weather control experiment gone horribly awry.  Silver Surfer would then become a semi-regular in the series.  All of this can be found in Marvel's edition of Essential Defenders Vol. 1.  Also contained in that volume is one of my favorite issues, Defenders #2, "Nightmare on Bald Mountain."  It's a blatant homage to the work of H.P. Lovecraft and it's a true gem in comics.

Those I read in the Essential edition.  My true indoctrination to the team came when the roster was Hulk, Nighthawk, Hellcat, Valkyrie, and the occasional visit from Dr. Strange.  Since it was my first exposure, it also happens to be my favorite line-up and for no real better reason than that.  Somewhere out there, I'm sure there is someone who favorites the New Defenders line-up, which was basically X-Factor before that team came to be.

Speaking of taste, the storylines and opponents in The Defenders were usually supernatural and occult in nature.  In other words, things usually got really weird really fast.  That not being my prime interest in comics, I was not a regular buyer of the book.  I would pick it up whenever a) the cover grabbed me and b) there was not much else I wanted to buy with my comics allowance.  That said, it was typically a fun ride, even if I could only take it in small doses, and compared to Marvel's output of the past few decades, those issues were absolutely lucent. 

Marvel has recently relaunched a Defenders title.  Dorkland says it keeps the feel of the original series.  And it features Iron Fist as a team member.  Bonus!  Still, I just can't bring myself to rush off to the comics store and buy it.  Maybe one day but not too soon.  For now, I'm content with my classic issues, reliving the writing of Roy Thomas and Steve Gerber.


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