Defenders #26 (Aug. 1975)
Writer: Steve Gerber
Artists: Sal Buscema, Vince Colletta
Karen: Is there any device more over-used in the science fiction genre than time travel? And yet, is there any device more fun than time travel? And time travel in superhero comics - well, that's like dipping your chocolate in peanut butter!
Doug: And we know that's good!! There are truly so many possibilities. That's why I love the Legion of Super-Heroes, and Kang the Conqueror. I'd also have to say that the arc in the Avengers with the Wild West heroes was a personal fave.
Karen: Same here. That's why Defenders 26 was one of those books I just ate up as a kid. We had superheroes, aliens, spaceships, time travel, a dystopian future - this was pure joy!
Doug: Yep. While I'm using the first Guardians of the Galaxy Premiere Hardcover for my resource here, I did have this arc off the spinner racks as a kid. Really fun story...
Karen: The Guardians of the Galaxy are a group of freedom fighters from a thousand years in the future, who have crashed on Earth circa 1975. The Defenders are trying to help them, but the presence of one of them -Major Vance Astro - is wreaking havoc with Earth's weather. It seems Astro, who is a one thousand year old astronaut from Earth, also exists as a young boy in this time, and as Dr. Strange explains, the presence of one person in two places at the same time is causing a disruption of the time stream. Now why this would affect weather is beyond me, but who cares, let's roll with it.
Doug: I got nothing... can't even offer a smart alleck comment on the weather. But it was an able plot vehicle. Beats a steady diet of that earthquake at the beginning, I guess. As a kid I recall being fascinated by the notion that Vance Astro could be a child and an adult at the same time in the same story. I guess I don't care for the idea that he'd grow up to become Justice. Now you're bordering on Kang's multiple personalities!
Karen: As it turns out, young Vance Astro has stumbled upon the Guardians' crashed spaceship, The Captain America (Astro is a big Cap fan). As part of the group works to effect repairs, the elder Astro gives little Vance, as well as Dr. Strange and Nighthawk, a history lesson about "his" planet (young Vance is kept in the dark about who the Major is). This must have come right from Gerber's heart, as we are told how the people of Major Astro's world went about destroying their ozone layer, thereby destroying much of their food supply, and causing massive wars to break out. It may be hard to understand today, but when I read this as a youngster, this all sounded incredibly plausible. Much as we worry about climate change today, environmental disaster was a looming menace way back when too.
Doug: I agree. I don't think my students have any idea how, as children their age (now doesn't that make me sound like an old man... "Back when I was your age...") we faced oil shortages and the threat of nuclear disaster or war. Those were troubled times indeed, and you're absolutely right about Gerber. He often if not always punctuated his stories with real life fears and concerns. I do find it humorous, however, to see science fiction that envisions certain events by a certain time. Man, I'm glad 1982 wasn't as bad as fatalist-Gerber saw it! He did write a great line, from Vance Astro late in the book: "No world's future is predestined... only its history is absolute!"
Doug: I love that the Guardians' ship is called The Captain America! And I loved that in the scene when young Vance disembarks the ship with Martinex, Dr. Strange recognizes right away that should a national guardsman accidentally fire and hit little Vance then all of history (really in two timelines) would be irreparably damaged. Great stuff, and a little hard for the mind to wrap around as well! Although long, Vance's "history lesson" was a really good read. Having read all of the Guardians' appearances prior to this one, I must commend Gerber for his presentation in this issue. It was the best by far, and really launched the team into another set of fine guest appearances in the pages of the Avengers.
Karen: Gerber does a nice job tying in another of Marvel's alternate histories by telling how the Martians attacked and were eventually driven back by a mysterious warrior known only as Killraven. After many years of strife, a united Earth develops genetic engineering that allows humanity to colonize the most inhospitable planets in the solar system. Two other Guardians are members of these sub-species: Martinex, a silicon man from Pluto and the group's resident scientist; and Charlie-27, a massive soldier from space stations orbiting Jupiter. The remaining Guardian, Yondu, is an actual alien, and a master of archery.
Doug: There's a little foreshadowing in the scene where the Federation of Earth is signing the treaty. One of the diplomats is of the same species as Nikki, who will be introduced in a later tale.
Karen: Yes, she would show up when the team got their own series in Marvel Presents. Unfortunately, just as things appear to be going great, the alien Badoon attack Earth and its colonies, killing the vast majority of the population and enslaving the rest. Hence, the formation of the Guardians.
Karen: The team actually first appeared in Marvel Super-Heroes #18 in 1969. They sat dormant for five years until Gerber decided to use them in Marvel Two-In-One and then here in Defenders. Our story ends with the two groups joining together on the repaired Captain America, ready to return to the Guardians' time and take on the Badoon invaders.
Doug: I've hyperlinked above to a review of Marvel Super-Heroes #18 that I did on our old blog. It was certainly a strange story by Arnold Drake with some far-out art by Gene Colan. Gerber's depiction of the Guardians here is much more to my liking.
Karen: I agree, I'm glad that the team's appearances were modified -it was a definite improvement. The Guardians were able to occupy a unique niche in the Marvel universe, and it was great fun to see them and the Defenders together. This is a well-crafted story that mostly serves as prologue to the next issue, where the real action begins. Sal Buscema does his usual solid work, but I would prefer to see a different inker on him than Colletta. I don't think his light style was all that suited to Sal's powerful pencils.
Doug: I agree that Sal was quite good, but I actually thought Vinnie did a stellar job. I especially thought he was good in the opening scene with Valkyrie and her "husband". While I agree that Colletta can be too light on the India ink, for me it worked here. I'll give you, though, that Vinnie's feathering didn't look good on Charlie-27 or the Hulk -- big guys need a heavier line.
Karen: Next time around, it's the dazzling debut of Starhawk!