Sunday, March 18, 2012

Discuss: Whatever the 1st Commenter Says We Should Discuss!

Doug: Veterans of this site know we've from time-to-time thrown open the doors of the Open Forum for our users' use. Today it's "Discuss". First one in -- give us a word or short phrase (character name, comic-related topic, genre-sort-of-thing, whatever) that we can chew on today. If you want a list of things we've already talked about in this feature, you can check out this link.


Anonymous said...

not sure if this fits in with the remit of the site, or not, but how about the tendency of modern writers to throw the baby out with the bath water when "revitalising" tried & trusted concepts/heroes. I'm thinking, specifically, of the NEW52 relaunch of one of my all-time favourite superheroes as a cowl-wearing, teeth-gritting, darkly menacing 90's-style anti-good guy. yep, I'm talking, specifically, about the what-would-appear-to-be-a-travesty that is Captain Marvel, or rather: Shazam, as he's called now. because, obviously, modern comic readers are too bleeding stupid to suss out that the name's Captain marvel, and Shazam's the magic word. & remember, kids: now it's The CURSE of Shazam. that's right. he's cursed.


david_b said...

The Defenders

Faorite line-up..?

Didyou like the original idea of simply giving a team book to a bunch of loners..? How did it change with different writers..?

Favorite Story arcs..?

Favorite writers, did you prefer Englehart or Gerber and why..?

Dougie said...

I started following the book with "Nighthawk's Brain" and have a real fondness for the Red Guardian: a Russian lady Captain America who was a neurosurgeon by day! My favourite line-up was in issue 50, even though Moon Knight and Nighthawk had virtually the same abilities. My favourite run, however, would probably be Wein and Sal Buscema. To me, that's the quintessence of Bronze Age Marvel.While I liked the way Englehart put a psychedelic spin on Stan, Jack and Roy, I felt he was better on Avengers.

Dukie said...

The Defenders hold a special place in my heart as the first "real" Marvel Comics I ever had was issue #18 of Rampage from Marvel UK which a Brit kid gave me.

He was on holidays in my home town and had this amazing stack of Marvel and DC comics some of which I'd never heard about like Mr Miracle, he wanted to give me issue #1 of Star Wars - no less - but when I saw the Defenders ( with Power Man ) all lying unconscious ( including the Hulk!) in front of a triumphant Wrecking crew I flipped and pointed at it.

This one as you know holds what I consider quintessential Sal Buscema
with the panel where the Hulk confronts Thundrbolt and ends up shattering his bolt out of sheer cold rage.

You can see its cover here right now:

However I still never had read the full run but still remember highly enjoying episodes 46-50 which I read in French editions and where they fight the Zodiac.

I consider owing it to mys3elf to read the full run these days but right now I am going through the full Champions run ( talking about "non-groups" ) :-)

Inkstained Wretch said...

Subject: Defnders, the original non-team.

Favorite line-up: For me the core of the group was always Dr. Strange, the Hulk and the Valkyrie. Nighthawk, Hellcat and Luke Cage were always welcome additions too.

Oh, and Howard the Duck should have been a regular member of the team too, in my humble opinion. I like to imagine Nighthawk putting him in charge of PR for the team: "We have no comment on the reports of a giant green monster destroying that downtown block, waaah!"

I haven't really read many of the original stories with the Submariner and the Silver Surfer so I cannot judge them, but you gotta love a team where Namor is the weakest (!) member.

Original idea or evolving cast?: I didn't like it once the they moved Dr. Strange out. By that point it seemed to have drifted too far from the original concept and became the essence of a generic superhero team-up book.

Favorite story arcs: That whole run from about #29-45 with the Headmen, Nebulon and the Red Rajah is brilliant.

Favorite writers: Well, see above. Steve Gerber defined the title for me with a nice blend of straight-up superheroics and quirky, off-beat stuff. I like the David Kraft issues that followed his run too.

You didn't ask but I'm gonna tell you anyway - Favorite artist team: Sal Buscema's pencils inked by Klaus Janson. That's some beautiful stuff there. I also really like Keith Giffen's early work on the title. He's clearly aping Kirby, but that is not a bad thing.

Redartz said...

Although I enjoyed Englehart, Wein and Dave Kraft on the Defenders, Steve Gerber's run was my favorite. Loved the sheer strangeness of the stories; the Headmen particularly. Always wondered what Gerber had planned for that elf with a gun...

Dougie, I agree about the Red Gaurdian. She was much more interesting than the male character who preceded her. In the Defenders, the side characters were as interesting as the main cast. Lunatik was another of these; he seemed to drive Valkyrie to distraction.

I was glad to see Marvel recently revived this title. Has anyone given the new book a look/

Anonymous said...

love the early defenders. my favorite line-up is dr. strange, sub-mariner, hulk, and valkyrie. i also like those "prelude" stories by roy thomas in various solo titles before there really was a "defenders.". and for my money, the underrated sal buscema is the ultimate defenders artist.

--matt alias anonymous

Anonymous said...

Favorite Defenders line up was from the all-to-short Englehart era. Doc, Hulk, Subby, and Val (with support from the Surfer, Clea & Wong) was the best.Bringing in Hawkeye and the whole Avengers VS Defenders war was non-essential and, IMHO, after the excellent issue #11 the book never recovered.The first thing Len Wein did was to get rid of Subby (bad move)just in time for Subby's book to get canceled two months later. Nighthawk brought a flawed, failed, everyman perspective that allowed for directions like Gerber's, but, I believe, sent the title irrevicably off track from Roy's original (and Excellent IMHO) conception of extremely powerful strange-bedfellow,Defenders of the Earth. I never thought the Gerber stuff worked for the original core characters. The later Tunnelworld epic could have been great if they ould have had the right inker for some of Trimpe's weakest work. Following that,I echo tenfold all the things that have been said about Don Perlin on this blog....pure torture and (like Werewolf By Night) an all-too-slow death to a once-great title.

Doug said...

Happy Sunday, friends!

For some unknown reason, the very first (temporally speaking) comment on today's Discuss! was put into the spam folder. I noticed it right away, but was not able to get this righted until now. So, the Defenders discussion (which is very good, by the way) is certainly free to continue, but if anyone feels like getting a periphery conversation going on what is now the first comment (see above), then by all means have at it.

Thanks to anonymous and to david_b for leading us today!


Fred W. Hill said...

My first issue of the Defenders was #4, with Valkyrie becoming a member, although I had comics with ads for the first Defenders story in Marvel Feature, with that dynamic cover by Neal Adams. It became one of my favorites right away, especially when just a few months later the Avengers/ Defenders clash started. So I did love Englehart's run on the title, and I enjoyed Len Wein's brief run too. Admittedly it took me a few issues to warm up to Gerber's tenure, but definitely with the first issue of the Guardian's of the Galaxy story I was hooked (that was the first regular-size issue as at the time I either didn't see the Giant-Size issues on the racks, or most times when I did I couldn't afford them!). Gerber became by far my favorite writer on the book and I enjoyed the various brief additions to the core team of Dr. Strange, Hulk, Val and Kyle. Conway's brief run was rather bleh and while I liked David Kraft's Scorpio story, I wasn't too keen on his other stories. After issue #50, the Defenders became one of those titles I was collecting more out of habit than enjoyment until I finally realized how nonsensical that was. But I still regard Gerber's Headsmen/Nebulon story as a great offbeat classic.

Rip Jagger said...

I'm a big fan of the original Big Three, but the flavor of the strip did sharpen when Valkyrie and Nighthawk were added to the blend. The Hulk got a bit hard to deal with and apparently Namor wasn't a writer fave, so he disappeared. I'd have preferred more of him and less of the Hulk, but given there was a whole TV show that wasn't really an option.

Englehart's team is my fave. And I always think of Sal Buscema when I think of the artwork for this series, despite Don Perlin's long and noble service.

Rip Off

david_b said...

Thanks for the info, Doug. Hope folks don't mind, but typically with my work schedule, plus a military guy for 26+yrs and a farmer's son, I'm used to being up and going by 5-6am each day (even weekends..). I sat for an hour, then waited more, then more, so I finally thought, 'Oh heck, I JUST got the Defender's Masterworks Volume 1 and was so excited with the stories that I had to finally chime in.'

Please accept my apologies, Anonymous, whoever you are..

Anywho, arguably this is the first team (yes I know, non-team) in the Bronze Age, if by popular consent that Gwen's death harkened this brave new age. I've come to appreciate the strategy more and more, with characters having lost their titles to come together, and provide a venue for cleaning up old storylines from their respective (and other) titles.

If you haven't picked it up yet, GET IT. Both Roy Thomas and Steve Englehart share their thoughts over 3-4 pages each and provide some great details regarding the birth of this title. Very insightful.

While I love Englehart, one pick against him was morphing Dr. Strange into more a straight, generic hero during his tenure, losing the original flavor of Strange's mystique.

My favorite arc will always be the Avengers/Defenders Clash, but loved when Hank Pym joined for a few issues. I remember him mentioning somewhere that he preferred being a Defender since it gave him more free-time.

Except for adding power during the team clash, I never really saw much use for Silver Surfer in the book.. It just seemed like they were layered with too many 'all powerful' members for much believable villain potential.

Just reading his origin again, I liked out Stephen Strange was moved up to leader. After reading in FF how he brought down Galactus pretty much all by himself.., he's arguably the most powerful of all.

Anthony said...

It's very interesting what David B said about Dr. Strange in The Defenders.

Englehart had this to say on his site :

When I'd first encountered Stephen Strange in THE DEFENDERS, I'd written him basically as a superhero who shot rays out of his palms. When I took on his solo series, I decided I should learn a little about actual magick - and it led to a continuing interest in the subject.

david_b said...

Yes, Steve E. echoed pretty much the same thing in his comments in the Defenders Masterworks. He started learning more about mysticism later on.

Agreeing with what Dougie mentioned, Steve was better at writing more-straight heroes like on Avengers and CA&F.

The non-team definitely became a more unified front under Steve and Sal, which made for 'clean, straightforward' stories, but one potential that was lost was the inevitable infighting when you bring as many temperamental super-powers together.

Also, forgot to mention before, but adding Hawkeye to the team made such an awesome idea, adding a nice layer of resentment into the '73 summer team clash. I wish he would have come back on occasions since.

Edo Bosnar said...

My favorite Defenders line-up, or the characters I feel are core, is: Dr. Strange, Nighthawk, Valkyrie and Hulk; with others like Clea, Hellcat, Subby, Luke Cage as well as guests from other teams like the FF (Thing) or Avengers (Hawkeye, Yellowjacket...) making guest appearances.
My favorite story arcs are the Sons of the Serpent, Guardians of the Galaxy and Scorpio, but to be honest, I like everything from issues 1-50 (plus the 3 Marvel Feature issues, the Giant Sizes and Annual). I can't say anything too bad about the post-50 material, as that was when I actually started reading the title (I only read that earlier stuff later); however, I pretty much stopped reading soon after issue 100 - the series really seemed to have lost its way after that.
I definitely prefer Gerber over any other Defenders writer; he just really made that series his own. And yes, I agree with several others above that Sal Buscema was the premiere Defenders artist.

Dougie said...

Any thoughts on the New Defenders? I never cared for Isaac the Gargoyle but I always liked Moondragon.

Inkstained Wretch said...


Regarding the "New Defenders" I never cared much for them. I had a hard time getting past the fact that it was so far removed from the original concept. To me that era had the look and feel of a TV series that had run on long past its prime and had almost none of the original cast members remaining.

Making it essentially an X-Men reunion book also turned me off. This was right around the time they were starting to completely overexpose the X-Men and I, fairly or not, viewed the New Defenders as yet another attempt by Marvel to squeeze more out of the X-franchise.

I imagine some suits sitting around a table saying: "OK, let's take these X-Men characters we're not using and put'em in the Defenders since we were going to cancel that one anyway. Maybe that'll revive it. Jim, you talk Claremont into doing some crossovers."

All that said, I never really gave the series a chance. Maybe it was better than I figured at the time. Any opinions, fellow Bronze Age fans?

humanbelly said...

Man, I stayed with the Defenders all the way through. I think I may be missing Marvel Feature #1, and that's it. It's kinda nice to see my personal (and generally unvoiced) take on the book echoed so often in this thread-!

I do think the whole "non-team" concept was even officially discarded at about the time Nighthawk took on the reins as more of the team leader-- getting them a headquarters, and all the usual superteam trappings. And this was so truly generated by his character that there was no reason to not take it in stride. And in fact, I think the letters pages may have even taken the book to task every so often about the literal absurdity of calling an obvious TEAM a "non-team". It's the kind of thing that sounds cool & non-conformist--- but doesn't hold up at all under any kind of scrutiny.

You will NEVER hear me say a word against Sal Buscema. . . ever. Over his career, the man took conscious, constant pains to improve and expand his artistic style and exploring new techniques. And I don't think he ever turned in a bad inking job. The Hulk, of course, was his boy-- but the Defenders were his team. And honestly, could Gerber's off-the-wall bozo/headman/nebulon storylines have worked without SB's absolutely straightforward, faithful pencils? Not a hint of irony or judgment in the art-- simply rendering what the writer was asking for.

I kind of found that ragtag later team interesting (minus the too-much-xmen factor), but I don't think there was a solid chance to develop them, and the art had crashed and burned for far too long.


Fantastic Four Fan 4ever said...

As far as the Defenders are concerned my favorite line up was with Dr. Strange, Hulk, Sub-Mariner, Silver Surfer. I bought the first Defenders Essencials edition and it brought back a lot of memories. As far as the Gerber/Bozo plotline, that's when they lost me. It went from being a super team to being a team that fights the super natural. The villians looked like they came from a drug induced dream. I don't know if was intentional on Gerber's part. The whole book lost it's appeal for me after the first twenty five issues. I wish they were with the same line up. As soon as Subby and Surfer left, it wasn't the same.

Edo Bosnar said...

Re: New Defenders - I picked up a few issues when this change was made just out of curiosity. Thought it was pretty awful - Defenders leftovers, plus old X-men leftovers, plus Moondragon. Not that I don't like Valkyrie, or Beast, or even Moondragon, but the whole concept just did not work for me.

Anonymous said...

Re the Defenders, I never really read the series regularly, so I never had a favorite line-up or story arc. I did tend to think of Dr. Strange, the Hulk, and Sub-Mariner as the original or core group. And I also thought it was pretentious to hype them as a "non-team" long after they obviously were just as much a formal team as the FF or X-Men. Re the original comment, I agree about the baby and bathwater when rebooting and updating characters. Evidently, most comics writers are paranoid and neurotic, judging by their need for every major character to be a grim psychopath.

david_b said...

If you look at this team pre- vs post-Avengers Clash, you'll notice a change in direction based on this 'world disaster event'.., as we've seen with other teams and titles.

Change based on some climatic event happens.

Having the Defenders actually becoming a team wasn't too bad a move, since I liked folks like Cage, Nighthawk and Hawkeye taking turns on the team but yes, I do miss the original intent as well..

I liked both flavors.

cease ill said...

Well take a couple of days away from the 'Net and miss a discussion of the Dynamic Defenders at your peril!! I still have most of Thomas, Englehart and Wein's versions left to read, but when I discovered Gerber's issues (courtesy of Plok's A Trout in the Milk blog), my eyes opened to a one-of-a-kind template (if that's the word) for strange, individualistic, satirically-flavored derring-do like nothing else before it. The satire was never a vicious take-down of the superheroes; that, he saved for poking at various social trends (what a brilliant self-help parody!) while making his heroes refreshingly human. Hulk's encounter with the little girl in #21, Stephen and Wong hosting everyone at the Sanctum (the only scene with a TV there in memory), Val's identity crisis, and Kyle, of course, taking us on a tour of his disembodied brain! All I can say is, without Gerber, the Val subplot diminished, and we never got a good follow-up on Kyle's newly-opened eyes (to his business world influence) nor his new awareness after his bizarre surgery.

Just-glanced potentials: Luke Cage working alongside the Red Guardian; Yellowjacket as a recurrent Defender; and later, Val as a college student (Kraft just didn't have much space!).

#61, with Spider-Man, was my first issue, from the salvage store, and I just loved it all out of proportion with its actual quality; flirty Hellcat really appealed to me! And check out the weird sideshow of the Presence encountering Tanya in the Forbidden Zone---no double entendres intended.

Finally, because of a friend's nostalgia for Devil-Slayer and the Six Fingered Hand, I dug up a decent run around 1980. Like the Xenogenesis trilogy, the villain's ends were just not very clear---but the potential and the quirky characters are inspirational.

"Who Remembers Scorpio?" Just about everyone who's checked out #46-50!!! If ONLY a villain of that complexity and skewed humanity could've popped up could've popped up more often! You notice not many Defenders villains really became household names, and almost all of them were borrowed, at that---a perfect book of Marvel's leftovers.

I could REALLY do this all day---but I DID that, once---and you can enjoy the fruits of my labor (I'll spare you the book plug) after you've cleaned up your plate here at Bronze Age Babies--- my new joy d'vivre blog stop!
Kyle's strange story's chronicled he-yah:

Keep it rolling, Karen and Doug!

cease ill said...

So...anyone notice all the superheroes who were first Defenders wore no masks? Until the villain Nighthawk comes along and joins their side, none of the Defenders were masked---Hellcat's the next one, but generally speaking, Defenders were rarely masked superheroes. Red Guardian: officially a Defender? Well, who WAS? She was the second masked Defender if you count this special guest. I have to agree with the assessment that her adventures in the Soviet Union would've been deeply interesting, had that been commercially and artistically viable.

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