Thursday, December 07, 2006

Happy Anniversary to The Defenders

This month is the 35th anniversary of Marvel Comics super team The Defenders. They were first published in Marvel Feature #1 in December of 1971. They were billed as a non-group. The super team book for people who hate super team books. That last statement never made much sense to me but that is one way they were billed. While my heart for super teams belongs to the JLA and the Avengers I have a feeling if I were a superhero I would be more at home in the Defenders. When I was in high school I never fit in with jocks as I never cared much for sports. I tried out for football and basketball teams only because my friends did and it was something to do. I didn’t have the heart for sports and it showed so I never made the teams. I was asked to be the manager of our freshman basketball team. I guess Coach Davis figured since I was tall I would get better and make the team next year. However, I didn't even try out for the team after my Freshman year. Now in my school the more popular kids were the smart kids. While I was never dumb, it would have been a closer fit to be in this clique. But they were also more into partying then I was and therefore I really didn't fit into that group either. The group I wound up fitting into more was sort of a non-group like the Defenders. The guys and girls I ate lunch with and hung out with after school for a year or two were the ones who didn’t fit into the above mentioned cliques. As a result most of their personalities were close matches to mine at that time in my life. That is why I think I would have fit better into the Defenders. Namor and Hulk proved they would never fit into Fantastic Four or the Avengers. With Dr. Strange and company they were considered welcome additions. Like my group in school they welcomed any new members. Membership was very fluid in the Defenders.
It started with Dr. Strange, Namor and Hulk joining to fight a common evil. They agreed to a loose knit friendship and to join each other when ever called to fight evil. As time went on it seemed like almost every character in the Marvel universe had been a Defender at some point in their careers. When you ask two fans who the line up of the Defenders were you won’t get the same answer between them. They almost will certainly say Dr. Strange, Hulk and Sub-Mariner but the rest of the group is up for grabs. For me the others are Nighthawk and Valkyrie. The rest of the line up over the years was Silver Surfer, Hellcat, Luke Cage, Cela, Moondragon and others. By the time issue 152 came around the ride was over and the book was canceled. When the series ended even the three mainstays were gone. It’s members at the end were Valkyrie, Angel, Beast, Iceman and Gargoyle. The membership now made the book look like it was a spin off of the X-Men.
There seems to be renewed interest in The Defenders. In the past few years there have been new mini-series based on the group. I tried them but the fun was no longer there for me. It is nice to know they are fondly remember by others and I hope for new comic book fans they will be back on a regular basis. Till then you can buy the Essential Defenders and go to this Defenders message board.

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