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nickyank said on May 29th, 2011 at 7:07 pm

As far as I can remember, the New Defenders was not doing *too* bad sales wise, at least it was doing enough to carry on being published, except three of the main characters were being taken away to join X-Factor, which is the main reason for cancelling – a third X-Men book which promised huge sales, or a second tier Defenders title…

You also mention Nighthawk, who was a long serving member of the team, but I think he appeared in far less issues than either Valkyrie or Hellcat. In fact I’m pretty sure that Valkyrie was the longest serving member of the team in total, and much more of a Thor analogue than Hulk.

I do agree that the New Avengers has always been a Defenders lineup, but without the excellent characterisation and off beat stories provided by Gerber and Dematteis.

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The Eye said on May 29th, 2011 at 7:42 pm

Much of what made classic Defenders line-ups work though were the fact that other than Hulk and Doctor Strange most of the regulars were not appearing in other books at the time so more could be done with former headliners like Son of Satan, Beast, Devil-Slayer and Luke Cage, not to mention the characters that never held a title like Hellcat, Gargoyle, and Valkyrie; I’m not too sure a Defenders line-up containing Spider-Man, Wolverine & Hulk would be as interesting in this age with so much concern about what can happen to them outside their own titles.

One thing that struck me though is that when I read Gerber’s take on the Defenders I was able to see the seeds of both Giffen/Dematteis JLI-style goofiness (The Headmen arc) and Grant Morrison style Doom Patrol weirdness for weirdness sake(The Nebulon plot).

We’ve now had Giffen/Dematteis take a shot at a JLI-style comedic take on Defenders, if not Grant Morrison someone should take a shot a doing a Defenders title with a Doom Patrol feel: The misfits of the Marvel Universe engaged in battles with supernatural menaces that leads to stories that are absurdist, though sometimes for comedic effect, and sometimes for borderline horrific.

I’ll leave it to other people what line-up would work for such a title and who should be on it and whether or not it would sell…

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@The Eye: That’s actually a whole post in and of itself, the delicate balance that the writer of any team book has to strike between characters that have large fan followings (and their own series) that get people to buy the series, and characters that don’t have their own series and can therefore give the writers more flexibility in terms of storylines. It’s a constant, careful dance that the writer has to do to keep everybody happy, but it’s entirely separate from the question of whether the core concept for the book works.

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But what about the elves?

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I’d actually love to see Benedict Cumberbatch as Steven Strange. He strikes me as a little too slim and cerebral for Namor.

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The Defenders has long struck me as a concept in the wrong superhero universe.

The Avengers are already about as anti-social and counter-cultural as you could plausibly imagine a super team being. They have feuded and fought from the very beginning. Their roster has included reformed terrorists (i.e. Quicksilver, Scarlet Witch) from early on. Moving further along that spectrum is a dicey proposition.

However, DC has a very square super-team at its center in the JLA. The classic Big 7 line-up is a pretty harmonious group and most of its internal strife has seemed somewhat contrived.

Clearly, there is lots of room for a team of (relative) misfits in the DCU. You could even populate the roster with post-Marvel Kirby or Ditko characters.

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RichardAK said on May 30th, 2011 at 12:13 am

No offense, but didn’t you already write this essay? Didn’t you say pretty much the exact same thing when you did your story engine post for the Defenders over at fraggmented?

Speaking of which, when are you going to continue that series of essays? Those were really good; you did some genuinely insightful literary criticism, I thought, and that’s not such a common thing.

Personally, and this is just me, I would still like to see a story engine essay on Law & Order and Nexus too, if the latter is practicable.

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The Crazed Spruce said on May 30th, 2011 at 12:20 am

One of the many, many ideas I had but never got around to proposing to the comic companies was a series that I called “Urban Avengers” for about ten minutes, before I realised it worked much better as “The Defenders”. Basically, it would’ve kicked off with a multi-part story arc where Hydra basically waited ’til The Avengers, The Fantastic Four, The X-Men, and every other major group of heroes were all out of town on missions, capture all the unafilliated ones still in New York, then seal off Manhattan with a force field, in hopes to cripple the world’s economy by cutting off the ecomomic and social hub of North America. After breaking free, Spider-Man would lead a ragtag group of escaped heroes (including Nova, Daredevil, Black Widow, Luke Cage, Doctor Strange, and The Hulk) in a counterattack, joining up with two other teams: a group of retired heroes (including Valkyrie and Monica Rambeau (Photon)) who join in the fight to reclaim their city; and a gang of vigilantes (lead by The Punisher and Wolverine (who Nightcrawler managed to teleport through a weak spot in the force field before collapsing)), who take the fight to Hydra. In the end, they manage to retake the city and defeat Hydra, and many of them decide to remain a team, forming New York’s “last line of defense”.

While the first arc would be loaded with guest stars, the final roster (which would’ve been revealed around issue 5) would include Spider-Man (because everything that makes him so very wrong for the Avengers makes him absolutely perfect for the Defenders), Dr. Strange, Luke Cage, Black Widow, Valkyrie, Photon, Nova, and Speedball, with the other heroes from the first arc available as needed (though Spidey would “accidentally” lose Frank Castle’s number).

Man, I really shoulda put that proposal together….

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The Crazed Spruce said on May 30th, 2011 at 12:26 am

@Dean: Even though it was about 2/3 original characters, wasn’t that kinda the core concept behind The Outsiders? (If not, it’s a great concept for a reboot of the series.)

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I liked The Order version of The Defenders – the Hulk, Dr Strange, Silver Surfer and Namor (?) all get mind controlled and decide the best way to defend the world is to control it.

And then they are beaten by Nighthawk. Ah well.

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Gustopher said on May 30th, 2011 at 2:03 am

Luke Cage, the Hulk, Dr. Strange, and the reanimated corpse of Richard Nixon.

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Clearly, there is lots of room for a team of (relative) misfits in the DCU.

Yes. That’s why Justice League International and the Doom Patrol exist.

(Possibly the Metal Men and the Outsiders count as well.)

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@RichardAK: It’s sort of an “expanded and revised” version of that essay, incorporating some of the thoughts I had on Bendis’ post-Civil War direction for ‘New Avengers’. Which is a fancy way of saying, “Yeah, kinda.” :)

As to the actual Storytelling Engines series, it’s on indefinite hiatus due to lack of material. I did go through a lot of characters, y’know. :) I’ll probably do a few more entries in a few months when I pick up “Witching Hour v.1” and “Web of Spider-Man v.1” and “All-Star Comics v.1”, but I’m not promising anything. :)

@Dean: The Avengers might have bickered amongst themselves, but everyone on the team is at least trying to become a socially-accepted, idealistic super-hero. “Terrorists” like the Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver joined the team when they were trying to show the world they had reformed, and characters like Quasar and Captain Marvel joined in order to demonstrate to everyone that they were capable of playing in the big leagues…look, don’t make me “expand and revise” my Avengers essay. :)

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fsherman said on May 30th, 2011 at 10:30 am

I loathed Gerber’s Defenders run because I really liked Valkyrie (a female hero who got seriously angry and wasn’t treated as a hysterical fly-off-the-handle girl was refreshing back then) and he clearly hated her. I can only guess he had an editorial mandate to use her since he clearly didn’t want to: After making up a weakness (she can’t hit women!) he proceeded to have her run into women (including female robots–apparently that works too) pretty much every fight.
But I think the Defenders were less “anti social loners” than “informal”–no meetings, no monitor duty, just hang out at Strange’s manse and occasionally hit things.

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The funny thing is that I recently caught up with Abnett and Landing’s Cosmic Marvel stuff after Annihilation, so my first thought when I read this was “This sounds like the Annihilators team they put together.” A group of very powerful people, who don’t hate each other, but have other things on their plate, and have consciously said “We’re only getting together when there’s a threat so big we need to handle it. Otherwise, we tend to our own issues.”

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@ The Crazed Spruce:

DC has taken a pass at the concept a few times, but they never commit. The Outsiders had the Batman connection and most of the new characters were pretty square even by Silver Age JLA standards. The Justice League: Detroit had some counter-cultural characters (e.g. Vixen, Zatanna), but they were clearly subordinate.

@ Thok:

I’d say the Doom Patrol is very different. It has a pretty fixed roster and a fairly bleak POV. The Metal Men have a common origin, square personalities and are really more supporting players than leads.

The JLI certainly moved the Justice League concept, but I am not sure that it was really in the direction that I am talking about.

@ John Seavey

I’d hate to create work. 😉

The Lee-Kirby teams were all metaphors for real life settings. The Fantastic Four were a family. The X-Men were a school. The Avengers were like an office.

The folks behind the Defenders were younger and were, therefore, drawing younger metaphors. They more like a rock band. The group was loosely organized, counter-cultural and fractious.

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Mary Warner said on May 30th, 2011 at 4:05 pm

Have you read recent issues of New Avengers lately? When Jessica Jones was interviewing potential super-nannies, Nighthawk said ‘I don’t get it! You guys are clearly the Defenders, and yet you call yourselves the Avengers!’
Maybe they should just have the Avengers revoke Cage’s rights to their name, and then let his team call themselves the Defenders.

I’ve never understood why attempted Defenders relaunches always try to use the original team. That’s the worst version of the team there was, outside of the Secret Defenders.
As has been pointed out, the only ones of the originals who stuck around for very long were Strange and the Hulk, but despite his long history with the group, I don’t think the Hulk worked as a Defender. It felt to me like he was only there to boost sales.

The best Defenders was the last 50-some issues, by DeMatteis and then Gillis. Gillis is especially underrated.

If I got to create a new Defenders series, I would base the team around Valkyrie, Hellcat, and the Beast. There are lots of good characters that could be used, but those are the ones I would really want the most.

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Patrick Rawley said on May 30th, 2011 at 8:19 pm

I was a huge Defenders fan back when it mattered and I feel I must respond.

If Namor MUST be on a team, it’s the Invaders, not the Defenders. And certainly not the Avengers. The guy’s best pals with Dr Doom! He can’t be trusted! (He should also not be an X-Man. Ever.)

Likewise, the Hulk only ever fit on the Defenders. Bird-Nose and Sword-Girl and whatever he called Hellcat were the Hulk’s only real friends. He was never as big a liability as he should have been, though.

Dr Strange sucks AND YOU KNOW IT. Ditko cursed him and he should be only used by people who know what to do with him. Which no one does, because of the Curse of Steve Ditko. All he ever did was meditate anyway.

Nighthawk could have been useful but never was. His “weakness” (powerless in daylight – unless he wasn’t, for some reason) was lame, as were his powers. (“I can fly and shoot lasers from my artificial wings! Whee!”) He always struck me as whiny because he was.

Valkyrie … I dunno. She’s a feminist nightmare. Always was. Worse than Mankiller.

Hellcat was Patsy Walker and was the only character with any potential. When she got married to the Son of Satan, I lost interest.

I loved the fact that anybody who shared an adventure with the Defenders was automatically on the team. (Luke Cage? Moon Knight? Daredevil? Hawkeye? Howard the Duck? Okay, whatever.)

Beast, Iceman, Gargoyle, et al were definitely the Detroit League of the Defenders, which is just sad, really.

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R.A. Bartlett said on May 31st, 2011 at 4:33 am

I think the “big four” lineup could work as a movie, simply because getting them together would be less contrived for a movie or two than a monthly series. (Though by movie three, critics would be making these same remarks)

To be honest, I think in a way, the Avengers movie is a little bit road-less traveled in its material than people think. The big three have been part of the “big event” stuff, (And the Hulk, practically never) but Cap, Iron Man and Thor have been surprisingly sparse on a month-to-month basis until the Busiek years.

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Craig Oxbrow said on May 31st, 2011 at 5:17 pm

The “big four” Defenders would probably make more sense in the movies, where superheroes are relatively rare and when faced with earth-shattering danger Strange would need any allies he could find.

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@R.A. Bartlett and Craig Oxbrow: Good point. For a one-off movie, the original four works great. (Just as the original Defenders comic was meant to be a one-off special.)

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I think the main issue with a Defenders reboot is- what is the purpose of the team?

Lets face it, ‘super powerful jerk asses’ isn’t really needed (Annihilators), just ‘anti social jerks’ doesn’t work (Since even most of the anti social characters hang out with teams on a monthly basis), and ‘B/C list losers’ doesn’t work, because well, there’s already plenty of teams to fill that, you don’t need another one.

I think if they want a Defenders reboot, they have to give it a focus- and to me, Magic makes the most sense, as an otherwise unexplored part of the modern Marvel universe.

Strange is the ‘leader’ of the Defenders, the main guy. But with him no longer the Sorcerer Supreme, he could do with a team to handle magic threats, and won’t overpower everyone. There’s plenty of magic or Defenders related characters who could fit on a team. There’s a bunch of cool villains to do some big stories (Anyone who played Marvel vs Capcom 3 and doesn’t want Dormammu to show up for a big story?)

Just stay away from some of the traps with magic- using it as a DEM, making it *too* much the focus, or overusing overused concepts (Hello, Vampires!)

I think it just needs something similar to Annihilation – a big event that kicks things off, gets the team together. Sort of like Conquest led to the Guardians of Galaxy (actually, pretty much exactly like that). Just get someone who can write magic as something modern and ‘superhero-ey’, something like how Incredible Hercules handled the ‘gods’ side of things, or the feel of the Strange – The Doctor is Out mini.

Of course, what any idea like this really needs is support from Marvel. Give it publicity and support, and I think it can work.

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If Nighthawk was whiny, it may have been because he bit off more than he could chew: he had been a bad guy, reformed, and was pretty gung-ho about being a hero and making the Defenders a proper team. (At least, that’s how I remember him.)

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@Alexi: “I’d actually love to see Benedict Cumberbatch as Steven Strange. He strikes me as a little too slim and cerebral for Namor.”

Cumberbatch might have added some muscle for his recent stage role as Frankenstein’s monster. I couldn’t find any pictures, though.

I think Cumberbatch would be good for Namor because his face looks a little bit weird or alien sometimes. Not in a bad way. I can’t quite put my finger on it, exactly.

Plus I wouldn’t think of Namor as being really muscle-bound. A slender, streamlined shape would seem more appropriate, and Namor is probably the type who is stronger than his musculature would suggest. Because: not human.

If Cumberbatch wanted he could be the Ron Perlman, the go-to actor, for slender, slightly off-human superhero/science fiction characters. (Where Perlman is the guy for Hellboy, under-city lion men, and similar big ‘uns).

It’s kind of weird, though, how Cumberbatch seems to have rapidly become omnipresent for me, since his Sherlock came out. I even notice him turning up in older productions. He was in Four Lions as a cop, he’s in a BBC radio comedy about an airline, etc.

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