Tuesday, June 3, 2014

If I Was In Charge...of the Defenders!

I don't know why, but for today's inspiration for an article to write, I find myself looking back through my archives for ideas I don't think I fleshed out well enough or feel need follow-up on.  Maybe something has changed since then, or I've learned something additional about the subject.

 Let's see here, what article would be good for follow-up...

My review of Iron Sky was viewed a lot, but sadly there's not much follow-up for a movie about Nazis hiding out on the moon.

I'm not really prepared to dig into another season of My Little Pony...

I haven't finished Venetica yet because, well, it's really, really not a good game once you get deeper into it...

Here we go, my countdown of who I'd put in the Avengers.  Huh.  I think I could do more with this idea.

So why don't we take a look at who I'd put on Marvel's definitive "non-team" team, The Defenders!

The thing about the Defenders is that it's essentially one big accident that needed Marvel to invent bigger "accidents" to follow.  (Actual quote from Steve Gerber, one of the writers of the title:  "We started out by accident.  Therefore we needed bigger and better accidents.")  The whole idea started with a short story involving Namor taking on a small nation (I believe this was after the Sub-Mariner's own title had been cancelled leaving this plot thread dangling in the wind) and, needing some big guns to help fight an entire country, wound up bringing along the Hulk and the Silver Surfer.

It was written, published, and forgotten about...until the letters flooded in.

So, not wanting to let a money-making idea drop, another Defenders story had to be whipped up, except the Silver Surfer wasn't an option any more.  So, instead, the writer looked for someone a) intelligent enough to lead the team and b) powerful enough to stand up to them and c) able to calm them when the two biggest hot-heads Marvel had would want to trade blows with each other.

Now, Dr. Strange's last book had been cancelled for a couple of years, and nobody else at the company really wanted anything to do with him, so he was scooped up and put into the title.  They had no idea if the fans would like it, and simply published the team (newly minted "The Defenders!") in Marvel Feature of all places.

Sales exploded.  Even before the title had finished its plan run with the team, they already knew the Defenders would have their own book coming out in a few months, they were that determined to strike while the iron was hot.

So, how do we keep a "non-team" book idea going?  Well, we have to look at some characters who don't really "fit in" with any other team.  If you can mesh really well with, say, the Avengers, you might not really have a place here.  If you've always had a home on the front lines of the X-Men, you probably need not apply.

If the only credit to your name is that you appeared in Micronauts or were part of the Crazy Sues, then we'll talk.

Oh, and just to get people really riled up, I'm going to establish this up front:

I didn't pick Dr. Strange, Hulk, Silver Surfer, or Namor.  Heck, I didn't even pick Defenders mainstays like Gargoyle, Son of Satan, or Luke Cage.

Needless to say, this is going to get interesting.

So, today let's look at my core four members, the ones who will be the focal point for the big story that gets everything started, but won't necessarily be tied down to the team (remember, this is a "non-team") allowing for the other "secondary" characters to have their moments to shine.

We're also going to keep the book down to twelve characters, because if Hickman's run on Avengers has taught me anything, it's that having too many characters means they get zero (or in some cases, an actual negative number) characterization.

1)  Valkyrie

Fun fact:  It might not be true any more, but as of the late 90's, early 2000's, Valkyrie had more appearances in a Defenders comic than any other character.

Valkyrie here seems to be the ultimate blend of Hawkeye, the Vision, and Victoria Silvstedt (because she's Scandinavian...get it?  No?  Nevermind).  She manages to take the role of the ultimate outsider (see: Vision), whose very nature makes her an outsider to humanity despite how much she's torn between both Earth and Asgard.  She's also the one person in existence willing to lay down her life for the idea of the team, not just to save her teammates lives.  She has devoted herself, in the past, 110% to being a Defender, including taking the orders of Asgard to recreate the Valkyries and saying "yeah, uh, no, I think I'll call them Defenders" instead.

For the record, her Fearless Defenders book is a joy to read, and really twists around a lot of the ideas of what it would take to be a noble warrior.

Oh, and she also punches as hard as the Thing, but looks a lot better doing it.

Oh, and in case you're wondering if she's a good, strong role model for girls?

Uh, yeah.  Probably.

2)  Nighthawk

Nighthawk is another "old school" member of the team, and he managed to take up a lot of the standard roles:

He was a character who started as a villain trying to redeem himself.
He wasn't as powerful as the other characters, and was always able to comment on just how amazing/messed up the situation was.
He was a leader in grooming, able to always be the Riker to whoever happened to be Picard that day.
Because he started out bad, he was always willing to not judge anybody else on a single action or behavior, acting as the glue between teammates at times.
He was rich and could afford to buy a base for everybody to hang out at sometimes.

Simply put, he was the reader's eyes and ears at the time, reacting the way most people would when faced with everything from trying to fight Gaea (yes, the goddess) or simply being faced with an evil genius whose brain was put into a baby deer.  No, seriously, that happened.

Comics be weird, ya'll.

Anyway, Nighthawk has the experience and skills to now lead the team, which might mean we'll need someone else better able to act as the "holy cow, is that seriously a talking deer?" mouthpiece of the reader.

3)  Gravity

Ladies and gentlemen, I present our "everyman."

Young Gravity here arrived in New York just long enough to develop an arch-enemy, die, come back in a plot that involved Galactus, go through Initiative training, and wind up kinda-sorta being part of a group of other characters who graduated the Initiative.

He's still young enough to screw up, though (such as the time he punched Rage because, well, Rage looks like a villain), and still gets overwhelmed at the scope of things that are happening.

He's a character with enough experience that he wouldn't be tripping over his own feet all the time, but new enough that when the Defenders do have to face a space alien who tries to conquer the world with hippie thoughts or face off against the Headsmen (guys who put their heads/minds into or onto other bodies, see: the deer), he'd be there to pause for a moment and go "wait, is this really happening?"

But while we have one powerhouse, a superb close combatant, and a young guy with control over a fundamental force of the universe...we still need someone who, when the team is squabbling or the threat is big enough, can simply once and for all put their foot down and make everybody shut up and start punching the big evildoer.

4)  Ghost Rider

Ghost Rider has never really fit in with the rest of the Marvel universe.  I've seen him pop up once or twice in Heroes For Hire, and he had a brief use in the Shadowland storyline that Daredevil was involved in, and he was a long-standing part of the Champions, but he's one of those characters who fluxes so much in his power level that you're never sure if he's really there to make Galactus flinch or if he's just going to scare the daylights out of some purse snatchers.

I've also never really been a big fan of the character, primarily because he was sequestered so deep in his own little corner of the Marvel universe, and every time I tried to get into it, I was pushed back out by so much stuff that I had no idea how to approach (this was before the Internet was a thing, you realize).

He is one of the most awesome character designs of all time, though.

Here, though, in a team of people who, by their very nature, "do not fit in anywhere else" and are not actually a team?

I think he'll fit in just nicely and be that perfect bridge to the darker, seedier side of the Marvel Universe that the Avengers can't always take the time to deal with.

So, that's our core four who most of the stories will center around, next up we'll bring in the other eight characters who...well, they aren't "guest-stars" but they aren't primary people.  They'll all have a chance to shine, but won't completely steal the spotlight.

Maybe it's because I think they can't possibly do much more than they have on the team they've been on, maybe it's because I think it's a crime that such a great character hasn't been used in any really great way, maybe it's someone that I (and probably only I) remember and want to see more of.

Needless to say, this is going to be the strangest team I've ever created, and I already used up Tagak the Leopard Lord.

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