Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Comics: Remembering the Defenders, pt. 2

I think my favorite Defenders are (in no particular order): Hellcat, Nighthawk, Valkyrie and Gargoyle. I'm not sure why, but it seemed like Patsy and Kyle (that's Hellcat and Nighthawk) really seemed to want to be there. Neither of them were really doing much else at the time and hanging out with other superheroes just seemed to be a natural activity for them. Kind of the way firefighters hang out -- even if they're from different stations might gravitate toward each other because they have a shared language and background.

Nighthawk was, for a time, the glue that held the team together. He had the money and provided the resources that the team needed to hang out, including a place for Valkyrie to keep her flying horse, Aragorn. The Richmond Riding Academy even served as their hang-out for a while, giving them one of the more unusual bases of the various Marvel super teams (mansions and sky-scrapers were the usual fare for the extremely urbane heroes of NYC. Update

I pulled my Defenders comics out of their longbox for this article so that I could do a quick review of what I had and was very pleased at how quickly I was able to enter the comics into the Comic Collector database.

I have a run of 109 issues, from Defenders #44 - 152. I also have 18 of the previous issues, including small runs here and there with a lot of covers missing on those very early issues. I also have Defenders #1 & #2. I picked those up a few years back when a comic book store went out of business. I don't remember what I paid for them, but I do know it was well under the price stickers on the two books, $45 and $13, respectively. I'd be surprised if I pad more than $15 for the pair of them.

So, all in all, I have 127 of the Defenders comics and I was able to enter them into the system in about 10 minutes. Most of that time was spent double checking issue numbers and be very precise on which issues were missing (as I told you before in a previous post, I'm a notorious double and triple bagger -- I will put multiple comics in a single bag, so sometimes I had to open the bag to be sure of what's in it). Doing the math, that means I've 83% of this series. Not bad. Now that I know what issues I'm missing, maybe I can hit a sale and fill them in.

My first letter printed in a comic book was probably Defenders #79, Jan 1980. Not a great letter, but it was my first. I was pretty inspired to write because the change in writing which brought in a controversial change that brought back the Foolkiller as a character. I was very pleased with myself and I took it to school to show some buddies; the school newspaper even did a short story on it. It was pretty cool. Of course, the comic got beat up by being handled by other people, so I had to go out and buy another copy. This may have been the first time I've bought multiple copies of a comic that my letter appeared in, but it wasn't the last. All in all, I believe I've had letters appear in seven different comics.

Remind me to tell you about them sometime!

This issue was written by Ed Hannigan and I really enjoyed what he did with the series (ignore my rantings in the letter -- his work grew on me). I particularly enjoyed his Tunnelworld stories. This was a magic dimension on the inside of a giant... well, cigar-shaped hollow rock. It was long, tapered at the ends, and the entire world existed inside it, sort of like a ring world or Dyson Sphere, but shaped like a tunnel. I was really into all things Tolkien at that time, so this was a neat treat. It had mystic creatures like the Sputs (kind of a cross between dwarfs and halflings). I'm going to go back and reread those issues because I really enjoyed the mixture of superheroes in such a strongly defined fantasy setting.

The Not-Quiet-Sorceress Supreme
Doctor Strange wasn't always available to work with the Defenders, so oftentimes his girlfriend/disciple Clea would fill in and provide the mystic power the team needed. In that she wasn't nearly as powerful as Stephen, she wasn't there to be the deus ex machina that the Sorcerer Supreme could be. I recall that she traveled to Tunnelworld with Nighthawk, Valkyrie and Hellcat (and possibly some other heroes -- it has been a few decades since I last read this stuff).

Click here to read a cool
article about Tunnelworld.
Two things I remember from this storyline (if not exactly the issue listed above), and those would be that because the world was in a tunnel (it's a magical dimension, so you can quit worrying about applying your Mythbuster skills to its ecology) so that it was possible to fly straight up and, eventually, hit a zero gravity point gravity on all sides of you equalized and you could float in the middle of the world.

I also remember the words to Clea's translation spell that she cast so that they and the Sputs could understand each other. I have no idea why this bit of poetry stuck in my mind, but I did whip it out once or twice in a game of Dungeons & Dragons and impressed the GM!

Here's how I remember it:

Big folk, small folk and folk in between
All have a way to tell what they've seen.
By the powers that beckon
By the powers that reach
Let each folk here understand 
the other one's speech!

When I pull these issues to reread them, I'll check the actual text against my memory and we'll see how close I am.

More on the Defenders next week.

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