Over on  Newsarama, Matt Fraction said, "Sometimes I think Defenders was doomed the minute the word Defenders was put on the cover."  I'm curious what other people think.  Is the Defenders a title doomed to fail or is it just that Matt Fraction's Defenders were doomed to fail?

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Well, not quite what Stan is reported to have been doing, as Bagley apparently didn't do the plot, but pretty close.  Only I'm assuming that everyone's role was pretty well explained in the credits to "Kurt's" story.

Border Mutt said:

All this talk about Stan's writing and editing brings to mind an actual Defenders issue, Defenders: From The Marvel Vault.  According to Kurt Busiek, he was brought in years later to script a Defenders story that Mark Bagley had drawn from a Fabian Nicieza plot.  In the intervening years before publication, all Fabian's notes had been lost and neither Bagley or Nicieza remember much about it.  Busiek gets an idea and decides to go off in a far from obvious direction with the script.  Kurt relays the story here.  

I thought the story was kind of inventive, nothing ground breaking, but kind of funny and entertaining.  My question is, who should be considered the main writer on this issue?  Also, is Kurt's role here similar to what people are contending Stan's role was in early Marvel?

Spoilers warnings for Fantastic Four ##76-77, #86, #90.

 

At the climax of the fight with the robots in Fantastic Four #86 the dialogue represents the robots as falling into a bottomless lake and says that their Achilles's heel is that they're too heavy to swim. The sequence is drawn in such as way that we don't see what threw the robots into the air until after they've fallen into the lake. It look to me like to Kirby the twist in that part of that story was there's this giant fan thingy that takes care of the robots by throwing them into the lake, and Lee inserted the Achilles's heel and bottomless lake elements. I can explain the change in two ways. Firstly, Lee may have thought the fight needed to come to a climax in which a key weakness of the robots was revealed. Secondly, it may not have seemed logical to him that that falling into the lake would stop the robots. The "bottomless" description is probably there to explain why the robots couldn't just climb out.

 

In #90 the FF have the Mole Man in custody and he escapes. Ben wonders why Reed didn't grab him, and Reed says he let him escape as there's no law against trying to take over the planet. (Bob Ingersoll once wrote a column on what he could have been prosecuted for.) The notion that Reed let him escape isn't clearly there in the art, so it may have been inserted by Lee. I've also read a 60s interview with Lee in which he ruminated about there being no law against trying to take over the planet.  There's room for argument about this, because there's a panel where the FF watch the Mole Man getting away.

 

#76, from the Galactus/micro-world storyline, ends with Reed telling Ben and Johnny that since they're in the micro-world they'll take care of the Psycho-Man. In the next issue the Psycho-Man zaps them to where he is. After finally defeating him they let him go in return for being returned to our world. (They ask him to return them to their ship, but instead he enlarges them.) This reads illogically, since they're supposed to be out to neutralise the threat he represents and in the end they just let him go. (I should note I know most of the issues from this storyline by their Marvel's Greatest Comics reprints, which omitted pages.) My guess is Kirby's idea was that Reed and co. would have returned to our world immediately after the events of #76 if the Psycho-Man had not interrupted them.

 

I guess stories are not only about what happens, but why the characters do what they do and how they respond to what happens, and in comics the dialogue plays a big role in communicating those latter elements.

I like the concept because a) it gives all the goofy, under-utilized characters bouncing around the MU to go, and b) because these characters are under-utilized, the writers can have some fun with them and have them do things other characters can't. You can't (permanently) cripple, kill, radically alter the powers of, marry off, or impregnate your major players like Spidey, the FF, or Thor, but when you're playing with the also-rans, anything goes.

Oh, and I wanted the "X-Factor" version to succeed so bad that I read the entire series twice, and was disappointed both times. They were almost the Champions (whom I love), Angel, Gargoyle, Iceman, and Beast are three of my favorite characters in the entire Marvel U, and the whole thing had a horror vibe at times that set it apart from the other team books. But it still didn't work.

You can't (permanently) ... impregnate your major players ...

The Adventures of Preggers, the Glow-Girl of Gotham might make for an interesting read.

Allow me to get this thread back on-topic...

GIANT-SIZE DEFENDERS !!!!!

After reading this comment in Henry’s post, later in the day it occurred to me that I’d never heard this distinction between staff writers and artists and their freelance counterparts before, whether or not they had a contract or were just hired for a single comic book and never again.

Assuming Marvel doesn’t pay people in cash under-the-table, the writer or artist (or writer/artist) would have to fill out some paperwork and sign it in order to be paid and have taxes withheld, etc. I would be amazed if a company trying to maintain control over the characters it publishes would not make it clear in something that had to be signed (not necessarily a contract) that any stories and characters created belonged to the company in return for payment.

They must have had some paperwork to this effect, or at least one of the many creators who have sued over the years would have been successful in gaining ownership of their creations or at least win a monetary award. Siegel and Shuster only received whatever they did because DC was bowing to a public uproar. No such uproar has, to my knowledge, been part of any other effort to get ownership or money.

Obviously, in the 1960’s and 1970’s, Kirby, Ditko, Kane, et al couldn’t go off and start up a version of Image. It was all Marvel could do to get distributed to the newsstands in a small way at first. A new start-up could never have made it then. So I guess it was more important to Kirby, Ditko, Kane, et al to do the work and put food on the table. For that matter, Stan was also an employee, who needed to support his family. For all we know, Stan would have been shown the door if he had allowed them to rock the boat.


Henry R. Kujawa said:

 ......all to maintain Marvel's assertation that their "properties" were created by a company employee, rather than free-lancers who did not even have contracts with "work for hire" spelled out in them anywhere........

Until the late 60s Marvel and DC weren't owned by big corporations as they are today. (Marvel was part of Martin Goodman's publishing company, Magazine Management.)

 

Reportedly in the 70s Marvel's payment checks had legends on the back saying that Marvel owned what the creators had created. Later the legend was printed on Marvel's payment vouchers, but I don't know from what point. (John Byrne testified about this in a court case. His testimony can be read here. Jim Shooter has written about Marvel's voucher system during his time at Marvel here.)

 

My understanding is the court cases over Nova and Ghost Rider involved arguments over whether the characters were created by the creators and then brought to Marvel or created work-for-hire.

 

When the duration of US copyright was extended a provision was included in the law that creators who had sold copyrights could file to reclaim them for the extension period. This is the mechanism by which the Jerry Siegel family reclaimed a portion of the rights to Superman a number of years ago.

Back in the early sixties, there likely wasn't any paperwork that specified whether an artist was working under work for hire conditions, or not.  Artists typically worked without a contract.  That's why, eventually, Marvel did try to cover their behind by putting language on the back of checks and the like.  But no one has produced any contracts or cancelled checks from the early sixties stating that work was done work for hire.  If there had been such paperwork, they, Marvel, would have produced it at the Kirby/DisMar legal action.  So a judge had to decide if the facts of the case supported a finding that the work was done work for hire.  She decided in favor of Marvel, that case is now on appeal.  So Marvel, luckily for them, has prevailed.  Hopefully that decision will be reversed.  That's on the legal front.  As far as ethically and morally, Marvel should offer some sort of settlement to the the Kirby estate, after legal action has determined the rights of the parties.

    Allen Smith

Richard Willis said:

After reading this comment in Henry’s post, later in the day it occurred to me that I’d never heard this distinction between staff writers and artists and their freelance counterparts before, whether or not they had a contract or were just hired for a single comic book and never again.

Assuming Marvel doesn’t pay people in cash under-the-table, the writer or artist (or writer/artist) would have to fill out some paperwork and sign it in order to be paid and have taxes withheld, etc. I would be amazed if a company trying to maintain control over the characters it publishes would not make it clear in something that had to be signed (not necessarily a contract) that any stories and characters created belonged to the company in return for payment.

They must have had some paperwork to this effect, or at least one of the many creators who have sued over the years would have been successful in gaining ownership of their creations or at least win a monetary award. Siegel and Shuster only received whatever they did because DC was bowing to a public uproar. No such uproar has, to my knowledge, been part of any other effort to get ownership or money.

Obviously, in the 1960’s and 1970’s, Kirby, Ditko, Kane, et al couldn’t go off and start up a version of Image. It was all Marvel could do to get distributed to the newsstands in a small way at first. A new start-up could never have made it then. So I guess it was more important to Kirby, Ditko, Kane, et al to do the work and put food on the table. For that matter, Stan was also an employee, who needed to support his family. For all we know, Stan would have been shown the door if he had allowed them to rock the boat.


Henry R. Kujawa said:

 ......all to maintain Marvel's assertation that their "properties" were created by a company employee, rather than free-lancers who did not even have contracts with "work for hire" spelled out in them anywhere........

Well, corporations are people, legally, for certain purposes. Just not in the sense that they are entitled to be treated with compassion, or pity, or any other higher emotions associated with actual people. So both the GOP and the Dems are talking at cross purposes when they quibble over the issue.

Robin Olsen said:

One thing about  Marvel is that they would have no compunctions about dragging a case through the courts until their opposition just couldn't afford the legal fees to fight them anymore, and do you know who else was good for that sort of thing? Disney. And who owns Marvel now? That's right, Disney! But that's okay, because in Romney's America, corporations are people, my friend. My name is Robin Olsen and I approve this message -

Nothing wrong with your observation, it's just that both parties are using the other parties' definition or comment on whether corporations are human beings for their own political purposes.  No surprise there. 

Robin Olsen said:

Yeah, you're right, I was basically making an observation and making one of my lame-o attempts at humor, which I really should leave to the professionals - BUT I JUST CAN"T HELP MYSELF! And, hey, how about them there Defenders? I guess I'm just a Bozo -

No question that as the series went on and members came and went, there was a definite feeling of "D-List-itis".  While I could enjoy the likes of the Gargoyle, Nighthawk, Valkyrie and Hellcat, it's not surprising that many other readers quickly lost interest.

If some of the B-listers had been replaced with other B-Listers, perhaps the series would still be going on(IMO, the only A-list character in the Defenders was the Hulk). Maybe if Dr. Strange had been replaced by the likes of Iron Man or even a reformed super-villain like the Sandman, reader interest would have stayed high.

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