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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Oddly enough, I never warmed up to the concept of the Defenders, either.  There were some good issues but I never followed the series on a regular basis.  I looked upon them as being bargain basement Avengers.  Of course, now, at this late date, the Avengers seem passe.

Kirk G said:

I'm not sure that it makes any difference what I think on this one....I never liked the concept of the Defenders ever since the concept was tested out bouncing between the Hulk, Dr. Strange and Namor's books.  And then they showed up again, as a more formal team in "Marvel Feature" starring the Defenders (for three issues, IIRC) and then started their own series, back in the day.

I thought it was a goofy line-up, and I didn't see why these guys were going to pair up/team up... they were all basically outsiders, and it didn't matter to me.

The one bright blip that I recall is when the ultra-realistic covers by Sandy Plunket started showing up, circa issue #123-124132 that made me sit up and take notice.  but that's about it.

True, although I'd think that portraying what was going to happen in a story via layouts constitutes plotting.  Kirby often "wrote" as he drew.  So it's equally likely that laying out those DD pages meant he was writing them, as well.  Stan didn't like writing plots, apparently, as artists like Kirby, Ditko, Romita, Steranko, Wood, Goldberg, and others have spoken of plotting out the stories.

Luke Blanchard said:

Plotting might mean coming up with a basic story idea, or the story idea as it's fleshed out down to details and pacing, or something in between. It's probably the case that in the latter part of his run on Fantastic Four Kirby did a lot of the plotting even in the first sense. For example, the Latveria story reportedly reflects his interest in the TV show The Prisoner.

 

The surviving part of the plot of Fantastic Four #1 left a lot to Kirby to work out. However, for all I know Kirby worked out some of these details verbally with Lee (e.g. if Lee gave him the plot in person he could have added final thoughts). It could also be that Lee was more involved in the detailed plotting of some later issues than the first one.

 

There need not be just one way they worked, even at a particular point. (Larry Lieber has said he always worked full script with Kirby. Yet by the time he started doing superhero stories with him Kirby was already working Marvel style with Lee.) If Lee talked a story over with Kirby before writing up a plot the plot could contain Kirby's as well as Lee's ideas. Lee apparently sometimes gave Kirby a written plot, but Marvel writers sometimes just talked the stories over with the artists over the phone. Roy Thomas talks about doing that for an issue of The Avengers drawn by John Buscema in this interview. Note that Lee also talks about giving him just a very skimpy outline.

 

According to John Romita (in this interview) Kirby did breakdowns for Romita's first issues of Daredevil because Lee thought his initial pages weren't exciting enough. Since Kirby was asked to do layouts for this kind of reason, it need not be the case that he was equally invested in or in control of everything he did layouts for.

 

Late in the 60s Kirby moved to California, which likely inhibited Lee's ability to work things out with him. But by that point he often left a lot up to the artists.

The first series of Defenders was a great concept and a great read.  But I am not sure it can be salvaged at this point in time.

For one thing, there were way too many rehashes and the last couple of them were awful.

For another, the appeal of the Defenders (for me anyway) was twofold: it was a book that (a) took great advantage of the complex Marvel Universe continuity and variety of characters; and (b) refused to be predictable.

Market realities have pretty much _destroyed_ both legs of that appeal, unfortunately.  The delightful experimental nature of the Defenders is lost for good, at least far as printed, paid content goes.  Of course, that is true to a major extent because most other books learned to emulate those strengths of the Defenders, but still.

It doesn't help that the other grab of the non-team is also lost for good; these days, everyone is an Avenger and/or an X-Men, including people that have no business being on either team (and the concept of the Avengers has been driven to the ground with the creation of a "Secret Avengers" black-ops team too, but that is another matter).  The very existence of a Defenders group is something of a puzzle now; it is simply way too arbitrary, when both the market forces and the story realities don't really allow such freedom of concept.

Allen Smith:

"True, although I'd think that portraying what was going to happen in a story via layouts constitutes plotting.  Kirby often "wrote" as he drew.  So it's equally likely that laying out those DD pages meant he was writing them, as well.  Stan didn't like writing plots, apparently, as artists like Kirby, Ditko, Romita, Steranko, Wood, Goldberg, and others have spoken of plotting out the stories."

When you mention Steranko, it reminds me that in the entire run of NICK FURY in STRANGE TALES #135-168, there were really only 2 people writing the STORIES-- Jack Kirby, and Jim Steranko.  The overlap, #151-153, Kirby did the writing, Steranko did the finished art.  The NEXT episode, Steranko took over the writing.  What confuses things is that Roy Thomas did the dialogue for #153-154.  Roy has said, alternately, that he either "had little interest in SHIELD", or, that he "had too many other things to do".  I'd say, it's more likely, with Jack & Jim doing the stories, Roy-- who loved to write-- no doubt felt he had nothing to do. For him, "just" writing dialogue would not be satisfying. So, he left after only 2 episodes. You can see the same sort of thing going on in DR. STRANGE when Roy Thomas, Raymond Marais and Jim Lawrence all did 1 or 2 episodes apiece. I've read almost Jim Lawrence's entire run of JAMES BOND 007, and I can tell you, that guy can really write!!  Filling in word balloons for someone else's story could not have been very satisfying.

Allen Smith:

"Oddly enough, I never warmed up to the concept of the Defenders, either.  There were some good issues but I never followed the series on a regular basis.  I looked upon them as being bargain basement Avengers.  Of course, now, at this late date, the Avengers seem passe."

THE DEFENDERS were a bargain-basement AVENGERS.  They were like Avis (#2 and they try harder).  The initial stories were a pet project of Roy, with Ross Andru doing some interesting work.  When it settled into Steve Englehart & Sal Buscema, in many ways it was a step DOWN.  The art wasn't nearly as interesting, and Steve had to work hard to find a way to make it work in the long run.  I note that right after the AVENGERS-DEFENDERS crossover, he skipped.  In this case, it was similar to when Doug Moench left IRON FIST. He was also doing MASTER OF KUNG FU, and didn't want to keep doing both.  Steve was over-worked, and needed to quit one book or the other.

Len Wein was perhaps the "obvious" choice to take over. He's always been 2nd-rate, and up to then, his specialty was MARVEL TEAM-UP, with its rotating guest-stars, and his habit of bringing back obscure, forgotten characters... and then doing absolutely nothing interesting whatsoever with them. But at least he had a sense of "fun", if not "greatness".  I'll give him that.  Under Len, DEFENDERS became a TEAM-UP book-- except, instead of guest-stars teaming up with Spider-Man, they teamed up with Dr. Strange, Hulk, Valkyrie & Nighthawk!

I forget the circumstances that led to Steve Gerber taking over from Len.  Perhaps Len was over-worked-- or moved up in the world?  Gerber continued what Len was doing, but, in typical Gerber fashion, added more humanity-- and weirdness-- and humor. By the time Gerber got on the book, I'd come to accept Sal was "the" DEFENDERS artist (who they could never seem to find a regular "finisher" for-- he'd long before stopped doing full pencils). In their way, Gerber & Sal were the best team the book ever had. I deeply lament that at the end of THEIR long, long epic, they both departed-- but this time, not by choice.

Gerry Conway left Marvel because they refused to give him the same contract they gave Roy Thomas.  At DC, he was a full editor, creating books and writing up the wazzoo.  Having made such a mark, he got the chance to come back to Marvel to take over as EIC. It was chaos.  Mostly because Conway wanted to write at night in addition to being editor.  So a number of long-running teams were KICKED off books, just so Gerry could take over.  DEFENDERS was one of the casualties.  What I didn't realize until years later was, he brought Keith Giffen with him, as the two had worked together on ALL-STAR COMICS (Justice Society Of America).  Sadly, Klaus Janson was no Wally Wood.  I thought the Conway-Giffen-Janson issues were HORRIBLE.  Badly-written, badly drawn, horribly-inked.  When Conway went back to DC after only a few months (in apart because he'd pissed off so many people, and driven Steve Englehart out of Marvel in the process), it was a blessing.

Imagine my surprise when David Kraft became my favorite DEFENDERS writer.  With Giffen, and later, Ed Hannigan (Keith got himself FIRED for blowing deadlines), the book was one of the most creative Marvel was putting out at the time.  It never got to those heights again.  I never did find out why Kraft left Marvel abruptly the way he did (perhaps he had a chance to start his own publishing company and took it), but Ed Hannigan proved he was NO WRITER.  Yikes.

The last decent run was under J.M.DeMatteis (who, funny enough, worked with Keith Giffen later on on JUSTICE LEAGUE, writing dialogue for Keith's stories). I think the "horror heroes" angle went on too long, though.  And I never liked Jim Shooter's B.S. insistence that "Satan" from GHOST RIDER was really "Mephisto".  (That was never what Gary Friedrich or Tony Isabella intended.)

The Defenders worked best when it featured heroes that 1) weren't Avengers, 2) used to be Avengers or 3) shouldn't be Avengers. NOW, everyone is/was an Avenger but then seeing these maverick super-heroes together gave the MU more depth and dimension.

Also it's great to see new members making comments. Every voice is welcomed!

Weird.  I always found those Marvel Feature issues second rate next to the Steve Englehart / Sal Buscema issues.

In no small part, because Steve drove the Defenders away from the "bargain priced Avengers" premise and gave them some real character development.

And really, Sal Buscema is a far better penciler than Ross Andru.

It was getting ESSENTIAL DEFENDERS Vol.1 that surprised me. I wound up liking the 3 Andru issues, but when Sal took over, it suddenly looked stiff & amateurish. He got better finishers later. Among my faves were Jack Abel & Bob McLeod (then again, McLeod has NEVER done a bad job on his entire career-- I just always wish he'd done more). After awhile, I came to feel Sal could draw just about every character in the Marvel Universe... except for The HULK. His HULK was horrible-- always too wide & stocky, with too much wild hair. Imagine my horror when Sal took over THE INCREDIBLE HULK from Herb Trimpe.  (Then again, I understand many fans were horrified when Herb took over from Marie Severin.)  My favorite Sal work remains CAPTAIN AMERICA, particularly the run he did with Steve Englehart.  When Len took over from Roy and the same month Frank Robbins replaced Sal... I could not believe what I was seeing.  Robbins is a very talented guy-- but he should NEVER have been drawing superheroes.

A few years back, when I was getting my hands on a lot of SUB-MARINER issues from the early 70's, I was very surprised to see just how good a fit Ross Andru was on the character-- MUCH better than Gene Colan, John Buscema or Sal Buscema.  In this case, it's not a matter of comparing the quality of art, but rather, that Ross was a better fit for Namor than the others.  His Namor just looked "right"!  Sadly, he only did 3 issues, each with a different inker.  Even though it was a mere 3 issues, I wound up liking Ross on SUB-MARINER more than I ever did on AMAZING SPIDER-MAN.  The only time I ever liked him on ASM was when John Romita was doing the inks.  And then, I liked Andru-Romita far more than Kane-Romita.

It just occured to me, maybe it was just the timing, but on both ASM and SUB-MARINER, Ross got on the series shortly after the hero's girlfriend was murdered...

Buscema far better than Andru?  Don't know about that.  They were both second tier artists.  Which isn't to say that they couldn't do better than second tier work, at times, but that occurred more often with Andru than with Buscema.  Andru and Esposito on the Metal Men, for example, I can't think of another penciller/inker team doing that strip nearly as well (although Simonson certainly did a creditable run).  And I enjoyed the war stories Andru worked on, but perhaps that was just a great teaming of an artist with a certain style with the right genre.  Buscema, did many Cap stories, and was versatile, but I give the edge to Andru.

IMHO.

Luis Olavo de Moura Dantas said:

Weird.  I always found those Marvel Feature issues second rate next to the Steve Englehart / Sal Buscema issues.

In no small part, because Steve drove the Defenders away from the "bargain priced Avengers" premise and gave them some real character development.

And really, Sal Buscema is a far better penciler than Ross Andru.

Will have to search out that James Bond strip.

Henry R. Kujawa said:

Allen Smith:

"True, although I'd think that portraying what was going to happen in a story via layouts constitutes plotting.  Kirby often "wrote" as he drew.  So it's equally likely that laying out those DD pages meant he was writing them, as well.  Stan didn't like writing plots, apparently, as artists like Kirby, Ditko, Romita, Steranko, Wood, Goldberg, and others have spoken of plotting out the stories."

When you mention Steranko, it reminds me that in the entire run of NICK FURY in STRANGE TALES #135-168, there were really only 2 people writing the STORIES-- Jack Kirby, and Jim Steranko.  The overlap, #151-153, Kirby did the writing, Steranko did the finished art.  The NEXT episode, Steranko took over the writing.  What confuses things is that Roy Thomas did the dialogue for #153-154.  Roy has said, alternately, that he either "had little interest in SHIELD", or, that he "had too many other things to do".  I'd say, it's more likely, with Jack & Jim doing the stories, Roy-- who loved to write-- no doubt felt he had nothing to do. For him, "just" writing dialogue would not be satisfying. So, he left after only 2 episodes. You can see the same sort of thing going on in DR. STRANGE when Roy Thomas, Raymond Marais and Jim Lawrence all did 1 or 2 episodes apiece. I've read almost Jim Lawrence's entire run of JAMES BOND 007, and I can tell you, that guy can really write!!  Filling in word balloons for someone else's story could not have been very satisfying.

Sal Buscema, while never being considered on the same level as his brother John, still rates as one of Marvel's most prolific pencillers. While it's true the sharpness of his work relied on his inkers, that was also true for most artists anyway. I would rank his work on Captain America, The Defenders, Marvel Team-Up, Peter Parker, Incredible Hulk and ROM Spaceknight as highlights of the 70s. And his technique evolved during the 80s.

Then again, I loved Frank Robbins on Captain America and The Invaders! His style made those books stand out from the rest.

And, to me, Ross Andru IS the Spider-Man artist!

Allen Smith:

"Will have to search out that James Bond strip."

Here you go...

JAMES BOND 007

 

Myself, I prefer original artist John McLusky, who did most of the novel adaptations.  But some people prefer his replacement, Yaroslav Horak (you'd never guess with a name like that he was from Australia!).  Ironically, in the late 50's and 60's, the adaptations were "toned down" to remove nudity, sex & violence. But in the 70's, at the very point where the movies had become comedies, the newspaper strip got MORE violent and often featured nudity, which made the "new" stories closer in style to the Fleming novels than the adaptations of the novels had been.

The adaptations are all VERY faithful to the books, much more so than the movies, though they do tend to "fix" the occasional gaping plot hole!  Also, YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE was a big improvement over the novel, and THE MAN WITH GOLDEN GUN and OCTOPUSSY greatly expanded and improved on the original stories. As much as I like the '67 film, I found myself wishing YOLT had adapted the comic-strip version of the story, instead of being effectively a big-budget tribute to various 60's spy, sci-fi and adventure shows & movies (while acting almost as a big-budget remake of DR. NO).

Henry Gammidge wrote most of the adaptations, but Jim Lawrence took over the writing in 1966, beginning with THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN GUN.  He proved you actually could have done a decent adaptation of that novel, merely by following the example of THE SAINT tv series and "expanding" the original story while staying true to it.

The thing I can't understand is how, while the strip originated in England, the last couple years of its run, it was DROPPED by UK papers and only run overseas.  That just don't make any sense!!!

It also pisses me off that THUNDERBALL was stopped dead about 10 weeks in, because Fleming had a falling-out with the newspaper publisher. Then, when they patched things up a year later, the strip resumed... but instead of finishing THUNDERBALL, they skipped right on to ON HER MAJESTY'S SECRET SERVICE.  As a result, one of Fleming's best books (even if it was a novelization of the original un-produced film project) has NEVER been fully adapted as a comic!!!  You'd think after all these years somebody would have tried to fix that...

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