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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The Defenders - how I remember it as a bronze age book - is actually a great concept; the idea of a team book without rules or agenda. They were the anti-Avengers in many ways because they were a formal legitimate group like the JLA. Really, anyone who wasn't in the Avengers could be in the Defenders. I don't think they took the idea of 'a group of specific loners' far enough - Spider-Man and Daredevil could have been in the Defenders as they met the criteria of loners too.

The one book that never worked for me was the Champions. Never could see the point of that mag at all.

I liked the Defenders a lot...however, I also liked Shadowpact, the Champions, and similar teams. Thinking about it though, throwing together B-list heroes into a loose-knit team has worked before (as opposed to say a team that's born out of whole cloth like the Challengers of the Unknown or the X-men).  I'm curious as to why it works in some cases, but not in others..

Works commercially or creatively? I think The Defenders started as a title about very powerful non-team players teaming up (the early Englehart issues) and evolved into a title about a counter-culture super-team/team of social misfits (the Gerber issues).

Commercially.  I know a lot of second tier teams that have worked creatively, but there are a number of teams that have worked commercially over the years--a classic example being that of the Justice Society.  Despite having Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman as members, those characters weren't featured much.  Same with the Justice League at least in the early days.  I'm not saying that those characters were thrown together haphazardly, but I doubt the commercial success was expected.

Robin Olsen:

"the "dumb" Hulk, who I never liked, except for way back in Tales To Astonish, after he'd regained Banner's intelligence after being shot in the head, only to lose it again after the Leader removed the bullet.....Since then it's been done to death."

To me, the only time I found The Hulk as a character, or as a series, interesting, was when Jack Kirby was writing it.  After all, it was his character.  Steve Ditko introduced the "cliffhanger" format when the series was revived in ASTONISH, but after 8 months Kirby came back, and carried on with the "roller-coaster" ride.  Hulk hunted, Hulk believed dead, Hulk's secret revealed, Hulk battles Secret Empire, Hulk saves NYC from being blown to atoms.  As with NICK FURY, the one common denominator in all those episodes was Jack's story & layouts, under a vartiety of illustrators, some average (Powell, Esposito), some fabulous (Everett), with Stan Lee supplying or modifying dialogue as he saw fit. I've seen some of Kirby's pencils (or layouts-- under Everett, he had to do almost nothing beyond stick-figures).  The margin notes, some of which contain dialogue, are often almost completely at odds with the published dialogue.  It's very clear Jack Kirby never intended The Hulk to regress to the intelligence of a retarded 4-year-old.  I've often joked about Stan being a "Hollywood kinda guy". This is a CLEAR example of that.  Both TARZAN and the FRANKENSTEIN monster, in the hands of Hollywood, lost their intelligence and became almost completely illiterate. HULK joined the list. Heck, when they did the live-action HULK tv show, The HULK could not speak AT ALL!!! I've heard it suggested this made HULK "sympathetic". NOT to me, it didn't. More like PATHETIC, period.

Funny enough, my very 1st HULK comic episode was "Not All My Power Can Save Me", which is where he starts out talking almost like a gangster.  I liked that.  But by the end of the 3-part sequence, he's lost most of his intelligence, and by the time Bill Everett got on the art, he'd regresses to the mind of a child.  Sad indeed.

To me, the HULK's "story" really ended with the 3 episodes done by John Buscema. Similar to how Jim Steranko's early NICK FURY episodes were finishing off a long-term storyline started by Kirby, Buscema's 3 HULK episodes act as a climactic "grand finale" to the story begun at least as far back as when Steve Ditko got on the character.  In the end, everybody knows Banner is the Hulk, they KNOW he's not a menace, and between Banner and The Hulk, NYC is saved-- TWICE-- from mass distruction. So HULK is a hero!  What a great place to have ended it that might have been.

Tragically, it continued... and a couple pages into Gil Kane's brief run, it all went to hell. (Ever notice characters' lives OFTEN go completely to hell the moment Gil Kane takes over as series???  Spider-Man, Daredevil, Green Lantern in ACW... don't try to tell me that's a coincidence!) When Marie Severin took over, the art improved drastically... but the story fell into the deep rut of a FORMULA from which it never varied for the next 15 years at least.

Re: The Champions

According to Tony Isabella, who should know, he intended to feature only the Angel and Iceman but Marvel wanted a team so he took available characters Hercules (the Strong Guy), the Black Widow (the Girl) and the Ghost Rider (the Maverick, plus the Guy with his OWN Title) to form the Champions.

The influx of groups have made it possible for the self-professsed "loner", the Sub-Mariner, to be part of the Invaders, the All Winners' Squad, the Defenders, the Avengers and the X-Men. Surpringly he was never officially part of the Fantastic Four though he was a frequent guest star. He missed his chance with Power Pack and the Rangers!

I can't argue with you on your observation of Gil Kane's "influence" on characters that he "takes over".

I recall first noticing the Hulk on the spinner rack when Gil Kane took over...Boomerang and then The Stranger arc...

I did have some of those early Tales to Astonish issues, almost enough to piece together the storyline, but I didn't notice the swings in his intellegence... since I was also reading the reprints of the first six Hulk issues in Marvel Collector's Items Classics...and noticed in that bi-monthly series that he changed his powers, intellegence, appearance and "mission" or modus operandi with almost every story or issue.  Some issues had TWO stories. (If I didn't know better, I'd swear that Stan couldn't remember from issue to issue what the Hulk was about, or could or couldn't do. Worst example: He learns to fly...not jump...fly.)

One of the best features I ever saw, was a single page of head shots of the Hulk, and a challenge to name the artists that drew "ol' greenskin" for a No-Prize.  I was surprised that I recognised almost every one, from my sampling of Tales to Astonish issues and the reprints of the early FF and the Hulk issues.  That made me feel really good, as a new Marvel fan.  I THINK this feature was in the very first Hulk Annual (the one with the Inhumans and the cover by Steranko, of all people! GREAT COVER!)

I wrote about the first Boomerang story here. But the artwork was by Jack Kirby and Bill Everett!

Here's something that has gotten obscured over the decades. Jack Kirby ALWAYS wrote his own stories.  But during the 60's, Stan Lee wrote or altered the dialogue. Sometimes, arguebly, for the better. Sometimes, NOT. Evidence (comparing pencilled pages to finished ones) has shown that, at least in the late 60's, increasingly, Lee's dialogue was more and more at odds with what Jack was writing. Some call it a "collaboration". But really, it wasn't. It's more akin to someone turning in a finished screenplay, or even a finished film, and then someone else making drastic changes to the plot & characterizations in the editing room.

I just watched STARDUST MEMORIES again this morning, and a big sub-plot in it involves a movie Woody Allen's character has made, where the ending was ripped out and replaced with something completely different by the studio execs. I'm also reminded of what happened to TOUCH OF EVIL when Orson Welles was not around and the studio completely recut the film, murdering it in the process.

I'm just tired of referring to what Jack did as "plotting" or "co-plotting", since there was never "co-"anything, and plotting IS writing. It's just that in comic-book credits (and I noticed this a lot in the 70's), whenever you had 2 writers, one doing plot, the other doing dialogue (as happened a lot when someone was up against a deadline), the "plot" was almost always listed in the credits as an afterthought, as if it wasn't really the MOST IMPORTANT PART.

"I figure either he didn't get the memo"

HAHAHAHAHAH!!!!!

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.

I am wondering if it is a combination of factors. There is the price (although I wonder if they could have brought that down if they didn't include a digital version like D.C. has with several of it's series like Batman where you have the standard at $2.99 or the digital combo at $3.99 or $4.99 I don't recall because I don't collect the series) then there is the name. As was mentioned, it doesn't have an X in front of it and the only tie to the Avengers or X-Men is that Namor has been a member of both and we are not talking a Captain America level of following for the Avenging Son. I am assuming the same kind of reasoning why Thunderbolts became Dark Avengers Volume 2. I am thinking it ties in to point 3: Trade versions. The comics industry is getting more & more of a foothold in the regular bookstores & a lot of casual readers won't know the difference between The Defenders and The Zoo Crew BUT they HAVE seen the Avengers movie and the X-Men trilogy so they can take less of a chance pushing Defenders unless it really takes off.

John Dunbar said:

I don't think the concept of the Defenders itself - just the Defenders in general or Fraction's Defenders in particular - was the problem. I think that any new Marvel title faces an uphill battle in 2012, and if there's no direct tie to the Avengers or the X-Men (as Travis pointed out) or even just Wolverine or Spider-Man, that's strike one.  The price point of $3.99 (as Randy pointed out and others agreed) is strike two.

I think the practice of double shipping - two issues in one month - also works against a new title, and Marvel seems to be doing it with a lot of titles.  Most of us have a monthly budget we have to stick to; if we want to keep following our favourite titles, we may be more inclined to drop a title, rather than add one.  That's a death sentence for a new title.

And of course, there's me and my ilk - no, not Canadians! - trade waiters.  We have no impact on the monthly sales.  Perhaps the decision to cancel took the sales of the first trade into consideration, but my best guess is the sales per monthly issue is the biggest deciding factor in whether or not a series gets the axe..

Thanks for that. I do remember the 'origins' of the mag now you've reminded me. Wasn't there an issue over Angel, Ghost Rider and Black Widow have the same costume black blue colour arrangement - hense they changed Angel back into his red/yellow togs? I would have thought similar coloured costumes would be an asset not a problem - makes them look like a team.

Philip Portelli said:

Re: The Champions

According to Tony Isabella, who should know, he intended to feature only the Angel and Iceman but Marvel wanted a team so he took available characters Hercules (the Strong Guy), the Black Widow (the Girl) and the Ghost Rider (the Maverick, plus the Guy with his OWN Title) to form the Champions.

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