Wacky old comics: Defenders v1 01-25

January 15, 2008

Sometimes I read old comic books for kicks. It’s different than the way I enjoy “modern” comics in that most of the story lines (and characters!) aren’t actually interesting, so much as laugh out loud funny and silly, even by comic book standards. It’s a reality check in the way of how much even comic standards have changed for what is too wacky. Tangent: I doubt readers in the 70s would have reacted as strongly the the Mephisto/Spider-Man thing…that would have just seemed like an every day run of the mill storyline to them!

This may be a re-occurring column, I don’t know.

My current project is reading through the first volume of Defenders, because once in a while something references it, and just because I’ve always been curious. Wow, wacky indeed. So wacky that I’m spending my time so I can share some of the wackiness with the world. Onward and inward!

  • The award for “Most Reminds Me of the Idiotic Super-Man Turning Back Time Bit in the Movie” goes to Doc Strange & Silver Surfer in issue 8. The Red Ghost has got the rest of the team (Hulk, Hawkeye, Valkyrie, & Nighthawk I think) mind controlled. He does this somehow with “cosmic rays” from space. In order to break the mind control, Doc & Surfer team up to block “all” cosmic radiation from striking the planet. Just to block some localized mind control on 4 people. With that kind of power…couldn’t they have just zapped the bad guy?
  • Valkyrie really likes her sword, she’s always fecking name checking it. Like the first thing she says in any fight is something about how her magical sword ?Dragonfang? (yes, she says it so much I forgot it) can do this and that, and how it likes jelly on its toast, whatever. She probably sleeps with the damn thing! You might thing she must have had it forever to earn that kind of affection! Oh wait, Doc Strange just gave it to her last issue (issue 12).

Amazing the things he has tucked away in his closet.

Talk about an ungrateful bitch. The man just gave you some crazy old ass magic sword he had in his closet! Show some respect lady. At least wait a couple days. Decency man, it’s all about decency.

  • Worst.Hair.EVER. From issue 13. That’s the Squadron Sinister version of Hyperion of course, not the heroic one. We can tell this quite easily without doing any serious research, simply with the following fact: His face is really ugly, and his mouth is open.

I just want to again point out that this is some of the worst hair I’ve ever seen in a comic – especially in the sense that I don’t think it was intended to be massively horrific. That’s some serious comb-over power there man. Not enough to hide that cro-magnon chin, but allllllmost!

The mask was really stylish too, somehow managing to look really stupid, and really stupid. Even though plenty of other heroes/villains wore the exact same mask (maybe in a different color), somehow his just looks stupid. I suspect this is because the hair has a proximity-stupid effect.

  • It was easy to tell the bad guys – they all had really distorted faces! And they yelled like they were constipated, a lot! I could find many more examples of this, but the two on the right are indicative enough.

Magneto suffers especially from this. I’m sure 50% of this is just that I can’t stand many of the 70s pencillers, but man, those Mags mugs below are FUGLY. fug-fug-fugly! Certainly some of this was done to further demonize the villains, and hey, maybe it was intentionally to help not-so-bright readers pick out who they were supposed to root against. Either way, it detracts from my enjoyment in the sense that I do read above the 5th grade level.

Oh shit! Lightbulb. Damn. I guess that’s why one of the reasons why it was so easy to write comics off as “kid stuff”. Look at those panels. Certainly looks like kid stuff to me. Nothing personal against the artist, I’m sure this style was all the rage then, and they may have even been directed to make the baddies look extra stupid.

  • Issue 20 brings us….wait for it…a magic harmonica that would grant wishes. In what looks like it’s attempting to be a “serious” super-hero comic. Please hold your guffaws non-comic readers. We can tell the difference.

Please note that the man in the panels below destroys the planet with a harmonica, only to have it undone by the Thing moments later, by way of his awesome wailing. No word as to how much time he spent learning to play the harmonica with the awesome skill that would obviously be needed to un-fuck the planet through his lips made of stone. [click for larger image]

  • In issue 22 we get the awesome first appearance of the Headmen, some of the stupidest villains ever. Period. They all have something wrong with their heads. One has a man head on a monkey, one has all the bones inside his head powdery, or SOMETHING, and one, the new guy they recruit, apparently has a normal head. Except that he injects what I’d like to think is heroin directly into his skull. Doing so results in causing black rain to fall from the sky that makes everyone go crazy. Seriously. How’s that for a crazy villain plan? I guess, maybe it makes sense in some twisted way – getting high and projecting your bad trip outwards by way of mental powers? With all those caption boxes, they could have at least said that!
  • Oh, oh oh and don’t forget about the Super-Klan (I forget what they were really called, something to do with snakes)! A technology based group of masked, nameless villains (a-la-Hydra) whose claim to fame was standard racist rantings. I guess this is ok, because racists really are evil, so it would make sense that they are villains in all senses, but it still came off a leeeeeetle wacky. Then again, the new Punisher War Journal just did an arc with white supremacists villains too, good to remind people those nutjobs really do exist I guess.

Yeah, and Hulk wasn’t taking it. Because he’s green! Of course, he can just turn into a white man if he really wants to blend in. But whatever, I’m sure that’s not relevant. He’s green when it counts!

Oh, wait, back to the wacky, the best part is that they get their funding from….a black man! Boy were they cutting edge. Sure, he was just reinvesting his rich white employers money so he could make him more money, but that doesn’t make it less wacky.

  • If you think recap pages are annoying now…They recap everything! Hell, sometimes they’ll recap what happened on the previous page. And characters definitely describe with words whatever they are doing with their appendages. And Hulk was fucking retarded. How could that have been interesting? I much prefer the modern, refined hulk of the last 20 years or so. Well, that holds true for every comic character, but I just felt like pointing it out again.
  • Speaking of recaps, they like to “recap” that Valkyrie’s human host “mated” with a demon. That’s relatively taboo even in current mainstream books. Sure, indie books fuck demons left and right, but I’d be surprised to see this come up for a current Marvel heroine without it being central to her origin, and some kind of character defining moment. Which, if I’m in a giving mood I should admit that I guess, this technically was character defining. But it’s still wacky!

That particular issue (20), also had another really bizarre set of recap boxes, that were almost an aside to the audience or something… revealing that everything that had happened in relation to the Valkyrie character was somehow planned and triggered by this one-shot cult of random people. Manipulating major demons, Olympian semi-deities, & multiple levels of heroes all so they could sacrifice the powers of an Olympian locked into a human to bring that demon that she mated with over to our side.

Note that this all comes out in text boxes over a few pages, then is never mentioned again. I don’t even think the characters are aware of it.

  • The Marvel U was really inter-connected back then. This I miss. Almost every issue there is a little * letting you know that someone is talking about something that happened in another title. Sometimes the issues even picked up directly on plotlines from other comics, with only that * to let you know. To me, that shows that they at least knew their audience was intelligent enough. Shame that they decided for us that those little info bits were too much for our feeble minds.
  • Issue 24. Possibly one of the best team-ups ever. Daredevil + Powerman + Son of Satan. ‘Nuff said.

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