Who are the Defenders?

The premier piece from our latest contributor Pat. Read about a Super Hero team that never was really a team and learn something new about The Defenders. The show sucked but like with most things, the original content is was way better!

Who are the Defenders?

 

When The Defenders television series was just announced by Netflix, a friend of mine asked me who they were. This seemed a bit odd to me because they were such a major superhero team for Marvel Comics in the 1970’s. But now they have become forgotten. So allow me to remind you. . . .

The Defenders started as separate team ups between Doctor Strange and the Incredible Hulk, and Doctor Strange and Prince Namor, the Sub-Mariner. This was followed by a three way team up of the Hulk, Sub-Mariner and the Silver Surfer. Finally, all four of them were given their own book: the Defenders. The prequel team-ups had been written by “Rascally” Roy Thomas, who continued to write stories about them in Marvel Feature. But once the Defenders got their own title, the writing chores were handed off to “Stainless” Steve Englehart. Several of the Early issues were inked by Bill Everett, the artist who co- created both the Sub-Mariner in the 1940’s and Daredevil in the 1960’s. From the beginning it was obvious that The Defenders would have a different vibe that the other team books. The Avengers were a semi military organization. The Fantastic Four were a Family whereas the X-men were more of a school club. The Defenders however were something entirely different and new to comics, they were the Non-Team. They had no set members or roster to speak of. In fact, when Valkyrie asked to become the fifth member of The Defenders, the Sub-Mariner told her that she could not join The Defenders because, The Defenders were not a Team. Each issue hit the shelves and you never knew who would be in The Defenders that Month. In one of the later issues The Defenders were Doctor Strange, Iceman and Mister Fantastic. A cover of one the early issues shows The Defenders (Doctor Strange, Valkyrie, Nighthawk and Yellowjacket) being rescued by The Defenders (Hulk, Luke Cage, Daredevil and the Son of Satan). At one point The Defenders held a television interview and the next day twenty heroes (including Iron Fist) showed up at Nighthawk’s home, asking to sign up and join The Defenders. At the same time, two different groups of villains banded together and proclaimed themselves to be the ‘real’ Defenders! Still even though the membership was constantly in flux, (there was an extended period in the middle of their run where Doctor Strange was absent) There were certain heroes who showed up in the pages of the Defenders more often than others did.

That list of Heroes is: Doctor Strange, Hulk, Sub-Mariner, Silver Surfer, the Valkyrie, Nighthawk, Hellcat, Son of Satan, Gargoyle and Beast.

Some of their Major Stories include: the Avengers/Defenders War (When Steve Englehart wrote both books, and in which Hawkeye was a Defender), a crossover with the Guardians of the Galaxy (Which writer, Steve Gerber spun off into their on series), the ascension to cosmic power levels of the Red Guardian and the Presence, the Six Fingered Hand saga (written by J.M. DeMatteis) And the liberation of the Squadron Supreme’s world from the mental domination of the Overmind. (Also by J.M. DeMatteis)

But unlike other comics, The Defenders had almost no recurring villains. Xemu the Titan fought them a couple of times in their early issues. Nebulon the Celestial Man fought them three times. Magneto and his Brotherhood of Evil Mutants only fought The Defenders one time. But this was a major turning point in the mutant mastermind’s life, as the battle left him reverted to childhood. When, a few years later in the pages of the New Uncanny X- men, he was restored, it was to the peak of his powers.

After the 100th issue, the Beast became a regular member of the Defenders. This worked out so well that Iceman and Angel were brought in too. This changed the whole feel of the group under writer Peter Gillis’ tenure, which lasted a couple of more years before the book was canceled and the original X-Men re-united in the pages of X-Factor.

In the decades since, there have been a few attempts to revive the Defenders and reintroduce them to new fans. Though many of the heroes who have appeared in the Defenders did appear on television screens in the 90s (Silver Surfer, Mister Fantastic, X-men etc.) it was not until recently that Luke Cage, Dr. Strange and Iron fist  recently releasing theatrical releases and Netflix shows. But prior to the live action shows and the Cumberbatch film Fist and Cage had been getting more spotlight through starring in the Ultimate Spider-Man animated series with Dr. Strange having a recurring role, Marvel obviously doing good in setting up these characters with the younger audience. In the realm of comics none of the attempts after print cancellation lasted as long as the original run. So when, in the recent Doctor Strange film, the Evil Eye, the McGuffin from the Avengers/Defenders war was used as a club; I was brought back to the early days of the Defenders.

Book and photograph property of Nerd Dimension

Hope you enjoyed my piece on the Defenders and will look forward to my next one that will have me shed light on Nighthawk.

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Marvel : Legendary Board Game Review – A coop deck builder for the newbs but does it deliver ?

Upper Decks smash is reviewed. Capes, Crime Fighters and Cards, lots and lots of cards !!!

This review was years in the making and I wanted to play through the game enough times before passing judgement on something I was excited about for so long. I was hyped about it when I first heard of the concept of a coop Marvel game, something to play with friends that was not miniatures on a board and had more possibilities. Granted I was not a deck-builder fan at the time but it sounded like something I could enjoy.  More importantly I wanted my group to have played a few hands to see how players of different levels of experience felt about it. A game with hundreds of cards and new mechanics may be fun for an avid gamer but a newbie might be overwhelmed by all the things they have to remember.

The game is pretty popular from the amount of expansions (11 at present) that  continue to be print and with Comic Culture and Nerd Culture being at an all time peak I felt something like a COOP deck builder required us to be able to give an accurate, fun and informative review. I saw a lot of Youtubers discussing it, lots of reviews but it was one of those games that was not so popular in Croatia so at the time of its release it did not get such a push I guess in the Eastern European markets. I digress. Nevertheless I was syked to play it after reading and hearing mixed reviews I still went in hoping for the best.  Upper Deck are not usually associated with board games as many of my peers recall them from sports trading cards and memorabilia so it had me curious to see how they would fair in this new realm. To clarify I would like to state that I was not big on deck builders or card games at the time so this was a recent purchase after I had played a few more card games .

Having new players and a bigger place meant I could get back to boardgaming and this is a game I felt I never quiet played enough of. The first time I played it was in Split with my close friends and guild brothers Boris aka Moses and Ivan aka the Apache in a small apartment an wound up playing it on the floor! So my first impression was that I needed space to run it. I recently played it at the new place with my girlfriend and fellow Nerd Dimensioners Apollo and Gustonius. I purchased the game at Dragons Lair in Kungsholmen Stockholm. The price did catch me a little off guard considering that it is not the newest title however the artwork on the box and the shape of it made for easy storage and display piece . Seeing the amount of expansions already available indicated to me that this game obviously is still selling well when so much added content is still being released.

The base game contains 500 cards in total, a gameboard and manual. Upper deck threw in a ton of free dividers so you can label all the heroes, villains, schemes etc as to make it easier the next time you play. WARNING ! This game will take time to prepare and explain and I suggest you play it with 3 before playing five. After you organize the infinity deck of cards you can build the decks which go on the board. The board is good quality and straightforward with authentic artwork. Upper Deck saw to it that the S.H.I.E.L.D. Helicarrier and reaming flavor added to the game. The manual is short and simple, big enough text and pretty easy to understand after you flipped through it.

LEGENDARY MIC FNL

Included is how to- run your very first game and other ways to run the villains so that you can easily setup the henchmen and masterminds. The mechanics involved players drawing from different decks to either build their own deck or to play their hands on the table. You combat bad guys by playing different shield cards which serve as a currency or attack points and your goal is to prevent bad guys from escaping and destroying the master minds. The game is not the easiest and you will be knocked around but it does balance out as you start taking villains off the board. The developers and designers created a beautiful game and made sure that each game will be different. The mechanics do take a couple of hands but you will know what you are doing after 3 games and will be able to explain to any new players you wish to include in the crime fighting fun.

After playing enough games I did start feeling that I was playing the mechanics more than I was fighting bad guys but in all fairness it is a deck-builder game not a classic boardgame. Luckily I had purchased the Deadpool Expansion which was not expensive and added more cards and made for some interesting combinations. This being a review of the base game I will say that despite have 500 cards the game did feel like it was more mechanics and it did not give me enough options to make it more of a game that I could play say twice a month. 7 Wonders does this well where you get enough flavor and options out the box and it gets people back to the table because it is engaging despite being a competitive game. When I purchased the Dark City expansion I saw that it allowed for more options and added mechanics which did make the game harder but in return the scales did tip back in the players favor with better cards and characters. The base game should have included a few more things and with the price tag I would have preferred a mat instead of a board for conveniences sake.

All in all Marvel did deliver a fun deck-builder that you can teach kids and adults could still enjoy as it has moments where it does feel a little pokerish yet maintains a very enjoyable team aspect. Working together, letting the next player get a certain hero so they can deliver a harder hit. It does have a competitive option where you count up the amount of damage done and cards in your deck to determine who earned the most points which also can spice it up. This is a game which needs sleeves and expansions so be prepared to dish out some coin for it if you want to truly be able to enjoy the game. The cards will get worn out and the expansions keep you and your players more interested. As a stand alone it can prove fun for a regular group but is not something we recommend for smaller groups as we feel it plays best at 4-5 players.

The Nerd Dimension will give this game a

 

6.7 out of 10

 

*Ruling: Despite the great artwork the game is a considerable investment for a game that will not have the same feeling after 20 games. The mechanics can be mastered but for new players it can take a couple of games.The Legendary system has been applied to everything from Buffy to Aliens so it is not that the system is bad but I felt there would be more flavor in the base game. However the rating jumps higher when you add the expansions so subscribe to see which ones we liked and which ones we felt did not add much.

 

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Spawn – The Anti Hero we all love

Find out more about your favorite anti hero, how he was created and how big he was for comics.

Some history…

Growing up  in the 90s and 00s I was lucky enough to have spent my young and formative years with my head in a comic and good hip hop in my Walkman (a portable music playing device for playing cassette tapes). The 90s to me will always be larger than life production, gritty writing and an age of wonder to me. I mean consoles, arcades, new comics, tv shows and blockbuster action movies were coming out non stop. So before we get into one of the greatest anti hero’s of all time allow me to set things up.

In 1992 Batman: The Animated series was on the air which would later be the dubbed the best animated series of all time. Sega & Nintendo buttons were being mashed and Activision’s original company Mediagenic filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy. This is the time in the aftermath of Frank Miller‘s legendary ‘The Dark Knight Returns‘ and Alan Moore’s masterpieces ‘The Watchmen‘ and ‘V for Vendetta‘ meaning comics witnessed a shift into more adult content with darker stories, sex and just grittier settings. Also remember that readers saw Superman die in 1993 and Venom get his own comic (interesting seeing as he was designed by Todd MacFarlane).  I say this so that a reader can attempt to envision the time and feel of that era that would later be dubbed The Dark Age or Iron Age of comics.

Todd MacFarlane and Image Comics

image-comics-logo
Image comics logo

Todd MacFarlane earned recognition first for his work on Marvel’s  ‘The Amazing Spider-Man’ comic staying through the 80s for 28 issues and illustrated the first full appearances of the super villain ‘Venom’ as Edie Brock. The Canadian cartoonist and artist did not come out of nowhere, himself siting that he sent out more than 700 submissions in pinup size with next to no reaction from the publishers, mostly rejections. When he did get put on by the giant publisher he became a superstar in the world of comics. He would eventually part ways with Marvel due to their ‘work for hire’ policies towards their artists, in short they never got  percentages of sales or retained any Intellectual Property for the duration. Todd would join forces with other disenfranchised artists from the big publishers including: Jim Lee (X-men), Marc Silvestri (Wolverine) Jim Valentino (Guardians of the Galaxy) to name a few and veteran writer Chris Claremont (Uncanny X-men).  This group would reduce Marvel’s share price by $3.25 per share and they never turned back. Todd would mention in his own comics that he believed that artists deserved to be treated with respect by the publishers who made millions off their talent and not feel ripped off when a business relationship ended. Together Image comics would publish some of the best titles in comics including : Spawn, Witchblade, The Walking Dead and Saga. Image comics not only put out good product by renown artists but took a stand against corporations, their charter best says it:

  1. Image would not own any creators work; the creator retained it
  2. No partner interference either financially and creatively.

Enough said.

Spawn & Batman
Image Comics Todd MacFarlane

The birth of Spawn

After a life of full of murder, betrayal, pain and espionage serving his country he would get promoted to top assassin for the C.I.A. after saving the life of the president. Al is then murdered, by whom he knows not so during his journey through the inferno that is hell he makes one last plea, screams and begs for a chance to see his wife Wanda again. Needless to say making deals with demons never bodes well for the one signing on the line so Al returns to Earth, face looking like a badly burned burger drowned in scabs…yuck would be an understatement. Al is in a new body as his mind is tormented by flashbacks and memories of his great love. While trying to put all the pieces together he decides to crash in the alleys while becoming the protector of the homeless in the Bowery, a run down hood in New York. Gradually he learns he got stiffed in his deal returning 5 years after his death, his best friend knocked up his widow and he was celebrated a hero…I know, and believe me it get’s worse. I am trying to not spoil of the story or giveaway too much but I can say that every panel is worth the paper it’s printed on. Spawn means a lot to me because it challenged me as a young reader, opened my mind to new horizons concerning creativity and imagination. I mean hot angels waging war with demonic lords with New York City as the backdrop most of the time. Spawn fights Predators, Xenomorphs to Gotham’s caped crusader himself. Even the supporting cast are written well as you begin to empathize and relate to certain characters. Spawn is an ever evolving character and his universe is by far one of the most sinister in comics. Be sure to check out the first couple of issues and below I will include a link for you lazy cats out there who would rather watch the show. The movie was meh, but the HBO is a lot better and will give you a limited yet good idea of what to expect from the literature.

We encourage all our readers to supports publisher, designers and authors by at least checking out their sites if not through purchases.

 

MacFarlane

Image Comics