The Best Defence

Today’s post returns to Marvel Treasury Editions of the Seventies. The Defenders Treasury for 1978- possibly on sale at the end of ’77- was the last oversized “tabloid” comic I bought “back in the day”. The remainder that we’ll revisit in this series were all obtained through ebay, that wonder of the modern era.

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I followed the Defenders pretty faithfully between 1975 and 1976, when Avengers was still a prohibited title by dint of its British weekly incarnation. Those were the Gerber Years of the Headmen; the Red Guardian; elves and fawns and Bozos.

The Day of the Defenders: in our last post, we looked at the plot and art of this moody blend of sorcery and sci-fi. Dr. Strange had lost his own title by this point but Subby would limp on for a few more years. The cameo by the villainous Llyra recalls Thomas’ golden touch on the glory days of this B-list amphibious anti-hero. Namor is in many senses the godfather of Wolverine and Conan and I’m puzzled by his lack of similar success. Perhaps it’s something to do with his aristocratic manner? In any case, I feel he was ahead of his time in the Silver Age.

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The bonus double-page pin-up previously appeared in the fiftieth issue of the Defenders regualr book. Keith Giffen’s work is very Kirby-esque, especially on Val’s silver and gold armour. Moon Knight’s MO is too similar to Nighthawk to my mind but in those days he was barely a cult character.

The New Defender: in his short run on this title, Englehart relies very much on plot elements and character bits borrowed from Thomas’s Avengers- like the Black Knight here, very much a C-list Avenger until the early Nineties.

Valkyrie was also a Thomas villain in her two previous appearances. I liked her immediately when I first discovered the series. The presence of these two Thomas creations sets up the Avengers/Defenders Clash.

This story has a totally different rhythm: it’s more organic and the style less florid than Thomas. It’s fresh and freewheeling. Oddly, Namor is weaing a piratical earring.

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The Defenders Long Island Hang-out: this cutaway diagram recalls the more innocent days of comics’ boyhood as it were. Giffen’s array of floating heads including Howard the Duck ( as we saw in a previous post) adds to the funky and irreverent flavour of the late-70s Defenders.

For Sale One Planet- Slightly Used: part one of a two-part adventure from Len Wein and Sal Buscema. The Defenders are pitted against JLA-pastiche villains the Squadron Supreme by turncoat member Nighthawk. Namor wears the batwing suit for the first and last time in the Dynamic Ones’ own series.

 Sal provides a striking double-page spread depicting a worldwide deluge caused by melting ice caps. It’s dramatic and slightly scary.

And Who Shall Inherit the Earth?: the second half is edited and loses the splash and recap pages. Godlike interstellar geologist Nebulon is discovered ( in a Star Trek-style twist) to be a leech-like amphibious creature. Nighthawk sacrifices himself to save the world but is revived by the collective life force of the team. Revealed as a pretty Rick Jones lookalike, he would go on to attain a costume that is one of my favourite designs in the Bronze Age. It’s dramatic but heroic and I believe a collaboration between Len Wein and John Romita.

It’s a very vanilla story and a little juvenile when compared with some of Wein’s JLA scripts of the same vintage.

This is an undemanding fun collection of strips starring some of Marvel’s second-stringers. Without this series, however, I think it unlikely that there would ever have been a New Avengers by Brian Bendis.

Coming soon: back to the Hyborian Age!

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One comment on “The Best Defence

  1. Kid Robson says:

    That’s one Treasury Edition I don’t recall having back in the ’70s. Can’t say I’m too wild about the cover ‘though, which is perhaps why I wasn’t tempted tp pick it up. If I even actually saw it of course.

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