Monday, February 14, 2011

Gerber's Defenders File guest starring the Thing!

Defenders (1972 series) #20


"The Woman She Was...!" is written by Steve Gerber and drawn by Sal Buscema and Vince Colletta. Cover by Gil Kane. Guest-starring the Thing. Continued from Marvel Two-in-One #7.

The Enchantress created the Valkyrie by trapping the spirit of one of Odin's shield-maidens in the body of an Earth woman named Barbara Denton Norris from a small New England town. Despite her Norman Rockwell upbringing, Barbara had fled the little hamlet for a drug-fueled life in New York City, leaving behind her confused husband Jack. But now that the woman called Barbara is gone, wiped out by the Enchantress' spell, the Valkyrie finds herself picking up the scattered pieces of her tragic life.

The mundane thing that brings the Valkyrie back to Cobbler's Roost is a harmonica with the enigmatic name "Celestia" written on it. The musical instrument ended up in the hands of Alvin Denton, Barbara's widower father, who believed playing the harmonica would restore his daughter's fractured mind. Instead, it destroyed the world and only the quick actions of the Thing, Valkyrie and Doctor Strange were able to reverse the effect. But the trauma killed Alvin and Val feels its her job to return his body to Cobbler's Roost. But once there, she falls into a plot launched by a cult that worships the Nameless Ones; a sacrifice offered up by none other than Barbara's dead mother and accentuated by that very same harmonica!


In #20: Gerber takes over, concluding Englehart's story guest-starring the Thing, in which the team thwarts the Nameless Ones (see THE INCREDIBLE HULK #126 for details) and the Valkyrie begins her discovery of her life as Barbara Norriss. In #21, she continues her search for her body's husband, Jack. Val, if you didn't know, is a Valkyrior spirit fused to the body of insane Barbara Norriss by the Enchantress, as seen in DEFENDERS #3; her mind dominates the pairing.

#21: Val looks at her scrap books from her Barbara life, and she and Steven go looking for Jack. Hulk wrecks a home after playtime with the kids is rudely interrupted, which makes the little girl cry and then makes Hulk cry. Kyle sees hippie model Trish Starr (which I read long after creating my own hippie model, Celestia Englehart, who you'll meet in Not Another Comic Book #1) and Chondu, Morgan, and Nagan, the Headmen
(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Headmen) create their maddening Black Rain (not to be confused with Chocolate Rain, which is also maddening) and commit robberies while the Defenders go nuts. Kyle saves Trish from committing suicide but no dice on catching any Headmen.

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With this summary, we begin a storytelling journey, tying up some loose ends that throw Valkyrie in particular into relief, a fantastical character suddenly accounting for a real life! As we go along, the structure and approach of Gerber's work, and the questions he raises, will become more and more the body of what I want to tell you. Steve Gerber, for me, stands well beside Luigi Pirandello, with even a touch of Cervantes himself, and many other challenging yet entertaining literary lights who could write of sadness and confusion, and yes, heroism, with a knowing eye towards character and dialogue that presents individual and sometimes eccentric voices.



Listen, I'm still figuring out integr8dsoul.com, but meanwhile, you can do what Jason did. (He also got a special bonus copy!) In Jason's case, he sent us $9 at

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which was really cool as it covers shipping and handling, at $1.25 each! The issue itself, DNA #1, retails for $3.25, but save a quarter and get this clearly-drawn story with warm characters and Southern Gothic occultism today for $2.99, $1.25 shipping and handling in the U.S.

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1 comment:

  1. http://integr8dfix.blogspot.com/2011/03/i-know-were-not-supposed-to-be-here-or.html is one of my favorites on Gerber dialogue. I hope you make it to my Nighthawk post on ish #32; that was a particularly poetic issue. I also have some good posts on Steve, Man-Thing, and his Iron Man Annual, over at ceaseill.blogspot.com as well.

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