Monday, February 28, 2011

Earth's Mightiest Rock Group

Avengers Rock Group: while earlier family acts such as the Fantastic Four charted in the 60’s, like the Rolling Stones of the Silver Age, the Earth’s Mightiest Rock Group would go on, in different incarnations, to be a blockbuster draw on tours. Perhaps, besides Thor and Keith Richards’ similar ages, and Mjolnir’s tong’s resemblance to Mick Jagger, they bear this most in common: they have endured as a live act.

First line-up: Giant Man on Drums, Wasp on tambourine and vocals, Iron Man on bass, and Thor on 12 string guitar and harmonies, with the Hulk as the group’s first failed lead singer. While his attitude revolutionized rebellion in American youth, the group did not chart overseas, instead losing their singer for good, at a concert with Savage Submariner, the Elvis of the shellfish.

A new talent would emerge, however, in the ice cool vocals of Blue Eyed Stevie Rogers. About this time, the group invented heavy metal, as the new line up consisted of Giant Man’s big bass, the Wasp on lead guitar, with Thor singing and Iron Man on rhythm and lead guitar. It was during this time Iron Man famously began amplifying his guitar, using amplifiers kicked in by the Titanium Man to generate his famous signature sound, leading some to declare him the God of Feedback. But Thor
WAS a god, and he sang of his many battles, fist pumping with his enchanted mallet held high. Some would say that this incarnation featured some of the band’s worst singing. After one of the first meaningful psychaedelic works of the Sixties, the band line-up changed into the “Kooky Quartet.”

Hawkeye looked for a way in as the new lead singer, but contented himself with the most innovative cowbell playing in live rock. In the composition of the album, however, he felt this left him more anonymous, in the shadow of Blue Eyed Rogers.

The brother sister team of Quick silver (drums, bass, guitars) and the Scarlet Witch (keyboards) became so important to the marvelous group, they nearly named their album Quicksilver Messenger Service, but found a San Fransisco band in possession of the name already. Why this never created a legal battle over the name “The Avengers” with the popular television program of the day, starring Emma Peel and John Steed remains a mystery.

The decade ended with popular keyboardist Ray T’Challas and professional Moog synthesizer the Vision also joining the group, with many other guests on tours. By now, a time of socially conscious music was beginning to take hold. Their hits “Masters of Evil” “Squadron Sinister,” and “Sons of the Serpent” established their credentials in establishing heavy metal as the new sound of the coming decade. Thor returned to vocals, while Captain America proved to be a revolutionary drummer, his battle-trained reflexes and hand-eye coordination propelling a band ready for Who’s Next Issue. Iron Man began flying during solos at this time, ripping out light shows and rhythms simultaneously. He began to experiment with programmed rhythms, building amazing but lengthy jam solos into his glove units.

They closed the decade with a reunion with member Hank Pillyums, whose experimentation had led them to the brink of finished as a band. He, along with Crosby, Stills, and Nash, entered the Vision of the ‘70s with their “Kree Skrull War,” together with the Captain Marvel-produced tracks forming a kind of superheroic Abbey Road. But it was the turning point, into a darkness from which music, some say, has never recovered.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Top this: Steve Gerber's Headmen saga continues

The first five pages of this issue, #33, are a recap, from the point of view of...a fawn. A fawn, with the mind of a villain trapped in his head---the magician Chondu the Mystic, who now has no mouth or hands with which to conduct spells. He's watching the Defenders, captive at the hands of Ruby Thursday and the rest of the Headmen, mentioned a couple of blogs ago. That's also the location of Kyle (Nighthawk) Richmond's brain. What Chondu knows that his allies don't is this: they believe Chondu's mind is his own brain, which has been transplanted into Nighthawk's body. The frustrating truth is this: Valkyrie's "husband" Jack Norriss is now the dominant mind inside that brain...and Chondu's brain is now in a fawn the Hulk brought home, in #31. So their own treachery's being played against them.

Talk about head trips.

It's Steve's prose working with Sal & Jim's art to create absurdity worthy of Samuel Beckett. "Luscious brown eyes gaze into the Orb of Agamotto---and flash with furious anger." That's the fawn. When you realize it's Chondu, it becomes oh-so-much funnier, because what a weird way for this fairly ugly man to end up being described with "luscious brown eyes." The deer's well rendered, but the eyes have just enough cartoon fury to evoke Loony Tunes.

Next: we break out the Mad Scientist Helmets, and witness what soon becomes one of the most unlikely and hilarious alien abductions in comics history. Well, I guess. If you know a funnier one, please message me when I'm done... class dismissed.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

My Life and Times (Good and Bad) as told by the Brain of Kyle (Nighthawk) Richmond

Imagine yourself at a juncture, with six directions: up, down, and to each of four directions.

Your brain is typically busy conducting the input of your senses, as well as whatever internal train of thought occupies you. Can you imagine: the senses have stopped telling you anything about being in your body. One supposes, being in a coma could be like this, to a degree.

Let me share with you some thoughts, inspired by a comic magazine published in 1975 under the name The Defenders, #32, and sold for twenty-five cents on the same spinner racks as Richie Rich and Wonder Woman. It's a chapter in a story about a man who tries to live as a two-dimensional style of character, a Stan Lee hero (as Alan Moore might say) and finds himself dealing with three dimensional problems, at the very same time he finds himself---removed from it!

Less dimensional heroes have external conflicts, and we know their motive, and their intent to meet that conflict. But here, we have a hero at a most difficult juncture in his life,and in a way, his complication is completely debilitating.

Paradoxically, it's the one way he can hope to face everything that really bothers him. Death is his companion; there's no one closer, you'll see. Death visits vengeance upon Kyle, in the form of the totem he's taken on for his empowerment: the hawk, here on a plane of eternal night.

His figurative experience is his literal experience---because his brain is surgically removed from his body.

His first challenge is dealing with himself on a level beneath action. Who are we, besides, one day, dead people? If we are dying, are we not also being born---just as continuously? Within our eyes, already we see, before they tell us anything. How shocking it can be, to realize we are conscious without any input from our senses. It can only be compared to dreaming, an incomparable way, itself, of thrilling and intriguing ourselves with a construction of awareness. The story here is Kyle's dream of himself, and Death. Which way to go? The magnificent craft here lies in the ability of the artist to make the surreal images entertaining; even if the adult themes are not completely understood, there's a yearning to come to grips with them, and the images here are pieced together in a colorful way, depicting the fantastic and violent confrontations comics were so known for while telling a story outside of juvenile fiction's conventions. For once, the kid's intelligence will not be insulted, nor imagination left dull. Things that scare adults are among the greatest interest to the young---didn't you know?

Kyle begins to envision his childhood, at the sad end of his security. He pictures himself as a child, but throughout his dream, he is dressed as the superhero Nighthawk. He slides down the slide, so fun, speeding from a peak, experiencing gravity, up the stairs, down the slide. Only his downward slide is depicted, because that is the theme of his journey. That is the real opponent he must transcend---for he may never beat death, but in a way, he can outlive it.

But first, he must become acquainted with it. His governess walks up to little Kyle and takes him to his mother's death bed. He has to be the responsible one; he is the man of the house. Dad is away. When Father returns from his travels---a journey into money, for he concentrates upon his worldly wealth---he begins to send Kyle on a
long exile into private schools, where he learns to fight, rebel, and ignore learning. His father, after all, can make the sizeable contribution necessary to open the next door, regardless of anything Kyle does--or doesn't do.

He smarts off about this to a principal, who slaps him. Kyle punches the principal.

It's not until college that Kyle gets a nice girlfriend, a lit major, who challenges him to apply himself. By now, learning is a tangled nightmare.

"So it was back to my usual state: Freefall, with nothing to grab empty future I could picture..but I did have my own car...and I was old enough to drink." Then he makes a mistake money can't erase, that costs him Mindy's life. Understand, he's realized he's nowhere---but nowhere is really where he's always been found.

Buscema perfectly breaks Gerber's surreal script down into tangible scenes: the soldiers leer and brandish bayonets, taking him for the draft. Vietnam is where he plans ---"plans" is a misnomer, really---to embrace Death. Instead, a heart murmur leaves him 4-F. Hauntingly, Death awaits him in the street outside---to point to his father's death, a televised plane crash featuring a prominent ambassador along with his internationally-important father. His inheritance is good for a little decadence, some jet-setting he doesn't really care about. To this point, his problems have been problems a real person can have---all of them are ones someone has had.

Now his life becomes the comic book story: now he's given an improvement on his heart murmur serum by a cosmic being known as the Grandmaster, which doubles his strength after sunset.

This garish existence is bent for misguided deeds. Violence is still his reaction, still his resolution---yet everything's confronted, while nothing's truly solved.

Perspective: which is more important: Nighthawk, or Death? Death is bigger, but which one matters most?

Not even the story of redemption---to play the savior, and perhaps, to continue his righteous rage, as Nighthawk---could keep him free from tragedy. Misfortune seems to come his way because of who he is; this creates a dissonance in his comfort inside his own skin. Trish Starr, the talented, heartfelt, intelligent girlfriend he just can't quite commit to marry is maimed by a bomb planted in his car. Pennysworth, the man who ran Richmond Industries, funded a racist group's agenda to the point of a bizarre social phenomenon, playing to the baser blames unhappy people embrace, when they feel a lack of dignity between themselves and Death.

Now is the moment for him. With so little hope engendered in his choices...what part of himself must he trust to make decisions?

"The same crossroads I've stood paralyzed at all my life. And I still can't remember HOW I got here..."

This existential crisis, to me, is a fairly ingenious obstacle, a more interesting kind of encounter, because it is of a nature that everyone has. Where our fear and doubts cluster most fiercely, there is our crossroads---where we decide what step we, nonetheless, must take, if we are to be anything other than dead.

Yet again, the image tells the real story. You see, it is darkness all around, save for the paths of blue. Before him, in the direction he faces, lies his shadow---which is significant, but most strikingly, for this:

Behind him, above him, there must be a light. Possibly, that light is the one that shines, as the comics creators, and we the reader, gaze down upon this man, now that we've seen all there is by which to judge him, or more precisely, to delineate his regret. Yet we are one with the light that makes him visible, which gives light to the paths before him. There is not enough light present to make any of the future clear, and the past that places him here involves an agency he cannot know; there is not information regarding that "why." He casts a shadow, because he has reality, and while he is just a vision composed of lines, words, and our feelings, there's a light for his existence. It's not in the direction he's looking; he's looking towards his shadow. He's experiencing his limited spiritual warrior self, alone. By our observation, however, he is not alone in this.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Defenders 32: Musical Minds! from Steve Gerber

These details remain from #31: they begin and continue subplots.

What I forgot to mention was that the Hulk befriends a deer and its fawn. Two hunters shoot the deer. "Men shoot Bambi's mother!!
says the very, very angry Hulk. Run as they might, these men are born to fly...from the hands of the Hulk. But what, now, will he do with the fawn, "Bambi"? He decides Magician will know what to do. He takes the fawn under his arm and bounds towards New York, Greenwich Village, to see Dr. Strange and co.

Jack and Val try a date at the carnival, just like in the old days, before he talked Barbara into joining the cult of the Undying Ones, and before she became host to the spirit of the ancient Valkyrie, Brunhilde. He tries to impress her with his shooting skills, but she really doesn't get why a man would win a stuffed bear for a woman. But after Jack tries the old hammer and bell strength attraction, Val decides to heft the mallet herself, to the jeers of the operator. When she smashes the bell with her swing, scratch one stogie-in-disbelief. Which stuffed bear does she win for this, she asks? Jack hustles her away before there's too many questions, which really puts a cramp in her style!

The Hulk and Valkyrie (with Jack) soon meet up at the Sanctum Sanctorum, along with Nighthawk, who followed Hulk. Ah, but you read the last post---and you know Nighthawk's body now harbors the brain of Chondu, of the Headmen! (You can't help but wonder how complicated it is to rewire a brain into a this is what happens when someone with those skills gets a little bored. And insane.)

The next issue opens with Daimon Hellstrom summoned to examine their fallen team mate, who of course lives. Yet no possession or mind control of any sort can be found---only a surly tempered, different personality. Where is the real Nighthawk?
In a phantasmagoric tableau: with his brain disconnected from his senses, his consciousness dreams, lucidly. So the brain sits over in a petrie dish and provides us with half of the comic book, depicting a spoiled but lonely and neglected little rich boy. In a better comics universe, he could've been Richie Rich, but Kyle Richmond's forced to fight for his identity from some of his earliest memories, accompanied by depictions of him at different sizes in his Nighthawk costume. In a few pages, we are treated to an engrossing autobiography of this villain-turned-hero, following him from confusion in academics to one fist fight to the next, always bailed out by his father's checks until his wild first year in college ends with a horrible drunk driving accident. Somehow he avoids being charged with the fatality (see MTU #101, I believe, where DeMatteis picks up the tale), but not his expulsion from the college. So, he punches the administrator.

What can he do with his colossal waste of a life? He joins the Army---and in these days, this means you are on the plane out to Viet Nam. Only---he has a heart murmur. 4F! And this discouraging day ends with the televised footage of his father's plane---which also contains an ambassador---going down in flames. The little boy who Couldn't is suddenly alone in the world...with all the money he could ever ask for, and no one to love.

This money goes into developing the serum that doubles his strength at night...and so begins the ignominious career of Nighthawk. Yet the eventual redemption story following his defeat by Daredevil, and his bust stint with the Squadron Sinister, goes wrong, too. The goodhearted, talented, lovely Trish Starr loses an arm the night his car explodes, thanks to her uncle, the villain Egghead (though the Defenders at first go looking for the returned Squadron Sinister; see Giant Size Defenders #5.) He holds her hand, then he is only holding her arm, and he is swept from the beach, into a black ocean with Death looming in its perpetual, humorless grin. This, in the end, is the foe we all face---the one whose secrets we fathom, without knowing its final location in our future.

The fellow Defenders become aware of the brain swap and end up in Connecticut, ringing the Headmen's door soon enough. During the classic vignette featuring the Hulk, the little girl, and the wrecked home and tears with which both end their friendship, a nearby neighbor was revealed to be Arthur Nagin (see DEFENDERS #21---ed.) An awkwardly flying Nighthawk joins their search---which begins with a rang doorbell. Too bad an exploding head is the next thing they see...the last thing they see...before their unconscious bodies are dragged by Ruby Thursday, newest member, into the presence of Nagin and Dr. Jerry.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

The Headmen Saga Defenders 31 by Steve Gerber and co.

Sponsored by Integr8d Soul Productions, featuring DNA: The Mountain, drawn with crisp, clear story telling by Lue Lyron and the Marc Kane, with scenes and ideas you won't find anywhere else in entertainment!! The comic for those who don't read comics! Black and White, $3 plus shipping each.
Available from C Lue Disharoon
542 6th Ave.
San Diego, CA 92101


When you see any reference to Gerber’s Defenders, the words “Headmen Saga” almost always follow. The writer will: pick three hapless inhabitants of the same horror comic reprint that came out, summer of ’74. A cruel scientist named Arthur Nagan has his own head transplanted to a powerful gorilla body by his vengeful simian subjects; Jerry Morgan, the man attempting his own Pym Particles, shrinking his bones, but not his flesh; and finally, Chondu, a carnival mystic, recalled within these stories by Jack Norriss and his wife Barbara. “Remember? You said “chondu” was a good name for the fragrance of his performance?” Jack says, to the woman now inhabiting his wife’s body.

Mix one mind-control gambit with the ultimate super-villain trap (removing your brain!), then cross this plotline with a returned alien villain, who sells a brand-new self-improvement method. Remove one former villain-turned-hero’s brain, add one rescued fawn, one machine-headed vixen, stir with a full portion of Defenders (preferably fresh). (#30, in fact, was a fill-in by Bill Mantlo.)
The artist will: turn the above into a sequence of visuals, all in color for 25 cents.
It’s Gerber, Buscema madness again! With this arc, Klaus Janson joins in on the inks.
The important thing about #31: Nagin fires a narco-dart at Nighthawk. The couple that fled at the presence of a costumed person had a point: trouble inevitably follows! Nighthawk recognizes his assailant from the “Black Rain” robberies (in #21), but is helpless upon an operating table before long.
Villain Chondu’s brain is removed from his head, and transplanted into Kyle Richmond’s body, making him the consciousness within Nighthawk. He clumsily adapts to flying, and soon, by keeping to a familiar Nighthawk flight pattern, he crosses paths with the Hulk, who leads him back to the Sanctum Sanctorum. (Remember: the Defenders are a well-kept secret at this point.)

Upon arrival, Chondu/ Nighthawk shows an undue interest in a particular occult artifact. Dr. Strange notes that Kyle has never shown interest in the occult previously, and Chondu fabricates a story about seeing it in National Geographic. His fascination and unbridled enthusiasm for having been led right into the Defenders’ midst causes Chondu to launch a surprise attack, perhaps a bit ahead of schedule, but with surprise and his rudimentary mystic ability, he nearly defeats the Hulk, Valkyrie and Dr. Strange.

Finally, Strange battles Chondu/hawk, shattering spells illusory spells with experience, but unable to bring himself to full might against a man he calls friend.

After nearly dying, Strange gets it together and binds Nighthawk properly, though he fears he’s nearly killed him. At the terrible unmasking, the impostor yields no clues; it is the face of Kyle Richmond beneath!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Revolution, 3004 A.D.: Gerber's Defenders 29 conclusion

Aboard the Captain America, Jack Norriss has awakened, to wander the ship in thought, alone. He finds Doc stock-still, and begins loudly apologizing. Strange returns to his body, catches what he says; Jack offers his aid, and Stephen gives him a chance. They materialize in the midst of the com room invasion on Earth, where Nighthawk’s smacking Badoon in mid-rant while saying, “Oh Shut up! You all LOOK alike---you all talk alike----I’ve had it up to HERE with you!! Val notes Stephen’s arrival (not lost on Jack, who’s armed) as he paralyzes their opponents.

As a team, Strange and Jack begin transporting from prison to prison freeing all 50 million remaining humans, who take arms in vengeance. From a parapet, Strange stops to ponder “the necessity of what I’ve done.” Jack points out “you could’ve zapped the Badoon off the face of the Earth all by yourself---why---?” Starhawk arrives to second Strange’s perception: “Freedom must be earned to be valued.” It gets weird. Starhawk suggest they return now to their own era; Strange does not sense guile, but “neither have I evidence you are a seer. We pledged to see Earth free before we departed. Who are YOU to ask that we do less?” As though cosmic bodies in space have replaced his eyes, ‘Hawk replies: “I who knows. Tell him, Jack Norriss.”

Jack’s been humbled of late through great confusion, but says: “I recognize something in this guy...something of me...and of Barbara. I know this sounds crazy...but he’s like all of us...and none of us. I think he’s right.” “The Master of Mystic Arts has recognized it, too” Steve captions; “the synthesis of opposites within this being. He looks deeply into Starhawk’s eyes...and nods.”

“We shall go...but not without one final gesture.” By the Eternal Vishanti, “from his hands flows a multi-hued quiltwork of mystical energies that blankets the city, drops like a shimmering cloak over its silvery spires. And in the flame-lit streets below, the baneful brothers of Badoon fall...asleep.”

“This one city, at least, shall be taken without further bloodshed. Those waging the war are, after all, living beings...not philosophical constructs. If I’ve forsaken one belief to affirm another, so be it.”

“You saved a lot of lives, Doc. Let it go at that.”

“There is a kind of untutored wisdom in this young man, Dr. Strange.”

“In me?! Yeah, you bet. I’m “Mr. Smarts” of ---lord, what year IS this?”
Astro welcomes them back, while remaining suspicious of Starhawk. To the shock of most everyone, Strange bids “you five” farewell, beneath the watchful eye of Oshtur. The Guardians assimilate their new status quo (continued in MARVEL PRESENTS). Nighthawk’s vociferous disappointment in accomplishing “half a mission!” gets no real answer from Strange, who directs him to Jack. “Ask Hubby??” Jack replies:

“I know you don’t think much of me, Nighthawk. I know Barbara doesn’t think of me at all. But Doc and I both saw something in Starhawk. For me, it ultimate fusion...creativity and destruction...passion and logic. Whatever, it’s something Earth will finally want...a millenium from now.” FINIS

Very fitting era in time to revisit this story.

Defenders 29 Steve Gerber Revolution in a Thousand Years


Transported by a power beyond their knowledge from the Sisterhood Swamp World, Vance Astro and the Valkyrie arrive to find Nighthawk, Charlie-27 and Martinex about to die on World Cam as an example of the futility of revolution. No subtle maneuver occurs to Vance before using his psychokinesis to shatter Badoon weapons. Because he explains the shackle exhibit a mind-deadening principle that nullifies their powers, Valkyrie turns her efforts from the Badoon to the shackles. The team flees into reinforcements, frozen by Martinex; as they regroup, Nighthawk passes along the bad news: Doctor Strange is dead.

Astral travel can leave a body that way, it seems; Doc’s actually speeding towards Hulk and Yondu’s location, where the Badoon have delivered them to the techno-drunkard world . Mon-tee, host of Super-Death Sweepstakes, sends the freshly-condemned blonde wife of Emperor Goozot and “Mr. Green” to a polar location, at which point Hulk’s mind is his own for the first time since “Hulk and Flag-Head were in city---wait! Hulk knows! Metal Mother made Hulk sleep for smashing her babies; the girl brings him up to speed (see above). The wind and cold on the mountain are joined by a greater threat: a tentacled metallic ant, from which the girl is freed by Hulk. Her awe in this is matched by Hulk’s when he sees The Bug Army.
Starhawk arrives at his meteor-based home, complete with rustic accoutrement and his three children, who hug him and ask will he stay. He goes into the cabin to consult with Aleta, his silent better half; he leaves grimly for Earth...
...where the rest hijack the communications center by force, motivated by the apparent death of their teammates.

Hulk discovers he cannot evade his battle by leaping away due to a field, but “if Hulk can’t go away from the mountain...Hulk will make mountain go away from him!!!” After the cameras record a shower of newly-crushed gravel, the Hulk and the stupefied girl stand amidst shattered ants and dust. Mon-Tee brings them back, but doesn’t enthrall Hulk. “Hulk feels...swell...but Hulk is going to make Fat-Face feel VERY bad!! Fat-Face won’t forget again---Fat-Face won’t have head to forget with!” Before the punch lands on Mon-Tee, He and Yondu vanish from the fray, and reappear where Hulk’s punch lands hard in a Badoon face!

I love the ending. I'll post it next, to keep these brief. Thanks for reading along, C Lue

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Steve Gerber's Defenders: #28

“My Mother, the Badoon!”

(My Mother, the Car, was just a bit before my time)

It’s 3015 A.D.: we have Val and Vance Astro stranded with Starhawk on a weird swampworld; Hulk and Yondu marooned “on a planet of drunkards and robot slaves” and Doc trying to find them again so they can resume their liberation mission, just as
they’re boarded by the Badoon. Between Marti’s fire and ice projection powers, Charlie-27’s ramrod approach (“with eleven times the mass of his Terran ancestors”) and Nighthawk’s darkness-doubled strength they show well against the Badoon and their mindless “Zoms,” human slaves, which is why the Guardians hold back their full force.

But Nighthawk’s stunned and taken hostage; now the Badoon wish to be led to the power source, as Doc probes the likely planets, judging by suns and potentially-habitated planets. He detects a “solar-powered entity” and his friends, in the Capella system, second from the sun.

The “One Who Knows” tells her to put away her sword or suffer further nausea, for he knows her weakness towards fighting others of her gender. He’s incredulous that Major Astro never thought that the Brotherhood naturally requires a Sisterhood, which harbors a secret to be revealed within their city, Venesia. They send a friendly contingent to greet them.

Aboard the “Captain America” Doc is mistaken for dead, while nearby he hovers in his astral form. He uses the “same distance at precisely the opposite angle from the course which will lead to Valkyrie and Vance Astro.” Dressed as a gladiator, the enthralled Hulk and Yondu are groomed for Emperor Groozot’s deadly game show. One of his courtesans stops to admire Hulk, one of the only healthy, muscular physical specimens she’s ever encountered.

One trumpet flourish later, Mon-Tee introduces Super-Death Sweepstakes!! Mister Green and Mister Blue are the subject of wagers, and then Yondu, aka Mr. Blue is teleported into the presence of three spear-handed robots on a 45 degree tilted floor. He agilely evades one attacker, which earns him a mace...which doesn’t hold up after he skillfully smashes another foe. The last attack pins robot and Yondu to the wall and then an alloy blade comes out of its “mouth” to much cheering. The mace chain is effective in popping the robot’s head off, and “he’s won the Super-Death Sweepstakes!” The guards take him into custody.

Starhawk greets Queen Tolaria at the Sisterhood’s Royal Palace, and she returns the gesture with courtesy, shocking Major Astro. She now explains the females that attacked them were in a breeding frenzy, part of millions of years of their existence, predating Kree and Skull. The hatred between male and female held the race back a long time; the mating, which occurs once a lifetime, “reduces male---and female alike---to animals.” By cunning the males enslaved the females, and by segregation, they evolved greater technology, leading to the males creating ships for exploring the stars, and returning to the Capella system for mating only. Then the males collect the eggs and assume responsibility for childbirth. Females are returned to Swampworld.

Major Astro and Valkyrie drop the bad news on Tolaria: the males are conquering scum. Starhawk assents. Have they ever, Val asks, considered revolting? Now Starhawk departs upon solar sails “to cast my lot with the cold and dark.” Astral Dr. Strange observes his departure, even feels sure it was in reaction to Strange’s detection...but no matter. For now, Strange teleports the heroes to Earth, where the Guardians (and ‘Hawk) stand shackled, to be executed before the world. “Brothers of the Empire---take aim!!”

Next : Let my Planet Go!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Defenders 27 Steve Gerber

DEFENDERS #27 [IMG][/IMG] 27 “Three Worlds To Conquer!”

Lord Droom of the Badoon Empire decides to wait until the orbiting Captain America ship teleports its payload to the Earth’s surface. As Doc Strange points out, Hulk’s a bit distrustful of technology; “he’s rarely seen it employed for his benefit.” Droom sends a ray “to bisect and deflect the four beams from the ‘Captain America’” and scatters the teleporting heroes away from Earth, “into the trackless void of sub-space.” Now the stowaway Jack Norriss rushes out upon hearing the bad news. “Where is she? Where’s Barabara?!”

The answer: a pool of blood red water, amidst purple and gold vegetation, along with “the 1,000 year-old master of pschokinesis,” who figures from the two moons they’ve missed Earth. Now the webbed, hirsute hands reach forth: lizard creatures with no self-control drag Asto into the crimson mire. Valkyrie’s great strength allows her time to fight back, but this has the consequence of making her weaker with each thrust. One psycho-kinetic blast later, Major Astro blasts the attackers away, from himself, then Val, who is wounded. Why? A golden, human-seeming form materializes, to offer aid.

Aboard the ship, Martinex has no clue what went wrong, and Doc puts a spell on Jack, who rushes forward to attack. He asks now to be hooked into the sensor bank.

Yondu and the Hulk materialize amidst a drunken tableau, where no one speaks a cogent language. Amidst the dancing and singing, Hulk observes “people look stupid—not happy!” That’s right, there’s a Jersey Shore planet. Hulk and “Flag-head” respond to a woman’s screams, and Yondu fires a Yaka arrow, which responds to his whistle and scatters the thugs. The woman then slaps Yondu and runs! The attacking robots and their weapons give Yondu pause; they charge them with “disruption-festival of-death.” Hulk “just wants to HIT something---before stupid place drives Hulk crazy!!” As one would truly be, Yondu’s astounded---and then another one appears to say “you-killed-my-babies!” and enthralls the waylaid liberators.

Wired into the sensors, Doctor Strange begins his search with the computer, to create “a fusion of mysticism and technology. Together they examine whole star-systems at nerve-impulse clip---creating a surge that surprises the Badoon.
Starhawk now meets Vance Astro for the first time and heals Valkyrie with light, “and you and she are in my debt.”

“Zinnia” the robot brings her thralls before the shlubby king Goozot, who explains the “babies” are a useful part of Zinnia’s programming, to instill “a sense of duty.” Goozot recognizes they are “gifts...from our allies, the Badoon.” Zinnia takes them to the studio...

At ten times its normal range, the Strangely-augmented sensors reach out, just as the Badoon Elite Guard teleports aboard the ship.

Defenders 26 with the Guardians of the Galaxy


(spins out of Giant Size Defenders #5)

“Savage Time”

by Steve Gerber & Sal Buscema, with Vince Colletta

The hours before day break find Jack Norriss and Barbara---whose mind is the Valkyrie’s---hashing out what to make of her body’s marriage to him before she became who she is now, as winds sweep the New Jersey Palisades. A kiss proves unwelcome. An earthquake gives her an opportunity to demonstrate the freakish powers now hers, which he fears, to save him with winged Aragon, her steed.

Among parties interested in this unusual tectonic upheaval: the Defenders, who review the situation of the futuristic Guardians of the Galaxy, freshly time-crashed in the present, from an alien-invaded 3015 A.D. Their ship, the U.S.S. Captain America, needs repair. Nighthawk notes the weather’s “gone completely haywire” and Dr.
Strange concludes “the only explanation can be the temporal displacement caused by our---visitors.”

They are: Charlie-27, ultra-dense last survivor of a future Jupiter colony
Vance Astro, an astronaut refugee from our times, one thousand years removed by space travel
Yondu, blue, finned native of Centauri-IV, “Earth’s only interstellar colony.”
“Hulk doesn’t get it. How can men be from tomorrow when it’s still tonight?”

The rather-familiar ship’s attracted a film crew and a Nat’l Guard cordone. The paradox of Vance Astro as a boy and as a man from the future co-existing is disrupting Earth violently. Now we meet Pluvian man of crystal, science officer Martinex, with lil’ Vance Astro in tow. A burst from Dr. Strange travels to the site to protect young Vance from any trigger-happy soldiers. Martinex can fix the ship, but they’ll need Doc to get it into orbit. While Nighthawk has a laugh about what one might say to one’s younger self, superhero Major Astro and his young, unwitting counterpart then rap about the world Astro’s known, without the spoiler of their shared identity.

Ozone depletion led to massive skin cancer; cybernetic replacement parts became the answer to that, via bionics. That research backfired in a civil war, which ended with a nuclear device active in an undisclosed area “half the size of...uh, an area the size of your Canada”, now “uninhabitable.”

People pulled together in a confederacy of nations, only to be attacked by Martians, as chronicled elsewhere by Roy Thomas, Don McGregor, and P. Craig Russell. After another bout of medieval rule, freedom was won, leading back out into space, and colonies...along with a forgotten rocket from 1988, which re-appears in the scheme in 3005 as a curiosity. Two years later, the Badoon attack and enslave mankind.

We flash back to Marvel Two-in-One #4 & 5, where Captain America joins their band for an adventure. Little Vance cries, because all of this sounds like things “that could happen here, couldn’t it?” His older counterpart reassures him we have a choice. Doc mercifully erases these ideas and sends him home at his request.

Val has words with her overly-protective and freaked-out hubby; Doc takes the ship and two teams back to the future.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Defenders 25

We begin with the fate of Son of Satan and Power Man after they vanished into that hole in the air. The splash of Defenders #25 shows Clea as she draws Hellstrom and Cage through the Crystal of Agamotto, to exit from Doc's amulet, before the hanging captive Defenders.
Clea manages to make contact with Doc’s mind as he awakens. Cage frees Nighthawk, while the Soulfire Hellstrom ejects from his nethermetal trident frees Doc. Enter Yellow Jacket: “Nighthawk – what's going on here? I heard – what on Earth – ? You're free! But who – how – what?” As he points out, they have as many members as the Avengers, “maybe more”; not bad for a non-team!
Doc’s still too weak to teleport them to the surface, but Cage and Hellstrom are aware of Valkyrie’s impending fate: to burn before the frightened masses. Yellowjacket’s analytical probing cannot yield what the inner whispers of Daimon Hellstrom’s intellect do. The Soulfire bursts forth upon the hidden mechanisms, and the platform-game-like storyline takes the rescue mission back in convergence with the logical conclusion of its intent.
Val, DD and the Hulk remain in distress in the streets, as opinions and differences begin to lead the people to force a Serpent Stand Down. DD wakes up and frees himself. His impressions chronicle the emotional turbulence, which the Hulk's empathies cannot process without clouded distress. “Too much yelling! Too many people! Hulk can't stand it! Stop it – Hulk must stop it – 'til Hulk can see again!”
Jack’s actions inspire the onlookers, which they cannot realize are fueled in turn by the danger to his wife. An average guy with no powers is trying to make a difference, upon this baroque, primal, symbolic tableau: are they going to stand here and let this happen, even if maybe they are NOT individually very sympathetic to minorities? The scene could’ve been done so stridently, but Gerber pulls off these random people with believable motives and words: not idealists, but not citizens willing to stand by and watch crimes against humanity. It’s simply basic human decency, regarding what is happening right in front of you.
The crowd finally rallies the Serpents, who flee, while simultaneously:
Hulk: “Hulk's eyes are getting better. Hulk was afraid snake-man's light-gun hurt Hulk for always – but now – dark is going away...Hulk can SEE!” Blindness, a need for leadership and guidance: the Hulk and his opponents battle through similar metaphors---and isn’t that the point, you might say, about the basic state of us all? (Now THAT’s Seventies.)

The secret exit of the Serpents leads into a plush office that Nighthawk suddenly realizes belongs to his financier Pennysworth. Suddenly he’s lost desire to keep his pretense of a dual identity from Cage; he’s shattered by the knowledge that separating his lives has left him in darkness, too. Richmond Enterprises subsidizes the Serpents, and the busy superhero obliviously paid little heed to what his civilian power does in the world. That’s his hamartia: even a few brightly sparkling discharges of superhuman power will only be a secondary remedy; even as they prepare to rescue Val, the truth is, they are not needed. There are limits to what these great powers can really do.
We hear little, after all, about the crimes prevented between their inception and the time they’re committed. The best crime fighting is prevention, and besides, what more could grown, responsible and always-rich Kyle Richmond do without the cool costume, but instead, with meetings, donations, and internal diagnostics?
Nighthawk goes off to find his manager. And Son of Satan, oddly, stays behind, for an inspired reason.
SoS: “No, Sorcerer. I shall join you there shortly – after I've retrieved my chariot.” Things here aren’t just illogically left out of the puzzle of location, as my friend might say. Wielding these accoutrements comes with responsibilities.
The Defenders gather back at Doc's place, where, Gerber tells us, “accounts are exchanged in full at last" – Nighthawk gets the location of the Serpents' main base out of Pennyworth during a bit of angry payback. No one is angrier, of course, than Cage.
In one all-inclusive double page spread, the Defenders invade the Serpent headquarters, bringing all their individual powers and attacks to bear in a route of the remaining villains, who always relied on guile, captivity and surprise for all their most effective weapons to work.
The Serpents' racist mass-murders shake Kyle Richmond still to the core. He flies off into the sunset to grapple with his conscience...

An alternative re-write of Day 2, "Free of the fallen World!" starring the Defenders and TRANZ

Perhaps it’s intuition---or some side effect of the increasing ripple effect of the Transmetamorphosis changing the Earth---but the soldier’s aware of another presence suddenly arrived upon the seen. He has never heard of the blessing of the Vishanti, but across time and space, he is aware that heroes gather---perhaps to stop this change rocking the Earth with change, or perhaps, to make sense of it as chaos has its sway.
Holt looks at Blancley, and now both see in their midst a dark stage, figures stabbing the darkness with the lights of their essences, though their bodies assemble from various places across time and space.
To stand before such a door way is to immerse one’s self in facing the direction of all one’s fears, and sense, moving forward, your survival’s path, its methods.
Now both soldiers become aware of aid, not only from the strange non-team of beings diving with Valkyrie into the perilous recesses of the spreading phenomenon...
...but surfing atop turbulence as extra-dimensional energy from the astral plane is the consciousness of Doctor Strange---presently, from across time, in the 19th century!

In the act of discerning, clarity is everything. Sometimes, an act must be made certain with only the most doubtful perceptions. From the core of his being, Doctor Strange becomes a mental mirror to the crystal ball, an eye rolling over events of no less than a reality storm.
This distorting vision of the interlacing consciousnesses of the soldiers and fire fighters in the distance (as well as the Hulk and Nighthawk) suggests why unprepared humanity and Earth seem destined to shatter from this process of Tranz-Rupture. The adaptation of their minds to the accelerated empathy seems achievable---yet what is this? Those who fear most seem to simply ---vanish! The Eye of Agamotto finds no evidence of them in their passing, save for traces of energy that radiate outward into the corridors of the fifth dimension, hinting out some existence elsewhere in the beyond.
The mystery is not beyond a sorcerer supreme---indeed, the hidden nature of the plan’s abandoned now, as pretense is no longer necessary in the face of naked power. I discern the source of power for this change, this rupture of normal reality, even such that it is,,,YOU?!?
I discern the source of power for this change, this rupture of normal reality, even such that it is: you!

DAKIHM THE enchanter: Ah! Doctor Strange. I am Dakihm the Enchanter. Think nothing of me being deceased, I just wear whatever's comfortable!

DOCTOR STRANGE: I sense a near-complete object of emotional power...hidden to the eyes.

the emotional energy collated in the near-finished pyramid of Thog the Nether-Spawn. He never got to put the tip of self-realization on it; between Gerber, the Man-Thing, and I, we finished that business. yet, it's not as though all those emotional reservoirs simply vanished with Thog!

DOCTOR STRANGE: What was called up and created by one higher mind form, yet another cosmic presence can claim---and so it is!

How now does a fetish to control, dormant throughout most of Eternity, and gathered for power once, yet never truly banished, come to effect what we subjectively call "Now"?

DAKIHM: Return from the 19th Century requires reserves best left exploring the source and nature of this amazing changed landscape, for such is the state of natural law that materials and minds seem in rebellion to their given state! What now would the Master of the Mystic Arts do?

Is it his duty to put this to a halt? Would this be the manipulations of one sorcerer-for another’s ?

DOCTOR STRANGE: I can't take anyone’s master plan for Earth very lightly. In fact, I usually find unfortunate reasons to number in the opposition.

DAKIHM: Well, I was deeply involved in some crystal gazing, as were you...
Dakihm's image
vanishes into the Crystal.

Broken bells rustle by the oak door. Madame Blavatsky has proved a commendable tolerance, even enthusiasm, for these, her two touring guests, Stephen Strange and Clea. Their good conversation has led to quite an eventful afternoon.
As she turns from her wood stove top with a tray of tea, she senses something ineffable at stake, yet, she recognizes benevolent, yet awe-inspiring, energy in the traveling couple---even as she suspects they journey from the very place of Strange’s vision that dances and darts within the crystal set before him.

He looks up.

STRANGE: Thank you. I trust you to understand the strenuous nature of this emergency.”
BLAVATSKY: Trouble at home?
STRANGE: You might say that.

BLAVATSKY: Have no fear. You came to me to speak of other places where dwells the soul, friend. Now I must share my impressions with you, as I see outside you while you concentrate so feverishly.

STRANGE: Clea seems to be recuperating energy from contact with our friends. The tea is very thoughtful.

MADAME BLAVATSKY: Enjoy the ease in its heat, doctor. I feel the need to tell you of the three ghosts who surround the crystal ball’s tempestuous vision. What we gaze upon in this orb seems to be the very dreams of ghosts, lucid in the light of thousand year slumber coming to the threshold of wakening.

CLEA: Stephen, do you recognize...?

STRANGE: Their language is Old Norse. They are adepts of some proficiency themselves; their intentions give me some notion what occurs in the most impenetrable place wherein Valkyrie’s astral self seeks breech.

BLAVATSKY: Two are united as one...and the third is united into another pairing, as though merged, captured, one who is not of this world.

CLEA: I seek to use the Orb of Agamotto’s power to guide Valkyrie at the eye of the material storm opened by the Spell of the Wolf.

STRANGE: Yet the wolf is a pawn, I think, to some greater outside presence!

CLEA: Nonetheless, Stephen it seems sure that this werewolf enchanter---his body, clearly stolen from another universe---holds the key to humanity grabbing some stake in the actions that cut and paste
The world we know.

He nods. He begins to probe where the energies radiate, how they mix with the very fundamental place where human thought becomes human reality.

STRANGE: But should I discern the nature of this Transmetamorphosis. What then?”
Indeed---what then?
I discern the source of power for this change, this rupture of normal reality, even such that it is: the M’Krann Crystal Its energies created a blinking of reality: fantastically, all ceased to exist in a barely detected split second, during a battle for the crystal involving the mutant X-Men. The energy was born in waves which proceeded the end of the universe as we experienced it--- save for the destiny of a universal force and its bond with a woman of Earth, an atom-child named Jean Grey.

Once the description of the M’Krann Crystal and its intersection with human life was told me by my fellow Defender, the space faring Silver Surfer:
the artifact source, the M’Krann Crystal, lies within the Shi’ar Galaxy. Its existence before the Milky Way existed has been marked with a special stargate alignment occurring regularly but extremely rarely throughout its existence.

The alignment was manipulated by the mad Shi’ar Emperor D’Ken, whose ties and plans to involve Earthlings remain unrevealed. How now does an object, dormant throughout most of Eternity, shed consequences all the way from the Shi’ar Galaxy now? Return from the 19th Century requires reserves best left exploring the source and nature of this amazing changed landscape.

Reverberations in that very blinking of existence, as recorded by Peter Corbeau via Star Core One on that occasion have been harnessed, with minimal efficiency, into the necessary transformative power to choose an acceleration of evolution in both man and Earth.

Clea’s trance reassembles its contact with Valkyrie, and now Blavatsky, Strange and Clea all see the two ghosts united of which the Madame spoke.
United as a body of flame, they dance about the sword Dragonfang,
held aloft by Barbara Norse’s arm, while her body holds aloft the spirit of brave Brunhilde.
Her lips carry a soft chant to Freya as her pegasus Aragorn bears down upon the dark arena
where stands the transfixed wolf-man-god: Remus Sharptooth, drawing a techno-sorcerous circuit
triangulatingThog’s collected pyramid of emotional substance, to focus the M’Krann energies and manipulation from the future itself,
as the world of our knowledge shatters.

Story continues, HERE:

Defenders In the Jaws of the Serpent, concluded

Pressing on to thoughts of Atlantis for Namor, her submerged kingdom destination is lost amidst a multi-hued disruption in her brain. Her drop to the floor brings the other three present, where she recovers from her faintness to apologize for only summoning Daredevil and Daimon Hellstrom.

These two pages are strongly made of yellow, red and shadows; appropriate, for the gathering of Luke Cage, Power Man, with these heroes, costumed devil without and shirtless, caped devil within.

Banner suggests Clea relax without apology and takes over, listing the Defenders only reachable by the Crystal, clearly, cleverly, and humbly decides to try a simple phone call to the one whose number is known...a hero for hire who recently worked with the Defenders as if by accident against the massive threat of Thor villain the Wrecker and the newly formed Wrecking Crew, Asgardian powered mortal thugs.

Luke Cage doesn't know a Bruce Banner, and if he's the Hulk, Luke's George Wallace; he's in no move for jive. Banner earnestly persuades him, for reals, yo, and so Power Man scribbles down an address and departs his shabby office in the sleazy center of 42nd st., takes the I.R.T. to put his life on the line, on account of the names of Nighthawk and Doc Strange alone. Besides, if this is about breaking the Serpents, how can one resist?

At Strange's door Luke identifies a coming tap on his shoulder from Daredevil, who he simply knows is there, to Hornhead's surprise. Upon asking, Daredevil shakes hands pleasantly with Mr. Cage, in a manner very much like Matt Murdoch, without a mask, would handle the same man.
What does the whinny of Eldritch Horses stolen from Hell sound like to ears who have never before beheld their like?

GOOD LORD! says DD. "What on Earth!?"

"Wrong both times, man--" says Power Man, emphatically, "Nothing I ever seen on Earth looked like THAT--and the Good Lord, it definitely ain't!"

Reasonably stunned speechless by the firey entrance of "the equally-silent, grim-visaged emissary of Hell who has descended into their midst." The soundless man Daredevils registers with, incredibly, two heart beats becomes, to Cage, another matter-of-fact visitor ringing the doorbell of Dr. Strange's Sanctum in Greenwich Village. Clea praises the Vishanti they've arrived, and inside they're introduced to each other the Defenders' peril, and its one possible source of clues: the Serpent fanatic captured by Yellowjacket last issue and held immobile "under Stephen's---Dr. Strange's---spell," Clea points out. The person she cares for is not someone masked from the world that nonetheless can't truly recognize him; in fact, save for the sightless swashbuckler, none of these heroes wears a mask of any sort. Their manifested energy, and their open faces and humanity, are their identities.

His very humanity, in fact, leaves the Mystic Master in a state of stupor akin to the captive Serpent. "I don't understand," says disguised scientist Hank Pym, captured beside the shattered bonds of the Valkyrie on his right between himself and the unconscious Strange, of whom he observes to Nighthawk: "you and Val both took the same ray-blast He did. Yet both of You recovered." "My strength is doubled at night--and you Saw how powerful Val is--for all the Good it did her," says Kyle Richmond. He continues to sound determined in a logically frustrating situation. His mood shifts as he explains their super powers, to the edge of despair for the unknown fate of the woman he thought only weeks before to be falling in love with, along with his new life, not as wealth-riddled victim or poseur super-villain for the Grandmaster, but as a Defender. "Despite all his magic tricks, Doc's still only human you."

A little ruffled, frankly, Yellowjacket explains how the pain in his "only human" ankle's subsided enough for him to use his non-laser zapped mind to concentrate on shrinking out of the bonds to insect size. At human size, he releases a grateful, they don't budge. Now his alternative is to escape and get help...but here he discovers the fortress is submerged underwater! The exit, though, must still be somewhere!

Back at the Sanctum Sanctorum, Daimon attempts by mesmerism to coax the secret location from the Serpent's pawn, but he proves counter-hypnotized to spout gibberish upon questioning. That leads to Luke Cage giving this racist honky the firm treatment. Before a knuckle sandwich, however, the refugee tenant Elena, from the slum the Serpents destroyed in issue #22, calls Banner and Clea fearfully. "Quickly! It's Valkyrie--on television! They are going to kill her!" The screen will hold the location of her last stand, but to the minds of Elena and the panicked Jack Norriss, two normal people, it's terrifying and utterly wrong! "This nice woman who helped me," she thinks, "is about to be burned alive by the freaks that killed my helpless old neighbor and no one's stopping them!" Clea has cut through the confusion and led everyone before the screen, where Jack's horrific nightmare of his wife, made into a cold stranger now to be murdered for her delusions of grandeur, sends him rushing without these bizarre maniacs to try and save her.

The heroes who can see swear, and Daredevil listens to the special hearts of each of them, as they behold for the first time the heroine, helplessly strapped upside down to a crucifix, dominating the middle of the intersection before live cameras, as flames burn at the insistence of gathered Serpent Sons. Banner's heart races him straight into a change of height and weight, and sightlessly Daredevil senses him, transformed, "his sheer emotional upheaval is turning him into ---the HULK!"

"Let Hulk through! Snake Men must not hurt Girl! Girl is Hulk's Friend!" Now it's the Green Goliath shaking up the scene, dashing outside by the time his 'partners in peril' reach the door. "An instant later, they are gone---" narrates Steve Gerber, his captions a special character between us and our cast; "Daredevil carried away on his billy club's steel cable...
the Hulk catapulted into the sky by the mightiest Leg Muscles on Earth.. the Son of Satan at the reins of his fiery Chariot...with a still-disbelieving Power Man hanging on for dear life as the team of hellspawn pulls it aloft!"

Miles pass in minutes; they descend to battle---"however"...without warning, Cage observes horse and chariot being "swallowed up---by a freakin' hole in the AIR!" Not just that; as Hulk says, "Black man and Fire-Stick...went AWAY! But girl Needs them! Don't they Care about Girl?"
Daredevil observes, it's just as well he can't explain they didn't vanish of their own will; the angrier-the-stronger becomes the legend in play, as Daredevil adds his lean, trained human agility and might beside the Hulk, who means business.

Daredevil feels her before him as they light the flames; "Death to all white traitors!" screams an ignoramus catching the battling Murdock careless a second too long. Hesitation, as in the beginning, equals loss; the Hulk would not hesitate to smash...ah, if only for a surprise weapon, made just for Hulk, that leaves Hulk nearly as helpless as Daredevil: he's blinded!

"The irony of it," intones you the reader, you mind touching the parting words of Steve Gerber, before the reliable bound, beaten, and confused heroes at the mercy of the Serpents Sons in the final panel, "is all too bitter.

The massive Hulk...felled by a weapon which would have had No Effect on the far less powerful Daredevil. And now Both are blind.

The Green Goliath kneels helpless, trembling like a frightened child. While the Man without borne to the join a final blaze of glory."

Defenders 24 In the Jaws of the Serpent

Defeated! Lower Manhattan, fire bombed, and its Defenders, fallen!

Doctor Strange, The Master of the Mystic Arts---unconscious! The high-flying Nighthawk---brought low and wingless! The vibrant Valkyrie---yet to revive!

Suspended, enthralled by four double headed, coiling steel-cast serpents, even the Yellowjacket stings no more. All of these Defenders are captives hidden away in a location completely unknown, surrounded by enemies. The greatest of their powers avails them nothing, and remains undisplayed, for they have been rendered unconscious at the human level (as was the Hulk, too fearsome to take captive even while unconscious...and so, left to change to Bruce Banner, unseen by his foes).

So do we learn of the unfeeling, hateful plan of racial nightmares planned by the masked Sons of the Serpent, now infecting American media with their divisive, racially coded rhetoric. "As Adam and Eve were driven from the Garden," their violence in the ghettos will displace the less fortunate into the suburbs, where, in fear of the refugees and looting, the white gun owners will inflict race war upon the displaced.

Just for being born a different SKIN color? Can you believe it was ever normal in America to even think like that? But it was, and it hasn't been so long ago at the moment in time Valkyrie and Nighthawk respond. (Blast! If only Doc weren't still unconscious from that ray-burst! We'd be out of our bonds in two seconds! thinks Nighthawk.) Who would cause such anguish, who would use such resources, for such a vile end? Yellowjacket replies to the incredible pettiness, but Nighthawk is right, they are beyond reason.

They're departing to do these heinous things to their fellow human beings, but they're hooting about winning the war too much in the earshot of Valkyrie. Despite her confiscated sword, the metal coils will not stop her from taking issue with these men in a most physically uncomfortable manner.

"No woman could've done that!" they think, not unlike many people at the time of this story in the world outside of this twenty five cent diversion. But as women did, Valkyrie begins making believers of them...until she discovers one is a woman! She who hesitates is lost to a second ray blast. Interestingly, the woman asserts: "aren't you glad Serpent rules were amended to include women?" So equal opportunity ironically balances the scale, and now Valkyrie, unconscious, is the first chosen to die.

Fuzzy, Doctor Bruce Banner haggardly recounts the attack that felled himself as the Hulk and his captured fellow Defenders before Clea, the enchanted apprentice of Strange, his loyal man-servant Wong and Jack Norriss, the husband of the body(his wife Barbara) possessing the mind and spirit of the Valkyrie. Not only does he not believe Banner is the Hulk, logic refuses him peace as he hears his newly-rediscovered, amnesiac wife is a hostage. That grave danger moves Bruce to ask her aid in summoning, for the first time, more Defenders from their previous allies. Her love and courage outstrips her uncertainty, and so Clea calls from its dark cask the Crystal of Agamotto.

By thought projection she reaches out with no previous knowledge of finding this help. To the Son of Satan, Daimon Hellstrom, and Daredevil, Matt Murdock, she sends her terse visionary S.O.S.: "Defenders in peril of their lives...come at once...New York...Sanctum of Dr. Strange..."

Hellstorm is certain of her sincerity; his intuition guides him to choose to help, and so, his demon steeds arisen from beneath Fire Lake in Massachuesetts, trident in hand, he takes the night sky.

Searching for clues in the blocks-wide devastation, Daredevil's search for the serpents leads to his first encounter with seeing a thought projection, something he always wondered if a blind man could also do. No one there, a voice twelve stories above the ground---how is a man dependent upon his heightened senses to believe this in any way? With no other way to detect from a heartbeat if she is truthful, his instinct leans him towards trusting her. He realizes his affiliation with the Defenders, themselves unknown to the world at large, is unlikely knowledge for a trap, so he answers the plea.

Continued in Next Post!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Defenders 23

Defenders #23.

Kyle reveals to Stephen that he'd met Holliman earlier that night:

“He wanted to talk real estate with Kyle Richmond. I wasn't in the mood.”
“Perhaps you should have listened more closely, Nighthawk. The forces of karma work in puzzling ways.”

How very puzzling---as we’ll see! Whatever reasons drive Kyle to express his exceptionalism through his costumed identity, rather than his millionaire self with its connections, have as much to do with the limitations of a superhero story of the 70’s as the character trying to fit into one. The Defenders are much further from the answers for it. They head back to the Sanctum for tea and pondering---unaware of the remaining three Serpents spying on them.

The Serpents, however, find a violent sting awaiting them through Yellowjacket, last seen in GS Defenders #4. Surreptitiously he’s skulked after them over the rooftops, and in a splash page smash he begins to take them down. The first two of them fall to wisecracks and jaw cracks, but a third that had been hiding in the shadows clips him. Yellowjacket confidently renders him unconscious, as the other two escape.

YJ takes his new prisoner to the Sanctum, where everyone there greets him happily to see him – underscoring the “friends” tone that’s come in under Gerber. The Hulk playfully makes goo-goo noises at Elena's baby, unconcerned with “bug man’s” prisoner, but Nighthawk rips the Sepent's mask off and tough talks him with a steadied fist. The Serpent (impervious to interrogation by hypnosis, as we find they all are) reveals his leader will be appearing on television at midnight. (Why so late? Though in today’s news cycles, it would still get its 24 hour treatment.)
Nighthawk eyes a lurker outside Doc's window, but as he prepares to go catch him, YJ says:

“Hold it! need to go smashing thru the glass! Let me handle this!” Using his scientifically precise approach, “(a) narrow, sharply focused beam of light issues forth from Yellowjacket's cellular-disruptor gun...passing harmlessly thru the window pane...and causing the fleeting figure outside to drop in his tracks!” This lurker, however, is discovered seconds later to be someone very shocking to Valkyrie (she drops her sword!): it’s her human persona’s missing husband, Jack Norriss, who’s much more shocked! He doesn't know what's happened, why “Barbara” doesn't recognize him...

With this left unsettled, Valkyrie excuses herself a few minutes, and Wong warms up Doc's TV, so they can watch the Serpent Leader's broadcast. (I don’t really remember seeing a TV any other time; Wong’s soaps, maybe? It was the source of instant news in 1974, though.) Serpent Leader plans to reach everybody at once, to start his all-white rebellion, and this is the medium by which to disseminate his ideas. It's been fairly called a great Gerberesque page, where he gives his speech; Nighthawk identifies the “spin” and also the imitation of legitimate political figures, a kind of State of the Disunion stating the correct response to the Great Society plans propagated by the Federal government: a purging of the stereotyped ethnicities, whose poverty increases the difficulty of employment, housing, and safety for white citizens.

Doc: “...the question becomes: what are we to do.”
Hulk: “Dumb Magician doesn't know?! Even Hulk knows –snake-men must be smashed!!”

But then, an explosion shakes Doc's house, and all rush outside, to see:

“The midnight sky to the south pulses with a brilliant – and eerie– glow of red-orange.” “A fire-bomb!” Y.J. shouts. “If it was dropped by plane – half of Lower Manhattan could be in flames! Looks like we shelve the questions for now...and move! Hulk! Come with me!” The two take quickly to the skies.

Nighthawk: “Wow! Talk about the voice of authority...! That's the first time I've ever seen Greenie take an order from anybody without so much as a grumble!”
Economically, we’ve been given YJ, the voice of intellect, of necessity, of precision, providing leadership to the Hulk, an emotional force of nature. As was his immediately formed plan, Hank directs his strength to forming a firebreak out of (strategically!) abandoned buildings. But because he IS what he is, Hulk sees this firebreak action as too slow, and decides to clap his hands together, creating a gale force that simply blows out the flames all at once. But this is costly to Yellowjacket: the force catches him as he flies two kids to safety, and down he comes to earth.

The kids are safe; but his ankle’s twisted; two Serpents sneak up and cudgel that fine brain, the seat of his real powers. He tries to activate the “cybernetic circuitry” contained in his cowl– but the pain from his ankle is too great; he goes down.

The Defenders arrive, but the Serpents are better-prepared for a second encounter.
One ray-gun blast each is sufficient to neutralize Doc, Val, and Kyle. The Hulk still stands after three, then he takes six. Then he's attacked by an electricity-weapon. Then he takes another eight blasts. Because it’s necessary for the next plot, Hulk falls down. Now, the Serpents make their mistake: they don't take him along with their other captives, because they realize they'd never be able to hold him once he woke up...maybe the stupid monster will wake shortly with no clue what to do, anyway! But as they walk away, the Hulk is changing back to Bruce Banner, lying on the pavement---and ironically, he may now be smart enough to save the day!

Comments: The stories of each speaking part tie together; the non-powered people and scenes fit in credible, realistic ways by the backstories and life paths that bring them here. Human beings seem to function with their own purposes, rather than appear as cogs in a plot machine.

Yellowjacket as a science-hero has a cool design and different approach than any of his fellow non-team mates. It’s a distinguishing approach; I think he just needed a writer who loved him, rather than...but here, I believe, you can open the debate yourselves!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Defenders 22: Sons of the Serpent


Writer: Steve Gerber Art: Sal Buscema & Mike Esposito
The Valkyrie---as Barbara Norriss---walks lost in thought about her recently discovered human identity, through the filthy lower Manhattan streets. Her reverie ends when she finds two men in a knife fight, which she disrupts. When they remain violent, she draws Dragonfang, hung invisibly at her side, triggering the appearance of her costume through a spell. Her speech to the fleeing men is interrupted by a scream, leading Valkyrie to charge into a tenement to investigate.

There, a poor woman named Elena desperately tries to remove a huge rat from her baby's crib, which Val does with ease, swiftly. However, Elena's plight and bitterness trouble her, and compassionately, she takes the woman and child to Dr. Strange's Sanctorum.

The upper East Side of Manhattan finds Kyle Richmond, a.k.a. Nighthawk, brooding at a fashionable party, still upset over his missing and badly injured former love Trish Starr, to the consternation of well-meaning Ginny. They are interrupted by sleazy developer Harold Holliman, whose offers are rejected upfront by the disinterested Richmond. "Take it up with Pennyworth," he says, referring to his trustee. He kisses Ginny goodbye cordially and takes a taxi to Strange's Sanctorum in the Village, where he soon arrives upon Wong serving Ms. Elena tea, and Clea playing with her baby in the presence of a placid Hulk. Valkyrie and Stephen discuss exploring Elena's plight and legal recourse in the morning, while a mysterious figure stares into the window. Richmond's arrival frightens him away. Val then begins to fill Kyle in on her slum experience.

Flash to the aforementioned slum, where the Sons of the Serpent firebomb the same tenement, at the cost of an elderly blind man's life inside.

The assembled Defenders arrive too late. Harold Holliman turns out to be the slumlord of the burning building; his accusation to the black tenants, of arson, starts a riot, nearly at the expense of his own life!

Strange and Nighthawk intervene, at the moment the Serpents return to finish their terrorism. Their racially tinged screed upsets the Hulk, who is not white, but green, therefore prompting him to smash the street and hurtle the terrorists off their feet. All the Defenders join the fray, save for Strange, attempting in vain to be the voice of reason. Animating a hose with a spell, he breaks up the fight. The Serpents flee, promising retribution.

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
( 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.

Myebook - D'n'A  Comics #1 - click here to open my ebook DNA Comics #1 is ONLINE!!!

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, but meanwhile, you can do what Jason did. (He also got a special bonus copy!) In Jason's case, he sent us $9 at

C. Lue Disharoon
542 6th Ave.
San Diego, CA 92101

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.

You can send $30 and get any three t-shirts and the comic, too---or $25 for the two styles of shirts and a comic.

NOT ANOTHER COMIC BOOK IS COMING IN 2012!!!! Like the INTEGR8D SOUL page on FB for more!!! And this blog and more new material are coming out as a book in spring of 2012, INTEGR8D FICTIONS.

Meanwhile, our t-shirts, featuring our first two painted covers by Gary Shipman, are available at Convention Special Price, for $12 each or 3 for $30, plus $3.00 for shipping & handling.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

DEFENDERS/ TRANZ #3 "Free of the Fallen Earth!" pt. 12 The complete Defender King Size saga

Remus Sharptooth attempts his escape in a Gnomlin-built craft---it lifts vertically for take-off, as the Defenders attempt to strike it from the air. The creature Anomaly watches from behind a smoking data base;

standing at the precipice, Corpse Flower wonders if Sharptooth’s decision is influenced by the Viking Captain, Ray Awen, who still makes up his subconscious mind.

Hulk’s skips, powered by his mighty legs, give him velocity to match the launching craft. The fleeing sorcerer-wolf turns to hurl bolts of blood-red lightning at the clutching emerald behemoth, whose bulk is nearly half that of the escape craft!

As all the heroes pursue Remus Sharptooth, abruptly, they observe what he has forgotten about all crafts built by Gnomlins:
in the end, they stop and they explode!!!

Just before this explosion, the Wolf Oversoul appears to Remus Sharptooth. He promises the sorcerer another existence to come, an incarnation in the world of Semeicardia. Thus he achieves a strange peace as he experiences his end on Earth.

The essence of the Semeicardia-fated creatures all finds its nexus through the eyes of Hillie, still filming below as the sorcerer’s saucer rockets away. Moments later, he finds himself possessed of an idea for a new film...about the exploits of a wolf sorcerer, reborn on a world called Semeicardia. He sits still, then decides to begin scribbling notes, post haste.

STRANGE: The colors-as-emotional being state could be a spell meant to help human kind through. But the choice will be theirs. Will we try to use the power to repeal this change on the world? There is much deep mystery. I, and at times, my friends, will work, apart and together, for peace.
Now here are we free of the fallen world.
Yes, this is inherently much more interesting than the earlier one, below.

Many present, in the end, are rallied by Mountie Dave’s call to have a round of Dreadnaughts , which Oakie suggest they have back at the Castles Made of Sand Bar and Grill.

Teddy finds himself at peace, feeling understood, prepared to move on after helping save lives here today. And Bali finds himself a new dog...he begins to rub her and check her over for pests, glad to have salvaged the animal from this disaster zone.

She looks to be of wolf descent...but placid in his hands.

Having transformed from the Hulk, Doctor Banner finds himself at a distance from all this revelry, as people try to continue on with normal life, after an experience they will try to understand, all their lives.

Needing a way to get on, himself, he takes some clothes found at the fire rescue encampment, and begins to hitchhike beside the Southern California highway.


Envisioned as a King-size Annual, as circa 1979

(Day 12 of 12 Days of Defenders complete, six weeks later, with a full X-Men story written in between!)