Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Self-Help, alien style: Steve Gerber's Defenders #34

Having fun?

We’re over a year into Steve Gerber’s Defenders run, from the days when I still ate my share of Gerber, no doubt.

It may be one of your favorites, it may be you just discovered them. If I’ve done my job, you don’t even have to like comic books to appreciate what an unusual entity
Steve’s slant on superhero comics truly was; there’s no doubt his approach inspired many of the field’s most lauded talents, and, I suspect , many creative people who went into other directions.

I hope a lot of kids grew up, if never again to read comics, to fondly half-remember these strangest and most fun comic books of days gone by.

Come to it like a little child and you’ll find imagination heaven inside!

“I think we’re all Bozos in this Book!”

we've got:
Nebulon, the Celestial Man...the most glam rock of super villain designs.
School of scaly Lubberdites...
and Jack Norriss, as....le Beaver.

Naw! Something WAY more outlandish than that. Say it with me:

His consciousness resides in the brain of Chondu the Mystic, which itself has been transplanted to the body of Nighthawk.

Jack knows this guy knows his face that isn’t his face, and they’ve even been enemies, so that can’t be good...selling the ice caps, is he kidding me? He keeps a grip on his brain...well, his body’s brain...of the guy in the Defenders, the one guy, who obviously has a problem with him, while talking to some sort of super alien who’s abducted him, meaning Nighthawk’s been kidnapped twice now (and borrowed, one other time!) and hasn’t even had his brain connected to his body so he can do anything about it.

His brain’s sloshing around in a bowl in the arms of the guy he likes the least.
Setting all this aside, someone’s got to keep up with the villains’ plans. Jack does this and tries to listen, appearing non-plussed. And now, the former ice cap thief declares, amidst his Lubberdite teachers, he wants to lead the world to enlightenment.

NEBULON: Do you approve? Will you aid us?

JACK Du Hawk: Yeah, sure. Sounds Keno.
What a truly great oh shit moment. Out of one major frying pan, into the fire. Reminds me a bit of exactly what I love about Hawkeye the Archer: “great, I’m just a dude with no power...what the heck will I do?!?”

Only, Jack's not even a super hero, much less one trained by Captain America. I don't even know if he attended Boy Scouts. He's just a regular guy in the body with the loose brain of the guy who's jealous of him over the wife that barely notes that he's alive. What's more regular than that?

Jack’s thought balloons light up with his nervous self-dialog. He’s drawn by Sal Buscema to where the reader gets to see him cringe, his back to Nebulon.
Where the heck are the Defenders?

Answer: in Connecticut, covered in goo, amid the wreckage of the Headmen’s headquarters.

Feeling vengeful, George Teekle, the man in Nagan's neighborhood (would you be my, won't you be my neighbor?) scoffs at the heroes freeing themselves. He gloated openly, after his thirty year mortgage home was demolished by the Hulk's bad temper (as seen back in #21, where I first began chronicling Steve's run).

Now, he goes and taunts the Hulk. Man, he does not appreciate that tone. He remembers it. He recalls playing with the Teekle's little girl in the yard; she wasn't afraid, she didn't cry...until George yelled at Hulk, and Hulk hammered the ground.

Doctor Strange's admonition to the Hulk, "ignore him," will not stop what happens next.

"Man tried to spoil Hulk's fun! Hulk HATES puny, stupid human!" So he sends a chunk of Nagan's hopelessly smashed wall sailing over George's head..."directly into the wooden skeleton of the home he hoped to build."

Aw, man, the thing is, the story Steve’s telling is one of those pitch-perfect priceless deals where captions are flawless, so matter-of-factly, and the characters are so realistically imagined, you can hardly leave out a word in the telling.

Captions with the author’s voice are still a trademark of comics convention at this point. The narrator doesn’t over think it, but uses his natural vocabulary. His voice makes him fit right alongside his misfit non-team.

I love the way he described the Defenders once in an interview: “they’re an encounter group.” Take this with you to therapy next time, in case you need to document the point at which you started to enjoy going crazy enough to make room for it in your life and move along.

Ponder the absurdity of it all, and meet me back here later today.

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