Defenders (comics)

Defenders (comics)
Marvel Feature 1 (1971).jpg
The Defenders.
Publication information
Publisher Marvel Comics
First appearance Marvel Feature #1 (December 1971)
Created by Roy Thomas
Ross Andru
In-story information
Base(s) Mobile
Dr. Strange's Mansion
Richmond Riding Academy
See:List of Defenders members

The Defenders is the name of a number of Marvel Comics superhero groups which are usually presented as a "non-team" of individualistic "outsiders," each known for following their own agendas. The team usually battled mystic and supernatural threats.

Its original incarnation was led by Doctor Strange and also included the Hulk, Namor, and as a kind of belated addition, the Silver Surfer. They first appeared as The Defenders in Marvel Feature #1 (December 1971).[1]

The group had a rotating line-up from 1972 until 1986, with Dr. Strange and the Hulk being more or less constant members along with a number of other mainstays such as Valkyrie, Nighthawk, Hellcat, Gargoyle, Beast, Daimon Hellstrom and Power Man, and a large number of hangers on and temporary members. The publication was retitled near the end of the run as The New Defenders but featured none of the original members and only Valkyrie, Beast and Gargoyle of the former long term members. The concept was modified in the 1993–95 series Secret Defenders, in which Dr. Strange assembled different teams for each individual mission. Later, the original team were reunited in a short lived series by Kurt Busiek and Erik Larsen. In the 2000s, Marvel published a new miniseries featuring the classic line-up. Writer Matt Fraction and artist Terry Dodson will be launching a new Defenders series in December, 2011.[2]


Publication history

The origin of the Defenders can be traced back to two crossover story arcs by Roy Thomas prior to the official founding of the team. The first, in Doctor Strange #183 (November 1969), Sub-Mariner #22 (February 1970), and The Incredible Hulk #126 (April 1970) occurred when the Dr. Strange series was canceled and the storyline was completed in the other series. Dr. Strange teams with Sub-Mariner, then the Hulk to protect the Earth from invasion by Lovecraftian inter-planar beings known as the Undying Ones and their leader, the Nameless One. Barbara Norriss, later the host of the Valkyrie, first appears in this story. In the second arc (featured in Sub-Mariner #34 and #35, February and March 1971), Namor enlists the aid of the Silver Surfer and the Hulk to stop a potentially devastating weather control experiment (and to inadvertently free a small island nation from a dictator) and face the Avengers under the unofficial name of the "Titans Three" (these two story arcs were reprinted in the first Essential Defenders volume).

The Defenders first appeared as a feature in Marvel Feature #1 (December, 1971), where the founding members gathered to battle the alien techno-wizard Yandroth, who had invented a machine that could set off nuclear stockpiles all over the planet, and remained as a team afterward. Due to the popularity of their tryout in Marvel Feature, Marvel soon began publishing The Defenders.

The best-known and most prominent Defenders are Doctor Strange, the Hulk, Namor the Sub-Mariner, the Silver Surfer, Valkyrie, Nighthawk, and Hellcat. Many other heroes worked with the team in its original incarnation, and several became official members. Notable associate members include Clea, Hawkeye, Son of Satan, Luke Cage (Power Man), Red Guardian, Gargoyle, Devil-Slayer, Moondragon, the Beast, Iceman, and Angel.

Steve Gerber

Steve Gerber’s run on the Defenders saw a deconstruction of the superhero genre that predates the exploration of such ideas in the 1980s and 1990s.[3] Gerber first worked on the characters in Giant-Size Defenders #3 (January 1975) and became the writer of the main title with issue #20 the following month. He wrote the book until issue #41 (November 1976).[4] Gerber developed an individual voice that mixed adventure with social satire and absurdist humor throughout his lengthy run on The Defenders (including the introduction of Korvac). In one issue, for example, a group of supervillains, tired of always being beaten by the good guys, seeks out a self-help guru for motivation. Another important part of Gerber's oeuvre was reviving forgotten characters; he brought back three pre-Marvel characters, the Headmen.[5] The Defenders met Gerber's Howard the Duck in Marvel Treasury Edition #12 (1976)[6]


David Anthony Kraft's 1977–1979 run as writer[7] was also eventful and decidedly offbeat, developing the tone set by Gerber in the series. In The Defenders, Kraft wrestled with large philosophical issues: the temptations of power, the Cold War and nuclear power, sibling rivalry, and growing old alone. Notable storylines from the Kraft era were the 1977 "Scorpio Saga" story-arc (issues #46, 48–50),[8] and the "Xenogenesis: Day of the Demons" storyline, (issues #58-60), where Kraft merged his interests in music and comics by inserting multiple references to the band Blue Öyster Cult into the stories.[9]

"Defenders for a Day"

A storyline in issues #63-65 (written by Kraft) had dozens of new applicants attempting to join the Defenders. All of them left shortly after for various reasons, mostly disappointment with the existing members. Among them were the Falcon, Marvel Man, Captain Mar-Vell, Ms. Marvel, Nova (Richard Rider), Torpedo, Stingray, Havok, Polaris, Black Goliath, White Tiger, Captain Ultra, the Jack of Hearts, HerculesProwler and Tagak the Leopard Lord.

The same storyline also had a number of villains attempting to present themselves as new Defenders members in order to confuse the authorities and the public as they committed robberies. Members included android versions of Libra and Sagittarius, as well as the Beetle, Batroc the Leaper, the Shocker, and others.

New Defenders

As of issue #125, Defenders was retitled to New Defenders as the original four members (Doctor Strange, the Silver Surfer, the Hulk, and Namor) were forced to leave the team. This was the result of an alien prophecy that stated that these four, operating as a group, would be responsible for destroying the world. The Beast then reformed the team as an official super-hero team complete with government clearance. The remaining Defenders disbanded in New Defenders #152. Several members had seemingly died in battle with the Dragon of the Moon and the remaining members left the team to join X-Factor. Several of these seemingly-deceased members later returned in issues of Solo Avengers, in Strange Tales vol. 2 #5-7, followed by issues #3-4 of the relaunched Doctor Strange, Sorcerer Supreme series.

In 1992, after it was revealed in Hulk #370-371 that the prophecy had been falsified, the original Defenders were reunited in a story entitled The Return of the Defenders running in Hulk Annual #18, Namor Annual #2, Silver Surfer Annual #5, and Dr. Strange, Sorcerer Supreme Annual #2.

Secret Defenders

In 1993, Marvel sought to revive the "Defenders" brand as "The Secret Defenders". The new team first appeared, unofficially, in Dr. Strange #50 and later Fantastic Four #374, before being officially introduced in Secret Defenders #1.

The series premise originally was that Doctor Strange would organize various teams of heroes for certain missions, with him as the leader. Members included Wolverine, Darkhawk, Spider-Woman, Spider-Man, Hulk, Ghost Rider, and others. This would last for the first several months of the title, before Doctor Strange was removed from the book, due to the character being reassigned to the "Midnight Sons" line at Marvel.

After an arc where the supervillain Thanos organized a team of "Secret Defenders" for a mission,[10] leadership of the Secret Defenders passed to Doctor Druid[11] and the series itself abandoned the revolving door roster in favor of a group of new characters working under Druid. The series however, by this point, had lost much of the hype that had preceded its launch, and was quietly canceled with Secret Defenders #25.[12]

Reunion & The Order

In 2001-2002, The Defenders reunited in Defenders (volume 2) #1-12 created by Kurt Busiek and Erik Larsen, immediately followed by The Order #1-6, in which Yandroth manipulated Gaea into "cursing" the primary four Defenders (Doctor Strange, the Sub-Mariner, the Hulk, and the Silver Surfer) so that they would be summoned to major crisis situations. These members were then mind controlled by Yandroth into forming the world-dominating "Order"; once the Order were freed from this control by their fellow heroes (including their teammates Hellcat, Nighthawk, and Valkyrie), the Defenders apparently disbanded. A fill-in issue set between these two series was published in 2011.

A Defenders five-issue miniseries debuted in July 2005, by Keith Giffen, J. M. DeMatteis, and Kevin Maguire (as a team, best known for their work on DC's Justice League franchise), featuring Doctor Strange attempting to reunite the original four Defenders to battle Dormammu and Umar. This series focuses mostly on humor as the characters spend most of their time arguing with and criticizing one another. The series was later collected into both hardcover and trade paperback collections, entitled Defenders: Indefensible.

The Last Defenders

Joe Casey wrote a new miniseries with a new line-up of Defenders as a result of the Super-Human Registration Act and the events of the Civil War.[13][14] Nighthawk wanted a team made up of previous Defenders like Hellcat and Devil Slayer but Tony Stark (Iron Man) makes the decision to select other heroes for the team as the original Defenders team was unstable in membership. The line-up is being led by Nighthawk,[15] with Blazing Skull,[16] Colossus,[17] and She-Hulk[18] also as members. The Defenders are assigned to New Jersey under the Fifty State Initiative, because the proximity to New York City demands more experienced heroes than can just be recruited from the ranks of Camp Hammond. The team is disbanded for incompetence but Richmond eventually founds a team outside the Initiative with the Son of Satan, She-Hulk, Krang, and Nighthawk (S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Joaquin Pennyworth). The team reappears in the mini-series Vengeance (2011).

The Offenders

The Red Hulk (also known as Rulk) assembles a counter team of supervillains called the Offenders. The team includes Baron Mordo, Terrax the Tamer, and Tiger Shark and fights past versions of their enemies.[19]

Fear Itself: The Deep

During the Fear Itself events, Doctor Strange reunites a new version of the Defenders with Lyra, daughter of Hulk, Namor, Loa, a student of the X-Men, and the Silver Surfer to confront Attuma who has become Nerkkod, Breaker of Oceans. Many past Defenders appear in the last issue.

2011 Series

A new Defenders series will be launched, written by Matt Fraction and drawn by Terry Dodson. The new book will feature Doctor Strange, Red She-Hulk, Namor, Hulk, the Silver Surfer and Iron Fist joining forces with a number of other Marvel heroes on a globe-trotting, dimension-hopping adventure to stop "an ancient conspiracy that threatens the unimaginable."[20]


For detailed information, please see List of Defenders members.

"True" Defenders

Defenders membership was fluid as the characters consider the team a "non-team",[citation needed] yet a few members were somewhat recognizable, most noticeably the three founders (Doctor Strange, Namor the Sub-Mariner, and the Incredible Hulk), the Silver Surfer, Valkyrie, Nighthawk, Hellcat, and Gargoyle. A secondary tier of Defenders might include such members as Clea, Hawkeye, Red Guardian, the Son of Satan, Devil-Slayer, Moondragon, and later, Iceman, Angel, and Beast of the X-Men. Membership was clearer in the New Defenders era when the team was more formally organized.

Secret Defenders

This group is sometimes counted as an extension of the original Defenders, despite being largely different in composition and goals. Its composition was perhaps even more fluid than that of the original Defenders, but typically included either Doctor Strange or Doctor Druid as leader, joined by a custom selection of heroes chosen for the mission at hand.[21] At various times, War Machine, Darkhawk, Thunderstrike, Wolverine, the second Spider-Woman, Ant-Man, Iceman, Nomad, and many others were members.

At the end of its existence, the group had a somewhat regular composition including Cadaver, Sepulchre, Joshua Pryce, and Doctor Druid.


In addition to the various official incarnations of Defenders, there have been other, unnamed teams put together by Doctor Strange that might be considered Defenders. During the latest story-arcs in Marvel Team-Up, Doctor Strange assembled a team of heroes that has been nicknamed 'the Defenders' by fans[citation needed] - consisting of himself, the Hulk, Wolverine, Spider-Man, She-Hulk, Ms. Marvel, and Nova - to combat the villain Titannus, subsequently creating a similar team - replacing Nova and the Hulk with Luke Cage and Captain America - to oppose Titannus' return.

Other versions

Ultimate Defenders

Cover to Ultimates (v2) #6. Art by Bryan Hitch.

In the Ultimate Marvel universe, the Defenders are a group of amateur vigilantes who dress up as superheroes. None of them have superpowers, although they claim to be experienced in crime-fighting. Henry Pym is invited to join them, and he accepts, adopting a new identity- Ant-Man- to avoid the potential legal problems of using his growth serum as it is now the official property of the government. The Defenders are thrilled at the prospect of having an actual superhuman join their team, and convince Pym they are a serious project. Their first mission together is a disaster, and Pym, who wanted to remain out of the spotlight, is forced by the Valkyrie to reveal himself to save them, humiliating himself in the process as he grows to giant-size without a costume, resulting in him being photographed naked. Their members include Ultimate versions of Power Man, Hellcat, Nighthawk, Valkyrie, Black Knight, and Son of Satan. They are later joined by Whiz-Kid, a wheelchair bound boy suffering from polio. He claims to have the ability to vary the temperature of certain inorganic materials.

The Valkyrie claims to be a martial arts expert, and then admits that she can't even pass her orange belt. Nighthawk injures himself during an apprehension of a cigarette raid. The Defenders travel the city via taxi and are often late. Later they manage to buy a Pontiac Firebird, which they obtained by sending several letters asking for money for proper transportation because of Whiz-Kid's condition. To convince Pym that they are a real superhero team they claim Dr. Strange is a member, and that two X-Men (Iceman and Angel) will show as soon as the Defenders get corporate sponsorship. All of this is untrue, though it is a reference to the classic team, seeing as all of the characters they listed were members in the classic Marvel Universe. Son of Satan is revealed to be a S.H.I.E.L.D spy.

The members of the team seem genuinely perplexed as to why characters such as Spider-Man are considered heroes and they are not, even though the group has not defeated any villains or saved anyone's lives from danger. When Pym points out that "you have to do something heroic," Nighthawk misses the point and insists that Pym is right: "it's all about marketing." The Defenders here appear to be much more interested in becoming celebrities as a self described superhero team rather than actually going out and stopping crimes or saving lives. Even their eldest member, the Black Knight, when witnessing Iron Man flying towards a fire, is more concerned about him "stealing all the glory," while the Defenders try to hail a cab to get to the same fire.

However, since The Ultimates volume 3 (written by Jeph Loeb, and not Mark Millar), Pym has rejoined the Ultimates, and the Valkyrie was rewritten as having powers and skills akin to her 616 counterpart, along with expertise in swordfighting, some degree of enhanced strength, and is being trained by Thor.

As of March 2010, the Defenders have returned in New Ultimates #1 as a now super-powered team with the originals members returning, but now possessing superhuman abilities that fit with their chosen namesakes. It's revealed that Loki gave them these powers (Valkyrie included), in order to steal Mjolnir, Thor's hammer.

What If? Age of Apocalypse

In a reality in which Legion killed Charles Xavier, the Defenders were the sole group resisting the regime of the mutant tyrant Apocalypse. They were formed by Captain America (wielding Mjolnir), Captain Britain (wearing the Iron Man armor), Logan (without an adamantium skeleton), Molecule Man, Brother Voodoo (Sorcerer Supreme following the death of Doctor Strange), and the Thing (who wears a prosthetic arm). They are later joined by Sauron and Nate Summers.

In other media


  • The Defenders are formed in The Super Hero Squad Show episode "Invader From the Dark Dimension." When Baron Mordo ends up possessing Iron Man and uses mind control technology to take over Wolverine, Falcon, and Redwing. Hulk, Thor, and Silver Surfer had to team up with Doctor Strange and Valkyrie to stop Baron Mordo.

Video games

  • The four founding members of the Defenders each play a role in Marvel: Ultimate Alliance. The Silver Surfer is an unlockable character in the game. However, he can be unlocked with a special code (available to those who pre-ordered the game through specific outlets) or by completing all Comic Book Missions. Both Doctor Strange and Namor are NPC-Striker characters in the GBA version. Doctor Strange is a playable character in most platforms. In all other versions, Bruce Banner originally only appears as an NPC character who aids the heroes in defusing a gamma bomb, though the Hulk was subsequently released as an optional downloadable playable character in the Xbox 360 version. Namor plays a prominent part in the storyline, when the player must assist in averting an uprising in Atlantis, rescuing Namor from the prison of air he has been trapped in and defeating the Atlanteans, now under control of renegades such as Attuma and Tiger Shark. The player can also get a Defenders team bonus for using a team of Doctor Strange, Silver Surfer, Luke Cage, Iceman, or the downloadable Hulk. They can also get the team bonus of Secret Defenders by using Ghost Rider, Hulk, Silver Surfer, and Doctor Strange.


In the Vs. System TCG, the Defenders received a full team affiliation in the Marvel Team-Up set. Their team focuses on Doctor Strange, the Hulk, Namor, and the Silver Surfer, using smaller characters such as Hellcat, Hawkeye, and Valkyrie to support them. The team was popular, and a number of different incarnations of the team have appeared in major tournaments.

Collected editions

  • Marvel Masterworks Defenders
    • Vol. 1 (collects Sub-Mariner #34-35, Marvel Feature #1-3, Defenders #1-6, 2008 ISBN 0-7851-3044-6)
    • Vol. 2 (collects Defenders #7-16, Giant-Size #1, Avengers #115-118, 2010 ISBN 0-7851-4216-4)
  • Avengers Defenders War (collects Defenders #8-11 and Avengers #115-118, 2002 paperback, ISBN 0-7851-0844-0, 2007 hardcover, ISBN 0-7851-2759-3)
  • Essential Defenders:
    • Volume 1 (collects Defenders (vol. 1) #1-14, Dr. Strange #183, Sub-Mariner #22, 34-35, Incredible Hulk #126, Marvel Feature #1-3, and Avengers #115-118, 2005, ISBN 0-7851-1547-1)
    • Volume 2 (collects The Defenders #15-30, Giant-Size Defenders #1-5, Marvel Two-in-One #6,7, Marvel Team-Up #33-35, Marvel Treasury edition #12, 2006, ISBN 0-7851-2150-1)
    • Volume 3 (collects Defenders #31-60 and Annual #1, 2007, ISBN 0-7851-2696-1)
    • Volume 4 (collects Defenders #61-91, 2008, ISBN 0-7851-3061-6)
    • Volume 5 (collects Defenders #92-106, Marvel Team-Up #101, 111, 116, Captain America #268, 2010, ISBN 0-7851-4537-0)
    • Volume 6 (collects Defenders #107-124, New Defenders #125, Avengers Annual #11 and Marvel Team-Up #119, 2011, ISBN 0-7851-5754-0)
  • New Defenders Vol. 1 (collects Defenders #122-124 and New Defenders #125-131, 2012, ISBN 0-7851-6246-9)
  • Defenders: Indefensible (collects Defenders (vol. 3) #1-5, 2006 hardcover, ISBN 0-7851-2152-8, 2007 paperback, ISBN 0-7851-1762-8)
  • The Last Defenders (collects 6-issue limited series, 2008, ISBN 0-7851-2507-5)
  • Hulk No More (collects the Defenders vs Offenders storyline from Hulk #10-12 plus #13 and #600, 2009 hardcover, ISBN 0-7851-3983-4)


  1. ^ Englehart, Steve. "The Defenders I," Accessed Feb. 21, 2009.
  2. ^ Norris, Erik. "Comic-Con: Matt Fraction's New Defenders". Comic-Con: Matt Fraction's New Defenders. IGN. Retrieved 26 July 2011. 
  3. ^ "Steve Gerber RIP", September 28, 2009.
  4. ^ Steve Gerber's run on The Defenders at the Grand Comics Database
  5. ^ "Top of the Pops". Retrieved September 28, 2009.
  6. ^ Marvel Treasury Edition #12 (1976) at the Grand Comics Database
  7. ^ David Anthony Kraft's run on The Defenders at the Grand Comics Database
  8. ^ Latta, D.K. "Who Remembers Scorpio?," Retrieved August 15, 2008.
  9. ^ "Blue Öyster Cult FAQ". Dec. 10, 2001. Archived from the original on Jan 12, 2008. Retrieved Sept. 17, 2008. 
  10. ^ Secret Defenders #14 (April 1994)
  11. ^ Secret Defenders #15 (May 1994)
  12. ^ Secret Defenders #25 (March 1995)
  13. ^ Joe Casey: Explaining The Last Defenders' Team, Newsarama, December 19, 2007
  14. ^ Joe Casey: A Change in The New Defenders?, Newsarama, February 19, 2008
  15. ^ The Defenders Files: Nighthawk, Newsarama, January 23, 2008
  16. ^ The Defenders Files: Blazing Skull, Newsarama, January 31, 2008
  17. ^ The Defenders Files: Colussus, Part I, Newsarama, March 12, 2008
  18. ^ The Defenders Files: She-Hulk, Newsarama, February 22, 2008
  19. ^ "Marvel Comics' FULL April 2009 Solicitations". Retrieved 2010-11-14. 
  20. ^ Norris, Erik. "Comic-Con: Matt Fraction's New Defenders". IGN SDCC 2011 report. IGN. Retrieved 26 July 2011. 
  21. ^ Secret Defenders #1 (Mar. 1993)


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