Four Color Comments: Who Are The Defenders?

How the Netflix shows differ from their comic book counterparts. On August 18, Netflix is premiering the long awaited team up of all their Marvel characters: The Defenders. In the […]

How the Netflix shows differ from their comic book counterparts.

On August 18, Netflix is premiering the long awaited team up of all their Marvel characters: The Defenders. In the show, the team is made up of Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and Iron Fist. Since Netflix first announced the Marvel shows, we all knew that the Defenders would be happening. What a lot of people don’t know is the long rich history of the name of the Defenders, and how they are vastly different from the TV show. 

So in comic books, who are the Defenders?

The Defenders first came together in Marvel Feature #1 (December 1971). Brought together by writer Roy Thomas and artist Ross Andru, the team consisted of Doctor Strange, the Hulk, and Namor, the Sub-Mariner. They cametogether to fight an evil wizard. The book was a hit and led to the Defenders getting their own book written by Steve Englehart and drawn by Sal Buscema. In Defenders #2, they were joined by the Silver Surfer. This made them the most powerful super team in Marvel comics. More powerful than even the Avengers. 

Over the years, new characters would join like Nighthawk, Valkyrie, and Hellcat. Namor and Surfer would leave, with Hulk and Dr. Strange being mainstays. What was really interesting is they called themselves a “non-team”. “Non-team” in the sense they didn’t have organized meetings like other super groups at the time, and the constantly rotating membership. They were more individuals that would just join together to fight evil.  You can check out a full list of heroes that have been members here.

They took on standard villains and supernatural threats. But they had some weird foes, like Elf with a Gun. Don’t ask. It was a weird time. 

And then there was the time they did the Defenders for a day which opened up the door to about 17 unwanted members. 

Eventually, after many roster changes, the book was canceled in February 1986 with The Defenders #52. By then, half the team was made up of ex-X-Men members.  Writer at the time, Peter B. Gillis, ended up killing off all the members, except the ex-X-Men. Those three went on to form X-Factor. But as it is in comics, no one stays dead forever. Every member that was killed has returned by now.

There were many attempts to reunite the original members, but the books never really held an audience for a monthly book anymore. The name of the Defenders was also used for other super teams that didn’t have any of the original members. Again, those books just didn’t sell. 

Now with the new Netflix series starting soon, Marvel saw a perfect marketing opportunity, to create a new Defenders comic book with the same characters that are in the Netflix series.

So why aren’t we seeing the Defenders as they are in the comics on the small or big screen? While Marvel Studios does have the full rights to Doctor Strange, the Hulk is part owned by Universal, Namor’s film rights are questionable, and the Silver Surfer is still at 20th Century Fox. 

So there you go. The short version of the history of the Defenders. I’ve already seen the first four episodes of the Netflix series and loved it. I accept the fact it’s not the same team in the comics, and it really doesn’t matter to me. Most of the Marvel Cinematic Universe is different from the comics and that’s OK.

Marvel’s The Defenders premieres only Netflix August 18th.

Brian Isaacs - Executive Editor / Publisher

About Brian Isaacs - Executive Editor / Publisher

An avid comic collector/reader for over 40 years and self-proclaimed professor of comicology, Brian original started up the site Pendragon's Post to share his voice. Well that voice has been shared, and evolved into The Fanboy Factor. Brian is an advocate for remembering comic roots, and that we don't forget what was created in the past, and encourage everyone to read it as well. When not swimming in geek culture, he can be seen corrupting..introducing his young son to comics, much to his wife's chagrin.