Defenders: Who Remembers Scorpio?
Last year I lauded Steve Gerber’s Defenders run as among the strangest and most entertaining in the history of mainstream superhero comics, but The Defenders, as a title, continued long after Mr. Gerber left the building. And while Gerber took his Bozo masks and homicidal elves with him, Gerber’s era left a lingering aura of weirdness that The Defenders never were quite quit of.
Another odd and entertaining run of the book began just three issues later, when David Anthony Kraft took over scripting chores from the pedestrian Gerry Conway beginning with issue #44.
Kraft’s tenure would last twenty-four issue on Defenders, and featured superior stories throughout. That the run isn’t more celebrated is I think due to two factors. First, this is The Defenders, and even on their best day, our favorite non-team dwells in the shadows of the Avengers. Second, while the artwork was competent throughout the run, it was rarely consistent, and especially prey to that 1970s Marvel plague — the Dreaded Deadline Doom. A rotating cast of pencillers and inkers — exacerbated by fill-in issues and truncated main features, with inferior back-up strips — prevented the series from getting traction and kneecapped some promising tales.
Where the pieces best came together was the three-part “Who Remembers Scorpio” arc in Defenders #48-50. Keith Giffen penciled each issue (though with three different inkers, including his own inks in issue #50). As a team, Giffen and Kraft had some storytelling mojo that still holds up after more than three decades.
This story revolves around the machinations of the eponymous Scorpio, and you can be forgiven if despite this arc’s title you don’t remember him — I don’t think anyone else did, either. First appearing in Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. #1, Scorpio was Jake Fury, Nick Fury’s inadequate brother, who through a series of plot twists too tedious to recount took on the identity of Scorpio and headed up the Zodiac crime syndicate.
All well and good, but what distinguishes Zodiac from Hydra and A.I.M. and all those other sinister super-spy organizations (at least in this Defenders run) is Scorpio himself, a pathetic figure struggling with inadequacy, depression, and self-doubt — a condition only made worse by coming up second to his much more famous brother, Nick.
Scorpio is an unusually self-aware villain, but what he can’t see is that his own well-realized inadequacies have manifested themselves in a kind of paranoia about a “system” out to get him. Now, the system may indeed be out to get Scorpio, but only to the degree that it is out to get everyone. By himself, Scorpio doesn’t rate. The world doesn’t even know he exists at this point, but Scorpio’s delusions make him the bullseye of a worldwide conspiracy. In a particularly self-aware and meta moment, Scorpio admits he is a second-rate character (and that’s giving him all the best of it), but he refuses to fade into obscurity. He has a plan. Lacking significance, Scorpio has constructed a great drama where he can be the star … and everything about it is constructed, right down to the (admittedly confusing) appearance of Nick Fury in that page above. But more on that later.
Scorpio is central to this arc but he is only part of what makes this a great run. Also on display is Kraft’s deft hand at characterization, an important quality in a book like The Defenders, where the absence of a center of gravity (or even a secret clubhouse!) continually threatens to send the cast spinning off on their own arcs. Rather than try to hammer the team into some convenient shape, Kraft embraced the disparate nature of the non-team’s cast of characters, bouncing from character to character in a series of interweaving subplots that keep readers hooked with hints of future action while also (more often than not) providing some comic relief.
I particularly liked the way Kraft handled the Hulk. The 1970s saw the Hulk at his most childish, but even the Hulk has a canny self-awareness in Kraft’s Defenders …
Kraft’s Hulk is a force of nature, and more interesting here than we was in his own book at the time. Perennial Defender Nighthawk remains a bit of a stiff even on Kraft’s watch, but Valkyrie is brought to life through an extended subplot (later in this run) where she tries to enroll in college. Moon Knight also features in this arc, though we never really get under his skin, but where Kraft really hits it out of the park is in his handling of Hellcat, an emotionally-direct breath of fresh air who joins the Defenders without really meaning to, then sticks around to shake things up (and put the Hulk in his place when he misbehaves).
The series is grounded in little details. Often, little details are all we have. Scorpio must have some grand plan of conquest, but all we learn from this arc is that he intends to extort money from Kyle Richards/Nighthawk to help spawn his new Zodiac. What he intends to do with these loonies is left to the imagination … but our villain isn’t so busy that he can’t offer his hostage a beer.
Being on the hard side of fifty myself, it cuts a little close to the bone that Scorpio is driven to distraction by being fifty-two … but these books came out in 1977, well before fifty became the new thirty (wrote the blogger, desperately).
Keith Giffen’s art was polarizing on this run. I liked his detail and dynamic action, and wasn’t bothered that Giffen openly emulated Jack Kirby, never more so than when his pencils were finished by long-time Kirby inker Mike Royer in issue #49.
Giffen’s storytelling had a snappy visual pace, and by channeling that broad-shouldered Kirby aesthetic, the operatic exaggeration at the heart of Kraft’s scripts was made to feel natural.
But rather than usher in a new and evil age of Aquarius, that ominous “klik” instead transitions directly to …
It is a great piece of visual juxtaposition and comic timing, and illuminates one of the great charms of this run — how melodramatic superhero action is intercut with mundane and funny scenes that illuminate character and ground a pretty crazy story in the “real” world. It’s the same kind of storytelling sleight-of-hand Joss Whedon would manage so well on the big screen, decades later, which his shawarma-eating Avengers. I mean, we know our heroes will put paid to Scorpio one way or the other, but will Hellcat figure how to safely brew a cup of coffee?
Well, will she???
The lesson here is that it is the little stakes that matter. I recently finished the Avengers vs. X-Men omnibus, and that I didn’t much like it is neither here nor there. But one of the things I disliked about the book was how emotionally remote the whole thing felt. Here were the biggest stars of the Marvel Universe slugging it out over the fate of the earth and all mutantkind but I just … couldn’t … care about it. It was too big, too orchestrated, too over-the-top. (I felt kind of the same way when Thanos destroyed half the universe with a snap of his fingers).
But little stories like this Scorpio arc — leavened with interpersonal relationships, and conflicts between members of the team — this story feels meaningful, because the stakes are human-scaled. Will Hellcat ever brew that coffee? Will Hulk get to eat his lunch in peace?
Well, will he???
But this Defenders arc isn’t just about little things. For all of its characterization and soul-searching supervillains, this run is foremost an action comic, with the bulk of the last two issues given over to blockbuster punch-outs of the highest order. That scene with the Hulk above is a set-up for issue #49, as Hellcat, Valkyrie, and Moon Knight hatch a harebrained plan to enrage the man brute, that he might follow them to Scorpio’s hideout. It’s really just a thin excuse to spend an issue showing the Hulk tearing up Manhattan … but it works in the flow of the story, it helps emphasize the bass-ackwards nature of the Defenders, and it gives the cast a chance to play off of each other as they realize they’ve bitten off more than they can chew.
Fun comics, pure and simple … offering exposition-through-action in the way the comics form does best.
Issue #50 brings this brief epic to a close, and once again it’s an all-action issue, made memorable by Kraft’s characterization, with the doomed Scorpio at the center of what might otherwise be a pedestrian punch-out. Scorpio’s plan comes to fruition as he reveals his new Zodiac army, with some nifty character designs each patterned after astrological signs.
It would have been enough for the fiftieth issue to be a mindless action brawl between our heroes and these villains, but the proceedings are spiced up a bit by having the Zodiac behave in accordance with their astrological nature, with Gemini arguing against himself, and Libra balancing everything out before his late (and decisive) design to join the fray to the detriment of his teammates.
Sure, it’s just “Hulk Smash” … but it is smashing with a purpose, smashing with dimension, and smashing that frames the story of Scorpio’s psychological collapse.
Giffen’s attention to detail serves him well in that fiftieth issue brawl. I love how the geometry of Scorpio’s base serves as a kind of artificial panel border in this sequence below, separating and framing parallel action … and I also love how the Hulk smashing Taurus into Scipio’s refrigerator sends the bad guy’s beer stash spraying across the room. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a beer fridge in a supervillain’s lair. It’s wonderful.
It’s all action, but it’s meaningful action, demonstrating the choices and consequences of characters we’ve come to care about.
And the character we might most care about by this point is Scorpio, as the true purpose for his new criminal elite is revealed. The Zodiac was to have been Scorpio’s family — a family where Scorpio would be in charge, loved, respected, and needed. Over-the-top, improbable, melodramatic … and meaningful. Great stakes for a comic book.
Giffen continues with his clever panel construction as the big brawl wraps up, and even the heroes sense that Scorpio is about to do something extreme …
… but they will arrive too late to prevent Scorpio from taking his own life, comforted only by the Nick Fury “Life Model Decoy” that was standing in for his estranged brother all along. With his interior destruction complete, Scorpio’s physical destruction is inevitable. True to the series’ ethos, Scorpio doesn’t go out in a blaze of glory — instead he puts on a Judy Garland record, refuses a Schlitz beer, and rejects the world’s last attempt to offer him love.
And then it is over! Kraft and Giffen would stay together five more issues, but their next major arc — “The Power Principle,” which also explored the emotional needs of a flawed supervillian — would come up short, sputtering through shortened page counts before Carmine Infantino came aboard to finish artistic duties for Giffen. It’s a shame this team didn’t stay together longer, because “Power Principle” was shaping up to be a great tale in its own right …
… but at least we have this Scorpio arc, a little gem of a story, and further proof that sometimes the best superhero comics are more obscure titles like The Defenders, where supervillains can wistfully listen to “Somewhere Over The Rainbow” and creators can indulge their muse telling the kinds of stories that comics tell better than any other art form.
- Title: The Defenders
- Published By: Marvel Comics, 1972-1986
- Issues Rescued From The Longbox Graveyard: #48-50, June-August 1977
- LBG Letter Grade For This Run: B
- Own the originals (dirt cheap!): MyComicShop.com
NEXT WEDNESDAY: #86 Star-Lord
Posted on January 30, 2013, in Reviews and tagged David Anthony Kraft, Defenders, Hellcat, Hulk, Keith Giffen, Marvel Comics, Nick Fury, Scorpio, Zodiac. Bookmark the permalink. 55 Comments.
Kraft’s little tale was a head-scratcher, that’s for sure. Still, it was a new take on not only Scorpio, but on Zodiac–though without their status as a crime cartel, Zodiac “members” become simply super-powered characters here (perhaps to keep the focus on Scorpio). Otherwise, it was difficult to “get on board” with this story, with distractions sometimes getting in the way. Apart from the unusual step of having Scorpio take center stage for the bulk of the story–which could make the reader wonder if the Defenders have gotten to a point where they can’t support a story of their own in their own book–I couldn’t really swallow the Valkyrie going along with the insane plan of enraging the Hulk and leading him through a densely populated city just as a way to get him to follow herself and Moon Knight to a fight. Lunatik, yes, but not the Valkyrie, or Nighthawk, or anyone even mildly concerned about the Hulk’s potential for destruction. And all during Scorpio’s musings, I kept thinking, “What is it with Kraft’s fixation on beer??” He keeps. coming. back to it. I’m really not interested in having a beer with Scorpio, or watching him have a beer with others–it seems like a device to prop open this doorway to Scorpio’s constant introspection.
Oh, and someone might tell Patsy that there are things called “coffee-makers” and “coffee-pots” that are self-heating and let you avoid trying to boil coffee in a metal container on a stove. Though I’ve never worn my costume mask at home while making coffee, so maybe she just can’t see what she’s doing. 🙂
Good catch on Patsy wearing her costume in the kitchen. Then again, maybe it’s just a kink. We can only hope!
My first issue of the Defenders is #72, since the local store didn’t sell Defenders so I had to wait until I discovered my Local Comic Shop, in 1979, at the age of 10, before I could pick up some issues.
This is back when Keith Giffen could actually draw, but you’re right, it does look very Kirby-ish.
I do remember Jake Fury from some Avengers issues. Scorpio does make some good points in his little rant, though. He does seem pretty obsessed with the fact that he’s 52 years old, doesn’t he?
I haven’t read Avengers vs. X-Men, but I agree with your position, as I have read some mega-events like this, especially in the Modern Age of comics, where this was an issue. Lots of action and big characters, but something is just…missing.
I love the way half of the Zodiacs panic when Hulk starts smashing.
From 70’s Giffen to Infantino? That’s quite a drop-off!
Infantino was a pro’s pro but by the time he was doing fill-in work at Marvel he was well past is Silver Age Flash prime. I have a number of Infantino issues in my collection on books like Defenders, Ms. Marvel, and Star-Lord, and while I’ve come to better appreciate them through the years, I still can’t suppress my disappointment when that name appears on the masthead, especially if it represents a sudden change of direction from a more dynamic art team, as was unfortunately the case with this Defenders run …
I know what you mean. I feel the same when I pick up something with Ditko’s name on the splash page. I know he’s an all-time great designer, and I know most of the stuff I have by him is from the 70’s and 80’s, when he was past his prime, but that doesn’t make it any easier.
Coming to comics in the seventies I also had the wrong idea about Ditko — the work he did in that era lacked a certain snap, and with my disdain for reprints over the new and now I never gave Ditko’s original Spider-Man run much of a chance. It wasn’t until I started exploring his Spidey books in digital format last summer that I really started to come around on Ditko.
Yeah, I bought Marvel Masterworks Spider-Man volume 1, so I will be giving vintage Ditko a good look whenever I read that. So, you have disdain for repritns but are OK with digital??
I had disdain for reprints when I first got into comics in 1974. At that time I was so fascinated with the “Marvel Universe” that I only wanted titles in the present continuity and so had little interest in reprint books like Marvel Tales or Marvel Triple Action or whatever.
Nowadays, all I read are reprints and collections, and digital is just fine for that. In a complete inversion, I have pretty much zero interest in the ongoing “Marvel Universe” and find in-continuity books a drag.
And so it goes.
I have zero interest in the ongiong “Marvel Univers” as well. I’m so glad I collected comics when I did (i.e., back when they were good) and that I got out when the getting was good. I’m also glad that there are so many Bronze Age gems (and less-than-gems) out there that I still haven’t gotten to.
I once heard a quote that if all the Elvis fans were Johnny Cash fans and if all the Rolling Stones fans were Velvet Underground fans than the world would be a better place. I can’t help thinking the same thing relates in regards to how I feel about The Defenders. if all the Avengers fans were Defenders fans, the comic book world would be a better place.
I find The Avengers to be the equivalent of Superman in the Marvel Universe to me, in that other than Cap’s Kooky Quartet, it is hard for me to relate to them. They have acceptance from the public, are mega powerful, and almost always got along splendidly during the Bronze Age/Early 90’s. (There are exceptions, certainly.) The Defenders were all decidedly their own people, and not only did they not get along often, they did not even consider themselves a proper team! This meant the characters lent themselves to more possibilities than the straight-laced Avengers, who I loved, but you sort of knew what you’d get almost every time from them during this era. The Defenders were more of a wonderful enigma!
The Defenders on the other hand, were cool, but they were not respected. They did things their way whether it made sense to others or not, and they forced the Marvel Universe and its fandom to take notice. That was sort of how I did it in high school. When I started, I was one of the dorks who everyone dumped on, but by sticking to what I liked and being myself, by the time we graduated, I was in the B-Plus/A-Minus social group, and I had changed very little about myself.
I also wish i could have seen a Champions vs. Defenders clash. Now that would have been amazing!!!
The thing about a Champions vs. Defenders clash: who would notice?
(Harsh, but true).
I most enjoyed the Defenders because it was so beneath the radar, and place that creators felt they could cut loose. The David Anthony Kraft and (especially) Gerber runs on this book are iconic and unlike most anything else Marvel put out prior to the current, self-aware, post-iconic era where everyone is relentlessly clever and winking at the audience every other panel. The Defenders were weird before the weird were fashionable. The Defenders didn’t care if you got it or not. The Defenders took your cast-off parts and made them work, most of the time.
You and I would notice. (Also true.)
Agree on all points, and not only could they cut loose, but they usually got to cut loose with at least one Marvel guy in the A tier of characters. (Hulk, Namor, and Dr. Strange are all A-tier guys to me, Strange and Namor at the lower end of it.) You’d never see these guys in their own books get the chances taken with them in The Defenders.
I think maybe we should start writing and acting as if that Defenders/Champions clash really DID take place. Create a completely false story about it, cobble together art to make it look like it happened, site issue numbers of the great cross-over, point out that the series has been unjustly overlooked by collectors (aside from one issue with a price spike, because it has the first appearance of some minor X-Men hero), argue about whether Roy Thomas or Tony Isabella turned in the best scripts, lament that Don Heck offered such sloppy pencils on the Champions side of things but that a young Frank Miller was stunning in his single (but very late) Defenders appearance …
How long until someone commented that it was one of the favorite books of their youth?
I somehow just saw this reply, and I am in amazement. I think it would only be an hour before someone started talking about how great we were to bring that back up, and after 2 hours, we’d have someone telling us about the candy they usually bought, but they saved their nickels for that Defenders/Champions crossover from their 7-11.
Longbox, whoever you are (Paul?), thank you. I linked to this on facebook and here’s what I wrote:
The guy doing the analysis gets it, what makes a strong story. It’s all about the little things. To counterbalance the really big things. It occurs to me that I’m getting good reviews on my work, new AND old!
And a 5-star review on the very new Yi Soon Shin: Fallen Avenger #2, which debuts at Comic Con International in San Diego this week:
Paraphrasing John Lennon, here’s another clue for you all: Scorpio was gay. Guess it was too subtle. But we had the Comics Code then, remember.
Thanks again, Paul!
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Why, it’s Mr. Kraft himself! Very groovy to hear from you, sir, and I am delighted that you discovered my review of your work. All these decades later, I still harbor warm regard for your Defenders run … I need to go back and re-read more, I am eager to re-acquaint myself with Lunatik!
Please accept my belated thanks for giving me great reading through the years — your work was distinctive, fun, weird, challenging, and most of all memorable. Be well!
(And now I finally understand why Scorpio decided to go to his reward listening to a Judy Garland record!)
When David Carradine came to my house during the filming of “The Long Riders” he confessed that his two favorite Marvel characters were Dr. Strange and — Lunatik! That was quite a kick. And check out the graphic novel “Yi Soon Shin: Warrior and Defender” (with a foreword by my old pal, Stan the Man) and “Yi Soon Shin: Fallen Avenger” on Amazon. I’d like to think my work remains distinctive and definitely memorable –and in my opinion at least, better than ever!
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Put Lunatik and Doctor Strange in a blender and you’d kind of wind up with his eponymous “Bill” from Tarantino’s pictures … and now it makes my head hurt, remembering that character’s monologue about Superman from Kill Bill Vol. 2!
(Added a link to your latest work in your comment, above!)
Thanks, Paul! I know Carradine contributed that spiel to the script, because I heard it from him long before, in person. He wanted to play Dr. Strange — and would have made a good one. I tried to get it going with Jim Galton, then CEO of Marvel, but nothing came of it.
A very good review, and after all these years it’s nice that someone took the time to do this well thought-out analysis. I like to think that Dave based Libra at least partially on me, although I can easily identify with Scorpio’s experiences. If enough people read your work, eventually someone will realize what you are trying to communicate, with it’s intricacies and implications.
Dave is a great writer that didn’t get the credit he deserved working for all those overblown egomaniac/paranoid hack editors at Marvel in the ’70’s. To be honest, I think that Dave got to write comic books not because his talents were recognized or appreciated, but because he managed to work his way into the job by diligence and social networking.
Dave’s supposed “fixation” on beer in this series was really a way of showing that Scorpio was really a regular guy, or at least was trying to be. Also, beer is good, and most of the people who make or enjoy (craft) beer are generous and good-hearted. My involvement in the beer culture has advanced my “career” as an artist/writer far more than any of my involvements with the comics industry.
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Diligence and social networking seems the best way to get any job worth having, then and now (advice I need to take to heart as I drift into those waters, myself). Dave’s work would be singular in any era, but was especially distinct for those years at Marvel — it sometimes seemed that Dave was the only one who understood that comics could be fun without being silly, exaggerated while not lacking depth, and larger-than-life without forgetting about characterization. A great run on Defenders!
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Very nice to learn that Mr. Carradine was a legitimate comics fan. He seemed a thoughtful soul (and is deeply missed).
Excellent review on this, and while I’ve seen this having been discussed before elsewhere, your honest analysis should encourage others to seek this out as I find myself wanting now more than in the past.
Interesting reveal from Mr. Kraft that Scorpio was gay, as he pointed with the Judy Garland record being evidence. Too subtle indeed, because after reading and re-reading those panels, I wouldn’t have guessed that either, especially considering how desperate he was to be with his robot girlfriend despite being, well a robot. Was that too intended to be a sly, subtle hint at his homosexuality?
I wonder if this were written today amid the more socially acceptable and tolerant era, if Mr. Kraft would’ve made his homosexuality more pronounced and how, if any, that might have impacted the story and the readers’ ability to sympathize with Scorpio.
Otherwise it just all seems like it’s just an old, frustrated guy, who’s been beaten down by life, and feeling and looking every bit of it. Sure there were and still are certain villains who are likewise frustrated by the “man/system” but they don’t come off as vulnerable as Jake does. Desperate, a bit paranoid, insecure sure, but man, even though you know he’s a villain and a bad guy, you just wind up really feeling for the guy and sympathizing with him, regardless of your age.
I need to look myself, but to your knowledge has this three-parter ever been collected in trade form?
One more quick comment on how underrated and overlooked Mr. Kraft was during that time period, Last year I purchased the book the Untold Story of Marvel Comics by Sean Howe, and he’s mentioned in there during the chapters covering the that period at marvel. What a guy, but criminally overlooked.
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This is one of my favorite articles here at the blog, and it was especially gratifying that DAK took notice and dropped by to comment. The story is a little jewel, all the more so because it can be read on many levels. I’m not sure the story would benefit from making that subtext more obvious, either (to say nothing of the violence done by expanding this tale to 6-12 issues, as today’s standards might demand!)
(Aside from Essential Defenders vol. 3, I don’t believe these tales have ever been collected or reprinted)
Not even in either of the omnibus collections? It really should. Maybe if Giffen were to be involved with Marvel again on a regular basis, there’d be more incentive to reprint more of his past work.
One of your favorite posts huh? It shows, and obviously even more so by Mr. Kraft paying you a visit.
Have any other fellow comic creators or idols of yours paid you a visit here?
Mr. Morbid, thanks for the kind comments. We had to walk a fine line back then with the Comics Code Authority (I was once recipient of a sternly hand-written note stating that I would “set comics back 20 years!” and some may still say I did just that…LOL). Anyway, there were other clues, such as the panel showing Scorpio in the shower as he says he was mistreated in the service, which I helpfully colored pink! The female he lamented was, as he saw it, his last chance to “go straight.”
The Scorpio Saga has been reprinted, in color, in the Epic Collection from Marvel, “Moon Knight: Bad Moon Rising.” They even gave me second author credit right after Doug Moench.
Again, Paul, thanks for your perceptiveness and this article. You are a man of rare good taste (as evidence your appreciate of my work, of course). Trust you’ve been keeping up with Hellcat’s current adventures and incarnation as Patsy Walker on “Jessica Jones”? I take pride of ownership, after all.
I did enjoy seeing Patsy in Jessica Jones, DAK … I kept hoping she’d blow up a coffee pot!
(Cheese and Crackers!!)
Huh…I’ll really have to go search that trade out then for those examples you mentioned since Paul didn’t post pics of those. Thanks for directing to that Moon Knight trade though, as thanks to the power of Amazon, that’ll be an easy fix.
Last chance to be Normal=Last chance to be Straight…got it;)
I can look it up Mr Kraft, but do you have a personal website where you reflect on your time at Marvel, especially this period writing the Defenders?
How exactly did you get the gig to write the Defenders anyways? I know it was after Gerber’s run, but who approached you to write the book or did you actively seek it out?
Also, one more quick question; I briefly mentioned the recent book by Sean Howe, the Untold History of Marvel Comics. Very fascinating read, but at the same time kinda’ soured me on Marvel when I learned about the behind the scenes politics, the massive mistreatment of Jack Kirby and other iconic artists that helped built Marvel, and other horror stories.
You were mentioned in the book, so I’m curious if you’ve read it yourself, and if so, if you felt it was accurate?
Thanks for the response to my comments Mr. Kraft, and for taking the time to do so. Have a good one….
In a manner of speaking, I have two websites, http://www.comicsinterview.com and http://www.yisoonshin.com which feature projects past and present. But I don’t blog on either of them, what I told Sean Howe is the tip of the iceberg, saving the best for a book. Not really about me, but seeing the whole crazy Bullpen and New York City back in the day thru my eyes in a light and funny way. If I ever finish it, of course.
Sean’s book is the side of Marvel never seen, but not the whole story. Despite rivalries, business problems, deadlines and all, there was a feeling of belonging which Stan created in the ’60s and which we felt privileged to carry on. That’s the public side, Sean shows the other side, Both, together, comprise reality such as it was. I had a couple stints at DC but never got the same vibe.
The Defenders gig was almost by default. Roger Slifer signed on to write the final issue of a multi-part story by Gerry Conway and Keith Giffen. There was no written plot and minimal margin notes, it was late and due over a weekend so Roger in turn tapped me (we were pals) and since we couldn’t get in touch with either of the guys we had to wing it, working night and day. We met the deadline, by Monday it was done. Rog and I planned to continue scripting as a team, but his other work consumed him, so it ended up in my hands. Which is, in a good way, appropos, since Steve Gerber and I were good friends and according to him I was a fitting successor. He once told me that I was one of only two writers who “got” the sensibility and could write Howard the Duck, aside from himself (he never said who the other one was).
Anyway, I came to know and love the characters in Defenders, have a fat file of notes and plot ideas that never came to pass, love what they’re doing with Patsy on “Jessica Jones” — obviously building to her becoming Hellcat — and would love to do a script for the upcoming Defenders show. Who knows, maybe that thought will occur to someone. After all, I’ve been story editor and scripter for TV before (animation) and am currently co-writing a movie pitch for a producer who is serious and is paying in advance.
Thanks for your interest, Mr. Morbid.
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*sigh* Wrote a long reply which appears to have vanished into the Shadow Cloak. Maybe it’s taking time to post here, but if not, no urge to attempt it again. If it doesn’t show up, know that I did give you a detailed response to your questions, Mr. Morbid, and the universe doesn’t want you to know. LOL
Sorry about that, DAK! WordPress flagged your post for the temerity of including URLs in your reply, and I didn’t see the email requesting that I approve the post until several hours after you wrote it. Sorry for the delay (and thank you for the thoughtful response!)
No problem, as I’m very fascinated in history, especially on the topics and subjects that interest me, which in turn cause me to seek out websites such as this.
Just based off Howe’s book and the various accounts from the various creators interviewed, it does seem to support what you say, in regards to the era in which you were employed there. I’d be interested in that eventual book if it contains most of the teases you hinted at.
Especially in regards to your full take on your time there.
Any problems personally with Jim Shooter? To say he’s a polarizing figure is the understatement of the century, but I’m curious as to your own personal dealings with Shooter while working there, and if you harbor any bad blood.
So you have various notes on the Defenders eh? If you don’t mind, could you elaborate just a little on some of those plots and ideas for the team that never got realized? What was or is your Defenders dream team? Also, were you removed from the book or did you simply opt to leave due to editorial or or other reasons?
That is pretty cool that were close enough to Mr. Gerber to have his blessing to take over on Howard the Duck if it came to that. If it had come to that, and the opportunity presented it self, and you had his blessing, would you have?
I’m sure there’s more, but I wanted to keep things focused on the Defenders.
Thanks again for the taking to time to reply. Truly appreciate it sir.
Hey, happy to see the longer reply which, as Popeye would say, had “diskappeared” has miraculously reappeared. For reasons I’m sure you can understand, I won’t share my plot ideas on the interwebz, since then they are “out there” but would be delighted if someone at Marvel paid me to do a modern take. Going to keep this one short, but I was actually offered Howard the Duck by Jim Shooter after Steve got the old heave-ho and while I’d have been chuffed to script Howard I didn’t feel like, out of friendship, I could profit off Gerber’s misfortune. Btw, without knowing the other had done it, same happened with Roger Slifer was offered the book and also decline for same reason. Think maybe Don McGregor did the same. We were all friends of Ol’ Steve, after all.
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Very interesting. That is good to know that loyalty meant something up there in regards to you and Mr. Slifer then.
I also definitely understand your reasons for not elaborating on those ideas. I totally get that.
I’m sure I already know the answer anyways, but has Marvel/any one in Marvel ever contacted you since about working on a book or books over there for them since you left the company? Would be open to return there if they did?
And just out of curiosity, what are your feelings about Disney buying and taking over Marvel?
I myself was horrified when I heard the news back in 2009, and as time’s wore on, my fears have been justified, both in regards to the lack of original content and ideas, the sick obsession with constant re-numbering books to #1 AND (although that really is a financial and marketing cash grab reason more than anything) and the numerous changes that have occurred with the characters since you last worked for them.
What are your thoughts on all this and is this a good thing for the industry as a whole?
Again, thank you for taking the time to respond to these questions, as they’re greatly appreciated.
UPDATE! For those who asked, the Scorpio Saga has been collected in a lavish Marvel Masterworks hardcover, complete with a new introduction by me and beaucoups never-seen-before bonus material from my files. Funny thing I may not have mentioned — Don McGregor wrote some of the light jokey scenes with Hulk and I wrote the heavy Scorpio soliloquies about ending it all, which is prolly not what anyone would guess. Some of my handwritten dialog that just wouldn’t fit but gives more insight into Jake’s relationship with his brother Nick Fury appears (at long last!) in the back-up material I provided for Marvel Masterworks Defenders, volume 6.
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For some reason, site is blocking URL to website featuring my new and best work, but a search of YiSoonShin dot com should get you there. And I’m on facebook as David Anthony Kraft, if you wanna friend me or simply check out what I’ve been up to lately!
What I’m working on now — it’s great, too! Our YI SOON SHIN graphic novels and comics are available on Amazon or from http://www.yisoonshin.com but NOT in your local comics shop — and we appreciate your support! Buy one, try one! We’re about to break the 100,000 sales barrier! (Would include some of the stunning cover art but don’t know how to do that here, if it’s even possible…?)
That’s great news! Glad Marvel finally got around to reprinting such a underappreciated classic from yesteryear like this. About time. I know you’ve got to be proud AF as well to able to get a chance to have new eyes check out an older piece of work like this. Congrats.
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