A lot of people are excited about the upcoming Marvel Netflix TV show, myself included. I mean, we are getting a gritty 70s styled Dardevil, the awesome Luke Cage and Iron Fist and an actual female led show with Jessica Jones. It will all culminate with The Defenders miniseries at the end, where the four New York City heroes team up for an Avengers' styled battle.
That is the only part that bothers me.
I started reading comics in the late 70s when I was a wee tyke and – honestly – The Defenders were one of my favorite comics to read. And, honestly, it wasn't so much the original team (or non-team as they preferred to be called) of Doc Strange, Hulk, Silver Surfer and Namor, but the later teams where they had some really interesting members.
With that said, I guess calling these four The Defenders is not that big of a deal (Luke Cage and Iron Fist were members), but I would have called them the Marvel Knights or something like that. Anyway, with that said, this made me think back to The Defenders when I read them as a kid. Here is a look at my Top 10 Defenders characters from the eras that I read the comics.
Just a note: These are my Top 10 Defenders characters by personal preference. Yours might be different. Let's not insult each other's tastes and instead use the comment section to just compare lists.
Top 10 Defenders Characters
10. Silver Surfer
The Surfer is ranked so low on the list because, while I love the character, he just seemed like a contrived member of The Defenders. Honestly, the original team seemed to be mainly the core three of Strange, Hulk and Namor. However, Surfer became almost an honorary fourth member which bothered me because he was rarely ever on Earth. They would have to make up a reason for him to return for it to make sense to be involved at all. But, Surfer is awesome, so he gets a spot on the list.
Brunnhilde of Asgard. I am shocked that the Thor movies haven't included her yet in the mix, although maybe they feel Sif is enough bad-ass women. If that is the case, shame on Marvel. Valkyrie was created by Enchantress and joined the team way back in 1973 (actually, the same time the Silver Surfer joined). The character was actually used to add a female to The Defenders and she was a member for a VERY long time. After being one of the strongest members of the team for over a decade, she died in the mid-80s. She was brought back to life shortly thereafter but disappeared from comics for a long time after that anyway, outside of rare occurrences. She was brought back when The Defenders returned in 2001 and later became a key member of the Fearless Defenders, an all-female team.
While Valkyrie was one of the strongest female heroes in the Marvel Universe and one of the strongest Defenders ever, I always preferred Hellcat for some reason. Hellcat was Patsy Walker and I think what made me like her was that she reminded me of a female version of Hawkeye, a reluctant team player with a major chip on her shoulder. Hellcat first appeared in early comics as a "comic for girls" but the character returned in 1972 as an actual superhero. In 1976, she had a run in with The Avengers and then joined The Defenders in 1977. One of the most interesting aspects of her character was her relationship with future husband Daimon Hellstrom, the Son of Satan. When they worked together, it was always great stories, but his demonic nature eventually drove her to suicide. More recently, she has returned from the dead and works as a private investigator.
Hank McCoy has been a member of almost every superhero team you can think of, with stints in The Avengers, X-Men and Defenders. He was a member in the main Defenders team starting in 1982 and then was part of one of my favorite iterations of the group – the New Defenders – which started in 1983. This was a time where three of the original X-Men (Beast, Iceman and Angel) teamed up once again to lead the Defenders through some fun stories. Of course, Beast is Beast and is awesome no matter where he pops up.
Sure, the original three-man team was not my favorite, but all three characters will rank high on my list. First up is Namor, the Sub Mariner. He is the first Mutant, one of the very first ever superheroes in the Marvel Universe and a founder of The Defenders. The group first teamed up in 1971 and, honestly, the reason I rank Namor last out of the three original members is because I still don't think he is a good team member of any team. He is just too arrogant and doesn't even make a good reluctant member. However, he was around for a long time with The Defenders and has to be respected.
Similar to Namor, The Hulk has never been a good team member, but he really kind of fit in well with The Defenders. Namor never fit in because of his arrogance, but Hulk was just an outsider who never fit in with others. He was a poor choice to be a founding member of The Avengers (although it made sense in the context of the story), which is probably why he never lasted there. However, he made The Defenders a very entertaining team. All the members were outcasts in one way or another, and honestly, this was where Hulk was really given a family for the first time. His appearances were usually humorous in the inception and he was always a great team member.
OK, three of my top four choices are all personal preference and I would excuse anyone who disagreed with these next three picks. First, we can start with Gargoyle. Isaac Christians was an elderly man who sold his soul to demons in exchange for prosperity for his dying home. Honestly, I think it was the fact that he was an elderly man in a demon's body that really made him stick out to me because – seriously – how many elderly superheroes are there? He joined The Defenders when he was sent by the demons to capture Hellcat but turned on them and The Defenders saved him. There was always something tragic about his character and he was always one of the more interesting characters in The Defenders in the early 80s.
When The Defenders became more of a real team, Nighthawk was one of their main members for a long time. Nighthawk was originally a villain in the pages of The Avengers, Daredevil and – later – The Defenders. He ended up turning good and became a member of The Defenders. Now, here is where things get interesting. Nighthawk was a villain turned hero, and those things are usually glossed over. However, Nighthawk ends up in major legal trouble when he is charged with tax evasion and fraud. To add to that, the FBI arrested him for working as a superhero while facing criminal charges. It was something I had never seen before in comics and just completely blew me away. Nighthawk also led the Defenders team that organized during the Civil War storyline under the government's control.
2. Son of Satan
I think one of the characters that intrigued me more than almost any other as a kid was Daimon Hellstrom, the Son of Satan. Daimon is the actual son of Satan, whose mother was a mortal woman in Massachusetts. He was then trained as a child to use dark magic and grew into a powerful man. While his sister Satana embraced the dark side, Daimon kept his humanity and was soon separated from his father and sister and grew to be a professor and then later as an occult investigator, battling dark forces including those of his father. He was a very interesting character. Shortly after his first appearance in Marvel Comics, he joined The Defenders and remained a member for a long time and eventually married his team mate Hellcat. Together, they operated a private occult investigation firm until Hellcat committed suicide after seeing the true evil residing in Daimon's soul.
1. Dr. Strange
Really, there can only be one number one when it comes to The Defenders members. Dr. Strange was the most reliable founding member, and might be the most powerful superhero in the entire Marvel Universe. I really hope that Marvel Cinematic Universe knows how important Dr. Strange is and does him justice in his upcoming movie. He first appeared in 1963 and then formed The Defenders team in 1971. The comic was created after Dr. Strange's solo comic book was cancelled and a story was created that had Strange have to work with Hulk and Namor to stop invading aliens. He was then basically the leader of the team until 1982 when the original four members were forced to split up when they learned of a prophesy that said they would operate as a team and be responsible for the world's destruction. That was a hoax and they reunited for a short time around 1990.