Silver Surfer to star in Defenders Series
Written by James "Marvelite" Pedrick
Added July 27, 2000
Following appearances by the Silver Surfer in Captain Marvel, which look like they will go from at least issue #9 through #11, and then an active role in the new Maximum Security event, the Silver Surfer will star in a new Defenders ongoing series! The series will be created by Kurt Busiek, who is also brining the Surfer into Maximum Security, and Erik Larsen. It will focus on Dr. Strange, Namor, the Hulk, and several other characters, including the Silver Surfer. Though only the three founders will have a constant role in the series, Kurt Busiek promises the Silver Surfer will have an active role, even more so than he did in the original Defenders series. Look for Defenders #1 to hit stands in December, following Maximum Security.
According to Comics Newsrama...At the Marvel panel held this afternoon at the San Diego Comicon International, Kurt Busiek and Erik Larsen confirmed that they will join forces to co-write a new Defenders ongoing series beginning later this year.
For Busiek, a big attraction to co-writing the series was working with Larsen, who’s enjoying his own Marvel renaissance of late. "I knew Tom Brevoort was looking for creators for a new Defenders series, but I never really got involved until I started talking to Erik about it," Busiek says. "I had no time, after all, and Defenders was a book that, much as I used to like it, I thought had conceptual problems, and I didn't know how to fix them.
"But after a phone conversation with Erik about something else, in which he talked about wanting to do Defenders, I started thinking about it more. I talked to Tom about why Defenders was a hard book to make work, and how it really needed some sort of core concept that got the big guys involved without making them want to hang out together and be a team. And while we were talking, the idea for how to make it work hit me. Just out of the blue, I knew what could make it work.
"Initially, I intended to just turn the idea over to Erik, so he could do the book and I could have fun reading it. But we started talking about what would happen, and some of the repercussions of the series idea, and I ended up getting interested and a little selfish -- I wanted to play, too. So I wound up as co-writer. Without Erik looking to do Defenders, none of that would ever have happened."
While the Defenders have a long tradition as a "non-team," made up of anyone from the Hulk, Dr. Strange, Namor, Silver Surfer, Valkyrie, Ghost Rider and others; Busiek says that he and Larsen’s version will be following, kind of following, and not following this tradition at all.
"I never really understood what a ‘non-team’ was myself," Busiek tells Newsarama. "I considered that the biggest weakness of the series. ‘Non-team’ was just a convenient dodge, so that Marvel could claim they weren't really a team, but have them act like a team anyway. We were told that they didn't have a headquarters, but they did -- first Doc Strange's sanctum sanctorum, then the Long Island riding academy, that they didn't have a roster, but they did -- we always knew who was a core Defender and who was pretty much just there for the story, and so on.
"The problem was that the team never really had a solid foundation, not as a comics series. Roy Thomas started it off with a great idea -- let's get three popular, powerful, major characters together, even though they're not the type to come together as a team, and then watch the sparks fly. And it was a lot of fun. Dr. Strange, Namor and the Hulk struck sparks - well, mostly Namor and the Hulk, but Namor got pretty pissy with Doc, too, and they were a powerful and highly-entertaining combo.
"But when Defenders became a regular series, there was a problem - mainly that these guys really weren't the type to come together as a team, but they kept getting together every issue anyway. Having them become a regular old team would have required softening these fairly aloof characters, and would make the book just another team, without a unique niche - so Marvel came up with the ‘non-team’ label, even though it didn't really mean much. Namor didn't last very long anyway, and so it became the Doc and Hulk show, with the Valkyrie, Nighthawk and others coming along to fill out the cast. But by then, it was a team. Nothing terribly ‘non’ about it.
For Busiek, the attraction to the Defenders was twofold, good, strong, interesting characters and two notable writers, Steve Gerber and Steve Englehart, two writers whose "stories and characterizations were so strong that they simply overcame the problems of the series through sheer virtuosity," according to Busiek.
"After Steve Gerber departed, I think the series began to founder and never really recovered -- even though it lasted more than 100 issues beyond that point. A lot of good creators tried their best to make it work, but by then the Defenders was pretty much just another team, with little conceptually to make them stand out -- they weren't the varsity, like the Avengers, they weren't a family like the FF, they weren't outcasts like the X-Men - they were sort of the varsity outcast family, and that made them second-tier on all fronts despite a rich and interesting cast.
"But those first three or four years -- whoo! Exciting, unpredictable, involving, dramatic, funny and more. That's what I loved about the book. But we won't be trying to duplicate either the Englehart or the Gerber run. They took the book and went off in their own direction with it -- and we're planning to go off in our own direction, too. I think that's a better choice than trying to do what's already been done."
Both Larsen and Busiek are committed to making sure their version of The Defenders doesn’t get labeled either as a ‘revival’ or a ‘new take’ of an older concept. "We're not trying to do something brand-new with no connection to the past - but at the same time, we're not trying to rev up the old series and roll forward," Busiek says. "We're going back to the original idea - boy, wouldn't it be fun to get those loner titans together and watch 'em strike sparks - and
finding a way to make it work. We'll be using what we like of the old series' history - some of the other members, villains we like, that sort of thing - but we're bringing the team together in a new way, and then moving on from that new Ground Zero.
"Exactly how we're going to accomplish this, I don't want to say -- it's our first story, it's five months off, and I'd like readers to be surprised. But I will say that we bring together Dr. Strange, the Hulk, the Sub-Mariner and the Silver Surfer in a way that will make them something of a team - but a very unwilling, tension-filled team. They do have a reason to work together on an ongoing basis, but they don't like it and wish they didn't. At the same time, though, we'll be involving Valkyrie, Nighthawk and Hellcat, as something of a support team - only these guys actually like the idea of being a team. For them, being Defenders is a family thing, a way to belong. So we'll have a ‘non-team,’ as it were, and a ‘yay-team’ simultaneously, which will cause some character drama in its own way."
The founding members of the new team all have something in common, according to Busiek. "They're powerful, they tend to go their own way, and they're major, popular characters," Busiek says. "They don't mesh together comfortably as a team -- but that's the point. If they did, it wouldn't be Defenders, it'd be a weird Avengers line-up. And where the Avengers make you feel safe, the Defenders are inherently threatening. Three out of four of them have turned against humanity at one time or another, sometimes multiple times. And Doc may never have been an outright threat - but hey, maybe we can fix that, but he's pretty damn spooky. Years before Batman was an urban myth, Doc was the guy that people in the Marvel Universe didn't believe in.
"So when Cap, Iron Man, Thor and crew get together, the general reaction is ‘Thank God - we're safe now.’ With Doc, Namor, the Surfer and the Hulk, the general reaction is more along the lines of ‘Uh-oh. Marge, take the kids and get out of here. Don't stop to pack, just go.’ The Defenders aren't reassuring, they're unsettling. The Big Four, anyway."
When pressed for comments on past Defenders members, Busiek characteristically played it close to the vest with a grin. "Nighthawk, Hellcat and Valkyrie will be around -- though we'll be playing around with Val some, since her appearances over the last ten years have been a tangled mess, and we want to bring her in clean and understandable," Busiek says. "Son of Satan's ruling one of the boroughs of Hell, Gargoyle's his butler -- so if Hellcat sticks around, I expect we'd run into both of them, but not as team members. There are no immediate plans for Cloud, Moondragon, the Beast, Iceman, the Angel, Interloper - whoever the heck he was - or any of the other latter-day Defenders. This is a new, forward-looking series -- I don't see any need to touch on every single point of history the previous series brought up. We may bring in new members, too -- we'll have to see how it goes."
And as for the stories, expect big-time stories combined with quirky weirdness – a merging of Busiek and Larsen’s strengths. "The stories will be big, dangerous and threatening - it's kind of a requirement when you've got heroes that powerful as your front line - but because our heroes aren't exactly your daytime noble heroic types like the Avengers, the villains won't be the kind of guys the Avengers face on a regular basis either. It'll be more chaotic, quirkier, and something of a shadowy danger, if that makes sense. And the book will have an off-kilter sensibility to it that'll keep anyone from confusing it with any other team book. It'll have a lot of personality - and a pretty unusual personality at that, as befits both a Defenders book and a book being done by Erik.
"It'll be weird. It'll be fun. It'll be action-packed and full of odd and bizarre twists. It'll have everyone in it from Pluto, Lord of the Underworld to the Headmen to Attuma to Mother Earth herself. To longtime readers, I think it'll feel like Defenders - but an era of Defenders they never actually encountered before. To newcomers, it'll be big and bold and quirky and involving, like nothing they can get from any other book."
"We roughed out a year's worth of adventures with little difficulty, and have plenty more ideas. The threat level's got to stay pretty high, but we know that going in, so we accommodate it."
While the news of a new Busiek co-written series (especially when it’s co-written with Larsen) will have many fans frothing at the mouth, at the same time, Busiek’s already working on a tight schedule, and has had several well-publicized health problems of late. Busiek is quick to reassure fans that Defenders won’t be the straw that breaks the camel’s back.
"Right now, I'm doing only one monthly book, Avengers, one irregular book, Astro City - but we're working on it, honest! - and limited-run projects like Shockrockets and Maximum Security. Even with other Gorilla projects following up Shockrockets, my workload will be fairly light once Maximum Security wraps up.
"But my health's been slowly improving, and I have hopes it'll be a permanent improvement, so the possibility of other projects is something I can at least consider. This one's not time-consuming -- I'm co-writing with Erik, not writing solo -- but it's something I'd love to see, so I'm doing it. Beyond that, I'll have to see. I have plenty of ideas, but don't want to wind up over committed."
Finally, Busiek reports that both he and Larsen are committed to making Defenders something a little more vibrant and alive for readers, many of whom are familiar with the series only through passing by it in the ‘D’ long boxes in the back issue sections of comic shops.
"They don't need to know anything about the earlier series," Busiek says. "If Defenders is a book they've read, great. If it isn't, no sweat. No prior knowledge is needed."
Stick with the Silver Surfer Website for the latest news and information about Defenders and any other Silver Surfer appearances! And check out SURFWATCH for previews of comics coming out in the coming months!
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