This December, a new incarnation of Marvel Comics’ super team known as the Defenders comes to together for an all-new ongoing series by writer Matt Fraction and artist Terry Dodson. In DEFENSIVE MEASURES, our week-long look at the “Defenders” series, CBR News been learning about the purpose, mission and membership of the team. We kicked things off on Monday by examining the origin of the series and what fans can expect from it. Since then, we’ve moved on to discussing the valiant heroes that will come together to revive Marvel’s premier team of outcast and strange heroes.
Separately, they may be misfits, but together, this new team of Defenders is an incredibly capable and formidable group. Each member, with their own distinct set of abilities, is an authority on a unique section of the Marvel Universe. Former Sorcerer Supreme Doctor Strange is the Defenders’ resident expert on the occult; Iron Fist’s knowledge includes the martial arts and the world of business; the Red She-Hulk, Betty Banner, has seen and experienced virtually every horror and wonder of gamma radiation; master spy Nick Fury is a walking storehouse of classified and highly sensitive intelligence and the Silver Surfer knows many of the cosmos’ deepest, darkest and most awe-inspiring secrets. Today, in our final installment of DEFENSIVE MEASURES, we talk with Fraction about the final two members of his team of experts, Namor, the Sub-Mariner and the Astonishing Ant-Man. Plus, CBR presents an exclusive, never before seen look at Terry Dodson’s pages from the first issue!
Prince Namor, ruler of the undersea kingdom of Atlantis, has been a vibrant and active part of the Marvel Universe since World War II. Over the years he’s attacked the surface world many times, but he’s saved it even more. Namor has battled tyranny on his own and as a member of a number of different teams including the Invaders, the Avengers, the Defenders and the secret super hero cabal known as the Illuminati. Most recently, he got in touch with his mutant heritage by joining the X-Men.
Namor is drawn into the web of the new Defenders due to his status as a founding member of the team and because of his dealings with the Illuminati. “The Illuminati’s treatment of the Hulk was what broke up the group. Namor was not in favor of their decision to exile the Hulk into space. I think he lives by a code; he, more than anyone, feels guilty about what happened to the Hulk and wants to make amends,” Fraction told CBR News. “Of course, he would never articulate it as such. In the fourth epilogue of ‘Fear Itself’ #7, the Hulk says he had to do the hardest thing he’s ever done — ask for help. I think Namor is the one who truly understand what it means for the Hulk to ask these guys for help.”
That decision to help the Hulk binds Namor with a diverse and powerful band of heroes. Whenever he’s joined teams in the past, he’s played the role of physical powerhouse thanks to his super-human strength and endurance. Those traits will be nice to have around, but in this latest incarnation of the Defenders, that role is more prominently played by Red She-Hulk. Instead, it’s Namor’s status as ruler of the undersea kingdom of Atlantis that makes him truly invaluable to the Defenders.
“Water covers 70-some percent of the Earth’s surface. We’ve seen more of outer space than we have of the ocean, and aside from the fact that he is functionally the emperor of Earth in terms of geography, Namor has a geo-political understanding. He has a perspective on scale that these guys don’t,” Fraction explained. “Namor has been wrapped up in some awful big stuff that the other people haven’t. He’s going to be sort of like Alexander with the Gordian Knot; he’s the shortest path between two points because he’s got this very practical experience with realpolitick that the rest of them don’t have.”
Ruling Atlantis, one of the oldest kingdoms in the Marvel Universe, gives Namor other benefits as well, including access to some of the kingdom’s rare historical documents that offer up information on what life on Earth was like thousands of years ago.
“Namor has access to all this stuff that humans don’t and can go places they can’t go. He’s forgotten more things than we’ll ever know,” Fraction remarked. “Plus, he has his foot in so many different worlds. His unique biology as an early mutant led to his membership in the X-Men. He covers both the mutant base and the Atlantean base — not to mention he’s very well connected, having been a member or so many other super teams.”
The Sub-Mariner is a very passionate and proud individual, character traits that often lead to interesting dynamics in the super teams he joins. One thing Namor is especially passionate about is strong women. His teammate, Red She-Hulk, is incredibly strong, but to Namor she’ll be a colleague and a teammate, nothing more.
“She’s not blonde. That said, you don’t have to have Ph.D. in ‘Defenders’ to figure out who will be coming into the book sooner or later that Namor might perhaps take an interest in,” Fraction said with a laugh. “I have it in my head that Namor has a type. Other people may argue with me or choose to interpret things differently, but I like to write him as though he has a type. More will be revealed.”
Fraction first got the chance to writer Namor during his run on “Uncanny X-Men” and is happy to have the chance to revisit him in “Defenders.” “I loved writing him in ‘Uncanny X-Men.’ Everybody looked at me like I was crazy when I wanted to bring him into the book, and now he feels sort of natural there. He’ll still be with the X-Men, too. Kieron [Gillen] will also be writing him in ‘Uncanny.’ Like I said before, Defenders is what all these people do on Sunday,” Fraction remarked. “It’s great to be having some more fun with Namor. I don’t know anyone in comics who doesn’t come away totally loving the character after they’ve written him. He’s a little bit more of a smart ass than when I was writing him in ‘Uncanny,’ and a little more of an anarchist, something that connects him more to the original Bill Everett invention of the character.”
Ant-Man was the first heroic identity created by Hank Pym before the brilliant scientist abandoned it for Giant Man, Yellowjacket and more. Since then, several other people have adopted the guise of the hero that can shrink and communicate with ants. Former S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Eric O’Grady is the current Ant-Man, but Fraction was unable to confirm or deny if O’Grady or another character would be under the helmet in “Defenders.”
“It could be a brand new Ant-Man. Or it might not be,” The writer said. “What I can tell you about the character is that he’s a late addition to the team. Down in the depths, Namor finds a fossil of a Tyrannosaurus Rex with the body of Ant-Man in its jaws. So his involvement in this book begins very simply as mystery — how did Ant-Man die, sixty-five million years ago? It spirals out from there.
“That pitch of an Ant-Man fossil in a T-Rex jaw was what I think got me the book and got it green lit,” Fraction continued. “That image of T-Rex fossill with a tiny Ant-Man in its mouth was fun and striking and made them go, ‘Yeah! What the hell?’ I think that story hook was the best, clearest way I could articulate my vision for ‘Defenders’ to Axel and Tom. I guess it worked!”
â€¨Ant-Man’s shrinking ability means he can access areas other heroes can’t, like small places and the other dimensions of the Microverse, making his primary role in “Defenders” one of exploration. “One of the common threads on the team is that they’re all sort of experts in different realms of the Marvel U, but Ant-Man is absolutely the team’s astronaut,” Fraction stated. “Much like Doctor Strange, I feel there hasn’t been a take on shrinking characters like Ant-Man that has done the stuff that I personally want to read. So, here’s a way to do that. Ideally, I suppose, the plan I have in mind is to write the characters the way that I love them and hope to get other people falling in love with ’em too. He’s a chance to tell small superhero stories; instead of cosmic and big, we’re way down in the infinitesimal.”
“In the meantime? The secret member shows up in issue #3. So we got that going for us, which is nice.”
Marvel’s “Defenders,” by Matt Fraction and Terry Dodson,” debuts in December.