Stay on target Tom Holland Responds to Disney-Sony Spider-Man Feud‘Game of Thrones’ Star Kit Harington Joins Marvel’s &#… Marvel’s latest incarnation of The Defenders – as seen on Netflix and in their own comic – is a street-level team of low-powered heroes contending with ninjas in Hell’s Kitchen. But the Defenders weren’t always that way. Originally, they were Marvel’s “non-team” – in contrast to the Avengers, with their mansion, rules and steady lineup, the Defenders were a group that only got together when circumstances made it happen.The original lineup was Dr. Strange, the Sub-Mariner, the Hulk and the Silver Surfer. Three out of those four were (sometimes) villains, even. The team continued to feature some of Marvel’s oddest characters over future incarnations, including the Gargoyle and the Son of Satan.The Defenders got their own comic in 1972, and I read every single issue published over the years to pull out the strangest situations the team ever got into. Hold on, because this is a bumpy ride.The Name Of YandrothOne of the most perplexing stories in the book’s early issues is a “doomsday clock” that slowly ticks down the seconds until the end of the world. When it strikes zero, what do you think happens? If you guessed “a giant robot wakes up and has to speak the name of his sorcerous master,” you’re probably the only person on Earth who did. Unfortunately for the Omegatron, he gets his ass kicked before he can utter the final syllable. The mystic Yandroth is a frequent foe of the team, and he eventually places a curse on the original members that will have some serious repercussions.Sons of the SerpentIf this one was published today, critics would call it a little too on the nose – the team heads to the inner city to confront a group of racists dressed in green costumes called the Sons of the Serpent. Their grand plan is to destroy urban areas and send Black folks fleeing to the suburbs, where the white people there will I guess murder them? Eventually, they try to burn Valkyrie to death on an upside-down cross on live television, only to be stopped by the Defenders with guests Power Man, Daredevil and the Son of Satan. The mastermind behind the Sons is revealed to be Nighthawk’s business manager Pennysworth – who is black!The Elf With A GunFirst introduced at the end of the Sons of the Serpent storyline, the Elf with a Gun was Steve Gerber’s absolute weirdest idea. At random moments over the next few years, the plot would cut away to a scene of a seemingly normal person being confronted by a green and yellow clad little person wielding a revolver. The elf pulls the trigger; the person dies, the elf vanishes and the story proceeds as normal. Gerber never explained who or what the elf was, creating one of the most bizarre mysteries in comics history. We’ll come back to this one later.The HeadmenGerber’s most notorious villains were the Headmen, a bizarre quartet of foes who mainly appeared in Marvel’s pre-superhero books. There was Chondu the mystic, a pair of scientists (one who had his head transplanted onto a gorilla body by angry ape test subjects) and the orb-domed Ruby Tuesday, an “organic computer” that could change shape. Their big plan involved transplanting Chondu’s brain into Nighthawk’s body, but due to some sorcerous shenanigans, the mystic wound up in a baby deer that the Hulk saved from hunters instead. And he was pissed.Nebulon And The BozosNebulon, the Celestial Man, was one of the closest things the group got to a recurring villain. In his first appearance, the malevolent alien tried to purchase the Earth so he could melt the polar ice caps and move in, but when Gerber got ahold of him things got goofier. Under a nebbishy guise, Nebulon started leading self-help seminars that involved the audience wearing clown masks and chanting “BOZO.” When deer-Chondu interfered, his plan collapsed, but he’d come back a few more times to bedevil the Defenders. As for Chondu, he eventually got his brain transplanted into a body with giant chicken feet, a unicorn horn and a cluster of lampreys for each arm. It was gross.Chained HeatMarvel was notorious for cashing in on the trends, and in the 70s women’s prison movies were making big bucks at the box office. So for a span of issues, while the rest of the Defenders were dealing with Plant-Man and other threats, Valkyrie was behind bars at an all-girl jail. One would think that wouldn’t be such a big deal, but remember that the heroine’s Asgardian strength doesn’t work against other members of the fairer sex. Val was at the mercy of the jail’s beefy bulls until a riot breaks out and things get seriously wild.Zodiac WarsAfter Steve Gerber left the book, Defenders had a rapidly-rotating run of other writers who had to pick up his plot threads and come up with new menaces for the heroes to face. David Anthony Kraft held the pen for some time, and one of his oddest sagas involved super-spy Nick Fury’s brother Jake, who was upset that he was in his mid-50s with nothing to show for himself so decided to become a costumed super-villain and create a whole crowd of Zodiac-themed minions. Most dudes just buy a boat when they have their midlife crisis. Even weirder, Jake’s companion was a Life Model Decoy of his more successful little brother. After his plan collapsed, Jake put a cap in his dome out of humiliation.Elf ReduxA few years after the Elf’s last appearance, writer J. M. DeMatteis decided to try and wrap things up with him. He established the Elf as a “time agent” dispatched by a group called the Tribunal to eliminate individuals who could lead to the apocalypse – and the last four of them were the original four Defenders: Dr. Strange, the Hulk, the Silver Surfer and Namor. If they ever come together as a group again, prophecy foretells that the world is doomed. So the team gets shaken up in issue #125 with a pile of new members, including the Beast, Moondragon and the Gargoyle, an elderly Jewish man in an immortal demonic body.Cloud StoriesVery few super-heroes fight evil in the nude, but the Defenders had a member who did just that in Cloud. A mysterious being who could appear either male or female and transform into a… well, a cloud. Cloud adventured with the group for some time before revealing that she was actually a sentient nebula in human form and taking the Defenders into space to battle the Star-Thief, a powerful creature born from the dreams of a sleeping alien princess. Probably the weirdest thing about Cloud is that she developed her male form because she was horny for fellow defender Moondragon.Death Of The DefendersIn 1986, Marvel had to cut some costs in preparation for the New Universe, and Defenders reached the end of the line. The book’s finale was a bizarre battle between now evil Moondragon, empowered by both a malevolent spiritual enemy called the Dragon of the Moon and the omnipotent Beyonder. But also the ragtag group of heroes that the team was currently composed of – X-Men Angel, Beast and Iceman, Atlantean Andromeda, the Valkyrie, the Gargoyle, and the bizarre assassin Manslaughter. To take Moony down, one of their tactics is to pump her full of mental illness and break her brain. The story ends with everybody but the former X-Men dead, turned to a pile of ashes.Return Of The DefendersThe team’s original lineup got together in 1990 in a story that spanned a number of Marvel annuals, revealing that the “prophecy” was actually a hoax. In it, the Sub-Mariner’s mind gets zapped into Rick Jones’s body, and the group has to contend with a sorcerer planning a ritual to bring a malevolent spiritual entity called the Wild One to our plane of reality. Spoiler: he succeeds, and the Wild One turns out to be some kind of Hell greaser who engaged them in combat until one of the story’s other villains helped trap him in the Strange Matter Dimension, apparently a real place.Secret DefendersMarvel tried to bring the brand back in 1993 using the time-honored tactic of “just put Wolverine on the team.” It was… pretty bad. Other members of the group included the second Spider-Woman, Darkhawk and Doctor Druid. There were multiple low points during the 25 issue run, but things started out pretty badly right at the beginning when writer Roy Thomas introduced their first new villain – a Black woman named “Dreadlox.” Yikes.The Incredible Sex ToyKeith Giffen (who drew the series for a bit in the 70s) and J. M. DeMatteis (who wrote it in the 80s) returned to the franchise with a wacky take on the original foursome. When the Dread Dormammu and his sister Umar pool their powers to take over the universe, things look bad – until Umar turns the Hulk into her sex slave. When he reverts back to Bruce Banner in post-coital bliss, things fall apart quick for our infernal foes. No thanks to the Silver Surfer, who spends the whole series on the beach listening to folk music and eating hot dogs.Let us know what you like about Geek by taking our survey.