By: Henry Hanks, Contributor @hankstv / firstname.lastname@example.org
The much-anticipated Netflix series "Marvel's The Defenders" went up over the weekend, bringing together Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage and Iron Fist.
Fans who have been following the characters' various solo Netflix series are very familiar - and there's a current Marvel comic book series with the same lineup - but what about the Defenders and their beginnings in comics?
The Defenders debuted in 1971 in "Marvel Feature # 1", 30 years before the character of Jessica Jones was introduced, so needless to say, it was a very different team. In fact, they didn't even liked being called a team, which is the biggest thing they have in common with the current iteration.
The original Defenders were mainly comprised of three characters who had their own solo titles over the years: the Hulk, Dr. Strange and Namor, the Sub-Mariner. It was a bit of dream casting for the early 1970s Marvel reader and the book didn't disappoint.
Seeing three very different characters like this interact was a treat and "The Defenders" became its own title for the first time in 1972.
Silver Surfer soon joined the team and it had cycled through members over the years, off and on, not unlike the Avengers. Luke Cage joined as well, at one point.
Speaking of Luke, he debuted around the same time in 1972, in the book "Luke Cage, Hero for Hire # 1." Despite Black Panther debuting six years earlier, Luke was the first black character to star in his own superhero title.
Luke has been tied in with Iron Fist for many years, as his series changed its name to "Power Man," and then "Power Man and Iron Fist," officially bringing in the martial arts master in the 50th issue to boost sales. Iron Fist aka Danny Rand made his debut in "Marvel Premiere" #15 in 1974.
Rand actually died in 1986, but this being comics, it wasn't forever, and he has popped up in Marvel Comics off and on from the 1990s onward.
Daredevil is of course, the best known character of the foursome, having already had his own movie in 2003. He goes back to 1964 as part of the first explosion of Marvel's Silver Age characters.
However, the character never really came into his own until Frank Miller's legendary run in the 1980s, which showed what the writer/artist could do to redefine an existing character, as he would later for The Caped Crusader in "Batman: The Dark Knight Returns."
**MINOR SPOILER below**
Miller created the character Elektra, who plays a major role in "The Defenders" as well, and he introduced antagonists the Hand, who have played a part in multiple Netflix series.
Rumor has it that Miller's famous storyline "Born Again" will be the basis for the third season of "Daredevil" on Netflix.
Last but certainly not least, we have Jessica Jones, the main character of Brian Michael Bendis' mature "Marvel MAX" title "Alias" which debuted in 2001.
This series was critically acclaimed, and Jessica floated around the Marvel universe ever since 2006 without a title of her own. That all changed when Bendis revived "Jessica Jones" last year after the success of the Netflix series.
The "Defenders" season may only last eight episodes but there's a lot of backstory one could discover over 46 years of Marvel Comics.
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