For many, Netflix’s The Defenders will represent their first real exposure to a superhero group that has been around since the 1970s. While not everyone included in the Netflix version of the group was an official member in the comics - at least not until Marvel’s new Defenders run begins later this year - the Defenders have been Marvel mainstays whose adventures rank among...look, if we’re being honest here, the Defenders are a great group, but they’re not exactly the premier name in Marvel superteams. In fact, there have been many times when the adventures of the Defenders have been downright weird.
Of course, there have been other times when the downright weird adventures of the Defenders have taken a sinister turn. The Defenders are heroes, but Marvel hasn’t hesitated to treat the group like a glorified band of misfits when it suits them. As such, they sometimes engage in activities that more famous superhero squads - the Avengers, for instance - wouldn’t necessarily ever be a part of. From fighting betrayed wildlife to allowing supervillains to exploit a loophole in their membership policies, the Defenders’ history is filled with unfortunate incidents that we’re guessing won’t be included in Netflix’s take on the team.
These are the 15 Worst Things The Defenders Have Ever Done.
15 Fighting (And Possibly Killing) Bambi
Let’s get this out of the way now: the ‘70s were a weird time for the Defenders. During this era, the series’ writers loved to churn out some really outlandish stories. During one of these stories, Hulk decided to take the fists to some hunters who were trying to kill a deer. Hulk named the deer Bambi - Hulk no care about copyrights - and kept him as a pet.
Eventually, it was decided that Bambi’s status as the Defenders’ pet wasn’t good enough. Due to a lapse in security, the Defenders allowed Chondu the Mystic to switch brains with the poor deer. Bambi then became a mini-villain who tried to kill the Defenders. He was then attacked by the Defenders and some villains (due to further shenanigans) before Chondu finally got his mind out of the deer. Strangely enough, the Defenders’ writers never confirmed if Bambi survived.
14 Luke Cage Exploits The Defenders For Profit
Luke Cage is a superhero, but he’s not the kind of hero that will do things like “save people” or “fight evil” just because it makes the world a better place. Cage loves to do good, but what he really loves to do is use his powers to make money. In fact, Cage never really found a larger audience until he and Iron Fist formed Heroes for Hire, a for-rent superhero team that will do any good deed for the right price.
Even though a little financial compensation is just part of Cage’s style, there was one time when his greed went a bit too far. After doing some pro-bono work for the Defenders, Cage goes to the organization's money man - Nighthawk - and says that there’s just no profit in the group. As such, he demands that Nighthawk pay him a retainer under the table in order to retain his services.
13 Hulk Becomes A Sex Slave
When you stop and think about it, there isn’t a lot of sex in mainstream Marvel comics. Sure, they have their fair share of kisses, romances, and trysts, but sex becoming the main part of a story? That doesn’t happen often. So, imagine how surprised Defenders readers were when the sorceress Umar decided that the best way to defeat the group would be to turn Hulk into a sex slave then use him to destroy his teammates.
Hulk was all for it - some magic may have been involved - but the plan hit a snag when after their first...get together, Hulk was so utterly satisfied that it removed every bit of rage in his body. Because of this, he reverted back to Bruce Banner and was unable to Hulk out again. Umar tried to torture Hulk to anger him, but nothing worked.
12 The Defenders Make a Deal With The Devil
Remember how we mentioned that the Defenders have a history that involves some really weird stuff? Well, quite a bit of that stuff involves demons. While other Marvel heroes had fought Demons in the past, the Defenders really made a name for themselves due to their dealings with the underworld.
However, during the Defenders’ famous "Six-Fingered Hand" story, the group actually made a deal with the underworld. Following Hellcat’s decision to just straight up join Satan by betraying the Defenders - a questionable heroic move - the group takes a trip to Hell where they meet Satan himself. Satan, presumably feeling jovial, decides to cut a rare bargain with the group by allowing them to fight his demon army in exchange for sacrificing a teammate. Interestingly, it was also suggested that teh devil had been sowing seeds of discontent among the group for some time in order to influence them. It’s even been said that Satan got the better of the group.
11 Daredevil and The Hand Try to Make Hell’s Kitchen Great Again
Even though he figures to be a prominent part of the upcoming Netflix series, Daredevil was never a member of the Defenders during the bulk of the group's run. However, since the Man Without Fear is now a canonical member of the group by virtue of the upcoming Netflix series and an upcoming Marvel comic series, we have to talk about the time that Daredevil tried to take over Hell’s Kitchen by using The Hand to defeat the area’s superheroes.
That stunning incident occurred during the 2010 storyline, "Shadowland". Following a trip to Japan, Matt Murdock returns to Hell’s Kitchen with an army of The Hand members at his side. Daredevil is convinced that he can use the army to do good, but it soon becomes clear that his methods don’t sit well with Luke Cage, Jessica Jones, Iron Fist and other local heroes. While not technically a Defenders story, the fact that many of the group’s soon to be principal players are involved in this tale makes it worth mentioning.
10 Members Quit Because The Defenders Are Lame
Cards on the table, there were quite a few years when the Defenders were thought of a B or C-tier team that paled in comparison to groups like The Avengers. In fact, the group’s waning popularity caused Marvel to cancel their adventures a few times over the years. Marvel decided to revive the Defenders following the events of Civil War by having Nighthawk form a new superteam that included heroes like Colossus and She-Hulk. This new group even has the financial and political backing of Iron Man.
However, things don’t go too well for the so-called “Last Defenders.” Following their very first mission, most of the main heroes in the group up and quit. While some of that can be attributed to the fact that Iron Man really put the clamps on the group, it was also noted that the heroes didn’t feel like dealing with all this just to be Defenders, because the Defenders are kind of lame.
9 Fighting Alongside Dracula and The Son of Satan
Due to the Defenders’ loose organization and membership policies - much more on that later - the group has sometimes welcomed some...questionable members to their ranks. A quick look at the history of Defenders members will show you that many Marvel heroes have joined or helped the group at some point. It will also show you that a few people you wouldn’t usually think of as heroes have aided the team at some point.
Of those names, there are two that stand out. Son of Satan - as in the actual son of Satan - became an early Defenders recruit in the ‘70s when the group decided they could use an extra incredibly powerful hand. In their defense, the son of Satan actually proved to be a true hero. As for the time that Dracula helped the Defenders...okay, that was just because the group basically decided that if Dracula wanted to help them fight another vampire, then that was his business.
8 That horrific tentacle cover
Here’s a strange one that requires a little explanation. As you may know, the upcoming Netflix version of the Defenders (Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, Iron Fist) never actually teamed up during the team’s comic run. In fact, the origins of the group bare more resemblance to the Heroes for Hire series. If we are to roll Heroes for Hire into the legacy of the Defenders, then we must talk about the Heroes for Hire tentacle porn adventure.
For reasons never adequately explained, the Heroes for Hire creative team decided that the cover issue for Heroes for Hire #13 should feature three scantily clad female heroes being assaulted by tentacles. The art for this cover is…it’s just so bizarre to think that a team of artists looked at this cover and thought that it would fly. The cover was eventually changed, but this easily is one of the worst things that Defenders members have ever been associated with.
7 Gossiping About Moondragon So Much That She Turns Evil
Moondragon is one of those characters that has long skirted the line between villain and hero. Her powerful psychic abilities and questionable morals once led to Thor dragging her to Odin so that he could pass judgment on her for her actions. Odin decided to put a magical headband on her that would limit her powers. Shortly after returning to Earth, she sought redemption by joining the Defenders.
Moondragon eventually proves herself to Odin, who agrees to remove the headband, but the Defenders were never really convinced that she was on the side of good. It leads to a moment when a creature known as The Dragon of the Moon decided to try to convince Moondragon to betray the Defenders. She is initially reluctant, but Dragon of the Moon shows her the numerous incidents of other Defenders members talking about Moondragon behind her back and questioning her loyalty. After seeing their water cooler discussions, Moondragon agrees to betray the team.
6 Lazy Policies Cause Chaos in the Marvel Universe...
Early on, the Defenders were established as Marvel’s most informal group of heroes. They considered themselves to be closer to a group of friends who just so happen to come together to fight crime when it’s convenient for everyone. While their informality meant that nobody involved had to deal with the politics of being a formal group, it did open some unfortunate loopholes.
The most costly of these loopholes led to the legendary "Defenders for a Day" storyline. During this run, a man named Dollar Bill ( side note: really?) decided to create a documentary about the group. This documentary revealed that the Defenders' loose policies concerning membership and regulations meant that just about anyone could become a member. This led to a group of woefully incapable heroes - as well as some local villains - declaring themselves to be Defenders and soiling the group’s reputation with evil (or incompetent) deeds.
5 ...And Leads to Thanos Forming an Evil Division of The Defenders
Right, so we’ve established that the early members of the Defenders were more interested in punching people in the face than they were in establishing rules that would protect them and those close to them. For a brief period of time, this led to them having to deal with a whole bunch of wannabes causing mayhem. However, you would think that the Defenders would have learned their lesson and established a few rules in order to prevent similar incidents, right?
Wrong. During the Holy War storyline, Thanos decided to form his own band of Defenders comprised entirely of supervillains. Because anyone can technically become a Defender if they declare themselves to be one, Thanos’ group were technically Defenders. These secret defenders completed their evil deeds for the Mad Titan - and were promptly betrayed by him. Interestingly, Thanos' group almost included some real heavy hitters like Venom and Ultron.
4 Ignoring a Curse and Almost Ending the World
When Marvel decided that the original run of the Defenders just wasn’t working, they decided to concoct a story involving an ancient curse. Yes, according to an old storyline, if Silver Surfer, The Incredible Hulk, Doctor Strange, and Namor ever banded together again, they would bring about the end of the world. At some point, probably around the point that the Marvel writers realized that keeping these four apart wasn’t feasible, Doctor Strange discovered that the prophecy was a hoax.
In a rare double twist, however, it was later discovered that the prophecy was totally real after all. As such, during a 2002 run known as The Order, these four became corrupted and threatened to end the world. Now, we’re not saying that the Defenders were irresponsible, but given their loose membership policies and Strange’s questionable abilities to read a curse, we are saying that the group’s initial members may have set an unfortunate precedent for carelessness.
3 The Catfishing incident
Cloud isn’t exactly considered to be one of the best Marvel heroes out there. She/he/it began as a nebula that was eventually granted human form so that Cloud could help the humans. The reference to the ambiguity of Cloud’s gender really speaks to the fact that Cloud was never really sure who or what they were. Cloud could assume different forms, but spent a lot of time as a woman early on.
That changed a bit when Cloud joined the Defenders and discovered that she had feelings for her teammate, Moondragon. The problem was that Moondragon wasn’t attracted to girls (Cloud specifically). So, Cloud decided to assume the form of a man in order to seduce her teammate. The morality of this storyline caught many readers off-guard. Wasn’t Cloud deceiving Moondragon by not only changing her identity, but by trying to get around the fact that Moondragon had already stated she wasn't attracted to her?
2 Nighthawk Hit-and-Runs a Young Man Who Grew Up to Be a Supervillain
During Nighthawk’s early days, he was a straight-up villain. We mean the kind of villain that only Marvel could produce during the ‘60s and ‘70s. The kind of villain that says “You win this time!” before running away. During his villainous days, Nighthawk was out driving - presumably drunk - and committed a hit-and-run. When Nighthawk decided to abandon his evil ways, he expressed tremendous regret over this incident.
That regret would be amplified when it was revealed in another storyline that the person Nighthawk hit grew up to be Yandroth. For those who don’t know, Yandroth is the person that created the Omegatron weapon that the original incarnation of the Defenders defeated in their first adventure. There’s a bit of an “I’m my own grandpa” effect going on here due to time travel, but former baddie Nighthawk performing the hit-and-run that led to the formation of the group that he would later join really sums up how bizarre the Defenders are.
1 The Defenders Sell Out to Loki and Hunt Down Thor
In the Ultimates universe, the Defenders are just a group of low-level vigilantes whose experience in crimefighting mostly involves hearing about the exploits of other heroes on the news. They were primarily interested in using their status as Defenders to obtain fame and fortune. They eventually convinced Henry Pym to join them in order to boost their credibility as heroes. Unfortunately, Pym recognized right away that they were nothing but pretenders, and promptly abandoned the group.
It was then that Loki came knocking. Loki informed the Defenders that in exchange for their help in hunting Thor down and recovering Mjölnir, he would grant them genuine superpowers. The defenders quickly jumped at the opportunity and soon found themselves in service to the trickster god. There have been many versions of the Defenders over the years, but none of them have ever sold out to evil quite this quickly.
What other terrible acts have The Defenders committed? Will the Netflix iteration be a bit more altruistic? Let us know know in the comments.