The definitive, chronological, and up-to-date guide on collecting Defenders comic books via omnibuses, hardcovers, and trade paperback graphic novels. A part of Crushing Krisis’s Crushing Comics. Last updated August 2016 with titles scheduled for release through April 2017.
Who are The Defenders? Or, perhaps the better question is, what are The Defenders?
The concept of this unofficial team of heroes originated with the cancellation of Dr. Strange’s 1968 series, an outgrowth of Strange Tales. When a multi-part story teaming up the Doctor with Namor and Hulk was slotted to begin in the final issue #183, the remaining chapters wound up running in Sub-Mariner #22 and Incredible Hulk #126.
Later, the Namor/Hulk team-up added Silver Surfer to the mix in Namor #34-35 as “Titans Three”, and the entire foursome assembled in Marvel Feature #1-3 before spinning off into their own title.
This quartet of characters worked so well together because they are all massively powerful loners. Each one of them could handily battle a Silver Age Avengers line-up single-handedly and they’d each bristle at trying to remain a member long-term.
Together, they kept that curmudgeonly attitude, which made The Defenders a team that wasn’t a team – all while battling enemies from other dimensions and outer space.
The original, 1972 Defenders volume has been collected in a variety of formats – we’ll cover that first before moving on to their many other series.
- Essentials: Affordable black & white sequential collections
- Marvel Masterworks: Premium-format color sequential collections
- Epic Collections: Trade paperback gapless collections released in random order
Then, move on to learning how to collect The Defenders, title by title.
- The Defenders (1972 – 1983)
- New Defenders (1983 – 1986)
- Return of The Defenders (1992)
- Secret Defenders (1993 – 1995)
- The Defenders, Vol. 2 & The Order (2001 – 2002)
- The Defenders, Vol. 3 (2005)
- The Last Defenders (2008)
- The Defenders, Vol. 4 (2012)
- Marvel Now: The Fearless Defenders (2013)
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Marvel’s Essentials line packs tons of comics into each black and white, phone-book-sized edition with newsprint paper. If you don’t care about color and glossy paper, this is the best way to acquire your favorite classic stories quickly – especially for The Defenders, since the series is reprinted in full!
Essential Editions are not repeated below in their chronological placement, since B&W is not the original format of this series.
Essential Vol. 1 #1-14
Collects Dr. Strange #183, Sub-Mariner #22, Incredible Hulk #126, Sub-Mariner #34-35, Marvel Feature #1-3, Defenders #1-14, and Avengers #115-118.
Essential Vol. 2: #15-30
Also collects Giant-Size Defenders #1-5, Marvel Team-Up #33-35, Marvel Treasury Edition #12, and Marvel Two-in-One #6-7
Essential Vol. 3: #31-60
Also collects Annual #1
Essential Vol. 4: #61-91
Essential Vol. 5: #92-106
Also collects Captain America #268 and Marvel Team-Up #101, 112, & 116
Essential Vol. 6: #107-125
Also collects Avengers Annual 11 and Marvel Team-Up #119.
Essential Vol. 7: #126-139
Also collects Iceman (1984) #1-4, Beauty and the Beast (1984) #1-4
The Essentials line has been discontinued and will not extend past #139 (at which point the indicia finally changes to reflect the New Defenders title on the cover). Jump to that spot in the chronology.
Marvel Masterworks editions are high quality, full color reproductions of original issues. The volumes were originally released as hardcovers, with many now out of print. Masterworks are not listed below in their chronological placement, but they are referenced if they are the only means of obtaining an issue.
Masterworks Vol. 1 (ISBN 0785130446): #1-6
Also collects Marvel Feature #1-3 and Sub-Mariner #34-35
Masterworks Vol. 2 (ISBN 0785142169): #7-16
Also collects Giant-Size #1 and Avengers #115-118
Masterworks Vol. 3 (ISBN 0785159614): #17-21
Also collects Giant-Sized #2-4 and Marvel Two-in-One #6-7
Masterworks Vol. 4 (ISBN 0785166270) #22-30
Also collects Giant-Sized #5 and Marvel Super-Heroes #18
Masterworks Vol. 5 (ISBN 0785191828): #31-41 & Annual 1
Also collects Marvel Treasury Edition (1974) #12
#42-152: Not yet announced in this format.
Marvel’s Epic Collections represent a consistent, affordable, full-color bookshelf format of issues in perfect continuity order without a single gap. The catch? Marvel is releasing them in a random order to focus on the biggest gaps first – since early issues are already well-covered by both Essentials and Masterworks.
Epic editions are also listed below in their chronological placement, as they are frequently the only coverage of a specific run.
Epic Volumes 1-5: Not yet announced, but will collect Marvel Feature #1-3, Sub-Mariner #34-35, Defenders #1-109, and all non-reprint material from Giant-Size and Annual issues.
#92-109: Epic Collection: The Six-Fingered Hand (Epic Vol. 6)
Also collects Marvel Team-Up #101 & Captain America #268
Epic Volumes 7 and up: Not yet announced
Defenders Debut: The original Defenders origin story was a crossover in 1969-70 between Doctor Strange #183, Sub-Mariner #22, and The Incredible Hulk #126. Collected in Essentials, above, but not Masterworks. The issues are singly collected in various Namor and Hulk collections, but tend to appear together in Doctor Strange collections (since it would have appeared entirely in his own title had it not been canceled).
Titans Three: A second Defenders pre-cursor story in Sub-Mariner #34–35 where the team, minus Doctor Strange but plus Silver Surfer, calls themselves “Titans Three.” In Essentials and Masterworks, above. Also, see Namor.
The Day of The Defenders: This story in Marvel Feature (1972) #1-3 is treated as the official prologue to The Defenders. It features all four primary cast members and is always collected alongside its initial issues, as in Essentials and Masterworks, above. It was reprinted in 2012 as a single issue called Defenders: The Coming Of The Defenders.
#1-7: Not collected (except for in Essentials and Masterworks, above)
#8-11: Avengers/Defenders War hardcover
Also collects The Avengers #115-118. See The Avengers for additional collection options.
#12-14: Not collected (except for in Essentials and Masterworks, above)
#15-16: A Magneto story collected in Marvel Masterworks: The X-Men, Vol. 8
#17-25: Not collected (except for in Essentials and Masterworks, above)
#26-29: Guardians of the Galaxy: Earth Shall Overcome hardcover
Collects Marvel Super-Heroes (1967) #18, Marvel Two-In-One (1974) #4-5, Giant-Size Defenders (1974) #5, and The Defenders (1972) #26-29
#26-29: Guardians of the Galaxy: Tomorrow’s Avengers – Volume 1 (ISBN 0785166874)
Collects Marvel Super Heroes (1967) #18, Marvel Two -In-One (1974) #4-5, Giant -Size Defenders #5, Defenders (1972) #26-29, Marvel Presents #3-12
#30-41: Not collected (except for in Essentials and Masterworks, above)
#42-46: Not collected (except for in Essentials, above)
#47-50: Moon Knight Epic Collection, Vol. 1: Bad Moon Rising
Collects (in order) Werewolf by Night (1972) #32-33, Marvel Spotlight (1971) #28-29; Defenders #47-50 (and excerpts of #51); The Spectacular Spider-Man (1976) #22-23; Marvel Two-In-One (1974) #52; Hulk [Magazine] (1978) #11-15, 17-18, & 20; Marvel Preview (1975) #21; Moon Knight (1980) #1-4.
#51-61: Not collected (except for in Essentials, above)
#62-42: Nova Classic, Vol. 2
Collects Nova #13-19, Defenders (1972) #62-64, Fantastic Four Annual 12, and Marvel Two-in-One Annual 3.
#62-65: Defenders: Tournament of Heroes
Actually a comic one-shot reprinting these four issues.
#65: Models, Inc.
Collects Models, Inc. (2009) #1-4, Patsy Walker (1945) #119, Millie the Model (1945) #100, and The Defenders (1972) #65
#66-75: Not collected (except for in Essentials, above)
#76-77: Omega The Unknown Classic
Collects Omega the Unknown (1976) #1-10 and The Defenders (1972) #76-77
#78-91: Not collected (except for in Essentials, above)
#92-109: Epic Collection: The Six-Fingered Hand (Epic Vol. 6)
Also collects Marvel Team-Up #101 & Captain America #268 (which continues from #104 and into #106).
#110-111: Not collected (except for in Essentials, above)
#112-114: Squadron Supreme Classic Omnibus Oversized Hardcover
Collects Avengers #69-70, 85-86, 141-144, 147-149; Thor #280; Defenders #112-114; Squadron Supreme #1-12; Captain America #314; Squadron Supreme: Death Of A Universe OGN; Quasar #13-16 & 51-52; Avengers (1998) #5-6; Squadron Supreme: New World Order (1998) #1; Exiles (2001) #77-78; Ultimate Power (2006) #7-9
#115-121: Not collected (except for in Essentials, above)
Where do departed members next appear?
- Daimon Hellstrom next appears in West Coast Avengers #14-16 and Annual 1, then generally lays low until his 1993 series, Daimon Hellstrom: Price of Lies.
- Dr. Strange continues in his own title with issue #62.
- Hellcat next appears in Captain America #314 and West Coast Avengers #14-16 and Annual 1.
- Hulk continues in his own title with issue #290. See Hulk.
- Namor continues to a string of guest appearances in Fantastic Four and Alpha Flight. See Namor.
In 1981 the Defenders team received a facelift, with several older members transitioning off the team for the core of original X-Men Beast, Angel, and Iceman to take over along with Moondragon, Gargoyle, Cloud, and team mainstay Valkyrie. The title did not officially change to “New” in the indicia until 140 in 1985.
#122-131: New Defenders, Vol. 1 (ISBN 0785162461)
Effectively a Marvel “Classic” title, with the corresponding color production and slightly lighter weight matte paper.
#132-144: Not collected (except through #139 in Essentials, above)
#145-146: Essential Ghost Rider, Vol. 4 black & white
Collect Ghost Rider (1972) #66-81, Amazing Spider-Man (1962) #274 and New Defenders (1972) #145-146
#147-149: Not collected (except through #139 in Essentials, above)
#150: Pet Avengers Classic
Seriously. Collects material from Thing #4, Captain America #220, Ka-Zar the Savage #14-15, X-Men Unlimited #43, Marvel Comics Presents #72, Speedball #6, Marvel Tales #100, Marvel Super-Heroes #8, Amazing Fantasy #15, Fantastic Four #94, New Defenders #150, New Mutants Annual #4, Franklin Richards: Happy Franksgiving, New Warriors #2, and Journey into Mystery #57.
#151: Not collected
#152: See Marvel Universe Events: Secret Wars II
Where can you find this cast after they were decommissioned?
- The X-Men cast continue to X-Factor.
- Cloud appears in Solo Avengers #20 and then disappears into obscurity.
- Gargoyle next appears in West Coast Avengers #24 followed by Solo Avengers #16, 18, & 20. He goes on to be a regular character in Hellstorm: Prince of Lies, and later in Avengers: The Initiative #10-23.
- Moondragon next appears in West Coast Avengers Annual 1 and #24. She is a supporting character in Quasar starting from #11 and would later be involved in Infinity Watch and Guardians of the Galaxy.
- Valkyrie goes on to co-star with old-school teammate Dr. Strange in Strange Tales #5-7 and Dr. Strange #3-4, but is effectively rendered an occasional guest star for over 20 years through Heralds in 2010, after which she joins Secret Avengers and becomes a heavily featured character.
With all four of the founding Defenders anchoring their own books, this Annuals-only crossover brought them together again, running through Incredible Hulk Annual #18, Namor the Sub-Mariner Annual #2, Silver Surfer Annual #5, and Doctor Strange, Sorcerer Supreme Annual #2.
The only comprehensive collection of this material so far has been in Incredible Hulk Epic Collection: Ghost of the Past (Epic Vol. 19), which collects only the “Defenders” stories from the three non-Hulk annuals.
A rotating-cast team headlined by Dr. Strange (and, later, Dr. Druid).
#12-25: Deadpool and the Secret Defenders (ISBN 978-1-302-90417-3)
A 12-issue series from the superstar combo of Erik Larson and Kurt Busiek featuring the core cast of Dr. Strange, Namor, Silver Surfer, and Hulk – plus Hellcat and Nighthawk. It continues directly into The Order (not to be confused with a later offshoot of Secret Invasion).
#1-12: Not collected.
Day of the Defenders: 2001 One-Shot issue reprinting The Incredible Hulk (1968) #126, Marvel Feature (1971) #1, The Sub-Mariner (1968) #22
From the Marvel Vault
This TPB contains a lost issue ostensibly from the Busiek era of Defenders, and falls between this series and The Order.
The Order #1-7: Not collected. Continued from The Defenders and effectively #13-18, this finds the core quartet manipulated to be evil versions of themselves.
A five-issue limited series featuring Dr. Strange, Namor, Silver Surfer, and Hulk. Cast in the generally comedic tone of recent hit Justice League International, this series wasnot well-received by fans.
A six-issue limited series written by Joe Casey expanding the traditional Defenders cast to include She-Hulk, Colossus, and erstwhile Thunderbolt Atlas in the wake of Marvel’s Civil War (plus classic member Daimon Hellstrom and 2001 update member Nighthawk). They are commissioned to be the official Avengers: Initiatives team of New Jersey.
#1-6: The Last Defenders
A five-issue limited series also penned by Casey focused on a young generation of heroes and villains, but incidentally featuring the team that emerged from The Last Defenders.
A classic Defenders revival staring Dr. Strange, Namor, Silver Surfer, Iron Fist, and Red She-Hulk – plus, later, Black Cat. Curiously, when this series was hurried to an early ended with issue #12, Fraction’s solution was to retcon the entire story out of existence with the final issue – making it a peculiar pocket universe all of its own.
#1-6: The Defenders, Vol. 1
Also includes material from Fear Itself #7 and Marvel Point One.
#7-12: The Defenders, Vol. 2
A series that fell backwards into becoming a Defenders title. At the end of Fear Itself, classic Defender Valkyrie was tasked with retrieving a series of weapons – and, also, assembling a team of female guardians. That transpired in the strong and surprisingly-popular series The Fearless, by Cullen Bunn.
When Bunn pitched the follow-up book – a team-up between Valkyrie and recent Heroes for Hire star Misty Knight plus a rotating cast of other women including Danielle Moonstar, Elsa Bloodstone, and Clea. Marvel’s editorial team encouraged Bunn to make it a part of the Defenders franchise, but it could be equally considered as part of Heroes For Hire.
#1-6: Vol. 1: Doom Maidens
#4.AU: This average alternate timeline one-shot was part of Age of Ultron. See Marvel Universe Events: Age of Ultron for collection information.
It remains to be seen where featured characters Valkyrie, Misty Knight, Danielle Moonstar, Hippolyta, Clea, and Elsa Bloodstone will turn up next.
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