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 November 2018 with titles scheduled for release through March 2019.
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, itself an outgrowth of Strange Tales. When a multi-part story teaming up the Doctor with Namor and Hulk was slotted to begin in what turned out to be 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.” Then, 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 easily battle a Silver Age Avengers line-up to a stand-still single-handedly and they’d each bristle at trying to remain a member long-term.
Together, they kept that curmudgeonly attitude, which made the main draw of The Defenders that it was a team that wasn’t a team – all while battling enemies from other dimensions and outer space. It latter added other unlikely members like Valkyrie, Luke Cage, Moon Knight, Hellcat, and Daimon Hellstrom.
The original, 1972 Defenders volume has been collected in a variety of formats as a key part of Marvel’s transition from Silver to Bronze age. Over the years the original team has seen many revivals of its title and concepts (both of loners and of protecting our dimension).
In 2017 the title took a left turn as it was co-opted for Marvel’s Netflix team of Luke Cage, Iron Fist, Daredevil, and Jessica Jones – who could have easily been deemed Mighty Avengers based on those characters’ recent publication history.
- The Defenders (1972 – 1983)
- New Defenders (1983 – 1986)
- The 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)
- Heroic Age: The Defenders, Vol. 4 (2012)
- Marvel Now: The Fearless Defenders (2013)
- All-New, All-Different Marvel & Marvel Legacy: Vol. 5
- Fresh Start: Defenders: The Best Defense
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- Essentials: Affordable black & white sequential collections
- Marvel Masterworks: Premium-format color sequential collections
- Epic Collections: Trade paperback gapless collections released in random order
- Other Collections
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
Masterworks Vol. 6 (ISBN 978-1302909581): #42-57
Also collects material from Foom (1973) #19
#58-152: 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.
Volumes 1-5: Not yet announced, but will collect Doctor Strange #183, Sub-Mariner #22, The Incredible Hulk #126, Sub-Mariner #34-35, Marvel Feature #1-3, and Defenders #1-91, and all non-reprint material from Giant-Size and Annual issues.
Vol. 6: The Six-Fingered Hand
Collects #92-109. Also collects Marvel Team-Up #101 & Captain America #268
Vol. 7: Ashes, Ashes
Collects #110-125 and Avengers Annual #11
Vol. 8: The New Defenders (ISBN 9781302912031)
Collects #126-137; Iceman (1984) #1-4; and Beauty and the Beast (1984) #1-4
Volume 9: Not yet announced, but will contain #138-152 and maybe also Gargoyle #1-4
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 the story 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)
#10: Thor Vs. Hulk
Collects Avengers (1963) #3, Sub-Mariner (1968) #35, Defenders (1972) #10, Incredible Hulk (1968) #255 & 440, Thor (1966) #385 & 489, Hulk (2008) #5-6, What If? (1977) #45; and material from Journey Into Mystery (1952) #112, Incredible Hulk Annual 2001, & Hulk (2008) #26
#12-14: Not collected (except for in Essentials and Masterworks, above)
#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 and Masterworks, 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.
#51-57: Not collected (except for in Essentials and Masterworks, above)
#58-61: Not collected (except for in Essentials, above)
#62-64: 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).
#110-125: Epic Collection: Ashes, Ashes (Epic Vol. 7)
Also collects Avengers Annual #11
#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
#122-124: New Defenders, Vol. 1 (ISBN 0785162461)
Collects #122-131. Effectively a Marvel “Classic” title, with the corresponding color production and slightly lighter weight matte paper.
Where do departing 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 with issue #125. The title did not officially change to “New” in the indicia until 140 in 1985.
#125-131: New Defenders, Vol. 1 (ISBN 0785162461)
Collects #122-131. Effectively a Marvel “Classic” title, with the corresponding color production and slightly lighter weight matte paper.
#122-125: Epic Collection Volume 7: Ashes, Ashes
Collects #110-125 and Avengers Annual #11
#126-137: Epic Collection: The New Defenders (Epic Vol. 8 – ISBN 9781302912031)
Collects #126-137; Iceman (1984) #1-4 (fits after #131); and Beauty and the Beast (1984) #1-4 (fits after #133)
#138-144: Not collected (except through #139 in Essentials, above) and Gargoyle (1985) #1-4 (fits after #141).
#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
#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 members 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 in the Heroic Age and Marvel Now.
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. See Marvel Universe Events for more information.
A rotating-cast team headlined by Dr. Strange (and, later, Dr. Druid).
#1-11: Doctor Strange, Sorcerer Supreme Omnibus Vol. 2 Oversized Hardcover
Collects Doctor Strange, Sorcerer Supreme #41-59 & Annual 2-3; Spider-Man/Dr. Strange: The Way To Dusty Death; Silver Surfer (1987) #67; Morbius: The Living Vampire (1992) #9; Secret Defenders #1-11; and material from Incredible Hulk Annual 18; Namor The Submariner Annual 2; and Silver Surfer Annual 5
#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).
The Defenders (2001) #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 (2002) #1-6: Not collected. Continued from The Defenders and is effectively #13-18 of that series, 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 was not 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 then commissioned to be the official Avengers: Initiative team of New Jersey.
#1-6: The Last Defenders
Vengeance (2011) #1-5
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.
Misty Knight would go on to reappear in Sam Wilson’s run as Captain America, while Valkyrie would fall back into disuses, though she makes guest appearances in Avengers World, Thor and Patsy Walker, A.K.A. Hellcat.
The Defenders title has laid dormant in Marvel Comics since the end of 2013, when it was announced that Marvel would bring a slate of TV shows to Netflix that would culminate in a mini-series titled The Defenders.
Of course, having now seen all of those Netflix series, we know that they don’t focus on classic Defenders like Doctor Strange or Hulk, but on street-level heroes Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and Iron Fist.
Why the change? According to Marvel’s editor-in-chief, Joe Quesada,”because to the world at large, no one knows who the Defenders are.” Using the name for the Netflix team was a matter of clever marketing to contrast them against The Avengers – and, hadn’t that really been the point of the original title back in 1972?
With the mini-series debuting on Netflix in the summer of 2017, Marvel relaunched the solo comics of Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and Iron Fist, and followed them with a new Defenders ongoing penned by Brian Bendis – the creator of Jessica Jones and resuscitator of both Daredevil and Luke Cage.
#1-5: Vol. 1: Diamonds Are Forever
Also includes material from Free Comic Book Day 2017.
#6-10: Vol. 2: Kingpins of New York
Defenders: The Best Defense
Collects a series of Defenders one-shots (in this order) Hulk: Defenders #1, Namor: Defenders #1, Doctor Strange: Defenders #1, and Silver Surfer: Defenders #1, and Defenders #1.
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