Today marked the release of the final issue of The Fearless Defenders. I’m really sad to see this book go, but I’m really thrilled to have been a part of it. It was a strange, off-beat book. A lot of people didn’t get it (meaning, they didn’t understand what we were going for. A lot of people didn’t get it–as in they didn’t buy it–either). But that didn’t stop us telling stories that were unlike others on the shelf. It was an unapologetic super hero book with tongue firmly planted in cheek… and, yeah, the cast was all ladies.
We were (according to many) over-sexualized, pandering, a long shot, a sleeper hit, too silly, too cruel, too compressed, too decompressed, and a host of other contradictions… which works for the spirit of the book, I think.
But there were a lot of folks who REALLY loved this book… even when they were really mad at us. And that means a lot to me. Those folks made it all worthwhile… and I have a feeling I’ll be seeing them online and at conventions for years to come.
Since the book is finished, I wanted to share a few sneak peeks at where things might have gone.
The idea for this series came to mind while I was still working on Fear Itself: The Fearless. In late November 2011, I wrote the following e-mail to the team I was working with on Fear Itself: The Fearless:
I’m probably jumping the gun here, but I thought I’d go ahead and run this by you. Depending on sales and reception on Fearless, I’d like to make a pitch for a Valkyrie series. I know she’s a tough character on her own, but hopefully her profile will be a little higher, and the idea of her gathering a new group of Valkyries from existing female heroes might give the book a hook.
In early issues, Val could observe and make offers to potential new Valkyries while all the while facing some new threat or villain.
Not all the candidates will accept, of course, but many will. Imagine Lyra, the female Ghost Rider, Dani Moonstar, She Hulk, Tigra, or others as Valkyries, called upon when needed to face some grave challenge. Of course, some candidates might surprise Val or be everyday heroic figures like firefighters, police, or doctors.
It would be an all-female team handling a new charter for the Valkyries.
It could even be called something like Valkyrie and The Fearless.
This was the earliest hint of a proposal for the series. The pitch went through a number of different incarnations. These notes are lifted directly from those various proposals. Some serve only to illustrate how much things change from initial proposal. Others hint at what might have happened had the series progressed.
- The original working title was Valkyrie and the Fearless. It wasn’t until the book was greenlit that I found out it would be titled Defenders (and later Fearless Defenders).
- From the original pitch: “During her search for this team, Valkyrie will turn to many known characters. (Imagine Arana, She-Hulk, Lyra, Loa, Kitty Pryde, Monica Rambeau, Dani Moonstar, Lionheart, Hellcat, Songbird, Ms. Marvel, the Invisible Woman, the Savage She-Hulk, Ghost Rider, X-23, Photon, or others being offered the position and powers of a Shield Maiden.) While some known (and lesser known) characters will accept Valkyrie’s offer, the team will also be joined by new characters who may have no previous powers. Police officers, doctors, firefighters, nurses, etc., will change the way Valkyrie defines heroism.”
- One loose team line-up went something like this: “Seven women will be chosen as the Shield Maidens of Earth. They are no longer tasked with ferrying the souls of the dead to the afterlife. Instead, they are tasked with the protection of the living. Each member of the team is chosen to represent a different ASPECT. This can be as subtle or as overt as we like. While a couple of the team members should be new characters—chosen and empowered from the ranks of “normal” women—some possibilities for representatives of these aspects might include:
- Leader – VALKYRIE
- Warrior – LYRA, NEMESIS, PUCK (Zuzha Yu)
- Counselor – SAGE, JENNIFER KALE
- Protector – SUSAN STORM, KITTY PRYDE, RESCUE
- Huntress – HAWKEYE (Kate Bishop), MOCKINGBIRD, ELEKTRA, TIGRA, ARANA, WHITE TIGER
- Queen – NAMORA, MEDUSA, STORM
- Healer – DAGGER
- Muse – DAZZLER, MYSTIQUE, MEGGAN (Excalibur)
- At one point, the team was to be much smaller. They would have been Valkyrie, Rescue, Meggan, Venus, and a new character Mei (a “normal” human who would be given the power to heal.)
- Another team line-up included:
- Misty Knight
- Lyra (the Savage She-Hulk. I think she has a unique power set and she brings some “youth” to the group)
- Loa (again, bringing some “youth” to the group, and a terrific power set. I think in addition to her mutant gifts, she could exhibit some magical talent as well)
- No-Name of Brood (this is really the WTF choice. I like the idea that she goes against what people think of in an all-female team)
- Captain Marvel
- New Character 1
- New Character 2
- You’ll note in these team line-ups that Annabelle was not originally planned as a recurring character. She popped up while I was writing the first issue.
- Hippolyta was almost Moondragon or Phylla-Vell.
- One early pitch had Valkyrie using Norn Stones or Shards of Odinforce to empower teammates with Valkyrie-like powers.
- Everyone always asks if there were characters we weren’t allowed to use. I think the only one we were refused from the beginning was Jean Grey. At one point, Will and I lobbeyed hard for Spider-Girl to join the team, but that didn’t fly. Also, Galacta was the original choice for our cosmic team member, but that was changed at the last minute.
- At one point, Venus was supposed to be the villain of the first arc. She had been driven mad somewhere along the way. In that same arc, the Defenders were going to square off against all of the Hulks.
- The first issue was originally going to start with Valkyrie beating the snot out of Namor.
- Mania was going to join the team. There was going to be a “Young Defenders” group popping up, which would also include Lyra and Loa.
- All of the following were listed in my pitch at one time as possible future story complications:
- The Recorder offers numerous opportunities for adventures with its strange prophecies.
- A secret Brood invasion gives cause for No-Name of Brood to join the ranks of the Valkyrior. (This kinda happened.)
- A rogue Celestial has gathered its own group of “Valkyrie.” The mission of these Celestial Riders is to usher dying worlds into Oblivion. And they’ve targeted Earth. During the final confrontation, the Defenders will coax Galactus into aiding them. (This served as the early inspiration for our first arc. Note, that I stripped some information out of this one. I’ve gotta keep some secrets!)
- Agents of A.T.L.A.S. might show up, wanting to remove Venus from protective custody… by force if need be.
- Dani Moonstar was once a Valkyrie. She may wish to become one once again. (This obviously happened, but what didn’t happen… even though I tilted that windmill from issue 1… was the repowering of Dani.)
- A story could lead the group into the realm of the Deviants and into an encounter with Blackwulf and his Freedom Fighters. It would be a wild science-fantasy story.
- While Valkyrie had hoped to keep her mission secret, word gets out and the team becomes the center of a storm of celebrity. Fan mail. Hate mail. Stalkers. Media appearances. Chaos ensues. The media wants to turn them into sex symbols. One or two members of the team might welcome the attention while others rage against it.
- The Enchantress still has designs for Valkyrie, and she manipulates actions and events from behind the scenes to bring the Shield Maiden under her sway once more.
- Owen Grant is furious! How dare a group of all-female superheroes form? Why can’t there be a male Valkyrie? Owen gathers a number of like-minded individuals together to protest Valkyrie’s mission and to try to get a man selected for the cause. They’re harmless (but annoying) at first, but they may become more and more dangerous as time goes on.
- Sin and the newly formed D.O.A. are still at large. Their operations could bring them into conflict with the Valkyrior again and again. Sin may even form an alliance with the Enchantress or some other enemy of the Valkyrior.
There you have it! A look at some of the things that might have (or might not have) happened. I hope you enjoyed reading some of that. Going through those old proposals was bittersweet for me!