You know what DC doesn’t really have? The Defenders. They don’t have a team of, as Graeme McMillan put it: “Some friends and the random folk who get sucked into their adventures.” I love the Defenders concept. I always have. But I also love the DCU, and with the whole New 52 thing going on I wondered what would be the right kick-off for a DC-Defenders team. And then it hit me. The Justice League Detroit.
For those that don’t know the old JL:Detriot, they were this odd Justice League team made up of Aquaman, Martian Manhunter and all new characters. It didn’t go over well with a lot of readers. Eventually they were pretty much all killed. The problem was – I totally dug the JL:Detriot concept (even if the book itself didn’t seem to always live up to it).
And I think we could redesign the four new heroes, and make the JL:Detriot into the DCU’s Defenders. To assist me in this grand undertaking I have recruited the always effervescent Robert Wilson IV. A great artist, he will bring life to my crazy ramblings here and be designing the new versions of the characters. Please note the character names (code names and real names) are not ours. We didn’t invent Paco Ramone. I swear.
So who are they? Well…
VIBE (Paco Ramone) – This is a guy who breakdances ironically, because he thinks it’s cool, but is afraid to show it. So he hides behind this veneer of false irony about his life. He wants to save the world, but he won’t let you know how awesome he thinks his job is. It’s just, you know, a McSuperHero Gig.
He’s the guy who will keep the team together, no matter what, so long as he can do it in such a way so as to look like it’s someone else. But, really, he loves these guys. He uses his vibrational powers to help save the day, but also makes puns about vibrations that he claims he does because “they’re so horrible” but inside he can’t stop giggling at them.
GYPSY (Cindy Reynolds) – She protests the injustices of the world, and now, with her powers of illusion casting, she can do even more. She likes to think she gained the power to cast illusions to better help the world cast off the illusions that sit on the shoulders of the work force, but that’s just Cindy. What can you do? Gypsy thinks the best of the world and has dedicated her life to improving it anyway she can. Right now that means here, with these guys.
Gypsy is always at the front line. She’s the first one in and the last out, though the others often mistake her for soft. It’s an easy mistake to make, but be careful – she’ll punch you in the face for crossing her own internal lines.
VIXEN (Mari Jiwe McCabe) – Mari’s seemingly endless tattoos each serve a purpose. Touching one animal totem embedded in her skin gives her the powers and abilities of that animal. The proportionate strength of an ant, speed of a cheetah, the ability to fly, to breathe underwater, and more are all just a fingertip away. As far as the group goes, though, She isn’t sure why she’s even with these other folks, to be honest.
Vixen wants to make a difference in the world, she guesses, but these aren’t really her people. And yet she finds herself with them more often than not, even as she bristles at the very idea.
SOLID STEEL (Hank Heywood III ) – [Quick note - yes he used to be called Steel, but there are many characters using that name so we stuck the word Solid before it - taadaa] Having unnecessary surgery performed on him by his grandfather, Hank Heywood III became SOLID STEEL. Possessing a reinforced skeleton as well as a fully replaced arm and leg, Hank has left behind the comfort of his well-off family and is seeking his own way.
Solid Steel doesn’t think he fits in anywhere. He’s a freak, in his own mind, but at least these people can use his help. And that is, for him, worth something. It’s worth just enough, for now. At the least, it keeps his worry about his family coming back for him at bay.
Together they are:
So how do they work as a team? Well they don’t. They work as friends. And as friends, they come together and deal with the problems in each others lives. These being superheroes, often the problems involve mad scientists, super-intelligent evil apes and alien invaders. They also get involved in helping their friends outside of the immediate circle of the group. It is an ever widening scope, with an endless growing supporting cast that can also fuel new members.
And yeah, this is supposed to be an ephemeral, of the moment pop culture team. They are each rooted in things that, in five years max, will feel outdated. And along the way you bring in friends and friends of friends who are more in tune with then-current pop culture. You update the book by bringing in new casts, but like any trend, the old characters don’t have to leave for good or en masse. They haunt the place, still driving it forward. The trends that never die, just as now, thanks to the internet, no trend ever truly goes away.
The first arc is easy, as well. We toss in Aquaman. Start with him in a fight in the middle of the city. He gets surprised and distracted saving someone and goes down. Near-by, Solid Steel sees this and decides to help. He’s there, he knows of Aquaman, he’s JUSTICE LEAGUE after all, and jumps in. Meanwhile, Gypsy is working at a coffee shop when Solid Steel gets thrown through it. She joins in as well. Vibe, one of the customers, also helps out. They’re pushing the bad guy back, while Aquaman is getting up. Out of nowhere, Vixen comes in to finish him off. She was in a cab when the fight stopped traffic, sees it out the window and launches herself into the thick of it. Aquaman thanks them and suggests they stick together. That they could be heroes. When the four hem and haw, Aquaman offers to help them out and watch over them. That’s the first issue. Every issue on this book needs to be hard and fast. Sharp small stories that each increase the world.
The second issue the group, not even together, still not sure they want to be. Vibe has a problem, a friend of his got attacked by a local group of malcontents. He tries to do it by himself but can’t. He calls Vibe, apologizes for bugging her. She joins in though, and they work it all out.
The third issue is Vixen, getting into trouble, near where Vibe works. Vibe joins in, texting Gypsy as he does. The three of them work together well.
The fourth issue is Gypsy, at a protest. When things turn ugly, a guy with powers disrupting everything, she calls her new friends, including Solid Steel this time. The four settle everything down and start to wonder if there’s a team here, after all.
Issue five is Solid Steel, when he runs afoul of an enemy of his grandfather’s. Instead of calling his family, when stuff gets too deep he calls the other three in. They solve it all and this cements their desire to work together, when something big comes up.
Issue six is Aquaman calling them together to fight a big monster. At the end they decide to rent a small bit of office space. Not to live in but to hang out in and spend time together, just hanging out. Training and chilling.
That way each issue of the first arc delves into each character and grows their bonds organically. You grow to know the characters as their friends do, and they grow to know themselves by the way their lives change shape once they have these new friends. They never decide “Bang, we’re a team!” it just happens around them. By the time they realize it they each start to push back against the idea along their own vectors, but it’s too late. They’re in each other’s lives now and a team book has taken shape.
THE AWESOME ART
Here are larger versions of each image that Robert Wilson did for this madness: