Thursday 21 August 2014


At the weekend I picked-up a new trade paperback, KINGS WATCH, which appears (because I've not actually read it yet) to be a revival of the old DEFENDERS OF THE EARTH concept in all-but-name.

For the forgetful/ young, the Defenders (not to be confused with the multiple iterations of the Marvel team) were Flash Gordon, Mandrake the Magician, The Phantom and Lothar.  The thing they all had in common, other than being faded stars of newspaper strips, was that they were all characters owned by King Features Syndicate.

Back in the eighties, KFS and Marvel Productions teamed-up to bring the characters back to TV in a new 65-episode daily animated series (which enjoyed numerous runs on the BBC in the UK).  In an attempt to make the somewhat old-fashioned characters more palatable to a modern audience, Marvel stacked the show with an unfeasibly large cast of offspring for the various main characters who, in addition to adventuring, also became educational parental figures.

Defenders was accompanied by a large merchandising push, including figures and vehicles, but never really caught fire with consumers.  Marvel, obligingly, launched a comic book version under the Star Comics imprint.  Unfortunately, the line suffered a contraction and several titles, including DOTE, were canned suddenly (the toy/ animation tie-in THE INHUMANOIDS expired at the same time, forcing the reprints in Marvel UK's THE TRANSFORMERS to end without wrapping-up the plot).  The fourth issue was the last.

The first two US issues, which adapted the show's opening episodes (the Marvel version explicitly establishes that the soon-to-die wife of Flash Gordon is indeed Dale Arden, the screen version is much more coy and never names her for some reason) appeared OVER here in a MARVEL UK annual.  

These two specials, both from 1988, reprinted the third and fourth issues of the US series.

The Defenders strips were also serialised in THE MARVEL BUMPER COMIC.  

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