[[caption-width-right:266:Enjoy the MirroredConfrontationShot.]]
''The Defenders'' is a Creator/MarvelComics superhero team.

Not to be confused with the AnimatedSeries ''WesternAnimation/DefendersOfTheEarth'', or with the 1960s TV show ''The Defenders'', which was about a group of lawyers. Or, for that matter, the more recent TV show ''The Defenders'', which is also about lawyers.[[note]]This is merely about a Satanic cult, bathed in impenetrable ancient ritual involving pitiless human sacrifice, scheming for world domination out of lust for money and power. So no room for confusion, then.[[/note]]

The Defenders have a long and varied history. The team grew out of a couple of team-ups between Comicbook/DoctorStrange, the ComicBook/IncredibleHulk, Namor the Comicbook/SubMariner, and the ComicBook/SilverSurfer in the early 1970s. The first three became the team's founding members; it should be noted that all of them were among the most powerful of Marvel's heroes who did not belong to a team yet. However, this was an unlikely alliance, as all three (and the Surfer, who briefly joined later) were more used to acting alone, especially Hulk and Namor, both of whom are more correctly [[AntiHero antiheroes]].

As mentioned, the Silver Surfer was quickly written out after his brief tryout with the team,(as at the time, Stan Lee considered him to be his pet character and was not keen on letting other writers use him) and new characters were introduced to flesh out the roster. Nighthawk, originally a CaptainErsatz for Batman but then reinvented as one for ComicBook/{{Hawkman}}; Daimon Hellstrom, the horror-themed hero "Son of Satan"; [[Comicbook/PatsyWalker Hellcat]], originally a character from Marvel's comedy/romance comics reinvented as a Cat-themed heroine (using the costume of The Cat, who herself had become [[CatGirl Tigra]]); Gargoyle, an elderly man who, while trying to cheat death, ended up trapped in the body of a demon; and The Valkyrie, a Norse goddess trapped in the body of a woman known to Hulk and Strange were brought onto the team,[[DemotedToExtra while Sub-Mariner was soon demoted to a recurring character within the title as opposed to being a consistent member.]] The group itself had loose guidelines for membership, as technically, everybody who helped them was a 'Defender' (this was [[LampshadeHanging lampshaded]] in a story where a membership drive -- started without their permission or knowledge -- led to a mess as both heroes wanting to join, and villains trying to pretend they were Defenders, ran into each other.) Still, the heroes listed above were the most commonly associated with the team. They tended to meet in Doctor Strange's New York brownstone, and later, in the wealthy Nighthawk's estate.

This age of the series was famous for its bizarre stories and villains; most notably: The Headmen, a group of villains with weird heads; The Elf With A Gun, a mysterious elf-like character who went around shooting people for no reason (and whom The Defenders never actually met!) and Vera Gemini, a demonic cult leader who was based on an actual rock and roll band (Music/BlueOysterCult)'s songs! These stories were largely written by Creator/SteveGerber and David Anthony Kraft, who shepherded the group for the 1970s and early 1980s.

In the early 1980s, Marvel decided to revamp the book. Nighthawk was killed off (later upgraded to a ConvenientComa), Hellcat and Daimon Hellstrom married and retired, and a (bogus?) prophecy that Doctor Strange, Hulk, Namor, and Silver Surfer would bring about the end of the world led them to leave the team. ComicBook/{{Beast}} (having already joined up a while back,) Valkyrie and Gargoyle reformed the group with two of the other founding member of the ComicBook/XMen (The Angel and Iceman), along with the morally ambiguous Moondragon, the young Atlantis warrior Andromeda, and Cloud, a gas based alien who shape-shifted into both a man and woman during its time with the Defenders. Based in Colorado, in Angel's mansion, this incarnation lasted two years before the title was canceled so that the X-Men characters could be be freed up for the upcoming ''ComicBook/XFactor'' series. The entire team, save for Angel, Beast, and Iceman, [[HeroicSacrifice died saving a possessed Moondragon]].)

In the early 1990s, Marvel attempted to revive the Defenders as "Secret Defenders". This new series would have Doctor Strange organize squads of random heroes (including ComicBook/{{Wolverine}}, ComicBook/SpiderMan, ComicBook/{{Darkhawk}}, the second Spider-Woman, Comicbook/GhostRider, Hulk, Luke Cage, ComicBook/{{Deadpool}}, and many others) for one-off missions. The team made their first appearance in ''ComicBook/FantasticFour'' #374 when Spider-Man, desperate to bring in the Human Torch for arson and everyone is having poor luck doing so, turns to Dr. Strange for help, who reassembles the rest of the "New Fantastic Four" (Hulk, Wolverine and Ghost Rider) to fight the Fantastic Four. Despite being considerably hyped by Marvel, the series did not do well and with the title launching coinciding with the launching of the more successful "Midnight Sons" horror sub-line (in which Doctor Strange could not take part due to Secret Defenders), it was decided to remove him from the book so that his title could be folded into the Midnight Son line. The title was then revamped with Doctor Druid as the new leader and a group of new heroes, but this new direction did little to revive interest in the book and it was quietly canceled by the end of its second year.

Ironically, before Secret Defenders launched, Marvel tested the waters not once but twice with two storylines involving the reunion of the original core Defenders. An arc in the pages of Incredible Hulk denounced the prophecy that drove the founders away from the team and the group later regrouped in the 1992 mini-annual event "Return of the Defenders", as evil demons hijacked Namor's body (sticking the hero inside Rick Jones' body) as part of a plot to summon their evil master. But the original Defenders would not be given their own title until 2002. Written by Kurt Busiek and drawn by Erik Larsen, the title had the four heroes "cursed" to teleport to random fights on behalf of the spirit of Earth known as Gaia. The series was critically and commercially unsuccessful and the title ended with a six part arc in which the book was retitled "The Order" and it was revealed that the curse from issue one was part of a greater scheme to manipulate the Defenders into turning evil and conquering the world for an evil sorcerer.

More successful, however, was Keith Giffen and Kevin [=McGuire=]'s 2005 "Defenders" mini-series, which had the four face off against Dormammu and his sister Umar. The series recast the franchise as a comedy book, ''a la'' Giffen and [=McGuire=]'s critically acclaimed ''Comicbook/JusticeLeagueInternational'' run, with the characters largely acknowledging the absurdity of lives as super-heroes and super-villains as well as exploring why the main four (Surfer, Namor, Hulk, and Strange) continued to associate with each other despite having nothing in common.

After the events of ''ComicBook/CivilWar'', Joe Casey wrote a new mini-series called "The Last Defenders", which had Nighthawk struggling to rebuild the team after being assigned to the state of New Jersey by Iron Man. The series itself explored the fan notion of the "lameness" of the original team's later members versus the bonds that existed between them: heroes assigned to the team quit on Nighthawk due to them not wanting to be associated with the "Defenders" brand and Iron Man himself constantly refused Nighthawk's attempts to recruit past Defenders like Valkyrie on the basis that said past members did not have the necessary star quality. Though the roster of the group would be finalized at the end of the mini-series, later writers (including Dan Slott, who wrote She-Hulk's ongoing book at the time) ignored it and the group vanished from sight until a Casey series called Vengeance debuted in 2011.

However, that hasn't stopped other writers from using the concept, as Jeph Loeb reunited the founders again in the pages of "Hulk", pitting Strange, Surfer, Hulk, and Namor up against "The Offenders", a quartet organized by the villainous Red Hulk that consisted of himself, Baron Mordo, Terrax, and Tiger Shark.

The 2011 crisis crossover ''ComicBook/FearItself'' teased a Defenders reunion in tie-in series "The Deep," where Strange, Namor, and Surfer (together with the mutant Loa and Lyra, Hulk's daughter) joined forces to stop Attuma, one of the eight Worthy. The tease was followed up by an announcement that Matt Fraction would be behind a new Defenders book debuting at the end of 2011 with the additions of [[ComicBook/ImmortalIronFist Iron Fist]] and [[ComicBook/BettyRoss Red She-Hulk]] to the classic lineup. Unfortunately, this book ended after twelve issues.

As part of the Comicbook/MarvelNOW relaunch, the Defenders flag was flown by Valkyrie at the head of the all-female ''Comicbook/FearlessDefenders'', a title which originated in the ''Comicbook/FearItself'' tie-in, ''The Fearless'' but it was cancelled at issue 12.

In November 2013, it was announced that Marvel would be producing a Defenders TV series for {{Creator/Netflix}}. Confirmed characters include [[InNameOnly such familiar faces as]] ComicBook/{{Luke Cage|HeroForHire}}, Comicbook/{{Daredevil}}, ComicBook/JessicaJones, and [[ComicBook/ImmortalIronFist Iron Fist]]. While it uses the Defenders name, it's more akin to Marvel's short lived Marvel Knights team, which focused on street-level and darker heroes. In January 2017, a comic book based on that same roster was announced, which will be written by Creator/BrianMichaelBendis. Tropes for that series should go [[ComicBook/TheDefenders2017 here.]]

!Tropes seen in the Pre-2017 Defender series:

* AbortedArc: ''The Last Defenders'' repeatedly implied (and in some cases even stated flat out) that the new team would become a tremendously important part of the Marvel Universe, and that they'd play a key role in resolving some sort of future crisis that would threaten all of reality. Suffice to say, the new team never caught on, and were replaced by Matt Fraction's Defenders just a few years later.
* ActionGirl: Valkyrie, Hellcat, ComicBook/SheHulk, Red She-Hulk, Black Cat, and every member of the Fearless Defenders besides Annabelle.
* AnimalThemedSuperbeing: Hellcat and Nighthawk fit under the ''Animal Alias'' type and Moondragon is the ''Mythical Monster Motif'' type.
** In the 2011 series, Black Cat when she joins the cast.
* ArcWords: For the 2011 series, ''The universe will break. Shut the engines down. Everyone you love dies. Fight to save everything.''
* BodyHorror: The Headmen was consisted of villains that featured body parts with peculiar, if not largely bizarre, modifications.
* BrainInAJar: Nighthawk temporarily got stuck in this state when he was abducted by the Headmen and had his brain removed from his body.
* BreakfastClub: The team has often included emo misfits.
* CaptainErsatz: See ShoutOut below.
* CensorSteam: Cloud used to generate her own.
* CombatMedic: Red Guardian, who also was a skilled surgeon (she was the one who put Nighthawk's brain back to his body when it was stolen during a horrific surgery by the Headmen).
* CoolHorse: Valkyrie's steed Aragorn, a white winged horse formerly owned by the Black Knight. Other Defenders have had a ride on his back, including Clea. (He bucked Nighthawk off once in a bit of HorsingAround).
* CrimefightingWithCash: Nighthawk, Iron Fist.
* [[AvengersAssemble Defenders, Assemble!]]: Many stories begin with someone, often Doctor Strange, contacting the other members and gathering them together.
** [[spoiler: In The Deep mini, Strange manages to cast a spell in the climax that does exactly this with many of the past Defenders that weren't yet featured in the mini. ]]
* DemotedToExtra: This happened to '''all''' of the original members (plus Silver Surfer,) at one point or another in the original volume. Surfer was the one that got hit hardest, barely appearing in the book after joining the team for a few issues early on, but the others suffered from it too. [[PutOnABus Namor left in #14, while Doctor Strange left after the first Annual,]] and [[TheBusCameBack while both of them showed up again,]] [[CommutingOnABus it took a while for them to become as prominent as they used to be.]] Hulk didn't have as much of this as the others, being a consistent member well until #94, but after that, he didn't appear as much as he used to. While the book may originally have been about Hulk, Strange, and other A-Listers, it ended up being more about C and D-listers like Valkyrie, Nighthawk, Hellcat, and others, all of which got more focus than the founding members by the end of the group's original incarnation.
* DeusExitMachina[=/=]WorfHadTheFlu: Dr. Strange was often knocked out or otherwise weakened so he could not win the battles easily for the team. Eventually he took a break from the Defenders to figure out what was going wrong with his magic.
** Silver Surfer does this within the 2011 series.
* EvilCostumeSwitch: As The Order, Dr Strange wore his full-face mask from the seventies, which had the effect of making him look less human, and Namor wore his [[DarkIsEvil black]] "Savage Sub-Mariner" costume from around the same period.
* GaggingOnYourWords: A version of this in the 2011 series. Anyone that comes into contact with one of the Concordance Engines is unable to speak of them in the presence of others who are not also in on the secret.
* GeniusLoci: Cloud (of the Beast's Defenders) turned out to be a sentient ''nebula'' with amnesia.
* GirlsBehindBars: Happens to Valkyrie during the 70's Creator/SteveGerber run.
* HeroInsurance: Apparently the Defenders had this.
** ''Doctor Strange: The Oath'' included a throwaway gag about Strange still being on the Defenders' group ''health insurance'' policy.
* HeroWithBadPublicity: As a foil to the Avengers, the Defenders were usually a low-profile -- and consequently low-status -- team.
* HeroesUnlimited: The Secret Defenders.
* ImplacableMan: In the 2011 series, Nul, Breaker of Worlds. Later the Prince of Orphans, John Aman.
* InsistentTerminology: In the early days they were quite adamant that they were ''not'' ComicBook/TheAvengers. They had no roster, charter, or even official recognition (until the Avengers/Defenders war, at least). As the occasional NoteFromEd pointed out, they were an "un-team."
* JerkWithAHeartOfGold: Namor was often on the prickly line between this and JerkWithAHeartOfJerk.
* KonamiCode: In the 2011 series. Yes, ''really''.
* LoadsAndLoadsOfCharacters: Between the various teams, there are a lot of people that can claim to have been a Defender.
** During the "Defender for a Day" story, around ''twenty'' heroes joined, from ComicBook/BlackWidow to Tagak the Leopard Lord. The list of people who have been on both ComicBook/TheAvengers and ComicBook/TheDefenders is very long.
** Then there is the poorly-received book ''Secret Defenders'', which was essentially Dr. Strange getting various heroes together to fight a particular threat each issue, effectively placing every hero in the Marvel Universe at the time as a member. At one point, a group of villains including ComicBook/{{Thanos}} and Comicbook/{{Venom}} were even chosen.
* MetaOrigin: In the 2011 series, the Concordance Engines are part of multiversal magnet that helped many more ''miracles'' occur on the planet (causing Origin Stories to result in the superheroes we know instead of twisted freaks or corpses) as a ward against Death Celestials.
* MobileMaze: Dr. Strange's Sanctum Sanctorum.
* MsFanservice: Red She-Hulk.
* NiceJobBreakingItHero: In the 2011 series, the Defenders managed to do this in the very first ''arc''. They inadvertently messed things up so badly that the whole series had to retcon itself out of existence.
* TheNicknamer: The childlike Hulk had his own names for the rest of the team.
* OffModel: Secret Defenders took this to ludicrous extremes. You'd swear everybody in those comics ate a huge stack of pancakes before entering the comic!
* PlanetLooters: Nebulon the Celestial Man, before underwent MotiveDecay and became obsessed with getting revenge on the Defenders.
* ProphecyTwist: The Hulk-Strange-Surfer-Namor team broke up because of a prophecy saying that if they ever worked together again, it would lead to a huge cataclysm. Much later, Doctor Strange said he'd found this to be a hoax . . . but the next time all four of them ''did'' work together was ''ComicBook/TheInfinityGauntlet'' battle, which was unquestionably a huge cataclysm.
** Also the prophecy ended up coming true when the four founders became "The Order" and tried to conquer Earth.
* RagtagBunchOfMisfits: The core Defenders really only have two things in common: they're some of the most powerful characters in the MarvelUniverse, and they usually work alone. The heroes they attract to their banner tend to be... idiosyncratic as well. Perhaps they get together because no one else can put up with them?
** Lampshaded in the ComicBook/NewAvengers, when Nighthawk interviews for a staff position and says "Clearly you guys are the Defenders."
* RealityWarper: The Concordance Engines in the 2011 series.
* RedScare: Averted with the team's temporary member Red Guardian, who was a Soviet counterpart to ComicBook/CaptainAmerica.
* RefugeInAudacity: The entire Umar[=/=]Hulk affair.
* ResetButton: [[spoiler: The 2011 volume ends with Doctor Strange traveling back in time and preventing himself from ever reassembling the Defenders, thus negating the events of the entire series]].
* {{ReTool}}: The title has gone through this several times, notably with the ''New Defenders'' status quo during the 1980's.
* SecretKeeper: In the 2011 series, the Defenders become aware of immensely powerful artifacts called Concordance Engines and must keep them hidden from the world.
* SecretProjectRefugeeFamily: Cloud, Seraph and Harridan.
* SelfDeprecation
* ShaggyDogStory: The 2011 series ended with Doctor Strange going back in time to prevent that incarnation of the Defenders from ever forming.
* ShoutOut: Two episodes of the ''WesternAnimation/JusticeLeague'' animated series were homages to the original Defenders, with Doctor Fate standing for Doctor Strange, Aquaman for Namor, Solomon Grundy for The Hulk, Amazo for the Surfer, and Hawkgirl for Valkyrie or Nighthawk.
** The comic artwork featuring Vera Gemini is homage to the Music/BlueOysterCult. [[http://www.comicvine.com/images/1300-2901377 this picture]] explicitly invokes the inner sleeve artwork of ''Music/AgentsOfFortune''. (On which is found the track ''The Revenge of Vera Gemini''). The five band members appear as the earthly manifestations of the Demon Lords. Vera herself occupies the position as croupier which on the original album photo is taken by Music/PattiSmith. Captions, as well as the in-universe cult ''Harvester of Eyes'', are Shout Outs to BOC tracks.
* TeethClenchedTeamwork: At times. The original three (Strange, Namor, and the Hulk,) plus the Surfer are all strong personalities who are used to working alone and none of them likes to admit that they need help.
* TorturedMonster: Nul.
* UnfazedEveryman: Jack Norriss, who was the husband of Barbara (Valkyrie's first human host) and was constantly dragged into the team's weird adventures. It is noteworthy though that he also had his BadassNormal moments.
* VitriolicBestBuds: The Defenders on a good day. Some members are genuinely friendly, but others seem to ''like'' all the backbiting.
* {{Wackyland}}: The Land of Here and There.
* WeAreStrugglingTogether: At times the only thing the Defenders can agree upon is that the menace they face must be stopped.
* WellIntentionedExtremist: During Steve Gerber's run, Nebulon returns to Earth with the intent of bringing peace to mankind through a brainwashing-like method disguised as a pop psychology, making anyone that fell on his talk devoid of free will and individuality.
* TheWorfEffect: ComicBook/SilverSurfer spends a issue or two being held hostage by Prester John in the 2011 series.