Of the four Dead Universes I’m currently collecting the death of Defiant Comics was the most disappointing. Valiant had a long enough run that it didn’t feel premature when it died. Marvel did a great job sucking all of the satisfaction out the Ultraverse after they purchased it from Mailbu, so it didn’t feel like a great loss when it finally folded in on itself. Comics’ Greatest World never quite grabbed me. Defiant, however, was something special that never had the opportunity to reach its full potential. The Defiant universe, much like Valiant, stood apart from the other universes, because it didn’t build itself on the foundation of tired comic book tropes. The Defiant universe didn’t have analogs for Superman, Batman, or the X-Men. Many of the characters that kicked off the universe felt fresh and inspired.
The launch title for Defiant Comics was Warriors of Plasm and it started the reader off not on Earth, but instead a hungry, living, alien planet. The planet gives the inhabitants everything they need from itself and therefore it needs to constantly feed. This is done by conquering planets. A rift in the Universe opens and Earth is discovered and it’s this discovery that leads to a quintet of Earthlings receiving powers.
Of those titles starting the universe, and the one that brought me back to this dead universe was Dark Dominion. Steve Ditko, who only penciled part of the first issue before walking away, deserves a great deal of credit for inspiring what Jim Shooter would eventually create. According to Shooter:
He wanted a character who wasn’t bitten by a radioactive anything, or from another planet, or injected with chemicals. Whatever the character could do that was special, if anything, he wanted to be the result of his own efforts, his own thinking. If empowered, empowered in some novel, creative way by his own mind. And why does it always have to be a young guy? Why not an older man? Steve also didn’t want another muscular bodybuilder type. No mansions, no Batmobiles, no costumes. And no “official” super hero name. A real, regular person name—though he allowed that others who didn’t know his name might call the guy by some more dramatic appellation.
What Shooter produced was a 54-year-old superhero named Michael Alexander who spent his life working to overcome human fears. Pushing his fears aside granted Michael access to the “Quantum Substratum” where he could see the “Dark Dominion.” Stepping into this world allows one the ability to see the true form of fears and how they unknowingly latch onto humans.
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