The Avengers

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The Avengers is a team of fictional superhero characters in comic books published by Marvel Comics. Originally created using preexisting Marvel characters, variously created by writer-editor Stan Lee, artist and co-plotter Jack Kirby and others, the team first appeared in The Avengers #1 (Sept. 1963).

Labelled "Earth's Mightiest Heroes", the Avengers originally consisted of Ant-Man, Wasp, Thor, Iron Man, and the Hulk. Almost from inception, however, the roster has been fluid - the Hulk departed [1] and Captain America joined the team within the first four issues of the series.[2] The rotating roster has become a hallmark of the team, although one theme remains consistent: the Avengers fight the foes no single superhero can withstand - hence their famous cry of "Avengers Assemble!" The team has featured humans, robots, gods, aliens, supernatural beings, and even former villains.

Publication history

The titular team debuted in The Avengers #1 (Sept. 1963), using existing characters created primarily by writer-editor Stan Lee and penciler and co-plotter Jack Kirby. This initial series, published bi-monthly through issue #6 (July 1964) and monthly thereafter ran through issue #402 (Sept. 1996), with spinoffs including several annuals, miniseries and a giant-size quarterly sister series than ran briefly in the mid-1970s.

Other spinoff series include West Coast Avengers, initially published as a four-issue miniseries in 1984, followed by a 102-issue series (Oct. 1985 - Jan. 1994), retitled Avengers West Coast with #48; and the 40-issue Solo Avengers (Dec. 1987 - Jan. 1991), retitled Avengers Spotlight with #21.

Between 1996 and 2004 Marvel relaunched the primary Avengers title three times. In 1996, the "Heroes Reborn" line, in which Marvel contracted outside companies to produce four titles, included a new volume of The Avengers. Taking place in an alternate universe with a revamped history unrelated to mainstream Marvel continuity, The Avengers vol. 2 was written by Rob Liefeld and penciled by Jim Valentino of Image Comics, and ran 13 issues (Nov. 1996 - Nov. 1997). The final issue, which featured a crossover with the other "Heroes Reborn" titles, returned the characters to the main Marvel Universe.

Relaunched with a new first issue, The Avengers vol. 3 ran 84 issues (Feb. 1998 - Aug. 2004). Then, to coincide with what would have been the 500th issue of the original series, Marvel changed the numbering to release The Avengers #500-503 (Sept.-Dec. 2004), followed by the one-shot Avengers Finale (Jan. 2005), which together presented the Avengers Disassembled storyline. That story, in which the Avengers disband following the insanity of one member (Scarlet Witch) and the death of two others (Ant-Man and Hawkeye), led to the series New Avengers, which premiered with a new issue #1 (Jan. 2005).

In the wake of the success of the New Avengers title, two spin-offs debuted. The first, Young Avengers (February 2005), featured teenage heroes patterned after former members of the Avengers. During the events of Civil War, a sister title to New Avengers, entitled The Mighty Avengers, began with #1 in (May 2007), at which point the "New" and "Mighty" versions of the team were differentiated from one another based on the loyalties of their members to the registration acts passed during the Superhero Civil War.

Fictional biography

1960s

The first issue features the Asgardian trickster god, Loki, who seeks revenge against his adopted brother, Thor. Using an illusion, Loki tricks the Hulk into destroying a railroad track, and then diverts a radio call by Rick Jones for help to Thor, whom Loki hopes will battle the Hulk. Unknown to Loki, the radio call is also answered by Ant-Man, the Wasp and Iron Man. After an initial misunderstanding, the heroes unite and defeat Loki. Ant-Man points out that the five work well together and suggests they form a combined team — with the Wasp naming the group the Avengers. The original members are known as the "founding members," and courtesy of an Avengers Charter are responsible for the good name of the team. As a result, their wishes regarding the direction of the team are given additional weight and deference.

The roster changes almost immediately; by the beginning of the second issue, Ant-Man has become Giant-Man and, at the end of the issue, the Hulk leaves once he realizes how much the others fear his unstable personality. Feeling responsible, the Avengers try to locate and contain the Hulk (a recurring theme in the early years of the team), which subsequently leads them into combat with Namor the Sub-Mariner. This would result in the first major milestone in the Avengers' history - the revival and return of Captain America.[2] Captain America joins the team eventually becoming field leader. Captain America is also given "founding member" status in the Hulk's place. [3] The Avengers go on to fight foes such as Captain America's wartime enemy Baron Zemo, who in turn forms the Masters of Evil; the Lava Men; Kang the Conqueror; Wonder Man; Immortus; and Count Nefaria.

The next milestone came when every member but Captain America resigned and were replaced by three former villains - Hawkeye, the Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver.[4] Although lacking the raw power of the original team, "Cap's Kooky Quartet" (as they were sometimes jokingly called) proved their worth by fighting and defeating the Swordsman; the original Power Man; Doctor Doom and Kang once again. They are soon rejoined by Henry Pym (who changes his name to Goliath), the Wasp, Hercules, the Black Knight and the Black Widow, although the last two do not obtain official membership status until later in the book's history.

Writer Roy Thomas began to focus more on characterization. The Black Panther joins the team, followed by the Vision. Thomas also established that the Avengers are headquartered in a wikipedia:New York City building called Avengers Mansion, provided courtesy of Tony Stark (Iron Man's alter ego), who also funds the Avengers through the Maria Stark Foundation, a non-profit organization. The mansion is serviced by Edwin Jarvis, the Avengers' faithful butler, and also furnished with state-of-the-art technology and defense systems, including the Avengers' primary mode of transport: the five-engine Quinjets.

1970s

Thomas continued his run into the early 1970s, with highlights including a version of the Justice League called the Squadron Supreme and the Kree-Skrull War, a ten-part storyline about an epic battle between the Kree and Skrull races and guest-starring the Kree hero Captain Marvel. This storyline also features the first disbanding of the Avengers, as Skrulls impersonating Captain America, Thor and Iron Man use their authority as founders of the team to disband it. The true founding Avengers, minus the Wasp, reform the team in the 100th issue in response to complaints from Jarvis.

The Vision falls in love with the Scarlet Witch, who eventually responds with a love of her own. Their relationship, however, is tinged with sadness as the Vision believes himself to be inhuman and unworthy of her. Writer Steve Englehart then introduces Mantis, who joins the team along with the reformed Swordsman. Englehart linked her origins to the very beginnings of the Kree-Skrull conflict in a time-spanning adventure involving Kang the Conqueror and the mysterious Immortus, who are revealed to be past and future versions of each other. Mantis is revealed to be the Celestial Madonna, who is destined to give birth to a being that would save the universe. This saga also reveals that the Vision's body had only been appropriated, and not created, by Ultron, and that it had originally belonged to the 1940s Human Torch. With his origins now clear to him, the Vision proposes to the Scarlet Witch. The Celestial Madonna saga ends with their wedding, presided over by Immortus, a future version of Kang.

Englehart's tenure coincided with the debut of George Pérez as artist. [5] After Englehart's departure, Jim Shooter began as writer and penned several story arcs including "Bride of Ultron", the "Nefaria Trilogy" and "The Korvac Saga", featuring nearly every Avenger in the canon. New members added during this time include the Beast; a resurrected Wonder Man; Captain America's former partner the Falcon; and Ms. Marvel.

Shooter also introduced the character of Henry Peter Gyrich, the Avengers' liaison to the United States National Security Council. Gyrich is prejudiced against superhumans, and acts in a heavy-handed, obstructive manner, insisting that the Avengers follow government rules and regulations or else lose their priority status with the government. Among Gyrich's demands is that the active roster be trimmed down to only seven members, and that the Falcon, an African American, be admitted to the team to comply with affirmative action laws. This last act is resented by Hawkeye, who because of the seven-member limit loses his membership to the Falcon. The Falcon, in turn, is unhappy to be the beneficiary of what he perceives to be tokenism, and decides to resign from the team, after which Hawkeye rejoins.

1980s

Shooter's greatest contribution during this period was a storyline that chronicled the breakdown of Henry Pym. Shooter saw Pym's frequent changes of costume and name as symptomatic of an identity problem and an inferiority complex. After abusing his wife; failing to win back the confidence of the Avengers with a ruse and being duped by the villain Egghead, Pym is jailed. The main writer during the '80s was Roger Stern, who resolved the Pym storyline by having Pym outwit Egghead and defeat the latest incarnation of the Masters of Evil single-handedly, thereby proving his innocence. Pym reconciles with the Wasp, but they decide to remain apart. Pym also retires from superheroics, but returns some years later.

Stern developed several major storylines, such as "Ultimate Vision"; the formation of the West Coast Avengers; and "Avengers Under Siege" (which involves the second Baron Zemo) and "War on Olympus". New members during the 1980s included an African American Captain Marvel named Monica Rambeau (who became the team's new leader); She-Hulk; Tigra, Namor, and Hawkeye's wife, Mockingbird, while Henry Pym emerges from retirement to join the West Coast Avengers. The team also relocated for a period to a floating island off the coast of New York called Hydrobase.

John Byrne eventually took over writing both titles. His contributions included a revamping of the Vision, and the discovery that the children of the Scarlet Witch, and the Vision, are actually illusions. The loss of the Scarlet Witch's children and the Vision drives her insane, although she eventually recovers and rejoins the team. The destruction of Avengers Island during Acts of Vengeance leads to building a new facility on the Mansion site.

1990s

The '90s were a turbulent time for Marvel Comics, as the company adopted an aggressive business expansion model tied to increased publication. This coincided with a speculators' boom, followed by an industry-wide slump and Marvel filing for bankruptcy in 1997. Bob Harras and Steve Epting took over the title, and introduced a stable lineup with ongoing storylines and character development focused on the Black Knight, Sersi, Crystal, Quicksilver, Hercules and the Vision. During this period, the team finds themselves facing increasingly murderous enemies, and are forced to question their rule against killing.

This culminated in "Operation (Galactic Storm)", a 19-part storyline that ran through all Avengers-related titles and showcases a conflict between the Kree and the Shi'ar Empire. The team splits when Iron Man and several dissidents execute the Supreme Intelligence against the wishes of Captain America.

After a vote disbanding the West Coast Avengers, Iron Man forms a proactive and aggressive team called Force Works. During the team's first mission Wonder Man is apparently killed again (his atoms are actually only temporarily scattered). Force Works later disbands after it is revealed that Iron Man has become a murderer via the manipulations of the villain Kang. [6]

"Heroes Reborn"

Together with the Fantastic Four and others, many of the Avengers apparently die stopping the gestalt psychic entity Onslaught, although it is later revealed that Franklin Richards preserves these heroes in a pocket universe ("Heroes Reborn"). Believing the main team gone, the Black Widow disbands the Avengers, with only butler Jarvis remaining to tend to the Mansion.

Marvel contracted out The Avengers and three related titles - Captain America, Fantastic Four, and Iron Man - to former Marvel artists Jim Lee and Rob Liefeld, two of the founding creators of Image Comics. The previous continuity of the Marvel Universe was set aside as the heroes were "reborn" in the pocket universe. While the Avengers was relaunched as a new series, the "Heroes Reborn" line ended after a year as planned and the license reverted to Marvel. [see publication history]

"Heroes Return"

Writer Kurt Busiek and penciler George Pérez launched a new volume of the series with Avengers #1 (vol. 3, Feb. 1998). Busiek also concurrently wrote the limited series Avengers Forever, a time-travel story that explored the history of the Avengers and resolved many outstanding questions and loose ends. New members during this run included the former Ms. Marvel, Carol Danvers (now Warbird); the revived Wonder Man; Justice; Firestar; Silverclaw; and Triathlon.

"Avengers Disassembled"

Pérez eventually left the title after nearly three years and Busiek remained on longer and completed his run with a story arc involving the despotic time-travel master Kang and the destruction of several cities. Successor writer Geoff Johns dealt with the aftermath, as the Avengers are granted international authority by the United Nations. Members joining during this period included Jack of Hearts and the second Ant-Man. Chuck Austen followed as writer, and added a new Captain Britain to the team. Writer Brian Michael Bendis then rebooted the title with the "Avengers Disassembled" storyline. [7] Titled "Chaos", the story featured the deaths of some members and a loss of credibility for the team. The culprit is revealed to be the Scarlet Witch, who has gone insane after agonizing over the memory of her lost children and who subsequently loses control of her reality-altering powers. [8] With the team in disarray and Avengers Mansion ruined, the surviving members agree to disband.

New Avengers

With the original Avengers organization disbanded, and faced with an escape attempt from the Raft, a supervillain prison, a new team formed using the Avengers name. Though three members of the new team (Captain America, Iron Man, and Spider-Man) had been members of the original Avengers, the New Avengers did not resume that team's original characters. The initial version of this team included Captain America, Iron Man, Luke Cage, Spider-Man, Spider-Woman, and the Sentry.

Mighty Avengers

Following the Civil War, an Avengers team formed under the Initiative program took up residency in New York City. Their roster includes Black Widow, Wonder Man, Iron Man, Wasp, Ares, The Sentry, and is led by Ms Marvel.

Other versions

1950s Avengers

A short-lived team of superheroes banded together in the 1950s and called themselves the "Avengers". This team consisted of Marvel Boy; Venus; the 3-D Man; Gorilla-Man; the Human Robot; Jimmy Woo; Namora and Jann of the Jungle.[9] It was portrayed years later in Avengers Forever that these events occurred in an alternate timeline—one that was erased by Immortus using the Forever Crystal.[10] Recent developments confirm that a version of the group did exist in mainstream continuity, and eventually reformed in the present day.[11]

Avengers Next

In the alternate future timeline known as MC2, the Avengers have disbanded and Avengers Mansion is now a museum. An emergency forces Edwin Jarvis to sound an alert, and a new generation of heroes form a new team of Avengers. Most of the new Avengers are children of established Marvel superheroes.

The Ultimates

In the Ultimate Marvel Universe, the Avengers are named "The Ultimates", and were formed by Ultimate Nick Fury to protect America against superhuman threats. [12]

Marvel Adventures: The Avengers

In 2006, Marvel Adventures (Marvel Comics' "All Ages" line) began a new Avengers series, featuring a line-up of Captain America, Iron Man, Spider-Man (supplanting Ant-Man), Wolverine, Storm, the Hulk and Giant-Girl (Janet van Dyne, the Wasp in regular continuity). Recent issues have referred to Storm as the co-leader of the team. The series takes place in its own continuity, as with most of the other titles in the Marvel Adventures line.

House of M: Avengers

In the alternate reality created by the Scarlet Witch, Luke Cage forms a team of superpowered humans to fight for human rights. [13]

X-Universe

A humanized version of the Avengers band together during the Age of Apocalypse. [14]

Other media

Novels

  • The Avengers Battle the Earth-Wrecker by Otto Binder was published as a mass market paperback novel by Bantam Books (F3569) in June 1967. The cover illustration depicts Captain America, Goliath, Hawkeye, Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch. Iron Man and the Wasp are active members, with the mutant siblings and Thor mentioned as past Avengers.
  • The team was also featured in the Pocket Books line of Marvel-based paperback novels of the late 1970s.

Animated series

Guest appearances

  • The Avengers appeared briefly in the 1966 The Marvel Superheroes Show.
  • The team also made appearances in the 1980 Spider-Man animated series ("Arsenic and Aunt May"); the 1994 Fantastic Four cartoon ("To Battle the Living Planet" and "Doomsday"), and in the X-Men animated series.

The Avengers: United They Stand

The Avengers (also known as The Avengers: United They Stand), was an animated series consisting of thirteen episodes. It originally aired from October 30, 1999 to February 26, 2000, and was produced by Avi Arad and distributed by 20th Century Fox Television. This series featured a team comprising of Ant-Man (leader); the Wasp; Wonder Man; Tigra; Hawkeye and the Scarlet Witch. The Falcon and the Vision were added to the roster in the opening episodes. Captain America and Iron Man only make one appearance each, while Thor does not appear in the series outside of the opening titles.

Animated films

Marvel released two Avengers animated, direct-to-DVD feature films, Ultimate Avengers and Ultimate Avengers 2: Rise of the Black Panther, (both loosely based on the Ultimates), the first released in February 2006, followed by its sequel in August 2006.

Video and computer games

In 1991, the Avengers were featured in the arcade and console game Captain America and the Avengers.

In 1995 a videogame called "Avengers in Galactic Storm" based on the events of the Operation: Galactic Storm was published by Data East Corporation in the arcades in Japan and USA. It is now emulated by MAME.

The Avengers feature in the Marvel: Ultimate Alliance videogame.

Film

In August 2006, Marvel Entertainment's "Marvel Studios Overview Presentation" listed the Avengers as a property under development for a feature film, with Zak Penn as screenwriter. In a May 5, 2008, report to shareholders, Marvel Entertainment announced the release dates for two planned Avenger movies. The First Avenger: Captain America (working title) is scheduled for May 6, 2011, followed by the The Avengers, scheduled for July 2011.

The first reference in film to the Avengers is in Iron Man (2008), in a post-credits scene of Nick Fury (played by Samuel L. Jackson) speaking with Tony Stark about the "Avenger Initiative". Subsequently, in The Incredible Hulk , Tony Stark has a cameo appearance in a scene with General Thunderbolt Ross.

See also

Footnotes

  1. The Avengers #2 (Nov. 1963)
  2. 2.0 2.1 The Avengers #4 (Mar. 1964)
  3. The Avengers vol. 3, #1 (Feb. 1998) Marvel Comics
  4. The Avengers #16 (May 1965)
  5. The Avengers #141 (Aug. 1975)
  6. Force Works concluded its run with issue #22 (Apr 1996).
  7. The "Avengers Disassembled" story ran through several titles, with the final chapters featured in The Avengers #500-#503 (Sept.-Dec. 2004).
  8. The story of the Scarlet Witch continued in the biweekly limited series House of M #1-8 (Aug.-Dec. 2005)
  9. What If…? #9 (Jun 1978) Marvel Comics
  10. Avengers Forever #1 - #12 (Dec 1998 - Feb 2000) Marvel Comics
  11. Agents of Atlas #1 - #6 (Oct 2006 - Mar 2007) Marvel Comics
  12. Ultimates 1 #1 - #12 (Mar 2002 - Apr 2004) Marvel Comics
  13. House of M:Avengers #1 - 5 (2008)
  14. X-Universe #1 - 2 (May - Jun. 1995)

References

External links