There have been more than 100 members of the Avengers since their 1963 debut, including honorary members, reservists and hangers-on. But still, coming up with a short list of the greatest Avengers of all time is a no-brainer: Captain America, Thor and Iron Man. Duh.
But what about the rest? Who has risen to the call of “Avengers assemble!” and who has fallen teeth-first into the dirt? As a loyal Avengers reader since 1982, I present my picks for the (next) best and worst Avengers of all time:
CAP’S HALL OF FAME
1. The Vision: Originally a hero during the Golden Age of comics, the Vision was reintroduced in 1968 as an android creation of the Avengers’ arch-nemesis, the robot Ultron. Like the Vision of old, he could fly, but he could also shoot energy blasts from his forehead and increase or decrease his density, allowing him to be as tough as diamond one minute and so light that he could phase through objects the next. This also gave him one of the coolest powers ever: Phasing his arm through someone and partly solidifying it — while still inside them.
The Vision quickly turned on Ultron and joined the Avengers, becoming one of their premiere members. Eventually, he married fellow Avenger the Scarlet Witch (see No. 3), but their relationship soured when Viz lost his emotions, and he was later destroyed by the She-Hulk, who was being mind-controlled by the Witch. Naturally, once he was rebuilt, the Vision was in no hurry to rekindle.
Quote: “Unlike most humans, I prefer not to speak unless I have something to say.”
2. Hawkeye: Featured in the “Avengers” movie, Hawkeye has logged more time as an Avenger in the comics than any other, with the exception of the founding members. The ace marksman joined during the first lineup shake-up in 1965, and has at various times changed personas to become the shape-shifting Goliath and the ninja-like Ronin. But he always returns to the bow and arrow, and has grown from a wisecracking, punk-nosed kid into one of the Avengers’ most skilled leaders. (He still gets off some good one-liners, though.)
Quote: “Cap, did you take lessons on how to be a cornball, or does it just come natural?”
3. The Scarlet Witch: In terms of classic Avengers storylines, no character has played a bigger role than the Scarlet Witch. Originally an X-Men villain, she joined the Avengers with her brother Quicksilver and Hawkeye.
At first, the Witch just pointed at stuff and hoped something would happen while her bro rushed to her aid. But over time, she became one of the most powerful members on the team and a vital player in a number of epics, including the “Avengers Dissambled”/”House of M” story arc — in which she went insane, killed her husband and several teammates, caused the Avengers to break up, remade reality into a mutant utopia, and then did a 180 and wished away most of the planet’s mutant population.
Forget about making the Hulk angry — don’t even irritate the Scarlet Witch.
Quote: “There is no defense against the Scarlet Witch’s hex!”
4. The Wasp: One of the founding Avengers, the tiny Wasp (she was petite even at full height) certainly wasn’t the most powerful member. But she was good for comic relief, and once she finally dumped her lousy husband Hank Pym (see below), she blossomed into a take-charge superhero, even becoming the Avengers’ leader for a time.
The Wasp’s major flaw? She was the team’s equivalent of the village bicycle, having affairs with not only Pym but Iron Man, Paladin and Hawkeye (who’s a bit of a man-slut himself). And those she didn’t sleep with, she lusted after.
Quote (Ms. Marvel to the Wasp, who is checking out a teammate during battle): “Focus on the monsters, you unbelievable tramp!”
5. Spider-Man: Assuming the Avengers are supposed to be “the word’s mightiest heroes,” you’d think Marvel would have made its most popular character a member early on. But although they flirted with the idea as early as the 11th issue, Spidey didn’t become a full-fledged member until 2005. Of course, he’s now one of the most popular characters in the Avengers franchise. And who else can call Wolverine “Mr. Stabby” and get away with it?
Quote: “I must admit, beating the living snot out of you was a great honor.”
JARVIS’ RUBBISH PILE
1. Hank Pym: As Ant-Man, Hank Pym was a founding Avenger. He served on three Avengers teams, sometimes as team leader. He was even headmaster of Avengers Academy, which trains young superheroes.
So why is Hank Pym on the “worst” list? Because he’s a whiny, mentally unhinged jerk whose biggest scientific accomplishment was creating Ultron, an evil robot who wants to destroy the Avengers and kill all humans. He’s had six different personas, and is constantly changing back and forth between them to assuage his ego.
Pym’s wife, the Wasp, finally left him after he beat her, and he was kicked out of the Avengers shortly thereafter for screwing up in battle and then trying to fix his court-martial. As if that weren’t enough, he actually thinks he’s the smartest guy around — he even calls himself “the scientist supreme.”
Quote: “I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve tried to retire from the business.”
2: Dr. Druid: He was only an Avenger for about a year, but during that time, Druid (yes, he wore a robe) managed to let his over-the-top egotism lead to his being mind-controlled by a super-villain, resulting in the death of one Avenger, the near-death of another, and the dissolution of the team. Thankfully, he was killed shortly thereafter, and his body was dumped in a garbage bin. No kidding.
Quote (Yellowjacket to Dr. Druid): “I know you. You’re a $%#.”
3. Deathcry: Blame this one on poor writing. At first, Deathcry was a ruthless warrior from another galaxy who was sent to Earth as punishment for killing someone in a bar brawl. But it wasn’t long before the geniuses at Marvel decided she would be a draw for the youth market if she talked like a Valley Girl and slept with a stuffed animal. Yeah, that’s what ruthless warriors do.
Quote: “Some dude’s creating a living solar system and setting himself up as its sun!”
4. Thunderstrike: He was like Thor, but with a mullet and sunglasses. Oh, and he had a hammer, which was also named Thunderstrike. Anyway, he was the replacement Thor when Thor was turned into a frog, and he got his powers after he was almost killed by a villain named Mongoose. Now you know why Marvel almost went bankrupt.
Quote: “The glare here is as bad as I thought! I’m glad I brought shades!”
5. Gilgamesh: An immortal whose alias was “The Forgotten One,” Gilgamesh was beaten into a coma after only seven issues, and was later killed by Iron Man. Immortal? Not so much. Forgotten? Hopefully.
Quote: “If you have need of a hero, I am told that the time for one has long passed!”
Deputy Managing Editor Rod Harmon may be contacted at 791-6450 or at: