One of the first comic books I ever bought was “Avengers” No. 12.
On the cover of that 1965 issue, Thor was smashing his hammer into the stony earth, backed by Giant-Man, the Wasp, Iron Man and Captain America, who was looking back over his left shoulder to see who was lurking in the shadows.
Mole Man, of course.
The book featured an epic battle — is there any other kind? — between the Avengers, the Mole Man and his mindless minions — again, are there any other kind? — and the Red Ghost.
I was hooked. This wasn’t just a superhero comic, it was a superhero team! And it wasn’t the silly Fantastic Four, with the stretchy guy and the rock guy and the invisible gal and the fire guy. These were real superheroes, in my 8-year-old eyes.
I would rush to the High Street Variety in New Bedford, Mass., every month to drop my 12 cents for the next issue of “Avengers.” Certainly, I would buy other comic books — “Daredevil”, “Spider-Man,” “X-Men,” “Batman,” “World’s Finest Comics” and “Justice League of America” among them — but “Avengers” was the one title I had to have.
So if you want to find me tomorrow, you might start by looking at your nearest cinema. I plan on being among the first to see Marvel’s latest big-screen creation, “The Avengers.”
Ever since they teased the movie at the end of the first Iron Man movie, I have been eagerly awaiting this day.
I’ve read a couple of previews that say the movie is about a dysfunctional group of dysfunctional heroes. Sounds about right. The Avengers were never perfect, and maybe that’s why I never grew up and stopped reading the comic. There was always a human component to the often over-the-top-saving-the-world stories.
Giant-Man, who would later become Goliath and then Yellowjacket and then Ant-Man (for a second time) and then, well, just “Hank Pym, the greatest scientific mind in the universe,” had self-esteem issues. (Which would explain his constant name/power shifting.)
Iron Man, as Tony Stark, battled alcoholism.
The Hulk? Anger issues.
Hawkeye? Unlucky in love. And he was always jealous of Captain America. Plus, his first appearance was that of a criminal, trying to steal secrets from Tony Stark for his beloved Black Widow, who at the time was a Russian spy but would later become an Avenger herself. (That both of them are in the movie is interesting, because they didn’t come along until much later in the comic books.)
The Black Panther battled racism. The Wasp and Yellowjacket had marital problems, eventually divorcing.
Captain America? He was a man out of his time, frozen in ice for decades after WWII until the Avengers thawed him out in issue No. 4, the single-greatest issue in the 49-year run of the title.
At the core of all the roster shuffling was a group of extraordinary men and women attempting to save not only the world and/or the universe, but themselves.
Over the years, I stopped reading a lot of titles, but not “Avengers.” OK, truth be told, I stopped for a time. During the late ’80s and early ’90s, the folks at Marvel put together the absolute worst rosters of any superhero team in history.
Avengers during this time included Demolition Man (don’t ask), the Forgotten One (ditto), U.S. Agent (a mean-spirited Cap wannabe), Quasar, Sersei, Stingray and two members of the Fantastic Four, Mr. Fantastic and the Invisible Woman. Not only was the roster bad, but the stories pitiful. To this day, I will not look at any “Avengers” comic from that era.
But they were smart enough to bring back Cap, Thor and Iron Man, and then rebooted the franchise in 1998. I came back, and haven’t left since.
Now they’re on the big screen — facing the same foe, Loki, who brought them together in issue No. 1 back in 1963 — and I can’t wait to see them save the world again.
And themselves, of course.
Staff Writer Mike Lowe can be contacted at 791-6422 or at: