Avengers Assembled: The Story of A Team

Avengers Assembled: The Story of A Team

The Avengers first appeared in 1963 as a way to sell more comics - and now the team is one of the icons of modern pop culture.

Time again for another comic history story. This time, we're going to look at the creation of the Avengers, Marvel's most famous team – and at this point, the most famous superhero team overall. Of course we can't get into the backstory of the creation of every single Avenger, many of those are worthy of their own retrospectives, but we can take a look at the formation of the team and the early changes made to the roster, as well as what it meant for the comic book industry as a whole. Marvel was establishing their own universe, and in doing so they decided to bring it all together into a single team comic book.

In the 1960s, the Silver Age of Comics was just picking up speed. DC had a huge success with the Flash, Green Lantern, and the introduction of the Justice League. Meanwhile at Marvel, Stan Lee and Jack Kirby were quickly becoming the face of the industry as a whole, with the very popular Fantastic Four. Over the early half of the decade, Lee and Kirby created characters such as the Hulk, Thor, Ant-Man, and while he wasn't the actual artist for the stories, Kirby designed Iron Man alongside artist Don Heck. The year was 1963 – the previous year, Spider-Man made his first appearance – and each of these characters were catching on with the public. Even with The Incredible Hulk being canceled after issue 6, the character was popular enough that he appeared in Fantastic Four (at the time, Hulk was the only founding Avenger to have a solo series, the others appeared in anthology comics such as Tales of Suspense). Publisher of Marvel, Martin Goodman, and Lee noticed that these characters were selling the most issues, and it only made sense to have another team book that unlike Fantastic Four, was taking solo heroes and bringing them together to sell even more books, similar to what DC had done with the Justice League of America. And so, Stan Lee started working with Jack Kirby once again on a series that would tie their comics together into a shared title.

The original team consisted of Iron Man, Thor, Hulk, Ant-Man, and the Wasp. In fall 1963, the first issue of The Avengers was published, instantly becoming a hit. In the story, Incredible Hulk supporting character Rick Jones attempts to contact the Fantastic Four to stop the Hulk, who was being controlled via magic by Loki, from destroying a railroad, but it was accidentally received by Iron Man, Thor, and Ant-Man/Wasp. The team comes together to stop Hulk, and in doing so Hulk joins their side to fight Loki. Wasp gives the team their name, and the rest is history. However, while this team was practically the perfect combination of heroes, the best sellers were always changing and more characters were being created. The very next issue saw Ant-Man take up the mantle of Giant-Man, and one issue later, Hulk left the team – it didn't help that there was no other material/book going focusing on his solo adventures. This left Lee and Kirby with an empty slot for a member, and the two looked into different characters being added. Meanwhile, they had written a Fantastic Four spin-off story about the Human Torch for an issue of Strange Tales, involving a “returned” Captain America – though it was actually a villain that was disguised as the hero to cover up a bank robbery. This story was simply a test to see if the readers wanted to see the Star Spangled Man come back to comics, and the response was highly positive. And so, with Kirby returning to the character he created and Lee writing for the same character that he got his start writing for, Captain America joined the Avengers in #4. Here the story was established that he fell into ice at the end of World War II and was discovered in “present day” (for them it had only been less than twenty years). And from them on, Captain America was considered an “honorary founding member” and the idea that the roster would be ever-changing was set.

The concept of a changing team was pretty new to the comic book world, especially where even founding members would leave. While teams like the X-Men and the Justice league would have consistant members and remain relatively unchanged save for adding a few, the Avengers was practically designed to change. Within two years, Iron Man, Thor, and the Ant-Man/Wasp all left the team and were replaced by X-Men characters Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch, as well as Hawkeye. This four-person team is notable for being mostly consisted of former villains – Captain America is the only one who had always been a hero. Over time heroes joined and left, returned for some time, and so on. Surprisngly, Spider-Man wasn't an official Avenger until the 1990s, though he did help out the team from time to time, and vice-versa. As time went on, the roster continued to alter and switch things up, including the introduction of Vision and the return of Iron Man and Thor. The success of The Avengers in 1968 helped to get a solo Iron Man series, and in doing so caused Tales of Suspense to become Captain America after the Iron Man stories were moved to the other title. The team crossed over into practically every Marvel series at the time, from Fantastic Four to X-Men, and appeared in the famous Fantastic Four Annual #3 - featuring the wedding of Mr. Fantastic and the Invisible Woman.

Much like Justice League of America, the title expanded and spun out into different series about different teams, such as the West Coast Avengers (as the team was primarily based out of New York City, this would be a team stationed on the Pacific coast) and the comedic Great Lakes Avengers. The team, often referred to as “Earth's Mightiest Heroes,” became a staple of Marvel Comics throughout the Silver and Bronze Age, and like their DC counterpart, pretty much every character has been an Avenger or worked with them. In 2004, a crossover storyline began titled “Avengers: Disassembled,” wherein the team parted ways. However, later in 2005, Marvel introduced New Avengers, a title about a brand-new team of Avengers, including Wolverine, Spider-Man, Luke Cage, and Spider-Woman, as well as classics like Iron Man and Captain America. This team would become the “main” team, replacing The Avengers comic altogether for some time. Storylines such as “Civil War” and “Secret Wars” further divided and changed the team's roster, “Civil War” introducing the Fifty States Initiative, an in-universe plan to put a superhero team in each state (though not all states were accounted for). Eventually the original title was restored, but not for too long. In 2015, the title was once again relaunched with a new name: All-New, All-Different Avengers. Here the team consisted primarily of “legacy heroes” (different characters using names of other heroes) such as Sam Wilson's Captain America, the Jane Foster incarnation of Thor, Miles Morales, the “Ultimate” Spider-Man, and Kamala Khan's Ms. Marvel. This team would change the line-up again and again, with some characters leaving to form their own teams and others stepping out and a new character brought in.

The Avengers team is interesting to look at because at any point, the writers can add or remove characters from the team without it being that big of a deal. From the Hulk leaving three issues in to Ant-Man being fired in the 1980s, there's always room to move and change things as they see fit. And it's not a team created as an idea to tie things together, rather to sell more books and expand characters who didn't really have their own series into a separate title people could read. And now, over fifty years later, the comic has become a cultural icon, with several cartoons, video games, and obviously the movies – the third of which is just coming out. Marvel began their flagship team by changing the heroes that were in it, and continue to do so. The Avengers now likely won't be in ten years. But that now means every generation will have their own team they remember and read. And in the end, that's what matters – carrying these characters and stories across generations.

Cover Image Credit: Marvel Comics

Popular Right Now

10 Abnormally Normal Things About College

Some stuff just doesn't fly in the real world.

College is a weird, weird place. For whatever reason, the young adults who are supposed to be cultivating their minds with all of the worldly knowledge available to them, seem to get away with quite a bit using the justification "it's college." Even the best students live abnormally while on the alien planet that is a university. So, while to us college students it may just seem like another day, here are ten things that are only normal in college.

1. Straight up theft.

In the future, if I walk into my forty-something-year-old neighbor's home and see a collection of stolen signs, stuff from the local restaurant, and property from the construction site down the road, I would definitely be concerned about the character of my neighbor. However, in college, people proudly display campus signs, traffic cones, or dining hall napkin dispensers that they have impressively commandeered - it's a cheap decoration and a great conversation starter.

2. All-nighters.

Maybe with the exception of parents of little babies, very few people willingly stay up for close to 24 hours on end. In the real world, if a friend came to you and said that they literally did not sleep the previous night, it's completely logical to be worried. On the other hand, when a friend in college says that he was up all night you laugh a little, give him an understanding pat on the back, and walk with him to the coffee line.

3. Atrocious eating habits.

Sometimes you don't have time to eat. Sometimes you order pizza at 2 in the morning. Sometimes you eat three dinners. Sometimes you diet. All I can say, is thank goodness that our metabolisms are decently high at this age.

4. Breaking and entering.

In high school, you hopefully knew everyone who entered your home. After college, hopefully, that's still the case. However, when you live in the middle of thousands of bored college students, people knock at your door, walk into parties, cut through your yard, and stop by without invitation or hesitation. It keeps life fun, but still not normal.

5. Calling mom when stuff goes down.

I really doubt a time will ever come that I don't need to call my mom for guidance on how to do something. But, hopefully the frequency of those calls with go down a little bit post-graduation. Maybe after four years of doing it on my own, I'll know how to fill out government forms, cook real dinners, and get stains out. But for now, I'm going to keep calling while I still can without seeming totally pathetic.

6. Being intoxicated at weird times.

Drunk at noon on a Friday is the quintessence of an alcoholic at any time - unless it's college. Not that this is necessarily a good thing, and it certainly doesn't apply to everyone, but there aren't many other places where people would instantly assume someone is intoxicated if they're acting even a little weird. I've even seen people drink in the library....

7. The messed up dating scene.

There are people who meet the love of their life at college and live happily ever after. They are people who meet the supposed love of their life at college and never talk to them again after Sunday. There are people who use Tinder. Hormones are high, freedom is bountiful, and football players are cute - what else needs to be said?

8. A warped sense of time.

The career I'm pursuing will require me to be at work by 7 am, five days a week. I am fully aware of this. Now, will I enroll in an 8 am next semester? Absolutely not - I'm not a demon. In college, nights often start at 10 p.m., dinners are eaten at 4, and mornings can begin anywhere from 8 to 2. We don't get that whole 9-5 idea.

9. Costumes... for no apparent reason.

High schoolers have a dress code. Adults have dignity. College students have fun. Here, people will wear a corn costume to get on ESPN, a fanny pack to get into a fraternity, or a tutu to match a theme party. Is it actually a weird thing, though? No one even blinks an eye.

10. Insanely close friends.

Name another point in your life when you live with your friends, study with your friends, drive with your friends, eat with your friends, go out with your friends, and even grocery shop with your friends. I'll wait. At college, it's easy for friends to seem like family because you're with them constantly. Love it or hate it, it's weird about college.

So, enjoy this weirdness while you can - it won't last forever!


Uncensored Roommate Confessions!

Cover Image Credit: Matthew Kupfer

Related Content

Connect with a generation
of new voices.

We are students, thinkers, influencers, and communities sharing our ideas with the world. Join our platform to create and discover content that actually matters to you.

Learn more Start Creating

12 Unhealthy College Habits That Never Should Have Become Normalized

No, you shouldn't have to pull an all-nighter to pass every exam.


College is a weird time in our lives, but it doesn't have to be bad for our health. Here are some trends I've seen on social media and watched my friends practice that really never should have become a "thing" for college students in the first place.

1. The "freshman 15."

Everyone has heard of the dreaded "freshman 15," where college freshmen gain 15 pounds because of access to all-you-can-eat dining halls. Rather than eating healthier options at the dining halls or, you know, only eating until you're full and not stuffing yourself, we've just accepted our fate to gain what's really a large amount of weight. Not a very healthy mindset.

2. Eating only junk food because we're "too poor" to buy real food.

For off-campus students, the theme is ramen and peanut butter & jelly sandwiches. This is really not how it needs to be. You can buy a bunch of romaine lettuce for around $1 at the grocery store I go to in my college town, and other produce like broccoli, potatoes, and apples are always cheap. Shop sales and keep your pantry stocked on staples like dry pasta, rice, beans, and other canned vegetables. It's not that expensive to eat decently.

3. Gorging on food at the dining hall just because you can.

This is what leads to the freshman 15. Just because you can eat whatever you want doesn't mean you should.

4. Procrastinating EVERYTHING.

I'm always ahead of my schoolwork, but all of the people in my classes push things right down to the wire. It creates unnecessary stress. Just get things done in advance so you don't have to worry.

5. Being generally unorganized and struggling to keep your life together. 

Actually using my planner is one of the best things I've done for myself in college so far. I don't know why it became popular for college students to be a hot mess all the time, but again, do what you can to avoid putting unnecessary stress on yourself.

6. Pulling all nighters, ever.

If you don't understand it by midnight, you won't understand it any better by five in the morning. You'll do so much better with less studying and more sleep than the other way around. Take the L and go to bed.

7. Waiting until the very last minute to start studying for your finals.

This is what typically leads to the aforementioned all-nighters. If you have an exam in two weeks, start studying NOW. Give yourself time to figure out what you need to focus on and get in contact with your professor or a tutor if necessary. Do yourself the favor.

8. Getting blackout drunk Friday and Saturday night...every weekend.

A lot of college students like to drink. That's fine, I get it, college is stressful and you just want to have a good time. But you don't have to go out every night of every weekend and drink so much you don't remember anything that didn't occur between Monday-Friday every week. Give yourself a break from drinking every so often.

9. Getting iced coffee before class and being late because of it.

I always make sure I get to campus early if I plan to get Starbucks, which I often do. It's rude to come in late, and it's detrimental to your education to consistently miss class. Your coffee can wait if you're running late. Plan better next time.

10.  Committing to 10 different extracurriculars because "it'll boost your resume if you have more on it!"

If you only participate in one club where you're the head of marketing and the treasurer, that will look SO much better than if you participated in five clubs but were just...there for all of them. Excel in one thing rather than being mediocre in many.

11.  Skipping class whenever you feel like it.

You can take the occasional mental health day, but if you're just being lazy, you're only hurting yourself. Go to class. You're paying a lot of money for it, after all.

12.  Spending every last penny you have to go somewhere for spring break (Daytona Beach, anyone?).

"Broke" college kids always end up taking the most extravagant spring break vacations. I'm sure it's fun and you'll cherish the memories, but wouldn't you cherish that $500 more if you saved it for things you actually need rather than living off of ramen for a month when you get home?

Related Content

Facebook Comments