Here is some mighty trivia about the Earth’s Mightiest Heroes.
If there’s one thing I gained from writing this list, it was a brand new appreciation for Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. While we’re constantly reminded of their importance, sometimes it takes being thrust into their material head on to be reminded of just how impressive their body of work truly is. Here we are, 55 years since the debut of the first Avengers comic — the same year which saw several other iconic heroes grace pages for the first time — and the characters they created either together or separately are still being talked about daily.
Trying to assemble every single member of the Avengers roster is an arduous task. With nearly six decades worth of source material to navigate through, it’s daunting. The team has appeared in various iterations throughout the years, with a revolving door of characters coming and going while bringing all kinds of drama in between making this world a better place. However, with Infinity War upon us, I went digging to find some interesting facts that will give you an overview of how they came to be and just how much they’ve impacted this caped crusader-obsessed pop culture many of us consume.
The Justice League Inspired Their Creation
During the early 60’s, DC Comics experienced a spike in sales when they unleashed “Justice League of America.” This series, which brought the company’s main superheroes together — Superman, Batman, et al. — as a crime-fighting alliance was pivotal in popularizing this concept. Naturally, the imprint’s competitors took notice.
As a response to DC’s fantastic faction’s rise to glory, Lee and Kirby created the Fantastic Four and their comics sold well. After that, they introduced more iconic heroes like Spider-Man, Iron Man, Hulk, and Thor. When the time came for these standalone crusaders to eventually join forces, a few of them were established characters in their own right, just like their DC counterparts before them.
The First Issue Replaced Another Iconic Debut
The Avengers assembled for the first time in September 1963, but that wasn’t the original plan. According to Marvel lore, “Daredevil #1” was set to be released instead. However, artist Bill Everett supposedly had a drinking problem and missed his deadline. This forced the company to create a new series quickly to prevent a financial disaster. So, Lee and Kirby turned to their existing roster of characters and “The Avengers #1” was born. The rest is history.
Their Original Origin Story is Different from the MCU Version
In the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) of the S.H.I.E.L.D. was responsible for the creation of the team. In the original comics series, though, the inaugural lineup — Iron Man, Thor, Ant-Man, Hulk, Wasp — formed on their own accord to defeat a mutual threat in the form of Loki.
Some of the Earliest Avengers Started Life as Bad Guys
Shortly after debuting, the team began changing members so frequently that it made 90’s wrestling faction the nWo look organized in comparison. For example, Captain America had joined and the Hulk had parted ways by the fourth issue, which paved the way for an overhaul.
In 1965, Hawkeye, Scarlet Witch, and Quicksilver — all of whom had been cast as villains in the Marvel pantheon prior to this — were brought into the fold to fight for the greater good. Another character who started out on the wild side is Black Widow, who was initially a Russian ploy.
Scarlet Witch Has Been Around the Block
Prior to joining The Avengers, Wanda Maximoff’s alter ego fought against the X-Men as part of the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants. Since then, however, she’s teamed up with other groups such as the Lady Liberators, the West Coast Avengers, the Defenders, the Secret Defenders. Force Works, and Hydra’s Avengers.
Hulk Was Inspired by Universal Monsters
Some of the best monster stories have painted the creatures in a tragic light, and this concept informed Lee when he was creating his own raging beast. Humankind is the real evil after all.
In an interview with Rolling Stone, Lee discussed how his sympathy for certain monsters led to Hulk’s creation. “I remembered Jekyll and Hyde, and the Frankenstein movie with Boris Karloff and it always seemed to me that the monster was really the good guy; he didn’t want to hurt anybody, but those idiots kept chasing him up the hill until he had to strike back. So why not get a guy who looks like a monster and really doesn’t want to cause any harm. But he has to in self-defense, because people are always attacking him.”
Black Panther Went by a Different Name for a Minute
Despite the fictional character predating the real-life Black Panther Party, Marvel decided to change T’Challa’s hero name to avoid comparisons with the political group. At the time, the party was all over the news and they were much more famous than the comic book superhero. Therefore, to avoid obvious comparisons, the character was renamed Black Leopard in 1971’s “Fantastic Four #119” in a bid to distance the publisher from the contemporary socio-political situation.
The name change didn’t last long, though. In an issue of “Daredevil” that was released a few months later, he was back to his original moniker.
The Original Ant-Man Was One Messed Up Dude
There have been four Ant-Man’s throughout the years. Paul Rudd’s interpretation of the size-shifting underdog hero is based on the Scott Lang version in the comics, but many Marvel fans point to the O.G., Hank Pym (played by Michael Douglas in the movie), as the most interesting one.
Pym was a failure in the comics. So much so that he created Ultron, one of the team’s greatest foes, and became embroiled in a domestic abuse story arc. The cookie-cutter nature of the MCU understandably prefers the more likable dude, but a movie dedicated to a messed up character like Pym could be fascinating and dark.
Stan Lee Had a Specific Vision for The Vision
Created by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby, Vision appeared on the scene in 1940 as an alien law enforcement officer. But when he was resurrected in the late 60’s courtesy of Roy Thomas and John Buscema, Lee had one requirement they had to adhere to.
As Thomas told Rolling Stone, “I said, “I want to bring back the old Vision, the 1940s Simon and Kirby character,” and Stan said, “No we want a new Avenger, but I want him to an android.” He never said why! And I said, “You don’t care why as long as he’s an android?” So I made up an android and I called him the Vision; he hated the red face but other than that he thought it was fine.”
Black Panther Knocked Down Some Barriers
When Ryan Coogler and co. brought Wakanda to the big screen earlier this year, they gave the world a blockbuster that matters. Regardless of how you feel about superhero movies, the success of Black Panther was a watershed moment for representation in cinema, and one that’s hopefully paved the way for even more diverse stories going forward.
That said, Kirby and Lee created the character with progress in mind amid the burgeoning 1960’s Civil Rights Movement, and with their African ass-kicker, they introduced the first black superhero to mainstream comics.
The pair were also conscious about creating a black superhero who wasn’t solely defined by his race. “I created The Black Panther with Jack Kirby some years ago, and what I wanted to do,” Stan Lee told AlterEgo (via The Geek Twins), “I wanted to create the first black superhero, but I wanted to avoid stereotyping.”
The Wasp Named the Group
What is the meaning of the name? Are they avenging something? Who knows… It’s a strange name for a superhero posse, given that avenging is commonly associated with inflicting harm as payback. In this case, though, it just sounded cool.
At the end of the first issue, the team found themselves in need of a name and Wasp threw one out that had a nice ring to it. “It should be something colorful and dramatic like ‘The Avengers,’’ the heroine suggested. Her comrades liked it, and their dynasty was cemented.
The Team Rejected Spider-Man More Than Once
In Marvel’s comic book world, our arachnid hero hasn’t had the best working relationship with the Avengers. Sure, their history of teaming up can be traced back to 1964 when he joined forces with the gang to fight his robot doppelganger, sent by Kang the Conqueror, but the gang didn’t offer him membership right away.
In 1966, he was offered the chance to join in the story “…To Become an Avenger”, but an unfortunate altercation with the team (including a fight against Hulk) ruined their grand plans and they agreed to part ways. However, Spidey continued to align with the team on numerous occasions, saving the world, until he was finally accepted in “The New Avengers” in 2006.
The First Issue is an Expensive Collector’s Item
Back in 2011, Metropolis Collectables sold a CGC 9.6 graded copy of “Avengers #1” for a whopping $250,000. To this day, it’s the most amount of money that particular issue has sold for. While it’s not the most someone has ever paid for a rare comic, it’s still an impressive sum of money.
The Avengers Debuted Alongside Some Mutants
September 1963 was a big month for Marvel as The Avengers weren’t the only popular hero alliance to hit shelves. They were also joined by “Uncanny X-Men”, which introduced Marvel’s now-legendary mutants to pop culture. Now here we are 55 years later and both factions are still kicking ass.
Doctor Strange Was Inspired by Phoneys
According to Stan Lee, the idea for Stephen Strange came about after watching fake magicians con audiences with their staged hocus pocus. This gave him all the ingredients he needed to conjure a hero who was capable of performing the real dark arts, albeit in the name of saving the world from evil.
Additionally, the supernatural American radio drama Chandu the Magician, which Lee and co-creator Steve Ditko were fans of growing up, also played a part. The program was about a magician who was able to travel throughout dimensions and project illusions. Finally, some pundits also speculate that drugs informed the more psychedelic and cosmological elements of the series.
A Famous Talk Show Host Appeared in an Issue
In 1984, Late Night With David Letterman was a phenomenon and the host was at the height of his popularity. If any celebrity was worthy of a comics cameo, it was him. Roger Stern and artist Al Milgrom understood this, so they included him in “Avengers 239.” In the story, Wonder Man appears on Late Night for an interview, with Hawkeye, Beast, Black Widow, and Black Panther joining him to show support. With so many heroes in the same place — including Letterman — it was only natural that a supervillain would show up to cause chaos. Unfortunately, nothing like that ever happened on the real show.
Captain America Caused Controversy During World War II
In the recent “Secret Empire” arc, Captain America was given an unwelcome makeover which saw him join Hydra, a group inspired by Nazis. However, during World War II, Cap was at the center of controversy for punching fascist scum. Just one year before America entered the conflict, Hitler was portrayed as a foe of the patriotic superhero in a 1941 issue.
The Fuhrer got clocked right in the kisser, and while most people would agree that Hitler deserved to be knocked out, it didn’t sit too well with everyone. “Putting Adolf Hitler, a still-living world leader, on the cover of a comic book as the villain was definitely a daring and even dangerous move,” Marvel editor Tom Brevoort told The Washington Post. “Apart from Bundists and supporters of the Axis cause, there was a strong isolationist feeling in America.”
Thanos Used to be Scrawny
When the Avengers’ nemesis was conceived in “Daredevil #73” by artist Jim Starlin, he wasn’t the apocalyptic threat he is today. He was puny compared to some of his evil counterparts actually. At the suggestion of Roy Thomas, though, Starlin beefed the character up to make him more like Darkseid, because Thomas assumed that ripping off the New God was his intention.
War Machine Wasn’t Always War Machine
Tony Stark isn’t the type of guy who’s to be trusted when he has a drink in him. This was proven all too true in “Iron Man #169” when he got so wasted that he trashed Time’s Square while battling Magma. When the villain showed up later to finish Stark, his Vietnam buddy James Rhodes (AKA War Machine) donned the Iron Man armor and saved the day. He reprised the Iron Man role more than once, but eventually, he carved his own legacy in the Avengers’ storied history as his own distinct character.
They Teamed Up With the Justice League
Despite being members of rival publishers, the Justice League and the Avengers have always boasted parallels and heroic ideals. A crossover was inevitable at some point, especially since the idea was born way back in 1979 when writer Gerry Conway proposed a time travel story featuring Kang the Conqueror and Lord of Time.
Editorial disputes meant the two teams couldn’t save the universe together back in the 70’s and 80’s as originally planned, but in 2004 Marvel and DC were able to find common ground for four issues.
The Falcon Was Revolutionary
Falcon the first African American superhero in mainstream comics, and unlike black superheroes like Black Panther who preceded him, he didn’t have the word “black” in his name. That said, he was used for Marvel to incorporate civil rights dialogue into their storytelling, as The Falcon brought issues concerning the black experience in America into Marvel tales. Additionally, he was also the first hero of color to receive an action figure, which hit shelves in 1974.
Lee Thought Readers Would Hate Iron Man
One of the key inspirations behind Stark/Iron Man was Howard Hughes, an eccentric billionaire playboy, and inventor whose contributions to flight technology remain highly influential today. But that isn’t why Lee assumed his young readers wouldn’t take to his own loaded, egotistical character.
As he told Total Film (via Syfy), “He was a weapons manufacturer, he was providing weapons for the Army, he was rich, he was an industrialist. I thought it would be fun to take the kind of character that nobody would like, none of our readers would like, and shove him down their throats and make them like him … And he became very popular.”
Their Mansion Was Modeled After a Museum
Superhero bases are essential to all caped crusaders. Batman has his cave. Superman has a fortress that looks really cold. The Avengers, meanwhile, have a nice mansion in NYC. Furthermore, it’s based on a building Stan Lee used to walk past.
In “The Marvel Comics Guide to New York City”, Lee explained that the Avengers Mansion was based on the Big Apple’s Frick Museum, an old mansion that now serves as an art museum on Fifth Avenue. He recalled it being a “Beautiful, big, so impressive building.”
Hawkeye Led His Own B Team
In 1974, Roger Stern and Bob Hall created the first spin-off publication for the Avengers. Titled “West Coast Avengers”, the group was formed by Hawkeye in a bid to bring in new recruits and increase their strength. Mockingbird, Wonder Man, Tigra, and Iron Man (the Jim Rhodes version, as opposed to Tony Stark) made up the rest of the team in the beginning, followed by new recruits such as Moon Knight later on.
The MCU Guardians of the Galaxy Weren’t the Originals
We all love Star-Lord, Rocket Raccoon, Groot, Gamora, and Drax the Destroyer. Thanks to the success and the awesomeness of the movies, they’ll always be the real Guardians in our eyes. That said, they had nothing to do with the team when the Guardians first appeared in “Marvel Super Heroes #18” in 1969. The original team was made up of Vance Astro, Charlie-27, Martinex, and Yondu.
Bucky Barnes Once Meant Death
When someone dies in comics it’s more than likely that they’ll rise from the grave eventually. For a while, however, Uncle Ben, Jason Todd, and Bucky Barnes were a no go. They were left to rot for decades, and this became known as the “Bucky Clause.” Of course, there are no real rules in comics, and they were all resurrected eventually.