10 Things You Might Not Know About The Avengers

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It was 50 years ago today that some of Marvel Comics' mightiest superheroes first united against a common threat and formed the team known as The Avengers. First published on September 10, 1963, The Avengers #1 brought together Iron Man, Thor, Ant-Man, The Wasp, and Hulk to battle the Asgardian trickster, Loki. The team was the creation of the comic-book veterans Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, and more than 500 issues and a record-breaking movie later, the team dubbed “Earth's Mightiest Heroes” has made a strong case for itself as one of the duo's greatest creations.

With half a century of history behind them, The Avengers have assembled against all kinds of enemies over the years, with an ever-changing roster of heroes. And just like with so many other comic-book superhero teams (*cough* X-Men *cough), things have gotten pretty confusing at times. Thankfully, you don't need to be an Avengers scholar to appreciate some of the most interesting aspects of the team's long and storied history.

Here are 10 facts about The Avengers that everyone should know.

1. Captain America Wasn't Part Of The Original Team

The Marvel movie-verse may cast America's favorite super-soldier as a founding member of the team, but Captain America didn't actually join up until the fourth issue of The Avengers comic-book series. The team—which had already dropped to four members due to the Hulk's departure—encountered a mysterious, frozen man in the ocean while chasing Namor, the Sub-Mariner. Lo and behold, the man turned out to be Steve “Captain America” Rogers. After thawing him out, the existing Avengers team granted Captain America “founding member” status in place of Hulk, and the rest is comic-book history.

2. Daredevil's Missed Deadline Made The Avengers Possible

If it wasn't for a delay in sending Daredevil #1 to the printer, The Avengers might never have existed. According to Marvel's Senior Vice President of Publishing, Tom Brevoort, when the publisher realized that the first issue of Daredevil wasn't going to be ready in time for its scheduled run at the printer, Stan Lee proposed the idea of bringing a bunch of existing Marvel characters together on the same team, much like DC had done with the Justice League of America. By doing so, they wouldn't need to create complicated origin stories for the individual members, thereby jumping right into whatever adventure Lee and Jack Kirby could come up with on short notice. The pair brainstormed for a while and came up with The Avengers, then hastily put together the first issue and sent it off to the printer. 

3. The Wasp Came Up With The Team's Name

After the five heroes of The Avengers #1 decided to work together, they needed a name. Thankfully, the size-changing heroine Janet van Dyne—a.k.a. The Wasp—was there with the right suggestion. “It should be something colorful and dramatic like 'The Avengers,' or...” she said, only to be interrupted by Ant-Man. “Or nothing! That's it! The Avengers!” he announced.

One can't help wondering what her second suggestion was going to be—and why she was left out of the movie, given this key moment in the team's history.

4. And Then They Were Villains...

The Avengers have always experienced a lot of turnover, dating all the way back to their earliest roster. After Hulk left in the second issue, the team added Captain America in the fourth issue, only to have everyone except Captain America depart the team in The Avengers #16. The original four members were quickly replaced by three new additions: Quicksilver, Scarlet Witch, and Hawkeye. But what made the choice of rookie Avengers particularly interesting was the fact that they were previously villains in the Marvel Comics universe. Few superhero teams had ever experienced such a unique lineup change at that time, and the transition is still regarded as one of the most amazing stunts a superhero comic has ever pulled.

5. Marvel Had “The Avengers” Trademarked In 1970

It only took a few years for Marvel to realize they had something special in The Avengers, so it's probably no surprise that they had the team's name trademarked in 1970. However, the company ran into some trouble when the recent movie screened across the ocean, as the British version of the The Avengers—a spy series that aired during the 1960s—pre-dated Marvel's superhero team. The legal wranglings were eventually settled with some clever re-titling of the film in certain markets.

6. The Avengers #1 Hit Shelves The Same Month As Uncanny X-Men #1

The Avengers wasn't the only new team to arrive on shelves in September 1963. Marvel's merry team of mutants also made their debut that month in Uncanny X-Men #1, and the two teams' paths would cross periodically over the course of their adventures.

7. Hulk's Buddy And Tony Stark's Butler Are “Honorary Avengers”

The team has had many “honorary members” over the years—usually friends, family, and allies of the team who have assisted in their battles on various occasions. The first-ever inductee as an “honorary member” was Rick Jones, the man Bruce Banner saved from a gamma bomb's explosion by sacrificing his own body. Rick later became the Hulk's “sidekick” of sorts, and was instrumental in bringing together the team and convincing them that Hulk wasn't the evil behemoth they originally believed him to be. In later issues, Tony Stark's butler, Jarvis (a human in the comics, not the computerized entity of the movies) was also granted “honorary member” status with the team.

8. Not Everyone Accepts Avengers Membership

Of the many heroes who have been offered membership in The Avengers, several prominent characters turned the team down at one point or another. Both Spider-Man and Daredevil initially declined to join the team when offered a spot on the roster, with the two heroes each offering a similar reason for their decision: they want to keep their crime-fighting close to home. It's worth noting, though, that both heroes did eventually join the team, but only in recent years—long after they were first offered membership.

9. Even Superhero Teams Can Franchise

The Avengers may be the team that unites to battle threats that no single hero can handle alone, but what if there's more than one threat? That's the question that the team hoped to answer with West Coast Avengers, a team that debuted in 1984 and featured several members of the Avengers roster splintering off to form a new group of heroes based in Los Angeles.

With the original Avengers team handing things from their headquarters in New York City, the new team—led by Hawkeye—kept the other side of the country safe from supervillains. Subsequent years—and the popularity of The Avengers among readers—would lead to several more spin-off teams and series outside the primary The Avengers series, such as the Secret Avengers and New Avengers. Some of them were even a bit unofficial, such as the hapless, accident-prone Great Lakes Avengers, who often managed to save the world despite their own ineptitude.

10. The Avengers Had A Crossover With David Letterman In 1984

Yes, you read that correctly. Way back in 1984, Late Night With David Letterman was cruising along at the height of its popularity and The Avengers was doing pretty well for Marvel Comics, too. Naturally, the powers-that-be saw some serious crossover potential there. The result was a single-issue story that saw several members of The Avengers—including Hawkeye, Black Panther, Black Widow, Wonder Man, and Beast (the X-Men character)—appearing on Letterman's show, only to be ambushed by a pitiful villain who attempted to fry them with camera-mounted lasers. Letterman saved the day, though, when he hit the bad guy over the head with a giant doorknob. Seriously. This actually happened

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September 10, 2013 - 8:00am
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