Friday, January 6, 2012

Who is the Most Essential Avenger?

Doug: If there's one thing we like around here, it's the Avengers! For many of us, it's the writers we love -- Lee, Thomas, Englehart, Shooter, Stern, Busiek, et al. Then there are the folks like me who tend to dig the pictures first, and how could anyone go wrong here? From Kirby to Heck, Buscema to Adams, Buscema the second to Perez (and how about that Byrne fellow?), it's a hall-of-fame. And the ever-changing rosters? Uh huh. But what we want to discuss today (and yeah, we've bandied about similar topics in days of yore -- hey, I know I'm not getting any younger...) are the wonderful characters that have made up Earth's Mightiest Heroes. And around those champions I am posing the question you see above: Who is the most essential Avenger?

Doug: Of course right away each of our readers came to that question at a different level. You thought, "What does Doug want?" The guy/gal I think is the most important to the team? Yes. "The character around whom I'd build a roster?" Yes. "The character I like to read about while encircled by these other fantastic four-color beings?" Yes. Hey, the forum is OPEN -- you talk about any angle you'd like, and hopefully this becomes a fun, very organic exercise in all things Avenging. You know the drill -- have fun!


dbutler16 said...

I think that the quintessential Avengers are Cap and the Vision, and perhaps also Hawkeye, Iron Man, and even the Wasp. Of those, I think Cap is the essential Avenger. As the Avengers’ ultimate leader, he is obviously the one to build a roster around. That’s not to say that he’s my favorite Avenger (I’d probably list Hawkeye, Beast, Black Panther, Wasp, and She-Hulk ahead of him) but he is the one guy that makes the Avengers the Avengers. After all, he kept the team going with Cap’s Kooky Quartet!

Anonymous said...

Oh Lordy. Doug, if you put Don Heck alongside the likes of Adams, Buscema and Perez one more time, there will mutiny in the ranks of BAB. Seriously, do me a favour....have a look at all that Don Heck art that you like and check the inker. I bet you a pound to a buck that the only time you actually like Don Heck is when he’s inked by Frank Giacoia (remembering the Frank Ray thing). Without the right inker, his stuff is stiff, fixed and Lowry-esque. Maybe Wood & Romita have a hand in your love for him as well, putting some flow and detail in, but I think it was Giacoia who really...dare I the Heck out of it.

On a side note: some of the occasional characters whom I most enjoyed were probably the LEAST essential but the most interesting: the Black Knight was always cool, Ms. Marvel’s flirtation with Wonder Man, etc. One thing I always noticed about Hercules as opposed to Thor was that Herc seemed to open more plotlines: the team (Champs too) were forever being whisked off to Olympus while they never set foot in Asgard. Mantis was a great character. Hellcat. Beast. Moondragon. Tigra. Black Widow. All non essential, but great storylines.

Most essential Avenger: Cap was kind of the heart of the team for a long time, esp. after he woke up and had nowhere else to go.

Hawkeye was always a great character. I think he shows that comics were not just about super powers, because his presence far outweighed his powers.

The same kind of goes for Hank & Jan. Although they were properly powerful, it was actually their relationship that was the unique thing they brought to the team dynamic.

I always liked Wanda in the Avengers. While Pietro seemed directionless, she was looking for a home and she treasured it.

But for me, the most essential, right through the Bronze Age, was the Vision. If you weren’t looking at the Vision, you weren’t reading the Avengers.


david_b said...

If we're looking at this straight through Bronze, perhaps Silver eyeglasses, I'd look at who gave the team the most distinctive personality meaning either 1) who didn't have their own solo book, and 2) really set them apart from the other books, visually and power-wise.

Under those reasons, while Cap's the quintessential leader visually and tactically, I'd go with Vish or Hank Pym. One could argue how the team's 'visual anchor' or uniqueness gently shifted away from the likes of Goliath when Vision came on board.

When Clint became Goliath, he still stayed a center of attention, but more a secondary character, story-wise.. The Vision started getting more storylines, brooding time, etc.

So I'd say Cap, Hank or Vision.

Richard, very much agreed on Heck, sad to say. I cringed with his later-day Bronze assignments, especially Avengers and Batman Family. If I saw his art inside, I recall putting the comic went straight back on the rack. I'd have to check, but I'm sure you're 100% correct on Giacoia's inks.

Doug said...

Actually, Richard, in the Avengers issues where I thought Don Heck did a bang-up job (KS Avengers #1, and Avengers #'s 19-40)he was inked by George Bell, Dick Ayers, Wally Wood, John Romita, Frank Giacoia, and himself. So the embellishment is varied, but I thought this 2-year period was the zenith of Heck's career. It was also very formative for me, as I had a sprinkling of the original issues as well as several of the Marvel Triple Action reprints.

However, I simply cannot take the Dashing One at virtually any other point in his career. Particularly once Silver became Bronze, Heck's artwork is painful to look at. So I'm by no means a Heck apologist, but I do have a soft spot for the one era that was meaningful in my comics-reading life.

Glad to see Hawkeye being mentioned. I'm really leaning toward him as my answer, if anyone presses me. We'll see how this discourse continues and I'll probably chime in again later.

Have a great weekend, all!


Anonymous said...

huh. Jarvis.

J.A. Morris said...

I'd say the Vision is the most essential. And when I say "the Vision", I mean the one we grew up with, not the one Byrne gave us in the late 80s. He's just an interesting character with a great set of powers, plus the whole synthezoid/Ultron backstory added to his mystique.

I won't fault you for including Heck in that list, he's a big part of early Avengers history.

But Heck's later stuff was dreadful. One of the most disappointing issues of all time is the Giant-Size Avengers #4. It's one of the most important Avengers issues of the Bronze Age, and it's difficult to look at. Go to the bottom of this link and look at some panels from GS#4 if you need to refresh your memory:

Martin Molloy said...

I like that a lot of the comments are mentioning the Vision. I think that his presence always seems to signal good story lines.

Like everyone else, I have to narrow it down to a short list of regulars including Hawkeye, Cap, Panther, Beast, Wasp, Hank, Thor, and Iron Man. I think if you have two or three of those members, you can round the team out with almost anyone.

While I think Cap is the most essential, I'll throw a second name out there that I think is important to a good Avengers story: Jarvis.

Edo Bosnar said...

Nah, just kidding. I'd like to pick someone out of left field, but I have to go with the general consensus here and say Cap, with both Vision and Wasp coming in a real close second.
As for Heck, I wouldn't say I'm an apologist, as I was generally not a fan of his Bronze Age output, but I'm also not a basher, either. He did play a major and often overlooked role in Marvel's Silver Age, and as stated, with the right inker his work could be very good. In that regard, it's unfortunate that he wasn't paired with Tom Palmer more often. That issue of X-men they did together (with Sunfire's first appearance) was really well done.

Doug said...

Edo, it's interesting that you mention that issue of X-Men with the Heck/Palmer team. I'd love to see the pencils-only version of that page. I just have to think that Heck did only thumbnails or the most basic of lay-outs, because there's just not a lot of Don Heck in the finished pages. It's really a nice extension of what the Adams/Palmer team had been doing.

Of course, aping Neal was all the rage at that point in time.

J.A. -- yep, Karen and I have much-maligned GS Avengers #4. If anyone wants to see our review of that issue, you'll have to head over to our former blog at and check out the lengthy Celestial Madonna reviews. Like many of you, I could not have been more disappointed when I opened that issue. Sal and Cockrum, and then Heck wrapped it up. Egad...

Additionally, and I guess I'm still trying to clarify my point about Heck-then and Heck-now, similar "ugh..." moments came right in the middle of the Serpent Crown story with Avengers #'s 145-46, and then a year later with the Black Knight story in #157. Thankfully the Vision/Wonder Man slugfest in #158 made me quickly forget the previous issue.

Jarvis -- that's great!

As long as we're throwing this wide open to all things Avengering, are there any mainstay characters that you could do without? Not dislike, but just don't resonate with you all that much? For me? Wonder Man.


Doug said...

I said "of that page". I meant that I wanted to see pencils-only pages for the whole issue.


Karen said...

I'm surprised about all the Heck comments this morning. It seems to me Doug was just listing all the Avengers artists in order, not putting Heck into the same league as Kirby, Adams, or Buscema.

For me, Cap does instantly spring to mind; he's the quintessential leader, the glue that holds the team together. But when I was first reading the book, I'd say the Vision was the central character. I saw that the Vision - the 'real' one -was just brought back in Avengers. I'm wondering how he will be treated: like an artificial man, or a toaster?


david_b said...

"..Characters that you could do without? Not dislike, but just don't resonate with you all that much?"

I could bore you with LONG list of 'em, earliest being Tigra, Mockingbird, Starfox through Dr. Druid and nearly all of the '90s new mainstay members. Eh, sorry, I guess I pretty well disliked them as well.

At least Englehart gave Mantis a good backstory and Starlin wisely linked her with Mar-Vell, being as Clint later described her as a 'diva'.

I found Wondy interesting up until the regular Milgrom WCA series. Hated the art/storylines for most of that series, but at least stuck-around the first dozen issues and John Byrne's later tenure. I liked Wondy's creepy re-entrance in ish 151 and the Perez years.

Dougie said...

I can't really picture the Assemblers without Cap or Hawkeye and I love the Vision.In the Bronze Age, there were no team members who didn't work for me. In the 80s, however, Dr. Druid never appealed and Namor didn't fit in. I even liked Simonson's FF- Avengers with Gilgamesh!

I am disappointed that Monica Marvel and Quasar are no longer active Avengers- they both had great potential to be mainstays.

I completely understand why we
have modern Avengers team rosters with Spidey and Wolverine but it will never feel quite right to me.

dbutler16 said...

When I first started collecting the Avengers, the Vision was the one who really pulled me in. I found him visually interesting, and I think he reminded me a bit of Mr. Spock, also, which was a good thing. I'd still say Cap is THE Avenger, though.

My least favorite Avenger of all time is Tigra. She just didn't do anything for me at all. I found her character extremely weak and most of the stories showcasing her I found tiresome. I'm not too familiar with the 90's Avengers though. I stopped collecting around 1990 or so. Dr. Druid wasn't one of my faves, but I didn't mind him. I sort of liked Starfox. I agree that Namor didn't belong in the Avengers, and I'm not so sure Mr. Fantastic and the Invisible Woman did, either, but they didn't feel as out of place as Namor.

Count me in the anti-Heck camp, though I can think of one issue inked by Pablo Marcos that was pretty good. I think Joe Sinnott may have rescued one of his issues, also.

jim kosmicki said...

Hawkeye or Vision. So, it's no surprise that when those characters aren't in the book, I have the least interest to read it.

Cap is the heart of the Avengers, but the team has functioned without him.

Actually, thinking back to the first 150 issues or so (which is what I still consider the "real" Avengers) - it was Clint who was always being pulled back to the fold because being an Avenger was so much a part of what defined him. Cap was also searching for a clear identity, but he had non-Avengers friends and colleagues and supporting characters that Clint never really did.

William said...

I'd have to go with Iron Man. It's his money that funds and equips the team, his mansion was used as their headquarters (nowadays his tower), and his butler that acts as the team's caretaker. Plus, in all the stories that I loved most, Iron Man was always a central figure. In fact, I'd argue that he is more closely associated with the Avengers than he is with his own solo book. One of his nicknames is even "The Golden Avenger".

Fred W. Hill said...

I agree with William about Iron Man -- even during that long period between issues 16 and 93 when his appearances in the mag were relatively few, they were dependent on his alter ego's technological genius and deep pockets, not to mention having a place to hang out between adventures. Otherwise, my faves up through circa 1984 (when my collection ends) were Cap, Clint, Wanda, the Vision and the Beast.
BTW, I believe Clint made the first longest run in consecutive issues, from 16 - 109, while the Vision had the second, beginning in 57 and ending, I believe, sometime after issue 200, save for a few fill-ins, etc., that focused on one or two other members rather than on the whole team itself.

DougK66 said...

I'd have to say Iron Man was the most essential Avenger for all the reasons listed by William also.
But the hero the Avengers are most most essential for is Hawkeye. Being an Avenger is the most important thing in Clint's life. He's like a knight on a crusade striving to be worthy of the title Avenger. No hero is more passionate , dedicated and loyal to the ideals of the Avengers. From the very beginning, when he was trying to redeem himself as a criminal, no matter how much guff he gave Cap, he never stopped trying to EARN the right to be an Avenger.

Edo Bosnar said...

As to Doug's second question, i.e. mainstay-Avengers-you-can-do-without, I'm not sure the question was really understood, as everybody mentioned characters they actively dislike. The first character that came to my mind was Falcon - I actually like the character, but he just didn't work in the Avengers. However, he's hardly a mainstay, so I'll go with Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch. Again, I don't dislike either, but all too often they seemed out of place in the Avengers.
Since Tigra came up several times, I have to say I really like the Greer Nelson/Cat/Tigra character, and absolutely hated the way she was handled in Shooter's disastrous post-issue 200 run, and then much later by Byrne (when he had her go feral to the point of eating mice in the kitchen...)

Rip Jagger said...

Hawkeye is the key Avenger. He's the one I always imagined taking over the Assemblers, and then they went and made West Coast Avengers and there it was revealed for the world to see. Hawkeye is the one essential Assembler.

Rip Off

Redartz said...

Quintessential Avengers: Obviously Cap, Vision and the Pyms. I have to include the Beast, also. I actually preferred him with the Avengers over his time in the X-Men. He brought a pleasant levity to the book, such as his first appearance in the book- issue 137, disguised as Edward G. Robinson!

As for Avengers that I could do without, Starfox tops that list.

Anonymous said...

William stole my thunder. I was going to say Iron Man for all the same reasons.

He's not my favorite, but I don't think there would have been a team without Tony Stark providing the HQ, the technology, the funding, the butler, and (at least at the beginning) the leadership.

Nobody asked, but here's my ultimate Avengers lineup: Captain America, Thor, Iron Man, Vision, Scarlet Witch, Quicksilver, and Hawkeye!

Anonymous said...

I like Don Heck. Leave him alone, you meanies!

Neal Adams, on the other hand, you can lock in a closet for all I care!

Anonymous said...

Avengers I can do without: Ms. Marvel, Wonder Man, Tigra, Beast, Moondragon, Mantis, Swordsman...and anybody they added after 1985 when I stopped reading Marvel comics!

MattComix said...

Captain America, no contest.

Granted he is not technically a founding member but his return to the modern world was so shortly after the initial formation of the team he might as well be.

I think with Cap the team found its soul and went from just being a collection of personalities to being The Mighty Avengers.

Fred W. Hill said...

Somewhere along the way Cap was made an honorary founding member. I suspect the Hulk was made an unhonorary founding member at the same time, but then in most aspects of his personality, the Hulk would not only not remember, but wouldn't even care! Funny that it seems cartoons from nearly 50 years later put the Hulk back in the roster despite his only having been an official member of the team for only two issues.

Matthew Bradley said...

Nothing breathtakingly original to add here, just wanted to weigh in, especially since THE AVENGERS is my long-term favorite book. My personal "essentials" are Cap (specifically as leader), Hawkeye, the Vision, and the Pyms, regardless of which i.d. Hank is using at any point. Can't remember if they ever had a line-up consisting partly or wholly of those five.

Aside from Cap, these are all characters who, at least in my Bronze/Silver era (and since Hank and Jan lost their TALES TO ASTONISH berth), did not have their own books, which has a lot to do with it. These are heroes who, to a large degree, found their identities AS Avengers. So as excellent as the arguments are in favor of including Shellhead, the fact that he'd had his own strip all along would tend to eliminate him in my book. And that's presumably the problem with a lot of the later additions, who had so much history behind them already that it's tough to think of them as Avengers per se, rather than just heroes who were members at one time or another.

I've come to terms with the fact that as much as I love the Pyms, the TTA strip was really crappy. But they really came into their own in the post-Kooky Quartet AVENGERS, providing continuity through many a roster. What others have said about Hawkeye makes him, in a sense, the quintessential Assembler, while the Vision is, quite simply, one of the coolest characters Marvel ever created, a personal favorite. Of course, once his romance with Wanda started, she becomes almost automatically a part of the package, with wonderful Quartet memories attached. Honorable mention goes to the Beast as a strong addition from the latter part of my Marvel period (again, with pleasant associations from his X-Men days), and I enjoyed his friendship with Wonder Man.

I'm now revisiting the Quartet issues (which I love) for Marvel University, and the point about Heck's inkers is well made. I just finished the two-parter that introduced the Swordsman (#19-20), and the difference between Dick Ayers's inks in part one and Wally Wood's in part two is like night and day. Like Doug, I think Heck was an excellent AVENGERS artist back in that era, even if I wouldn't necessarily vouch for his other work outside of Iron Man (whom he did, after all, co-create), and even there, it was very much dependent on the inker. Wood's firm line gave Heck's pencils the definition they needed, while still allowing his dynamic style to shine through.

Trevscan said...

I'm a little surprised that there isn't more love for The Scarlet Witch on here. While I totally agree that the Vision is definitely an Essential Avenger, I've always felt Vision and Wanda together were always so important to the team.
I find it sad that Vision and Hawkeye were two of the main picks as Most Essential Avenger here, and these are two of the characters Bendis killed off in his Avengers Disassembled revamp. I should have stopped reading then and there.
Yet I continue to pick the comic up, almost like a car wreck that I could not turn away from.
Basically destroying Wanda, Vision and Hawkeye was the end of the Avengers for me (though Mr. Byrne has to take some of the blame for what he did to Viz and Wanda too).
I wonder if we will ever see the Avengers treated with the respect they were in the 70's and early 80's.

Weird WWII said...

Cap will always be the most important Avenger during any time, team line-up or series. It is his passion, leadership and morals that keep the Avengers from always doing what must be done no matter the danger to themselves. Without Cap you just got a another Marvel Team-Up where second stringers bumbled their way through the duty and responsibility of being call a superhero. Stark would be a close second but he was just to real to really be that special individual who could make the hard call and take all the responsibility upon himself. After all, what makes Cap the greatest is that he is a man above all else in that he incorruptible and is the most morale of all and really the one character within the Marvel mythos to be leader over all the rest for the benefit of the little guy.

Inkstained Wretch said...

I once checked the entire first 300 issues of Avengers and found that only a handful of them did not feature Cap, Iron Man, Thor, the Wasp, or Hank Pym or Clint Barton (in their various guises). So those six are the essentials.

I would agree with the others who said Cap was the most essential. It wasn't until Avengers #4 that the comic began to resemble the series it eventually grew into. I've always seen Cap as the cornerstone around which it was built.

Avengers has always seemed more important to Cap'a mythos than his solo series, in fact.

The least essential? Well, Mantis and Starfox are definitely not favorites but the one that stuck around the longest that I never cared for was the Beast. He never seemed to add anything other than bad jokes.

Edo Bosnar said...

Don't know if anyone is still keeping track of this thread, but since the pros and cons of Heck's art were discussed here as well, I thought it would be a good place to put this link:
There's some really nice art by Heck here, as well as some equally nice early work by Buscema, Ditko and even Larry Lieber (to say nothing of the Williamson/Krenkel story).
Also, anyone interested in seeing a whole bunch of really nice Don Heck art from the 1950s can go to the Digital Comic Museum ( and check most of the titles listed under Comic Media - apparently all that stuff is public domain, so there's no worries about committing online piracy by downloading the individual books.

Doug said...

Edo --

Thanks very much for the links you provided. I've bookmarked the Digital Comics Museum site, and will peruse it. Good to know that the public domain books are available for all to see. I find it interesting, however, that while there's no Marvel or DC the properties that DC has acquired over the years are there.


Joseph said...

Gotta go with Cap, but I always picture Pym (in some incarnation) involved somehow.

Anonymous said...

The Writer is the most important Avenger,as the present incumbent proves...Oh, for the days of Roy!

humanbelly said...

Ohhhhh, this is probably just posting into the ether, but I'll chime in on a whim anyhow. . .

Regarding Doug's query about a mainstay character I could do without? The one that could truly be considered a mainstay (has appeared in a surprisingly high percentage of the books, starting clear back in the mid-60's), and yet tends to be routinely overlooked (note the absence from the pin-up in yesterday's post!), is Hercules. As a character, he just never seems to have been locked-in to "being" an Avenger. It's something he enjoys, certainly, but it never seems to be the first priority on his agenda. He's been used and written pretty well in several storylines, and yet. . . he still seems to be thought of (for me) as someone I remember after I've already made a list. . . y'know?


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