In the Marvel universe, when a super villain comes along that’s just too powerful for any one hero to tackle alone, it’s time to send in The Avengers. Since the 60s, The Avengers team has undergone numerous changes. So many, in fact, that their rotating roster has actually become a trademark of the franchise. But not all Avengers are created equal, and while some might have powers that make them vastly superior in a fight, it takes a lot more than muscles and energy blasts to get recognized on a team that’s the best of the best of the superhero world. So let’s break it down and take a look at who makes the cut for the 15 greatest Avengers of all-time.
Most commonly associated with the X-Men, Beast a.k.a. Hank McCoy has actually spent a significant amount of time as a member of the Avengers. After graduating from Xavier Institute, McCoy spent the majority of his time fighting alongside Earth’s Mightiest Heroes and hanging out with best friend and fellow Avenger, Wonder Man.
Believe it or not, Beast was initially added to the Avengers because writers enjoyed the character so much. They felt McCoy’s humor and down-to-earth nature complemented the strong personalities of Avengers like Thor and Captain America.
14. Scarlet Witch
After years of opposing the Avengers as members of the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants, Scarlet Witch a.k.a Wanda Maximoff and her brother Quicksilver joined the Avengers in an effort to help put an end to their father’s (Magento) terror.
While adding Wanda might be considered odd given the events of the Avengers Disassembled series, she’s a long-serving member of the team and was once married to fellow Avenger, Vision. Not to mention the time she revived Wonder Man, Quicksilver, and Hawkeye, among others, from the dead.
Hulk made his first appearance in The Incredible Hulk #1 back in 1962 and a year later became one of the founding members of the Avengers. In true Hulk fashion, he left the team after only a few issues, fearing that he’d never be trusted.
Hulk later rejoined the Avengers at the request of Captain America during the Avengers vs X-Men series.
Interesting enough, the only reason the Avengers even formed was that Hulk went on a rampage and a team of superheroes was needed just to stop him. When it was discovered that Loki was responsible, Hulk joined the Avengers and the rest is history.
12. Black Widow
Former Russian spy turned S.H.E.I.L.D. agent Natasha Romanova, a.k.a. Black Widow, made her first appearance in Tales of Suspense #52 in April 1964. Although her affiliation with the Avengers was off and on in the comics, the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) has pinned her as a key member of the Avengers, elevating her status among fans over the past decade.
Despite not having superpowers, Natasha is an Olympic-level athlete, an expert in martial arts and capable of handling any weapon. She was also bio technologically enhanced, making her immune to effects of aging or disease, which explains her abnormally long and fresh-faced lifespan.
In addition to his affiliation with the X-Men, Wolverine’s connection to the Avengers is well known, appearing as a central member of the team in the Civil War, Secret Invasion, Seige, and Age of Ultron comic series. He was also played a pivotal role in the Avengers vs X-Men series, making the decision to turn his back on Cyclops and the X-Men, and side with the Avengers’ plan to detain Hope Summers in order to prevent the Pheonix Force from making her it’s host.
Initially, Wolverine joining the Avengers caused quite the stir among fans, who believed the overexposure would tarnish the character. However, having read a majority of the series mentioned above, we’d say Marvel made the right call.
Tony Stark once said the only reason Wolverine agreed to join the team was that he was paid (handsomely), but deep down he knew the Avengers needed a member willing to do what none of the others were.
10. Black Panther
Black Panther made his mark as the first black superhero in mainstream American comics when he first appeared in Fantastic Four #52 in 1966. T’Challa, as he is known out of costume, is the king and protector of the technologically advanced (and fictional) African nation of Wakanda. In addition to being one of the richest people in the Marvel universe, he is a hero of incredible power, morality, and integrity — basically Batman with a crown instead of a corporation. However, when it comes to choosing between his duties as an Avenger and his responsibilities to the people of Wakanda, his loyalties are divided. This point is often made evident by his frequent disappearance and reappearance on the Avengers lineup.
For a long time there seemed to be an unspoken precedent at Marvel that Spider-Man would always remain a solo hero. Although he’s temporarily teamed up with other heroes in the past, it wasn’t until 2005, that he finally found a full-time spot with The Avengers (see Brian Michael Bendis’ The New Avengers). Once he was on the squad, Spidey’s playful nature and quick wit seemed like perfect addition to a team that’s often full of more serious-natured and less fun-loving superheroes.
8. Hank Pym
Whether you know him best as Ant-Man, Giant-Man, or Yellow-Jacket, Hank Pym has certainly undergone a number of transformations since his induction to The Avengers, both physically and mentally. But despite his habit of constantly changing costumes and dispositions, he’s an absolutely integral part of the franchise. Not only has he been with the team since its inception, he also married Wasp (a mainstay Avenger), and even created one of The Avengers most powerful and enduring villains — Ultron.
7. Ms. Marvel/Captain Marvel
First introduced as an Air Force fighter pilot, Carol Danvers received incredible powers after an explosion fused alien Kree DNA with her own. As Ms. Marvel, and later Captain Marvel, Danvers has a plethora of abilities. For starters, she has flight, superhuman strength, stamina, and durability, and, as if that weren’t enough, she can also fire explosive blasts from her fingertips, survive naked in space, and has a perfectly balanced human/Kree physiology that makes her pretty much immune to all poisons and toxins. Ya, she’s about as mighty as an Avenger can get, and that’s including the likes of Thor and The Hulk.
Possessing the power to shrink down to a tiny size and fly around with her little bug wings, it’s easy to see why Wasp probably remains the most underrated Avenger ever. But make no mistake, Janet Van Dyne is the heart and soul of the Avengers. As a founding member and long-time leader, she commanded the team through some of their most difficult times and, in doing so, earned the respect of some of the most powerful beings in the Marvel universe. In fact, writers at Marvel comics have said that if the Avengers were to rank themselves, they’d likely place Wasp at #1.
Now, you might ask yourself — how does a dude with no real superpowers end up as an essential member on the most superpowered team of superheroes around? Well, first of all, he can shoot arrows really, really well. But, most importantly, Hawkeye’s reputation as a “regular guy” helps keep The Avengers grounded in reality by reminding us that you don’t necessarily need to have access to special powers or secret technology to become a true hero.
When it comes to mighty superheroes, there’s just no beating the god of thunder. Not only can he go toe-to-toe with The Hulk in a slugfest, but, thanks largely to his magical hammer, he’s a got a laundry list of powers that make him one of the most powerful characters ever conceived in any universe — let alone Marvel’s. Aside from his obvious powers of flight, super strength, stamina and durability, Thor has ultra keen senses that let him hear cries on the other side of the world or track objects moving faster than light. He has the ability travel through time and space and can even cross between dimensions. He can control weather like wind, snow, rain and, of course, lightning –which he often uses to blast his foes to oblivion. He also has immunity to diseases and is magic resistant but, even if something does manage to hurt him, which is against all odds, he has the ability to regenerate his body, including limbs and organs! But despite his godly status and authoritative nature, Thor still has a way of making everyone around him feel accepted and worthy of his companionship.
3. Iron Man
If anyone’s essential to The Avengers, it’s Tony Stark. He’s a founding member both in the comics and on screen, and his enormous wealth funds the team. But, aside from his financial resources, Iron Man is a technical genius and heavy hitter on the battlefield. It’s his complexity as a character that’s been at the core of some of the most acclaimed stories in the franchise. Sure, he’s a billionaire playboy that seems to have (or make) everything he wants, but he’s also deeply flawed and often struggles with personal issues like alcoholism, hubris, and the need to be in control.
2. Captain America
Although technically not a founding member, Captain America has come to symbolize everything The Avengers embody. He’s the one bona fide leader that everyone rallies behind and his unwavering moral compass has led him to take more hard stands on tough issues than any other hero. Even though he doesn’t have any real powers, other than the increased strength, endurance, and reflexes given by the Super-Soldier Serum, his mere presence seems to elevate the abilities of those who fight alongside him.
1. The Vision
Designed by Ultron, The Vision was originally conceived to destroy The Avengers, but quickly changed sides and is now one of their most respected members. Like Data from Star Trek: The Next Generation, The Vision was always painfully aware that he was an artificial being, and, as such, often struggled with his human identity. Since his android brain was based on the brain of Simon Williams (aka Wonder Man), he questioned his uniqueness and often wondered if he was truly an individual, or just a copy of someone else. In addition, because he was one of Ultron’s creations, The Vision dealt with a lot of skeptics and had an uphill battle when it came to earning the trust of his teammates. But, after proving himself time and again, he eventually became the team’s anchor and even won the heart of Scarlet Witch — a relationship that remains a defining point in The Avengers history.