A brief history of 'The Avengers'
It was September 1963 when the first issue of "The Avengers" appeared on newsstands, created by
writer Stan Lee and artist Jack Kirby. Patterned loosely after DC's "Justice
League" comics, in which a number of different superheroes band together to face
foes they can't handle on their own, the original lineup of the Avengers
included Iron Man, Thor, the Hulk, Ant-Man and the Wasp. Their very first
adventure was a battle against Thor's brother Loki (similar to the film), with
the five heroes realizing at the end that they actually worked well together
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In issue No. 4, the team discovered Captain America frozen in ice after
having been missing for years and made him an automatic choice for the team. The
Hulk left the team and returned a few times, and at one point all the Avengers
except Captain America quit and were replaced by former villains Scarlet Witch,
Quicksilver and Hawkeye. Other later members included Black Widow, the Vision,
Black Panther and many more.
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During the 1970s, one of the major milestone events of the Marvel Universe
took place: the Kree-Skrull War. In this story arc, two alien races -- the Kree
and the Skrulls -- ended up bringing their centuries-old interstellar war to
Earth, with only the Avengers on hand to protect the planet from the ravages of
a war it had nothing to do with (many fans assumed that the alien race glimpsed
in the movie "The Avengers" are the Skrulls, but they're not. Not exactly,
anyway). The Skrulls were also capable of shapeshifting and impersonating almost
anyone, lending an extra edge of paranoia to Earth's and the Avengers' dealings
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In yet another major story arc, called "Acts of Vengeance" (1989/1990), Loki
returned with several friends in tow, such as Mandarin, Kingpin, Doctor Doom,
Magneto and Red Skull -- all A-list Marvel supervillains -- in an effort to
destroy the Avengers. But it was our own government, in the already classic
"Civil War" story (2006/2007), that nearly tore the Avengers and its allies
apart over the question of whether superheroes should willingly register with
the government, divulge their real identities and officially become its agents
instead of operating on their own. Iron Man was for the idea, while Captain
America was against it, and the rift threatened to sabotage their entire
Other iterations of the Avengers have included the New Avengers, the Mighty
Avengers, the bad-guy Dark Avengers and the comics' current lineup, a
power-packed roster that includes veterans Iron Man, Thor, Captain America and
Hawkeye, as well as Red Hulk, Quake, Protector, Spider-Woman and the Vision.
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The film version, which opens Friday (May 4) in case you've been living on a
distant island in the Pacific, combines the classic four Avengers (Iron Man,
Thor, Hulk and Cap) with later members Black Widow and Hawkeye. Will we ever see
the likes of founding members Henry and Janet Pym, also known as Ant-Man and
Wasp? Perhaps we will in "The Avengers 2," although an "Ant-Man" film has been
in development for years at Marvel.
The plan leading to "The Avengers" has been in place ever since Marvel became
its own studio, with its own funding, in 2005. The studio planned to introduce
each of the "big four" characters in their own movies, with certain plot points
and bonus scenes leading to the introduction of the next film and hero. Asked
how long the idea had been in motion, Marvel president Kevin Feige said at a
recent press conference for the film, "Well, one answer is my whole life just
'cause I've been a nerd my whole life and wanted to see this movie made for my
whole life." He continued, "When ('Iron Man') succeeded is when we realized we
actually had the opportunity to do it. And the only challenge was to try to make
all the movies live on their own, even if we weren't leading towards an
'Avengers' movie, 'cause if they're all just interconnected puzzle pieces,
that's not as fun. They needed to be movies beginning to end. So, I would say
that was the biggest challenge."
It's the unembellished truth to say that Marvel has met that challenge in
more ways than the studio could have anticipated. Each of the movies leading up
to "The Avengers" has done well -- some, like the "Iron Man" films, were blockbusters, while the "Thor" and "Captain America" entries did very well for
characters largely unfamiliar to the public -- and the buzz around "The
Avengers" itself is now so huge that it's looking more and more like some box
office records may be shattered this weekend.
In a strange way, the success of "The Avengers" as a movie -- and, by the
way, it's an awesome movie and almost everything fans could want -- mirrors the
theme of the original comic book itself, which is finding unity and strength
from sources that seem utterly different and incompatible. It's a hopeful
message that's not irrelevant in today's unsteady times. If a billionaire in a
walking weapon, a super-soldier from the past, a scientist who turns into a
giant green force of nature and an alien being that resembles a Norse god can
get along, why can't we?
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