Join Date: Jul 2008
Recently I got to thinking about my favorite superhero team of my childhood, the Avengers, and how much fun I've had even now reading about their adventures over the years. I'm starting a series of articles beginning with this one that will look at all the things that makes the Avengers such great reading material but I'll also be looking at some of the things that didn't work as well. I'll be going over the essential characters, storylines, and lineups that really stand out. I hope this will be a good guide for someone not completely familiar with the team's history.
The Avengers have been “Earth’s Mightiest Heroes” since they were created in 1963 by comic legends Jack Kirby and Stan Lee. The team has gone through countless changes in the lineup over the last fifty years and has spawned many offshoots such as the West Coast Avengers and the Secret Avengers. As a kid I loved reading the Avengers and I still do, and over time I was able to determine what some of the things are that make these stories so great, and also what keeps some of them from really standing out like they should.
When most people think about the Avengers, the names that come to mind are the ones belonging to the Big Three: Captain America, Iron Man, and Thor. But those guys alone don’t make the Avengers great. No matter who’s writing the Avengers, one thing that always needs to be considered is that those three already have their own books where they can experience character development. A lot of the Avengers’ best writers have acknowledged this and it really shows in their writing. That of course doesn’t mean that Cap, Iron Man, and Thor shouldn’t get their fair share of good stories in “The Avengers” but it does mean that other characters who are just as interesting who don’t have their own titles can get their chance to shine too. A lot of people overlook the classic supporting cast that are what essentially provides for such incredible storytelling.
Hank Pym is one character who doesn’t get the credit he deserves. It shouldn’t be forgotten that he helped found the team. He was an Avenger even before Captain America showed up. He’s gone through several superhero personas over the years such as “Ant-Man”, “Giant-Man”, “Goliath” and “Yellowjacket” and even though he hasn’t always been around writers love to use him.
During the late 1960s and early 1970s, it wasn’t the Big Three that delivered the most interesting stories. One could easily argue that it was Dr. Pym who made the early days of the Avengers so fun to read. After coming back from a hiatus with the Wasp, many of the Avengers’ key storylines focused on Pym’s problems including his romance with the Wasp. One storyline was when he went through a period where his constant size-changing left him stuck at ten feet tall. Following that, Pym went through another dramatic change when an experiment went wrong and altered his personality. As “Yellowjacket”, he went around fighting crime on his own and even claimed to have murdered Pym. This was straightened out quickly but Pym remained Yellowjacket for quite a while.
What occurred in the early 1980s was one of the most memorable and controversial runs in the history of the Avengers. Once again it was all about Pym. His place in the Marvel Universe shifted completely when he hit his wife, the Wasp. This was a totally new direction for the comic as it was never expected to touch on domestic abuse.
When this happened, Pym was at a moment of great mental stress and his action cost him his role in the Avengers. Pym went from being a distinguished scientific mind to being labeled as mentally unstable and a failure considering that he also invented one of Marvel’s most notorious villains, Ultron. Afterwards he was framed for attacking the Avengers and thrown in prison. This storyline was extended over several issues until it reached an epic conclusion where Pym was broken out of jail against his will and was framed yet again, but this time for arranging the jailbreak. Pym’s world was turning upside down, but he turned the tables on his enemies and single-handedly defeated the Masters of Evil.
After this, the Avengers realized they were wrong about Pym and decided to forgive him for his actions during his nervous breakdown. Captain America even claimed to bear part of the blame for it, and instead of accepting the Avengers' offer to take him back, Pym took complete responsbility for what happened and left the team with honor.
All of Pym’s contributions to the history of the Avengers can’t be listed here, but it should be noted that both his greatest triumphs and his greatest mistakes have created some of the best Avengers stories ever told.