Those who think that the list of Avengers team members in the Marvel Cinematic Universe has grown too large should do themselves a favor and not check out the ranks of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes in the annals of Marvel Comics. After more than a half-century of publishing history, there have been more than a hundred official Avengers - including some names that would surprise the average person.
Created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby in 1963, the Avengers’ roster initially consisted of Iron Man, Ant-Man, the Wasp, Thor, and the Hulk - who left the team almost immediately. It wouldn’t be long before they’d pick up Captain America to lead the team, and they’ve been adding official members ever since, sometimes in rather large batches.
When He Joined: Avengers #329 (1991)
How He Was Recruited: Flint Marko (born William Baker) has always been one of those begrudging supervillains that is secretly hiding a heart of gold. He starts to show it when he turns on the rest of the Sinister Six during their attempt to hold the entire world hostage, and Spider-Man notices, which leads to a few team-ups between the two of them. Captain America likes what he sees, and so he names Sandman as a probationary member.
Why It Was Unexpected: Sandman is, after all, a supervillain. Sure, there have been plenty of individuals who went from baddie to Avenger, but Marko had an evildoing career that went back decades - and would continue on for decades after his avenging days were done. His flakiness leads to him quitting and later rejoining the Avengers after a single argument with Steve Rogers.
Notable Avengers Moments: Defending the Avengers Compound from Doombots. Fighting Morgan le Fay. Taking on the Justice League in that one crossover.
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'Teen Tony,' A Young Tony Stark Plucked From The Past
When He Joined: Avengers: Timeslide #1 (1995)
How He Was Recruited: The Avengers discover, much to their horror, that the time-traveling Kang the Conqueror has been retroactively messing with Tony Stark’s mind for years, turning Iron Man against them. In a bizarre move, Earth’s Mightiest Heroes decide that the only way to solve this is to head back to the past themselves to pluck a teenage Tony from before Kang’s machinations - so that he can travel to the future and defeat his older self. Against all odds, the gambit works, and Teen Tony hangs around for a while before being rebooted out of continuity.
Why It Was Unexpected: Tony Stark didn’t become Iron Man until he was in his thirties, so a teenage version of him is just a rich, inordinately arrogant kid. Without his years of education and technical experimentation, Stark should have very little of the skillset that made him into the Armored Avenger, which makes putting him on a superhero team pretty irresponsible.
Notable Avengers Moments: Convincing his older self to commit self-immolation. Teaming up with War Machine. Giving his own life to stop Onslaught.
When He Joined: Avengers #329 (1991)
How He Was Recruited: Elvin Haliday is one of the select few to have truly forced their way into the ranks of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. Shortly after gaining his powers, he confronts Captain America in public for the total lack of Black Avengers - and then he just shows up to help them on their very next adventure. With that, he is given official probationary status.
Why It Was Unexpected: Rage looks like an ideal Avenger, except for the secret he is hiding - he's only 13 years old. Transformed into an imposing figure by radioactive waste, he has the body of a super-athlete but the mind of a young teen, and as soon as it's discovered, he's booted off the team.
Notable Avengers Moments: Making Captain America feel shame. Traveling to the dimension of the Unspeakable One. Smashing the Sons of the Serpent.
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Gilgamesh, The Pseudo-Historical Hero Of Sumerian History
When He Joined: Avengers #300 (1989)
How He Was Recruited: The Eternal known alternately as Gilgamesh and the Forgotten One comes back to Earth at a time when the Avengers are shattered - and he just sort of falls into membership as the team is reformed. Basically, Gilgamesh helps Captain America, Thor, Mister Fantastic, and the Invisible Woman fight off a demonic incursion, and then the five of them squad up.
Why It Was Unexpected: For one, Gilgamesh is an actual pseudo-historical figure from the real world - he’s a playable character in the Civilization series, for crying out loud. And it’s not just a shared name: the Forgotten One is said to have spent time in the past ruling over Sumeria and establishing the modern era of humanity. Having him join the Avengers is kind of like having Genghis Khan or Gandhi on the roster, though it might make more sense after he stars in The Eternals.
Notable Avengers Moments: Traveling to the Negative Zone. Nearly being slain by Lava Men. Temporarily being slain by Immortus.