The Avengers, the prestige flagship team of the Marvel Universe, doesn’t appear to be all that difficult to get into. Since being founded by Iron Man, Hulk, Thor, Ant-Man, and Wasp in the early ‘60s, the team and its numerous sub-teams and incarnations have seen over 100 different heroes at different times. And that’s not even counting the 94 different aliases adopted by Hank Pym and Clint Barton.
With so many characters over so many decades it would be difficult to remember them all. Some of them didn’t last that long, some seldom showed up in the books even while they were active, some characters have been so low-profile that you might not even know who they are, and some might have come during especially bad runs in the book that we’ve all purged from our memories collectively.
In the entries below, we aim to jog your memory a bit or inform you of some Avenger personnel decisions from before or after your time. We are focusing only on the main Marvel continuity (Earth-616), so we won’t be throwing curveballs at you like Captain Assyria of Earth-9105 (a real character). Here are 16 Superheroes You Forgot Were Part Of The Avengers.
Marvel’s resident furry blue genius was cooked up by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby as a member of the fledgling X-Men. For the better part of his 60+ years in comics, Hank McCoy has been on one X-team or another. Beast’s first stint with the Avengers comes after he leaves the X-Men to work as a researcher at the Brand Corporation (a subsidiary of the generally evil Roxxon Energy Corporation for those keeping score at home). While at Brand, McCoy transforms from ‘husky’ 20-something (with big hands and feet) to a furry monster (first grey and then shortly thereafter the blue you know and love).
Not long after his transformation, Beast joins the Avengers and provides spot duty with the X-Men when needed. He is an active member of the team for a number of years in the ‘70s and early ‘80s before leaving for the Defenders. More recently, he was the scientist/brain of the Secret Avengers team put together by Steve Rogers.
Namor McKenzie, the Avenging Son, is technically the first Marvel super hero (he dates back to Timely Comics and 1939). He has done a little of everything in the Marvel universe, including most recently, dying. He has most often split his time between being a hero and being something of an outsider. With his superhuman strength and speed and his ability to breathe underwater and fly (thanks to those cute little wings on his ankles), he is a force to be reckoned with.
At times the ruler of Atlantis has been the biggest threat to the Avengers and to the whole land-dwelling population of Earth, having even aligned himself with Doctor Doom for a time. Namor has also been one of the Earth’s greatest champions -- fighting alongside Captain America and the original Human Torch against the Nazis as part of the Invaders, and having helped save the universe time and again as a member of the secretive Illuminati.
In the mid-’80s Namor had been ousted from the throne of Atlantis and was a lost soul. He split his time between wandering the Atlantic Ocean and living with Stingray and his wife on Hydrobase. After Hercules picked a fight with the despondent Namor just to re-ignite some passion in the Sub-Mariner, he was offered a spot on the Avengers by Captain America himself (during a nice night walk on the beach during a clambake. Seriously.)
14 Doctor Druid
Doctor Anthony Druid unfairly gets remembered as having been the worst Avenger of all-time when anyone bothers to remember him at all. Druid was a psychiatrist trained in use of his modest mental abilities by a lama. It is important to note, if this all sounds familiar, that this all happened before Marvel started cranking out superhero books -- pre-dating the Fantastic Four. Back then, though, he was named Doctor Droom.
After Marvel decided to rip off their own character by introducing Doctor Strange, Droom’s name was changed to Druid (do not get confused with Doctor Doom) and his origin was retconned to make the lama the Ancient One and make Druid’s training that of a back-up for Strange. He joins the Avengers on Wasp’s recommendation right before she steps down as the chairwoman of the Avengers. Druid had most recently helped out a rehabbing Black Knight when they are attacked by a rogue Atlantean named Tyrak the Treacherous. In addition to his mental abilities (he makes it clear that he’s dabbled in the occult but doesn’t have the taste for it), he is an accomplished fighter. He also can lay claim to the best body of any bald psychiatrist ever.
Fairly quickly Druid begins to lead the Avengers, but winds up endangering the team while under mind control. He then leaves the Avengers to lead the Secret Defenders (only to get controlled again). Druid was killed by Daimon Hellstrom, the Son of Satan, in a miniseries by Warren Ellis.
13 Gilgamesh, The Forgotten One
If you haven’t been following the Avengers since the very beginning and studied every iteration of the roster, there are certain lineups that can really seem completely oddball. Of course, if the title lands in the window you were reading the book, especially if it was near the beginning of your time reading it, it might seem perfectly normal to you. One of those oddball lineups came about in 1989 with issue 300. We won’t spoil all the surprises here, but let’s say that this was a team lead by Steve Rogers when he went by “The Captain” and wore an outfit very similar to that of the U.S.Agent (think a black and red Captain America outfit with an ominous black star on red-and-white stripes on his chest).
Another really strange inclusion to this Avengers version was that of Gilgamesh, The Forgotten One. That’s okay… we didn’t really know about him either. The Forgotten One is a member of the race called The Eternals (like Thanos). He is super strong and resilient, can fly, and can shoot beams out of his eyes and hands. He also dresses in a bull costume, which is pretty nifty. His story is that, being an Eternal, he has roamed the Earth for centuries fighting monsters -- often under the guise of another mythological character (including Gilgamesh). He joined the team after helping to fight off, no joke, a mutant cyborg egg that speaks in nursery rhymes named Nanny. Comics are bonkers.
This isn’t “Do a barrel roll!” Star Fox. Sorry to get your hopes up. Although with this many characters having been Avengers, don’t count out the possibility that he’ll join eventually. This Starfox is also an Eternal (like The Forgotten One above), but from an offshoot group that lives on Titan (a moon of Saturn’s). Starfox also happens to be the brother of cosmic villain (and soon-to-be big baddie of the MCU) Thanos. Unlike Thanos, Starfox is a good guy (mostly). Like other Eternals, he ages extra slowly, has superhuman strength, superhuman healing, and flight. Unlike other Eternals, he has the power to stimulate the pleasure center of the brain. While he can use this to make people feel good or even stupefied, he has also used this to seduce women who would otherwise be unwilling. This makes him the creepiest of all the Avengers (and you’d be surprised how many creepy Avengers there are out there).
Starfox, a hedonist by nature, decided to join the Avengers while out exploring Earth on a recommendation from ISAAC, the supercomputer that helped run Titan. A provisional member for a time, he was made a full member by Vision. He soon left full-time Avenger-dom to hunt down Nebula (presumed to be Thanos’ granddaughter).
11 Living Lightning
Miguel Santos became Living Lightning (an appropriate name, as he is just a bolt of energy without his containment suit) after accidentally activating machines in the headquarters of the Legion of the Living Lightning. The Legion was a political extremist group who counted Miguel’s father as a member.
He became a villain for a brief time, working with the Pacific Overlords (founded by Doctor Demonicus, a character created as a Godzilla villain). After duking it out with the West Coast Avengers as part of the Overlords, he winds up joining the West Coast heroes. Santos eventually gives up full-time adventuring in order to attend college. Later, after the events of ‘Civil War’, he joins the Fifty-State Initiative as part of the Texas team, The Rangers (not to be confused with the baseball team or the law enforcement agency of the same name).
As an interesting footnote, Dan Slott outed Miguel Santos by having him very briefly accept membership to the Great Lakes Avengers -- only to fly away after he confesses that he’d thought GLA stood for the ‘Gay/Lesbian Alliance’.
At this point it’s easier to try to name the teams Angelica Jones, a.k.a. Firestar, hasn’t been on than to try to list the ones she has joined. Originally created for the Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends cartoon, Firestar joined the Marvel Comics universe in 1985. Most famously, she is remembered as a member of the New Warriors. And most recently, she took a position at the Jean Grey School, and became an X-Man.
Firestar is a mutant capable of flight and using electromagnetic and microwave radiation to create heat. She left the New Warriors (with her then-fiancee Justice) and became Avengers. The funny thing about it all is that Firestar really didn’t want to join, but Justice had always dreamt of being an Avenger. After the two of them downed the supervillain Whirlwind on their own while the core Avengers were attending to human resources matters, they earned spots as reserve Avengers. As time went on, they were moved to active duty. Firestar, like Living Lightning before her, wound up taking a leave of absence from the Avengers in order to go to college and like a more normal life.
9 Two-Gun Kid
While there’ve been a number of gods, Eternals, mutants, Inhumans, androids, and aliens among the ranks of the Avengers, there has only ever been one time-displaced cowboy. The distinction of being the only gunslinger from the Wild West to be an Avenger belongs to Matt Hawk, the Two-Gun Kid. As with Hawkeye and the Swordsman, Matt Hawk had no special powers -- he was just handy with an iron (a gun) and could hold his own in a fight.
The original Two-Gun Kid, Clay Harder, actually predates Marvel and goes back to the ‘40s. Matt Hawk was introduced in the ‘60s and didn’t become an Avenger until 1978. Hawk joined the Avengers after helping to spoil Kang the Conqueror’s plan to take over the world in the past. Having developed a close friendship with Hawkeye, both the Kid and Hawkeye became reserve members of the Avengers in order to travel together.
Matt Hawk’s story gets pretty messy after his time with the Avengers. Different writers had since decided to send him back to the past, give him a different last name (Liebowicz), kill him, bring him back, and bring him back to the present day. During the aftermath of ‘Civil War’, he became the leader of Arizona’s team in the 50-State Initiative: the Desert Stars.
8 Demolition Man
While we’d pay good money to see the Sylvester Stallone character from the movie Demolition Man as an Avenger, this isn’t what the entry is about. The Demolition Man in question is Dennis Dunphy; a character whose superhero costume looks like a cross between Wolverine and the original yellow Daredevil outfit. Dunphy is basically just a superhero version of a ‘roid-head. He made a deal with the Power Broker in order to enhance his strength so that he might be a professional athlete. His super strength, though, was too strong and he wound up wrestling in the superhuman circuit with the Unlimited Class Wrestling Federation (which has also boasted The Thing, Armadillo, and Justice as members at various times).
Dunphy joined the Avengers at a time when the previous incarnation had just disbanded, and The Captain (Steve Rogers at a time when he wasn’t Captain America) was looking for recruits. Assumed to be dead after being in an exploding plane, he was later found living among the Inuit (after being frozen in ice, Cap-style). But the damage was already done, and he’d suffered from mental illness as a result. He started living underground; working as the hero of a community of homeless people. He stopped bathing, and started stealing jewelry (because he believed he was being told to recover the Infinity Gems). Most recently, without any real explanation, he’s become a supporting character for Sam Wilson’s Captain America.
You might recognize Stingray from his recent stint in the Deadpool & The Mercs For Money book. But before he worked for Deadpool, he was an Avenger. Doctor Walter Newell is a gifted oceanographer and inventor who designed (and proceeded to fight crime in) a skintight exoskeleton suit. The suit allows him to breathe underwater, swim fast, and shoot electricity. It also gives him superhuman strength and is highly protective.
Obviously no supervillain is quaking in their boots over an oceanographer, and his inclusion in the Deadpool book is an indication that he’s become something of a joke character. He became a member of the Avengers after letting out part of his marine headquarters, Hydro-Base, to the Avengers. Before becoming an Avenger, he was a frequent collaborator and close friend of Namor’s. During ‘Civil War’ he sides with Captain America’s fighting force, but joins the Initiative afterward. Prior to working for Deadpool, Stingray was recruited by Doctor Doom as part of his Avengers team.
6 Captain Britain
Brian Braddock, the Captain Britain most of us know, was an Avenger (a Secret Avenger, but still). It’s not Brian that we’re talking about, though. For a brief period in the mid-2000s the mantle of Captain Britain was held by a recently resurrected woman named Kelsey Leigh. Leigh was given the option of choosing the Sword of Might or the Amulet of Right upon her resurrection. On taking the sword, she was made the new Captain Britain.
Captain Kelsey fought alongside the Avengers to defeat Morgan le Fay (which a surprising number of soon-to-be Avengers have also done), and was granted membership thereafter. Kelsey was hospitalized by a rampaging She-Hulk and left the Avengers to heal up. After moving back to England, Kelsey adopts the adventuring name of Lionheart, and after a misguided attempt to harm Brian Braddock (it’s a long story) she joins Excalibur...as every good British hero should.
Silverclaw is a testament to how difficult it can be to create a superhero that can actually stand the test of time. While Kurt Busiek is a brilliant writer and has created a great many incredible heroes and villains for his signature book, Astro City. Unfortunately for Marvel readers and the Avengers, his Silverclaw is not among his best creations.
Maria De Guadalupe Santiago is a South American orphan who is being sponsored, coincidentally enough, by the Avengers’ butler, Edwin Jarvis (seriously, even for comic book standards, what are the odds that the one orphan to be sponsored by Jarvis is a superhuman?!). Lupe’s powers are that she can transform into a sort of lycanthropic version of several South American animals (such as the jaguar, crocodile, and giant sloth). When turning into an animal monster, her skin surns silver in color.
She joined the Avengers on moving to the States to study at Empire State University (where 99% of superhumans go to college). She has been MIA in comics since being rejected by The Initiative.
Valkyrie is an Asgardian by the name of Brunnhilde. She is the leader of the Valkyrior who, according to both the comics and Norse mythology, are warrior women who escort the worthy fallen of battle to Valhalla. In the comics, Valkyrie is a longtime Defender, and often resides inside a host body of a mortal Earth woman. On one occasion, she shared the body of the archaeologist Annabelle Riggs (who was killed while adventuring with the Defenders and brought back to life by the sorceress Clea). It appears, though, that that part of Brunnhilde’s backstory has been abandoned.
There is no explanation given for Valkyrie’s having joined the Secret Avengers; she just appears as part of the roster in the first issue (initially going undercover as a call girl). During the ‘Fear Itself’ event, Valkyrie leaves the Secret Avengers in order to nobly rid the Earth of the hammers of the Asgardian Serpent. In the ‘Axis’ event, she is recruited by Doctor Doom as part of an Avengers squad formed of heroes who’d not been inverted to evil by the powers of the Red Skull.
Darkhawk is a quintessential product of the ‘90s. From the name and his angsty teen alter ego to his dark, metallic, masked, and clawed armor, Darkhawk just oozes the decade from every pore of his fictional body. Teenager Chris Powell stumbled onto an alien amulet that grants him his armor, superhuman strength and speed, flight, healing, and a host of of other abilities. While he is probably better remembered as a part of the New Warriors (who were heavily marketed and constantly being filled with newer, younger hero creations from the big brains at Marvel), he was in fact an Avenger kinda sorta for a little while. A frequent collaborator with the West Coast Avengers, he is eventually given reserve member status for a short period of time (before the team dissolved).
Darkhawk is later one of the kidnapped young heroes taken by the villainous Arcade to Murderworld in Avengers Arena. It is there that he is forced to fight, Battle Royale-style, against the other heroes for the amusement of the murderous maniac. While that is not technically an Avengers membership on its own, it was a book with the Avengers moniker in it that was populated by several characters at least tangentially related to the Avengers teams.
Yes, Venom was an Avenger. No, it was not the Eddie Brock Venom that both terrorized and teamed up with Spider-Man. We are talking about Agent Venom: the controlled release of the alien Venom symbiote and grafting to former military man Flash Thompson. Under Captain America’s guidance (Steve Rogers assumed the Captain America identity once more by this point in the Secret Avengers book, and leadership of the covert ops team had been handed to Hawkeye), Thompson would bond with the symbiote for periods of less than 24 hours, allowing him to utilize the benefits of the symbiote without allowing its consciousness to affect Thompson’s judgment.
Thompson remained a part of the Secret Avengers until the Avengers decided to send him to the Guardians of the Galaxy as a sort of ambassador member. Thompson then went on to star in his own interesting solo series where he found himself adventuring in space. Since then, the Venom symbiote has left Thompson and bonded to Black Cat henchman Lee Price in a new ongoing series.
1 All Of The Fantastic Four
At different junctures, every original member of Marvel’s First Family has been a member of the Avengers. The latest to join the team is Johnny Storm, the Human Torch, who serves on the current Avengers Unity Squad (in Uncanny Avengers). The Thing, Benjamin J. Grimm, was poised to be a West Coast Avenger, but never made it to the official vote. He was, however, recruited by Luke Cage to be part of the ‘New’ Avengers that had initially opposed the Superhuman Registration Act. Grimm is now currently a member of the Guardians of the Galaxy.
Mr. Fantastic and Invisible Woman (Reed Richards and Susan Storm-Richards) had both retired from the Fantastic Four in the late ‘80s. They joined the Avengers following the fight alongside Captain America and the Forgotten One against Nanny and her partner the Orphan-Maker. They left the team to rejoin the Fantastic Four because Reed Richards began to chafe under taking orders from Captain America.
There are a ton of former Avengers out there -- who are your favorite forgotten ones? Let us know!