Fifty years ago, the first issue of The Avengers united household heroes Thor, Iron Man, The Wasp, and Ant-Man against the trickster god of Asgard, Loki. The Marvel universe has been just a bit safer – and a bit stranger – ever since. Over the course of 500 issues spanning five decades (not to mention more movies than we could wave a stick at), Earth’s Mightiest Heroes have found themselves in some rather, erm, uncomfortable scenarios.
Like with any long-published superhero team (we’re looking at you, X-Men), the Avengers' ever-changing narrative can be confusing and a tad overwhelming at times. Luckily, you don't need to be Marvel scholar to appreciate the entries on this list; we’ve compiled 15 of the most unusual, inexplicable, unfathomable events from Avengers history that have somehow managed to fly under the radar - until now!
Here are 15 WTF Moments You Probably Missed From The Avengers Comics.
15 Tony Stark, Household Appliance
The Iron Man suit represents the pinnacle in weapons technology, boasting enough firepower to wipe a small nation off the map in the blink of an eye. Some models -- like the Mark LI -- come with sweet stealth settings and can change shape at a moment’s notice. Others have…noses. While Tony’s (or Riri’s) new suits and adventures will only be limited by the imagination of his next writer, the genius-billionaire-playboy-philanthropist may never be able to live down his very 1960s restrictions.
Let’s look more closely at the picture, shall we? Ol' Shellhead is plugged into a wall outlet. Tony Stark, an incredibly rich and incredibly brilliant young man with a penchant for all things machine, is charging himself with a two-pronged plug. TWO! The guy built a magnetic field generator (to keep the shrapnel away from his ticker) and the first version Iron Man armor (to blow up the bad guys) while being held captive. In a cave. With a box of scraps. All those brains, unlimited resources, and this is what he comes up with to power his suit? C’mon, Stan!
14 Let's Do The Time Warp Again
Thor Odinson is a strong dude with a big hammer (and great hair). The Asgardian wrecking ball has displayed some incredible powers over the last five decades, and readers have been pleasantly surprised by new additions to his arsenal at every turn. We’ve seen him blast baddies with bolts of lightning, shake off attacks that would simply vaporize other heroes, and travel across the universe at the speed of light. We’ve also seen him swing that hammer pretty damn hard – but interdimensionally hard? Pfffffff.
In Avengers #7 (1964), Thor and his buddies face off with the Enchantress, Baron Zemo, and the Executioner. With the battle well in hand and the villains soundly beaten, Thor decides to debut a ridiculous new power. Does he fry them with the lightning? Nope. Does he crush them with his bare hands? Nah. Instead, he opens a hole in the universe (by swinging Mjolnir super-duper fast, obviously) and tosses his enemies inside. Because comics.
13 You Wouldn't Like Him When He Juggles
You know what they say -- you gotta start somewhere. Some might argue that the Avengers comic line was doomed to idiocy from day one; it was, after all, proposed by Stan Lee as a last-minute substitute for Daredevil #1. If not for Matt Murdock’s misfortune, the World’s Mightiest Heroes (and the entire MCU) probably wouldn’t exist. It's strange to think that this throwaway idea would blossom into a five-decade, 500-plus issue juggernaut.
But seriously, the very first issue was about as ridiculous as they come. Loki spends forever trying to get Thor’s attention by framing the Hulk. Iron Man, Ant Man, and the Wasp spend forever trying to capture the wrongly-accused Hulk. As it turns out, Hulk has a pretty sweet disguise and an even sweeter new name: Mechano, the most powerful and lifelike robot on Earth! Watch in amazement as he juggles a pachyderm, a pinniped, and a palomino!
The fact that anyone bought Avengers #2 is utterly astounding.
12 Dough Money, Dough Problems
The Marvel universe is loaded with epic enemies. Over the last 50-ish years, there have been more battles-to-end-all-battles and apocalyptic threats than we can possibly count. The Avengers have traded blows with god-like entities the size of the cosmos, armies of psychotic, sentient robots, and, more recently, each other. Sadly, there are two sides to every coin -- and every villain is certainly not created equal.
Take, for instance, this extremely threatening blob of…dough. Maybe it’s sourdough. Maybe it’s whole wheat. Either way, it’s still FRIGGIN DOUGH, GUYS. Add salt to sticky dough and wham, less sticky. A blob of unbaked bread should not be capable of incapacitating a Norse god and America’s finest super soldier, even for a second. They literally could’ve just grabbed some flour, tossed this hunk of goo over their heads, and started shaping the world’s biggest pizza. Gluten allergies concerns aside, Cap and Thor should have been able to eat their way out of this one.
11 Quitting Ain't Easy
One of the best lines from Avengers: Age of Ultron comes from Hawkeye’s little mid-battle pep talk with Scarlet Witch (Wanda Maximoff): “The city is flying, and we’re fighting an army of robots. And I have a bow and arrow. Nothing makes sense.” Bottom line is, the guy’s right. He’s a normal-sized dude with no superpowers. Barton is way out of his league; all his friends are super humans/extraterrestrials/mythological gods, and most of his enemies are, too. Worst of all, comic book Barton runs around dressed like purple Robin Hood. And people wonder why he’s quit the team like five hundred times.
Okay, okay, it isn’t 500. It's more like five. But still, why would the other Avengers even contemplate letting Barton back after the first two or three (or four) dramatic walkaways? It makes no sense, considering he’s virtually the team’s worst member. If you’d like to enjoy each and every hissyfit in order, here’s a list: 1973’s Avengers #109, Avengers #144, Avengers West Coast #45, Avengers West Coast #100, and Avengers Volume 3, #9. You’re welcome.
10 Live with Letterman
Yeah, this actually happened. In 1984, when Late Night with David Letterman was basically the show to watch and the Avengers were the heroes everyone kept talking about, the stars aligned and this unusual crossover was born. The single-issue event followed several Avengers – including Black Panther, Hawkeye, Wonder Man, Black Widow, and Beast – as they appear on Letterman’s late night show. The forces of evil refuse to let our heroes enjoy their time in the limelight, though, and a poorly-disguised, laser-shootin’ villain named Fabian Stankowicz launches an attack on live television.
While the Avengers are busy dodging lasers and other booby-traps, Stankowicz climbs into Letterman’s guest seat to boast about his nefarious inventions. Being the sensible, steadfast showrunner that he is, Letterman promptly puts an end to Stankowicz’s ridiculous ploy with an even more ridiculous doorknob to the head. If this issue doesn’t absolutely scream “WE DID IT FOR THE MONEY,” we don’t know what does.
9 Dark Times
With any comic or hero, it’s nearly impossible to predict when or how the next major tonal shift will occur. New writers introduce their story arcs, new illustrators introduce their style, and the only real constant is the fact that, in time, those too shall pass. The whole ‘villains moonlighting as heroes’ thing isn’t revolutionary, but the introduction of the Dark Avengers (2009) was something else altogether. In the wake of the Skrull Invasion, Norman Osbourne finds himself as the hero of the free world. He promptly re-tools the broken S.H.I.E.L.D. agency (appropriately renaming it H.A.M.M.E.R.) and cooks up one of the sketchiest, most diabolical schemes of all time.
Predictably, Osbourne isn’t satisfied with controlling the most powerful agency on Earth. He assembles every dastardly dude and villainous vixen he can find and disguises them as the Avengers, reigning over everyone as the new-and-improved Iron Patriot. Over the course of 16 issues, Osbourne’s Dark Avengers manage to piss off the real Avengers, the real X-Men, the entire realm of Asgardians, and the city of San Francisco. All the comic people were like, WTF, mate? And we’re still like, WTF, mate?
8 Earth’s Mightiest Second-Best Option
This isn’t so much a WTF moment as a WTF origin story. We’ve already told you how the Avengers comic line was born (Stan Lee improvising to cover a missed Daredevil deadline), but now let’s break down the canonically accepted history of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. Spoiler alert: it’s isn’t glamorous.
In the very first issue of The Avengers, Loki is locked up in Asgard and trying to mess with his way handsomer, way more successful brother, Thor. Using his magical, mystical powers, Loki tricks Hulk into destroying some train tracks, setting off alarms across the city. When Rick Jones and the Teen Brigade call upon the Fantastic Four for help, they get an…interesting response. As it turns out, Mr. Fantastic and the rest of the gang are preoccupied. They don’t have time to handle menial tasks like stopping a Hulk rampage, but they’re pretty confident that someone else heard the call and can maybe help out. Basically, the Avengers got their first real assignment because no one else wanted it.
Hey, at least Mr. Fantastic offered to swing by if no one took the gig.
7 Chivalry's Not Dead
Kurt Busiek granted the wish of every single D&D player in the history of the world when he penned The Avengers: Volume 3 in 1998. Across several fantastic issues, Busiek presents Earth’s Mightiest Heroes as medieval knights and warriors on a quest to recover the missing Twilight Sword (not important) and save mankind (also not important) from some pretty bad baddies. As you can tell, the details of the plot aren’t terribly important – it was like 20 years ago, stuff has changed, duh. What is important is the fact that virtually EVERY AVENGER FROM THE HISTORY OF FOREVER is present for this issue, and they ARE TALKING AND DRESSING LIKE KNIGHTS AND FIGHTING IN CASTLES AND IT IS SO MUCH AWESOME.
Using the Norn Stones, evil sorceress Morgan le Fay has reshaped reality around the Avengers (who have split into five teams) and thrust them into the middle of the Dark Ages. It’s like an Arthurian adventure but better, since it has Captain America and Iron Man in it. It’s unfortunate that Busiek didn’t decide to write a decade’s worth of alternate reality Avengers material just like this, because we totally would have purchased every issue.
6 Brain Teasers
Let’s start with the title. The ninth issue of Marvel Adventures: The Avengers is known as A Not-So-Beautiful Mind. Subtle, no? Here’s how the issue plays out, in a nutshell: The Avengers (PLUS Wolverine, Storm, and Spidey!) attempt to infiltrate a top-secret A.I.M. base but are captured by M.O.D.O.K. along the way. Using his ridiculously-oversized brain, M.O.D.O.K. bends the entire team to his will and throws them into a cellular restructurer, amplifying their brain power and turning them into the M.O.D.Avengers!
In other words, M.O.D.O.K. turns the Avengers (and their special guest heroes) into a flock of gigantic bobble heads, complete with super-sweet hover chairs and laser beam headbands. The new-and-improved M.O.D.Avengers waste no time in wiping out several enemy threats (like Atuma and Abomination), but soon devolve into big-brained, bloodthirsty conquistadors with dreams of intergalactic domination. There’s some name calling, some brain-measuring, and a few supreme head butts, but the whole thing is weird, man. Just weird.
5 Captain America: The First Role Model
“This is your brain. This is drugs. This is your brain on drugs.” Remember those PSA’s? One of them must have struck a cord with Mark Gruenwald, the man behind Captain America's epic Streets of Poison arc, because in the issue, he went to great lengths to show us just how cluckin’ dangerous illicit substances can be. In issue #373 (or maybe #374, the drugs are getting to us and we can’t remember), good ol’ Steve Rogers is exposed to a super-special new drug called Ice. This drug binds with Cap’s Super Serum, transforming him into a violent, borderline-schizophrenic bully who just wants to beat up EVERYBODY.
Now, a drug-induced rampage wouldn’t generally qualify for a spot this list, but Cap’s behavior after ingesting Ice is just downright bizarre. Funny, but bizarre. In one instance, he (rather rudely) interrupts Kingpin’s meal, knocks out a minion, and starts chowing down on the guy’s dinner. Later, he decides the best way to start a fight is to…act like a giant, star-spangled chicken. Tell ya what, if Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan) doesn't pick up the shield for Marvel's next phase, this has Nic Cage written allll over it.
Here, chicky chicky chicky…
4 Anger (Mis)Management
The Hulk gets stronger as he gets angrier. There is virtually no cap on how powerful he can become. Comic fans agree that this indestructible green monster-man is one of the most dominant forces in the Marvel universe, making his little bout of stage fright in Avengers #3 (1964) all the more confusing. It literally goes against everything we know to be true; the sky is blue, the sun is the center of the universe, Tobey Maguire's first two Spider-Man movies were great, and the Hulk gets strong when the Hulk gets angry. These are (seemingly) indisputable facts.
Just read the panels above. Here we have an angry Hulk, becoming even more angry, and gearing up for a big brawl with the other Avengers. But in a weird, ED-type moment, Hulk can’t….erm…Hulk out. He starts shrinking (we're laughing too, don't worry) and reverts back to his human form. Worst of all, he blames his inability to perform on the excitement and the stress. Might as well say, “This NEVER happens, I swear!”
3 Let The Bodies Hit The Floor
The best part about reading comics are the heroes, right? Beating up bad guys, foiling evil plots, basically saving the world, day in and day out. The stories are great, the action is always a blast, and the forces of good always prevail. Well, almost always. Call it four outta five times. Even so, most comic fans definitely don’t expect to see every single one of their favorite heroes casually slaughtered one after the other. Which makes this particular event so damn peculiar – and haunting.
In the epic finale of the Korvac Saga (Avengers #177), the Avengers and the Guardians of the Galaxy team up to put an end to the incredibly powerful cyborg/cosmic being, Michael Korvac, who wants to conquer Earth and reshape it in his image. The only issue with their plan is that Korvac is way, way more powerful than they are. Here are the results of the fight:
Vance Astro? Dead. Nikki Gold? Dead. Quicksilver? Dead. Charlie-27? Dead. Hercules? Dead. Yellowjacket? Dead. Hawkeye and Yondu? Dead at the same time. Ms. Marvel? Dead. Martinex T’Naga? Dead. Captain Marvel? Dead. Black Panther? Dead. Scarlet Witch? Dead. Black Widow? Dead. The Wasp? Dead. Jocasta? Robot, and dead. Captain America? Stunned first, then dead. Wonder Man? Dead. Starhawk? Dead. Iron Man? Dead. Vision? Dead. Thor? Wounded, relieved of Mjolnir. Moondragon? Nah, she’s fine.
And we mean dead, dead. Not unconscious-dead, or frozen-dead, or trapped-in-a-different-dimension dead. We mean DEAD. Luckily for fans everywhere, Korvac revives his victims just before taking his own life, allowing us to have hundreds and hundreds more comics.
2 Sister, Sister
If we’re being honest, the relationship between Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver (twin siblings Wanda and Pietro Maximoff) has been a bit uncomfortable since their introduction in 1963. Maybe it was Wanda’s outfit. Maybe it was Pietro’s red-hot anger when he constantly defended his beloved sister. Whatever it was back then, it’s a helluva lot worse now. Mark Miller hinted at an even stronger sibling bond in Ultimate X-Men, and by the time the twins transitioned into The Ultimates (the image above is from cover of issue eight), rumors were flying. Uncomfortable rumors. Creepy, backwood-y, rumors.
Thanks to Jeph Loeb and Joe Madureira, those rumors are no longer rumors. In Ultimates 3 #3, Wolverine reveals the twins' backstory in more detail. When we say “in more detail,” we mean, "Wolverine tells the rest of the team that Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch totally consummated their incestuous relationship in the middle of the woods. While he watched. From inside some shrubbery.” Oh, and don’t forget this little tidbit: in the Ultimate universe, Wolverine slept with Magda (Magneto’s lover). Meaning he might actually be the twins’ father. Yeesh.
1 My Mother's Keeper
Boy, if you thought the whole Scarlet Witch/Quicksilver twincest thing was messed up, wait ‘til you get a load of this one. In The Avengers #200 – a monumental occasion for the team – Ms. Marvel (Carol Danvers) finds herself in the final stages of pregnancy. A few points of concern: 1) Ms. Marvel has no idea how she became pregnant, and 2) she has only been pregnant for three days. She delivers the baby effortlessly (we mean this literally) and immediately claims that the baby isn’t hers, that she’s “been used.” Not good signs, right? Well, things get weirder still as the baby ages rapidly, becomes a fully grown man in a matter of days and instantly falls in love with his mother.
The manbaby introduces himself as Marcus. Marcus has an interesting story to tell, and tell it he does. See, Marcus is actually the offspring of long-time Avengers enemy Immortus, who hopped realities/dimensions and kidnapped an Earth woman so he could create a descendant to carry on his legacy. Using his creepy mind control, Immortus impregnates said Earth woman, wipes her memory, and gets Marcus as his prize. Not weird enough? There’s more. So much more.
Marcus, now stuck with his pops in their alternate reality (Limbo), decides that he wants to walk among the humans on Earth. His plan? Follow in Dad’s footsteps: kidnap an Earth woman, imbue her with his “essence”, wipe her memory, send this woman back to Earth, get born as a human baby. He picks Ms. Marvel because – EW ALERT – she looks just like his mom, the woman Immortus originally kidnapped. When Danvers rejects Marcus’ advances, he fires up his father’s old mind control device and manipulates her into sleeping with him. Against her will. Literally defining the word rape.
Are you following this? There’s no way we can fit all the particularly weird, extremely inappropriate, TREMENDOUSLY UNCOMFORTABLE details in this final entry, because the story gets even worse. But we’ll leave you with this: The Avengers' 200th issue, an issue that should have been a celebration of the brand itself, was a tale about interdimensional space rape. It is widely considered one of the most offensive, insensitive comic books of all time, and with good cause. Read it if you must, or check out this essay instead, where Carol A. Strickland absolutely eviscerates the whole thing.
What other obscure Avengers comics left you shaking your head in disbelief? Let us know in the comments.