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Sunday, December 22, 2013 

50 years of Avengers, and it's sad Marvel's ruining it

A writer for the Motley Fool website wrote about how it's now 50 years since Stan Lee and Jack Kirby first created Earth's Mightiest Heroes. First off, the writer tells something I'm not sure is so: that the Avengers were created to repair a deal with a printer:
[...] In 1963, however, The Avengers comic book was a desperate attempt by Marvel to prevent a huge financial mistake.

[...] The year 1963 was also supposed to include the first appearance of yet another popular Marvel character, Daredevil. A blind New York City attorney by day and an acrobatic crime fighter by night, Daredevil's scheduled September 1963 series launch was intended to replicate the success of Marvel's popular web-slinger, Spider-Man. Due to some extremely late artwork by artist Bill Everett, however, Marvel Comics was forced to delay Daredevil issue No. 1 until April of the next year.

It was just a seven month delay though. These things happen. No real harm, right? Wrong. A deal is a deal, as was the case with Marvel Comics and its comic book printer. Daredevil or no Daredevil, Marvel's printer was contractually owed the money regardless. Since these deals were negotiated well in advance, this not only included September's printing of Daredevil issue No. 1, but the printing of future issues as well. So Marvel had two options before it: (1) not publish anything in place of Daredevil and take the financial hit or (2) very quickly create a new comic book series before the printing deadline. Marvel wisely chose option two.

Financial mistake to billion-dollar franchise
Creators Stan Lee and Jack Kirby got to work creating a new series in a hurry. With no time to devise new characters who had complicated origin stories, it was decided to instead use Marvel's roster of existing characters in a team-up comic featuring Thor, Hulk, Iron Man, Ant-Man, and Wasp -- Captain America would join the team three issues later. Similar to Disney's 2012 The Avengers movie, Thor's brother Loki, another already established character, was used as the first villain for our very unlikely teammates. Thus Earth's Mightiest Heroes were born.
Personally, I'm skeptical this claim is true, and I'm sure Lee and Kirby would've created the series regardless of deals with their printing companies. Why, in Origins of Marvel Comics by Simon & Shuster from the mid-70s, it says that Martin Goodman wanted to duplicate the success of DC's own superteam with established heroes, Justice League of America, and thus asked Lee to think of something. If this is some attempt to concoct an article that appeals to financiers, they're not doing a very good job at it. Nor are they helping much by putting down Kirby's art:
To be honest the artwork wasn't much to look at even by 1960s standards. And the story and character interactions were rather simplistic. That was all to be expected considering how very little time Lee, Kirby, and inker Dick Ayers had to unexpectedly create an entirely new series. It was really quite amazing that they even made the deadline at all. However, the concept proved to be a screaming success. For 50 years now The Avengers has been one of the industry's most enduring comic properties; making billion dollar franchises out of a guy in a silly metal suit, a Norse god wearing a winged-helmet, a frozen soldier decades removed from his own time, and a big green rage monster.
Art wasn't much to look at? Oh, thanks a lot for doing what nearly every PC advocate must think is a big favor to the memory of people far more decent than those running the show today. "Simplistic"? Well what else were they expecting? If Lee and company wrote a story where the team fought a gang of drug dealers or jihadists, I figure the writer would be even less appreciative of their creations. All they were trying to do was offer up some enjoyable escapism, and he puts that all down in favor of finances? Sigh.

That aside, it's terrible that today's editors have made it impossible to appreciate that it's been 5 decades since several superpowered beings first teamed up to form Marvel's answer to DC's Justice League of America. The last time the Avengers were any good was in 2002, and then it all fell apart as Brian Bendis came aboard and turned it into a sick joke (and before that, Geoff Johns turned out a pretty awful tale or two). Now, the whole comics franchise is a shambles, with Scarlet Witch one of the biggest victims of meaningless character deaths. There can be no celebrating if some of the most famous members are some of the most badly mistreated.

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Every account that I've ever read of Silver Age comics said that the Avengers were created as Marvel's answer to DC's Justice League. Also, the Motley Fool post/article gives the impression (maybe unintentionally) that the team's line-up has always been Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, and the Hulk. (Admittedly, the various personnel changes were not germane to the subject, but the last paragraph makes it sound as if those four characters have been members continuously for the past fifty years.) In the Silver Age (1960's), Captain America and the Hulk were not members at the same time.

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  • I'm Avi Green
  • From Jerusalem, Israel
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