Avengers anniversary: 50 moments that shaped Marvel’s mightiest

Oct. 05, 2013 | 10:00 a.m.

The Avengers are celebrating their 50th anniversary. Click through the gallery for a look at 50 memorable moments in the Marvel heroes' history. (Gallery by Jevon Phillips and Thomas Suh Lauder. Images above by Fox; Marvel; 20th Century Fox)

"The Coming of the Avengers!" (September 1963): Publication of Avengers #1, cover-dated September 1963, featuring the original lineup of Thor, Iron Man (Tony Stark), Ant-Man, Wasp and Hulk. Co-created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby (with inks by Dick Ayers), the characters -- all previously introduced in other Marvel titles -- team up to battle Thor's nemesis and half-brother Loki after receiving a tip from Rick Jones, Hulk's friend. After imprisoning Loki, Ant-Man (Hank Pym) suggests that the team stay together while Wasp (Janet Van Dyne) christens the group "Avengers." (Marvel Comics)

Introduction of Avengers mansion (November 1963): The Avengers mansion, originally owned by the family of Tony Stark (Iron Man), is introduced in Avengers #2 when the team meets in the library before facing the threat of the alien Space Phantom. Fictitiously located at 890 Fifth Ave. in New York City, the mansion would serve as the headquarters for the Avengers until its destruction during the "Avengers: Under Siege" storyline in the mid-1980s. (Marvel Comics)

Captain America returns (March 1964): Avengers #4 reintroduces the classic Timely Comics character Captain America (Steve Rogers), a World War II-era hero who last appeared in published form in 1954 as part of an unsuccessful superhero revival. In this incarnation, Captain America had been suspended in a block of ice since the war until the Avengers discover his body floating in the Atlantic Ocean. After the team helps free an alien's spacecraft, Captain America joins the Avengers lineup of Thor, Iron Man, Wasp and Ant-Man. (Marvel Comics)

Introduction of Wonder Man (October 1964): First appearance of Wonder Man (Simon Williams) in Avengers #9. Originally empowered by the Masters of Evil in order to destroy the Avengers, Wonder Man eventually allies himself with the heroes before dying at the end of the issue. Wonder Man would eventually return in the 1970s. (Marvel Comics)

First revamp of the roster (May 1965): In "The Old Order Changeth!" (Avengers #16), Stan Lee revamps the lineup of the team because of fan feedback. Founding members Thor, Iron Man, Giant Man (formerly Ant-Man) and the Wasp leave the team. Sub-Mariner (Namor) is asked to join but declines. Hawkeye (Clint Barton) and mutant siblings Quicksilver (Pietro Maximoff) and the Scarlet Witch (Wanda Maximoff) join Captain America in forming the new Avengers lineup. A revolving-door roster becomes a constant theme in the Avengers. (Marvel Comics)

Introduction of the original Swordsman (August 1965): Hawkeye's former mentor, the Swordsman (Jacques Duquesne), attempts to join the team in Avengers #19 until it's revealed that he is a wanted criminal. The Swordsman captures Captain America until the rest of the Avengers arrive and Cap escapes. In the next issue, the Mandarin uses high-tech subterfuge to help the Swordsman persuade the Avengers, who suspect a trap, into letting him join. He doesn't go through with the plot, though. Swordsman would later rejoin the team in the 1970s. (Marvel Comics)

The Avengers, in prose (1967): Otto Binder, who had written "Captain Marvel" (Shazam) comics, took a swing at penning an Avengers novel with "The Avengers Battle the Earth-Wrecker." The paperback by Bantam Books came even as Spider-Man and the Fantastic Four were the real stars at Marvel, but the book itself seems to have garnered some good reviews despite its lack of popularity or ability to spawn sequels. (Bantam Books)

The Black Knight is reborn (January 1968): In Avengers #48, the Avengers mistakenly attack the new Black Knight, nephew of the supervillain Black Knight they had previously battled. (Both Black Knights are descendants of a medieval character from Atlas Comics, successor to Timely Comics and predecessor to Marvel, in the 1950s). After appearances assisting the team, the Black Knight eventually joins in Avengers #71. (Marvel Comics)

Ultron, Vision introduced (July 1968): Ultron (in this version, Ultron-5, "the living automaton") makes a brief appearance in Avengers #54 disguised as the Crimson Cowl, who leads the Masters of Evil in the capture of the Avengers. In Avengers #55, the Crimson Cowl reveals itself to be Ultron, a villainous sentient robot created by Hank Pym. Ultron later constructs another artificial being to attack the Avengers, the Vision, who debuts in Avengers #57. The Vision has a human conscience and turns against Ultron, joining the Avengers in the following issue. (Marvel)

Goliath becomes Yellowjacket (December 1968): A new hero named Yellowjacket debuts and attempts to join the Avengers. After claiming to have killed Goliath, Yellowjacket holds off the Avengers long enough to capture the Wasp and escape. Yellowjacket later reveals that he is in fact Goliath (formerly Giant Man, formerly Ant-Man) and that temporary mental instability led him to become Yellowjacket. (Marvel)

First appearance of the alloy Adamantium (July 1969): A sample of the indestructible metal, inadvertently created by scientist Dr. Myron MacLain (Henry Pym in disguise), is stolen from S.H.I.E.L.D. by the Vision. Due to hidden code in his programming, the Vision has stolen the metal to rebuild Ultron (Ultron-6 in this incarnation). Adamantium would become more famous in the Marvel Universe as the metal coating Wolverine's skeleton. (Marvel)

Harlan Ellison pens an Avengers tale (May 1971): Avengers #88 featured a two-part story from Harlan Ellison, adapted by Roy Thomas. An incapacitated Hulk is transported to an island by Psyklop, a member of an insect-like race that dominated Earth in prehistoric times. The story continues in Hulk #140. The noted science-fiction author, screenwriter and television writer ("Star Trek", "The Outer Limits") also wrote the story for Avengers #101. (Marvel)

Kree-Skrull War (1971): Earth is to be used as a way station for the alien Kree in their war with the Skrulls but the battle is taken back into space, with the newly disbanded Avengers following to rescue their captured comrades. They get their teammates, help stop the war and find that much of the confusion that compelled them to disband was caused by a shape-shifting Skrull back on Earth. It lasts from issue #89 through #97. (Marvel)

Avengers #100 (June 1972): The 100th issue of Avengers reunites every character who had ever joined the team to that point. Concluding a three-issue storyline, the Avengers help Hercules defeat Ares, the Greek god of war, and save Earth from Olympian invaders. The issue was drawn by British artist Barry Windsor-Smith (then known as Barry Smith), who was ending an incredibly successful run illustrating Marvel's adaptation of Conan the Barbarian. (Marvel Comics)

The Avengers/Defenders War (1973): The two teams had a dust-up due to mischief by the God of Mischief, Loki, but that's not why this was an important saga. "Avengers" Nos. 115-118 and "Defenders" Nos. 8-11 presented us with Marvel's first multi-book crossover event, by Steve Englehart, Bob Brown, Sal Buscema and others. Now, it's the norm. (Marvel Comics)

Beast joins the Avengers (1975): In Avengers #137, Dr. Henry McCoy, a.k.a. the Beast, is the first X-Man to join the Avengers. He was not the first mutant, but as an original member of Xavier's squad joining the roster, he paved the way for Storm and currently Wolverine to be two-team stars. (Marvel)

Weddings of Mantis/Swordsman and Vision/Scarlet Witch (1975): The double-wedding of the decade, Giant Sized Avengers #4 ended the Celestial Madonna saga, with Mantis being chosen over Moondragon as the mate of an alien Cotati energy being who took the shape of dead fellow Avenger Swordsman. Meanwhile, Vision fought to save Scarlet Witch from a hell dimension and succeeded, then asked to marry her. She accepted the android's proposal and they lived happily ... for a while. (Marvel Comics)

Korvac kills the Avengers (1978): In Avengers No. 177, Michael Korvac, a near-omnipotent being, killed the heroes that came to stop him -- all in the name of love and power. The woman he loved was appalled at his actions, so he restored the Avengers team but then killed himself. (Marvel)

Magneto's the daddy?! (1979): It’s revealed that Magneto is the father of Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver in Avengers No. 186. The mutant brother and sister Avengers had a convoluted back story, including demons as parents, precognitive predictions and more. But this cleared it right up.

Introduction of Rogue (1981): Avengers Annual No. 10 didn't make a big deal about it on the cover, but it introduced one of the X-Men's best -- as a villain. Disillusioned and angry, the teenage Rogue fell under the influence of the villain Mystique and, after taking the powers of Ms. Marvel and going a bit crazy, was goaded into attacking the Avengers, effectively defeating them. (Marvel)

"Contest of Champions" (1982): Marvel's first limited series, "Contest of Champions" featured a cosmic game of chance for the life of one of the Elders of the Galaxy. Two Avengers, Captain America and Iron Man, were chosen on separate teams to grab different pieces of a supposedly mystical object. It all turned out to be a battle against Death. (Marvel Comics)

"The Death of Captain Marvel" (1982) One of the few galactic, and alien, heroes on Earth, Captain Marvel (Mar-Vell) fought for the planet, but was not felled by a physical foe or in a battle of worldwide significance. A type of cancer took his life long after a battle with the villain Nitro (1968, pictured) gave him the disease, and it affected the Avengers greatly as he slowly succumbed to the disease in a bedridden state. (Marvel Comics)

West Coast Avengers (1984): Vision, as Avengers chairman, commisioned a West Coast branch of the Avengers, with Hawkeye as its leader. A fluctuating membership, infighting, deaths on the team and finances caused the group to shut down after numerous battles. (Marvel Comics)

"Secret Wars" (1984): In one of the first large-scale crossover events in Marvel history, the Avengers and many of their allies and major villains were thrust into conflict by an omnipotent being. The event affected the team's roster, and highlighted a rift between Marvel's other premiere super team, the X-Men, though they all worked together to triumph over the Beyonder. (Marvel)

"Solo Avengers" No. 1 (1987 - then became "Avengers Spotlight"): Seeking to capitalize on heroes who may not have had their own individual titles, the book was created to showcase adventures away from the team and initially used Hawkeye as a main star. (Marvel Comics)

"West Coast Avengers" No. 46 introduces the Great Lakes Avengers (1989): The Midwest team brought together by Mister Immortal rarely lived up to its Avengers name, eventually changing it to the Great Lakes X-Men, Lightning Rods and Great Lakes Champions. The team consisted of lesser-known heroes: Big Bertha, Doorman, Flatman, Squirrel Girl and her squirrel partner Tippy Toe (later Monkey Joe), Dinah Soar, Grasshopper, Hawkeye, Leather Boy and Mockingbird. (Marvel)

Vision disassembled (1989): "West Coast Avengers" No. 42 led to an emotionless Vision after he’s kidnapped and disassembled. Hank Pym puts him back together, but his emotions are gone, causing severe problems with his wife the Scarlet Witch and other members of the group. (Marvel)

"Infinity Gauntlet" No. 1 (1991): Thanos gains the powerful Infinity Gems, and wins the war against good, killing everyone. They're ressurected by Thanos' subconscious, and the Avengers, of course, play a major part in it all. (Marvel)

Death of Mockingbird (1993): "Avengers West Coast" No. 100 featured the death of longtime Avenger Mockingbird. The wife of Hawkeye, she died in his arms after a battle with the demon Mephisto, and stayed dead for a while until it was discovered that a shape-shifting Skrull had been masquerading as her. (Marvel Comics)

"Marvel vs. DC" No. 1 and the Amalgam Universe (1996): It was all about the fan vote. Wolverine beat Lobo, Batman beat Captain America, Storm bested Wonder Woman and Superman beat Hulk. Then a whole universe of amalgamated Marvel/DC characters was created. Super Soldier, a combo of Captain America and Superman, is one of them. (Marvel Comics)

"Onslaught: Marvel Universe" (1996): The Avengers and the Fantastic Four sacrifice themselves to save mankind from a being with the powers of Professor Xavier and Magneto. Franklin Richards, son of Mister Fantastic, saves them all by putting them in a pocket universe. (Marvel)

Bold Busiek (1998): Kurt Busiek takes over in "Avengers" No. 1, relaunching the team with Captain America, Hawkeye, Iron Man, Thor, Vision, Scarlet Witch, Warbird, Justice and Firestar. Cameos by many, many former Avengers, checking on the well-being of their once-fallen comrades. (Marvel)

"The Avengers: United They Stand" (1999): This Fox cartoon was created by former producers and writers of the popular '90s "X-Men" cartoon. Don't remember it? Without Captain America, Iron Man or Thor as regulars, the show only lasted one season and was not highly regarded. (Fox)

"The Sentry" No. 1 (2000): A new, old hero is re-introduced into the universe. An Avenger who battled his own dark half. A whole Golden Age history, even a fictional artist who drew his tale in comics before "Fantastic Four" No. 1, were concocted to launch the hero. (Marvel Comics)

The Ultimates are introduced (2002): A new universe of familiar characters with different origins, attitudes and even affiliations is introduced. Cap took down Giant Man for beating Wasp, etc. It’s a more militaristic team that is closer to the origins of the 2012 film, led by SHIELD and the Nick Fury that Sam Jackson has now made famous. (Marvel Comics)

JLA / Avengers (2003): It had been years in the making, and was constantly debated among the comic book community: Which team would win? The teams were temporarily pitted against each other, with each scoring victories, only to ultimately be led by Captain America to victory over cosmic entities using them as pawns. (Marvel & DC)

Luke Cage's bundle of Joy (2004): On the cover of "The Pulse" No. 11, though the birth actually occurred in "The Pulse" No. 13, Danielle Cage came into the world during a secret invasion, with two worried superheroes as parents. Luke Cage and Jessica Jones, a onetime hero named Jewel, fight crime as Avengers, but they end up leaving the team when they see it ultimately puts their daughter in danger. Cage has since returned. (Marvel Comics)

Avengers Disassembled (2004): Scarlet Witch had been slowly going insane, her reality-warping powers getting the best of her. In "Avengers" No. 500, Avengers Disassembled messed the team up, with the Witch supposedly killing Hawkeye and more. Brian Michael Bendis concocted the story line, and it led to the formation of another new team.

The New Avengers (2005): The cool kids -- Wolverine, Spider-Man, Captain America, Sentry, Spider-Woman, Luke Cage, Iron Man -- get together, forming a new team after a supervillain jailbreak brings them together. More of a street-level team, the crew lives back in the mansion. (Marvel Comics)

"Young Avengers" launches (2005): Teen heroes modeling themselves after the big guns rummage through the wreckage of Avengers Mansion, and despite an order from Iron Man and Captain America to step down, decide to form a team. The children of Scarlet Witch and Vision, the son of Mar-Vell, the grandson of the first Captain America, the daughter of Ant-Man and a version of one of the Avengers greatest enemies, Kang, are among the heroes who unite. (Marvel Comics)

"New Avengers: Illuminati" (2006): A cabal -- Professor X (later Beast), Iron Man, Dr. Strange, Namor, Black Bolt, Mr. Fantastic -- secretly forms to share information, and occasionally plot the development and direction of certain situations for mankind's benefit. (Marvel Comics)

"Civil War" (2006): A supervillain, Nitro, blows himself up, killing hundreds of innocents during a superhero battle in Stamford, Conn. The Superhuman Registration Act forces battle lines to be drawn: either register or be taken into custody. Iron Man leads the pro group. Captain America leads the protesters. Cap gives himself up after seeing the destruction the battle is causing. (Marvel Comics)

They've shot the Captain (2007): Following the events of "Civil War," "Captain America" No. 25 was a galvanizing event as Cap, after turning himself in as a result of Civil War, is shot and presumably killed. A hunt for the killer, and the reaction throughout comics, went on for a while. Cap ended up recovering from his grave injuries in secret. (Marvel Comics)

"Secret Invasion" (2008): Alien shape-shifting Skrulls are here, and have been for quite awhile, assimilating themselves into the superhero community by taking over the identities of heroes that they’ve kept hidden. Spider Woman is their leader, and suspicion runs rampant once the secret is out. A method for detecting them is found, but the damage done was far-reaching. (Marvel Comics)

Disney XD cartoons (2010 - present): Disney XD has produced numerous Avengers-centric cartoons, beginning with "The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes" in 2010 -- a team that consisted of the original roster of heroes. The show was replaced in 2013 by "Marvel's Avengers Assemble," which features the lineup of Avengers used in the movie, with the addition of the Falcon. Both shows use situations found in the comics and the cinematic universe. (Marvel Comics)

"Avengers vs. X-Men" (2012): The Phoenix, an intergalactic force of nature, is on its way toward Earth. The teams have different ideas on what to do about it, and after some of the X-Men get control of the power, an all-out battle erupts. It results in hurt feelings, Cyclops branded a terrorist, and the death of Professor Charles Xavier. (Marvel Comics)

Joss Whedon's "The Avengers" hits theaters (2012): Unlike DC fans who had Batman and Superman live-action stuff for years, the Avengers had been largely ignored (until Robert Downey Jr. made Iron Man cool again). Marvel released the films "Iron Man," "Captain America: The First Avenger," "Hulk" and "Thor," all as lead-ins to "The Avengers." Billions of dollars later, the super group is riding high with planned sequels and more on the way. (Marvel Comics)

"Marvel: Avengers Alliance" (2012): First a Facebook social gaming adventure, then a mobile app, "Avengers Alliance" wasn't a marvel of storytelling or gameplay -- but the characters, story lines, power-ups, and the ability to unlock characters like Squirrel Girl make the game an addicting experience. It won best social game at the Video Game Awards in 2012. (Marvel Comics)

"Age of Ultron" (2013): The return of Henry Pym's greatest failure happened in 2013. Ultron is back, and he's finally triumphant, killing off many heroes while enslaving mankind. A small crew of heroes resists, but it seems hopeless. They do what they have to, sending Wolverine back in time (with the Invisible Woman) to change things. The butterfly effect happens numerous times, but in the end, Ultron is destroyed. (Marvel Comics)

"Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." (2013): Spilling over from the success of the movie, Joss Whedon and friends debuted an ABC show that highlights the further exploits of Agent Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg) and the shady government agency that brought the Avengers together in the film. Ratings were solid for its premiere episode. (Marvel Comics)

In 1963, President John F. Kennedy proposed a joint U.S.-Russia mission to the moon, the Rolling Stones had their first tour (opening for Bo Diddley and the Everly Brothers) and the United States performed dozens of nuclear tests in Nevada. If historians had been taking note, they might have seen how (er, whether?) these events helped lead Stan Lee and Jack Kirby to create the Avengers that year.

There are other reasons — chief among them a desire to compete against rival DC Comics’ team book Justice League of America — but the team’s creation was groundbreaking (to comics fans).

September marked the 50th anniversary of both the X-Men and Earth’s mightiest heroes, the Avengers, whose core members usually are Captain America, Iron Man and Thor. The Avengers’ lineup varies wildly, with a roster of dozens of reserve members as well. In a recent article about the team’s 50th anniversary, Hero Complex contributor Noel Murray wrote, “In scrambling to compete with characters from another publisher, Lee and Kirby (and the rest of the Marvel crew) created characters so alive and outsized that they practically burst off the page.”

The Avengers, though, were in a bit of a lull until recently. Maybe it was Joss Whedon’s film interpretation that led to the Avengers’ rise in stature, or Brian Michael Bendis’ recent run on the New Avengers book — which united many of the most popular characters in Marvel’s stable — or even Robert Downey Jr.’s surprise success as Tony Stark in the 2008 movie “Iron Man.” It’s most likely a combination of all of those, but the popularity of the team has helped spawn a new hit television series, “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.,” that looks to spread the Avengers cinematic universe even further among mainstream viewers.

With this resurgence and so much history behind them, we looked back at 50 seminal moments in the team’s history. The list includes long-lost characters and events that shaped the Avengers. Story lines, characters, shows, writers and artists that we haven’t mentioned can be left in the comments. There are sure to be many.

– Jevon Phillips and Thomas Suh Lauder

Follow us on Twitter: @LATHeroComplex

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