But running time is scarce and, for a team that’s been around since 1963 and frequently switches members, you can bet there are a lot of characters that won’t make the cut. That may be for the best, because the Avengers have certainly seen their share of unimpressive members over the years. Here are ten that you can bet won’t be making it onto even a direct-to-video sequel in the years to come:
Moon Knight is a Batman-esque urban vigilante who dresses entirely in white in order to better conceal himself in the shadows and skulk around dark alleys. That should tell you all you need to know about his mental state but, just in case, he’s an ex-mercenary who struggles with multiple personality disorder, occasional hallucinations, and uncontrollable violent rages. This makes him the only superhero who might save you from a mugger, then suddenly realize you’re his great-aunt Mildred who died back in ’82…and he hated his great-aunt Mildred.
Moon Knight actually works pretty well as a solo character, but whoever gave this man an Avengers ID card should be shot. Do you want to charge into battle alongside a non-powered human target who at any given moment might decide he’s a destitute cab driver and you just tried to stiff him on a fare? My most vivid memory of Moon Knight as an Avenger was when he called an immediately post-coital Spider-Man to summon him to some emergency. That’s Moon Knight: ruining the afterglow since 1975.
Jack of Hearts wins the “originality in superhero names” award going away, since his real name actually is “Jack Hart.” Given that, you can almost forgive him for trying to make a playing-card-themed superhero identity work. Almost. But then you remember there is no “Captain Rook” or “Miniature Top Hat Man” and he’s ridiculous again. The costume certainly contributes to that, with the high shoulders and asymmetrical face shading. I guess Jack of Hearts figures that if it works at a child’s birthday party, it’ll work when fighting the Masters of Evil. But it won’t, Jack. And the arrow pointing at your crotch might be sending the wrong message.
Jack eventually suffered a really ignominious death (faced with living in a containment tube 14 hours a day, he instead flew into space and exploded; then his zombified corpse was used to bomb Avengers Mansion), which almost makes you want to exclude him from this list out of pure sympathy. But then you remember that cool characters almost always get noble, grandiose deaths, and there’s a reason Jack of Hearts didn’t. Sorry, Jack.
Hey look, it’s black Captain America! Uh…but not in a racist way. More of an “I forget what colors are on the American flag” way.
U.S. Agent’s worst sin is redundancy. As you’d expect, the Avengers kind of already have the “athletic guy with a shield” role covered, and if they need an arrogant, impulsive jerk who won’t take direction, they’ve got Hawkeye and Quicksilver on speed dial. War Machine is in a similar boat, but at least he’s best friends with Iron Man; Cap and the Agent don’t even like each other. Not surprisingly, that doesn’t make for a lot of panel time on a team whose name is frequently preceded by “Captain America and the…” U.S. Agent is essentially relegated to the role of Cap understudy, waiting for a man whose childhood friends and family are all busy playing shuffleboard or moldering in the ground to somehow be unavailable. He spends most days sitting patiently by the phone, afraid to go out for fear of missing the call about a major crisis that requires the aid of Every Avenger Ever. Waiting…waiting…
Let’s get it out of the way first: “balding” is not a good look on a superhero. It’s superficial and all, but when you’re talking about a universe where everyone looks like a supermodel or a male stripper, the George Costanza look is going to stand out. Still, that’s not enough to consign Doctor Druid to this list.
No, what hurts him is that he’s a magician whose name is not “Doctor Strange.” Fair or not, popular characters carve out niches in superhero universes, and everyone else instantly becomes an also-ran. Thus, anyone’s reaction to seeing Doctor Druid is an automatic “Oh… uh, so I guess Doctor Strange wasn’t available?” You can’t blame them- Doc Strange has a luxurious head of hair, a mansion in the heart of New York, and a hot alien princess for a lover. Doctor Druid has, presumably, a 1-bedroom in Newark, a locker at the YMCA where he keeps his stuff, and a windowless van with Celtic runes spray-painted on it.
Ironically, Doctor Druid actually predates Strange and his origin is basically the same, which does not help him seem less superfluous. His tenure with the Avengers is not doing him any favors either, since he got seduced by a villainess and ended up destroying the team for a while. But really, it’s hard to fault the guy too much for that — when you look like an Ancient Cultures professor from the local community college who’s role-playing as a superhero, you have to take the loving where it finds you.
Sentry is that rare character on this list who WAS cool right up until he joined the Avengers, and then immediately stopped. Originally presented as a “lost” character, the Sentry’s deal was that he was once the Marvel Universe’s greatest hero. But because his dark side, the Void, was so dangerous, he volunteered to have his existence erased from the minds of everyone on Earth, including himself, stranding him in his human identity forever. And that’s fine — a little cheesy, maybe, but a perfectly decent story.
But then they brought him back as a mental patient who had killed his wife. Then they revealed his wife wasn’t actually dead, but he still had mental problems that made him afraid to use his powers. Then we learned he didn’t actually get his powers in a lab accident, but rather was a junkie who broke into the lab and swallowed this weird serum looking for a fix. Then his wife actually died but he resurrected her himself, causing her to beg Iron Man to kill her husband. Then a bunch of bad guys took over the government for a while and got him on their side. Finally he went completely nuts, killed some people and an Avenger or two, and had to be put down. Seriously, great story arc, Marvel. Inspiring and cohesive!
Be honest — can’t you kind of tell Deathcry sucks just from the picture? She has the stink of “X-treme!!!” all over her, from the mismatched costume to the tribal tattoos to her Wolverine hair, and that’s not even getting into the name. Avengers don’t kill, so either Deathcry’s codename is writing checks her body can’t cash, or she’s referring to her own exclamations of expiration; either way, it’s less than threatening.
She also has the misfortune to be associated with the worst period in Avengers history, when everyone was wearing extraneous bomber jackets and Iron Man was killing his teammates off because surprise, he was evil all along!…yeah, don’t ask.
Despite in theory being 16 years old, Deathcry was created at a time when female characters were basically mobile breast platforms, and she looks it. However, she’s also from an avian race of aliens with vestigial feathers. That means at some point, a writer sat at his keyboard and thought, “Okay, here’s one for all the guys out there who are romantically attracted to birds.” The sad part is, he was right — you know that someone, somewhere in the world has fantasized about Deathcry. And there is a remote but real possibility that you have shaken that man’s hand at some point in your life. I’ll just let that one digest for a little while.
Damn, does this guy look goofy. The trick with archery-based characters like Hawkeye and Green Arrow is how to make them seem useful on a team with guys like Superman or Thor. It can be done, but writers really have to get creative to invent situations where an arrow will do the job in a way that heat vision or repulsor rays just won’t.
But at least an arrow is a ranged weapon; think how much harder it is to make a character work when his power is that he, uh, has a sword. And he’s pretty good at using it. That puts Swordsman on a par with every guy who’s ever attended a Renaissance Faire.
The Swordsman’s tragedy is that he’s an Inigo Montoya guy in a Tony Montana world. Sure, he has “trick swords” that can shoot electricity and nerve gas and flames, but that basically just brings him up to the Penguin’s level of threatening. You’ve still got to work like hell to convince me he’ll be able to foil a simple convenience store robbery if the perp has an uzi or a shotgun. The Avengers regularly go up against cosmic beings and gods. Captain America needs to be there to lead everyone and strategize, and at least Hawkeye might be able to land a lucky shot in the villain’s eye or something. What’s Swordsman going to do? Nothing. Go away, Swordsman.
Hoo boy, Starfox. What do you say about the only Avenger who costs the team more in paternity suits than property damage? Aside from the standard strength/durability/flight that a lot of superheroes have, Starfox possesses the ability to stimulate the pleasure centers in a person’s mind, making them calmer and more susceptible to suggestion. I’ll bet that makes him popular at frat parties. He’s also a hedonist who spends all his non-Avenging time traveling to various “pleasure planets,” which is as close as Marvel Comics will ever get to saying this guy likes playing the field and group stuff.
Okay, so the man’s a walking, talking roofie colada, but that doesn’t make him a bad person. He’s probably really responsible about using his abilities, right? Well, he was once sued by a married woman who claimed he used his powers to make her cheat on her husband with him. Then his lawyer, She-Hulk, started wondering if he’d used them to initiate the one-night stand they once had. So he agreed to have his mind read, which revealed that he didn’t use his powers to make She-Hulk sleep with him…but he HAD used them to make her fall in love with (and marry) some other guy. Oh, and he was banned from the courtroom for using his powers to influence witnesses. Sounds like Avengers material to us!
D-Man is one of those characters created to be a hard-luck success story, only he never became very successful. Wearing an outfit modeled on Daredevil’s short-lived original costume, D-Man started off as a member of a superpowered wrestling league (…yeah), but his strength was coming from a highly addictive drug. Eventually kicking the habit, D-Man helped Captain America a few times and finagled a sympathy “Yeah, sure, you’re an Avenger… uh, we’ll call you if a REALLY big menace comes along. Something worthy of you” kind of membership.
That’s fine, every team needs a mascot, as long as the Philly Phanatic doesn’t think he’s going to be out there shagging fly balls in an actual game, if you get my drift.
D-Man eventually ended up the protector of a community of homeless people, leading to a hilarious scene where the Sub-Mariner complained about his stench, suggesting he might be more at home with the less-choosy X-Men. When a guy who smells like a combination of tuna and low tide is griping about your odor, you know you have a problem. Writers continue using D-Man as a punchline to this day, recently having him be turned down for a nanny gig watching a fellow superhero’s kid. That’s sad, but can you blame anyone? He has a child molester beard and his name is two letters away from “D-Bag.” You need to dress for the job you want, D-Man. Also, a bar of soap would not be a bad idea. Don’t eat it.
Wow, where do you start with Gilgamesh? I guess the costume, since wearing horns and the upper half of a cow face on your head will never, ever be cool. I also don’t think the skirt is going to strike fear into the hearts of evildoers, and there are way too many colors working at odds in that outfit. He’s obviously based on an actual mythical hero, but not one of the cool ones like Hercules or King Arthur. Instead, Gilgamesh has to hope you’re familiar with the exploits of an ancient Sumerian king and, even for nerds, that’s pushing it.
He also suffers from the redundancy that hits so many of the heroes on this list — the Avengers already have Thor for their neo-classical bruiser and Hercules for when writers are tired of Thor, so what possible use could Gilgamesh serve? He’s third-string, useful only for anniversary issues or a cheap death to make a new villain seem more deadly. Even his full name encourages you to overlook him. I’m just saying, when your heyday was 4500 years ago and you consider Beowulf a promising young talent, it might be time to pack it in. We’ll always have Babylon, G.