CA Versus the C-List: The 9 Worst Avengers
This week, Marvel's releasing the first issue of "Avengers Prime," a book that focuses on Thor, Iron Man and Captain America. It's pretty clear that those three guys are the best of the Avengers but there's a pretty steep drop down to the worst. That's why today, Chris Sims and David Uzumeri are here to take a look at a few of the third stringers who have been proud to Assemble over the years!
1. Wonder Man
David: Wonder Man! Villainous-looking villain on the cover of this month's "Avengers" #2. I never really got to read much of this guy, which always seemed like a shame since his whole Hollywood-superstar cool-shades-look-at-me personality always seemed like it'd be a good fit for Bendis. He seemed like the Joe Casey of the Marvel Universe.
Chris: I hate him so much, David.
David: But his backstory -- like, he has some lame brother, right, who's a villain? And he died once, and Wanda brought him back?
Chris: Yeah, here's Wonder Man's deal: He's Simon Williams, a super-hero movie star with "ionic" powers, which basically just means he's really strong and invulnerabe, and in recent years has gained the ability to fly. His brother, Eric Williams is the Grim Reaper (the super-villain, not the actual representation of death), and his brain patterns were used as the template for the Vision, which has created a weird love triangle with the Scarlet Witch. Also, I hate him.
David: Fun fact: I actually originally read that first sentence as "ironic" powers, because it was next to the phrase "movie star."
David: Wait his brain patterns were WHAT? How the Hell did that happen? Vision was created by Ultron, right? So did Ultron just hire this guy and go "hey by the way I'm robocloning you for this thing"? "Hey look now your roboclone is banging Magneto's hot daughter, whoops"?
Chris: Hank Pym recorded everyone's brain patterns for God knows what reason, and Ultron stole them (probably in the form of a hilariously gigantic casette tape) and used them when he built the Vision. As to why, I have no idea.
Chris: Yeah, except it's Hank Pym, so his plan for disabling everyone was probably: OPTION ONE: throw ants at them. OPTION TWO: Slap.David: OPTION THREE: whine and whine and whine until people forgive you to get you to shut the hell up. I hadn't really realized it, but for a while, Batman was like the Hank Pym of the DCU. Just a three-year period or so, but with OMAC and the way he treated his kids, he was basically Hank Pym.
Chris: I wish I did not have to concede that point.
David: But yeah, from my vantage point, I never really got much of a feel for this guy, other than being like the Tom Cruise of superheroes, except less successful. I can get the hate, he just seems really... Jersey Shore.
Chris: Yeah, I have no reason whatsoever to hate Wonder Man. I've read like a grand total of four stories about him in my life and I actually really liked the way Pak and Van Lente portrayed him in "Incredible Hercules" (even the parts where he wasn't getting hit in the head with concrete blocks by Ares), but for some reason I have this pure emotional reaction to him. And that reaction is hate.
David: Is it just the leisure suit, you think?
Chris: Oh, the Safari Jacket?
David: Whatever you want to call that crime against humanity.
Chris: I'm going to guess that's a part of it. Far be it from me to criticize fashion -- I am a dude who owns at least four T-shirts with Batman on them -- but a belted red safari jacket? That alone should've gotten him kicked out of the mansion.
David: He's a movie star, I guess. When did he premiere, the '70s? And I've heard that the only reason he had that jacket for any period of time recently was Frank Cho.
Chris: The '60s, originally. Of course, back then he had a costume that was even worse. Forest green and bright red. With a headpiece.
Chris: It's also important to note that he's the Beast's #1 Bro.
David: I do know that much -- I've heard that they were basically the template for Beetle and Booster.
Chris: Yeah, they're sort of the original buddy comedy super-heroes. Which, again, is something you'd think I love. And yet all I feel is hate. Is this what it's like to be Dr. Doom?
David: Especially since Hank is such a great character, but in retrospect I always found Hank annoying pre-Morrison, to a certain extent.
Chris: It's weird, because on the X-Men, he's the Smart Guy, but on the Avengers, he's the party animal. It's like he walked in, realized Tony Stark was there, and was like "screw it, it's Miller time."
David: It's a shame the latter role doesn't seem to be what Brubaker's going for in Secret Avengers, but I'm hoping that it'll surface. Either way, I can't remember the last time I read a Simon Williams story that interested me. I guess Peter David had that miniseries with him a year or two back, but I skipped it.
Chris: Probably best to move on before I flip out again.
Chris: Groan. The original Swordsman was actually in the circus with Hawkeye doing... I dunno, sword tricks, I guess, and was one of the roughly four hundred people to infiltrate the Avengers in order to get revenge and/or destroy the team.
David: Hawkeye was in the circus?!
Chris: You didn't know Hawkeye was a carny?
David: I guess I caught a reference here or there, but I thought he was a villain gone good or something. I figured he was just some kind of super-archer from competitions and stuff who ... I dunno, just shot people with arrows.
Chris: Nope, he is literally a kid who ran away to join the circus and then learned how to be a super-awesome archer from a dude named "Trick Shot." THEN he got tricked into being a villain and then became an Avenger.
David: There's worse things in life than being the dude who shoots people with arrows, unless you're Green Arrow. So I guess there's worse things in life than being the dude who rules with a sword. I mean, he could be Paladin.
Chris: The Swordsman in the picture above is actually the Swordsman from Heroes Reborn, who was created by Rob Liefeld. I remember reading a bit in "Wizard" before it came out where The Rob was like "He's got all kinds of swords! Jousting swords, fencing swords, samurai swords, all kinds!" For me, that will always be the definitive Rob Liefeld: A dude who was just totally excited about all different kinds of swords.
David: Did you ever read Onslaught Reborn? That featured a Heroes Reborn Hawkeye, too. Note: That Hawkeye ended up being Heroes Reborn Wolverine. This was cleverly foreshadowed in the second issue when he called someone "bub."
Chris: Along the same lines, it turns out that the Heroes Reborn Swordsman was actually -- wait for it -- Heroes Reborn Deadpool. "Heroes Reborn" was terrible, David.
David: There's some parts of comics history that feel like vast, expansive, unknown lands of memory that I can, one day, sail through and experience for myself. "Heroes Reborn" is not one of them.
Chris: True fact: When I was 14, I loved the Heroes Reborn Captain America #1 so much that I wrote an essay in school refuting Kevin Smith's bad review of it on a comics review show that used to air on the Sci Fi channel, which he gave while riding an escalator. My teacher gave me a good grade, but told me I was in high school so it was probably time to stop writing about comics. SO WHO'S LAUGHING NOW (besides everyone picturing me typing up a paper defending Rob Liefeld and Jeph Loeb from Kevin Smith)?
David: Honestly, that surprises me, but it's not like I'm immune from that kind of criticism of childhood taste. I may or may not -- I WILL NOT CONFIRM! -- have, in a metal box of old comics, a still-factory-polybagged copy of "X-Force" #1 complete with Deadpool trading card. Alongside my separate, opened copy of the same issue.
Chris: I think it's safe to say that the Swordsman is not very good. We should probably move on before I reveal any more embarrassing childhood secrets.
David: Fair point! Who's next?
Chris: You pick!
David: Oh, man. Let's ride this Heroes Reborn/Onslaught train all the way to Teen Tony.
3. Iron Man (Teen Tony)
Chris: Yeah there was this weird thing back in the '90s for taking super-heroes and turning them into teenagers. I don't mean doing teenage versions, I mean actually physically transforming them into teenagers. It happened with the Atom so that he could join the Teen Titans, and it happened to Tony Stark for... man, I don't even know why.
It has to do with Kang and time travel, but he's also from a parallel universe.
David: This was the Crossing, right? The crossover literally explained away as a conscious attempt by Immortus to confuse everybody in Avengers Forever?
David: And people wonder why I thought the Avengers were lame! This crap WAS the Avengers when I was reading comics as a kid! It was the same way Justice League was all about friggin' Bloodwynd and Maxima.
Chris: Yeah, we've talked before about how the Busiek/Perez stuff didn't do it for you, but can you imagine getting it after all that? I love that run on its own merits, but when it comes after Teen Tony and Swordspool (and one really good issue by Mark Waid, #400), it looks even better.
David: I'm surprised Waid never got a substnatial run on the title. It seems like he'd be a natural.
Then again, lots of people you'd think would be naturals...
Chris: Speaking of Busiek and Perez...
Chris: I just think it's great that Jarvis can't even donate to a charity without hitting a super-hero.
David: I dunno, I just keep expecting her to go "¡Que estupido!"
Chris: I think the closest she gets is calling him "Tio Edwin."
David: I also keep forgetting that Jarvis's first name is Edwin. So what's her powers? She has silver claws, I see, but....?
Chris: She's a shapeshifter. She can turn into.. Well, basically she turns into Tigra, but silver. And also a snake sometimes. Jarvis eventually pays for her to come to America to go to Empire State University, and she ends up being on a plane that gets hijacked because -- again -- coincidence is a legitimate force in the Marvel Universe, and it is OUT TO GET YOU.
David: Wait, but she could turn into a silver anything? Did they have her fight vampires or werewolves?
Chris: I don't think she was actually silver (the metal), just silver (the color).
David: Also, did she ever appear after Busiek bailed?
Chris: She showed up a couple of times during Civil War.
David: Really? I guess everyone showed up a couple of times during Civil War.
Chris: Pretty much.
David: This entire cast needs a kind of Where Are They Now "Animal House" ending.
Chris: I'll admit she's pretty silly, but really, who isn't? And I really like the idea of Jarvis being the kind of guy who will pay for a poor orphaned girl to come to America and go to college, even if she ends up joining the Avengers for two years and quite possibly never getting her degree.
David: Jarvis is a real mystery of a character to me still. I get Alfred, but Jarvis just seems to have this weird, totally amiable, not-in-it-for-the-money philanthropic aspect. Was Jarvis originally an Avengers character or Iron Man? It seems like the idea that he was STARK'S butler seems to be totally forgotten recently.
Chris: I believe he first appeared in an Iron Man story, but I think being "The Avengers' Butler" is really what sets him apart from Alfred. I think he's actually one of the stronger Marvel supporting characters. I mean, he's no J. Jonah Jameson, but still.
David: I dunno, man. Did J. Jonah Jameson's alien sleeper agent replacement bang Aunt May?
Chris: We will never speak of that again. Back to Jarvis, his role in "Under Siege" (the Avengers story, not the Steven Segal/Erika Eleniak "Die Hard On A Boat" movie) is one of the most gut-wrenching moments in Marvel history.
David: Under Siege is the one where Zemo and the Masters of Evil basically pretend that Avengers Mansion is Constantinople and they're in the Fourth Crusade, right?
Chris: Brainy reference! That's the one. If you haven't read it, you should track it down. It's my favorite Avengers story.
David: I will, actually, I've heard a bunch about it.
5. Dr. Druid
David: So this guy is like the "Life of Brian" for Doc Strange? Or does that make him seem way cooler than he actually is?
Chris: No, that's exactly it. He made his first appearance in a story in 1961, where he fought a half-lion, half gorilla, and while the story itself has far more in common with the Atlas-era monster comics, he's actually considered to be a pre-FF Marvel Super-Hero. And comics being comics, he was eventually brought back, well after Dr. Strange had shown up as a far more refined version of his entire gimmick.
David: Oh wait, wow, he was LITERALLY a prototype? I figured this was like some Roy Thomas style stuff, where they threw him into Strange's backstory, not like an actual pre-Marvel Age property. Like someone went "aha, but what if there was an Ancient One student BEFORE Stephen Strange?" Are their origin stories similar, or just the fact that they're both hippy-dippy sorcerer types (Steve Ditko would stab me in the scrotum for describing Strange as that)?
Chris: Yes, actually. He was originally named "Dr. Droom," and learned magic from an ancient dude in the Himalayas.
David: Dr. Droom.
Chris: Yeah. Dr. Anthony Droom. Which was later changed to Dr. Anthony Druid, and really, when your last name is Druid, you don't have much of a choice in the matter of vocation.
David: That's a strikingly similar origin story.
Chris: He came back in 1977, and then hung out with the Avengers for a while despite being resoundingly ineffective, with his main contribution to the team being that he was manipulated by a sexy lady version of Kang into completely destroying the team in the '80s during a short run by Walt Simonson, which led to the Avengers being reformed as The Captain, Mr. Fantastic, the Invisible Woman, Thor and GILGAMESH: THE FORGOTTEN ONE!
David: The Captain? Like, the one from Nextwave? Or was this a name of Steve Rogers at the time?
Chris: Yeah, it was Captain America when he wasn't Captain America.
David: Ah, figures. Gilgamesh is a hilarious choice, I love how awkwardly they kept throwing Eternals characters into MU stuff at that point.
Chris: he also got a series by Warren Ellis, and the way I heard the story, nobody had told Ellis that it was only a mini-series, so he ended up having to go back and rewrite the end of the fourth issue after he'd already plotted to like #6, and so he just ended it with "And then he died and they burned his body in a dumpster." Not kidding.
David: Wait, Gilgamesh or The Captain?
Chris: Dr. Druid!
David: OH! I totally forgot we were talking about him! I think that says a lot. Also, that story about Ellis is hilarious, and yet totally typical-seeming.
Chris: Seriously man: The Worst Avenger.
David: I totally believe it.
I mean, granted his JLA thing was just an arc, but still.
Chris: It's more JLA than we've written.
David: I guess the titles sold, so that's that.
Chris: But anyway, before we exhaust ourselves bashing the guy, let's talk about one of his lasting contributions to comics: Lionheart, a horribly scarred single mother who was pretty much tricked into becoming Captain Britain but couldn't tell her kids she wasn't dead for reasons that were never really explained and then just went away on their own.
David: I'm trying to think of which random Civil War tie-in I saw her in, but it's escaping me. Either way, she didn't exactly set the Marvel Universe on fire.
Chris: I think it really says it all that she was a British super-hero who never appeared in "Captain Britain and MI-13." I just picture Paul Cornell sitting around going "Ooh, I can throw in Motormouth and Killpower and Death's Head!" And someone goes "What about Lionheart?" "Blade? Great idea!"
David: Hahahahahahaha! I think he said he had plans for her eventually, actually, like major ones, and that's why he hadn't gotten to her yet. Although I could be totally misremembering an interview. Either way, my point here is that "Captain Britain and MI-13" was a gem and I miss the hell out of that comic.
David: It's the Marvel Universe, where it's a constant character-rehabilitation contest. I'm sure we'll se her again at some point. That's the important thing to remember about lists like these: at this point, both companies seem to basically be built around the idea of writers trying to top each other by making lame characters cool. So all of these crappy characters could be, like, one or two years away from an apotheosis.
Chris: Or, they could be 16 years away from becoming Dr. Druid. Cuts both ways, homey.
David: Totally, totally true. It just reminds me of the difference between the inhabitants of Limbo between Animal Man and Final Crisis: Superman Beyond. But anyway.
Chris: You know who's awesome though?
David: Who was it in the '00s, out of curiosity? Ultimate Spider-Man?
Chris: Yeah, that was the one that took me the longest to figure out, until my friend Mark Hale pointed out that they literally reinvented Spider-Man.
David: Anyway, yeah, I never read Darkhawk until his recent appearance in War of Kings, but he seems pretty cool. A Darkhawk/Nova/Spider-Man team-up would be a pretty entertaining concoction.
Chris: He was barely an Avenger, though: He was a Reserve West Coast Avenger, which is like saying you played for the Yankees if you once had a catch with the old man in Central Park.
David: I was going to say, I know I'm not alone in primarily thinking of him as a New Warrior.
Chris: The best/worst/best again thing about Darkhawk is that during his own title, you'd occasionally get these flashes of 100 years in the future where some dudes would be sitting around talking about how "The Powell" was the greatest hero of his generation. And I'm reading this going "You guys know about Spider-Man, right? And Thor? You guys have heard of Thor?"
David: B-but the Gods said it was Amadeus Cho!
David: Either way, what's Darkhawk's basic origin story? Finds dark crystal, turns into sweet armored raptor thing, fights crime, deals with parents and school?
Chris: That's about it! Except that the armor makes him go crazy and when he takes off his helmet he's so ugly that people pass out looking at him and also there's a bunch of evil ones, but not Evilhawk, his evil opposite who was later revealed to have all been in his head. You know. Regular comic stuff.
David: Oh man, a straight up Fight Club twist?!
Chris: Yeah, I think that came out in the Cosmic Stuff, and as crazy as it sounds, it actually made a lot of sense. Plus, "Evilhawk" sounds like the most metal hairstyle ever, and that's pretty cool.
David: Who created him, actually? I don't really know. I know Archie Goodwin did Nova, but...
Chris: Tom DeFalco.
David: oh, man.
Chris: Who also created another Spider-Man reinvention, Spider-Girl.
David: Dude, Spider-Girl is the Rasputin of comics publishing. You're also ignoring Peter Porker, the Amazing Spider-Ham.
Chris: We're down the rabbit hole here. But yeah, Darkhawk: Not a great Avenger, but a pretty cool dude.
8. Jack of Hearts
David: Okay, I honestly thought Geoff Johns created this dude. The ONLY thing I know about Jack of Hearts is that he dies on like page two of Avengers 500. Or sorry, he's fake-resurrected, and then killed again.Chris: Occasional CA Contributor Andrew Weiss is, and I say this with no hint of overstatement, the world's biggest Jack of Hearts fan. So in the interest of preserving my friendship, I'll just say this: Jack of Hearts. He sure is a super-hero.David: He looks like he ran away from the Royal Flush Gang because they didn't look dumb enough.
I also love his super-serious Cyclops-style smoking eye over a heart.
Chris: Ha! Actually, I really like his costume. Much like Firestorm (another favorite of Andrew's, and mine), it's straight up asymmetrical '70s super-hero.
David: Why not Jack of Clubs? That's more badass than hearts. "Jack of Hearts" just sounds like a cheap male hooker in Tahiti.
Chris: His name is Jack Hart. That's why.
David: Jack Hart? That makes Mirror Master's mirror fetish look subtle.
Chris: We just talked about "Dr. Anthony Druid," and you're getting hung up on "Jack Hart?"
David: At least the former is his real name! I've seen people with enough weird-ass names that I can buy it! I'm sure there's a real Dr. Anthony Druid out there.
Chris: I'm going to go ahead and say that I could find you a Jack Hart easier than a Tony Druid.
David: ...well played.
Chris: Anyway, Jack has the distinction of having one of the all-time worst go-out-like-a-punk deaths in comics history.
David: Oh man, tell tell!
Chris: Towards the end of Avengers v.3 (right before Bendis took over), he had been having to spend like 14 hours a day in a containment cell because his body was generating too much zero energy, and so he decided to kill himself by blowing up a guy who killed kids. Because pathos, that's why. Then he fake-came back in "Avengers Disassembled" as a zombie to blow up Ant-Man (because pathos, that's why). Although all of that did lead to him showing up in "Incredible Hercules," winning a resurrection from a slot machine in the underworld. So we look forward to seeing you soon, Jack!
David: He apparently premiered in Shang Chi? I call resurrection in Shadowland!
Chris: Okay David, we're down to the wire, and we're at the guy you wanted to save for last.
Chris: I think you're overstating things just a little.
David: My only experience with him was the Dan Slott stories in the second volume of She-Hulk, and they definitely made him out to be maybe just the most clueless a-hole alive.
Chris: Yeah, but I think the keyword there is clueless. It was also established in that story that he doesn't use his powers to get women, he's just naturally handsome as all hell and charismatic.
David: I remember it being pretty ambiguous by the end still, but I also admit to starting to drift off near the end of Slott's run, so I'll acquiesce on that one. Now I'm sad, I had this whole pitch for Amalgam Presents: Dr. Fox Starlight.
Chris: Here are my two favorite things about Starfox: 1. When he first shows up in the Avengers, they decide they can't call him "Eros" (for obvious reasons), and so the Wasp just cold goes "Well, you're from the stars and you're a pretty foxy dude..."
2. In "Incredible Hulk" #300, when the Hulk is rampaging through Manhattan, the Avengers show up and Starfox makes a big deal about how he doesn't need anyone else because he's going to "overwhelm the beast... with waves of pleasure!" And then the Hulk just punches the living crap out of him.
David: Hahahahahahahaha, those are both totally incredible. It's amazing the dialogue they kept putting in Jan's mouth in that time period, I swear.
Chris: Point being, he's got a power that's usually reserved for villains, and at this point he's pretty much reserved for being totes creepy.
David: Well, Spider-Woman has the whole pheromone thing too, and I mean Professor X could do that kind of stuff if he wanted.
Chris: Yeah, but that's not his only power. Starfox can't read anyone's mind, he can literally just make them super-horny. Which, now that I think of it, probably means that getting punched through a building was a best-case scenario when he tried it out on the Hulk.
David: Well, do even any bad guys have that power? It'd probably ruin all the fun for Dr. Light.
Chris: Love powers?
David: Daken, I guess.
Chris: Does he really?
David: He has those pheromone powers that get anyone to do whatever he wants, so basically, yes. He was using them on totally straight HAMMER guards to seduce them and steal keycards in the first few issues of "Dark Wolverine."
David: Back to Starfox! I mean, I dunno, I came in all piss and vinegar and you basically reminded me that a lot of the stuff I'd attributed to him was largely incorrect. I mean, it says a lot about the character anyway that the only recent arc I can recall with the guy is that She-Hulk one where he got accused of being a mass rapist.
Even though I misremembered the end.
Chris: To be fair, that's the only thing he's actually done recently. Even the cosmic books haven't touched him, because -- as you've said -- his powers are kind of problematic. Comics have sort of just left him behind. 2 Creepy, 2 Furious.
David: What would he even do? Distract Cthulhu by making it horny?
Chris: I think we've hit the wall. Any final thoughts on Starfox?
David: Not as bad as I thought he was! Unfortunately, also not as interesting.
Chris: So that's the third string Avengers. But you know, you're right: Any one of these characters could be in a book tomorrow that could make them great, just like what happened with Photon and Nova. Well, except Wonder Man.
David: Yeah, Wonder Man's probably screwed, since Bendis is just giving him a straight up heel turn. Or maybe he'll start chumming up with Beast again on the Secret Avengers!
Chris: I sincerely hope not. I really like that book.
David: Even Brubaker is incapable of turning you around on Simon Williams?
Chris: I think the only thing that could turn me around on Wonder Man is a substantial cash bribe. Call me, Marvel.
David: I'd be willing to read about any of these cats at this point, honestly. And you've certainly sold me on checking out Under Siege.
Chris: That's "Avengers" v.1 #270 to 277, True Believer! Currently out of print in trade, but easy enough to track down.