A billion dollars. I couldn’t say with one hundred percent certainty exactly how many zeroes that is, but it’s how much The Avengers has pulled in at the box office in the first nineteen days. A billion dollars making it the hottest property to hit Hollywood in years. Of course it wasn’t always that way.
Just like the movie started out as separate movies about the individual characters, the original Avengers started out as several comic books about individual heroes. It was September 1963 when Stan “The Man” Lee and Jack Kirby released their vision for a superhero team on the world. Of course, it was a very different world back then with very different standards. Come with me as we see how Earth’s Mightiest Heroes began…
We start off in Asgard with Loki, the evil brother of Thor. As usual he is plotting the downfall of his brother. That’s how we can tell he’s evil.
Hulk, being a gentle giant in those days notices the trouble he has caused and uses his awesome strength to hold the rails up, allowing the train to pass over him. Unfortunately he is seen and, being a giant green monster, is blamed for the trouble in the first place. This was the sixties and the colour of your skin mattered like that.
Way to be decisive there Rick. He’d never do that no matter what, or would he…?
Now, in those days, the only reason Rick Jones wasn’t called Jimmy Olsen was that Marvel would be sued into the ground. Supposedly a normal teenager, he had contact with pretty much every superhero squad out there, and was B.F.F’s with the Hulk. He also had his own group of pretty much nameless ham radio nerds who did his bidding. You know he took advantage of that to get his freak on as it was the sixties.
Do try to stop doing your nails for one bloody second, Jan. You may be a woman, and as weak and feeble an example of the gender as any of them, but you’re also supposed to be a super heroine. Now shut up and climb into this massive fucking gun with me and we’ll be fired across the country on an ant. For science!!!
On the subject of science…
Before Tony built the funky red and gold outfit, this was Iron Man’s outfit. This was what he wore into battle using the awesome power of his transistors. Remember, this was the sixties and a slightly sciency word was enough to make all but those geeks who are too sciency to deserve a decent story know that it was super-science.
Oh Jan, must you be such a weak and feeble woman. At least Stan and Jack have ensured that there are plenty of men around who can put you back in your place you uppity woman, you. But wait, there’s about to be one less man around for a while.
Oh no Thor, don’t be fooled by that. Luckily within the page Thor has figured out that the Hulk he saw is an illusion. Despite this being the actual Norse god Thor and him coming from a world where everyone has magical powers, Thor deduces that only Loki would be able to create an illusion of the Hulk and he jets off to Asgard.
Meanwhile, on Earth…
He’s doing that because the Hulk is really mild-mannered scientist Bruce Banner and his great scientific mind is telling him that… Yeah, the less said about that, the better. At least none of the others managed to see that eh? How mortifying that would be for the Hulk.
Oh bugger… It’s all kicking off now. The miniature duo manage quite well against the Hulk for a page or so, but then he picks up…
That’s right folks. Showing as strong an understanding of psychology as he has of science, Stan has the audience who just watched the Hulk juggle a fucking elephant amongst other items be shocked when he can lift a tent. Never has mortal man witnessed such a stupendous sight, except for a few minutes ago.
Lets leave these two guys to their budding bromance and find out what’s happening in Asgard.
Oh my, no. From one bromance to another. Looks like Thor is having a little trouble with a troll that Loki has set on him.
The battle has been raging for a couple of pages at this point, and does little but show off this started as an idea for a Thor story alone. Still, at least Thor can rub his hammer on the ground to magnetise it and capture Loki that way.
Back on Earth and Iron Man and Hulk are taking a leisurely tour of an automobile factory and talking about their blossoming love for each other. As they discuss curtains, an argument breaks out (this part may be complete and utter bullshit).
Loki has a final trick up his sleeve though. He irradiates himself and starts giving out massive waves of radioactivity. Now he’s a god as is Thor so that should affect both of them equally (not at all in this case). Iron Man is protected in his suit. Hulk is radioactive himself. As for Ant Man and the Wasp… Well they’re not there at the moment so it won’t affect them so long as they stay clear. All in all, he’s just pissing the heroes off at this point.
Still, the heroes seem beaten by this ploy until.
And so ends the first issue of The Avengers. Just shy of fifty years later and we still don’t know what they were avenging. Nor do we know why Loki was held captive inside a lead container. We can only assume that they opened that up after the comic closed and decided to beat the shit out of him, only to find he was gone.
Two issues later Captain America, a comic book hero who had been popular during the Second World War, was found in a block of ice in the sea and unfrozen to join the team (because that is exactly what you do when you find someone who has been frozen in ice for fifteen years). Hulk (all versions of him, plus the She-Hulks and the Rulk) would swap in and out of being a member and a foe to the team and most of the people who ever had any popularity in Marvel comics would be drafted to the team, usually before having their lives fall apart in some way. Right now they’re Hollywoods Mightiest Heroes, but this was how they came to assemble for the very first time.
It got better…