Friday, May 16, 2014

Uneasy Is The Hand That Swings The Gavel


It would be interesting sometime to get Stan Lee's take on the early days of the Avengers--specifically, what he had in mind when he set up "chairmanship" of the team, rather than a conventional leadership position. During the original Avengers lineup, there really was no formal leader in the field; instead, the function of the chairman was simply to officiate at meetings and take up the latest business. The position also rotated with every meeting, with each member taking their turn at the gavel:



But when it came to missions, the "chairman" left his authority back at the table, and each of the Avengers acted autonomously in the field--perhaps since all of them at that point had already been operating as costumed heroes on their own (and still did, when they weren't functioning as Avengers), and it may have been an informal understanding between them that no single member was any more or less capable than the others. Also, they were all charter members of this team (even Cap, albeit retroactively), so it would have been difficult to establish a hierarchy in terms of deferential behavior.

For instance, in the issue where they're pictured above, preparing to enter Tony Stark's townhouse and begin their meeting, they'd been asked by the military to assess the threat of a man they'd meet for the first time--Kang the Conqueror. That meeting's chairman was Captain America; yet, when the team finally confronts Kang, it's Iron Man who takes the lead and speaks for the team:



The "chairmanship" position seems to recede, though, when the original Avengers step down, and Cap remains to supervise their replacements--Quicksilver, Hawkeye, and the Scarlet Witch. Because of Cap's seniority, he assumes de facto leadership of the team, though the vultures are circling in that respect:



Since these individuals have never operated as a team before, and have only been "Avengers" for a few hours, Hawkeye's suggestion about voting for a leader is a bit premature--but, eventually, that's exactly the procedure that will be followed for Avengers leadership. How and why it came to that seems unclear. We do know that the team reached a point where the positions of "chairman" and "team leader" became one and the same:



And as a result, the position understandably became saddled with the pressures and burdens of coordinating and being responsible for all the people on your team--a far cry from being handed a gavel at a roundtable and conducting a weekly meeting:



In addition, more than once the position became a point of contention, with the Avengers now reduced to a collection of very powerful individuals who have apparently forgotten that they're all capable of self-sufficient strategy and teamwork:




Cap's words here still ring in my ear occasionally, because Avengers chairmanship used to be exactly that: a part-time job, as Iron Man knows as well as Cap. I don't know why the title "chairman" is being retained, unless it's still being used to distinguish the Avengers from other super-hero groups that have formal leaders (e.g., the FF, the Champions, the X-Men).

Eventually, almost all the original members hopped on board this train and shifted to this system of having formal elections--nominating and electing not just a chairman, but a chairman who would double as leader in the field:



As we see, the only aspect of the original system still in use--the regular rotation of the chairmanship position--was revised to schedule elections after a set period of time in order to keep some semblance of the democratic process by giving someone else a chance, or to otherwise renominate the current chairman.

Given enough of these types of scenes, it became clear that changes in Avengers leadership were drawing almost as much interest as lineup changes:




Captain Marvel's evolution in the Avengers had been so well handled up to this point that assuming leadership of the team was going to enhance her profile considerably. Even so, she's quite realistic about the responsibilities, as perhaps Iron Man was not:



But reservations aside, the captain indeed goes on to accept Cap's nomination. You can see more of Captain Marvel's stand-out leadership in the epic Avengers vs. Zeus tale. By the way, I'm afraid I haven't been keeping up--who's leading the Avengers these days? Did they finally get around to nominating Moondragon? Good luck getting her to step down.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

If I remember correctly, the last I heard it was Willie Lumpkin. Since the USPS downsized his route, he's had extra time in his day.

The Prowler (perusing any and all newsletters).

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