Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Together Again, For The First Time

One of the reasons I suppose we comics readers were excited about the release of The Avengers is because it finally ignited a concept that never really worked. Aside from The Avengers #100, the original team has never really reassembled to battle a common foe; and even in that issue, they fought more separately than together. And as far as their beginning days as a "team"--well, let's just say that the Avengers, as originally cast, would probably have worked better as a one-shot, rather than in a regular comic book of their own. (You could probably say the same for the Defenders.)

As I've mentioned before, the book was simply a grouping of Marvel's A-list characters under one roof--and very powerful characters, at that, the most powerful that Marvel had to offer. In teaming up, they may have had the right idea, in terms of being able to meet any threat; but a true team is a blending of individuals whose abilities complement each other's, rather than simply a grouping of like-minded individuals. Ant-Man and the Wasp, being the weakest of the five, had the most to gain by trying to work within a framework of teamwork; but Iron Man, Thor, and certainly the Hulk would really have no reason to adjust their fighting style. In fact, their words, shown here at the moment of the group's creation, give you an indication of how they think of "the Avengers" as more of a good idea than a commitment:

The Hulk is really just looking forward to the fights; Thor perhaps sees an opportunity to interact more closely with mortal comrades-in-arms; and Iron Man most clearly articulates the group's informality. Indeed, in subsequent issues, "the Avengers" only meet at semi-regular intervals at a townhouse provided by Tony Stark, with a rotating chairman position. For the most part, they go about leading their separate lives. But even their loose formation isn't loose enough, as the Hulk sees that he'll never be able to co-exist with the other members and angrily leaves after just the second issue.

But after adding Captain America to the team, the Avengers become more closely-knit, for it's Cap who adds a sense of purpose to the group. Yet even so, the original lineup stays together for only twelve more issues before disbanding, with only Cap staying to lead a more trimmed-down membership in both size and power. Only then did we start to see a true "team" take shape, rather than a series of issues with Marvel's heavy hitters under one masthead.

So the film took the original concept and put a lot more thought into it than what it probably received in the beginning. In this incarnation, Nick Fury acts as a binding force to pull these individuals into a team from day one, appealing to their sense of duty while adding a couple of S.H.I.E.L.D. veterans to the mix to balance things out. (Which corrects the imbalance of Ant-Man/Giant-Man and the Wasp, who literally couldn't emerge from the shadows of their more powerful and dynamic teammates. How ironic that in Avengers #1, it's Ant-Man who single-handedly captures and defeats Loki.) Beats me how they figured on getting the Hulk to cooperate, instead of leaping off into the distance--Bruce Banner may be on board with Fury's little strike squad, but since when does Banner call the shots for the Hulk?

Anyway, we've come a long way from this:

to this:

Only this time, given the franchises that have been established, the "fight separately or together" formula may just bind these individuals together, after all.


Kid said...

That last panel in Avengers #1 always bothered me. Look at how small the Hulk is compared to Thor - and ol' Greenskin's standing up straight. Jack always had bother keeping the characters' sizes consistent in relation to one another in just about every strip he ever worked on. Still great 'though.

Terence Stewart said...

Ha! Perhaps that's why I wasn't particularly impressed by the movie, having no particular love for all the Big Guns together. I'm reminded of when Shooter returned to The Avengers and had everyone interesting quit, leaving a team that was essentially the originals with Tigra replacing Hulk. Snooze...

Comicsfan said...

With those early issues from Marvel, I think panel size had a lot to do with it, since panels were generally much smaller so presumably more of them could fit onto a page (perhaps to give the illusion of a reader getting a lot of action for the money). So if you've got a lineup of Avengers, there's not going to be much elbow room for all of them in one little panel plus cramming in dialog along with them.

Of course, now that I think about it, even on the cover the Hulk was a hunched little troll; but even in his own first series he seemed much more "bulk" than "Hulk" to me. :)

Comicsfan said...

The film seems to be mimicking the comic in at least one respect, in that "the Avengers" were a very informal group in the beginning and team members went their own way until needed, only meeting at Stark's mansion to touch base. Fury in the film seems content with not formalizing their structure, nor did the characters themselves lean in that direction. Maybe that works out perfectly for movie audiences, since it's more thrilling to see them assemble and surprise each other in crisis mode rather than calmly gathering around a gavel coming down.