We’re all excited about ‘The Avengers’ live-action movie. But of course, the Avengers comic book has been around for going on six decades now! That’s a lot of action, drama and memberships! I wanted to spotlight some of the most iconic covers in the team’s history!
20. Young Avengers #2 (Artist: Jim Cheung)
The Young Avengers was a concept that was so basic and “no duh” that it’s amazing it didn’t happen much sooner! What the Teen Titans are to the Justice League is what the Young Avengers are to the Avengers, younger, hopeful, aspiring counterparts to the older, established team. This cover showcases the original four members, Patriot, Asgardian (now known as Wiccan), Hulkling and Iron Lad, with their inspirations ghosted into the background. Their names and costumes may have changed over time, but this cover still powerfully depicts this new and enduring concept!
19. Avengers #200 (Artist: George Perez)
Your typical “strike a dramatic pose” cover, but in the hands of the extraordinary George Perez, it still flows with energy! Thor, Hawkeye and Iron Man all display what they do. The Wasp and The Vision are swooping down from above and Cap is rushing toward the reader. Perez is also known for his symmetry and that’s on display here as well, three on one side, three on the other, and so forth. Unfortunately, the story inside was cobbled together at the last minute and poor Ms. Marvel pays the price for that.
18. Avengers Classic #1 (Artist: Arthur Adams)
I love Art Adams! Let’s just get that out of the way. I! LOVE!! ART ADAMS!!! And when he just cuts loose and draws a bazillion super heroe? No harm in that! They sold a shirt with this image on it at Target and I think everyone I know owns it. Seriously! It’s every Avenger ever in the costume they wore when they first joined, so you have ugly Christmas Wonder Man and afro-licious Captain Marvel. The best part, though, is Adams’ not-even-remotely masking dislike of the universally disliked Ronin! You can only see his/her feet between The Hulk’s legs!
17. The Avengers #150 (Artist: George Perez)
VERY early George Perez here, but you already see him savoring the opportunity to draw a bevvy of heroes in every book! Sadly, the cover is the best part of this badly scraped together hodgepodge of fill-in story and reprints! It’s also the exit of two of my favorite obscure Avengers, Moondragon and Hellcat, but at least we get The Beast joining full-time!
16. Avengers #187 (Artist: John Byrne)
That witch crazy! The first (?) inkling that the Scarlet Witch wasn’t the most stable super hero in the team came when she was possessed and attacked her teammates, destroying their Quinjet. Later, she destroys an entire mountain. Her capture of her teammates is one of the most memorable covers of the era.
15. Avengers #181 (Artist: George Perez)
This was The Avengers at their bloated best, when they were joined by everyone from the Two-Gun Kid in the old west to the Guardians of the Galaxy, alien freedom fighters from the future and everyone in between! This led to the government reducing their ranks to a permanent roster of seven and cutting everyone else loose. Can you name all the heroes on this cover?
14. The Avengers (Volume 3) #1 (Artist: George Perez)
Whoops! Spoke too soon! There are THIRTY-SEVEN Avengers in this epic return to form for the team after a botched revamp attempt to make them (along with the Fantastic Four) edgier in the 90s. George Perez (him again!) returned to the book and helped steer the classic heroes back to old form! Out were nobodies like Sersi and Deathcry. In were Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, The Vision, The Scarlet Witch, Giant Man and The Wasp. Y’know… The Avengers?
13. The Avengers #1 (Artist: Jack Kirby)
And so it all began… several of Marvel’s still fledgling heroes bad together against a common threat, Thor’s evil brother Loki, who manipulates the heroes into pursuing The Hulk, thinking him a threat. Kirby brings his usual flair , cleverly positioning Loki with his back to the reader, allowing the stars to gather and charge at him dramatically!
12. JLA/Avengers #2 (Artist: George Perez)
Originally planned back in the 80s, the JLA/Avengers crossover was scuttled due to inter-company politics. Even so original illustrator George Perez insisted on drawing this book, when it finally happened. This cover showcases the biggest heroes of two comic companies going all out against one another. You get every fan’s dream match-up: Wonder Woman versus Hercules; Superman versus Thor; Batman versus Captain America! You even get the second string match-ups, like Zatanna versus the Scarlet Witch and The Atom versus Yellowjacket!
11. Avengers #141 (Artists: Gil Kane)
This is one of those cases of strange comic book synchronicity. The February 1971 issue of ‘Justice League of America’ featured that team battling the Champions of Angor, thinly-veiled avatars of The Avengers: Blue Jay/The Wasp and/or Yellowjacket, Jack B. Quick/Quicksilver, Silver Sorceress/ Scarlet Witch, Wandjina/Thor. In that same month, in ‘Avengers’ 85, the flagship heroes battled The Squadron Supreme, parallels of the Justice League: Hyperion/Superman, Nighthawk/Batman, American Eagle/Hawkman, Tom Thumb/The Atom, Lady Lark/Black Canary, Hawkeye (later Golden Archer, then Black Archer)/Green Arrow, Doctor Spectrum/Green Lantern and Whizzer/The Flash. While the Champions of Angor resurfaced in the late 80s, they never matched the appeal and staying power of The Squadron Supreme. Below is the cover of Avengers #141 with the two teams rushing toward one another, shot dynamically from below and packed with energy and drama. The Beast leaping into the air, stage center just drives it home!
10. The Avengers #277 (Artist: John Buscema)
This was one of the most famous and memorable Avengers stories ever! In a bold move, Baron Zemo and his Masters of Evil actually got their act together and hit the heroes with an army of super villains! Every Avenger was taken out! Thor was nearly beaten to death and spent months recovering! Avengers Mansion was razed to the ground. Those bastards even beat up the heroes’ butler, Jarvis! Ultimately, it came down to this, Captain America… strong and tough, but nowhere near as super human as his comrades, versus mad scientist Baron Zemo. It’s a final, desperate confrontation, fittingly teased on this cover.
9.Avengers #161 (Artist: George Perez)
Am I a Perez groupie? Guilty! Here’s another excellent offering by this master illustrator. Long considered the weakest Avenger, Ant Man proves his might on this cover. You can just feel The Avengers’ agony on their faces as, even with all their might, they are taken down by Ant Man’s army of insects.
8. Fantastic Four #243 (Artist: John Byrne)
Wait, wait, wait… I know what you’re thinking. That’s not even an Avengers cover! True, but you’ve got Iron Man, Cap,Thor and The Wasp joining forces with the Fantastic Four and even Doctor Strange to battle the uber-powerful cosmic entity Galactus. The image is so dynamic and energetic, you don’t even notice that there is no background whatsoever!
7. Avengers #16 (Artist: Jack Kirby)
Less than two years into their existence, The Avengers eschewed their book’s original mission, to basically serve as Marvel’s version of The Justice League, with all its headliners in one place. Founders, Thor, Iron Man, Giant Man and The Wasp chose to leave the team in first recruit, Captain America’s hands. That left him to fill out the team’s ranks with…? That’s what this cover teases. We have images of the departing members, plus Rick Jones, The Black Knight and a bunch of super villains! By the end of this issue, readers learn that three former bad guys have switched sides and are attempting to earn redemption and goodwill. They were Quicksilver, Scarlet Witch and Hawkeye, all three of whom have proven to be team staples over the years.
6. Avengers West Coast #52 (Artist: John Byrne)
In the 60s and 70s, mutant The Scarlet Witch’s romance with artificial human The Vision was a focal point in The Avengers. They wed and using the Scarlet Witch’s hex powers, conceived children, twin boys William and Thomas. However, things didn’t work out. Over the course of several months, the children started disappearing when their parents were out on missions, including one where their “dad” The Vision was dismantled and reprogrammed, losing all of his emotions, memories and humanity. It was eventually revealed that the twins weren’t real, just magical constructs! Here we see villain Master Pandemonium, absorbing the two boys, now distorted beyond recognition. It was the climax of a long, running, game-changing storyline. Eventually the boys recovered and are now Speed and Wiccan in the Young Avengers.
5. Marvel Graphic Novel #1 – The Death of Captain Marvel (Artist: Jim Starlin)
This was back when death in comics meant something. Marvel had high hopes for this character, even naming him after the company. But despite appearing on a few pieces of merchandising, Captain Marvel never rose to the level of popularity as Marvel’s other headliners. When Marvel decided to create a line of original, adult-skewing graphic novels (the first time that term had been used), they decided to explore the idea of a hero’s death. Captain Marvel discovers that he is dying from cancer. The heroes of Earth travel to Saturn’s moon Titan to pay their respects. The cover, by the story’s writer and illustrator show that even with their miraculous abilities, The Avengers and other heroes don’t have the power to save their friend.
4. Avengers (Volume 4) #18 (Artist: Daniel Acuna)
It’s another “Who’s joining the team?” cover, this time featuring Captain America looking at photographs of prospective members. What I love about it, though is the angle. It’s shot from above and only Cap’s hands actually appear, with his face being a reflection from the glass table he is sitting at. Great illustration!
3. Avengers #53 (Artist: John Buscema)
Of all the “two teams rushing each other” covers in the Avengers’ long history, few can capture the energy and fluidity of motion as this John Buscema classic! The three male Avengers are TICKED! Look at the emotion on their faces! Today it takes a full summer and about eleventy-gajillion single comics to tell the tale of The Avengers battling the X-Men. Back in the sixties, they squeezed it all into one single issue for a concentrated dose of good versus good!
2. Avengers #223 (Artist: Ed Hannigan)
“Somebody’s Gonna Get It!” That blurb says it all! Ace marksman Hawkeye taking aim at their quarry with Ant Man stowing along for the ride? Brilliant! And a classic! When Hawkeye was made into an action figure in the Marvel Legends toy line, they included an arrow with Ant Man on the tip, proving just how iconic an image this is!
1. Avengers #57 (Artist: John Buscema)
One of the most enduring and popular Avengers ever, The Vision debuted this issue and the impact he would have on the team is symbolized on this cover as he towers above his future allies, as they recoil in his presence. The cover has been paid homage to numerous times and is certainly one of the most famous Avengers covers, and in my humble opinion has earned the honor as their best!
There you have it! Agree? Disagree? Any favorites I left out? Please let me know, below!