It took a lot longer than I thought, but I’ve tabulated all the suggested lists of Avengers from my last post, and tallied them up. I should point out the following qualifications:
- Not everybody made it easy. If you said something like “I would sub in Martinex” and didn’t say who you’re subbing him for or in what list, then guess what, you just nominated a one-man Avengers team consisting of Martinex. If you didn’t make any sense, I ignored you. If you rambled on about “My 16th slot would either be Hogun the Grim or Sharon Carter, but later I’d replace them with Overmind,” then I just marked down Hogun the Grim and disregarded the others, because it’s DECISION TIME and I ain’t got time for you to quibble. If you posted two lists, I used the first one. You guys must have been real fun taking the SATs.
- A lot of characters have used multiple aliases and a lot of aliases have been used by multiple characters. I did my best to infer the intent of each voter. I assumed “Captain Marvel” meant Carol Danvers and “Wasp” meant Janet Van Dyne unless otherwise stated. I assumed anyone picking Monica Rambeau would know they need to be as specific as possible, but if they picked “Photon” they probably meant Monica and not Genis-Vell. A lot of people nominated “Spider-Woman” without specifying Jessica Drew or Julia Carpenter; I’d bet half meant one and half meant the other, but for the sake of clarity I’m assuming Jessica except where I was told otherwise. Nobody who picked “Quasar” said which one (I think they meant Wendell Vaughn), so we’ll all have to live with the mystery.
- As you might imagine from the above, I did not do a particularly thorough statistical analysis of the data, because the data I had to work with was fuzzy and this is not important enough for me to go back and ask fifty-something people (I didn’t count) to do it over and clarify if they meant Jacques Duquesne or Phillip Javert as the Swordsman. I just wanted a general consensus on who should be in the Avengers, and I got it. If someone cares enough to triple-check my work, go ahead on.
OK, enough jaw-jacking, here are the top 18 picks, and therefore logically the IDEAL AVENGERS ROSTER:
- Captain America (45)
- Iron Man (43)
- Hawkeye (43)
- Captain Marvel/Carol Danvers (42)
- Thor (39)
- The Wasp/Janet Van Dyne (33)
- The Black Panther (33)
- The Vision (33)
- The Scarlet Witch (32)
- Hank Pym (28)1
- The Black Widow (26)
- She-Hulk/Jennifer Walters (22)
- Luke Cage (19)
- Quicksilver (18)
- Beast (18)
- Monica Rambeau (17)
- Hercules (17)
- The Hulk (16)
Runners-up and analysis after the cut.
Five or more votes:
- Songbird (15)
- Spider-Man (13)
- Storm (13)
- Falcon (12)
- Nova/Richard Rider (12)
- Moondragon (11)
- Wonder Man (11)
- Spider-Woman/Jessica Drew (9)
- Iron Fist (9)
- Tigra (8)
- Doctor Strange (8)
- Amadeus Cho (8)
- Shang-Chi, Master of Kung Fu (8)
- Valkyrie (7)
- The Black Knight (6)
- Northstar (6)
- Moon Knight (5)
- Namor the Sub-Mariner (5)
Four votes: Quasar, Hellcat, Rick Jones, Iceman, Jessica Jones, Living Lightning, Sersi, Jocasta, Winter Soldier, Firebird, and Wolverine.
Three votes: Starfox, Cloak, Dagger, Darkhawk, Elsa Bloodstone, Mockingbird, Machine Man, Phyla-Vell, and Gravity.
Two votes: Stature, Havok, Firestar, Kitty Pryde, Beta Ray Bill, Rogue, Namora, Monet St. Croix, Crystal, Sandman, Mach-V, Brother Voodoo, Spider-Girl (Anya Corazon), The Invisible Woman, Stingray, Dr. Druid, Doc Samson, Human Torch (Johnny Storm), Ant-Man (Scott Lang), Ant-Man (Eric O’Grady), Maya Lopez, Excalibur (Faiza Hussain), X-23, Nightcrawler, Misty Knight, War Machine, Patriot (Eli Bradley), Red Hulk, The Sentry (eat me), Toxin, and Blade.
One vote: Rage, Jimmy Woo (niiice), Polaris, Madrox the Multiple Man, Jack of Hearts, Captain Britain, Black Cat, Giant-Man (Tom Foster), Deathlok (Michael Collins), Speedball, Squirrel Girl, Rocket Raccoon, Black Bolt, Namorita, Sasquatch, Justice (Vance Astrovik), Hawkeye (Kate Bishop), Wiccan, Hulkling, Speed, Wong, Puck, Hussar, Psylocke, Crimson Dynamo, Topaz, Arkus, Domino, The Juggernaut, Tagak the Leopard Lord (wow), Wyre, the Human Torch (Jim Hammond), Triton, Baron Zemo, The Thing, Makkari, Chamber, Spider-Woman (Julia Carpenter), Heather Hudson, Swordsman, Paladin, Dani Moonstar, Spitfire, Tonaja, Century, Battlestar, Dusk, Oubliette, Talisman, Jubilee, Quake, Ghost Rider (Johnny Blaze), Rescue, Triathlon, Nomad, Power Fist (????), Clea, and J.A.R.V.I.S. (Iron Man’s AI in the movies).
Y’all musta forgot: Gilgamesh the Forgotten One (haw haw!)
In all, 145 different characters were suggested.
So what does this mean? Well it does not mean that the top 18 picks are the 18 Avengers Marvel should use. It was pretty clear going through all the lists that people generally picked a handful of classic Avengers and a handful of less obvious choices. The results suggest to me that everyone can largely agree on the classics but opinion varies wildly on who to have in the back row. Seventeen of the top 18 choices had joined the Avengers by 1983 (before the West Coast team even existed); the eighteenth, Luke Cage, didn’t join until 2004 but had been introduced in 1972. Clearly longevity and clout are key to whether a character belongs on the team.
This is a major impact on the diversity of the team. A lot of people suggested various people of color or LGBT characters, but there wasn’t much consensus on which ones to use, whereas there’s no question which white people get top priority. This backs up a pet theory of mine about the challenges of increasing diversity in superhero comics.
Over the last fifty years, our culture has grown more willing to embrace greater diversity in the superhero pantheons, but we’ve also grown more diverse and fickle in our individual opinions. Characters like Captain America were created in a time when superheroes tended to be white/male/straight and fandom was more unified behind such characters. More modern characters are more likely to be diverse, but they’re also more likely to have a smaller share of fan appreciation. Northstar, for example, was never designed to be liked by everyone or to be an iconic superhero–by the time he was developed, characters tended to be more human and appeal to a narrower, deeper audience. (The same could be said of Quasar, but we’re not as concerned about him because he fills fewer checklists.) The net result is that when choosing a straight Avenger we say “Well, you have to have Cap,” and when choosing a gay Avenger we will say “Sure, who’s a gay superhero…I guess Northstar? But he’d the first to object to being a token…and he works better in Alpha Flight…Living Lightning would make more sense…but Moondragon’s been around longer…” That’s not homophobia at work, it’s indecision, and I’m sure it happens in the Marvel bullpen as well.
You can see the same effect at work with Marvel’s efforts to choose a top female hero to elevate to that Cap/Spidey/Hulk level. For a while the top woman was Sue Storm virtually by default, then Medusa, then Red Sonja, then Spider-Woman, then Storm, then Elektra, and so on. Currently Black Widow and Carol Danvers get to share the brass ring. All of these heroines are quite popular, but none of them have ever been as popular as Wolverine, a guy who was pushed during the same period but much more consistently. True, Wolverine has the advantage of not being pushed arbitrarily as a token, but even tokenism would be more effective if everybody could agree on which tokens to choose. That’s one reason I think Luke Cage’s stock has risen so much in the last decade. Marvel finally said “okay, this is our top black hero,” and stuck with it no matter what, and we’re finally approaching the point where people see him as a top hero first and a black hero second. (He’s not a top Avenger yet, but that’s another matter.)
A lot of debate surrounded who “deserves” to be an Avenger, and I think it’s best summed up by Songbird only barely missing the cut. A recurring theme in the comments was that Songbird has worked hard to redeem herself in the Thunderbolts and has now earned a spot in the Avengers, who should by now respect her dedication. I find this sentiment curious, since I think one of Songbird’s most defining moments was when the Avengers did offer her membership and she refused.
There seems to be a worrisome belief that every Marvel hero is essentially an Avenger-in-training, and that the natural goal of all of them is to improve themselves until they earn a place at the adults’ table. This arrangement wouldn’t be all that swell for the Avengers, but it’d be downright disastrous for the rest of the Marvel characters. It would reduce all the superheroes into variations of Hawkeye, Monica Rambeau, and Justice, all letting their connection to the Avengers validate their existence. Mind you, I like Hawkeye, Monica, and Vance, but I don’t need a universe full of them. I’d much rather have some characters like Songbird who fit the mold of an effective Avenger but nevertheless reject the team’s methods or their philosophy or their exceptionalism. That creates conflict, and conflict is better for stories.
(This comes close to why I don’t think Spider-Man makes sense as an Avenger. A million people argued that he’s been a team player since Marvel Team-Up, but to me he was partly defined by the fact that his team-ups were brief, informal affairs rather than a stable, long-term alliance. That used to make him very different from, say, Hawkeye; now he’s just another loudmouth in the back of the Quinjet.)
This notion that everybody should either be in the Avengers or trying to get in leads to things like, for example, somebody choosing all of the Young Avengers to be in the regular Avengers. I’ve got nothing against the Young Avengers, but if you want to read about them there’s already a comic book about them, it’s called Young Avengers. (Feel free to write Marvel and tell them to publish it more often.) Putting half of the X-Men or Defenders or Thunderbolts into the Avengers doesn’t make them more special, it just makes being an Avenger mean far less. If everybody is special, then nobody is.
A couple of people suggested that they’d prefer the Marvel heroes to be organized like Justice League Unlimited, with literally every hero being at least a reserve Avenger. I can see the appeal of that if I were Nick Fury trying to keep all these guys organized and centralized. But I’m not Nick Fury; I’m a reader who wants to appreciate what makes these heroes and teams unique rather than homogenize them all into one big bland superhero conglomerate. Uncanny Avengers is pushing it as far as I’m willing to go.
Finally, I just want to award a thousand style points to those of you who suggested Stingray and Dr. Druid. Not my first choices (or my eleventh), but they’re both cool, so rock on.
- I’m counting 3 votes for “Ant-Man” and one for “Giant-Man” that didn’t clearly specify any particular person under the mask. [↩]