Last week, Marvel introduced its brand new “All-New, All-Different” Avengers team, featuring a lineup of Avenger mainstays and untested newcomers. Joining Iron Man, Captain America (Sam Wilson) and the Vision on the team are younger heroes Nova, Ms. Marvel and Spider-Man (Miles Morales) along with the new Thor, who’s still learning how to wield her new powers. While the Avengers is known for its constantly shifting roster, the team has occasionally made massive changes, dropping all but a few members or bringing in an entirely new group of characters. To celebrate a new era of the Avengers, here’s a look at five other major changes to the Avengers team:
Cap's Kooky Quartet
The Avengers first major roster change came when the Wasp, Iron Man, Thor, and Giant-Man all left the team in Avengers #16, leaving Captain America as the team’s only member. Cap brought in Hawkeye, Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch to replace his departed teammates, transforming the Avengers from a team of super-scientists and gods to a roster filled with ex-criminals with attitude problems. While Cap and Hawkeye butted heads almost immediately, this underpowered Avengers team still managed to defeat threats like Dr. Doom and Kang, all the while looking for more heroes to add to its roster.
The New Avengers
After the Scarlet Witch went crazy and attacked the Avengers, leaving several members dead and the Avengers Mansion in ruins, the Avengers formally disbanded, leaving the world without an Avengers team for the first time in nearly forty years. When Electro engineered a breakout at the Raft, a supervillain prison located in the Hudson Bay, a new team of Avengers spontaneously formed to stop the villains from escaping. The team’s initial roster included Captain America, Iron Man, Spider-Man, Wolverine, Spider-Woman and Luke Cage. (The Sentry and Ronin joined the team in subsequent arcs.) Although some fans criticized the new roster for being a “money grab” because it added popular superheroes to the Avengers roster, the New Avengers breathed new life into the franchise and set the tone for the modern era of Avengers comics.
West Coast Avengers
Modern superhero fans are used to seeing multiple Avengers teams exist at the same time, with the Ultimates, A-Force, the New Avengers, the Secret Avengers, and the Uncanny Avengers all operating separately from the main Avengers lineup. The first “spinoff” Avengers team was the West Coast Avengers, a team founded by Hawkeye in the 1980s while most of the Avengers were away fighting in the Secret Wars. With a mix of established heroes like Hawkeye, Iron Man and Wonder Woman and new members like Mockingbird and Tigra, the West Coast Avengers were a bit more irreverent and less formal than their New York counterparts. Although the team regularly battled supervillains, the West Coast Avengers became known for their constant infighting, interpersonal drama and romantic entanglements. Eventually, the Avengers grew tired of their west coast counterparts’ antics and disbanded the team, leading to the formation of Force Works, another short-lived Avengers spinoff.
When a cabal of supervillains led by Norman Osborn took over much of the Marvel Universe during Marvel’s Dark Reign event, a new Avengers team emerged featuring a lineup of some of Marvel’s most dangerous villains. The Dark Avengers consisted of supervillains Bullseye, Venom, Moonstone, Ares and Daken, as well as the Sentry, now under Osborn’s influence. Osborn’s Dark Avengers acted as the “official” Avengers team for over a year, while the other Avengers squads operated in secret outside the law. The Avengers eventually banded together to defeat Osborn and the rest of the Dark Avengers while rescuing Asgard in the 2010 Siege event.
Government Cutbacks to the Avengers
In 1979, the Avengers roster swelled to over 20 members (including the time displaced Guardians of the Galaxy), an extreme number even for Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. Henry Gyrich, the government liaison to the Avengers and a constant thorn in the team’s side, decided that 20 members were too many and ordered the Avengers’ ranks be cut down to a mere seven members. Beast, Captain America, Iron Man, Vision, Scarlet Witch and the Wasp all survived the cut, with Gyrich adding the Falcon (who had never been an Avenger before) as an “affirmative action” hire. Like most Avengers lineups, Gyrich’s team didn’t last long. Ms. Marvel and Wonder Man both joined the team and Gyrich was forced out as liaison after the US Senate determined Gyrich’s methods were far too intrusive and restrictive for the Avengers to operate effectively.