<i>By George Marston, Newsarama Contributor</i> <p>The Avengers now a billion-dollar movie franchise along with being one of the flagship titles of Marvel's publishing line are about to get even bigger. <p>In the Marvel NOW! era of <b>Avengers</b>, starting in December with a new #1, it's been established that incoming series writer Jonathan Hickman is planning on growing the team to around 18 active members, in a book that's scheduled to ship biweekly. <p>We know quite a few already some or all of the six movie Avengers (Captain America, Thor, Iron Man, Hulk, Hawkeye and Black Widow), Captain Marvel, Shang-Chi, Falcon and Spider-Woman. Plus at least a couple of new characters, along with some characters who have never before been Avengers. <p>That last bit is plenty ripe for guessing, but it does beg the question what characters are left that haven't been Avengers yet? With solo acts like Wolverine, Spider-Man and Daredevil all part of the team, along with those previously associated with other teams like X-Men's Storm and the Fantastic Four's Thing the list of who hasn't been an Avenger is a lot narrower than it used to be. <p>Of course, the Marvel Universe is a big place, and there are still a lot of prime candidates, and here are 10 of them. (<i>Albert Ching contributed to an updated version of this story</i>.) <p><i>Got a comment? There's lots of conversation on Newsarama's <a href=http://www.facebook.com/Newsarama><b>FACEBOOK</b></a> and <a href=http://twitter.com/newsarama><b>TWITTER</b></a>!</i> <p> <p>
OK, so, this one's a little tricky. While the Punisher is one of Marvel's most popular characters, he's never really been a team player, and his few forays into organized heroics have ended, shall we say... poorly. <p>Still, he's a high-profile participant in Marvel's ongoing continuity, and while his penchant for extreme violence sets him far apart from the mainstream superheroes that make up teams like the Avengers, there have been brushes with the team, like his involvement with Captain America's resistance in <i>Civil War</i> and his subsequent attempt to adopt Cap's identity that hinted at a possible eventuality where a semi-reformed Frank Castle avenges more than just the death of his family. <p>It's a little too far out to even be called a long shot, but when it comes to comics, even the most unlikely scenario has the possibility of coming true though seeing as how he's targeting the Avengers in the recently released <a href=http://www.newsarama.com/comics/marvel-comic-con-teaser-this-is-war.html><i>Punisher War Zone</i></a> teasers, they'll probably need to have a serious talk before offering him a membership card. But hey, what's a more sacred comic book tradition than "fighting before eventually teaming up"?
It's been said that every character on the Marvel NOW! teaser illustrated by Joe Quesada is there for a reason, and most are pretty easy to figure out. Silver Age Jean Grey is there because of <i>All-New X-Men</i>. Nova and Rocket Raccoon are there because the cosmic characters are being integrated into the larger Marvel Universe, as seen currently in <i>Avengers Assemble</i>. Captain America, Thor, Iron Man, Wolverine, Spider-Man and Hulk are there because, duh. <p>But what about the Invisible Woman? Sure, she's one of the longest-running Marvel heroes, and also one of their most prominent females (and the only character on the teaser besides Jean Grey without a Y chromosome). But why her, and not the rest of the Fantastic Four? <p>It's as good a guess as any that she might end up on an Avengers team in the near future, which is pretty much the ultimate promotion within Marvel at this point. <p>(And, yes, her and Mr. Fantastic were a part of the Avengers once, very briefly, but we're guessing that stint was short enough that she'll still be considered a newbie in terms of long-term active membership.)
Ken Hale, a.k.a. Gorilla Man, may be another long-shot candidate for membership in the Avengers, but after a teaser showed him standing among such classic members as Captain America, Thor, and Black Widow, there was much speculation that Marvel's 2010 <i>Heroic Age</i> would see the character joining one of the four resulting teams of Avengers. <p>While his espionage background sets him perfectly among the ranks of his usual cohorts, the Agents of Atlas, it's been established that the new Avengers team will cover just about every corner of the Marvel Universe, meaning it's not impossible that Gorilla Man's time in the majors is still on the horizon. <p>After all, who doesn't want an ape with a machine gun covering their six?
While the Spirit of Vengeance's latest incarnation all but failed to take hold with fans, the concept of Ghost Rider has been one of Marvel's most recognizable icons for decades. While that time has seen the character join teams like the Defenders, the Champions, and even the substitute Fantastic Four, he's never really even come close to joining the Avengers. <p>Still, with longtime holdouts like Daredevil, and Ghost Rider's former Defenders teammate Dr. Strange finally joining the team over the last few years, it seems like it's only a matter of time before characters as iconic as Ghost Rider are tapped for the roster.
He may be a little weird, or even kind of goofy, but the fact remains that not only is Beta Ray Bill a rival for Thor in terms of power, and one of the few beings deemed worthy of lifting mighty Mjolnir, but he's also got a fervent fanbase who are ever pushing for the character to take his place among Earth's Mightiest Heroes. <p>It's a little surprising, with the number of times Thor has taken leave of the Avengers, Bill has yet to be tapped to fill that power gap. With fan speculation abounding that the next Thor film will see the titular Asgardian taking on cosmic threats in the reaches of space, those same fans are clamoring to see the Korbinite warrior on the big screen. <p>Keeping that in mind, the time may be right for Beta Ray Bill to join one of the various teams of Avengers, or perhaps even the main squad.
Though his current status quo seems to be "evil and dead," given the character's history, it's almost a certainty that it'll only be a matter of time before those two little speed bumps clear out of the way of a comeback. <p>Also, given the recent surge in popularity for Warlock's last team, the Guardians of the Galaxy, it seems likely that we'll see the character returning sooner rather than later. In past years, Warlock has worked closely with the Avengers, fighting alongside most of Marvel's heroes throughout several conflicts revolving around the Infinity Gauntlet. <p>With the recent appearance of Warlock's nemesis Thanos in both the <i>Avengers</i> film, and <i>Avengers Assemble</i>, Warlock's membership with the Avengers seems like a strong possibility.
Maybe it's kind of cheating to go for a two-fer, but the duo of Cloak and Dagger are rarely seen apart, and Avengers membership for one would almost certainly mean membership for the other. <p>Nick Spencer and Emma Rios's recent miniseries saw a surge in popularity for the fan-favorite duo, and their involvement in <i>Spider-Island</i> had them fighting alongside the Avengers, and not for the first time. Granted, the pair have had their share of difficulties, not the least of which involved Mr. Negative swapping their power sets, a change that is still in effect. <p>However, the fact remains that the Avengers, either singularly, or as a team, have often turned to the pair in times of crisis, such as <i>Civil War</i>, and <i>Spider Island</i>. It seems distinctly possible that the team will someday realize the value in having the duo around on a full-time basis.
Though it's rather unlikely that Cyclops will be joining the Avengers anytime soon, given that he recently declared "no more Avengers" in <i>Avengers vs. X-Men</i>, there was a point when it wasn't so far-fetched to think that he'd make the jump someday. <p>With other iconic X-Men such as Beast, Wolverine, and even Storm currently serving as Avengers, it seems like a natural progression for the self-appointed leader of Marvel's remaining mutants to take a spot among the larger superhero community. It even seemed like it was about to happen when Cyclops formed his "extinction team," and joined forces with the Avengers to contain a host of intergalactic criminals. <p>Scott's brother Havok is poised to become leader of <i>Uncanny Avengers</i> in the "Marvel NOW!" era, which officially makes Cyclops the Avengers no matter how unlikely <b>AvX</b> is making it appear at this point in time at least in the realm of possibility. It would certainly be a surprising ending to <b>Avengers vs. X-Men</b>.
Not only one of Jack Kirby's favorite creations but one of Marvel's most popular characters, it seems odd that the cosmic explorer known as the Silver Surfer rarely finds himself in contact with Marvel's flagship team. <p>Sure, he was a founding member of the Defenders, but it seems like every time the Avengers have a membership drive, the Surfer finds himself back in the employ of his creator, the world-eating Galactus, which pretty much precludes him from consideration. <p>Still, the Surfer has a level of cosmic power that is almost unrivaled by other heroes, which could be a valuable asset to the Avengers, especially considering the type of threats they've recently faced, including the cosmic entity the Phoenix. Though the Surfer might not find himself with the Avengers any time soon, given his profile in the Marvel Universe and the current elevation of cosmic characters, there's always a chance.
Believe it or not, despite the number of times he's worked alongside them, manipulated them or fought against them, Nick Fury has never been an Avenger (unless you count the recent miniseries <i>Avengers 1959</i>). <p>Though the original version now appears to be mostly retired, there's no doubt that Marvel has big plans for Nick Fury Jr. formerly known as Marcus Johnson, and introduced in the <i>Battle Scars</i> miniseries. He's on the Marvel NOW! teaser image, and was depicted in a <a href=http://www.newsarama.com/comics/marvel-now-point-one-comic-con.html>Comic-Con teaser</a> released earlier this week. <p>Both the <i>Ultimates</i> version of Nick Fury and the one portrayed by Samuel L. Jackson in the movies are closely associated with super-teams, so it would seem to be a natural fit to give the new Nick Fury (clearly inspired by both of those characters) a major role in the new Avengers including, potentially, full membership, a first for any Nick Fury.