Earth's Mightiest Creators1 of 12Since their first movie dominated the box office and became a pop culture phenomenon, the Avengers have been Marvel’s flagship franchise. With multiple comic book titles, and an ongoing saga of films that will stretch into the foreseeable futures, the moniker of “Earth’s Mightiest Heroes” is more fitting than ever.
But who brought the Avengers to this point? Countless creators have worked on the team since their debut in the 60s, but there are some who have truly left their mark on the team, shaping not just the history of the Avengers, but the history of the Marvel Universe as well.
Here are ten creators and creative teams that truly shaped the Avengers, and with them all of Marveldom.
Bob Harras2 of 12The 90’s was a rough time for the Avengers. With most of the team’s biggest names giving way to B-listers and also-rans and some strange story choices (Teen Tony Stark, anyone?) it’s easy to see why the “leather jacket” era of the team isn’t particularly well regarded. And through much of it, writer Bob Harras was spearheading the oddball take on Earth’s Mightiest Heroes.
While he wrote a few clunkers, he also redefined the Avengers as a team entity, unifying them as concept and often pushing the envelope even when his choices didn’t pan out. And without Harras’s guidance, "Heroes Reborn" might never have happened. And without that, some of the greatest Avengers stories of all time might never have come about.
Geoff Johns3 of 12Geoff Johns took over as writer of Avengers in the wake of Kurt Busiek’s milestone stint on the title, and though he had big shoes to fill, he moved quickly to do so. Over the course of three arcs (and his only major Marvel work), Johns cemented his reputation as a creator who truly understood his heroes – both DC’s top characters, and Marvel’s.
The pinnacle of Johns’s run was his middle arc, “Red Zone,” in which an in-disguise Red Skull unleashed a plague on the United States. That forced Johns’s Avengers team, which included such unlikely heroes as Ant-Man (at the time mostly obscure) and Jack of Hearts to band together in new ways and established the Falcon as the heart of Johns’s team.
”Red Zone” had the added legacy of bringing artist Olivier Coipel to the Marvel Universe, a penciller who quickly became one of Marvel’s top names, and remains an in-demand artist to this day.
John Byrne4 of 12John Byrne’s Avengers resume isn’t as extensive as some of the creators on this list – he’s far more known for his work on the X-Men and Fantastic Four – but it’s hard to discount the impact he had even in his brief stints onto the Avengers.
Byrne’s primary contributions came in the form of his run on West Coast Avengers, in which he explored the true nature of Vision and Scarlet Witch’s relationship, telling the tragic story of their ersatz children, who later became focus players in Young Avengers.
Jim Shooter5 of 12Jim Shooter’s Avengers legacy may be tainted by questionable choices when it comes to the characters of Hank Pym and Carol Danvers, but it’s equally remembered for the masterful “Korvac Saga,” a story he co-wrote with Dave Michelinie, in which an all powerful cosmic villain nearly dismantled the Avengers and their allies the Guardians of the Galaxy.
Over the course of ten years, Shooter penned the Avengers’ adventures off and on, into his stint as editor-in-chief of Marvel Comics, a position from which he spearheaded the first Secret Wars crossover.
Roger Stern6 of 12Roger Stern's Avengers are, for many fans, the heir apparent to Roy Thomas's early squad of heavy hitters paired with B-listers and dark horse choices. It was Stern that brought in characters such as Tigra, Namor, and She-Hulk - and who split the team into two branches with the West Coast Avengers.
While Stern isn't brought up much these days, he remained one of the stewards of Avengers history for years, collaborating with Kurt Busiek on the time-crossed mini-series Avengers Forever, and delving into their secret history for Avengers #1/2. As one of Marvel's primary "architects" for decades, Stern carried on a long tradition of top creators using the Avengers to steer the Marvel Universe.
Steve Englehart7 of 12Though he’s often overlooked today, Steve Englehart was one of Marvel’s top writers of the 70’s. Aside from a groundbreaking run on Captain America that established characters and themes for Cap that are still being explored today, Englehart took Roy Thomas’s cosmic Avengers stories to the next level, bringing in Mantis and the Celestial Madonna, and then diving deep into the familial relationships at the heart of the Avengers, building on Thomas’s established core of Scarlet Witch, Vision, Hank Pym, and their web of interconnected stories.
Englehart wrote nearly 50 issues of the Avengers, and like the rest of his work, his stories are often overlooked. However, many of his ongoing ideas form the core of Marvel’s current cosmic output, heavily influencing everything up to and including the next Guardians of the Galaxy film.
Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, & Don Heck8 of 12The Avengers’ origin story is well known – When Loki threatens Earth, his brother Thor and some of the greatest heroes in history come together as Earth’s Mightiest Heroes to confront a threat no single hero could withstand. But the actual origin is less well-known. Allegedly (and we say allegedly because just about anything at Silver Age Marvel that revolves around Stan Lee can be taken with a grain of salt), Stan Lee decided to assemble the Avengers of some of his existing heroes when it became clear that one of Marvel’s other titles wouldn’t be ready for the printer on time.
Lee enlisted Jack Kirby, with whom he had co-created most of the Avengers characters, on art. Kirby stuck with the title longer than many of his Marvel creations, penciling the first eight issues before allowing underrated Iron Man artist Don Heck to take over. Kirby returned to plot layouts under Heck’s finishes for another four issues later in the run.
Aside from creating the team, Lee and Kirby defined what their adventures would be like, creating an always fluid roster of heroes that were just as strong on their own as they were together. And though Heck came later, his work on early Avengers issues, in which he and Lee created many villains and characters still seen today, can’t be denied.
Brian Michael Bendis9 of 12Brian Michael Bendis took over the Avengers franchise in the early 00’s, rattling the series to its core with the story “Avengers Disassembled” which killed off nearly half a dozen longtime Avengers, including Hawkeye, Vision, and Ant-Man, and essentially turned Scarlet Witch into a villain.
But what Bendis broke, he put back together, writing the landmark New Avengers series, which brought Spider-Woman, Luke Cage, Wolverine, and Spider-Man onto the team and set the pace for the Marvel Universe for nearly a decade.
With hundreds of issues and numerous volumes and spin-offs under his belt, Bendis is actually the reigning champion in terms of the length of his Avengers run. Though his non-traditional take on the team rankled some, it’s impossible to deny the impact he had on the legacy of the Avengers.
Roy Thomas10 of 12Roy Thomas took the Avengers reins from Stan Lee himself, carrying on his legacy as Stan's heir apparent and the go-to guy for Marvel's second wave. Thomas quickly took the Avengers out of New York, bringing in characters like the Vision and Black Panther, and establishing the core team dynamics that still resonate to this day.
Thomas's Avengers are what many consider the team's platonic ideal. Working primarily alongside the equally legendary artist John Buscema, with some help from ringers such as Neal Adams, Thomas wrote more landmark issues of the Avengers than almost anyone. The crown jewel of his run is undoubtedly "The Kree/Skrull War," one of the greatest Avengers stories of all time, and the team's first real cosmic adventure.
Thomas was the second writer of the team, and the second Avengers writer to be Marvel editor-in-chief, an honor shared by many Avengers writers over the years.
Kurt Busiek and George Perez11 of 12In terms of classic Avengers runs, it’s hard to top writer Kurt Busiek and George Perez’s long stay on the title. Launching in the wake of "Heroes Reborn," which took the Avengers to an alternate world with a very different history, Busiek and Perez’s Avengers started by bringing in every character who had ever served on the team, and boiled them down to one of the greatest Avengers line-ups of all time.
Though Perez left before Busiek, their combined accomplishments are immeasurable. As a team, they saved the Avengers from the ill-received "Heroes Reborn," and from a prior decade that had taken the team to some strange places. Together, Busiek and Perez redefined the Avengers as a team at the forefront of the Marvel Universe, and a must-read title for years after their run.
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