Avengers Classics

Avengers Classics: The Beginning

The original Avengers assemble to combat The Hulk and Namor the Sub-Mariner

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“And there came a day, a day unlike any other, when Earth's mightiest heroes and heroines found themselves united against a common threat. On that day, the Avengers were born—to fight the foes no single super hero could withstand!”

Each Friday Marvel.com will present a different column focusing on the one and only Avengers. From line-ups to costumes to villains to classic stories and beyond, we’ve got you covered on the history of Marvel’s most prolific team of heroes!

So let the call go out: Avengers Assemble!

By Jim Beard

It’s an oft-told tale, but with good reason: In 1963, Stan Lee and Jack Kirby set out to tell a tale of titans coming together for the good of the world, and, in doing so, crafted a first issue that made comic book history and stood the test of time. The meeting of heroes in the classic AVENGERS #1 began a tradition that continues to this day, seen in recent issues of the modern AVENGERS title, the upcoming AVENGERS ASSEMBLE and 2012’s “Marvel’s The Avengers” feature film.

But that first AVENGERS #1 exists as only the first part of a story arc that rolls on through the following two issues, a story of the team’s inaugural adventures, but also of perhaps one of their greatest failures: the Incredible Hulk. One need only look at the recent membership of the Red Hulk and the Avengers’ long-standing tumult with the original to realize that the two legacies will always intertwine. That destiny began in those long-ago days of 1963.

You know the story: Loki, the God of Mischief, bristled with seething anger for his half-brother Thor after a recent defeat, and so, in the opening pages of AVENGERS #1, sketched out his revenge. Remote-viewing the bounding figure of The Hulk, the trickster led the green behemoth into a clever trap designed to once again draw the Green Goliath into the crosshairs of humanity. The call went out: The Hulk must be stopped!

Thor, Iron Man, Ant-Man and The Wasp all joined forces to track down the gamma-spawned giant at, of all places, a circus where The Hulk hid under the disguise of a robot clown. The band of heroes attacked, but the God of Thunder began to sense his evil sibling’s mind behind the Hulk’s actions and sped off to confront Loki at his prison on the Isle of Silence. There brother captured brother and returned to Earth for a reckoning. Loki, always thinking, made himself radioactive and endangered all, but a quick response from the heroes saved the day and stopped the mischief-maker in his tracks.

The last page of AVENGERS #1 presented a seminal moment; with the danger dissolved the heroes decided to remain as a team for the good of all. Iron Man, Thor, Ant-Man and The Wasp see the sense in it and look forward to pooling their resources—but the Hulk’s motivations don’t quite match up with those of his colorful companions.

“I’m sick of bein’ hunted and hounded!” he grumbled. “I’d rather be with you than against you!”

With those words. The uneasy alliance between monster and heroes found root, but would soon wither and die on the vine.

AVENGERS #2 opened with bickering and back-biting. The Hulk’s presence among the Avengers seemed to rub everyone the wrong way, but the Jade Giant had done nothing truly wrong, save be his unconventional self. Alas, an emergency presented itself before the meeting could come to blows and Earth’s Mightiest Heroes fell into the clutches of The Space Phantom, an alien with the incredible power to take the form of another living being and send his victim into an otherworldly limbo.

The Hulk became the Space Phantom’s first guinea pig in his bid to conquer the globe, and the alien wreaked much havoc while utilizing the hulking creature’s form. In fact, it fooled the Avengers and, thinking their new comrade once again a berserker, they attacked en masse. A wily game ensued, one in which The Space Phantom jumped from body to body until doing himself in by attempting to take on the form of the immortal Thor. Once the dust cleared, the Hulk’s anger bubbled to the surface and exploded in a tirade of harsh words.

“I never suspected how much each of you hates me, deep down!” he told the other Avengers. “I could tell by the way you fought me…by the remarks you made!”

Storming off, The Hulk shifted from founding member of the Avengers to one of their greatest foes. When readers cracked open the cover of AVENGERS #3, they found their heroes agreeing to hunt down the behemoth and bring him in. The climate had cooled and thoughts of a cohesive future in crime-fighting fell into plans of bringing all the world’s heroes together to confront The Hulk, but, in the end, only Iron Man, Thor, Ant-Man and The Wasp stood ready to tackle the monster.

The egotistic Sub-Mariner found The Hulk first, and, after a brief battle, convinced him they should join forces against the world. “Maybe it ain’t such a bad idea at that!” replied the Hulk, and the two world-beaters ran off to the races and into direct conflict with the Avengers. The battle that followed would become the stuff of legend, but distrust sowed the seeds of defeat for the team of the Sub-Mariner and The Hulk, and Earth’s Mightiest Heroes won the day once again.

Their victory did not come with cries of celebration and elation, though. “And so, the Avengers return home, weary and sad of heart,” the final panel of AVENGERS #3 told us. “For they all sense that the adventure they have just concluded is but the prelude to a far bigger, a far more dangerous adventure to come!”

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