Say what you like about Brian Michael Bendis -- and this board has lots of strong opinions! -- from my perspective, he has converted the Avengers franchise into the core of the Marvel Universe.
After the X-Men emerged as the industry's top franchise in the early 1980s, Avengers
and its related titles (Iron Man, Thor, Captain America
) fell on hard times. I don't know if there's any connection, but I suspect there is -- if nothing else, there's a finite amount of money in fans' pockets, and if one title goes up, other titles generally go down. But leaving the X-Men aside, during the '80s and '90s the Avengers titles were selling so poorly it had this old Avengerphile a little concerned.
And whether chicken or egg, they weren't do well creatively to my eyes. Some Legionnaires have expressed appreciation for such things as the Mike Deodata Thor
, or the Bob Harris Avengers
. Me, I couldn't get my head around those darn leather jackets the Avengers were wearing (yeah, that sure improved Captain America's outfit) or the Rob Liefeld-esque art that Deodata and others were doing. (I was not a fan of Liefeld's work even when it was popular.)
But what a change a decade makes! Or, more accurately, what a change Bendis has made.
Now, I'm not here to praise Bendis's content uncritically. Like many fans, I was not enthusiastic at the time with "Avengers Disassembled," which suggested to me that Earth's Mightiest Heroes were quitters. "House of M" seemed like an elaborate what-if and drawn out well past its shelf date. "Civil War" had some real highs, but some real lows as well. I actually quite enjoyed "Secret Invasion" and "Dark Reign," although I know many on this board didn't, and I sympathize with their complaints.
But the relative creative success of Avengers
is not the point. The undeniable commercial success is. And in retrospect, no matter what you or I or anyone thinks of Bendis's Avenging storylines over the last decade, they have added up to a remarkable achievement.Avengers
, which in the '90s flirted with cancellation numbers, is now (and will continue to be, despite Siege
) four ongoing titles. The individual Marvel movies starring Iron Man, Thor and Captain America are being referred to -- even in Hollywood -- as "Avengers movies," with an actual Avengers
film coming in 2012. An Avengers cartoon begins in the fall. That's pretty amazing.
Meanwhile, there's a lot of news on all these projects, so let me sum it up:
* The four current Avengers titles will be rebooted after Siege
, and Marvel has released teaser art on three of them. This gives us five members of those teams, sorta. Avengers
, according to these teasers
, will star Captain America (Bucky), Spider-Woman, Iron Man, Hawkeye and Thor (and possibly others, as Marvel.com shows the Avengers as Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, Spider-Man and Wolverine). New Avengers teasers
show Cage, Spider-Man, Wolverine, Jewel and The Thing. The other two teams are problematic -- Secret Avengers teasers
are only silhouettes, leaving it up to us to figure out, and the teasers for Avengers Academy
(if any) have yet to be released. (I will, of course, post them in Comics News
should they be released.)
* A fifth Avengers
title -- a miniseries by Bendis and Alan Davis -- is in the works
, too. Avengers Prime: Siege Aftermath
will be a five-issue, bi-monthly title starring Steve Rogers, Thor and Iron Man. The book is supposed to show how the Big Three iron out their differences -- which are extreme -- between the end of Siege
#1 but, unfortunately, won't conclude until almost a year from now. It will be interesting to see how Bendis digs himself out of the hole he's dug himself into. (Since Tony Stark has done some things that Cap and Thor should find almost unforgivable.)
* The new cartoon is called The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes
, and stars the first six Avengers -- Captain America, Thor, Iron Man, Hulk, Ant-Man and Wasp. It debuts on Disney XD in the fall, and already has 52 episodes ordered, according to ICv2.com
the movie is scheduled for 2012, and according to IMDb.com
many of the actors in other Marvel movies will reprise their roles in it, including Robert Downey Jr. (Iron Man), John Krasinski (Captain America), Chris Hemsworth (Thor), Samuel Jackson (Nick Fury), Don Cheadle (War Machine) and Scarlett Johansson (Black Widow). Rumored appearances include Edward Norton (Bruce Banner) and Jeremy Renner (Hawkeye).
So credit where it's due: The Avengers franchise was in trouble before Bendis took over, but now has expanded to encompass much of the Marvel Universe -- and sales charts. We have to thank others for the success of Captain America
(Ed Brubaker), Thor
(J. Michel Straczynski) and Iron Man
(Matt Fraction), but the timing of those strong title runs couldn't be better, and paint a very bright future for Avenging.
I'm tempted to end this post with "Avengers Assemble!" But, for heaven's sake, just about everybody in the Marvel Universe would show up!