There have been a TON of Avengers over the years. Some of them have been great additions to the team and have added to the mythos of the franchise, and others… not so much. Thankfully, for every Deathcry there’s a Black Panther, which is why the Avengers have endured for so many decades. While the core members are mostly now common household names thanks to the MCU, they aren’t the only ones that make the Avengers Earth’s mightiest heroes.
Real Name: James Howlett aka Logan
First Appearance: Incredible Hulk #180 (cameo), #181 (full)
Powers: Adamantium laced skeleton, healing factor, claws, enhanced senses
If this were a ‘top 25 marvel characters’ or ‘top 25 x-men’ he’d be a lot higher, but as an Avenger he hasn’t had a lot of stand-out moments. He had some nice bits with the New Avengers fights with the Hood and his army, and he was featured pretty prominently in Age of Ultron, but the vast majority of Wolverine moments that you think of are either in ‘Wolverine’ or an X-Men title.
24. Wonder Man
Real Name: Simon Williams
First Appearance: Avengers #9
Powers: Ionic energy powered, flight, enhanced strength, speed, invulnerability
Like many Avengers, Simon’s got a complicated, somewhat convoluted past. The important thing to know is that he is incredibly powerful; his body is made of ionic energy that makes him massively strong, intensely durable, and capable of flight. Simon doesn’t bother with a secret identity- the guy is a bona fide movie star! He hasn’t always seen eye to eye with the Avengers, but whether it’s due to his bromance with the Beast, his brother-like relationship with the Vision, or his love for the Scarlet Witch, Wonder Man will always be an Avenger at heart.
23. Dr. Strange
Real Name: Stephen Strange
First Appearance: Strange Tales #110
Powers: Mastery of sorcery/magic
The master of the mystic arts and keeper of the most dangerous and powerful magical artifacts in our reality, Dr. Strange hasn’t always been associated directly with the Avengers, but his time with the Illuminati(s) and his stint as a member of the anti-registration New Avengers team, he definitely qualifies! It’s always nice to have someone on the team that can be transport for everyone, can see through illusions/spells/manipulations, is as powerful an offensive weapon as there is, and oh yeah, was also a world-renowned surgeon before he got all magician-y. On a team that is historically full of complete and total power houses like Thor, Hercules, the Hulk, Captain Marvel, Iron Man, the Scarlet Witch, the Vision, etc, Dr. Strange holds his own- or outpaces- all of them.
22. Iron Fist
Real Name: Daniel Rand
First Appearance: Marvel Premiere #15
Powers: Martial Arts Master, wielder of the Iron Fist (a concentration of chi focused in the hands)
Forget the terrible Netflix series, Iron Fist is legit! An Iron Fist has always protected Earth in some fashion, and the current wielder, Danny Rand, is no exception. A more recent Avenger, having joined during the aftermath of the superhuman Civil War, he has no less more than earned his place alongside the classics. Able to focus an immense amount of chi into his fist (the ‘iron fist’) he can punch through steel- he’s also one of the greatest martial artists on the planet!
Real Name: Peter Parker
First Appearance: Amazing Fantasy #15
Powers: Spider-sense, enhanced strength, agility and endurance, ability to stick to surfaces
Pre-MCU he might not have been the first name to pop up when you think ‘Avengers’, but Spidey has been an on and off again member for nearly 20 years now! He’s been on the front lines as an Avenger for some of their biggest battles ever, so while it’s a little weird that the perennial loner is on a team of the biggest in-crowd heroes out there, there’s no denying that Spidey assembles with the best of them.
Real Name: Pietro Maximoff
First Appearance: Uncanny X-Men #4
Powers: Super speed
Seemingly always in a race to determine he’s either the fastest Avenger or the biggest jerkass Avenger, Pietro Maximoff is the closest thing Marvel comics has to the Flash, but unlike DC’s scarlet speedster, he’s insufferable. Everyone else is just…. so… slow! Known as the son of Magneto, he is probably most defined by his overprotectiveness of his sister, Wanda, aka the Scarlet Witch, and his former marriage to Crystal of the Inhuman royal family. Pietro has his foot in all camps, basically, which means it’s fortunate he’s fast enough to be in two places at once!
19. Black Knight
Real Name: Dane Whitman
First Appearance: Avengers #47
Powers: No super powers, master swordsman and fighter, wielder of the cursed Ebony Blade
One of the more underrated Avengers, the Black Knight was a cornerstone of the franchise in the 80’s and 90’s. Wielder of the unstoppable Ebony Blade, Dane is one terrifying opponent. He’s a master swordsman, and his cursed sword wants him to kill you, to spill your blood all over the place. And it’s always talking to him. The amount of willpower Dane has to use to keep from killing everyone he sees would earn him a Green Lantern ring were he born in the right universe for it.
Real Name: Heracles
First Appearance: Journey Into Mystery Annual #1
Powers: Superhuman strength, stamina
The demi-God son of Zeus, Hercules is the real deal! He’s as strong as they come, and more than capable of holding his own around the likes of Thor, Ares, Ikaris, the Thing and even the Hulk (sometimes)! Plus, he’s got a great sense of humor, and loves nothing more than drinking, fighting, and lovin’, so he’s always fun. For some truly excellent Hercules comics, be sure to check out ‘The Incredible Hercules’ by Fred Van Lente and Greg Pak, which follows Herc on an insanely epic adventure alongside his best pal, Amadeus Cho!
17. Ant Man (Scott Lang)
Real Name: Scott Lang
First Appearance: Marvel Premiere #47
Powers: Equipment allows for size changing, communication with insects
The second to wear the Ant Man uniform, Scott has more than come into his own in the role, and that was long before he was a movie star. While he’s always on the side of the angels, he’s not NECESSARILY always on the side of the law, which tends to get him in some interesting situations, but between his engineering background and technical know-how he’s got a lot of useful skills, and that’s before you even take into account his mastery of the Ant Man suit!
16. Luke Cage
Real Name: Carl Lucas
First Appearance: Luke Cage, Hero for Hire #1
Powers: Superhuman strength and endurance, unbreakable skin
Long before he was redefined by his hit Netflix series, or even before he was redefined by Brian Bendis’ tenure at Marvel, Luke Cage was always one bad dude. You tell me how else he could be Harlem’s protector and get away with wearing a chain belt, wrist bands, a tiara/headband, and a canary yellow shirt. Nobody even said anything to him! You KNOW people know you’re a badass when you can walk around dressed that way and everyone just rolls with it. His super strength and unbreakable skin certainly help with that, but it’s the confidence and swagger of a guy that knows exactly who he is and what he’s about and knows he can do whatever is required to make it happen. Iron Fist’s best bud and Jessica Jones’ husband even led the New Avengers team post-Civil War and cemented himself as one of the best.
Real Name: Robert Bruce Banner
First Appearance: Incredible Hulk #1
Powers: Incredible strength, invulnerability, healing factor
The strongest one there is, the Hulk would undeniably be higher on the list were he not their opponent just as often as he is their ally! Sure, he counts as a founding Avenger, but let’s not forget that they were chasing him when they banded together, and very shortly after were ordered by the government to bring him in, and it’s been a rocky relationship ever since. Hulk may have some friends in the Avengers, or at least as far as the Hulk has friends, such as Captain America, Hercules, and a few others, but he’s just as liable to be swinging those guys around like clubs as he is to be palling around with them. As always, he’s all about that Hulk smash.
14. War Machine
Real Name: James “Rhodey” Rhodes
First Appearance: Iron Man #118 (self), Iron Man #170 (as Iron Man), Iron Man #282 (as War Machine)
Powers: Suit allows for enhanced strength and durability, supersonic flight, energy repulsors, heavy weaponry
Far more than the substitute Iron Man- although he is that, too- War Machine is as dangerous as they come. Piloted by USAF pilot and all-around hard ass James Rhodes, the pilot might be more dangerous than the machine, and the machine is fucking crazy! Look at that thing! In addition to the repulsor technology powering Stark’s suits, the War Machine armor also comes equipped with more weapons than an entire regiment. You’ve seen him tearing up bad guys for years in the MCU, but even they haven’t yet really captured how intense this thing can be in battle. While he doesn’t have a ton of missions as an Avenger in the War Machine armor, necessarily, Rhodey spent more than enough time as Iron Man in their ranks to earn this spot on the list!
13. Falcon/Captain America
Real Name: Sam Wilson
First Appearance: Captain America #117
Powers: Suit allows for flight, ability to see through birds’ eyes, limited control over birds, mental link with pet falcon
Long gone are the days when Sam Wilson was just looked at as Captain America’s sidekick; hell, these days Sam IS Captain America (well, one of them), complete with his own shield and uniform, the whole deal. But not being one to shy away from his history, he also rocks the falcon wings, which makes for one awesome combo (see current MCU and Marvel comics!). Sam’s been through it all, and he’s always come back stronger and more resolute than before, whether it’s as the high-flying Falcon or the shield slinging sentinel of liberty.
Plus, he can communicate with birds.
Real Name: Jennifer Walters
First Appearance: Savage She-Hulk #1
Powers: Superhuman strength, speed, endurance, healing factor
What could easily have been a one-note knock off character has instead become one of Marvel’s more popular, endearing characters. The cousin of the incredible Hulk himself, Bruce Banner, Jennifer Walters was horribly injured and in desperate need of a blood transfusion. With no other viable donors immediately available, Banner reluctantly gave his cousin some of his gamma irradiated blood, turning her from regular old attorney Jennifer Walters into super powerful green skinned attorney She-Hulk!
Not as prone to rage fueled meltdowns as her cousin, Jen primarily is herself while in Hulk form, just kind of turned up a few notches. Like her cousin she’s gone through a few transformations over the years, but primarily is the version most people know best: smart, quick-witted, and more than capable of completing sentences without referring to herself in the third person.
11. Scarlet Witch
Real Name: Wanda Maximoff
First Appearance: Uncanny X-Men #4
Powers: Probability manipulation, Reality warping
When it comes to confusing backstories, Wanda’s is up there with the X-Men’s Jean Grey. Orphaned at a young age along with her twin brother, Pietro (aka Quicksilver), she was taken in by gypsies and a talking cow lady and raised as a witch, of sorts. But then it turned out they were mutants, and were recruited into Magneto’s Brotherhood. Then, woops! Magneto’s actually your real dad! Then she joined the Avengers, fell in love with a sort-of robot, had kids but didn’t really they were created by magic or maybe not, had the kids absorbed by a demon or maybe didn’t, went crazy a few times, destoryed the Avengers, rewrote reality, then caused the deaths and depowerings of millions of mutants because she was mad at her dad, Magneto. Oh, but then it turned out a lot of the reasoning for her going all bananas was the manipulation of asshole supreme, Dr. Doom! Then it turned out that Magneto wasn’t her dad, after all! And her kinda sorta kids? Well, their souls were bonded to two new babies and were born twins but from different mothers and grew up to have powers and are now sort of Avengers.
And that’s the abridged version.
All that said, Wanda remains one of the most popular Avengers of all time with fans and creators alike. Her hex/reality warping powers are nebulous enough that creators can have a lot of fun with her, her costume is iconic, and it’s hard to picture the Avengers without her.
10. Black Panther
Real Name: T’Challa
First Appearance: Fantastic Four #52
Powers: Superhuman senses, vibranium based uniform and equipment, excellent fighter/tracker
Marvel’s answer to Batman (and then some), T’Challa originally joined the Avengers to spy on them, but after spending some time with them decided he liked them well enough, so he’d stick around for a while. I mean, he kept spying, of course, but I would guess more out of habit than anything by then. It says something that on a team that routinely counts among its ranks the likes of gods, super soldiers, sorcerers, hulks, reality warpers, and all-around powerhouses that one of the most feared members is the dude in the cat suit. With good reason, of course.
The Black Panther is the king of Wakanda (like you didn’t know), perhaps the most technologically advanced nation on Earth. In addition to his enhanced senses, strength, speed and endurance he has resources like none other (maybe Tony Stark, but only maybe). His vibranium-based suit and weaponry make him dangerous, but it’s his mind and ice cold resolve that make him one of the most dangerous men on the planet.
9. Black Widow
Real Name: Natalia “Natasha” Romanova
First Appearance: Tales of Suspense #52
Powers: Peak athlete, master spy, tactician, fighter
Despite having been a Marvel mainstay since the 1960’s, it’s only been in the last 10-15 years that Natasha has really hit her stride, popularity-wise. I’m sure being portrayed by Scarlet Johansson has nothing to do with it. Actually, between her appearances in the Avengers books, Daredevil, Captain America, etc. and two really excellent solo title runs (by Mark Waid and Kelly Thompson) the Black Widow is probably more prominent and more fleshed out and well-rounded as a character than she has ever been in the decades prior.
Recruited to the Red Room training institute, Natasha had any semblance of a normal life stolen from her at a very young age and was raised to be the ultimate spy and assassin. Her training stuck, but due to her interactions with heroes like Iron Man and Hawkeye and some serious help from Nick Fury, she was able to free herself from her previous life and put her considerable skills to good use for SHIELD and the Avengers. Like pretty much everyone on this list, she has a lot of history with a lot of characters, including the Winter Soldier, Wolverine, the Red Guardian, and the aforementioned Stark, Barton and Fury, which always provides plenty of story opportunities for her.
8. Captain Marvel
Real Name: Carol Danvers
First Appearance: Marvel Super Heroes #13
Powers: Strength, speed, endurance, flight, energy absorption/projection
Man, ol’ Carol has had on hell of a journey. An encounter with the Kree super-hero (and original Captain Marvel) Mar-Vell changed her life forever, and after exposure to a Kree weapon Carol gained incredible powers and left her ‘boring’ life in the Air Force for a life involving aliens, outer space, wars, constant change, and a whole hell of a lot of Avenging.
Like most Avengers, Carol has been through it. She had her powers and memories stolen by the X-Men member Rogue, has had her powers change violently (Binary), has battled alcoholism and struggled with a sense of identity (thanks, Rogue). When she finally decided to stop going by Ms. Marvel or Warbird and just embrace the role Mar-Vell left behind and be the new Captain Marvel, that all changed. She’s since been a mainstay Avenger, a team leader, and one of the most accomplished and respected heroes in the Marvel U.
Real Name: Clint Barton
First Appearance: Tales of Suspense #57
Powers: Master archer and marksman, expert fighter
I know, bow and arrows? Seriously? But hey, it worked for Green Arrow…
There’s something about people like Clint here, or the Black Widow or Black Knight who don’t have any real super powers and yet are able to survive not just as super heroes, but as members of the front line super hero team! Hawkeye here has been up against all the same maniacs the likes of Thor and Iron Man have, and has (mostly) lived to tell the tale!
A former criminal who used the Avengers to completely turn his life around (like the other members of ‘Cap’s Kooky Quartet’), Hawkeye has been one of the most reliable and popular members of the team for a very long time. A permanent pain the ass for whoever is leading the team, sure, but they still know they can always count on the absolute lunatic with the bow and arrow.
6. Ant-Man/Giant Man/Yellowjacket/Wasp (Hank Pym)
Real Name: Henry “Hank” Pym
First Appearance: Tales to Astonish #27 (as Hank Pym), Tales to Astonish #35 (as Ant-Man), Tales to Astonish #49 (as Giant Man), Avengers #59 (as Yellowjacket), Secret Invasion: Requiem #1 (as Wasp)
Powers: Size changing, bio sting, able to communicate with insects, flight, superhuman strength in giant form
I know, a lot of people just see him and think ‘spousal abuse’. And while that is certainly no joking matter and never anything to forget or skip over, I feel like it’s really unfair to paint this character completely by one truly horrible story that was insanely out of character for him. If ever a retcon was needed…
Besides, Hank’s done WAY worse than smack the Wasp around: he built Ultron! And after it terrorized the planet more than a few times he revealed that its brain patterns are based on his! As horrible as that is, it should also tell you just how terrifyingly smart Hank is. The creator of the most formidable AI ever built (on Earth, at least) the discoverer of Pym particles, and the first human to map the microverse (he also just sort of GAVE Wasp super powers), while Hank has some stains that might never come off, he is also responsible for saving the whole world a few times and never stops trying to push the limits of science while trying desperately to atone for his sins, whether as Dr. Pym, the first Ant-Man, the first Giant-Man, Goliath, Yellowjacket, or even as the Wasp.
Real Name: Janet Van Dyne
First Appearance: Tales to Astonish #44
Powers: Size manipulation, flight, bio stings
One of the founding members, Janet Van Dyne is incredibly easy to overlook if you’re not paying attention, a fact she uses to her advantage whenever possible. While her primary power set involves shrinking, flight and wasp stinger blasts, she is also, in a way, a creation of Hank Pym, and can grow to Giant-Man size when she needs to.
While she does enjoy the limelight of being one of the Avengers and uses that to bring attention to her business as a fashion designer, she is far from a ditzy socialite, but she’s fine to let people think that about her. She’s been the target of the likes of Whirlwind, the Grim Reaper, Kang the Conqueror and, on more than a few occasions, Ultron, itself, and she’s still standing. She’s got the respect and admiration of her peers and teammates and has been the leader of the Avengers on more than one occasion.
Real Name: Thor Odinson
First Appearance: Journey Into Mystery #83
Powers: Superhuman strength, endurance, durability, hammer Mjolnir allows flight, teleportation, weather manipulation, electric discharge
The God of Thunder has been an Avenger from Day One, and considering his brother, Loki, was the reason the team assembled in the first place, is tied to the formation of the team in a way very few are. Thor is the closest thing the Avengers have to a Superman character; his immense strength, command over lightning and the storms, and his trusty hammer, Mjolnir, have helped the team smite many a foe.
The only reason Thor isn’t higher on this list is that he has had long periods of absence from the team and even spent quite a long time at odds with them.
3. The Vision
Real Name: n/a
First Appearance: Avengers #57
Powers: Superhuman strength and speed, flight, density control, intangibility, shape shifting, solar energy projection
You could argue ol’ Viz here should top this list. The Avengers analogue to the Justice League’s Martian Manhunter in a way (very different from the rest of the team, almost alien, insanely powerful with tons of abilities, somewhat stoic to very stoic, and spent decades pretty much always on the roster) Vision was actually created by Ultron to destroy the Avengers. He was built maybe a little too advanced, and quickly developed free will and sided with the Avengers against his creator. Since then he has been a stalwart Avenger, and has been instrumental in saving the world dozens of times over.
It’s a good thing he did decide he liked the Avengers, because he is very possibly capable of killing almost every one of them!
2. Iron Man
Real Name: Anthony Stark
First Appearance: Tales of Suspense #39
Powers: Suit allows for superhuman strength/durability, flight, repulsor blasts, cyberpathic links to old armors
Another you could easily argue as deserving of the top spot here, Tony was beyond instrumental in both the formation and (more importantly) continuation of the Avengers as an organization. He backed them financially, got them in the door to get UN sanctioned, and used his sway as the head of Stark Industries to keep governmental agencies away as long as he possibly could. Oh, and he also was freaking IRON MAN the whole time, too, so there’s that.
It’s hard to imagine the Avengers without Iron Man. In fact, it’s really impossible, because without Iron Man there IS no Avengers. However, the same could be said for…
1. Captain America
Real name: Steven Rogers
First Appearance: Captain America Comics #1
Powers: Superhuman strength, agility, stamina, durability, master tactician/fighter
He joined the team in their fourth published issue and has been the heart of the team ever since. The guy joined up after like five minutes of being woken from sleeping in ice for a few decades and within a few weeks had helped defeat Baron Zemo and the Masters of Evil publicly and gave the fledgling team the credibility with the public and with agencies like the FBI, United Nations and SHIELD that they needed to operate effectively.
Cap has trained pretty much everyone that has ever joined the team, and to say he has their respect is an understatement. If you asked the Avengers themselves who was THE Avenger, they might ALL point to Cap (Stark included). He’s been a team leader so many times that even when he’s not everyone still looks to him first. Most importantly, he’s led them to countless victories over impossible odds against the likes of the Masters of Evil, the Kree armada, Kang the Conqueror, the Red Skull, Zemo (both of them), and Ultron after Ultron after Ultron.
You could probably say he and Iron Man are 1 and 1a, but push come to shove Cap always gets my vote.