One of the first comics I ever got was a collection of the Walter Simonson and Arthur Adams Fantastic Four issues, which are famous for introducing a new Fantastic Four, complete with all of the most popular characters of the 1990’s. The only guy missing was the Punisher, and he ended up having a small cameo at the very end.
A runaway Skrull fugitive crash lands on Earth, and is searching for a specific weapon that will protect her from her Skrull pursuers. So she infiltrates the FF and incapacitates everyone, including Mr. Fantastic, the Invisible Woman, the Human Torch, She-Thing, Alicia Masters, and a human Ben Grimm. She then poses as Susan Richards, and after drugging the FF to appear dead, she summons four of their allies to help her. She gets the Hulk (in his gray ‘Mr. Fixit’ persona), Ghost Rider (the Danny Ketch version), Wolverine, and Spider-Man.
My first exposure to X-Men comics was the Dark Phoenix saga, which many consider to be the greatest X-Men story ever told, even to this day. It was like saying, “Oh, you have a passing interest in trying some really light, social drug? Here, try this crack.” Before this story I would read comics occasionally. Really just whenever I would happen to get some. I never actively sought them out. After this story I wanted everything X-Men I could get my grubby little hands on.
I’m not going to get into too much detail on what came before, since a lot of that has been changed retroactively. But essentially Jean Grey aka Marvel Girl, one of the original X-Men, is imbued with the powers of the Phoenix, a cosmic entity capable of great and terrible things. For a while, Jean seemed ok. Her powers of telepathy and telekinesis were raised to an unprecedented degree, but other than that she was still just Jean.
Long before they were New, Dark, or Disassembled, the Avengers were far from Marvel’s biggest characters. While people liked Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, etc., they weren’t as popular as Spider-Man, the Fantastic Four, or the Hulk. For whatever reason, the Avengers just weren’t striking any chords with the comic book audience as a whole. There were fans, sure, otherwise the title would have been cancelled, but it was never a top seller, and just didn’t garner all that much attention. So it was a bit of a surprise when Roger Stern and John Buscema started a story that has become known as “Avengers: Under Siege”, and all of a sudden everyone was talking about the Avengers.
The line-ups for the Avengers have always been in a constant state of change. Each era has its stand-by’s, though. In the 60’s it was mostly Captain America. In the 70’s it was the Vision and/or Hank Pym. By the 80’s it was more B-list characters that usually grabbed the spotlight, like Hercules, the Black Knight, Crystal, or Captain Marvel (Monica Rambeau). The roster when this story opens is Wasp (team leader), Captain America, Black Knight, Hercules, Namor, and Captain Marvel. Also worth noting is the presence of the Avengers mansion’s butler, Edwin Jarvis. Before the Siege, Namor is forced to return to Atlantis to deal with some personal issues, and Hercules, pissed that the Wasp is in charge of him, goes off to get drunk.