The movie opens today (or rather last night at midnight). I say “the movie” because for comic book fans everywhere it is the movie many of us have waited a lifetime to see. The Avengers will break all kinds of box office records, it is holding at a 93% positive rating on rottentomatoes.com, and it is being hailed as “the greatest superhero movie ever”. The heroes are indeed awesome: Iron Man, Thor, Hulk, Hawkeye, Black Widow, Nick Fury, and of course, Captain America. However, as a long time fan of the series, I would have to salute five of the heroes who will never get movie adaptations, five heroes who (in my opinion) are the unsung heroes of Avengers lore.
1. The Swordsman – Introduced as a villain in Avengers, Vol. 1 #19 (1965), created by Stan Lee and Don Heck, this hero actually was a thorn in the side of the original Avengers until redeeming himself and changing his evil ways to eventually become part of the team. What makes The Swordsman stand out for me was not his lack of super powers or his weird sword that shot death rays and nerve gas (that’s really weird), but that in the end he shows his worth as a hero by giving his life up for the Avengers. In Kang’s quest for the “Celestial Madonna”, he captures every member of the Avengers save The Swordsman because he was (at the time) the only non-super powered hero, considered “worthless” by Kang. After feeling a little sorry for himself, he fights through all that and tracks the other heroes to Kang’s pyramid fortress where after helping to free the Avengers, jumps in front of Kang’s death ray which is meant for Mantis (another Avenger) and dies.
2. The Falcon – Sam “Snap” Wilson, mainstream comics first African-American hero, was introduced in 1969 by an innovative Stan Lee. He first appeared in Captain America #117, but soon became a mainstay in that title and even had a title for a while called Captain America and The Falcon. He was recruited by S.H.I.E.L.D. to fill a quota mandated by affirmative action, but protested by leaving the group shortly after. It wasn’t until the Avengers were deemed an international force and he could join based on merit and not because of the color of his skin that he decided to join the team. Throughout The Falcon’s storyline, he has been a non-stereotypical example of a great African-American hero. He is one of the most interesting characters who served with the Avengers and was the one person who gave a final speech at Captain America’s funeral after the Red Skull’s machinations ended the true Cappy’s life.
3. Prince Namor – He is the only Marvel character who can boast of 70 years of comic book history (debuting in 1939). He’s the guy Aquaman wishes he could be. I don’t know why they didn’t include him in the movie, either. This character is probably one of the most tossed about characters in the Marvel universe, but he is so complex and interesting that he deserves his own film and would crowd out the rest of the heroes. If it were not for Namor (according to the comic books) Captain America’s frozen body would still be worshipped by an Inuit tribe. Strangely enough, I lump him in with these unsung heroes because even though he has an on-again off-again relationship with our Avengers, he seems to be the one chord of royal red that runs through the naval rope of the Marvel line. Like him or hate him, he has been there shaping major events throughout Marvel comics history. Even though his connection to the Avengers has been shaky, he deserves to be mentioned in this list.
4. Android Human Torch – I was thrilled when he cameoed in Captain America: The First Avenger (He’s in the glass case at the world’s fair wearing a red suit). He is one of the three original Timely Comics characters along with Namor and Captain America. He finds his way to the Avengers team in a roundabout way, and eventually it is revealed that “The Vision,” another Avenger, was made from his spare parts. Even later, it is revealed that mysteriously The Torch and The Vision are one in the same (one of those paradoxical time travel stories). He is brought back to his former glory, romances Spitfire, and takes another android Tara, based on his own design, under his wing. In the end it is revealed that Tara was created by Red Skull and she is then used as a weapon against the Avengers. The Torch channels her heat in order to save her, flies into orbit, and is destroyed. He has a long history with the Avengers and deserves to be read about… or at least have his own film. He is now a current Avenger after being rebuilt as “The Vision”.
5. Black Knight – Call me chivalrous, but I like this character. He rode a horse named “Aragorn” and carried an ebony blade. He went through several incarnations, but always remained loyal and true, living by the chivalric code, and usually willing to sacrifice his life to help his team. He had some of the best lines in the series, usually saying the line “You must now face the Black Knight” before pounding enemies to a pulp. I like him because he was ultra-confident, not afraid of anything and his dialogue was like medieval poetry. I include him in this list because somehow, I suppose, every young boy wants to be a chivalrous Knight. Black Knight is one of those characters who has the true marks of what a hero is supposed to be: brave, true, loyal and unfaltering.