As has been discussed many times in these pages, a large part of the strength of THE AVENGERS as a concept is its ever-rotating roster of teammates.
However, that doesn’t mean that every now and then, a real lemon doesn’t somehow find his or her way on to the team. Let’s take a look at some of the least successful Avengers to ever sit behind the stick of a Quinjet or enjoy Jarvis’ tea and crumpets.
Like I always say, I love the Busiek/Perez AVENGERS run of the late 1990s. However, you can’t hit a home-run every time you’re at bat. Busiek and Perez introduced two all-new Avengers to the team during their run, the slightly more successful Triathlon (a revamp of the obscure ’70s character 3-D Man given a thinly disguised Scientology makeover) and Silverclaw here, a teenaged South American shapeshifter introduced to the team through her “uncle,” none other than Edwin Jarvis, the Avengers’ longtime major domo, who had long been a sponsor for the orphaned child through a charity program. When the girl comes to New York as an exchange student, she finally meets her Uncle Jarvis and finds herself drawn into action with the Avengers, where it’s revealed that she has the ability to transform into various animals native to the rainforest, such as a jaguar, anaconda or monkey, all with a distinctive silver skin.
Yeah. A monkey. Ultron’s shaking in his adamantium boots.
Silverclaw didn’t have much of a run with the team, only a stint as a reserve Avenger and a brief tour of duty during the Kang War of the early 2000s. Probably for the best.
One of the worst ways a writer can introduce a new Avenger is to just shove the character down readers’ throats. Take, for example, Rage. Or rather, as he was introduced repeatedly in issues of Avengers in 1990 and 1991, “RAAAAAGE!”
And in case you couldn’t pick him out, he helpfully wore a leather vest with the word “RAGE” on the back in big yellow letters.
Rage’s shtick was a one-note “why ain’t there any black Avengers” bit that didn’t really ring true considering that the team has had members of color dating all the way back to the 1960s. Little more than an angry muscleman, Rage only became a little more interesting when it was revealed that he was barely in his teens, with his size being a side effect of the exposure to toxic waste (really? That’s the best you’ve got for an origin?) that had given him his powers. Of course, with the revelation of his underage status, Rage was swiftly booted from the team, and in short order wound up in the New Warriors, Marvel’s team for also-ran teenaged superheroes. You don’t see Rage too much these days, and that’s fine by me.
Originally introduced in the pages of THE INCREDIBLE HULK back in the 1980s, Firebird was Bonita Juarez, first seen as a member of the Rangers, a Southwestern U.S.-based super-team that also included the likes of Texas Twister, Shooting Star and Red Wolf. When the Avengers opened a West Coast branch in the late ’80s, Firebird crossed paths with the team and began frequently working with them, although finding herself ignored for official membership by team leader Hawkeye, who was instead furiously recruiting Ben Grimm to sign up instead. Dejected, Firebird stopped hanging around the compound, only to return a few months later with a new name of “La Espirita,” a giant cape that looked more like a housecoat, and a more in-your-face emphasis on her Catholicism, just in time to stop Henry Pym from putting a gun in his mouth in the then-latest assault on his character.
Firebird and Pym had a brief romance before she vanished once again, returning sporadically to serve as a reserve Avenger every now and then. Not really a bad character, I guess, but not adding a lot of value either.
Speaking of bad characters, we can’t forget Gilgamesh, a.k.a. “The Forgotten One.” Turns out he was aptly named, as almost no one remembers his fairly unremarkable stint in perhaps the least popular Avengers lineup ever, which consisted of him, Captain America, Thor, Mister Fantastic and the Invisible Woman.
One of the immortal Eternals who had been mistaken for various mythological figures over his long life, Gilgamesh was basically Hercules without the personality. Hell, he was Rage without the personality. Gilgamesh bit the big one during the reign of the second-least popular Avengers lineup ever, the “everyone-wears-a-leather-jacket” years of the mid-1990s, but like everyone else in comics, he eventually got better. Well, he came back to life, anyway. He never really got better.
#1: Doctor Druid
Coming in at number-one is the one most hateable Avenger that was actually portrayed that way by design, the mystic, mesmerist and minor sorcerer known as Doctor Druid. A relatively minor character appearing in books like GHOST RIDER and INCREDIBLE HULK, Druid got the call up to the big leagues during Roger Stern’s excellent AVENGERS run of the late 1980s, pitching in to help the undermanned and outstrategized Avengers fight back against Baron Zemo’s Masters of Evil during the outstanding “Under Siege” storyline. Invited to join the team full-time following the defeat of the Masters, Druid almost immediately began undercutting and manipulating then-team leader Captain Marvel in an effort to gain the chairmanship for himself (something you’d think you’d look out for if you invite a master hypnotist to join the team). It was later revealed that Druid himself was being mind-controlled at the time by the super-villain known as the Terminatrix, although after breaking free, the damage was done, and Druid was disgraced in the superhuman community. He had a second shot as leader of the short-lived Secret Defenders before being mind-controlled again by yet another villain, leading to the team’s dissolution. Live by the mind control, die by the mind control, as they say.
And die he did not long after that, killed by Daimon Hellstrom, the Son of Satan, after being betrayed by yet another manipulative villainness. Nobody’s missed him all too much, and unlike Gilgamesh, prospects for a resurrection aren’t too good. Let’s just say I wouldn’t hold my breath for a Doctor Druid appearance in AVENGERS 5 in a few years…
Scott Tipton almost put Moondragon on this list. If you have questions about the Avengers or comics in general, send them here.