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Top 10 Greatest Avengers

A column article, Top Ten by: The Comics Bulletin All-Stars

In honor of the latest incarnation of the Avengers, Comics Bulletin presents the first of a series of Top 10 lists about the Avengers. Check back here this time next week for our list of the Ten Worst Avengers!

Bonus. Emma Peel

by Diana Dougherty

What can be said about Mrs. Peel that hasn’t been said before? Mortal man has been unable to resist her charms for over 40 years and with good reason. She has it all – she’s intelligent, mischievous, sexy, sardonic, deadly; the list could go on indefinitely. Adorned in her trademark body-hugging leather cat suit, she exuded an undeniable sexual magnetism yet conversely, she was never anything less than a proper English Lady. Her innate aplomb has always held her in good stead – she never fails to give her adversaries the impression that she’s equally at home in a stately manor as she is in the Hellfire Club’s dungeon. Probably because she is.

Emma Peel is undoubtedly the sexiest female ever to grace the television screen. Actually, in a fairly recent TV Guide list of the sexiest people ever to be on television she was the sexiest female on the list. (She came in second overall to Batman George Clooney.)

She has that certain something that men can’t resist, however of equal or possibly even more importance, she’s just as admired by women, which so isn’t the norm and an accomplishment few female crime fighters can boast.

She wasn’t the first female Avenger and she wouldn’t be the last, but there’s little doubt that the general populace would be hard pressed to name another partner of John Steed’s. 

Pardon me, what was that? Oh, those Avengers. Oops, my bad. Just ignore me. Still, I think even Steve Rogers would be hard pressed to resist her M appeal.

10. Wonder Man

by Paul Brian McCoy

Ever since the first time the Old Order Changed, one of the defining characteristics of the Avengers was the fact that it was both a place for the best and brightest, while also a home for those who wanted to change their lives and prove to the world that they wouldn't be defined by their bad choices and earlier failures. 

In 1964, Simon Williams was arrested for embezzling from his own company after Tony Stark drove him to the brink of bankruptcy. Baron Zemo took him to South America, bombarded him with deadly Ionic Energy, making him invulnerable with strength just short of Thor's, then sent him to join, betray, and kill the Avengers. He joined, but chose to reject Zemo and his promises of a life-saving antidote and die rather than betray them.

Thirteen years later, his villainous brother, The Grim Reaper, paid Black Talon a fortune to use his voodoo to raise Simon from the dead. With this accomplished, he then tried to murder the Vision, whose brainwaves Ultron stole from Simon's corpse, because the Synthezoid was an artificial "mockery" of his brother. Simon tried to reason with his brother, but was forced to fight and defeat him, saving many Avengers' lives in the process. He then revealed that he was no longer entirely human, but composed of living Ionic Energy in human form.

As Wonder Man he continued to fight alongside the Avengers, constantly doubting his place, never feeling he was a hero, until he finally sacrificed his life again against the nearly unstoppable Korvac. He died that day, alongside the rest of The Avengers, but was spared along with them, by a quirk of fate.

Over the years, he became best friends with Hank McCoy, and together raised lots of hell and entertained many ladies. He also tried to make a career as an actor, never really succeeding at much more than embarrassing himself. It was as an Avenger that he was truly defined.

Years later, after sacrificing his life for others again, The Scarlet Witch brought Wonder Man back from the dead as Pure Ionic Energy. After regaining human form he and Wanda fell in love. Simon chose, however, to withdraw, so that she could return to her husband, The Vision. 

At times, Simon has admitted that it was his failures that defined him. Bad writers have sometimes felt the same way. He's currently being set up to oppose the Avengers, contrary to everything that's made him the character he is today, and that's both simplistic and appalling. 

Simon Williams wasn't born a hero. He made many bad choices before gaining his powers. But he made many more good choices since. Through adversity, he's no longer defined by his failures, but as someone always willing to make the greatest of sacrifices for the lives of others. He's died again and again to prove that his name should rank amongst the greatest of Avengers.

Yet people continue to mock him because of his poor costume designs.

9. Quicksilver

by Robert Tacopina

When looking back at the rich history of the Avengers one thing that immediately comes to your attention are all of the incredibly great characters that have made up the roster of this legendary franchise. Of course you have the big guns like Captain America, Iron Man, and Thor that are synonymous with the team. However if you look a little deeper you will come across a certain speedster that certainly ranks up there with the best. If you haven’t guessed yet I am referring to Pietro Maximoff, Quicksilver.

The speedster was originally introduced as a villain way back in Uncanny X-Men #4; though at the time Uncanny wasn’t yet part of the title. Pietro sure has come a very long way since his first appearance yet somehow seemingly manages to hold on to that bad streak he began with. The son of Magneto and brother to Scarlet Witch and Polaris, Pietro is not your typical archetype Avenger. Arrogant, stubborn, and at times insensitive to the plights of others Quicksilver is the yin to the overall yang of the team.

Regardless, Quicksilver’s contributions to the Avengers lore certainly warrant his inclusion into the exclusive rank of Top 10 Avengers. For one he has had to deal with the legacy of his father and all of the atrocities that are associated with the Maximoff name as a result. It wasn’t long after learning his true heritage that Pietro rebelled and realized that the path he was on was not the one destined to him. As a result he and Wanda reformed and found themselves Avengers. It’s hard to believe that Quicksilver was actually in the first recruitment drive that replaced the charter members of the Avengers. As an Avenger Quicksilver has used his speed powers to help save the world, the universe, and foil evil villains as well as petty thugs. His powers allow him to move and react at superhuman speeds and are an obviously useful element for any Avengers squad. 

As great as an Avenger and hero in general that Quicksilver is he is not without faults. His Maximoff heritage has been the source of an intense amount of turmoil within Pietro’s life. He can be extremely stubborn and difficult at times, often refusing to help and acknowledge the needs of his teammates, friends, and family. Former husband to the Inhuman Crystal and father to Luna, Pietro has since seen his marriage and relationship with his daughter dissolve into near nothing due to his constant need to place his needs and desires above those of those close to him. Pietro had lost his mutant powers during the House of M storyline, which his sister ironically was the catalyst for. As a desperate measure to regain his powers Quicksilver stole the Terrigen Mists from the Inhumans and began ingesting them. The outcome was a return of his powers but in a much greater capacity than they originally were. He now had the ability to travel through time in a limited manner and his speed was drastically enhanced. He also had developed a way to repower those mutants who had lost their powers as well. 

Since then Pietro has tried to make amends by serving in the ranks of the Mighty Avengers. Although he primarily used his status with the team to obtain his own personal goals; finding the whereabouts of his sister, he did manage to carry his weight when push came to shove. As a member of the Mighty Avengers once again served the greater good and live up to the ideals that the Avengers stand for. Despite his persistent moodiness Quicksilver has proven time and time again that he is undoubtedly one of the great Avengers of all time.

8. Wasp

by Shawn Hill

There's an ungenerous way to approach Janet Van Dyne Pym, the Wasp, and it's the way that many original Marvel Age heroines might be judged. In the 1960s, Sue Storm and Jean Grey fainted whenever using their powers got hard, and Janet, socialite heiress, vanity designer and unabashed flirt had her fainting spells, too. You could easily see her as a spoiled princess who set her sights on a man in daddy's employ, and followed him around until he put a ring on it.

But that's really to blame the victim, not seeing the context that had all women of the time as supporting characters in the boys' own stories, and most of them clearly divided into girl-next-door or Mata Hari stereotypes. Good girls try, but concede to their man's wishes, and vie for his attention with their impeccable hourglass figures. Bad girls overdose on the glamour, but usually have a nefarious motive that spoils the fun. Marvel, in fact, even in the 1960s, broke the mold to an extent with characters like the Black Widow and Medusa (and, later, Moondragon and Mantis); characters who appeared first as villains until their more noble agendas became clear. Sue and Jean Grey eventually got to go through their villainous crucibles before becoming "Women" rather than "Girls," but Janet never had anything so dramatic as dark nadir of the soul.

It wasn't because she was too shallow. It was because she didn't have the time. She was too busy looking after that dysfunctional guy she chose, Hank Pym. Recent stories have interpreted their marriage (committed while he was literally out of his mind and delusionally evincing a second personality in the form of Yellowjacket) as a desperate attempt by the person who cared the most to save Hank's sanity (one endorsed by her teammates and government as the best solution to a bad situation). Janet remained his patient, competent, grounded and practical other half through all the Oedipal dramas with his mad science offspring, Ultron, and Hank's frequent costume and personality changes. She designed each suit for him; just as she designed her own frequent updates (only what to the Wasp were fashion statements usually signaled more desperate coping mechanisms for her insecure husband).

His physical abuse was the end of their marriage, but it functioned as the dark time that liberated Jan to eventually serve as one of the Avengers most level-headed and strategic of leaders. When their relationship was eventually renewed she made it clear that marriage as they had known it long ago was forever off the table. Despite unfortunate attempts in House of M to turn the clock back and render Janet as a shallow airhead (ignoring her established insights and experience), or in Civil War to make sure Janet was Tony's most vacant booster and yes-woman (when she appeared at all), despite even the sacrifice made of her as almost an afterthought in Secret Invasion (and forcing Thor to kill her, really uncool!), that plucky, practical experienced hero, the one who had even begun (prior to the Scarlet Witch's own meltdown) to grow to giant-size and enact the full spectrum of Pym Particle-based powers (not just the "winsome" ones) is clearly awaiting her comeback. The Janet who served nobly during the Kang occupation, who made sure her man (and everyone on her watch) got the help they needed, who flew into battle alongside thunder gods and time traveling legends despite the fluctuating level of her powers without batting an eye surely has a place in the stories of today. Her ex-husband now honors her memory by taking up her name, but her history is hardly one of failure. Instead she is best remembered for her undying loyalty, insight and bravery. Sounds like Heroic Age material to me!

7. Scarlet Witch

by Samuel Salama Cohén

Have you ever felt out of place? Like you didn't belong? Ever wondered if being different meant a great cost? Ever felt like a castout, but wanted to blend in?

Welcome to Wanda Maximoff's, a.k.a. the Scarlet Witch, early days.

When we first met her on the pages of Avengers#16, Wanda was a young and mostly inexperienced woman living with her brother Pietro on a Swiss chalet. Previously they had fought the X-men as part of Magneto's Brotherhood of Evil Mutants, but having seen the error of their ways, and aware of their power and potential, they decided to join the Avengers' ranks as soon as they read about the need for replacements on the paper (yes friends, this was way before the internet).

Penciled by Jack Kirby, and soon after by Don Heck, Stan Lee developed Wanda very little, while establishing her as the Wasp replacement and the only one that respected Captain America's leadership. She was a woman of the '60s between three male figures, and certainly being overly protected by her brother while being hit on by fellow teammate Hawkeye wasn't easy for her. Because at that point she was in love with an out of time, brooding Steve Rogers.

She went on to meet founding members Hank Pym and Janet Van Dyne, a.k.a. the Wasp, in an adventure that faced her against the hordes of Namor's foe Attuma, but even then, her powers hadn't still developed, and her chosen name didn't represent the full extent of them.

But it wasn't until the Avengers title was about to reach the #50 landmark, that events started to gear up. Magneto showed up in New York, bringing with him a message of false community between humans and mutants alike...

Not knowing Magneto was his father, Wanda showed up at the U.N. with her fellow Avengers, only to be departing, minutes later, with the master of magnetism, in an unexpected turn of events.

But that departure didn't mean the end of Wanda's relationship with the Avengers. Not by a long shot. And it was the search for her slowly-disappearing powers that got her to find a dark book, one that wanted to be found, that would get her back to the fold. More than two years had passed for the readers, and now, under the guidance of Roy Thomas and "Big John" Buscema, she was a woman, not a girl.

The comeback of the twins meant also the departure of founders Hank Pym and the Wasp, now happily married, as it had happened when they first joined. 

Prisoner of Arkon, a king from a dying world whose only hope of survival meant destroying the Earth, Wanda understood what a desperate man can feel, and how love can manifest in varied ways, while showing the king that the power of love is greater than that of any thunderbolt. Of this reflection she kept a foreign flower as a reminder. 

This, however, wouldn't be THE romance. That was the one she and the Vision started when saving Red Wolf's village from Van Lunt's claws, a romance that would come to a close decades later when the synthezoid was dismantled and put back together. The love for his wife was there no more. Or was it?

They were both so different from the rest of humans; both denied a "normal" life, that the attraction was immediate.

Both didn't exactly know how they came to be, as Wanda first thought that the silver age hero the Whizzer was his father, then a gipsy called Django Maximoff (the one who really raised her), until Magneto told her the truth on Attilan, that she was Magda's and Magneto's daughter.

The Scarlet Witch began her training in magic with Agatha Harkness, and with that she opened up a hidden potential: chaos magic.

So, throughout the years Wanda evolved from a youth that after crafting hexes remained weary, to a married, and then separated, woman who knew how to summon and control chaos magic, making possible the impossible. Of course, evil magic tried to gain hold of her more than once, but she always prevailed in the end.

Her powers grew so much that she subconsciously created two children, and even brought a teammate that always loved her, Wonder Man, back from the dead...

So, who is Wanda? A mutant? An experienced sorceress? Someone able to reshape reality? An avenger that has had many men behind her but only one true love that wasn't exactly human? An Avengers’ leader? Someone capable of overcoming a broken heart? 

She is all that, and so much more. And you know what? She's coming back. 

6. Hank Pym

by Kelvin Green

Oh his own, Hank Pym is a bit of a joke character. Being able to talk to ants isn't a hugely impressive power, and being able to grow to giant size is better, but still not awe-inspiring. It should be even worse when he's in the Avengers, surrounded by characters with proper superheroic abilities, and yet in this setting, Pym flourishes. In the team context, he goes from Hank Pym, Ant-Man, to Hank Pym, founding Avenger, or more recently Hank Pym, Scientist Supreme. He has been the team's chief scientist, powerhouse, and occasionally even its leader, confident enough to dispense with the superheroic identities altogether for a while, and instead parade around as some odd Doctor Who homage.

There is, of course, a dark side to Pym, the aspect brought up by unimaginative Avengers writers whenever they run out of ideas. His mental instability, brought on by exactly that sense of inadequacy and inferiority which comes from being amongst greatness, and resulting in his attack on his then-wife, Janet Van Dyne, is the thing that lesser writers of the character Just Won't Let Go. By exploiting Hank's weaknesses, these writers strive to show how sensitive and clever they are, bringing such serious issues into a superhero comic, and yet they fail to realise that what's important is not that Pym has suffered these lapses, but that he has overcome them and has moved on. More so than the Maximoff twins, more than even Hawkeye and Sandman, Hank Pym is the prime example of the uplifting and rehabilitating effect of being part of the Avengers family, of the way that the Avengers turn heroes into better versions of themselves.

He's not the most powerful, nor the most intelligent, nor even the most charming, but he's still in there standing shoulder to shoulder with the strongest, the cleverest, and the suavest Avengers. He takes everything thrown at him, he stands amongst giants, and yet he still belongs. That's what makes Hank Pym a great Avenger.

5. Vision

by Zack Davisson

Ask most people which Avenger links modern comics with the Golden Age, and the answer is Captain America. The star-spangled Avenger made his first appearance in Captain America Comics #1 (1941) and after a convenient ice-bath hiatus reappeared in Avengers #4 (1964). But in the eternal words of Yoda…there is another

This other Avenger, also a Joe Simon/Jack Kirby creation, pre-dated the good Captain by almost a year appearing in Marvel Mystery Comics #13 (1940). Dressed in a green body suit and wrapped in a swirling yellow cloak, this mysterious, inhuman figure would appear and disappear from clouds of smoke making people question whether or not what they were seeing was real, or only….a Vision.

I always loved the Vision. He is the kind of character than could only have sprung from the mind of a hard-core, cradle-to-grave comic book geek. Based on a mysterious and obscure Golden Age hero, the synthezoid we know and love combined the android body of the original Human Torch, brought to life with the brain patterns of the (then) tragically dead hero Wonder Man, all whipped together by the evil robot Ultron, himself a Frankenstein metaphor and creation of founding Avenger Dr. Henry Pym. That is a lot of comic book geekery packed into a single character. Put that same artificial life form in bed with one of the hottest mutants around, the Scarlet Witch, and you have created a classic, one of the greatest members of the Earth’s Mightiest Heroes.

The geek responsible for the Vision was also the first comics fan-turned-pro. in 1965 a 25-year old high school English teacher from Missouri and life-long comics fan moved to New York and took Stan Lee’s "writer’s test" to become a Marvel staff writer. Roy Thomas arrived on the scene during the 60’s comic boom when companies were dusting off relics from a previous generation and reintroducing them in shiny new costumes. Marvel had gone a different route, debuting all-new creations like Fantastic Four, Spider-Man and the X-Men, but they finally dug into the closet for Captain America, and Thomas figured he could do the same for one of his favorite childhood characters. Thus in Avengers #57 (1968) the Vision was born again.

The Vision was a character with built-in drama. A machine in search of a soul. An outcast whose love with another outcast induced prejudice from those who had fought so long against prejudice. Identity crisises galore. Who was he? The body of the original Human Torch, but he was not that person. The brain of Wonder Man, but he was not that person. Even though he was heavy-hitter when it came to fighting, all of the best Vision stories revolved around his internal conflict, his emotionless nature that would be betrayed every time he spoke about the Scarlet Witch and his eye would gleam when he pronounced the words "my wife."

Unfortunately, the Vision has not fared well in recent years. Pretty much everything that made him an interesting character was cut from him piece by piece. He was not the original Human Torch. Wonder Man, who had once embraced him as a brother, now said that the Vision had "ripped out his soul." His children with the Scarlet Witch were retconned to be fragments of the soul of Mephisto. In Avengers #500 he is finally torn apart by team-make She-Hulk, ending the slow decline of a once-great character. 

4. Hawkeye

by Christopher Power

Standing against an unstoppable force, be it mortal or immortal, human or alien, you see them: a patriot, a shining knight and a god. You can see the scene in your head, can’t you? Can’t you see the sun glinting off of a red and blue shield, a suit of red and gold armour and a hammer? What about standing beside them? Do you see a man with a bow? That’s what I see when I think of the greatest Avengers and the greatest stories.

While Steve Rogers represents the best humanity has to offer, Clint Barton represents the human. While he has no special powers of his own, aside from a keen tactical mind, expert marksmanship, and hand-to-hand training from the best humanity has to offer, he does possess that unknown, unbreakable quality that some people possess, and others strive for in their lives. When standing with those far more powerful, against those who are beyond terrifying, there is a man, with a bow, chin held high, ready to meet the challenge. Can you think of a better quality in a hero?

The thing that strikes me about Clint Barton is that he has been consistently written throughout his history as a character of passion and dedication. Be it in pulling himself up by his own bootstraps, innovating to defeat his enemies, or doggedly pursuing his lovers, he never gives up, never surrenders.

Consider that this is a man, originally an orphan trained by a pair of villains to be their protégé, has done the following:

    • Trained by Captain America in tactics and hand-to-hand combat

 

    • Been a member of the Avengers, the Thunderbolts and the Defenders
    • Formed his own Avengers team: the West Coast Avengers
    • Lead the Thunderbolts and turning an assembly of half-hearted n’er-do-wells into a cohesive fighting force
    • Adopting not 1, but 2 alternate identities (Goliath, Ronin), when he needed to continue the good fight without his bow
    • Defeated an Elder of the Universe (the Collector) single-handed.
    • Travelled through time to forge the weapons of Moon Knight
    • Defeated Scarlet Witch and her entire House of M dimension, single-handed
    • Lead the New Avengers during the period of Dark Reign
    • Attempted to defeat Osborn and the Dark Avengers, single-handed
  • Been romantically involved with: Black Widow (twice), Scarlet Witch (twice), Moonstone and Mockingbird

Finally, this is a man who stood at the very gates of Hell in an attempt to rescue the soul of the woman he loves.

All of this, and more, from a man who fights with nothing more than a bow and arrow. Who else could be the greatest Avenger?

3. Thor

by Jason Brice

While much has been made in recent years of the dynamic between Iron Man and Captain America, Thor has been the missing corner of this Avengers triumvirate. Cloned by his allies, manipulated by his enemies, Thor has had a rocky road in the Avengers during Bendis's tenure as writer, but his former glory as a marquee member of Marvel most powerful and influential team may be about to return with the advent of the Heroic Age.

Barring Bendis' teams, Thor has appeared in as many issues and incarnations of the Avengers as the other founding members, and is undisputed as the cornerstone powerhouse for Earth's Mightiest Heroes. Loki's, Thor's step-brother, plots revenge against his sibling, bringing the team together in Avengers #1 (1963), and Thor's level-headedness broke up the first acrimonious intra-team scrap between Iron Man and the Hulk in Avengers #2. A stalwart in Stan Lee's original incarnation of the team, Thor appeared in every issue of Avengers featuring his co-founder Iron Man up until #106.

Ever present, but not always well handled, the scion of Asgard didn't get as much screen time as his fellow founders during Roy Thomas's run onAvengers. Thomas seemed to be vexed by what to do with a god amongst mortals, and was only featured prominently when the threats were on a cosmic scale, ala The Kree-Skrull War. Under Steve Englehart's watch, Thor became the Avengers' second fulltime Chairman (following Cap, of course), and served in that role for a total of 29 issues. Though not without controversy, Jim Shooter's run on Avengers trod familiar territory for Thor. It was not until Roger Stern's "Under Siege" storyline that Thor's position as a founder came into clear focus. While Busiek restored some of the awe of old, again Thor failed to shine. It remains to be seen what the Heroic Age will mean for Thor as an Avenger, but this writer is hopeful.

2. Iron Man

by David Wallace

It's not difficult to make a case for Iron Man as one of the most significant and important Avengers. A founding member of the group, Tony Stark played a key role in many of the team's earliest adventures -- he was fighting off threats too big for just one hero to handle for months before a certain red-white-and-blue garbed super-soldier showed up to steal all the glory -- and he continued to function as an integral part of the team for most of its rich history. 

However, one of his most important functions in the team is one that's often overlooked: for the ultimate superhero club, he provided the ultimate superhero clubhouse. Yes, from the very beginning it was Tony Stark who let the Avengers meet in his home, rather than them having to gather in a bus shelter or under a bridge somewhere. The group would hold monthly pow-wows in his apartment (unaware that he was secretly Iron Man), throughout which they would generally make themselves comfortable and treat the place as their own.

(And this is a team that had Thor as a member, let's not forget. You'd think there might be a spare room they could use in his palatial Asgardian accommodation, but oh no, they all had to sit around Tony's kitchen table instead.)

This might not sound like such a big deal, but just imagine letting a team as powerful (and, often, dysfunctional) as the Avengers traipse into your home whenever they feel like it! It wasn't hard to feel sympathetic for Tony when he memorably complained in Avengers #5 that all of the other heroes would clear off when the fighting was over and leave him to clean up all the mess. (What's that, Cap? You've got to go and teach Rick Jones a bunch of acrobatics tricks whilst I renovate an apartment in which the Hulk just fought the Thing? How convenient.)

Later, he provided them with their very own mansion (his family home, no less), allowed them free access to his serving staff in the form of the butler Jarvis, gave them use of fancy Quinjets for free (all the while selflessly providing S.H.I.E.L.D. with Stark Industries equipment gratis, too), and even let them crash in the swanky penthouse apartment of his very own skyscraper after the team was “disassembled”.

OK, so there was that whole thing with trying to hunt down half of his team and throw them in superhero prison a few years ago, but let's brush that under the carpet, shall we? The team has basically lived in Tony's pocket for 45 years, so let's cut him a break.

1. Captain America

by Thom Young

I didn’t grow up reading Marvel Comics. I was almost exclusively a DC Kid. Thus, when I was in grade school I could have counted on one hand the number of Marvel superheroes that I knew by name--as long as I counted the Fantastic Four as one rather than as four:

    • The Fantastic Four
    • Spider-Man
    • The Incredible Hulk
  • And Captain America

The first three I knew because I watched the cartoons starring those characters that were made in 1966 and 1967. Apparently, there was a Captain America cartoon made back then, too, but I never watched it--at least not that I remember.

I have no idea how it was that I knew about Captain America when I was only seven years old. As far as I was concerned back then, Batman was the only superhero worth caring about. Still, there was something about Captain America. Undoubtedly, it was the notion that he represented my country--specifically, all that was noble and righteous about America (and he was the “captain” of the nation).

It wasn’t until years later when I was in my mid-teens that I actually read my first issue of Captain America; it was issue #200, and I came across it at 7-11 when I was looking for the DC comic books that I was buying at the time. 

Since Captain America #200 was an “anniversary issue,” I figured it would probably be a special and memorable story--after all, it was issue #200 and it was coming out just two months before America was going to celebrate its 200th anniversary as its own nation. The synchronicity could only have been more perfect if the issue had gone on sale the first week of July rather than the first week of May.

What makes that issue even more special is that it was written, penciled, and edited by Jack Kirby. Unfortunately, I had absolutely no idea who Jack Kirby was at the time. I wouldn’t discover the greatness of his work for another year after that when I started buying his Fourth World books in the back-issue bins.

As for Captain America, I didn’t truly become a fan of the character until Roger Stern and John Byrne took over his title about four years after that one-and-only Kirby issue I bought. With Captain America #247, I was an instant fan. It was at that point I began to fill in the details of the character’s history.

To be more precise, his history was filled in for me by Stern and Byrne with Captain America #255--"The Living Legend." With that story, I began to think of Cap as the greatest of Marvel’s heroes. I even began to place him up there with Batman as one of my personal favorites.

Regrettably, that issue was the last of the Stern and Byrne run, and I quickly followed them off the title. It just wasn’t as good after they left. Every now and then I still check back to see how Captain America is doing, and I’m happy to say that Steve Rogers is much better now than he was a year or two ago. 

He’s not only the captain of the nation; he’s the team captain of the Avengers--even if there are times when his title is Captain Emeritus!

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