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Robby Reed Reviews
The Avengers #1 (Sept. 1963)
"The Coming Of The Avengers"

Story by Stan Lee, pencils by Jack Kirby, inks by Dick Ayers

As we recounted in DBB #591, the Justice League of America was originally formed when its members all ran up to a meteor "at about the same time." Not much of an origin. When Stan Lee set out to create an analogous Marvel team, he wanted something different.

As Stan recalled in Son of Origins of Marvel Comics: "It's easy enough to decide who the team should consist of. The tough part is figuring out how to get them all together. As you can imagine, it wouldn't make a terribly interesting story merely to have someone send the others a note inviting them to join a group of superheroes. We had to find a unique and exciting way of bringing this ill-assorted group together, and that meant introducing a villain who could be the catalyst." Enter Loki.

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In the "New 52" Justice League's new origin, Darkseid was the catalyst for forming the team. In the Marvel Silver Age, as well as the Avengers movie, Thor's arch-enemy LOKI is the heavy. Stan decided to have LOKI get the ball rolling by tricking the Hulk into destroying a train by "projecting a mental image." He tricks Hulk into almost wrecking a train...
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Overnight, the entire nation is terrorized by the "rampaging" Hulk, including young Rick Jones, a Snapper Carr equivalent who has been hanging around with the Hulk. Unlike most teens today, Rick likes to read the newspaper to keep up on current affairs.
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Rick gathers a bunch of ordinary, non-super teenagers, calling them the TEEN BRIGADE, a ham radio operators club made up of ordinary teenagers with (gasp!) no super powers at all. Unless you count Rick pretending to be Bucky for a while, but that's another story.

Anyway, the TB, using their own giant broadcasting station or something, calls the Fantastic Four for help. Is it just ME, or does the guy in the orange shirt have no head? It looks like they blocked out his head to make room for a word balloon, but went too far.
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Uh-oh! The sinister Loki intercepts and reroutes the Teen Brigade's message to his intended victim, THOR. How does he do this? Luckily, Loki is intimately familiar with Don Blake's taste in radio stations. He knows WHAT Blake listens to, and WHEN! (I'm guessing it's an "Easy Listening" station. Blake is a timid sort of chap.)
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Fortunately (for us), Loki didn't realize that he wasn't the only one who was a radio fanatic. The broadcast is heard by Blake, as intended, but also by IRON MAN, ANT MAN and THE WASP. These Marvel superheroes are avid radio fans who spend hours on end playing with their radio sets, tuning in to obscure frequencies. They ALL get the message! It's the Silver Age equivalent of an e-mail blast!
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Thanks to LOKI, a message intended just for THOR reached most of Marvel's superhero population. And for some reason, the message ALSO reached its original target, the Fantastic Four. Wow, Loki isn't as good at "spell casting" as he thinks. Enter the FF!

The good news is that since Lee and Kirby also did the FF's own title, the guest-starring team looked and behaved exactly the same in this book as they did in their own title! A real rarity. Sue even has her trademark Kirby "hairstyle," a coquettish look that hangs over her right eye in alluring fashion.

Surprisingly, Reed, too, has plenty of free time to monitor the radio for potentially important transmissions, then "calculate" who would be getting the same message! Even though he was too busy to help hunt the rampaging Hulk. Reed, get your priorities in order! Oh well, this was about forming a NEW super-team, and the FF were already a well established OLD super team.

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Meanwhile, the clever Hulk has gone "undercover," assuming the identity of Mechano, the most powerful robotic green circus performer on earth. Of course, no one would EVER suspect that this was the Hulk. After all, he had clown make-up over portions of his still largely green skin, and a clown suit covering his massive body! Who would ever recognize him?

The panel below is the answer to anyone who says Marvel's Silver Age was more realistic than DC's. Even forgetting the ridiculous clown disguise part, for God's sake, look at what is happening here! The Hulk is juggling a horse, an elephant, and a poor little seal!

Can you imagine the terror these animals would have been in, being juggled like this, high above the ground? How did Hulk pick them up in the first place? By a leg? What happens when he stops? What if the elephant lands on the seal? What if the horse accidentally gets thrown into the nearby audience? Aren't there inspectors for this sort of thing? AND -- most importantly of all -- where and how did Hulk learn to juggle? Did he practice in between dodging Air Force jets and fighting the Abomination? Oh, one last thing -- who puts on his make-up?
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As mentioned earlier, Stan once wrote, "It wouldn't make a terribly interesting story merely to have someone send the others a note inviting them to join a group of superheroes" -- but that is essentially what the Teen Brigade's radio message amounts to! This message is what REALLY made brought the team together as Marvel's finest decide to take a break from endlessly monitoring radio frequencies to check out who sent the message. THOR arrives first. The Norse god of Thunder just walks in -- without knocking, I might add. How rude!
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Hey, if the entire JLA can do it, so can the Marvel heroes! IRON MAN, ANT-MAN and WASP all enter the clubhouse "at about the same time!" Like the JLA, none of these heroes saw the others coming. Hey, this thing is more like the JLA origin than I thought! Are they going t o turn into trees next?
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Once the gang arrives, the Hulk is quickly located. Iron Man zooms out to get him! But unlike the friendly DC Universe, in the Marvel Universe the heroes don't get along so well. They tend to meet, then immediately get into a huge FIGHT over a small misunderstanding, or because they're possessed, or whatever. The truth is, they just like to fight. The full truth is that we like to SEE them fight! They do it all for US, reader! (Panels below are from the original art by Jack Kirby and Dick Ayers)
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Ouch! Iron Man's "propulsion battery" is damaged! BAH! Who cares? Not Hulk! In an era when "Don't trust anyone over 30" was a popular anti-establishment slogan, Hulk goes it one better and declares he does not trust ANYBODY! Except perhaps the person who applied his clown makeup back when he was juggling elephants.
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Later, Loki's evil plot is foiled, and the Hulk decides he DOES (sort of, for a few issues at least) trust his fellow heroes. And searching for Hulk was such fun, the gang decides to team up permanently. A name is needed! When the Justice League needed a name, they secretly stole and modernized the name of their Golden Age predecessors, the Justice Society of America. But Marvel's Golden Age super team was called the "All Winners Squad," a name that sounded hopelessly totally dated in 1963. What to do?

How about the "All Groovy Squad"? Doesn't quite work. So Stan had to come up with something entirely new. Almost every super-team had a synonym for "group" in their title, such as "squad," "club," or "league." Stan dropped this convention entirely in favor of a single word... something colorful and dramatic! It was accepted immediately, by acclamation, and nearly fifty years later, it has stood the test of time. All hail THE AVENGERS!

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BELOW: Original art for the final page of Avengers #1, signed by Jack Kirby, previewing the titles's second issue, guest-starring the Sub Mariner:
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Special bonus - the opening of the Marvel "animated" cartoon series! Fifty seconds of Silver Age glory featuring the Merry Marvel Marching Society theme song. Click button below to play.
allfornow
 
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Next Issue
CAPTAIN AMERICA JOINS THE AVENGERS!
A spectacular sensation in sight and sound!
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