In 1978, at the age of nine, my older brother came up with what was probably the single greatest idea in the history of all nine-year-olds: “I’m going to start an Avengers club.”
Being his younger brother, I instantly let him know how brilliant and groundbreaking I thought this idea was: “Okay.”
And thus, the Avengers of Wildgrove Drive, Garland, Texas, were born.
Y’see, since birth, my brother and I were comic book fans. We each had our favorite titles (he had Avengers and Fantastic Four, I had the X-Men and Amazing Spider-Man). We bought whatever merchandise we could find featuring those heroes. Lacking any comic book action figures in a post-Mego, pre-Secret Wars society, we pretended our Star Wars figures were super heroes … quickly discovering that comics were a lot less sexist than the Star Wars movies, as our one Princess Leia figure only went so far.
So my brother’s idea to take the ragtag group of neighborhood kids we played with (all unsophisticated non-comic readers) and turn them into Earth’s Mightiest Heroes was something I definitely wanted to be a part of. He suited up, so to speak, and chose to be Iron Man, their leader at the time, while I decided I wanted to be my favorite Avenger, Yellowjacket. The fact that we both chose two of the team’s founding members probably was lost on me at the time, but nevertheless … now we needed to fill in the gaps.
And we had quite a few gaps. It wasn’t that long before that within the pages of their comic, the Avengers had escaped from the Collector, the Elder of the Universe who has the uncanny power to … um, collect things. It was during that storyline that we were able to deduce the names of not just the current Avengers, but everyone who had been on the team up until that point.
So when my brother put together his roster, it included not only Thor and Captain America and the typical characters you associated with the team, but also Captain Marvel, Moondragon and even the Guardians of the Galaxy, who had journeyed back in time to help them fight the evil Korvac. I still remember when the Avengers commandeered a few buses to transport their members to the suburban neighborhood where Korvac lived. Now we needed to fill our bus.
My friend Brian, who lived one street over, quickly joined the team. By day, he might have been the kid who rode a Huffy, but when he stole his dad’s hammer out of his toolbox, he was transformed into Thor, God of Thunder.
Melinda and Charlie, who lived next door to us, became the Wasp and Black Panther. David and Jeremy, brothers we knew from Cub Scouts, became the Vision and Wonder Man. My cousin Bobby was on board if he could be Hercules. Brent from church became Hawkeye.
So my brother started to fill his roster, but not quite as fast as he’d hoped. I mean, there were a lot of Avengers on that list, and frankly, we just didn’t know enough kids to fill it fast enough. So my brother had a second, even more brilliant idea … fill that list with everyone he knew. And, on top of that, he started planning an Avengers Halloween party, where everyone who attended would come dressed as their character. Egads! It was almost too much for me to take!
Suddenly my mom and dad were the Scarlet Witch and Captain America. Brent’s parents became the Beast and Black Widow. Heck, he even recruited my grandmother to be Moondragon. The list was coming along, and we started planning our costumes for the coming October.
This was going to be a Halloween to remember …
“Seven of you will remain as Avengers … the rest of you are out!”
Avengers #181. This is one of the few Avengers comics I actually bought, rather than my brother, because for whatever reason he didn’t come to the 7-Eleven with my mom and me the day it came out. After several months of having a rather large team in the book (much like our Avengers roster), along comes Henry Peter Gyrich, ready to spoil everything.
That was a monumental issue at the time, especially to a young fan who had a lot invested in the larger Avengers group. Now they were cutting the team back to just seven members? I couldn’t believe it. I remember staring at the cover on the way home, too afraid to open that issue and see who was being cut from the line-up. Would they keep Captain America? Thor? Beast? Hawkeye? I didn’t even want to think about what would happen if Yellowjacket didn’t make the cut.
But as I finally cracked open the pages of that issue, my worst fear was realized, as Yellowjacket didn’t make the final cut. Neither did Thor, Black Panther and many, many others. That issue, quite frankly, was the death toll for our group, as government quotas and the loss of some of our favorites caused us to lose interest in our club. I’m not sure if we ever really verbalized it, but my brother’s roster disappeared somewhere into the recesses of our room, our plans for a Halloween party dried up and we moved on to whatever else was next.
Which is probably for the best – I doubt we could have convinced my grandmother to shave her head.