As always, Balladeer’s Blog listens to you readers! You wanted a look at the first twenty Avengers stories similar to my recent look at the first twenty Captain America stories from the 1940s, so here we go:
THE AVENGERS Vol 1 #1 (September 1963)
Title: The Coming of the Avengers
Synopsis: Loki sits imprisoned on the Isle of Silence in Asgard. He cannot leave but is determined to get revenge on his archenemy Thor. Sending his astral body to Earth/ Midgard he uses an illusion spell to trick the Hulk into seeming to destroy a railroad line.
Rick Jones, just an ordinary teenager back then, is still the Hulk’s friend and wants to round up superheroes to corral the Hulk before the army moves in and possibly kills the green-skinned brute. He and his fellow Ham Radio Operators (LMAO), called the Teen Brigade, send out a radio summons.
Loki arranges for Thor’s secret identity of Dr Donald Blake to hear the message, but the radio waves are also picked up by Tony Stark/ Iron Man (in his original clunky armor) as well as Ant-Man (Hank Pym, PhD) and his crime-fighting partner the Wasp (Janet Van Dyne).
While Iron Man, Ant-Man and the Wasp battle the Hulk, Thor suspects Loki’s involvement when an illusory image of the Hulk is used to lure him to the site of the ongoing fight. Thor flies to Asgard and tries to reach the Isle of Silence but must overcome Rock Trolls, Frost Giants and Silent Ones set upon him by Loki.
Thor captures Loki and takes him to Earth, making him admit that he faked the Hulk’s rampage. This stops the battle involving Hulk, Iron Man, Ant-Man and the Wasp. Loki surprises the heroes with magical “radiation” but Ant-Man and his army of ants maneuver Loki into a trap, defeating him.
The thunder god prepares to take Loki back to his prison in Asgard, but first Ant-Man and the Wasp talk Thor, Iron Man and the Hulk into forming a super-team. Everyone agrees and the Wasp christens the new team “The Avengers.”
THE AVENGERS Vol 1 #2 (November 1963)
Title: The Space Phantom
Villain: The Space Phantom
Synopsis: The Avengers are holding their latest meeting at what will become known as Avengers Mansion. It has been donated for their use by Tony Stark. In the future their butler Jarvis will start working in the mansion.
The Wasp makes a grand entrance and Ant-Man – now renamed Giant-Man – shows off his new growing powers, courtesy of his Pym Particles in pill form. The meeting rolls along, covering mundane topics. The next day, the Space Phantom, an alien shape-stealer from the planet Phantus, arrives on Earth in the form of a meteorite.
Upon landing the Space Phantom steals the body of a human bystander who sees him. When the Space Phantom assumes the shape of another being or object, the being or object getting impersonated is banished to extra-dimensional Limbo until the Phantom takes on another shape. Disguised as the bystander, the villain scouts out the Earth to plan his race’s invasion.
After the Space Phantom takes on another form, the bystander, freed from Limbo, spreads the alarm about alien invaders. To distract from that hysteria the villain assumes the form of the Hulk, banishing the real Hulk to Limbo. The alien plans to steal the forms of each of the Avengers in turn to sow confusion and distrust in their ranks in order to destroy them from within. He plans to then move on to the Fantastic Four and destroy them the same way.
Most of this story is “heroes fighting heroes” as the Space Phantom alternates between the forms of Hulk, Iron Man, etc, causing a Battle Royal among the Avengers. Ultimately the Space Phantom tries to assume the form of Thor, but because Thor is a god, he cannot do it. This causes the Space Phantom himself to be banished to Limbo instead of Thor.
(As fans know, the Space Phantom will go on to be an agent for Immortus, the ruler of Limbo who is really one of Kang the Conqueror’s future costumed identities. Just as Ant-Man became Giant-Man and eventually Goliath and then Yellow Jacket, Kang went from being Rama Tut to Kang to the Scarlet Centurion to Rama Tut II before finally becoming Immortus.)
The Hulk disgustedly (and accurately) points out that the Avengers spend more time fighting each other – especially HIM – than they do fighting villains and quits the team.
THE AVENGERS Vol 1 #3 (January 1964)
Title: The Avengers Meet Sub-Mariner
Villains: The Hulk and the Sub-Mariner
NOTE: Iron Man is in his upgraded armor.
Synopsis: At another of their regularly scheduled meetings the Avengers (Thor, Wasp, Iron Man and Giant-Man) decide that the Hulk is too powerful and dangerous to be roaming free. They contact the Fantastic Four and the X-Men to see if they have a line on him but they don’t. Rick Jones and his Teen Brigade of Ham Radio Operators (LMAO) are contacted.
Rick finds the Hulk in the desert southwest and lures him back to their hidden cave hideout. Once there Hulk steps in front of the Gamma Ray Projector and transforms from his monster form back to Bruce Banner. Later in the story, Banner becomes stressed-out and turns back into the Hulk because of it, marking the first time the change takes place away from the Gamma Ray Projector.
At any rate, alarmed by this independent transformation, Rick calls in the Avengers who (yawn) for the third time in three issues battle the Hulk. Eventually the Hulk escapes, but the battle has been watched by the Fantastic Four’s foe the Sub-Mariner via advanced Atlantean viewscreens. He forms an alliance with the Hulk so they can stand together against the hated human race.
The Sub-Mariner (Prince Namor) and Hulk seize the Rock of Gibraltar and issue a challenge to the Avengers. The team shows up and they fight the pair of villains. At an inconvenient moment, Hulk involuntarily transforms back into Bruce Banner and hides. Sub-Mariner, feeling abandoned by his new ally, vows to go back to working alone and escapes the Avengers, returning to the sea.
NOTE: At one point during the battle, both Hulk and the Sub-Mariner tried but failed to lift Thor’s hammer.
THE AVENGERS Vol 1 #4 (March 1964)
Title: Captain America Joins The Avengers
Villain: Starhammer (Vuk of the D’Bari)
NOTE: In the 1940s, the Big Three from Timely Comics – now called Marvel Comics – were the original (android) version of the Human Torch, the Sub-Mariner (who predated Aquaman) and Captain America. Here in the Silver Age, Marvel had already revived the Human Torch character but in the form of Johnny Storm from the Fantastic Four. Next they revived their Golden Age hero the Sub-Mariner, but as a villain intent on conquering the surface world. Now they revived Captain America.
The explanation for why Namor was still alive and youthful was because he was the mutant offspring of a normal human and a female Atlantean and therefore had an extraordinary lifespan. The reason why Captain America was still alive and youthful is because he was frozen in suspended animation.
Synopsis: The Sub-Mariner is in the Arctic Sea smashing icebergs and wreaking other havoc to vent his anger over losing to the Avengers last issue. In his rampage he unknowingly causes the chunk of ice containing the frozen Captain America to drift southward, where the chunk starts to melt in warmer waters.
The Avengers, in a souped-up submarine, are roaming the depths in search of the Sub-Mariner, when they come across the chunk of ice and are intrigued by the form of a man frozen inside it. They bring it aboard their sub and thaw it, amazed to see that the man wears the costume of World War Two superhero Captain America.
Cap revives and proves his superhero bonafides in a panicked battle with the Avengers since he is confused and threatened by his strange surroundings. After the fight and after Cap calms down the Avengers ask how he wound up frozen in ice. Cap relates the tale that in 1945 he and his World War Two sidekick Bucky were invading the castle headquarters of Baron Zemo, one of their Nazi superfoes. Zemo was launching an experimental rocketplane at England so Cap and Bucky threw themselves onto the craft just as it took off.
Cap fell from the vessel before he could finish disabling it, and Bucky exploded with the rocketplane. (This was considered canon for decades until Marvel Comics decided Bucky had survived as the Winter Soldier) In the frozen North Sea waters, Cap’s super-soldier serum activated a form of suspended animation meant to protect against extreme cold, thus preserving him, alive but unconscious, all these years.
NOTE: Marvel was already practicing large-scale ret-conning in order to incorporate their Golden Age superheroes into their Silver Age continuity in the 1960s. Captain America had continued as a comic book character into the 1950s with Bucky at his side. Marvel would explain the post-World War Two Captain Americas as successors to the role, simply wearing the costume originally worn by Steve Rogers while he was presumed dead but was really floating unconscious in ice. Whew! Hey, DC had Earth Two … this was Marvel’s solution.
Back to the story: the Sub-Mariner came across an alien spacecraft stranded at the bottom of the sea. Its captain, Vuk, the alien D’Bari villain later called Starhammer, longed to return to space rather than waste his incredibly long life stranded on Earth. Namor agreed to help repair his spacecraft if he would use his alien weaponry to kill the Avengers. Vuk/ Starhammer agreed.
NOTE: Vuk’s homeworld of D’Bari was the planet destroyed by Dark Phoenix years later in the pages of The X-Men.
At any rate, the Avengers’ submarine surfaces in New York Harbor. Thor, Wasp, Iron Man and Giant Man leave Cap down below to rest and reorient himself to being decades in the future while they go onto the dock to talk to the huge press gathering which always clings to the Avengers. Vuk emerges from the throng of reporters and uses his alien Petrifactor Ray to turn the Avengers into stone.
Captain America at last comes topside and sees the petrified Avengers. Working with Rick Jones, whom he originally mistakes for Bucky, he thwarts his old World War Two ally the Sub-Mariner’s plan by having Vuk restore the Avengers to normal so THEY can repair his spaceship.
The team does so while fighting off the Sub-Mariner and a battalion of his Elite Atlantean Guard so that they can’t destroy the double-crossing Vuk’s vessel. The ship is repaired despite the villain’s efforts and Vuk flies back to outer space.
FANTASTIC FOUR Vol 1 #25 (April 1964)
Title: The Hulk vs The Thing
Villain: The Hulk. Yes, AGAIN.
NOTE: Marvel Comics was already making crossovers among their characters an absolute fetish. The Avengers guest-starred in this issue of the Fantastic Four, trying to catch up with the Hulk by following his trail of destruction across the country.
Meanwhile the Fantastic Four fought the Hulk in New York city, where he had gone in search of the Avengers, intent on killing them. One by one Mr Fantastic, Invisible Woman and the Human Torch fell, leaving the Thing in a solo Godzilla vs King Kong-style battle with Hulk. The story ended in a cliffhanger with the fight still going on.
FANTASTIC FOUR Vol 1 #26 (May 1964)
Title: The Avengers Take Over
Villain: The Hulk
Synopsis: This time around the Avengers have a more active role. In typical Marvel Comics style, first the Avengers and Fantastic Four get in each other’s way while fighting the Hulk in New York City and wind up battling each other. Then they reconcile and team up against the Hulk. You know the formula.
The big final battle takes place on a skyscraper under construction. Ultimately Rick Jones sneaks in close enough to the action to toss one of Bruce Banner’s Gamma Pills (Deux Ex Machina brand) into the Hulk’s mouth, causing him to turn back into Bruce Banner, thus ending the fight.
NOTE: These past two issues are remembered in part for the way that writer Stan Lee accidentally called Bruce Banner “Bob Banner” over and over.
THE AVENGERS Vol 1 #5 (May 1964)
Title: The Invasion of the Lava Men
Villains: The Lava Men, a subterranean race of monsters
Synopsis: Captain America is busy at Avengers Mansion teaching Rick Jones assorted acrobatic maneuvers and fighting techniques. (In the future Rick will don a costume and temporarily become the new Bucky)
Meanwhile, a subterranean race of lava monsters plan the destruction of the surface world. In one of Thor’s old stories he fought one of these beings, called the Lava MAN. Now we readers learn that there is an entire race of Lava Men. And if ONE of them could go head-to-head with Thor in a fight, that shows how dangerous an entire race of such beings will be.
The Lava Men are forcing some of their “living lava” to the surface world through various fissures in the Earth’s crust. The living lava will spread and kill off the human race. The living lava erupts in the desert southwest near Hulkbuster Base, so Dr Bruce Banner is one of the scientists studying the phenomenon. Additional tectonic disruptions around the world prompt the Avengers to get involved.
As the story goes on, Banner turns into the Hulk and our heroes battle the Lava Men. At one point Giant-Man and the Wasp take a hunk of the living lava and go study it. (Hank Pym, PhD is a biochemist, remember?) Dr Pym discovers a way of making the living lava IM-plode rather than EX-plode, thus saving the Earth.
The tale ends with Rick again lobbing a Gamma Pill into the Hulk’s mouth to turn him back into Bruce Banner and a truce is negotiated with the Lava Men.
THE AVENGERS Vol 1 #6 (July 1964)
Title: The Mighty Avengers Meet the Masters of Evil
Villains: The Masters of Evil, consisting of Baron Zemo (Heinrich Zemo), the Melter (Bruno Horgan), Radioactive Man (Chen Lu, PhD) and the Black Knight (Nathan Garrett)
Synopsis: Captain America brings down his fellow Avengers by once again dwelling on his (presumed) dead sidekick Bucky. Meanwhile, in South America, where as we all know, real-life Nazi war criminals WERE hiding during the 1960s, Baron Zemo is still alive. Using a sprawling castle in the jungle as his headquarters he scours scientific journals trying to find a chemical formula to dissolve his own creation Adhesive X. That substance is a super-glue whose bond is unbreakable, and, thanks to an accident caused in battle with Captain America during World War Two, Baron Zemo’s mask is permanently stuck to his face, unable to be removed.
He at last hears news reports that the original Captain America from the 1940s has been discovered alive and has joined the Avengers. Zemo is furious that Cap has survived and hits upon a plan for revenge on him PLUS tricking the Avengers into discovering a cure for Adhesive X FOR him.
Baron Zemo rounds up Thor’s Chinese supervillain Radioactive Man, Iron Man’s foe the Melter and Giant-Man & the Wasp’s British enemy the Black Knight. He dubs his team the Masters of Evil, ridiculously enough. (Magneto’s Brotherhood of Evil Mutants eventually renamed themselves the Mutant Brotherhood, the League of Evil Inhumans renamed themselves the Inhuman League, but this group remained the Masters of Evil.)
This team of supervillains launch an aerial attack on Manhattan, spraying the city with Adhesive X, causing cars and people to stick to the ground, roads and sidewalks. As silly as that sounds, it would have obviously fatal consequences if not remedied.
The Avengers go into action, clashing with the Masters of Evil, with Captain America enraged that Baron Zemo, the man he blames for Bucky’s death, is still alive. The Wasp remembers that the Human Torch’s foe Paste Pot Pete (LMAO), later renamed the Trapster, is an expert on glues. In exchange for a lessening of his current prison sentence, the villain provides the Avengers with a formula for dissolving Adhesive X and Manhattan is saved.
Our heroes once again battle the Masters of Evil. The Avengers defeat and capture Radioactive Man, the Melter and the Black Knight, while Baron Zemo, who was prevented from obtaining any of the solution to dissolve Adhesive X, tries to escape but seems to perish when his helicopter crashes.
THE AVENGERS Vol 1 #7 (August 1964)
Title: Their Darkest Hour
Villains: The Masters of Evil, consisting of Baron Zemo, the Enchantress (Amora) and the Executioner (Skurge)
NOTE: The Avengers is finally monthly instead of bi-monthly
Synopsis: Captain America continues training Rick Jones in superheroics, yet throws a hissy fit when Rick tries on a Bucky costume. More self-pity with Cap, you know the drill.
Baron Zemo turns out to be alive and is back in hiding in his South American lair. He re-forms his Masters of Evil, this time by teaming up with a pair of Thor villains, the Enchantress and the Executioner.
Captain America, Thor, the Wasp, Iron Man and Giant-Man take on the team of supervillains plus Zemo’s army consisting of native South Americans. Our heroes emerge triumphant and the Masters of Evil flee New York in Baron Zemo’s aircraft. Thor uses his hammer to create a space warp which sucks the vessel into it. (It’s a comic book. Just go with it.) Our heroes are happy to have won, but know the villains will be back eventually.
THE AVENGERS Vol 1 #8 (September 1964)
Title: Kang the Conqueror
Villain: Kang the Conqueror, military dictator of 40th Century Earth
Synopsis: Kang the Conqueror is one of Marvel’s all-time great villains. Khan Noonian Singh, who would appear on Star Trek in a few years owed a lot to Kang. Kang led armies to conquer all of 40th Century Earth and considers himself the equal – if not the superior – of great men like the Caesars, Napoleon, Alexander the Great and others.
Kang began his life in the 30th Century as Nathaniel Richards, a descendant of the intermingled blood lines of Reed Richards and Victor Von Doom. The 30th Century was a time of great progress and global peace, which disgusted Nathaniel Richards, who longed for the times of war and conquest.
Fashioning a time machine like his ancestor Doctor Doom, he traveled back to ancient Egypt and set himself up as the Pharaoh Rama Tut. He led armies using only the weaponry available at the time, to make his conquests challenging. Eventually the Fantastic Four traveled back in time to his reign, exposed him as a fraud from the future and defeated him.
Nathaniel fled in his time machine but overshot his mark, winding up in the 40th Century instead of the 30th. Fortieth Century Earth was a war-torn, battle-scarred world, so he was in his glory there. He dubbed himself Kang the First and went on to conquer the entire planet.
At any rate, Kang eventually grew bored with his lot, since, like Alexander the Great, he felt he now had “no more worlds to conquer.” This inspired him to travel to the distant past and try to take over 20th Century Earth with his advanced weaponry, including his super-scientific armor, which made him a match for super-teams of the era all by himself.
NOTE: If you’re worried about the obvious paradox involved with Kang trying to conquer the past click HERE
Kang the Conqueror arrived in the 20th Century and started his war of conquest. The Avengers attacked him but with his high-tech armor he defeated and captured all of them except the Wasp, who escaped. With Rick Jones’ help she snuck into Kang’s time/ space vehicle and freed her teammates.
In the rematch the Avengers won and Kang retreated back to the 40th Century.
NOTE: In the 20th Century Marvel Comics, Kang was said to rule 40th Century Earth. Once the 21st Century arrived he was said to rule 41st Century Earth.
THE AVENGERS Vol 1 #9 (October 1964)
Title: The Coming of the Wonder Man
Villains: The Masters of Evil, consisting of Baron Zemo, Wonder Man (Simon Williams), the Enchantress and the Executioner
Synopsis: At Baron Zemo’s palatial HQ in South America, he, the Enchantress and the Executioner are plotting revenge after having returned from space at some point since their last appearance. In the news they see that millionaire industrialist Simon Williams has been accused of embezzlement. The furious Williams blames his deeds on the cutthroat nature of the competition his company faced from Stark International, Tony Stark’s business.
Zemo and his fellow villains plan to recruit Simon Williams in their war against the Avengers, since he hates Tony Stark. (At the time, the world did not yet know that Tony Stark WAS Iron Man. Tony pretended that Iron Man was just his high-tech bodyguard.)
The Masters of Evil offer to make Simon one of them if he’ll help them kill the Avengers, including Tony Stark’s bodyguard Iron Man, then he can kill Stark himself. Williams agrees, and is subjected to treatments combining Baron Zemo’s advanced technology AND the Enchantress’ magic. He emerges from the treatments as Wonder Man – strong as Thor, invulnerable to harm, able to move at super-speed and possessed of a rocket-belt which lets him fly.
Zemo wants Wonder Man to pose as a hero and infiltrate the Avengers. To ensure against Simon changing his mind he reveals to him that part of the treatments embedded a disease in his body that will kill him and only Baron Zemo has the cure. Once the Avengers are dealt with he will give him the cure.
The Baron, the Enchantress and the Executioner feign an attack on the Avengers, with Wonder Man seeming to show up as a superhero to help the heroes drive off the Masters of Evil. Wonder Man is welcomed into the Avengers (tight security there) but relates that the energies which give him his powers are also slowly killing him. (This is the disease/ poison that Zemo mentioned.)
The Avengers’ two scientists, Dr Hank Pym and Tony Stark, try to come up with a cure in the days ahead. Part of their examinations of Wonder Man’s body involves Hank recording Simon’s brain patterns.
NOTE: Down the road, Ultron will steal the recording of Wonder Man’s brain patterns and use them as an operating system for his android weapon the Vision, just as Hank Pym used his own brain patterns as an operating system in Ultron when he created him. (It’s ONLY in the movies that Tony Stark created Ultron.)
Back to the story. Thanks to treachery from Wonder Man, the Wasp is kidnapped by the Masters of Evil. Not knowing Simon’s role in her capture, the Avengers take him with them as they storm Baron Zemo’s HQ to free her. Once there, Wonder Man reveals he is really working for the Baron and turns on the Avengers.
In a magnificent battle, the combined might of the Baron, Enchantress, Executioner and Wonder Man very nearly kills the Avengers, but, moved at the memory of how hard the Avengers tried to come up with a cure for him, Wonder Man switches sides again and turns on the villains.
Zemo triggers the disease/ poison inside Wonder Man, using his painful death to distract the Avengers while he and his fellow villains escape.
NOTE: Years down the road, Wonder Man’s brother Eric Williams will become the supervillain called the Grim Reaper. He blames the Avengers for his brother’s death and repeatedly tries to kill them for revenge.
THE AVENGERS Vol 1 #10 (November 1964)
Title: The Avengers Break Up
Villains: Immortus and the Masters of Evil
NOTE: Though Immortus is revealed to be Kang the Conqueror’s future self in the 1970s comic books, that was not revealed in this, his first appearance. He was presented as a separate villain until that ingenious surprise ret-con in the 70s.
Synopsis: A villain calling himself Immortus appears in Baron Zemo’s South American HQ, seeking to join the Masters of Evil. Zemo dismisses Immortus as deluded and sics the Executioner on him. Immortus prevails and so the Baron and his teammates offer Immortus a spot in their ranks if he can destroy the Avengers.
Immortus makes a Faustian offer to Rick Jones to grant him superpowers. Rick longs for powers so he can join the Avengers but before he can accept Immortus’ offer Captain America intervenes. Rick leaves in a huff and Immortus lies to Cap, claiming one of the other Avengers wanted him to offer Rick superpowers.
Idiotically, Cap believes this (you know comic books) and starts an argument with his fellow Avengers which escalates to all of them wanting to break up the team. (And you thought Yoko Ono worked fast!) Finally, common sense prevails and Cap takes the Avengers to where he last encountered Immortus.
Immortus plucks various figures from the time-stream and uses them as warriors against the Avengers. He uses figures like Merlin, Paul Bunyan, Hercules and others but our heroes wind up winning. While the Avengers are worn out from the battle Baron Zemo, the Enchantress and the Executioner attack them.
The Avengers seem doomed until Captain America rallies them, regroups them and leads them against the villains with Thor making with THE VERY FIRST CRY OF “AVENGERS ASSEMBLE,” which became the team’s Battle Cry to this very day. (As well as the title to the British version of the Avengers cartoon series.)
Our heroes drive off the bad guys and Immortus escapes, not to be seen again by our heroes until the Celestial Madonna storyline in the 1970s.
THE AVENGERS Vol 1 #11 (December 1964)
Title: The Mighty Avengers Meet Spider-Man
Villain: Kang the Conqueror
Synopsis: Kang, probing from the future, sees that the Avengers are without Iron Man, who has disappeared while fighting his archenemy the Mandarin over in his own comic book. He decides to launch a new attack.
The villain creates a robot duplicate of Spider-Man, upgraded with 40th Century tech, and sends it back in time to defeat the Avengers. The robot duplicate convinces the Avengers that it is the real Spider-Man and, under the guise of leading Thor, Wasp, Giant-Man and Captain America to help him against a fresh menace, lures them to a “temple” booby-trap of Kang’s.
Once inside the Avengers get separated and the Spider-Man robot defeats them one at a time. Suddenly, the REAL Spider-Man arrives, having realized something was up when he heard news reports about how “the Avengers and Spider-Man” were on a mission together.
Spider-Man defeats Kang’s robot duplicate and Kang appears to take the android back to the 40th Century with him. The Avengers are glad to have survived against Kang again and thank Spider-Man for his help.
THE AVENGERS Vol 1 #12 (January 1965)
Title: This Hostage Earth
Villains: Mole Man and the Red Ghost
Synopsis: Giant-Man detects unusual subterranean activity and believes the Fantastic Four’s old foe the Mole Man is up to something again. He ventures into the villain’s underground kingdom and winds up captured. The Mole Man once again tries sinking surface buildings beneath the Earth via sink-holes dug out by his Moloids.
The Avengers – including the returned Iron Man – realize Giant-Man was right and go to his rescue. The Soviet supervillain the Red Ghost, another Fantastic Four foe, has meanwhile sought out the Mole Man and formed an alliance with him. The Avengers defeat both villains and the Mole Man’s army of Moloids.
THE AVENGERS Vol 1 #13 (February 1965)
Title: The Castle of Count Nefaria
Villain: Count Nefaria, head of the Maggia, Marvel Comics’ fictional equivalent of the Mafia.
Synopsis: The Avengers have been clamping down on the criminal empire called the Maggia. This has infuriated Count Nefaria, who is the secret international head of that crime cartel. He plans to eliminate the Avengers.
The Count, taking advantage of the fact that the world at large does not yet know he leads the Maggia, invites the Avengers to a posh party at his castle. The heroes attend the event and while they sleep as guests in his home overnight, Nefaria deceives the U.S. Army into thinking the Avengers are planning a coup d’état to take over America.
Soon our heroes find themselves at war with the nation’s armed forces. In the end the Avengers prevail and Count Nefaria is defeated and exposed as the Maggia’s leader. Nefaria faces deportation, but in a cliffhanger ending the Wasp was seriously wounded by one of the Count’s henchmen during the battle.
NOTE: Count Nefaria is the father of Iron Man’s foe (and sometime love interest) Madame Masque.
THE AVENGERS Vol 1 #14 (March 1965)
Title: Even Avengers Can Die
Villains: The Kallusians, an alien race
Synopsis: With the Wasp dying from her lung injury, Thor’s secret identity Dr Donald Blake proves helpless to save her. He says that only Dr Hjarmal Svenson has the necessary expertise to save her. The Avengers seek out his help but Svenson turns out to be an alien imposter who dies when his mask is removed since he cannot breathe the Earth’s atmosphere.
The Avengers scour the world and discover that the real Dr Svenson is being held by aliens called Kallusians in their secret North Pole base. Captain America, Thor, Giant-Man and Iron Man invade the Kallusian base to rescue Svenson. Our heroes learn that the Kallusians were driven from their home planet by their enemies the Yirbek because they were on opposite sides of an intergalactic war. (Presumably the Kree-Skrull War, but neither race had been introduced yet in the Marvel Universe.)
The Kallusians are basically peaceful and only took Svenson captive hoping his expertise with the respiratory system would help the aliens devise a means of breathing our atmosphere so they could live in hiding on Earth. Svenson took pity on them and has been helping them while the alien imposter took his place in the outside world.
A Yirbek space fleet surrounds the Earth from orbit, threatening to wage a destructive war with the Kallusians on Earth unless they come out to fight. The noble Kallusians agree, turning loose Dr Svenson and flying light-years away from Earth to fight their enemies at the chosen location in space. The good doctor succeeds in saving the Wasp’s life.
THE AVENGERS Vol 1 #15 (April 1965)
Title: Now, By My Hand, Shall Die A Villain
Villains: The Masters of Evil, consisting of Baron Zemo, the Enchantress, the Executioner, the Melter and the Black Knight
Synopsis: Baron Zemo is determined to meet the Avengers in final battle. He has the Enchantress and the Executioner bust the Melter and the Black Knight out of prison to increase their numbers for the coming showdown. Zemo has Rick Jones kidnapped and used as bait to lure the Avengers into battle.
Captain America, vowing to at last avenge Bucky’s death (joke’s on HIM), battles Baron Zemo and his soldiers throughout his South American castle. Meanwhile Thor, Wasp, Iron Man and Giant-Man take on the Executioner, the Black Knight, the Melter and the Enchantress. When Cap and the Baron go mano-a-mano, Zemo winds up dying in an avalanche triggered by the tumult of the battle.
Meanwhile the other Avengers and Masters of Evil continue their fight.
NOTE: This Baron Zemo is really dead, but years later his son Helmut will take over his title and his supervillain status as the new Baron Zemo.
THE AVENGERS Vol 1 #16 (May 1965)
Title: The Old Order Changeth
Villains: The Masters of Evil, minus Baron Zemo
NOTE: This is the first appearance of the Avengers’ butler, Edwin Jarvis.
Synopsis: Thor, Wasp, Iron Man and Giant-Man are disadvantaged in their battle with the Melter, the Black Knight, the Enchantress and the Executioner because of so many innocent bystanders surrounding them, in frequent need of rescue as the fight rages. Thor uses his hammer to transport all the combatants to another dimension to continue their battle. Naturally our heroes emerge triumphant.
Thor says he must return to Asgard, where the defeated Enchantress and the Executioner will be tried by Odin himself. He does not know when he will be able to return so he resigns from the team. Iron Man, Wasp and Giant-Man express weariness with having to maintain their solo superhero careers AND serving as Avengers, so they, too, resign, leaving Captain America to lead a new team.
Iron Man vouches for Hawkeye, whose skill he can attest to because they fought a few times, including when Hawkeye was being used by the Soviet supervillainess the Black Widow. Professor X and the X-Men vouch for the Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver, who defected from Magneto’s Mutant Brotherhood to help the X-Men against the villain. Sub-Mariner is asked to join, as a former superhero during World War Two. Even though Cap offers to vouch for Sub-Mariner he refuses to join the Avengers, still angry at the surface world.
The new Avengers, consisting of Captain America, Hawkeye, the Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver, stand before the media. Since the new members are all reformed villains the press dubs the team “Cap’s Kooky Quartet.”
THE AVENGERS Vol 1 #17 (June 1965)
Title: Four Against The Minotaur
Villains: The Mole Man, his Moloids and his monster the Minotaur
Synopsis: Long after the events of the previous issue, Captain America continues whipping the new Avengers into shape as a fighting unit. The training takes place in Avengers Mansion’s underground facility. Rick Jones, peeved that three former villains were made Avengers before he gets a chance, leaves in a huff to rejoin the Hulk as his sidekick.
Hawkeye, setting the tone for his obnoxious character, clashes with Captain America, wanting to be the team’s leader himself. The heroes vote, with the Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver voting for Cap. A large android breaks into Avengers Mansion and attacks the team. The foursome defeat it, but it releases a message saying that it was sent by the Mole Man, who is requesting Avengers aid against the Hulk. The green-skinned brute has invaded his underground kingdom called Subterranea.
Our heroes go to the desert southwest, where the Mole Man asked them to go, and enter his realm. Too late they realize it’s a trap. Mole Man sics an underground monster he calls the Minotaur on the Avengers, who must battle it plus the Mole Man and his army of Moloids. Naturally our heroes win in the end.
THE AVENGERS Vol 1 #18 (July 1965)
Title: When The Commissar Commands
Villain: The Commissar
Synopsis: Marvel Comics of the 1960s had a certain jingoistic Cold War vibe, despite Stan Lee’s later attempts to pretend he was always too enlightened for that sort of thing. Iron Man’s origin story alone was like a Vietnam War version of a Timely Comics World War Two tale, but with the North Vietnamese instead of Nazis or the Imperial Japanese. Thor fought the Communist Chinese Radioactive Man. Ant-Man fought the Russian supervillain Comrade X. The Fantastic Four gained their powers while trying to beat the Soviet Union to the Moon.
Getting back to Iron Man, many of his and the Hulk’s early villains were practically a “Commie of the Month Club.”
At any rate, this story begins with the Avengers receiving a request from rebels in the fictional Communist Chinese nation of Sin-Cong. The rebels are pleading with the team to overthrow their Communist dictator called the Commissar. Thinking nothing of such international adventuring, Captain America, Hawkeye, the Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver travel to Sin-Cong to drive him from power so that a new government can take over. Hey, what could possibly go wrong with that kind of thinking?
After arriving in Sin-Cong the Avengers are attacked by the Commissar’s armed forces but emerge triumphant over all of them. Afterward the Commissar – a man as huge as the X-Men’s foe the Juggernaut – kidnaps the Scarlet Witch and holds a televised event. He will meet each of the Avengers in solo combat, and if he is defeated by any of them he will step down. If he wins against all of them, they will be executed. With the Scarlet Witch’s life on the line, the other Avengers agree to those terms.
The Commissar has incredible super-strength and invulnerability and he defeats Cap, Hawkeye and Quicksilver in one-on-one fights. Up next he faces the Scarlet Witch, who manages to defeat and destroy “him,” revealing he is really a super-powered android. With this definitive “puppet ruler” removed, Sin-Cong’s rebels celebrate and the Avengers fly back to America.
*** YES, THIS MAKES TWENTY STORIES BECAUSE OF THE AVENGERS BEING GUEST-STARS IN TWO ISSUES OF THE FANTASTIC FOUR.
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