Argonauts, assemble! 10 super teams besides The Avengers
With Avengers: Age of Ultron conquering the box office, I thought I’d take a look at some other superhero teams.
I’m sure there are people who saw the first Avengers movie, and thought the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) was doing some thing new: “Wow, it was clever of them to put a bunch of superheroes together!”
I don’t blame them for that: we all step into the pop culture stream at different points along the shore.
Well, not only were The Avengers in the comics starting in 1963 (more than fifty years ago), they weren’t the first super team…in fact, there have been many.
Here is a list of ten super teams besides The Avengers:
If you think fifty years ago is “ancient”, we can get a bit more literal with the Argonauts of Greek legend. They teamed up for a specific mission (finding the Golden Fleece), prior to the Trojan War. Now, some of you might argue about the use of “super”, but this group included: Heracles (you might use the name Hercules from the Romans)…the son of a God with superhuman strength; Perseus (another son of Zeus), who was a monster slayer; and Theseus (son of Poseidon, also a superhuman fighter).
The Justice League of America
Starting in the comics in 1960 (preceding The Avengers), DC had their own superhero team, which included Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Flash, Aquaman, and the Martian Manhunter. Like The Avengers, membership has changed over the years. SuperFriends was a popular cartoon series based on the JLA (“Meanwhile…in the Hall of Justice…”), and 2016’s Batman v Superman is subtitled, “Dawn of Justice” (and will feature other members of the League). In the 1960s, DC had been updating earlier superheroes, and the JLA is an updating of the Justice Society of American (which started in 1940). The JSA included the Flash, Green Lantern, and Hawkman.
The Metal Men
You know how people say you need to have a lot of different elements in a team to make it work? That was literally the case with The Metal Men. They were artificially intelligent robots named (and made of), Gold, Tin, Lead, Mercury, Platinum, and Iron. Their personalities and abilities reflect their composition: Mercury is, well, mercurial (a “hothead”), and Tin is insecure, for example. It’s worth noting that Platinum (also called Tina) is a female robot…somewhat of a rarity in pop culture, although 1962 (the debut year for The Metal Men) also brought us Rosie on The Jetsons.
They were born that way. That’s one of the differences between the X-Men (introduced in September 1963) and many other groups. They possess mutations…and there have been a lot of variation of that and a lot of members of the team. Led by Dr. X(avier), the five original team members were Angel, Beast, Cyclops, Iceman, and Marvel Girl. It wasn’t until May of 1975 that Wolverine joined the team.
The Inferior Five
Parody superheroes have been around for decades, and the I5 were introduced in 1966. They were the sons (and one daughter) of famous superheroes (which were themselves parodies of well-known characters). They weren’t very effective, even if they inherited powers: Awkwardman is super-strong and can live underwater, but is clumsy; The Blimp can fly, but only very slowly; Dumb Bunny is also super-strong, but lacks intelligence; Merryman is unusually intelligent (with a good sense of humor), but a physical weakling; and White Feather is an excellent archer, but is so nervous that he often can’t perform when he knows people are watching (in a battle, for example).
The Fantastic Four
It’s a family affair…Sue Storm (The Invisible Woman), her brother Johnny (The Human Torch), Sue’s eventual husband, Reed Richards (Mister Fantastic), and Reed’s college roommate, Ben Grimm (The Thing) become superheroes accidentally. Somewhat unusually (but not uniquely), they don’t have secret identities: everybody knows who they are.
The Legion of Superheroes
Teen-aged fans of a superhero…but when they cosplay, it’s for real. 😉 Not surprisingly, a thousand years after Superman is famous, he’s a revered figure of history. However, given how common time travel is in the comics, Superboy actually interacted with this group of fans. They had the feel of a club, and you had to follow rules. Not everybody who tried out made it: some of the others became the Legion of Substitute Heroes (one of the better creations in comics, in my opinion). It’s worth noting that, with the occasional story exception, the female characters fought just like the male characters. Saturn Girl, in fact, often led the group into battle and was more of a hawk than some of the others. The comic was also notable for killing off a main character, presaging some of contemporary TV.
The Mighty Heroes
Not every superteam comes from DC, Marvel, (or Mount Olympus). Legendary counterculture animator Ralph Bakshi created The Mighty Heroes for Saturday morning TV. They only ran one season in 1966, but were re-run (and later had a cameo in Bakshi’s Mighty Mouse revival of the 1980s). Even though they might seem pretty goofy, they still would win through their abilities. They were Strong Man, Rope Man, Diaper Man, Tornado Man, and Cuckoo Man.
Legends of Tomorrow
A lot of these teams might be vintage, but LoT is so new, they haven’t even debuted yet. 😉 This is the trailer (TV or movie) that has filled me with the most anticipation recently. It’s a CW TV series, bringing together Arrow, The Flash, White Canary (the reborn good version of Black Canary), Hawkgirl, Firestorm, The Atom, and two Flash villains, Captain Cold and Heatwave. The premise looks good, the mix of characters should keep it interesting, and bottom line…it looks fun!
The Legion of Doom
You had noticed by now that this article is about superteams…not superhero teams, right? Villains may traditionally be more antisocial than heroes, but they do team up from time to time. With the first episode of Challenge of the SuperFriends in 1978, we were introduced to Lex Luthor’s Legion of Doom, bringing together iconic DC comic book villains, including General Grodd (called Gorilla Grodd here), Giganta, Black Manta, and Bizarro. They were presented as the “anti-SuperFriends”, with a parallel set-up.
Obviously, that’s just a small sampling of superteams. Who do you think should have made the list? The Teen Titans? Misfits of Science? All-Star Squadron? The Doom Patrol? The Watchmen? Feel free to add more by commenting on this post.
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