Re-Visiting Crazy Ideas: Having Characters Age In Real Time – The Avengers
Once upon a time, I put forth the crazy idea of having comic book characters age in real time. I decided that it was time to re-visit that concept with a group of characters that are a cornerstone of the Marvel Universe, The Avengers.
With the Marvel Cinematic Universe, we have a sense of this, although we see actors leaving not because they’re too old, but because their contracts are expiring. Marvel is also exploring this concept with Spider-Man: Life Story. The rules, as I have done before, is that characters join in the year that the issue they joined was published. I’m also making an adjustment that any deaths in the pages of the Avengers will be permanent.
Loki hatches a scheme against Thor that causes the Avengers to form in 1963. In the roster from the beginning is Thor, an immortal Asgardian. Iron Man (Tony Stark) should be considered around 29, possibly younger, but we’ll go with an age to allow for the building of a multi-national corporation. The Hulk (Bruce Banner) is probably close to that same age. Ant-Man (Henry Pym) seems like he might be around the same age. He was previously married, and was able to develop a scientific reputation. The Wasp seems to be around 18, which at least makes her relationship with Henry Pym only slightly inappropriate, but in 1963, it’s not unheard of. The Hulk leaves almost immediately and Pym renames himself Giant-Man. We get our first new member a few months later.
Captain America (Steve Rogers) is rescued from the ice after vanishing in 1945. If he became Captain America at age 19, then he’s 24 now. It’s a year later when the founding members quit and three new members join. Hawkeye is most likely around 22, given his background and temperament. The Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver are fresh from the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants and should be considered to be only 18. I would so with younger, but given the clearance level of the Avengers, it should be assumed that no one would be accepted if they were underage. A year later, The Wasp and Hank Pym rejoin, with the latter renaming himself Goliath. Pym is 31, Cap is 26, Hawkeye is 23, Wasp is 20, and Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch are 19.
Over the next few years, the Avengers get some assistance from the Black Knight (Dane Whitman), who we’ll consider to be 21. When the Black Panther joins, we should consider him to be 20, since his first appearance makes him seem to a young king. By the time Pym marries the Wasp under the identity of Yellowjacket, we have a team that consists roughly of Captain America (29), Iron Man (34), Thor, Yellowjacket (34), the Vision, Hawkeye (26), Black Panther (21), the Wasp (23), and the Scarlet Witch (22).
The membership fluctuates a little among these heroes until 1973 when Mantis joins, we’ll assume at age 20, the same time a reformed Swordsman joins the Avengers at around age 49. Despite how creepy that age difference seems, we’re still pretty much not veering too much from the published stories at this point. Many of the Avengers are approaching 40, but for characters keeping themselves in prime physical condition, it’s not a huge problem for established history.
When the pair of them leave in a couple of years, it begins a stage when the Avengers bring in some new blood with Moondragon, age 25 given that her powers come from many years of study on Titan. The former X-Man Beast also joins, at age 30. Patsy Walker also toys with joining, taking the name of Hellcat. Now Patsy Walker is the first time we are given a character where real time aging can work against her. I put forth that the character diverged so much between her Golden Age appearances and her super-hero adventures, the two can be separate characters, simply sharing a name. That allows us to put her age at 24. She doesn’t stick around, though.
In 1976, The Avengers settle on a core membership. Thor leaves, as does Moondragon and Hellcat. Hawkeye goes off to adventure with the time-displaced Two-Gun Kid. That leaves with an active membership of Captain America (37), Iron Man (42), Scarlet Witch (29), Vision, Yellowjacket (42), the Wasp (31), and the Beast (31). Wonder Man also starts to hang around the Avengers, but due to the special energy animating his body, he doesn’t age much past the 40 years he was when he got his powers.
The Korvac Saga sees the membership swell temporarily. This forces the Avengers to settle on a core membership again in 1979. The government chooses a new line-up consisting of Iron Man (45), Vision, Scarlet Witch (32), Beast (34), Captain America (40), Wasp (34), and the Falcon. Falcon debuted in 1969 at around age 20, partnering with Captain America. This would make him 30 when he joins the Avengers. Ms. Marvel joins soon afterwards, replacing the Scarlet Witch. Given that she was a USAF officer when she debuted in 1968. Assuming she was a new officer, she was probably around 22. Thus, when she joins the Avengers, she’s 33 years old. The Falcon will leave a year later, replaced by Wonder Man. At the end of that year, Ms. Marvel leaves, replaced by the Scarlet Witch.
The membership remains relatively stable until 1981. Moondragon prompts a change in membership. At the end of it, we have a lineup consisting of Captain America (42), Iron Man (47), Yellowjacket (47), the Wasp (36), Thor and new member Tigra. Based on her first appearance in 1972, she was around 21 years old. That means when she joins the Avengers, she’s 30 years old. This lineup shows a couple of Avengers getting older, but coincidentally, this is where we have published stories that provide a chance for them to exit.
Almost immediately, Henry Pym has a breakdown and batters the Wasp. He’s expelled for that, among other things. At this point, it’s pretty clear that his super-hero career is over. Tigra leaves after a harrowing encounter with the Molecule Man. Soon after , a new membership is crafted with Iron Man (48), Captain America (43), the Wasp (37), Thor, a returning Hawkeye (39), and a new member, She-Hulk. If she was 25 when she became She-Hulk, she would be 27 when joining the Avengers. A new Captain Marvel (Monica Rambeau) starts training with the Avengers at around age 26, given that she was a lieutenant in the New Orleans Harbor Patrol.
The membership gets shaken up with Hawkeye suffering a seriously broken leg. Tony Stark then relinquishes his Iron Man identity to James Rhodes. easily 33 when he starts as Iron Man. Stark’s fall and return from alcoholism does not end with him returning to his role as Iron Man, and given his age, he probably shouldn’t. Starfox, a near-immortal Eternal from Titan begins training with the Avengers. The Scarlet Witch rejoins, although her husband Vision has to recover from a disabling encounter with Annihilus. Eventually, after the Secret Wars in 1984, we see a line-up of Vision, Scarlet Witch (37), Starfox, Captain Marvel (28), Captain America (45), and the Wasp (39).
On the West Coast, Hawkeye creates a team of Avengers for that coast of himself (41), his new bride Mockingbird (37), Tigra (33), Iron Man (35), and Wonder Man. When the Vision and Scarlet Witch are forced to leave after his takeover of the world’s computer systems, we get into territory where we start having to consider the ages of our heroes. Our team consists of Captain America (46), the Wasp (40), Captain Marvel (29), Starfox, the immortal Greek hero Hercules, and returning associate Black Knight. If Dane Whitman took on his uncle’s identity at age 18, he would be 36, not accounting for time he spent in the past. We’ll stick with 36 to keep it easy. Starfox eventually leaves, is replaced by the Sub-Mariner, who is so long-lived, it doesn’t matter for our purposes.
The Masters of Evil destroy Avengers Mansion in 1987 and force the team to restructure. We really see an aging team and the Wasp leaves as a sign of this. Captain America is the pinnacle of humanity, so his age of 48 is not a true reflection of his capabilities. Of course, Thor is an immortal, but when of the new recruits is Doctor Druid, a balding man in his 50s, it reflects a problem in the hero community. Black Knight (38), She-Hulk (32) and Captain Marvel (31) provide some variety to a team that quickly disintegrates with the manipulation of Nebula.
Captain America has to reform the Avengers over the course of the next year. With a core membership growing older, we have to divert from where we were start having to reconsider where the memberships have been established in the mainstream comics. Sersi and Crystal can join, being relatively immortal. By the time the Avengers vanish fighting Onslaught, we’re at a point where we need a new batch of heroes.
What’s most important is that the passing of the torch to a younger generation gives us time to discover new characters. In the 2000s, there’s not many members to rejuvenate the team. Justice and Firestar were notable new additions, but there’s not many to keep it going. Keeping a core team of eternally twenty-somethings keeps the development down. Constantly coming back to the same core heroes that have been active since the 1960s keep a team from reflecting the times.