Saturday, April 25, 2015

Charting the Number of Avengers Over Time

To mark the release of the new Avengers movie (review coming soon) Marvel this week released an ‘Avengers Magazine’.  In the back of the magazine is another list of every character who has been an Avenger, including when they joined the team and when they first appeared.

I have lamented before about how so many characters are Avengers now. I had the idea that I could use the magazine to quantify the rate at which the Avengers’ membership has expanded over time.

The graph below shows how many members the Avengers had in total after each year of publication. I have used the information in the Avengers Magazine even if I am not sure this information was totally correct (e.g. I thought Sharon Carter was a member of the Secret Avengers). I have also excluded all honorary members, such as Deathcry, Mar-Vell, and the future Guardians of the Galaxy.

Unsurprisingly the fastest rate of expansion in membership has been in the ‘New Avengers era’, although membership only started to really take off a few years after that series debuted. In particular, according to the magazine, there were sixteen new members in 2013. That was the year that Jonathan Hickman’s ‘Avengers’ greatly expanded the membership, and the ‘Uncanny Avengers’ team was introduced. The magazine also counts the characters in the ‘Avengers A.I.’ title, which debuted that year, as members. No other year has more than eight new members.

The other strong rate of expansion occurred during the late ‘80s-early ‘90s (which was the period that I started reading the Avengers titles). The Avengers had two teams during this period – East Coast and West Coast – which boosted the number of members, although obviously not at as high a rate as recent years.

Since I had the first appearance information to hand as well I was interested to see from which periods of comics the Avengers have drawn the most members from – see the graph below. I have counted characters from the 1940s such as Captain America and the Sub-Mariner based on when they first appeared in modern Marvel Comics.

Almost two-fifths of the Avengers members debuted in the first decade of the modern Marvel Comics, which began in 1961. About another thirty per cent come from the decade after that. This may not be all that surprising to those who think that many of Marvel’s best and most popular characters were introduced in the early Marvel books. However, the year in which the most number of Avengers made their first appearance was 2013, with Hickman’s ‘Avengers’ and the ‘Avengers A.I’ series each introducing several new characters.

By the way, here is the distribution across Avengers members of the number of years between when they first appeared in comics, and when they joined an Avengers team.

The most common gap is zero years, reflecting that several new characters over the years have been created specifically for the purpose of joining the team, though some may be surprised to realise that Captain America (based on his first modern appearance), Iron Man, and the Wasp are all included in this column. The average gap is fifteen years, and the median gap is eight years. The longest gap actually belongs to Flash Thompson, who first appeared as a high school bully in the Spider-Man strip in 1962, and joined the Avengers when bonded to the Venom symbiote in 2012.

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