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When Were Cap, Iron Man And Thor First Referred To As The "Big Three"?

In "When We First Met," we spotlight the various characters, phrases, objects or events that eventually became notable parts of comic lore, like the first time someone said, "Avengers Assemble!" or the first appearance of Batman's giant penny or the first appearance of Alfred Pennyworth or the first time Spider-Man's face was shown half-Spidey/half-Peter. Stuff like that.

Today, based on a request by longtime reader, David P., we look at the origins of the Avengers term, "The Big Three."

The term has become a major one nowadays, especially as Captain America, Iron Man and Thor have been so prominent in the Marvel Cinematic Universe...

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there was even an Avengers trade paperback titled simply "The Big Three"...

Honestly, though, in the early days of the Avengers, there was more of a "Big Four," with Giant-Man lumped in there, as well...

Things changed when the Avengers lineup shifted. Stan Lee decided that the more popular Avengers didn't need the promotion from the Avengers, so Lee actually told Avengers writer Roy Thomas to remove Captain America, Thor and Iron Man from the series.

Thomas did so, but cleverly kept on coming up with reasons why those three heroes would have to come back, like for voting on whether to make Vision an Avenger...

After treating them as sort of "special" for so long, that attitude even began to spread into the series, like when Skrulls preyed upon the insecurities of the other Avengers by having Skrulls disguised as Captain America, Thor and Iron Man show up to disband the Avengers rather than let the new team continue embarrassing them...

The three heroes then showed up themselves to see what was going on and that was the Kree-Skrull War and Thomas just kept all three in the book after that...

Eventually, it seemed like those three heroes were effectively the guys in charge of the Avengers (they literally traded off leadership of the Avengers for, like, over a hundred issues)...

The term appears to have been first used in Avengers #126, when Cap, Thor and Iron Man are debating Cap's desire to quit being a superhero...

When something comes up, the Swordsman notes that the "Big Three" are in a meeting...

Thanks to Chris and Bill for the correct first usage of the "Big Three"!

Thanks for the suggestion, David! If anyone else has a question/suggestion for a notable comic book first, drop me a line at brianc@cbr.com!

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