The Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. They’re a group that has defended the Marvel Universe from threats small and large for nearly six decades. Whether it was Loki, Ultron, the Masters of Evil, Kang the Conqueror, or Thanos himself — the Avengers have battled them all and always come out on top. That’s because no matter how often the line-up changes (which has happened a lot over the years), the Avengers have always contained some of the most valiant, courageous superheroes that any multiverse could have to offer. But what about the leaders of this great band of heroes? The chairperson of the Avengers has changed almost as often as the line-up of the Avengers themselves.
Obviously, not all leaders were created equal, so this time CBR counts down 15 leaders of the Avengers, from worst to best. We’ll analyze their time as leader including what kind of threats they had to face, how they kept the team together, how many times they’ve actually been the leader and their major failings if they had any. Note that any Avengers team from the main Marvel Earth-616 counts for this list, so that includes all the various “adjective” teams like New, Mighty, and Uncanny Avengers. With that said, let’s get started!
15. DR. DRUID
The original magician of the Marvel Universe, Anthony Druid was created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby in Amazing Adventures #1 back in 1961. Originally called “Dr. Droom”, he possessed a host of psychic powers including telepathy and hypnosis…but he was so forgettable that when Stan wanted a magician superhero, he forgot about him and created Doctor Strange instead.
Dr. Druid wasn’t on the team for very long to begin with when he was voted in as chairperson, and the team only had four members when they elected him, including She-Hulk, Thor and the Black Knight. Even then, he was the fourth most viable leader, and was only elected because he was being mind-controlled into mind-controlling (ugh) the rest of the team to vote for him. His time as leader was brief and he nearly got the Avengers killed, so it’s safe to say he’s the worst. At everything.
As the youngest of the Summers brothers, Alex Summers was always overshadowed by his brother Scott, usually because everything he did Scott had already done first. Become a mutant? Scott did it first. Join the X-Men? Scott did it first. Lead X-Factor? Scott did it first.
But that changed in the aftermath of “Avengers vs. X-Men”, when Scott’s actions as the Dark Phoenix turned him into a pariah in the superhero community. Seeking to better incorporate mutant heroes with everyone else, Captain America formed the Avengers Unity Squad and invited Havok to lead the team. Unfortunately, this was a very tumultuous time for the Marvel Universe, and Havok’s time as chairperson was brief. One of the few characters who remained “inverted” at the end of AXIS, Havok quickly resigned from the Unity Squad and joined his brother, falling right back into his brother’s shadow once again.
13. BLACK WIDOW
It’s really not Natasha’s fault she’s so far down on this list. Her time as leader of the Avengers happened during arguably Marvel’s creative nadir of the early-to-mid ’90s. Black Widow was responsible for the team at one of its most volatile periods, when members were coming and going almost every other issue, and the line-up was an amorphous, uncontrollable mess.
She co-lead the group alongside The Black Knight, serving as the team’s tactical commander. She led the team through both “The Crossing” and the “Onslaught” saga, where most of the team perished in battle. And while that certainly wasn’t her fault, you can only rank so high when the team you led eventually wound up dead. Plus, whose idea was it to put a spy in charge of the foremost super-team in the MU? Those jobs are polar opposites!
The Vision is probably one of the most well-known members of the Avengers that isn’t also a founding member. Created by Stan Lee, Roy Thomas and John Buscema in 1968’s Avengers #57, the character has been a stalwart member of the Avengers from his origin, and proof that no man or woman (or robot) should ever be defined by the circumstances of their birth.
Vision became leader of the team in the early ’80s, after half of the team was kidnapped during the first “Secret Wars” event. Taking over in their place, Vision started off doing a decent enough job, but eventually he allowed his insecurities to get the best of him. Believing there was no other way to affect true world peace, the unbalanced Vision sought to control all the world’s computers to force it. Since “robbing humanity of free will” is a big no-no, he lands down here.
An unexpected member of this list, Rogue is more famous to most people as a member of Marvel’s merry band of mutants, the X-Men. But Rogue was one of the mutants tapped to join up with Captain America’s Avengers Unity Squad alongside Havok, and when the Summers brother remained inverted she became the one to lead the team, although working under the oversight of Steve Rogers.
Rogue has proven herself to be quite the capable leader, even through some of the most bleak times for mutants and the X-Men. She led the team when her body was dying due to the effects of Terrigenesis, and even played a part in helping the Avengers break their way out of mind-control during the “Pleasant Hill” incident. And most importantly, she played the final part in shutting down Red Skull while he was abusing Xavier’s mind control powers.
10. HANK PYM
One of the founding members of the Avengers, Hank Pym is also easily the most troubled. And given the first Avengers team had the Hulk on it, that’s saying something. Constantly coping with mental and emotional issues, in the early years of the Avengers, Hank cycled through several different powers and personas, from Ant-Man to Giant-Man to Goliath and eventually Yellowjacket, before finally retiring in the early ’80s.
Hank first tried his hand at leading the Mighty Avengers post-“Secret Invasion”, becoming one of the few people willing to fight back against the tyrannical rule of Norman Osborn and H.A.M.M.E.R. Later, he would found Avengers Academy to help undo some of the damage Osborn had done to the superpowered teenage population. Though his mental health issues (and fusing with Ultron) have at times made him hard to trust, he’s proven to be a fine leader when he takes on the role.
9. SAM WILSON
Originally known as the superhero “Falcon”, Sam Wilson was created by Stan Lee and Gene Colan in Captain America #117. With mechanical wings and telepathic control over birds, Sam fought alongside Steve Rogers for decades until Steve Rogers’ Super Soldier serum stopped working and left him elderly and unable to fight, and he tapped Wilson to take on the role of Captain America.
Though the first time Falcon hit the big stage as Cap he was all jerk-like due to being inverted by Red Skull in “AXIS”, he’s since proven himself more than worthy to hold the shield and lead the Avengers into battle. Under his leadership the team has bested Kang, and fought against the forces of Hydra during the “Secret Invasion” storyline. The only thing keeping him from rising higher is his stint as leader just wasn’t that long.
8. MONICA RAMBEAU
The first lady to be known as Captain Marvel, Monica joined the Avengers in the ’80s after seeking them out in order to learn control of her powers. She spends much of the ’80s working under the Wasp as the team faced down major threats like Kang, the Beyonder and the Masters of Evil.
But when Wasp stepped down in Avengers #278 to go on vacation, Monica was nominated the following issue. Under her command, she kept the team in top shape as they faced off against the Super-Adaptoid and the Greek gods when they came in search of revenge after the Masters of Evil left Hercules critically injured. Unfortunately, her time as chairwoman would only last about a year, as an accident left her briefly powerless and forced her to resign from the team, and we never truly got to see what she was capable of.
Another long-time member, it barely feels like the Avengers if Hawkeye isn’t on the roster. The cocky, loud-mouthed archer started out as a member Cap’s “Kooky Quartet”, fighting with the Star-Spangled Avenger about everything, but gradually grew into his own, becoming one of the most reliable members of the team. He’s been leader of the Avengers several times over, starting with being the founding member of the West Coast Avengers in the ’80s.
He ran the team for several years, before quitting in protest after being saddled with the U.S. Agent by the government. Since then, he’s lead a version of the Secret Avengers, the Thunderbolts and helped with the resistance during “Secret Empire”. Really, the only thing keeping him from being even higher up on this list is his hot-headed attitude.
Roberto “Bobby” DaCosta’s earned his spot on this list just for how far he’s come. Initially one of Professor Xavier’s “third wave” recruits, he started out as a member of the New Mutants alongside his buddy Sam Guthrie. Bobby would hone his skills over the next several years beside the X-Men until finally retiring after the events of “Avengers vs. X-Men”.
Not long after that though, Bobby was inspired to join up with Captain America’s Avengers in the last days before the most recent “Civil War”, and eventually used his resources as a millionaire to buy A.I.M. and re-tool it into Avengers Idea Mechanics and later the U.S.Avengers, a super-science version of the Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. For compromising one of the Avengers’ greatest villains and effortlessly handling major threats from within and without Bobby deserves recognition as a great Avengers leader.
5. LUKE CAGE
One of the more recent heroes to join the team, Luke first appeared as a member of the new school of Avengers in New Avengers #1 back in 2005. Eventually, he would come to take over as leader of the team in the aftermath of the Registration Act and Captain America’s assassination. He takes over the group until after “Secret Invasion”, where he turned leadership over to Hawkeye.
It wouldn’t be his last time leading an Avengers team though. Once he even got Cap and Iron Man to sell him the Avengers Mansion before he was willing to lead the team! Though Luke has left the Avengers several times over the years, his unfailing sense of justice always draws him back in, and usually as leader of the team, due to the respect he naturally seems to command.
4. CAROL DANVERS
The premiere lady hero of the Marvel Universe, Carol Danvers has been around in some form or another for nearly 50 years. But though she gained her powers back in the late ’70s, and has been an on-again off-again member of the Avengers for decades, it wasn’t until the aftermath of the “Civil War” that Carol was finally put in the driver’s seat and allowed to run her own Avengers.
The leader of the Mighty Avengers, Carol was the face of the pro-Registration team until the aftermath of “Secret Invasion” when Osborn tookover. Since then, she’s become leader of Alpha Flight as well as the Ultimates, and is frequently the second-in-command of other Avengers teams. The only thing keeping her outside of the top three is that she always picks the wrong side during Civil Wars.
3. IRON MAN
A member of the very first Avengers team, Tony Stark is the founder of the Avengers and the original leader of the team. As a multi-billionaire entrepreneur, he was initially single-handedly responsible for setting up the Avengers with their mansion, the helpful butler Jarvis, the Quinjets, and their security clearances with S.H.I.E.L.D. and the government.
Having said that, since founding the team Tony is actually rarely ever the leader. He’s always a part of the founding group whenever a new team is made, but when it comes to an actual chairman he tends to hand that role off to other characters. Plus he is responsible for the original “Civil War” and once betrayed the team after being mind-controlled by Kang the Conqueror, so that kind of keeps him from making it into the top two slots.
2. THE WASP
The First Lady of the Avengers, Janet Van Dyne spent quite some time as the only lady in the superhero boys’ club, but still proved herself just as good as every other member of the team. One of few people to ever nominate themselves for chairperson, she got the support of Iron Man, Thor and Cap, and took over as leader in short order.
While heading up the team, Janet personally saw to increasing the number of women in the group, creating a more woman-friendly line-up by allowing both She-Hulk and Monica to join. Not only being a trailblazer for feminism in the Avengers, Janet also holds the distinction of being leader of the original Avengers longer than any other member besides our top pick, only stepping down for a well-earned vacation.
1. CAPTAIN AMERICA
Although dubbed the “First Avenger” by the films, Steve Rogers wasn’t actually a founding member of the Avengers. But he would join the team by Avengers #4, and has been on the frontlines of the team ever since. In spite of the recent events within “Secret Empire”, Steve Rogers is the face of the Avengers. Even when he isn’t the leader of the team, he’s often a founding member, and someone that the chairperson defers to over roster choices or serious situations.
On this list alone he’s played a major part in half of the people here becoming leaders of the team. Steve Rogers is someone that people just naturally rally around when situations get chaotic or the leader isn’t to be found. Between that, keen tactical mind and never-say-die attitude, there’s no way to see Steve as anything but the ultimate leader of the Avengers.
Who’s your pick for the best Avengers leader? Be sure to let us know in the comments!
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