As Marvel Comics’ premiere superhero team, the Avengers are supposed to protect the world from threats so dire, no one hero could face them alone. They enjoy a proud history and a roster that includes some of the most respected heroes in the Marvel Universe. And yet, there’s no denying the fact that they count among their extensive line-up some of the most offensive characters to ever grace the comics page. These “Offenders” run the gamut of reprehensible human behavior. From wife beaters and misogynists to deplorable negative stereotypes and born-again Nazis, the Avengers have provided a home to some pretty offensive human beings.
The argument could be made that all great heroes must overcome their innate flaws to truly triumph over adversity. The road to redemption has never been a walk in the park, but do these 15 Avengers deserve a second chance to achieve true heroism? Ultimately, that’s for you to decide. Fair warning, though: the list of so-called heroes we’ve assembled may surprise you. Others, probably not so much. So hold your gag reflex in check and get ready to scrape the bottom of the barrel, because these so-called "heroes" are anything but. There’s only one thing left to say… Offenders Assemble!
SPOILER ALERT! Spoilers ahead for numerous stories published by Marvel Comics.
15 IRON FIST
There’s a big white elephant in the room and his name is Iron Fist. Danny Rand first appeared as the Iron Fist in Marvel Premiere #15. Created by Roy Thomas and Gil Kane to cash in on the kung fu craze that set the ‘70s ablaze, the problem many readers have with the character is that he’s a wealthy Caucasian male, who’s seemingly benefitted from the appropriation of another culture.
While everyone from Thomas to practitioners of the martial arts will tell you Rand’s race doesn’t matter, there’s no denying that Iron Fist fits snugly into the much-maligned white savior trope permeating mainstream superhero comics. Many viewers cried foul when Marvel Studios missed out on a chance to course correct by casting a white actor in the role for their live action Netflix series. Does this make Iron Fist a bad Avenger? Maybe not, but it’s easy to see how people could be offended.
14 HYDRA CAP
For many diehard Marvel readers, there was a lot not to like about Secret Empire. Panned for its uneven plot, out-of-character portrayal of major players and a lacklustre resolution, Secret Empire’s most heinous flaw has to be its callous treatment of the Marvel Universe’s most respected hero, Captain America. Or more to the point, the blatant disregard the story showed for his Jewish creators, Joe Simon and Jack Kirby.
Cap was created specifically to take the fight to the Nazis during World War II. He became a symbol of justice and defiance against tyranny. He even KO’d Hitler in one of the most iconic covers in comic book history. In Secret Empire, all of this was subverted to service a plot that placed the politics of the day ahead of sound storytelling; using the same bombast and deep-seeded cynicism it was purportedly trying to decry.
13 HANK PYM
This one’s a doozy. Arguably the most troubled Avenger to ever lace ‘em up, Hank Pym probably never should’ve become a superhero in the first place. It’s not a profession for the faint of heart or the insecure. This became abundantly clear for Hank Pym as he cycled through successive superhero personas, before settling on the cocksure and reckless Yellowjacket.
Tired of constantly being outclassed by his more confident and more powerful fellow Avengers, Pym embraced his brash new identity until the bitter end. He endangered his friends and plotted against his teammates, his deteriorating mental state becoming ever more evident. Finally, in a scene that still manages to shock and disturb in equal measure, Pym lashed out at his beloved Wasp, walloping her in a fit of rage. Already on trial for use of excessive force, Pym was finally expelled from the Avengers following the incident.
12 IRON MAN
What’s so offensive about Tony Stark? Well, for starters, he’s an arrogant, privileged misogynist, who for all his smarts can’t seem to learn from his past mistakes. Armed with his smug smirk and one of the most advanced weapons systems ever built, Stark’s arrogance knows no bounds. He’s helped start not one but two superhero civil wars, the most recent costing him the lives of two dear friends in James “War Machine” Rhodes and Bruce Banner.
He’s slept with several of his employees and colleagues in the Avengers (including the Wasp, Black Widow and Ultimate Carol Danvers), refusing to commit to any of them. His relationships with women are much like his vaunted suits of armor. Once he’s tired of playing with them, he finds a new toy to amuse him. Use them, then lose them. That’s the Tony Stark way.
This hero’s name says it all. There’s a lot to mad about when it comes to Rage. If ever there was a character whose creation was more misguided, we’d be hard-pressed to name them. Rage embodies everything an African-American superhero shouldn’t represent. Playing into the negative stereotype of the angry young black man, Rage’s membership was a blatantly patronizing attempt to inject a little “color” into the Avengers line-up.
Subsequent portrayals of Rage in books like New Warriors added much-needed depth and complexity to the character, exploring his place in the Marvel Universe with more sensitivity. Most recently, Rage’s story came full circle after his unjust arrest by the fascist Americops and subsequent jailhouse beating that ended his life. His time as a hero ended much as it began: as little more than a plot device used to make a point that should never have been needed to be made in the first place.
As far as Avengers go, they don’t come much creepier than Starfox. Here’s a guy who, if you believe him, "just can’t help himself." An Eternal of Titan, Eros is the son of Mentor and the brother of Thanos. He only took the Starfox moniker after joining the Avengers. Born with the ability to stimulate the pleasure center of the brain, Starfox contends that his is a power that he can't turn on and off with the flick of a switch.
Yeaaaah, right. He’s used his powers mostly for good over the course of his career, except for that time he pushed She-Hulk into marrying John Jameson, earning him a severe beating. Oh, and there was that other time, he sparked Thanos’ mad love for the embodiment of Death. That turned out well for the universe, didn’t it? Starfox isn’t simply offensive; he’s a damn menace to pretty much everything in existence.
9 ULTIMATE HULK
If you thought Bruce Banner’s rage-filled alter ego the Hulk was one of the most unstable and dangerous heroes in the Marvel Universe then check out his Ultimate Universe counterpart. Unlike the 616 version, pathos or sympathy doesn’t seem to be a part of Ultimate Hulk’s DNA. Bruce Banner in the Ultimate Universe is a patently unlikeable wallflower, who desperately desires to be stronger, more virile and masculine.
His deep insecurities fuel his rampaging alter ego, who’s only too happy to prove how much of a real man he is. In actual fact, the Ultimate Hulk is little more than a raging, hormone-fueled embodiment of Banner’s id. Starved for both sex and human flesh, the Ultimate Hulk’s hunger is as limitless as his strength. A disgusting, cynical interpretation of one of Marvel’s most iconic characters, the Ultimate Hulk is so offensive we could probably do a list on him alone.
Moondragon was never what you would call a good fit for the Avengers. In fact, she never really made the cut and couldn’t rise above probationary status. Maybe she shouldn’t have used her formidable psionic powers to kill her old man and sexually assault Thor. The daughter of Drax the Destroyer (the O.G. version, before he started running with the Guardians of the Galaxy), Moondragon aided the Avengers in many cosmic adventures.
Along the way, she used her telepathic powers to manipulate many a potential suitor. In Avengers #220, she crossed the line by setting herself up as the empress of an entire planet, forcing Thor to be her love slave in the process. The Avengers showed up when big daddy Drax dropped the dime and put the kibosh on Moondragon’s delusions of grandeur, but not before she killed her old man (at least temporarily).
7 ULTIMATE CAPTAIN AMERICA
To say the Ultimate Universe version of Captain America had a tad more difficulty than his mainstream counterpart adjusting to modern society after spending decades in suspended animation would be something of a gross understatement. While the 616 Cap seemed to accept his new lease on life relatively easily, Ultimate Steve Rogers had a tougher time letting go of his old school sensibilities.
After laying the smackdown on Hank Pym, who was on the run from the authorities after brutally assaulting his wife and fellow Ultimates teammate Janet Van Dyne, Rogers immediately starts wooing her, while she was still in her hospital bed. He even called her “honey.” Believing he’d saved the day and was entitled to a storybook romantic ending, Rogers is shocked to discover Jan’s having none of it. She quickly disabuses him of his naïve and offensive outdated notions and tells him to hit the bricks.
6 IRREDEEMABLE ANT-MAN
Talk about living up to your branding. Irredeemable doesn’t really come close to describing one-time Ant-Man Eric O’Grady or the depths to which he’d sink to cash in on a big score... or score some cheap thrills for that matter. Not only did O’Grady come by the mantle of Ant-Man dishonestly (admittedly already more than a little tainted), he used his powers for personal gain and self-gratification.
Among his more deplorable acts: laying a beatdown on his late predecessor Scott Lang’s daughter, while screaming, “Who’s your daddy, now” and using his shrinking ability to spy on his teammate Carol Danvers while she was taking a shower. Eventually, O’Grady found some redemption and died while protecting a kid during the Secret Avengers’ invasion of the top secret World facility. Or maybe it was just karma catching up with him. We like that idea better.
5 ULTIMATE MAXIMOFFS
In the mainstream Marvel Universe, the Maximoff twins Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch have what some might consider a checkered record as Avengers. They’ve both played the roles of hero and villain. They’ve both committed heinous acts of what essentially constitutes mass murder for selfish reasons. While the 616 versions of the characters are typically portrayed as unfailingly loyal to one another, their relationship seemed pretty wholesome.
In the Ultimate Universe, this was somewhat implied to not be the case.. okay, it was blatantly revealed. We’re not saying the Maximoffs crossed any "moral" boundaries -- that's not our judgement to make -- but it was certainly problematic for many readers. It's likely the depiction of their relationship was intended to evoke the close family ties they shared in the main Marvel universe, but many readers couldn’t help but be unnerved and offended by the intensity of their love.
Time was, no matter what your background, you had to have at least a few redeeming qualities to merit inclusion among Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. So how come Deadpool got a pass? What really gets our goat about Deadpool as an Avenger isn’t his checkered past (there have been plenty of former criminals who’ve found redemption in the Avengers) but the fact that he’s never really paid for his crimes — or shown any remorse for them.
He’s a psychotic killer whose default mode is murder. His fans will try to convince you that he’s done enough to redeem himself since becoming a dad but just because he hasn’t traumatized his daughter yet doesn’t mean he’s Avengers material. If he really wanted to be a responsible father, he’d hold himself accountable for his crimes. Plus he’s got a potty-mouth and never shuts up. That makes him annoying AND offensive at the same time.
3 THE SENTRY
If Superman went off the deep end and started dismembering his fellow heroes then you’d have the Sentry. Actually, the Sentry doesn’t just dismember his foes; he seems to default to tearing them in half. Just ask Carnage or Ares. The Sentry started off as an intriguing exercise dreamed up by Paul Jenkins and Rick Veitch. The idea was to insert an ultra-powerful, Superman-type character into the fabric of the Marvel Universe nobody remembered. However, as time went on, nobody knew what to do with him.
So, Marvel utterly deconstructed him, making him as morally weak and despicable as possible. What started out as an engrossing twist on the concept of the superhero origin turned out to be nothing more than a sham. If you’re gonna tear something down, you damn well better build something cool to replace it. The most offensive thing about the Sentry are the missed opportunities.
2 ULTIMATE HANK PYM
And we thought the 616 Hank Pym was a creepy, insecure S.O.B. Ultimate Hank Pym takes little man syndrome to all new lows. After a rampaging Hulk literally almost handed Hank his own head during a battle that decimated Manhattan, the not-so-good doctor retreated into his research. When his wife Janet Van Dyne — who was instrumental in finally taking the Hulk down — tries to assuage his bruised ego, he lashes out at her.
Not content with conventional assault, Hank sprays Janet with pesticide and unleashes an army of ants on her while in the midst of a height division. The resulting bites send her into anaphylactic shock, nearly killing her. Much later, during Ultimatum, after he finds the Blob cannibalizing Janet’s corpse, he chomps off the villain’s head, giving him a taste of his own medicine. Boy, those Ultimates sure like to eat people.
1 BIG BERTHA
Never mind the Avengers, Big Bertha is quite possibly one of the most offensive characters in all of comics. A founding member of the Great Lakes Avengers (yeah, we know, that barely counts), Big Bertha first appeared in West Coast Avengers Vol. 2 #46. A mutant born with the ability to pack on the pounds, granting her superhuman strength and durability, it isn’t Bertha’s plus-sized superhero persona that we find offensive.
No, what many fans find so objectionable about this character is that in her true form, Bertha is reed-thin super-model who purges her excess mass through vomiting. This utterly classless, insensitive and just plain ignorant portrayal of bulimia (no matter how unintentional) denigrates and marginalizes literally millions of people worldwide. Arguably one of the most unforgivable creations in all of comics, Big Bertha’s portrayal on any Avengers team — even the Great Lakes misfits — makes her a top Offender.
Offended? Let us know how much in the Comments!