Once upon a time, there was just a single, solitary Avengers team. This collective of Earth's Mightiest Heroes kept a sizable roster, but even a group of the strongest superheroes would have a hard time being everywhere at once. Thus, the West Coast Avengers were born. Much mockery ensued. Yes, despite being the first ever Avengers spin-off team, the West Coast Avengers never quite found the same prestige as the OG team. For years, the West Coast Avengers have been the black sheep of the Avengers family. But now, thanks to writer Kelly Thompson, the West Coast Avengers are getting a second chance. But just exactly who are the West Coast Avengers?
Long before Thompson decided to give the team a fresh coat of hip paint, the West Coast Avengers served as the Avengers B-Team, protecting the Golden Coast from threats big and small. Debuting in 1984, the West Coast Avengers shocked readers, breaking the legendary Avengers into two squads, paving the way for the cavalcade of Avengers teams that are now the norm. But over the years, the West Coast Avengers fell into obscurity, with even the most devoted Marvel fans brushing off this once groundbreaking team. So before Clint Barton takes another stab at an Avengers team based on the Best Coast, join CBR as we take a retrospective look back at this forgotten Avengers spin-off team.
Long before there was the Mighty Avengers, Uncanny Avengers, All-New Avengers, Crystal Avengers, and Avengers II: Electric Boogaloo, there was just a single Avengers team, and the concept of a second Avengers team seemed downright laughable. But along came the West Coast Avengers, making history as the first ever Avengers spin-off.
In the '80s, the Avengers were more hampered by technological limitations, making it difficult to protect the entirety of the United States. Thus, the West Coast Avengers were formed, ensuring that the heroes would be able to respond to any threat, no matter where it sprang up. The West Coast Avengers might be largely forgotten these days, but without this team, the Avengers may have continued to remain a single unit, drastically altering the Marvel Universe.
14 A TEAM WITH VISION
The West Coast Avengers weren't formed simply to soak in the California sun. No, this was a team with a purpose, formed out of one of the biggest crises the Avengers had ever faced. To form a team like this, you would need someone with vision. Or, rather, the Vision.
Yes, despite not being part of the initial team line-up, it was the android known as Vision that dreamed up the WCA. When the Avengers' heaviest hitters were kidnapped to participate in Secret Wars, Vision posited that a second active team was needed to help out. As Vision wished to remain on the main Avengers roster, leadership of the team was given to Hawkeye, who set about assembling his perfect team.
Reformed bad guy and all-around loud mouth Clint Barton may not seem the "team leader" type, but Vision clearly saw something in the roguish bow wielder, as Hawkeye was appointed team chairman. While the WCA may have had its problems, Hawkeye remained true to his team for longer than anyone would have expected him to.
Yes, Hawkeye served as a founding member of the West Coast Avengers, and was instrumental in assembling the initial roster. Over 102 issues, Hawkeye served as the heart of the team, bringing on new members, helping friends and allies, and overcoming a variety of obstacles. Hawkeye might be as quick with a joke as he is with an arrow, but the hero was very serious when it came to his team.
12 UNCLE SAM-APPROVED
Over the years, the Avengers have butted heads with the US Government on several occasions, stemming from the fact that the Earth's Mightiest Heroes operate independently and refuse to answer to a government. But Hawkeye was more than willing to play ball with Uncle Sam, leading to the West Coast Avengers becoming the first government-sanctioned Avengers team.
Essentially, this allowed the government to weigh in on WCA matters, but the US of A primarily allowed the WCA to operate as they saw fit. In later years, the government would become much more involved in the team, and even briefly replaced Hawkeye with U.S.Agent as team leader, leading to several WCA members quitting in protest. These days, the Avengers remain (mostly) government-free, and the West Coast Avengers served as an example of what happens when super teams and politics mix.
11 A GIANT(MAN) OF A PROBLEM
Hank Pym doesn't have what you would call the "rosiest" history. Domestic abuse, brief forays into super villainy, and a general disregard for teammates has made Pym a tough sell to many in the superhero community. But if there's anyone who understands the power of second chances, it's Hawkeye, leading the archer to bring Pym onto the West Coast Avengers in a special role.
Initially offering Pym a full-blown spot on the roster, the former Ant-Man declined, realizing his spotty past could land the team in hot water with the government. Instead, Pym would become the team's scientific advisor and compound manager, assisting the group from his lab while keeping an eye on the West Coast Avengers' headquarters. Pym's inclusion still raised plenty of eyebrows from members and government watchdogs, but the WCA stood by their teammate.
10 TRY, TRY AGAIN
It's not often that a hero gets to rejoin a team he or she was kicked off of. Often times, if a hero is given a boot from the Avengers, it tends to be for good. But the West Coast Avengers did things a little differently, kicking one of it's members out, and then allowing that member to return in an entirely different persona!
Jim Rhodes might be best known as War Machine, but Tony Stark's best pal briefly assumed the mantle of Iron Man. During this period, Rhodes joined the West Coast Avengers as a founding member, but failed to disclose that he wasn't Tony Stark, and simply allowed his new teammates to believe it was Stark under the armor. Awkward. Eventually, Rhodes was booted from the team, but later rejoined the team in West Coast Avengers #94 under the War Machine name, making Rhodes the only WCA member to serve under two different personas.
9 WAITING IN THE WINGS
Despite running for over 100 issues, the West Coast Avengers' roster stayed relatively small. These days, seeing the Avengers run around with rosters in the dozens, it's almost quaint seeing the West Coast Avengers operate with five to six members. But despite the team's small size, the WCA managed to amass a sizeable collection of honorary and reserve members.
While heroes like Tigra and Moon Knight held down the main roster, beloved characters such as The Thing, Firebird, Darkhawk, and Machine Man managed to achieve reserve status, pitching in to help the team on occasion. The West Coast Avengers even bestowed the title of "honorary member" twice, swearing in both the aging actress that formerly owned the team's compound and D-list hero The Shroud.
8 UNDER NEW MANAGEMENT
Receiving government approval for the West Coast Avengers proved to be a double-edged sword. After all, the US Government could assist the West Coast Avengers in diplomatic matters, but, as a trade off, the government became heavily involved in the operation of the team. Thus, when a WCA member would step out of line or refuse orders from on high, Uncle Sam would step in and mold the team to better suit government interest.
Such was the case when the United States government began to lose trust in the team, opting to bring in the unstable U.S.Agent as its new leader. Serving as a government watchdog, and ensuring the team was always working in the best interest of the government, U.S.Agent quickly gained enemies from the team's roster, leading to several members resigning. For a team that was as close as family, this instance of government interference proved to be too much.
7 WHAT'S IN A NAME?
When the West Coast Avengers debuted in 1984, the concept of multiple Avengers titles seemed downright laughable. Comic fans were used to a main Avengers title, and that was it. By the time the '90s rolled around, the Avengers had multiple books on comic stands. But how was Marvel to ensure that fans could find all of the Avengers branded comics? The House of Ideas crafted a simple solution.
To ensure that every Avengers comic would be located next to each other on comic shelves, Marvel renamed every Avengers book to have "Avengers" be the first word featured in the name. To comply with this naming shake-up, the West Coast Avengers were re-branded into the far-less-snappy Avengers West Coast, and would continue to operate under this name until the comic was canceled in 1994.
6 CREATIVE CONTROL
West Coast Avengers enjoyed a healthy run, ultimately clocking in at 102 issues. Over these 102 issues, classic storylines such as "Vision Quest" and "Lost In Space-Time" played out, earning the comic a devoted fan following. While the team featured a roster of popular heroes, it was ultimately the writing that kept fans coming back to the series. Fans of the WCA can thank three primary writing team for shaping the team.
Unlike Avengers, West Coast Avengers was not a book being passed from writer to writer. In fact, the series only had three writers across its entire run. Initially written by the legendary Steve Englehart, the book would be passed to the similarly legendary John Byrne for a four issue run, before writers Roy and Dann Thomas took over at issue 60 and continued to write the book until it was canceled. In an age in which comics are treated like hot potatoes, seeing three writing teams handle an entire 102-issue series is refreshing.
5 GREAT LAKES AVENGERS
Back when the concept of a second Avengers team was a novel one, fans joked about the ridiculous next step for the Avengers. If the Earth's Mightiest Heroes had teams on the East and West coasts, what would be next? Bible Belt Avengers? Avengers go Hawaiian? Leave it to the writers of the West Coast Avengers to take this joke and run with it.
Debuting in West Coast Avengers #46, fans were introduced to the Great Lakes Avengers, a team of zeroes that co-opted the Avengers name without official approval. Composed of Z-list heroes such as Mr. Immortal and Flatman, the GLA weren't exactly the next big Avengers team. But this joke team has hung around, amassing a cult following among Marvel fans, having come a long way since their West Coast Avengers debut.
4 WEST COAST AVENGERS: THE CARTOON?
Say you're designing the roster of what will be the first ever Avengers cartoon. Do you go with the classic original roster? Do you pull from different iterations of the team, concocting the perfect Avengers squad? Or do you just throw up your hands, say "screw it," and use the West Coast Avengers?
The creators of Avengers: United They Stand apparently opted for that last one. Debuting 1999, the cartoon based the group on the forgotten spin-off team, using a roster composed of the likes of Hawkeye, Tigra, Vision, and Wonder Man. While the WCA has become a cult classic over the years, kids apparently weren't interested in an Avengers team sans Captain America and Iron Man, and United They Stand was canceled after a single disappointing 13-episode season.
3 THE ULTIMATE WEST COAST
When the West Coast Avengers came to a close in 1994, it seemed as though the team was gone for good. After all, in the modern era where technology allows the Avengers to travel to the deepest reaches of space in mere minutes, why would there need to be coast-specific teams? But, surprisingly, the team did receive a modern makeover in the Ultimate universe.
In this iteration, the West Coast Avengers were re-imagined into a covert super team, overseen by Nick Fury. The team, composed of Wonder Man, Tigra, Vision, Black Knight, and Quake, would be dispatched to deal with threats the Ultimates couldn't address publicly. Ultimately (pun!), the team was defeated by the Ultimates after going rogue, putting an end to this dark alternate-reality interpretation of the WCA.
2 WASTE NOT, WANT NOT
When the West Coast Avengers finally called it quits in 1992, it seemed as though the Earth's Mightiest Heroes would stick to the East Coast, leaving the now-defunct Avengers' spin-off team's headquarters to rot. While the West Coast Avengers' Palos Verdes base did indeed sit unused for many years, Hawkeye eventually found a new use for the team's old digs.
As the archer served as an instructor of Avengers Academy, training the next generation of heroes, the superhero school suddenly found itself without a campus. While the Academy's teachers racked their brains on where to go next, Barton concocted the perfect solution: head west! Thus, the students were shipped to the former headquarters of the West Coast Avengers, turning the abandoned mansion into the training ground for a new age of heroes.
1 WEST COAST AVENGERS NO MORE
By 1994, the West Coast Avengers had transitioned from "cool and groundbreaking" into "kinda lame and worn out," and sales reflect fans' general apathy towards the team. Thus, the decision was made to put an end to the West Coast Avengers, paving the way for an all-new team better suited for the '90s: Force Works!
Yes, one punchline group gave way to another, as the very '80s West Coast Avengers would disband in the face of constant in-fighting and general government interference, with members from the WCA going on to form the comically '90s Force Works. With the West Coast Avengers set for a hip new reboot, could a new Force Works be close behind? Hopefully not. God we hope not.