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Avengers: Age of Ultron is about to hit movie screens, and it’s sure to be a huge smash hit. Early reviews seem to suggest that it may also please fans as well. I’ve written numerous features and top five lists about the Avengers over the past little while (Top Foes of the Avengers; 5 Characters You Didn’t Realize Were Avengers; Top Female Avengers). Recently, I took a look at some of the best writers to direct the Daredevil to its frequent heights. So I thought it might be good to do a similar things with the Avengers comic. There have been many great periods in the history of The Avengers, so let’s take a look at the top five Avengers writers!
Jonathan Hickman, Kurt Busiek, Jim Shooter, Mark Waid, Geoff Johns, David Michelinie
At this point, Stan Lee gets more heralded as a creator than a writer, but his writing while a little goofy is actually pretty decent and holds up much better than many of his 1960s comic contemporaries. Although Lee’s writing was probably at its best on Amazing Spider-Man, Fantastic Four, and Dr. Strange, his work on The Avengers does have a lot going for it. The original line-up (characters all of whom Lee co-created) is iconic, and Lee made a bold choice to fluctuate the roster frequently. The Hulk only stays around for an issue. Captain America is resurrected in The Avengers #4, and then by issue #16, all of the original line-up leaves, and Cap fills the ranks with mutants (Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch) and a reformed criminal (Hawkeye). The history of the The Avengers title would not be the same without Lee’s creations – and his writing.
Brian Bendis is a divisive writer in general, but especially when it comes to his work with the The Avengers. However, Bendis is also one of the most important writers in the history of the title. At the time he started, The Avengers was far behind Uncanny X-Men (and other X-titles) in terms of status and sales. With New Avengers, Bendis was able to revitalize the Avengers team by filling it with some of the most popular Marvel characters (Spider-Man, Wolverine) as well as some more unusual choices that Bendis liked (Luke Cage, Spider-Woman). New Avengers became a huge success, which prompted a new Avengers series and numerous other spin-off titles. While critics of Bendis’ Avengers run do have some valid points (decompressed storylines, event after event, and interchangeable jokey dialog), his success and the fact that he has the longest tenure of any Avengers writer means that he has to be considered one of the top five.
Just as Stan Lee and Roy Thomas were important Avengers writers in the 1960s, the writer who probably had the biggest impact on the title in the 1970s was Steve Englehart. Englehart wrote 48 consecutive issues of The Avengers from 1972 to 1976. During that time, he took the emphasis on continuity and complex stories developed by Thomas and added more emphasis on character interaction and dramatic arcs. Perhaps Englehart’s most enduring story during this time was the “Avengers-Defenders War,” which he wrote in both The Avengers and Defenders in 1973. Englehart later wrote the first 39 issues of West Coast Avengers during the 1980s, after the team was created during a limited series by Roger Stern and Bob Hall. Although he isn’t discussed today quite as much as some other Marvel Comics writers, Englehart’s main runs on the two Avengers series are marked by creative turns and memorable stories.
Probably one of the most underrated writers in Marvel Comics history, Roger Stern helmed The Avengers for over five years during the 1980s, and produced some classic storylines, such as “Under Siege.” After some short runs, Stern wrote The Avengers from issue #227 until issue #288 (with the exception of Avengers #280, written by Bob Harris). In 1984, Stern co-created the West Coast Avengers, a spin-off series that saw Hawkeye lead a new team of Avengers in California. A creative dispute with Avengers editor Mark Gruenwald led to Stern being removed from The Avengers in 1987. However, by this point, Stern had established a resume that ranks him as one of the best Avengers writers in the series’ history.
Roy Thomas was the writer who took over immediately after Stan Lee, so his work was going to be judged critically against a very popular figure in the comic book world. However, Thomas was not only able to extend what Lee did, he actually improved on it. Under Thomas’ writing, The Avengers title from 1966 until 1972 evolved into complex story lines and the roster exploded with interesting characters and villains. The origin of The Vision was written by Thomas in The Avengers #57, and Thomas wrote the classic “Even An Android Can Cry” story in The Avengers #58, and his impact can be felt in another Marvel Studios movie this summer. Thomas created the character Yellowjacket, the villain in Ant-Man (though Thomas created him with Hank Pym as his alter ego, while the film will present the Darren Cross version of the character). Thomas was responsible for some of the most beloved Avengers stories, including the “Kree-Skrull War” arc, which cements him as the best Avengers writer.
What do you think? Leave a comment if you think there are other writers who deserve to be at the top of this list.