For a newer version of this post, see here.
As a followup to my post about what a diverse Justice League of America should look like, I thought I’d look at what a diverse Avengers team should look like. Since the team’s known as “Earth’s Mightiest Heroes,” I figure they should also reflect Earth’s population. That, or at least the United States’ population, given the Marvel Universe’s New York City-centric focus.
The Avengers first appeared in comics in “The Avengers” #1 (September 1963) and was created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. The founding members of the team were Ant-Man, the Wasp, the Hulk, Iron Man, and Thor. Since then, the team’s roster has changed constantly; the Hulk left in the next issue, while Captain America famously joined the team with the fourth issue.
For this post I’ll look at several major versions of the team:
- The founding comic members from 1963.
- The current comic version of the team (as of this writing).
- The Marvel Cinematic Universe version.
- The 2010s Disney XD animated series “Avengers Assemble.”
Reposting my criteria (mostly the same as from my JLA analysis):
- I’m basing my diversity measures on numbers of women and people of color. Other diversity measures (LGBT, people with disabilities, religious minorities, etc.) are nice; however, I figure women/people of color are a bare minimum.
- The Hulk counts as Caucasian for my list’s purposes (per Bruce Banner). Otherwise, aliens, robots, and similar beings I’ll count as a “person of color” if they’re clearly a non-Caucasian skin tone.
- I’m ignoring the multitude of spin-offs, team expansions, etc. They might be more diverse, but aren’t as likely to be “the heroes that appear in movies, on posters, or on lunch boxes.”
- Some information is taken from the most recent US Census figures. As of 2016, the racial makeup of the US is 61.3% non-Hispanic White and 38.7% people of color; specifically: 17.8% Hispanic/Latino, 13.3% African-American, 5.7% Asian-American, 2.6% two or more races, 1.3% Native American, and 0.2% Pacific Islander. (Figures don’t add up to 100% exactly.) 50.8% of Americans are female.
Founding comic members
Members: Ant-Man, the Wasp, the Incredible Hulk, Iron Man, and Thor.
Membership: 100% White, 0% people of color; 80% male, 20% female.
Current comic members (as of November 2017)
Members: Falcon, Hercules, Spider-Man (Peter Parker), Thor (Jane Foster), Vision, Wasp (Nadia Van Dyne).
Membership: 66% White, 33% people of color; 83% male, 17% female.
Marvel Cinematic Universe
Founding members: Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, the Hulk, Black Widow, Hawkeye, Nick Fury.
Membership: 86% White, 14% people of color; 86% male, 14% female.
“Avengers Assemble” animated series
Members (taken from the Marvel wiki): Ant-Man, Black Bolt, Black Panther, Black Widow, Captain America, Captain Marvel, Falcon, Hawkeye, Hulk, Iron Man, Medusa, Ms. Marvel, Red Hulk, Songbird, Thor, Vision.
Membership: 75% White, 25% people of color; 69% male, 31% female.
Ultimately, the current comics roster comes closest to reflecting current US demographics; it’s followed by “Avengers Assemble”‘s roster. For representation of women, “Avengers Assemble” wins easily, even if it still falls short of the 50% mark.
Ideal team roster
Assuming the Avengers team consists of seven members (matching the MCU version’s founding members), to reflect United States demographics, the team’s lineup should consist of:
- Three or four women
- Three people of color
A sample team roster (off the top of my head):
- Captain America
- Iron Man
- Thor (Jane Foster)
- Black Widow
- Black Panther
- Ms. Marvel
- The Falcon
Some fans (and comic retailers) have thrown a fit over Marvel’s recent attempts at improving their line’s diversity, calling such characters and their creators “social justice warriors.” (Ignoring fighting for social justice is supposed to be most superheroes’ core job.) Meanwhile, other fans note that the Marvel comics and movies have more work to do in improving diversity.
But based on the above, it’s clear that a diverse roster of characters is representative of the world at large. Marvel’s often billed the Marvel Universe as “the world outside your window”; therefore, the future lies in Earth’s Mightiest Heroes reflecting such diversity.
Image from “Avengers: Age of Ultron.” (Marvel)