This week’s minorities in cartoons entry is the Great Lakes Avengers, a Marvel superhero team. The GLA first appeared in “West Coast Avengers” (vol. 2) #46 (July 1989). John Byrne created the superhero team.
The team ‘s meant to be a “joke” superhero team and group of C-list superheroes, even in-universe. Marvel Universe denizens view the GLA as inept, annoying, or only having marginally-useful superpowers.
The team is traditionally located in Milwaukee, which isn’t a “conventional” location for a superhero team. (As a former Midwesterner and Milwaukee resident, I’ll note the absurdity of what feels like 90%+ of Marvel’s heroes living in or around New York City.)
The GLA is quite close-knit, even in spite of the dim view the Marvel Universe holds of them.
The team’s most prominent members include:
- Mr. Immortal (real name: Craig Hollis). A mutant, Mr. Immortal’s a man whose power is immortality. That is, he’ll always come back to life from whatever kills him, and thus can’t die. His power’s sometimes played for dark humor (a la Kenny from “South Park”).
- Big Bertha (real name: Ashley Crawford). A mutant. Big Bertha has the ability to add large amounts of bulk to her body, and shape it as she pleases. (However, she has to vomit to get rid of it.) Ashley’s day job is working as a supermodel in Milwaukee, and as such she was the team’s traditional source of funding. (She’s been urged by her agent to move to New York or California to expand her modelling career, but refuses, being loyal to her team.)
- Flatman (real name: Matt, also has gone by “Dr. Val Ventura”). A mutant, Flatman possesses the ability to stretch and flatten his body. Thanks to this, he’s often mistaken for Reed Richards (of the Fantastic Four)… which usually disappoints others when they learn it’s not Richards. Over their various series, Flatman came out as gay.
- Doorman (real name: DeMarr Davis). A mutant, and the team’s sole African-American member. He originally had the power to turn his body into a portal, but only to transport things into a limited area, usually a neighboring room. However, he eventually inherited the mantle of an “angel of death,” and so occasionally escorts the souls of the deceased to the afterlife.
The team’s had a changing roster over the years, including the death of several members (sometimes as gags). One such deceased member was “Dinah Soar,” a founding teammate (a member of a Pteranodon-like lost civilization).
Previous members have included the antihero mercenary Deadpool and Squirrel Girl. Squirrel Girl was easily the most popular member and competent member of the Great Lakes Avengers. However, Doreen eventually quit the team (and moved to New York for her own ongoing series); she felt she was “holding them back.”
In 2016, the team received a new book, which saw the GLA move from Milwaukee to Detroit. There, they picked up a new member, Goodness “Good Boy” Silva, a teenage girl with werewolf powers.
Image from "Thunderbolts" (vol. 1) #16. Art by Mark Bagley. (Marvel)