When Marvel Comics were in their formative years and characters were being created almost every issue, there was a more concerted effort to make sure the characters and their stories coincided with one another. DC comic characters at first felt like they existed in a pocket dimension, and when they crossed over there wasn’t really mention of what they were doing elsewhere. Grant Morrison once said that in the Silver Age of Comics, “The DC Universe was a series of islands separated for years, suddenly discovering one another and setting up trade routes. And there was Marvel’s beautifully orchestrated growth and development.” Morrison said that DC was a quilt with separate but beautiful squares of fabric, the Marvel Universe was an interwoven and complex tapestry.
Because of this, Marvel has some of the greatest and intricate crossovers in the comic book industry. Characters would allude to events in their lives, begging the reader to go check out their own solo book (which was great for comic sales and for creating a massive world; however, confusing for first time readers when you have three Spider-Man books running concurrently with one another and referencing each-other). Regardless, this concept of a larger world has led to some of the greatest teams being formed, and some of the most interesting stories told about the adventures these super teams went on. Everyone knows who the Avengers and the X-Men are, but lets go a bit deeper and talk not only of the core teams in the Marvel Universe, but some lesser known ones.
First and foremost, lets talk about the most popular one nowadays. The Avengers kind of envelop the entire Marvel Universe as a whole, with an ever changing and expanding roster. But when the Avengers debuted in comic book form on September 1963 in Avengers #1 written by Stan Lee, it consisted of Iron Man, Thor, Hulk, Antman, and The Wasp. Later Captain America would join the throng and the Avengers would set out defending the Earth from the likes of Baron Zemo, Galactus, Loki, Dr. Doom, and Kang the Conqueror. As mentioned, the roster was in constant flux: Hulk would leave, Wolverine would join; Spider-Man makes an appearance every now and then, with Black Widow and Hawkeye becoming mainstays. Whoever they have in their ranks at whichever time does not matter when evil comes knocking. The Avengers, Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, will always be there to defend the Earth.
The Guardians of the Galaxy
Stan Lee, Roy Thomas, and Arnold Drake created the Guardians of the Galaxy, who debuted in Marvel Super-Heroes #18 in January 1969. The team looked very different than it does today. The original team was actually formed in continuity in the 31st century. The team’s members included Vance Astro, Martinex, Charlie-27, and Yondu Udonta (who appears as Peter Quill’s father figure in the film adaptation). These original guardians would crossover with the Avengers and other teams, but only through heavy and liberal use of time-travel. These guardians technically exist in an alternate timeline to Earth-616 where the rest of the Marvel Universe takes place. On Earth-616 in 2008, a team going by the same name were formed by Star Lord in order to fight intergalactic threats. This team is a bit more familiar consisting of Gamora, Drax, Quasar, Rocket Raccoon, Groot, and Mantis. Their base of operations is the space station known as Knowhere which is headed by Cosmo the Spacedog. Even though the timelines are a bit confusing, the Guardians of the Galaxy are the rag tag team of the galaxies finest (sort of), that will stop at nothing to keep the universe safe.
The Defenders have been through a lot of change. In 1971 Roy Thomas wrote a crossover between Doctor Strange, The Incredible Hulk, and Namor the Submariner. Midway between the crossover, Doctor Strange was canceled for the time. In an attempt to conclude the story-line, he created The Defenders. Initially they fought the Nameless Ones and other magical enemies. The Silver Surfer was added to the mix creating a pretty strange looking team. The team would rapidly lose members and gain members pretty frequently. Members included Wolverine, Ghost Rider, Hellcat, Spider-Man, and She-Hulk. The team’s name would be published differently throughout the years from The Defenders, to the New Defenders, to the Secret Defenders. At one point, in order coincide with the Marvel Netflix series, the team consisted solely of Daredevil, Iron Fist, Jessica Jones, and Luke Cage. In 2018 however, another big Marvel Crossover happened, where the original team was brought back following the defeat of the Netflix characters. It’s confusing, but if you want some down and dirty defending of the people of Earth and the streets that they hold dear; the Defenders are your team, whoever is on it at the time.
Initially, in the Marvel Ultimate Universe, the Ultimates were just this alternate dimension’s version of The Avengers. But in 2015 when the universes were brought together in the comics, Marvel writers Al Ewing and Kenneth Rocafort created a new team called The Ultimates. The tagline for this comic was “Ultimate problems need Ultimate solutions.” And that’s what they solve. The team was formed when Black Panther, Blue Marvel, Spectrum, Ms. America, and Captain Marvel came together in order to investigate cosmic mysteries, and stop any galactic threats before they happen (which pretty much means they’ll be facing off against Galactus a lot). It’s a new twist on the old Ultimate version of the team, and makes for very interesting stories to be told.
In the same year that The Avengers began fighting crime together, Stan Lee created the X-Men in September of ’63 as well. This team of mutants evolved pretty rapidly over the years, but initially the team consisted of Cyclops, Marvel Girl (Jean Grey), Beast, Iceman, and Angel. They fought battles with the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants led by Magneto. For some reason in the Marvel Universe, the general public seemed less on board with super-powered mutants, as opposed to the Hulk, Doctor Strange, or Spider-Man. Because of this, these mutants lived mostly in secret from the public and later Charles Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters was added to the canon, where Professor Charles Xavier would gather the young mutants at his school to teach them how to use their powers for the benefit of society. By this time the X-Men consisted of any student at the school that Charles deemed fit to execute a mission. The team, led by Cyclops, could consist of Jean Grey, Wolverine, Kitty Pryde, Colossus, Nightcrawler, or Rogue. These mutants, doing good and living in secret, provide a powerful metaphor and role model to strive to live like, and will always be there to help humankind out.
Another creation of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, The Inhumans first appeared in the Fantastic Four comics in 1965. Later they appeared in 1975 in their own comic Inhumans #1. The Inhumans are a group of individuals living in the city of Attilan. They were created when the Kree took various humans from around the Earth and experimented on them with Terrigen Mists. The Terrigen Mists caused the humans to undergo Terrigenesis, leading to them gaining powers and super human abilities. Eventually these humans would found the city of Attilan, and advance in technology and economy when normal humanity was still in the stone age. Currently the king of the Inhumans is Blackagar Boltigon (a.k.a. Black Bolt), who rules with his wife Queen Medusa. Black Bolt can level a building just by whispering, and Medusa has prehensile control of her hair. Other notable Inhumans include Karnak, Gorgon, Crystal, Triton, and their teleporting dog Lockjaw. The city of Attilan is a mobile city, and has been stationed in various locations around the globe and at one point was positioned on the blue side of the moon. The Inhumans, like many other Marvel teams, help the Avengers combat offenses from outer space and have saved the world on numerous occasions.
A-Force is a relatively new group. In May of 2015, Marvel released the first issue of A-Force. Marvel executives mandated that the team consist entirely of female superheroes. The first issue was written by G. Willow Wilson and Marguerite Bennett, and was initially a team led by She-Hulk, and consisted of Dazzler, Medusa, Nico Minoru, and introduced Singularity. A-Force was the first ever all-female team of Avengers. The series started running during the time of Secret Wars and has since been going on with new characters and events, fleshing out the history of the team. Up to this point characters such as Captain Marvel and Thor (Jane Foster) have been added as well as many more. Pretty much any female superhero can join the team at any time. They work together to fight the likes of Antimatter and the Countless and fight work along side the other teams of the Marvel Universe in order to protect the Earth. They are some of the most powerful women in the Marvel Universe, and can deal immense damage to any who dare to oppose the forces of good.
The Eternals were created by Stan Lee in 1974. Another offshoot of humanity, the Eternals are humans that have been tampered with by the Celestials when they visited Earth five million years ago. The Eternals are powerful and long lived proto-humans, and their counterparts, the Deviants, are these gross and monstrous beings also created by the Celestials. The Eternals are not quite immortal, but live for a very long time. They have a low birth rate, and breeding with humans results in generally normal humans. Typically, Eternals from Earth protect the planet from any Deviants and other cosmic threats. Eternals are vastly powerful, but are ultimately slaves to the Celestials. They cannot harm their creators and any attempt to do so shuts them down. There are some Eternals that are not from Earth, seeing as the Celestials messed with plenty of other species like the Titans, Krees, and Skrulls. Over the years, humans began to interpret these beings as mythical legends. Notable Eternals include Prime Eternal Ikaris, Ajak, Sersi, Thena, Ultimus, and Thanos. These are some of the most powerful beings in the Marvel Universe and are not to be opposed.
First appearing in The Thanos Imperative: Devestation in 2011, created by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning, The Annihilators is a team of Marvel’s big guns. They are a group of very powerful space-based individuals to fight the greatest of threats to the universe. They were formed by Cosmo The Spacedog after the death of Star Lord. Cosmo gathered the most substantial beings he could find in order to quell universal threats before they become a universe-wide problem. The team consists of Quasar, Ronan The Accuser, Gladiator, Beta Ray Bill, Nova, Ikon the Spaceknight, and the Silver Surfer. With the vast power that these individuals wield, they safeguard the lives of all who live in the universe, so that threats don’t go unchallenged before they reach Earth, and the rest of these teams have to deal with them as a last resort. With this much power all together in one team, Galactus might think twice before feeding on innocent planets.
Created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, The Fantastic Four are Marvel’s first family. Starting off in November 1961, a group of young scientists traveled into outer space and came in contact with cosmic radiation, giving the individuals super powers. The teams genius Reed Richards, gained the ability to stretch and constrict every molecule of his body. Richard’s childhood friend Ben Grimm was transformed into a man with rocky skin and a large powerful physique. Sue Storm gained the ability to turn invisible and create force fields, and Sue’s brother Johnny gained the ability to light himself ablaze. On Earth they formed the family team known as the Fantastic Four. Reed Richards took the name Mister Fantastic, Ben Grimm was given the name of The Thing, Sue Storm was known as Invisible Girl, and Johnny Storm took the name of The Human Torch. This family would embark on many a weird and cosmic journey, in order to keep humanity safe, and further our progression through science. Others have joined the team every now and then, but since the beginning it has always gone back to the original four family members who have started it all.