It’s kind of wild to think about, but there was a time when the Avengers weren’t the world’s mightiest – and most profitable – heroes. Marvel and DC have both struggled to find consistent success with heroes outside of the reliable Spider-Man and Batman cash cows. But there was a time when the Avengers were believed to be so unpopular, Marvel didn’t even want the name being used.
Mark Millar is a huge name in comics these days. He’s had movies made of Wanted, Kick-Ass, and Kingsman, and seen his work for Marvel adapted in the form of Logan and parts of the Avengers films. Back in the early 2000s, he was working with Brian Michael Bendis on a still relatively new line of Marvel books called the Ultimate line, and he’s opened up recently on some of that history.
Back then, Millar said in an interview with Entertainment Weekly, he had to beg to relaunch the Avengers book.
“Marvel had no interest in bringing the Avengers into the Ultimate line; they said those characters are dead and no studio was interested in them,” Millar explained. “I was always a really big Avengers fan. I got some credibility from doing Ultimate X-Men, that was the number one book when it launched.”
Marvel had asked Millar to look at doing an Ultimate Wolverine, but he pushed for Avengers instead.
“They won’t even let me call it the Avengers because they thought Avengers was such a dead franchise that I had to call it Ultimates instead,” he said.
The Ultimates series brought us such things as the Samuel L. Jackson look for Nick Fury and helped to lay the groundwork for the Avengers team we know and love today.
“It’s crazy to think now that the Avengers was such a diminished name in the industry and that Marvel had no faith in it at all,” Millar continued. “But what was great was they let me do whatever I wanted, because they expected nothing from it.”
While Millar didn’t create the Avengers, he put a lot of pieces into place for what would go on to be some of the most profitable movies ever. Marvel’s The Avengers and the sequel Avengers: Age of Ultron are both in the un-adjusted top 10 grossing films of all time (a list Black Panther just squeezed past Frozen to get onto).
The Avengers were almost dead, but come April 27, they’ll be back on screen for the “most ambitious crossover of all time” in Avengers: Infinity War. Captain America, Iron Man, and Marvel’s Thor are household names, giving even Spider-Man a run for his money.