9 Surprising Characters Who Were Actually Avengers In The Comic Books

General Thaddeus 'Thunderbolt' Ross, As The Red Hulk

Those who think that the list of Avengers team members in the Marvel Cinematic Universe has grown too large should do themselves a favor and not check out the ranks of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes in the annals of Marvel Comics. After more than a half-century of publishing history, there have been more than a hundred official Avengers – including some names that would surprise the average person.

Created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby in 1963, the Avengers’ roster initially consisted of Iron Man, Ant-Man, the Wasp, Thor, and the Hulk – who left the team almost immediately. It wouldn’t be long before they’d pick up Captain America to lead the team, and they’ve been adding official members ever since, sometimes in rather large batches. 

1. Sandman, The Spider-Man Villain With A Heart Of Gold

Sandman, The Spider-Man Villain With A Heart Of Gold 

When He Joined: Avengers #329 (1991)

How He Was Recruited: Flint Marko (born William Baker) has always been one of those begrudging supervillains that is secretly hiding a heart of gold. He starts to show it when he turns on the rest of the Sinister Six during their attempt to hold the entire world hostage, and Spider-Man notices, which leads to a few team-ups between the two of them. Captain America likes what he sees, and so he names Sandman as a probationary member.

Why It Was Unexpected: Sandman is, after all, a supervillain. Sure, there have been plenty of individuals who went from baddie to Avenger, but Marko had an evildoing career that went back decades – and would continue on for decades after his avenging days were done. His flakiness leads to him quitting and later rejoining the Avengers after a single argument with Steve Rogers. 

Notable Avengers Moments: Defending the Avengers Compound from Doombots. Fighting Morgan le Fay. Taking on the Justice League in that one crossover. 

2. General Thaddeus ‘Thunderbolt’ Ross, As The Red Hulk

General Thaddeus 'Thunderbolt' Ross, As The Red Hulk

When He Joined: Avengers #12 (2011)

How He Was Recruited: The Red Hulk is a straight-up villain when he debuts, and that doesn’t really change once his identity is shockingly outed as Thaddeus “Thunderbolt” Ross. It’s only after being smashed by the real Hulk and incarcerated for a while that Ross begins to consider heroism, teaming up with the Avengers to combat the Hood and then accepting fellow military man Steve Rogers’ invitation to join the team.

Why It Was Unexpected: For those who followed Red Hulk’s debut in the comics, it’s inconceivable to imagine that such an over-the-top aggro monster could ever become an Avenger. For those who mostly follow the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it’s even stranger to think of the cantankerous General Thunderbolt Ross as a potential recruit.

Notable Avengers Moments: Wielding the Power Stone. Going toe-to-toe with Angrir, Breaker of Souls. Wearing the Venom symbiote and Ghost Rider’s spirit of vengeance at the same time.

3. Rage, The 13-Year-Old Boy Who’s Built Like An NFL Linebacker

Rage, The 13-Year-Old Boy Who’s Built Like An NFL Linebacker

When He Joined: Avengers #329 (1991)

How He Was Recruited: Elvin Haliday is one of the select few to have truly forced their way into the ranks of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. Shortly after gaining his powers, he confronts Captain America in public for the total lack of Black Avengers – and then he just shows up to help them on their very next adventure. With that, he is given official probationary status. 

Why It Was Unexpected: Rage looks like an ideal Avenger, except for the secret he is hiding – he’s only 13 years old. Transformed into an imposing figure by radioactive waste, he has the body of a super-athlete but the mind of a young teen, and as soon as it’s discovered, he’s booted off the team.

Notable Avengers Moments: Making Captain America feel shame. Traveling to the dimension of the Unspeakable One. Smashing the Sons of the Serpent.

4. ‘Teen Tony,’ A Young Tony Stark Plucked From The Past

'Teen Tony,' A Young Tony Stark Plucked From The Past

When He Joined: Avengers: Timeslide #1 (1995)

How He Was Recruited: The Avengers discover, much to their horror, that the time-traveling Kang the Conqueror has been retroactively messing with Tony Stark’s mind for years, turning Iron Man against them. In a bizarre move, Earth’s Mightiest Heroes decide that the only way to solve this is to head back to the past themselves to pluck a teenage Tony from before Kang’s machinations – so that he can travel to the future and defeat his older self. Against all odds, the gambit works, and Teen Tony hangs around for a while before being rebooted out of continuity.

Why It Was Unexpected: Tony Stark didn’t become Iron Man until he was in his thirties, so a teenage version of him is just a rich, inordinately arrogant kid. Without his years of education and technical experimentation, Stark should have very little of the skillset that made him into the Armored Avenger, which makes putting him on a superhero team pretty irresponsible. 

Notable Avengers Moments: Convincing his older self to commit self-immolation. Teaming up with War Machine. Giving his own life to stop Onslaught. 

5. Yondu Udonta And The Rest Of The Original Guardians Of The Galaxy

Yondu Udonta And The Rest Of The Original Guardians Of The Galaxy

When He Joined: Avengers #176 (1978)

How He Was Recruited: The original comic book Yondu is an alien from an archery-based culture – and from the year 3000! He and the rest of the OG Guardians of the Galaxy travel back in time to aid Earth’s Mightiest Heroes in the fight against Korvac, and they all became honorary Avengers as a result. 

Why It Was Unexpected: For fans of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Yondu was the father figure of Star-Lord and a notorious space-pirate – and a far cry from “Avengers material.” Adding the further context that this one is actually an alternate Yondu from a millennium into the future doesn’t exactly clear things up. 

Notable Avengers Moments: Pretty much just the Korvac thing. Retroactively changing out with the contemporary Yondu. 

6. Jocasta, Robot Wife Of Ultron

Jocasta, Robot Wife Of Ultron

When She Joined: Avengers Annual #17 (1988)

How She Was Recruited: Jocasta was the intended robot bride of Ultron, created using the “personality engrams” of Janet van Dyne, the Wasp. Ultron tried to turn her against Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, but van Dyne’s nature won out and Jocasta helped the heroes defeat her creator – and she’s pretty much been Avengers-adjacent ever since. Self-conscious to the extreme, Jocasta doesn’t accept official membership until Captain America insists several years down the road. 

Why It Was Unexpected: Jocasta is a master class in not judging a book by its cover. On the surface, she’s the robot bride of Ultron, programmed to wipe out the Avengers. In reality, however, she’s proven to be one of the team’s most loyal members over the decades and remains on the right side of the fight.

Notable Avengers Moments: Betraying Ultron. Temporarily sacrificing herself to stop the High Evolutionary. Teaching at Avengers Academy. 

7. Starfox, Brother Of Thanos With Seductive Powers

Starfox, Brother Of Thanos With Seductive Powers

When He Joined: Avengers #232 (1983)

How He Was Recruited: Eros has always had a low opinion of his brother, Thanos, and so it’s no surprise that he teams up with Captain Mar-Vell and the Avengers to defeat the Mad Titan. Eventually, he’s bored enough to fly to Earth and just straight-up ask to join the Avengers – which they accept, giving him the codename “Starfox” because Eros is too sexy.

Why It Was Unexpected: Well, he is the brother of Thanos. That’s definitely one strike against him. Starfox’s powers are also off-putting, as they involve stimulating the pleasure centers of others’ brains, whether they consent to it or not. This has led to Eros being subject to some pretty credible accusations of inappropriate conduct and given him an overall creepy reputation that’s hard to shake. 

Notable Avengers Moments: Serving in Operation: Galactic Storm. Stopping Terminus. Liberating Planet Ultron. 

8. Gilgamesh, The Pseudo-Historical Hero Of Sumerian History

Gilgamesh, The Pseudo-Historical Hero Of Sumerian History

When He Joined: Avengers #300 (1989)

How He Was Recruited: The Eternal known alternately as Gilgamesh and the Forgotten One comes back to Earth at a time when the Avengers are shattered – and he just sort of falls into membership as the team is reformed. Basically, Gilgamesh helps Captain America, Thor, Mister Fantastic, and the Invisible Woman fight off a demonic incursion, and then the five of them squad up.

Why It Was Unexpected: For one, Gilgamesh is an actual pseudo-historical figure from the real world – he’s a playable character in the Civilization series, for crying out loud. And it’s not just a shared name: the Forgotten One is said to have spent time in the past ruling over Sumeria and establishing the modern era of humanity. Having him join the Avengers is kind of like having Genghis Khan or Gandhi on the roster, though it might make more sense after he stars in The Eternals.

Notable Avengers Moments: Traveling to the Negative Zone. Nearly being slain by Lava Men. Temporarily being slain by Immortus. 

9. Squirrel Girl, The Nuttiest Character In Comic Books

Squirrel Girl, The Nuttiest Character In Comic Books

When She Joined: New Avengers #7 (2010)

How She Was Recruited: Doreen Green becomes an official unofficial member of the New Avengers when she is hired to live at Avengers Mansion and nanny the daughter of Jessica Jones and Luke Cage. Of course, such a position requires plenty of active superheroing. Later, Squirrel Girl makes it even more official by joining the roster of the new New Avengers and then the U.S.Avengers.

Why It Was Unexpected: Casual comic book fans think of Squirrel Girl as a joke character, and it’s not hard to see why – even if they’re absolutely wrong to do so. She talks to rodents and struggles to talk to humans, and her squirrel-like appearance makes her attempts at a secret identity dubious. Then again, Green has wins against names like Thanos and Doctor Doom on her resume, so maybe it’s time she got some respect.

Notable Avengers Moments: Awkward sexual tension with Wolverine. Protecting Danielle Cage from an Asgardian invasion. Defeating Enigma.