Captain America provides the best explanation for why the name “Avengers” is perfectly suited for Earth’s Mightiest Heroes and how they operate.
Fans and even Marvel Comics itself has often mocked how the Avengers‘ name doesn’t make much sense, but is instead just meant to sound cool. However, in Avengers #82 Captain America gives the best explanation yet for the team’s name, and its true heroic meaning.
Even in the MCU, the Avengers name doesn’t make sense, but at least there is revealed that Nick Fury chose it as an homage to Captain Marvel’s call sign. However, in the pages of the comics the origin of the name is less interesting. The seminal 1963 issue Avengers #1 by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby brings together Ant-Man, the Wasp, Iron Man, Thor, and Hulk to defeat Loki. After the Asgardian trickster’s plans are thwarted, Hank Pym suggests that the heroes should work together as a team. Janet van Dyne then suggests the name “Avengers,” and it sticks. No explanation is ever given for the choice at the time of the team’s founding. Afterwards, the Avengers would go on to break up and reform multiple times with a rotating roster that included most of Marvel’s biggest heroes, and throughout the years various justifications have been given for the name “Avengers” but most are basically meaningless.
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Related: The ‘Avengers’ Name Was Actually Earned By a Different Marvel TeamHowever, in 1998’s Avengers #82, written by Chuck Austen with art by Scott Kolins, Captain America clarifies the name while speaking at the funeral for the recently deceased hero Jack of Hearts. Steve Rogers explains why the team is not called “Defenders” or “Protectors,” but “Avengers.” According to Cap, the name is appropriate because they only act after a wrong has been committed. “Not because we want innocents to die,” he says. “But because the real ‘hero’ does not strike first.” To someone like Captain America using superpowered force is a last choice, and if the Avengers are deployed to a situation then all other options have been exhausted and there is nothing left to do but avenge the wrong.
Some people may take issue with this idea —and it is one of the reasons why Iron Man becames a villain in Civil War — but it fits with the name “Avengers.” By necessity, a team of super-powered heroes must be the last line of defense against the injustices of the world. Cap is saying that the Avengers are first responders who are called in to assist with events after they have happened, and which are too big for typical law enforcement or government agencies. It means that some innocent people will die, but to be anything else could lead to a world where the Avengers become a superpowered police force or even dictators of the law. That sort of mindset would make them no better than Ultron, Magneto, or any other supervillain. Surrounded by memorials to the fallen on the grounds of Avengers Mansion, Steve Rogers fully understands the consequences of what he is saying, but to do anything else would be to forfeit their place as heroes.
There is no doubt that Marvel sometimes chooses lazy names, or that Stan Lee called them “Avengers” because it sounded like something that would sell more comic books. Yet, since their first appearance in the 1960s the team has grown and changed, and the title of “Avenger” has evolved to stand for more than just a member of a colorful team of costumed individuals. Though there is still debate over the exact meaning of the group’s name, Captain America has given fans the best reason why the Avengers name makes sense, and why they deserve to be called “The Earth’s Mightiest Heroes.”