So I went to see The Avengers last week, as many, many, many other people have done. The film was great but beforehand I was getting thoroughly confused about the name, seeing it variously referred to as Avengers Assemble, Marvel Avengers Assemble and of course The Avengers. It got me to thinking – what's in a name... of a superhero movie, or more specifically this superhero movie.
Now I'm a big fan of the classic, and I can not stress enough how classic it is, British TV show The Avengers. It featured a dapper spy in a bowler hat named John Steed and a series of female assistants including the delectable Mrs Emma Peel. The plots were often wonderfully bizarre and the show was interestingly influenced by comic books itself – Steed was a Tintin fan (he's seen reading the albums in a number of episodes) and one episode, 'The Winged Avenger', even featured a villain imitating a comic strip character (with an amazing fight sequence on a ceiling) not dissimilar to those from Marvel and DC.
Obviously the name of the film got changed to avoid confusion and instead created a lot of it, but here's the result of my thought process - in a world where there are two sets of Avengers and only one can exist which could beat the other and rightfully claim the title of The Avengers?
The Avengers - (1961-69)
Debonair, dapper, good sense of humour, bit of a lad, seemingly endless supply of money... the list goes on. John Steed in many ways is the Tony Stark of the original Avengers. Sure he didn't have a skyscraper with his name on it, but he had a swanky apartment located in central London and an awesome vintage Bentley. He was also a man with one foot set firmly in the past, and the other in the future, hence I draw a tenuous connection between him and Captain America as well. His arsenal might not have been as impressive as Iron Man's or Captain America's but he was pretty handy with an umbrella - one can only assume it had a lead handle or Steed was secretly a ninja considering how many people he knocked out with it.
Weapon of Choice – Sword-stick umbrella, Regular umbrella, Steel-lined Bowler Hat
Anthropologist extraordinaire and a stone cold fox in her own right it's fair to say Cathy Gale was a bit tougher than her successor and didn't give a second thought to throwing dastardly villains over her shoulder (no stunt double needed for Honor Blackman who even knocked one poor stuntman out while filming the episode 'Mandrake'). Her scientific(ish) background and impressive physical strength make her a good parallel to Dr. Bruce Banner/The Incredible Hulk though unfortunately we never got to see Cathy in just a tight pair of ripped blue jeans.
Weapon of Choice – Her body, occasionally a gun hidden under her skirt
Scarlett Johansson eat your heart out, you're hot, but Diana Rigg was hotter. The best remembered of Steed's sidekicks Mrs Peel was the strongest female character on TV until Buffy the Vampire Slayer - she knew Karate, was incredibly smart and was always showing Steed up. It didn't matter what the situation was she would always find a way out with or without the help of Steed, or often a gun, using something much sexier - her brains.
Weapon of Choice – Her body, those looks
The underrated Tara King (though still a bit of step backwards for feminine empowerment) was no Emma Peel but starred in a few classic episodes. Perhaps not quite as strong as her predecessors she still knew how to deal with diabolical masterminds and evil doers and in one episode carried a brick in her handbag, the 60's female equivalent to Thor's hammer? (I know it's a stretch).
Weapon of Choice – A handbag with a brick in it
It seems a bit unfair to draw a comparison between Mother and the Hulk based purely on their size, so I won't, Mother wasn't introduced until the final season of The Avengers but added some much needed humour in Mrs Peel's absence. Despite his disability it didn't stop him getting around, whether his HQ was underground or underwater (it often changed), and his unflappable attitude made him an essential part of the team who was able to summon any resource at short notice and could be seen as the Nick Fury to Steed and Co's rest of the Avengers.
The Avengers – (2012)
Aka Tony Stark the millionaire playboy Iron Man certainly has technology on his side. While the British Avengers were no strangers to advanced technology (cloning, robots, solar power, GPS-style tracking and many other future technologies appeared in the show albeit in primitive '60s special effects form) they rarely took advantage of it themselves and Steed could never be said to have donned a suit that gave him super powers, which is not to say his suits weren't awesome. However like Stark Steed was a bit of a playboy having a seemingly endless supply of money and a twinkle in his eyes whenever he saw a pretty girl.
Weapon of Choice – His Iron Man suit
A World War II veteran and scientifically enhanced super soldier age-wise Captain America is on a par with Steed, who also served during World War II. A tiny bit more buff than JS he utilises his shield in the same way the British Spy uses his Bowler, with incredible accuracy and surprisingly deadly force.
Weapon of Choice – A hybrid shield/frisbee
A victim of gamma radiation and himself Bruce Banner turns into the Hulk when he gets angry giving him the ability to smash things... really hard. Cathy Gale may never have turned into a green monster, thankfully so, but there's no doubt she could have also tossed Loki round like a piece of spaghetti, though probably not as violently as The Hulk.
Weapon of Choice – His monster strength
Hot yes, but nothing we haven't seen before. Emma Peel rocked a leather catsuit long before Black Widow and was equally good at being a spy, she also had more of a sense of humour than Natasha Romanoff, anoff said.
Weapon of Choice – Her body, guns
Thor clearly earns some tough guy points being a Norse god and all, but can his mighty hammer really compete with Steed's sword-stick umbrella? Ok so maybe it could but Steed has a disarming sense of humour and while Thor could crack a few skulls with his hammer his ability to crack a few jokes is sadly lacking.
Weapon of Choice – A mythical Hammer
While Samuel L. Jackson's Nick Fury has infinitely more cool points than Patrick Newell's Mother they both serve the same function to their team, always there to buck them up and offer any resource you could imagine at a moment's notice. Both also had a disability, Fury was blind in one eye and Mother was wheelchair bound, so I'm calling this one a draw.
If the original Avengers hadn't already seen off an alien invasion (and they had, check out 'The Man Eater of Surrey Green') then they could have easily stopped the Chitauri, Mrs Peel would have just had to stand there and smile at them, stopping any male animal or alien, hot blooded or cold, dead in their tracks. That being said and given that they were the first* crime/alien fighting team to claim the name "The Avengers" I proclaim them the rightful winners of the battle of The Avengers vs The Avengers.
Oh Mrs Peel, I really need to build that time machine
Now anyone for tea, or a bottle of champagne perhaps...
*Though if we're going to quibble only just, the original Marvel Avengers comic book appeared in 1963, the TV series in 1961 (and the show didn't make it to the US until the mid-sixties so I think the naming coincidence is just that, a coincidence).