You know Captain America, that paragon of Nazi beatdowns and freedom-loving patriotism? And Iron Man, that wise-cracking goatee aficionado? What about Hawkeye, the world’s second-greatest archer?
These are just a few of the Avengers, Marvel’s ultimate team of superheroes out to repeatedly save New York and/or the universe. Now let me ask you: in the 21 Marvel Cinematic Universe films released in the last decade, how many times has an avenger saved Waukesha? What about Baraboo? Milwaukee? Even Chicago?
Zero is the answer. The Midwest has been left out.
But it’s not too late. In order to resurrect our superhero pride, we went on a deep and dangerous search through comic book history to find the greatest Marvel superhero team of all time, legendary warriors who fought for our people — the Great Lakes Avengers.
Yes, they were real, these Milwaukee-based Avengers. They first appeared in an issue of a comic series called “West Coast Avengers,” as an offshoot of the larger Avengers corporate enterprise. They ended up making several appearances in various comic runs and got a few miniseries of their own.
Picture this: Craig Hollis is just your average Milwaukee fella trying to make his way in the world. He’s haunted by some sort of cosmic demon called Deathurge that made him burn his house down when he was a child and then caused his foster sister, who he was also in love with, to jump off a building. You know how it goes.
Well, Craig is rather grief-stricken by all this and also attempts suicide, only to discover that he cannot die. Naturally, he renames himself Mr. Immortal and places an ad in the paper to found a group of Milwaukee-based superheroes that meet up at the YMCA.
This is a real comic.
Mr. Immortal assembles the squad. The newly-formed GLA includes Squirrel Girl, a young lady with a bushy squirrel tale and the ability to communicate with squirrels; Big Bertha, the most famous plus-sized model in Milwaukee, who can redistribute fat cells around her body to make herself bulletproof and super-strong; Flatman, who can stretch himself flat; and Doorman, a man who is a door.
This team of stone-cold killers is mentored by Hawkeye, one of the real cool-kid Avengers, who trains them in the ways of the Marvel superheroes.
They operate out of a headquarters in Milwaukee, and over the course of comic history, they have helped the Avengers on more than one occasion. Has their help been crucial? Not exactly. Have they mostly been a goofy self-mocking team living in the shadow of those east coast Avengers? Maybe. But gosh darn it, we’re proud of ’em.
One of the main comic storylines for the GLA has the team repeatedly sued for using the Avengers name without legal permission. This leads to several re-brands (Great Lakes Champions, Great Lakes X-Men) but GLA is the name that always sticks, despite a cease and desist order from the Maria Stark Foundation.
Please allow me to repeat: Iron Man’s dead mom’s non-profit foundation sent a cease and desist letter to a group of Milwaukee S\superheroes that includes a man whose superpower is being a door.
Again — real comic.
Despite legal trouble, the GLA takes down some nasty supervillains in its heyday, such as Maelstrom, an energy manipulating inhuman, and Ulterminus, a giant alien robot-monster thing. Deadpool mocks them quite often, but that’s kind of Deadpool’s schtick. So while they are never quite up to snuff compared to Cap and his crew, they fight crime with gusto, personality and the crushing strength of Big Bertha.
The GLA were out of commission for Marvel for quite some time, with only a few brief mentions in their more mainstream titles. But, to the joyous cries of the Midwestern children, Marvel started a new run of GLA comics in 2016, penned by Zac Gorman. The new series picks up after the GLA briefly disbanded and brings them together once again for a mission to save Detroit.
So be proud. The Great Lakes Avengers are still out there, representing Milwaukee in the Marvel Universe. This means we’re not left out of the borderline-unbearable barrage of superhero content under which we, as a species, are doomed to suffocate for at least, like, twelve more years.
Now if only Kevin Feige would finance a big-budget Doorman movie.