How the MCU’s Avengers Became the World’s Favorite Superheroes

When it comes to superheroes on the big screen, there are no bigger names right now than the Avengers. Their first cinematic journey concluded last year with Avengers: Endgame. Now, they’ll move forward with a new crew in Phase Four of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

But as omnipresent as they are today, it wasn’t always like this. Before the MCU took off, the Avengers weren’t the most famous or prominent heroes Marvel had to offer. Here’s how they became that way. 

Actors from Marvel's Avengers pose for a photo on stage
Some of the cast and crew of AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR | Jesse Grant/Getty Images for Disney

Why Marvel made movies about the Avengers before its other heroes

It took Marvel quite a while to get into the moviemaking business. Before dipping its toe into the waters of film, the company made its money by licensing out its most popular characters. This is why 20th Century Fox made X-Men and Fantastic Four films. It’s also why Sony made movies starring Spider-Man. 

After they saw the success of these properties at the box office, Marvel opted to stop licensing the movie rights to their characters in the early 2000s according to International Business Times.

From a strategic perspective, Marvel decided they wanted to begin producing movies about their characters themselves. They worked with Paramount and Universal to distribute their Avengers movies before Disney swooped in and bought the rights prior to 2012’s The Avengers

The success of the Avengers and their tributary characters emboldened Disney and Marvel to go even further. Eventually, Disney acquired Fox and the rights to the X-Men and Fantastic Four. They also partnered with Disney to co-produce a new series of Spider-Man movies starring Tom Holland that integrated with the MCU. 

Who were the most popular MCU characters before the Avengers?

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The landscape for comic book characters looked much different before the MCU. While the Avengers were certainly one of the most popular groups within the pages of the comics, they didn’t cross over for mainstream audience success until much later. Some of Marvel’s most popular comic book characters pre-MCU include: 

  • Spider-Man. This character had multiple animated series as well as an insanely profitable 2000s movie franchise starring Tobey Maguire. 
  • Wolverine and the X-Men. The X-Men had an animated series and a series of movies as well, and Wolverine was their breakout star of a character. 
  • Hulk. While Hulk later starred in the Avengers films, he also had a popular TV series before that time. 

How the Avengers became the MCU’s most popular franchise

An MCU fan on Reddit pointed out that while the Avengers now maintain ridiculous levels of popularity, it wasn’t always that way. Pre-MCU, it was a much different case: 

“Pre – MCU, Avengers were a property no one really wanted. They were literal leftovers as marvels biggest IPs were given away, now they are the leading IPs, this really baffles me.”

So how did the Avengers get here? A few reasons may explain it. For one thing, the execution of the MCU can’t be overlooked. Marvel certainly adapted their plans as they went along, but for the most part, the idea of an interconnected cinematic universe was planned well in advance. Each MCU movie leads into and builds anticipation for the next one. 

Well-written films. The MCU movies might not be high art — they may be popcorn entertainment. But it’s hard to argue that they’re not well-done. Each character has an arc that serves as both compelling and satisfying. 

The actors have been great in their roles. Performers like Chris Evans, Robert Downey, Jr., and Chris Hemsworth made the characters their own. In short, the MCU’s films made the Avengers into the powerhouses they are by making great movies with great characters audiences could root for.