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The Avengers are the driving force behind Marvel’s blockbuster franchise but which superheroes in the Marvel Cinematic Universe are actually Avengers? As Wired pointed out, not even the actors who play some of the Avengers know the correct answer. Keep reading to learn who the Avengers are and why it’s such a complicated question. 

The answer to the question isn’t simple. Why? Because The Avengers span comic books, films, and over the years, their ranks have changed. Understandably, that makes it hard for anyone — even a diehard Marvel fan — to keep track of who the avengers are at any given moment in time. Before we delve into which characters make up the superhero team, we’re covering how they came to be.

Who created the Avengers? 

Again, a seemingly simple question has a complicated answer. Executives at Marvel Studios came up with the idea for films about a group of superheroes based off the comics — they took a major risk in getting the films made too —  but in the films themselves, S.H.I.E.L.D. Director Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), brought elite superheroes together to create the Avengers. 

On their website, Marvel explained how Fury thought of the idea for the Avengers. The group began with one goal in mind: to defeat Loki and Chitauri army in an epic showdown in New York City. 

Nick Fury explains the Avengers. | TopMovieClips via YouTube

Fury famously said, “there was an idea” which he explained to Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) before letting other superheroes in on the concept. Downey Jr. started the Avengers franchise with the premiere of Iron Man in 2008 with The Avengers hitting theaters four years later in 2012. 

Which Marvel superheroes are Avengers? 

According to Marvel, Avengers on screen include the following superheroes: Tony Stark/Iron Man, Steve Rogers/Captain America (Chris Evans), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Peter Parker/Spider-Man (Tom Holland), Bruce Banner/Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), and James Rhodes/War Machine (Don Cheadle).

In comic books, the Avengers are made up of Ares, Natasha Romanova/Black Widow (played on screen by Scarlett Johansson), Tony Stark/Iron Man, Carol Danvers/Captain Marvel (played on screen by Brie Larson), Robert Reynolds/Sentry, and Jessica Drew/Spider-Woman (previously played on screen by Joan Van Ark).

'Avengers: Endgame' stars.
Marvel Studios’ Avengers: Endgame stars President of Marvel Studios/Producer Kevin Feige, Chris Hemsworth, Chris Evans, Robert Downey Jr., Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, and Mark Ruffalo at the Hand And Footprint Ceremony at the TCL Chinese Theatre on April 23, 2019, in Hollywood, California. | Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images for Disney

In The Avengers, the superheroes included what one would assume to be the official members of the group, according to IMDb: Tony Stark/Iron Man, Steve Rogers/Captain America, Bruce Banner/Hulk, Thor, Natasha Romanova/Black Widow, and Clint Barton/Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner). However, as Marvel fan sites have said, there are official and unofficial members of the superhero team. Plus, over the years superheroes have either left the group or died, causing ranks to shift. 

While it may difficult at times to pin down who the Avengers are, it’s easy to see why the franchise has been so successful. As it’s grown — Marvel Studios announced plans for the next phase (Phase 4) of the franchise at San Diego’s Comic-Con earlier this month — the characters have become more developed and the special effects are practically second to none.