The West Coast Avengers started as an experiment in a mini-series written by longtime Avengers writer Roger Stern, late editor Mark Gruenwald, artist Bob Hall, and inker Brett Breeding in 1984. The core of this new team was Ironman, who had moved and started a new Stark Industry company in California, Wonderman, still trying to build a career in Hollywood, newcomer Tigra, longtime Avenger Hawkeye and new wife, Mockingbird.
The Wackos, as they called themselves, soon landed into their own regular series that lasted a decade and ran until issue 102. The Westcoast Avengers was not a unique concept in comics. The Teen Titans had a Westcoast division way ahead of them. However, as a spin off series, they stayed true to the core series they started from, while developing their own voice. At worst, fans saw the Westcoast Avengers as the junior team. At best, they outsold the regular Avengers. What made the Westcoast Avengers so successful and can Marvel emulate their success again?
Avengers West Coast "1
The first arc of the Westcoast Avengers started as crossover with the new Vision and Scarlet Witch series where they established the ties between the synthezoid and Wonderman thoroughly. While he was dead, Ultron had used Wonderman’s brain patterns, the Avengers’s robotic villain to feed the new synthezoid he had created to foil the Avengers. As Wonderman faced his brother, the Grimm Reaper and his evil, the Vision, on sabbatical with his wife, the Scarlet Witch, joined to stop the death loving villain.
During these early tales, the Westcoast Avengers enjoyed a solid roster composed of many classic Avengers that might even have eclipsed the roster of the East Coast Avengers. Back in Manhattan, the East Coast Avengers had Captain America, Captain Marvel, Doctor Druid, Namor the Submariner and the Black Knight as members. Except Captain America, this lineup was hardly classic Avengers’s stuff. Older Avengers’ favourite soon joined the Westcoast team, as Hank Pym, the Wasp, the Scarlet Witch and a refurbished Vision joined.
The Vision, who had corrupted the Marvel’s Internet ancestors, years before was refurbished into a new synthezoid without his past memories. The US Government forcibly assigned US Agent, a Captain America-like character, to the team. Within a few issues, the Scarlet Witch became crazy and evil, joined up with brother Quicksilver and their human hating father and X-Men villain Magneto. This was a great time to be a Westcoast Avenger’s fan.
West Coast Avengers #45
Unfortunately, as had happened several times before with John Byrne, he left a series he had begun turning upside down abruptly and the remaining stories were left to someone else to fix. Old Avengers’ writer, Roy Thomas came to the rescue and did a wonderful job on explaining the Scarlet Witch’s dementia, while tying it with historical events in the Avengers’ history, namely Immortus, a long time travelling enemy of Earth’s mightiest heroes.
After cleaning up the Immortus saga, Thomas fell into formulaic writing that decimated the accumulated strength and reader interests in the Avengers. Even when he finally wrote the fight between Hawkeye and US Agent and improved on the characterization of the characters, his stories were hollow. By then, Thomas had to use gimmicks like the second Spider-woman to attract readers. Highlight of this period was Operation Galactic Storm, a huge crossover into all the Avengers’ series trying to recreate the glory of the classic Kree/Skrull war that had occurred a decade earlier in the Avengers.
Following Operation Galactic Storm, the Westcoast Avengers, became Force Works, a series featuring former Avengers led by Ironman in proactive roles. This series was both an attempt by Marvel to offer something less traditional than the Avengers using Avengers’ characters. Force Works was also a reactive attempt to capture the same market series such as Wildcats from Image Comics held. It failed of course!
Force Works #1
One could argue that the 1999 Avengers’ animated series was a more a Westcoast Avengers’ series than an East Coast title. Most of the line up consisted of characters that had been longtime members of the Westcoast division while mainstays of the Avengers like Captain America and Thor were left out of that cartoon.
The Westcoast Avengers are still relevant today as one of the major story from Marvel, 2004's Avengers Dissembled drew its sources directly from the most important storyline from the Avengers, where the Scarlet Witch attempted to recreate reality. Splitting a single super hero team into two based on differing geographic locations is not as popular as it once was. Special operative teams and aged-based segmentation seem to be more popular with publishers. Yet one cannot deny that for a decade, the geographic-based team was very popular.
However, Marvel tried recently to revive its unofficial Canadian X-Men branch, Alpha Flight. A new Xcalibur series is beginning, proving that the unofficial British X-Men still has some thunder under its wing. After creating a youthful Avengers’ team, should Marvel create another Avengers team more versed in tradition and relocate it on the Westcoast? It worked before, and could probably allow all fans to enjoy their own version of the Avengers.