Way back in the day, when I used to read comic books instead of graphic novels*, I came across an issue of West Coast Avengers in which the titular WCA and their founding counterpart were quarrelling over the decision to shut the West Coast Avengers down and just leave The Avengers open for business. I don’t remember much about it, save that Iron Man was being a real dick about the whole thing, but I do remember one West Coast Avenger (let’s say it was Hank Pym in his identity as Ant-Man) complaining bitterly about the power disparity between the two groups. The Avengers proper got all the gods, Pym said. Who did the West Coast Avengers get? Tigra? Firebird? Keep in mind the person complaining about this was both a) named Ant-Man and b) a spousal abuser, so if he’s upset at the company he keeps, he may have a point.
*The difference being that people make fun of you if you read comic books, but if you read graphic novels, you make fun of people who don’t read graphic novels. Also you’re a huge asshole if you read graphic novels.
The Avengers have had, at one time or another, three gods on their roster. There’s Ares, the newest member and a reformed (somewhat) villain, who has the standard bruiser powers (speed, strength, endurance, etc.) and is absolutely crazy. There's a scene in a recent storyline where he lights himself on fire and launches himself at an enemy army. This is, on balance, more awesome in context than anything else anyone else has done in mainstream Marvel continuity. Ares has nothing to do with “The Power of Pluto”, and it’s probably best that he didn’t -- his solution to the problem of being stuck with an unbreakable contract would have been to never sign the contract in the first place, because contracts are boring. He’d then murder the person who made him sign it, and then that guy’s family, and then probably anyone else in the vicinity. He’s War personified, after all.
The other two gods concern us here: Hercules and Thor. Hercules has basically Ares’ set of powers, only his real-world pseudonym is “Harry Cleese” instead of Ares’ “John Aaron”. Both gods stand out in a crowd, so giving yourself a corrupted version of your actual name is either an hilarious commentary of the futility of secret identities or, more likely, idiocy. Thor’s pseudonym is “Donald Blake”, although Blake and he may be two separate persons, possibly. He has all of Hercules’ and Ares’ powers, only he can also manipulate weather and energy, teleport himself himself at will, and thanks to his awesome hammer Mjolnir, he can fly. There has to be an image out there somewhere of Thor carrying Hercules to a battle, but if there is, I can’t find it.
Anyways, Thor and Hercules meet up on Earth in “The Power of Pluto”, because apparently both Asgard and Mount Olympus just aren’t interesting enough. You have to think here: what could two good-aligned deities do on Earth? Hercules could build homeless shelters for free. Thor could change the weather patterns over the Sahara Desert, turning it into a verdant and fertile grassland. If they teamed up, they could make things really pretty great for the people of Earth.
What they do instead is this: Thor bitches at Hercules for being popular, because we all know that a God feeds off worship, and what better way to gain the worship of the people of Earth than a catfight? While Thor plays the Lohan to Hercules’ Hilton, Hercules is taken in by the least charismatic talent agent on Earth. The man leads off the list of things Hercules could gain by signing with him with a promise of a swimming pool.
Hercules goes off to Hollywood, while Thor mopes. After a supervillain busts in to his audition, because we haven’t had a fight yet and it’s been ALMOST THREE MINUTES, Hercules is given a contract to sign. The contract states that he will be required to rule the underworld for all eternity. He’s reassured that this is just related to the movie’s story, and not at all an obvious plot by Pluto, a guy he has probably met before. Hercules signs it, and guess what happens?
To answer your question, Ant-Man, the Avengers get all the gods because Thor is a baby and Hercules is an idiot. They’re actually preventing Captain America and Iron Man and the rest from getting shit done. You’re getting a favor. Next time, when the Avengers draft rolls around, go Ares or go home.
Joe DeMartino is a Connecticut-based writer who grew up wanting to be Ted Williams, but you would not BELIEVE how hard it is to hit a baseball, so he gave that up because he writes words OK. He talks about exploding suns, video games, karaoke, and other cool shit at his blog. He can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org and tweeted at @thetoycannon. He writes about sports elsewhere. The sports sells better.