Who is the greatest Marvel hero to never be an Avenger?

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For a group that calls itself Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, one would think gaining membership to the Avengers would be a bit more exclusive. However, history shows that Edwin Jarvis’ favorite group of super-types will accept just about anyone into their hallowed ranks.

Don’t believe me? Go ahead and look through the roster of Marvel heroes. See how hard it is to find a hero who hasn’t been an Avenger at some point.

You can thank or blame Brian Michael Bendis for this, depending on how you feel about it. One of the many changes he brought to the franchise during his eight-year run was opening up the membership ranks. Bendis brought in surprise picks for the team like Luke Cage and Spider-Woman, as well as traditional “loner” heroes like Daredevil. Oh yeah, he also brought Marvel’s two most popular heroes, Spider-Man and Wolverine, into the fold. And it worked!

I’m an Avengers fan going back to the halcyon days of the Bronze Age, when George Perez was drawing the hell out of the book and the team was fighting Ultron, Count Nefaria, and Korvac. The team has had many more ups than downs over its nearly 60-year history, and the current iteration of the series, with writer Jason Aaron and artist Javier Garron, has a great lineup that mixes original Avengers like Thor and Iron Man with new additions like Ghost Rider.

But if we’re being honest, there have been some deadbeat Avengers who clearly didn’t deserve the ID card and that sweet weekly stipend. Like Mark the elevator man once said, they’re not all going to be winners. Maybe Henry Gyrich had a point way back in issue #181 when he gave the boot to a quinjet full of heroes.

Look at that image above — every single hero there is Avengers worthy. It’s the premier super-team in the Marvel universe! How the hell did D-listers like Doctor Druid and Gilgamesh, The Forgotten One eventually make the cut?

(Seriously, Gilgamesh was the worst. Don’t @ me. It’s a fact.)

I tried to think of heroes who haven’t been on the team at some point. And you know what? It’s really hard to come up with notable heroes in the 616 who have not been called an Avenger at one moment in time. Three quarters of the Fantastic Four has gotten an Avengers priority clearance. Madness, I say. Madness!

But I have come up with a Top 5 ranking of the best Marvel heroes to never become an Avenger. First off, some guidelines. West Coast Avengers count because that was the first spinoff team and Wonder Man was a founding member, and Wondy is awesome and this is my column. So WCA members count as being full-fledged Avengers.

But you know who doesn’t? Anybody in the Great Lakes Avengers, Secret Avengers, Dark Avengers, Uncanny Avengers, or Savage Avengers. Sorry, if you’re not able to join Cap onstage for an “Avengers Assemble” photo-op with the main squad, then you’re not an actual Avenger.

Also, no Punisher nonsense. Frank Castle is a homicidal maniac; he’s not Avengers material.

Here are the five best Marvel superheroes who have not been Avengers (yet) …

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