Since Ant-Man in 2015, but more so since 2021, new faces have started to appear in small cameos. And anyone who reads comic books already knows that these youthful characters are destined to become the Young Avengers anytime soon.
Let’s take a look at the story of the Young Avengers and which ones are already roaming the MCU right now.
Young Avengers’ Comic Book Origins
In the Marvel Comics Chronology, the Young Avengers were introduced right after two controversial story arcs written by Brian Michael Bendis: Avengers Disassembled (published between 2004-2005) and House of M (2005).
In both adventures, mutant superhero Wanda Maximoff aka Scarlet Witch suffers a mental breakdown. In an attempt to re-create her lost children with Vision, she tries to alter reality and ends up wreaking terrible havoc. The first side effect is the end of the original Avengers. The group’s mansion is destroyed and three of its classic members (Clint Barton/Hawkeye, Scott Lang/Ant-Man, and Vision) are killed. But don’t be sad, they were all resurrected soon after.
That’s how a new group of teenage, first-time superheroes was born. The group’s debut happened in their own magazine, Young Avengers #1 (February 2005). But none of the young heroes planned to become Avengers, whether young or old.
It all starts with one of those complex time travel stories that Marvel loves. Nathaniel Richards, the young version of the villain Kang the Conqueror, went back to the past to ask for the help of the original Avengers. His goal was… to avoid becoming Kang in the future!
As the group no longer exists (after Avengers Disassembled), Richards goes to Stark Industries and accesses the A.I. of Vision. So he discovers something called The Avengers Fail-Safe Program, a plan B created by Stark. He compiled the names of several well-known young heroes that could replace the Avengers in the event of a calamity. Young Kang decides to contact some of these heroes and form a new group.
The name 'Young Avengers' was coined by Daily Bugle journalist Kat Farrell as the new heroes started to fight second-rate Spider-Man villains.
The original lineup was all-male: Richards himself (nicknamed Iron Lad because of his armor), Eli Bradley aka Patriot, Billy Kaplan aka Asgardian, and Teddy Kaplan aka Hulkling. Due to the boys’ resemblance to the original Avengers. Soon Kate Bishop, a wealthy heiress looking for adventure, and Cassie Lang, the daughter of the late Ant-Man Scott Lang, decide to join the group.
The Young Avengers’ first major story arc ends with Richards/Iron Lad accepting to go back to his own time and become Kang. Otherwise, the entire universe would be radically altered by one of those time paradoxes. His smart armor stays in the “present” and becomes The White Vision.
The first lineup is completed with Patriot, Stature (Cassie Lang’s nom de guerre), Hawkeye (Kate Bishop), Billy (renamed Wiccan), and Teddy, plus juvenile delinquent Tommy Shepherd aka Speed. It is later discovered that Tommy and Billy are reincarnations of the lost children of the Scarlet Witch.
As the Young Avengers begin to engage in larger and more dangerous missions, other heroes begin to slip in and out of their lineup. Among them are Kree super-soldier Marvel Boy, Kid Loki, America Chavez aka Ms. America, and young X-Men Prodigy.
Since their debut in 2005, the Young Avengers have also disbanded and reunited several times. Some died along the way and were resurrected soon after, as is often the case in Marvel Comics. More recently, all the remaining Young Avengers were inducted as full-fledged Avengers.
Young Avengers in the MCU
If you have been paying close attention to MCU films and Disney Plus TV shows, you might have noticed that many of the characters that form the Young Avengers roster are already here.
Chronologically, the first to appear was Cassie Lang, daughter of Ant-Man Scott Lang, in the hero’s first solo film (released in 2015). She is shown as a little girl in this adventure and also in the sequel Ant-Man and the Wasp (2018). However, at the end of Avengers: Endgame (2019), Cassie reappears as a teenager after the blip. She will also return soon in the future Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania (2023). Abby Ryder Fortson played the character as a little girl, Emma Fuhrmann played Cassie at the end of Avengers: Endgame, and Kathryn Newton takes on the character in the third Ant-Man movie.
2021 was a year when more future Young Avengers were introduced in the MCU, all of them on TV shows. Loki marked the debut of Kid Loki (played by Jack Veal), Hawkeye introduced Kate Bishop (Hailee Steinfeld) as Clint Barton’s sidekick, and The Falcon and the Winter Soldier introduced Eli Bradley (Elijah Richardson) as the grandson of the black Captain America, Isaiah Bradley.
The WandaVision series also showed the Scarlet Witch and Vision’s twin sons, Billy and Tommy Maximoff (played by Julian Hilliard and Jett Klyne). In the comics, they will become Wiccan and Speed.
Finally, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness (2022) marks the MCU debut of America Chavez, played by Xochitl Gomez.
It’s not yet clear if Marvel Studios will turn all these characters into Young Avengers. And what about other characters from the comics, like Iron Lad, Prodigy, and Marvel Boy?
The script for Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania is being kept under lock and key. But it is already known that Kang the Conqueror will be the film’s villain (played by Jonathan Majors). Will the MCU adapt the time travel plot where young Kang returns to our present and ends up forming the Young Avengers?
Or maybe Nick Fury will launch his own Avengers Fail-Safe Program? It can be an excellent way to fight the Skrull threat in the TV show Secret Invasion, which is rumored to premiere in late 2022.
Will the MCU’s Young Avengers get their own movie (Avengers 5: The Young Avengers?) or a TV series? Some of the characters still need to have their origins told. We’ll see what the future holds for the teenager version of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes.
How Old are the Young Avengers?
One of the most interesting aspects about the Young Avengers in the comic books is that they are really young. All the heroes are teenagers between 15-20 years old. Their early adventures show heroes torn between fighting villains and going to school, dealing with their parents, dating, etc.
They prefer to trade blows with Kang the Conqueror than to tell their parents about their extracurricular activities. One of the Young Avengers’ first crises comes when Captain America and Iron Man threaten to tell the young heroes' families the truth.
Readers identify with the Young Avengers teen dramas, much like with Peter Parker/Spider-Man in his first adventures. But now the stories can freely address the sexuality of the characters. One of the defining moments in the comics comes when Asgardian and Hulkling discover it’s easier to tell their parents they’re gay than superheroes!
If the Young Avengers appear in the MCU anytime soon, they will have the same age range as the comics. The characters already introduced in the movies and TV shows are all teenagers. The oldest of the bunch is Kate Bishop, who appears to be in her early 20s in the Hawkeye series.
Members of the Young Avengers
As is usual in Marvel Comics, the Young Avengers’ original lineup has been altered several times since their debut in 2005. Let’s take a look at the most popular members of the comic books and how they have been adapted for the MCU so far.
In the comics, Iron Lad was the founding member of the Young Avengers and also their first leader. His real name is Nathaniel Richards. He is a 30th-century teenager destined to become the time-traveling villain Kang the Conqueror. Terrified by the possibility, Richards decides to return to the 21st century to talk to the Avengers. But the original team was separated at the time. That’s why he assumes the identity of Iron Lad and forms a new group of teenage heroes to fight Kang when the time comes.
Although Iron Lad was successful in killing Kang, this causes a time paradox. After all, without Kang, the original Avengers would never have existed. So Richards decides to go back to his own time and face his destiny. His conscious armor is left in the 21st century and becomes the new Vision.
Kang will be officially introduced in the MCU next year in Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania. Will his teenage variant also be used and will give rise to the Young Avengers of the MCU?
Another possibility is that young genius Harley Keener takes on some of Stark Industries’ armor to transform into a new Iron Man/Iron Lad. For those who don’t remember, Harley was the boy genius who helped Tony Stark in Iron Man 3 (2013). He reappeared as a teenager at his mentor’s funeral in Avengers: Endgame. In both films, he was played by Ty Simpkins, who could easily become one of the MCU’s Young Avengers.
In his first appearances, Billy Kaplan appears to have similar powers to Thor, which is why he decides to call himself Asgardian. It’s soon revealed that Billy is not exactly a Norse God, but a very powerful young man capable of handling magic. That’s why he changes his alias to Wiccan.
Sometime later, it’s explained that Billy is one of the twin sons of the Scarlet Witch. This is the origin of his incredible powers. Wiccan was one of the most enduring members of the Young Avengers and married teammate Hulkling in 2020.
In the MCU, Billy was introduced as one of Wanda and Vision’s children on the TV show WandaVision. He was still a child but already showing psionic powers like his mother’s. As the boy is “deleted” at the end of the series, but appeared alongside his brother on Earth 818 in Dr Strange: Multiverse of Madness.
When he was originally featured in the Young Avengers magazine, Teddy Kaplan appeared to have the same powers as the Incredible Hulk. Because of this, he adopted the nickname Hulkling. A few issues later we discover that Teddy was actually a shape-shifter. Even so, he maintained the form of a teenage Hulk.
A giant turning point in his life happened in Young Avengers #9, when Hulking discovered he wasn’t even human. Teddy was born from the relationship between Captain Marvel and the Skrull Emperor’s daughter. It was from this alien race that he inherited his shape-shifting powers.
Hulkling played a prominent role during the Secret Invasion story arc. As this saga will become a TV show from Marvel Studios in 2022, the character may finally be introduced in the MCU. In the comics, Teddy started dating fellow Avenger Wiccan. The couple recently married.
In a group of problematic teens, Elijah Bradley has one of the most dramatic stories. He is the grandson of the black Captain America Isaiah Bradley, whose backstory is also very sad.
In the first adventures, it's discovered that Bradley (who fights under the alias Patriot) is also a fake. He claimed to have super-soldier powers inherited from his grandfather. But Eli was just using the illegal Mutant Growth Hormone (MGH) to simulate superpowers.
When his colleagues find out, Patriot departs the team for a short time. Afterward, Eli demonstrates his valor by sacrificing himself to save Captain America from a deadly shot. At the hospital, he finally receives his grandfather’s blood transfusion. With it, the super-soldier powers he so desperately wanted.
Despite leading the group for some time, Elijah later abandoned the Young Avengers. Another young black man, Rayshaun Lucas, took up the mantle of Patriot (in 2017’s Captain America: Sam Wilson #21).
In the MCU, Eli Bradley has already been introduced in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier. But it's unclear if he already has superpowers or still needs to inherit them.
Cassandra “Cassie” Lang is the daughter of Ant-Man Scott Lang. After her father’s (temporary) death in the Avengers Disassembled story arc, she decides to join the newly created Young Avengers to honor his memory.
Initially, Cassie has no superpowers. But then she discovers, by sheer accident, that she can make her body increase in size when nervous. The girl then confesses to her fellow Avengers that she spent years stealing and secretly taking Pym Particles from her father.
She adopts the name Stature due to her power of growth and an Ant-Man-like uniform. Like her Young Avengers co-stars, Cassie’s parents are unaware of their daughter’s secret life. The condition is even more dramatic because her stepfather is a cop who hates superheroes.
During the miniseries The Children’s Crusade (2011-2012), Stature sacrifices herself to save the world from Doctor Doom. But it’s another one of those Marvel Comics “temporary deaths”. Doom himself resurrected the heroine three years later.
Upon her return to life, Cassie decided to change her name to Stinger and wear a new uniform that allows her to grow and shrink.
Katherine “Kate” Bishop is the youngest daughter of a rich family from New York. When her sister Susan’s wedding is invaded by armed criminals, she helps the Young Avengers defeat the criminals. Kate then decides to join the group.
She is the only one that doesn’t have any kind of superpower, just the skills of years of studying archery and fencing. Her first uniform is a mixture of the weapons and masks of the ex-Avengers Mockingbird, Swordsman, and Hawkeye (at that point considered dead). Because of her skill with the bow, Kate adopts the nickname used by Clint Barton to honor him.
The new Hawkeye was one of the most enduring members of the Young Avengers. Then, with Barton’s return to life, Kate joined him as a pupil for some time, in an award-winning story arc that inspired the TV show Hawkeye.
Kate was introduced in the MCU with a very different origin story, connected to her father’s death during the Chitauri’s alien invasion (in the first Avengers movie).
The last member of the Young Avengers’ first lineup is Speed. He looks like a younger version of reformed supervillain Quicksilver (Pietro Maximoff, Wanda’s brother). The rest of the team frees him from a high-security detention facility after Hulkling is kidnapped by Kree Sentries.
His real name is Thomas Shepherd, and Stature is the first to notice that he looks a lot like Billy/Wiccan. Speed decides to join the Young Avengers. Later, in the Children’s Crusade miniseries, it would be confirmed that the two are the lost children of the Scarlet Witch. Tommy appears to have inherited his uncle Quicksilver’s powers.
In the comics, Speed is bisexual and has relationships with fellow Avengers of both sexes (Kate Bishop and Prodigy). In the MCU, Tommy briefly appeared in the TV show WandaVision, where he also had super-speed. He was also deleted at the end of the series but reappeared in Dr. Strange 2. Will he return in a future live-action version of the Young Avengers?
As a child, America underwent a radical treatment to cure a severe genetic disease. Of course, the cure also gave her incredible powers. Besides super strength and invulnerability, he received the power to open portals to travel the Multiverse, and even go back in time.
The teenager used these powers to fight crime as a superhero named Ms. America. She joined the Young Avengers much later, in 2013, but soon became a key member. Recently, she left the group and joined the West Coast Avengers.
America Chavez was a key character in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. In the movie, she already had the power to travel through alternate dimensions. The end of the film hints at what her arc will be in the MCU. The girl could play a key role in bringing together the MCU’s Young Avengers.
Kid Loki emerged when Trickster God Loki tried to cheat death by reborn into a young version. Initially, Loki was determined not to repeat the same mistakes of the past. But then he went on to lie and manipulate other heroes and villains as he always did so well.
His debut in the Young Avengers happened when he tricked Wiccan into conjuring Mother, a powerful inter-dimensional parasite. It was the start of a long story arc full of twists, turns, and deaths. In the end, everything magically returns to normal. The Trickster God decides to walk away from the rest of the Young Avengers claiming that, no matter how hard he tries, he couldn’t avoid being Loki.
In the MCU, the character has appeared in a few episodes of the TV show Loki, but it is unclear if he’s part of the same Earth or some parallel dimension. Either way, America Chavez’s ability to travel the Multiverse could help her locate and summon Kid Loki to be part of the team in a future film or TV series.
Marvel Boy is the alias of Noh-Varr, a Kree warrior from another dimension that ends up on Earth-616 (the “official” world of Marvel Comics). Created by Grant Morrison in 2000, the character has several superpowers thanks to cockroach DNA, genetic augmentations, and nanobiology. Among them is the ability to climb walls like Spider-Man and poisonous, razor-sharp nails.
The teenage Kree had a long stint in the Marvel Universe before falling in love with Kate Bishop and joining the Young Avengers. It all happened during the story arc where the heroes faced the inter-dimensional entity Mother. Sometime later, the couple broke up and Noh-Varr decided to leave the Young Avengers.
There’s still no sign of the Marvel Boy in the MCU and he’s one of those tricky characters to adapt for film or TV.
Either Marvel Studios intends to present Noh-Varr in the upcoming TV show Secret Invasion, or they will simply replace him with another teen hero: Kamala Khan aka Ms. Marvel, whose TV show will premiere on Disney+ in June 2022.
Finally, the last famous member of the Young Avengers is David Alleyne, a mutant with the power to absorb the knowledge/skills of anyone close to him. The character first appeared in the New Mutants magazine in 2003 using the codename Prodigy.
Years later, in 2013, he joined the Young Avengers at a time when the team was fighting the terrible Mother. That’s when he revealed his bisexuality and fell in love with two fellow Avengers: first Hulkling, then Speed (whom he dated for a while).
Prodigy is another character that has yet to be introduced in the MCU. That’s unlikely to happen anytime soon, at least until we officially see the X-Men in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. And considering that there are already enough characters for a first line-up of the team, it may still take some time for Prodigy to appear in live-action version.
We Need Some New Avengers
While the MCU has introduced a lot of new characters recently (from the Inhumans to Shang-Chi and Moon Knight), its main superhero team remains understaffed – especially after the events shown in Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame (2018-2019).
The original Avengers lineup lost some of its most important founding members when Tony Stark and Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow sacrificed themselves to save the world, and Steve Rogers/Captain America decided to retire. Clint Barton will likely retire as well to take care of his family, and no one knows how much longer Hulk and Thor will be around.
As we saw, Marvel Studios has already introduced, without any fanfare, several of the young characters destined to become the Young Avengers. It’s not yet known how and when they will finally come together as a group.
But with increasingly powerful villains threatening the Universe (and now the Multiverse as well), the world definitely needs new Avengers. Even though they are still really young.