One of my favorite Marvel superhero teams of all time is the Great Lakes Avengers (also known as The Lightning Rods, The Great Lakes X-Men, The Great Lakes Champions, and The Great Lakes Initiative). The team has changed its name on several occasions.
The Avenger Hawkeye first protests their use of the name “Avengers” and eventually the GLA are sent a cease-and-desist order by the Maria Stark Foundation. The team rename themselves the Lightning Rods after fellow super-team, the Thunderbolts.
While working for S.H.I.E.L.D., Mr. Immortal suggests a name-change to S.W.O.R.D., although ultimately the team’s name is changed to the Great Lakes X-Men when its members collectively realize that they are all mutants.
After team member Flatman wins a superhero poker tournament, the GLA rename themselves the Great Lakes Champions. Following the events of Avengers: Civil War, the team operated as the Great Lakes Initiative in the state of Wisconsin. Some time later, the team reverts to the name Great Lakes Avengers.
The founding members of GLA are
Mr. Immortal/Craig Hollis is the leader of the GLA. Mr. Immortal possesses the superhuman ability of immortality. Before her death, his teammate and sometimes lover Dinah Soar was the only one able to calm his fits of rage after being revived. This unique ability has always given him the courage to try reckless life-endangering stunts and he is quite ready to sacrifice himself for the rest of the team. It has also left him in frequent states of depression by having to watch his loved ones die around him. He discovered his ability after attempting suicide several times. He is quoted as saying, “All you’re threatening me with is death. And dying’s what I do best!”
Dinah Soar was born in the Savage Land. Her lineage is never revealed and it is unknown if she was actually a mutant or of alien descent. Because she never spoke English, her background remains entirely unknown.
Big Bertha/Ashley Crawford not a lot is known of Bertha’s life before she responded to Mr. Immortal’s advertisement for a hero team. The team who would become the Great Lakes Avengers. It was revealed in the G.L.A. mini-series that Ashley is in fact a mutant. When not using her powers, Ashley is a proverbial ‘big fish in a small pond’, being the most famous fashion model in her hometown of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Although offers have come her way numerous times for more prospective opportunities she has declined them all. She chooses to stay in Milwaukee with the team she considers family.
Flatman is a member and second-in-command of the Great Lakes Avengers. Although no true origin was given at first for his stretching abilities and odd appearance, it was later revealed that he is a mutant. Called the “2-D Avenger”, his primary roles include long-ranged rescues and helping the team solve crimes with his extensive knowledge of fashion which he was reported to have “studied in college”. He was able to identify a woman’s shoe and describe it in detail. Later he rescued Weasel, referring to him as “sailor”. This led his team to question his sexuality.
At first, Flatman denied any claims that he is gay. A new Avenger recruit called Living Lightning first approached the Great Lakes Avengers (usually abbreviated as GLA) thinking they were actually the Gay/Lesbian Alliance. After apologizing he left quickly. His willingness to come out to others gave Flatman the courage to do it himself. He revealed that he is in fact gay to his teammates. Though Flatman refers to himself as Dr. Val Ventura, his doctoral background is highly questionable. He is not able to present a degree to prove his education. When asked by Doorman what field his doctoral degree was in he replied that he is a doctor of “stuff”.
Doorman little is known of Doorman’s life before he responded to Mr. Immortal’s advertisement for a hero team. DeMarr being a mutant and possessing his unique teleporting ability, is able to allow his teammates entrance into almost any structure. This creates both a stealthy entrance as well as a surprise attack.
Doorman is, however, the most cynical of the Great Lakes Avengers. He constantly compares the team to the real Avengers, usually at the most inappropriate times. He feels embarrassed by his friends. Nonetheless, DeMarr cares for them deeply, and values each and every member of the team.
The team has added members along the way as well. Some of their more notable recruits are:
Squirrel Girl/Doreen Green has the ability to communicate with squirrels. She is surprisingly effective and has been able to defeat many major super-villains. She has even served as nanny to Danielle Cage, the daughter of Luke Cage and Jessica Jones. Two of her named squirrel companions are Monkey Joe and Tippy Toe.
Grasshopper/Doug Taggert, Neil Shelton, Skrull Infiltrator Any GLA recruit using the Grasshopper moniker usually doesn’t last very long.
Gravity gains the ability to manipulate gravitons after being sucked into a mysterious black hole. He can decrease his own gravity, enabling him to fly and decrease the gravity of objects around him, enabling him to simulate super-strength, and attract or repel objects. He was assigned to the Great Lakes Initiative by Norman Osborn. He resented this assignment and eventually quit.
Deadpool was a reserve member for a short time. He had a crush on Big Bertha until she vomited and reverted to her super-model appearance. He lost all interest in her at that time and left.
Luckily for us Marvel has announced a new ongoing Great Lakes Avengers title. “We live in a world now in our publishing where books that range from Deadpool to Squirrel Girl have all found an audience, and I feel like Great Lakes Avengers as a concept is somewhere on the bell curve between Deadpool and Squirrel Girl,” explained Marvel Executive Editor Tom Brevoort. “So it felt like this would be a thing where, because the Avengers are so well known from the films, a more general audience can get the joke of [GLA] than they would ten years ago. It seems like this sort of thing might be able to find some traction in a way it couldn’t have before.”
The new series, written by Gorman with art by Will Robson, will set the team in Detroit and feature a line-up including classic members Flatman, Mr. Immortal, Big Bertha, and Doorman, as well as a return of Squirrel Girl to the team in the form of a cardboard cut-out the team carries to raise their profile.
“They also have, as seen on our advance cover, a life-size cardboard Squirrel Girl stand-up because whenever there’s a photo op, if you have Squirrel Girl in the shot, she’s very popular, so it’ll get picked up and people will pay attention to it,” Brevoort explained. “So they’ve got that in case anybody is paying attention to them. That way they can set it up and still seem like they’re Squirrel Girl’s buddies.”
Here’s the full solicit text for the first issue, launching sometime this fall: