Team Players

There are some characters in comics who are by nature joiners. You can barely get two people together for a team up before they arrive as well.

And then there are those others who are regarded as dangerous loose cannons of dubious loyalties.

This is an article about two such characters, and how each of them is the undisputed greatest team player of their particular universe.

First of all, some definitions. By character, I mean the civilian identity of the character. Kitty Pryde is still Kitty Pryde whether she’s calling herself Ariel, Shadowcat or Sprite. And by team, I mean any version of a team, regardless of the line-up. This one does have a few specific exceptions, however:

  • The Avengers includes the New, Mighty, Secret and West Coast Avengers. It does not include the Dark Avengers.
  • The X-Men includes almost all X-teams: the New Mutants, X Factor, X-Force and Generation X. It does not include Excalibur, X-Statix or the Dark X-Men.
  • The Batman Family, the Batmen of All Nations and Batman Incorporated are considered the same team.
  • Alternate continuity versions of the same team don’t count unless they are the same character. Utimate Universe versions are out, but the Exiles count.

So, with all that in mind, who are the respective winners?

The DC Universe – and let’s be clear that I’m talking about the version of the universe that existed between Crisis on Infinite Earths and Flashpoint here, not the current iteration of the same – is generally a cooperative place. The heroes all know each other fairly well, and they tend to make sure that each other are looked after.

The greatest team player in the DC Universe is Dick Grayson. As Robin, Nightwing or Batman, he’s basically Bruce Wayne with a sense of humour and way better people skills. He’s been a member – and usually the leader – of the Teen Titans, the Outsiders and the Justice League of America at different times. He also once infiltrated the Secret Society of Super-Villains. And, of course, he’s the one who put the family in the Batman Family. His final tally: 5 teams.

Over in the Marvel Universe, people don’t usually get along so well. The heroes all know and mostly trust each other, but somehow, hero vs hero fights are far more a staple of Marvel Comics than DC Comics. The Marvel Universe hasn’t suffered any universe-wide reboots, so there’s no need to specify it any further.

Marvel also features a lot more mobility between teams than DC does, as well as the established fact that notorious loners are often members of multiple teams at once. Spider-Man and Wolverine have not only been on the same team, but they’ve been together in two different teams (the Avengers and the Fantastic Four). Spider-Man has only been a member of one other team (Heroes for Hire), but Wolverine has amassed a stunning eight teams in total: Alpha Flight, Team X/Weapon X/Weapon Plus (considered one team), the X-Men, the Defenders, the Hand and the Horsemen of Apocalypse.

Wolverine’s tally is exceeded by only one other Marvel character: Namor the Sub-Mariner. In the World War Two era, he was a member of the Invaders and the All-Winners Squad. In the modern era, he was a founding member of the Defenders, and later became an Avenger as well. More recently, he’s joined the X-Men and the Illuminati – while at the same time serving on the Dark X-Men and the Cabal (he was also a reserve Avenger at this time). And of course, he was the leader of the Deep Six for a while there. Not bad for a temperamental king famed even in the Marvel Universe for his mood swings – he’s also one of Captain American’s closest friends, and the closest thing to a friend that Dr Doom has. (I must confess, in researching this, I was amazed that he’s never been a member of the Fantastic Four.) And like Spidey and Wolvie, Subbie’s famed for being a loner. His final tally is 9 teams. And he’ll probably have joined another one by this time next year.

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