It's a battle cry we've all heard over and over. From the classic Retaliators comics to the hit films of the Retaliators Cinematic Universe, everyone knows Angor's Mightiest Heroes and their - wait, what's that?
You have no idea what the hell we're talking about?
Well, that's probably because you're not from Earth-8, an alternate universe in DC's Omniverse that functions as the publisher's homage to the Marvel Universe and which is home to the Retaliators, pastiche characters based on none other than the Avengers.
Originally dating back to the '70s, the Retaliators (who have gone by multiple team names across several incarnations) are, weirdly enough, kinda also sorta like DC's version of the Squadron Supreme, Marvel's version of the Justice League.
Earth-8 made a return in November 30's Justice League Incarnate #1, which introduced a villain known as Tartarus, a not-so-subtle homage to Marvel's big baddy Thanos, who gets a requisite showdown with Darkseid - the DC villain who also inspired the creation of Thanos back in the '70s.
Is your head spinning yet?
Don't worry - we'll get you re-oriented with an exploration of Earth-8, including the ways DC's homage to the Marvel Universe lines up with both publishers' tradition of finding fun and funky ways to pit their characters against each other without having to navigate the realities of corporate crossovers.
Who are the Retaliators?
Marvel and DC have been friendly rivals for years (though the 'competition' between them has all but faded from the public eye), and though the two publishers have managed to pull off some official crossovers between their characters over the years, those meetings are few and far between, and at this point likely a thing of the past entirely.
But if you squint just hard enough, you can spot all the places where the fabric between universes has worn thin, where DC and Marvel have hidden crossovers in plain sight through the use of parody and homage, using pastiche characters of each others' most well-known heroes to cross the boundaries of corporate comics.
Case in point, Justice League Incarnate #1 (opens in new tab), which picks up the baton of secret DC/Marvel crossovers by returning to DC's most well-trod Marvel Universe analog, Earth-8, home to DC's Avengers equivalents the Retaliators.(opens in new tab)
The Retaliators were originally introduced in 1971's Justice League #87 (opens in new tab) by writer Mike Friedrich and artist Dick Dillin under the team name 'the Champions of Angor,' with 'Angor' being the name of their homeworld which would later be defined as Earth-8 in the DC Multiverse.
Weirdly enough, the team was created as part of a secret crossover between Marvel and DC. Marvel writer (and close friend of Friedrich) Roy Thomas introduced Marvel's version of the Justice League, the Squadron Sinister, in 1969, turning them into the Squadron Supreme in 1971 - right at the same time Friedrich was introducing the Champions of Angor in Justice League.
Much like the Squadron Supreme, the Champions of Angor were initially comprised of four members based on then-prominent Avengers including:
- Wandjina, a Thor-like weather deity based on Australian Aboriginal mythology
- Blue Jay, a shrinking hero based on Yellowjacket
- Silver Sorceress, a magic user inspired by the Scarlet Witch
- Jack B. Quick, a speedster inspired by Quicksilver
The team clashed with the Justice League before coming to an understanding as heroes to team up against a greater threat - a fairly typical formula for superhero crossovers that was even repeated in the official Avengers vs. JLA (opens in new tab) limited series decades later.
Following their initial appearance, the Champions of Angor reappeared in the post-Crisis on Infinite Earths (opens in new tab) DC Universe as refugees from another planet, still called Angor, though the post-Crisis DC status quo did not include an official Multiverse, changing their origins slightly.
In this incarnation, the Champions of Angor (now calling themselves the Justifiers) come to Earth fleeing a threat that destroyed their world and killed Jack B. Quick (who was renamed Captain Speed) and several other unnamed tributes to Marvel heroes, running afoul of the Justice League International (opens in new tab).(opens in new tab)
The Justifiers version of the Champions of Angor initially included the rest of the original team - Wandjina, Blue Jay, and Scarlet Sorceress - who were all on the run from a villain named Lord Havok, a semi-satirical homage to Marvel's Doctor Doom who leads a Masters of Evil-esque team called the Extremists.
Later appearances in this era expanded the team's membership to include more Avengers pastiches named Bowman (Hawkeye), Tin Man (Iron Man), T.A. (Wasp), and Bug (Spider-Man), while also briefly renaming them the Justifiers.
However, it's Lord Havok and the Extremists (opens in new tab) who managed to stick around to become the focus of future stories set on Angor (which is still the name the inhabitants of Earth-8, now once again part of the Multiverse, call their homeworld).
Who are Lord Havok and the Extremists?
Consisting of core members Lord Havok (Doctor Doom), Doctor Diehard (Magneto), Dreamslayer (Dormammu), Gorgon (Doctor Octopus), Tracer (Sabretooth), Carny (Arcade), and later Death Bat (Green Goblin), the Extremists were originally based around the concept of the Masters of Evil as Marvel's greatest villain team, though the members who are based on Marvel characters don't correspond to the classic members of the Masters of Evil.
(There are also a few members of the Extremists who were added later, such as Brute, Cloudburst, Gunshot, and more, who are not directly based on Marvel characters).(opens in new tab)
Though Lord Havok and the Extremists have remained largely consistent over the years, even appearing as a team as recently as 2017's Justice League of America (opens in new tab) ongoing title, several DC reboots have changed some of the trappings of Earth-8 and the Champions of Angor.
First, 2007's Countdown (opens in new tab) weekly limited series introduced a new version of the team, this time called the Meta-Militia, which added new members Americommando (based on Captain America) and Barracuda (based on Namor, complete with changing allegiances between hero and villain).
Then in 2011, DC rebooted its continuity again, creating the 'New 52' timeline, which also introduced a whole new version of Earth-8 and the Champions of Angor, this time finally re-named to their current moniker the Retaliators (or, colloquially, the Rampaging Retaliators).
Along with the new team name, the Retaliators' roster also got a bit of overhaul with some new members and new identities for some characters who were part of the original Champions of Angor which still maintain the Marvel homage theme in the team's current incarnation as the Retaliators.
The new (and mostly current) roster, first introduced in The Multiversity #1 (opens in new tab), includes:
- Captain Speed (Quicksilver)
- Machinehead (Iron Man)
- Deadeye (Hawkeye)
- Kite (Wasp)
- Ladybug (Spider-Woman)
- Major Max (Captain Marvel)
- Red Dragon (Black Widow)
- Silver Eagle (Falcon)
- Behemoth/Big Baby (Hulk)
- American Crusader (Captain America)
- Stuntmaster (Daredevil)
… along with the classic Champions of Angor members Blue Jay, Silver Sorceress, and Wandjina (who is renamed Wundajin). And true to form, they live in a skyscraper with a big 'R' on it - ya know, like Tony Stark's Avengers Tower.
This is the version of the team which resurfaced in Justice League Incarnate #1 alongside Tartarus, the aforementioned new homage to Thanos. The new version of the Retaliators also includes a brand new character, introduced in Justice League Incarnate #1, named Doctor Multiverse, who is something of an homage to Marvel's Captain Universe.(opens in new tab)
And on that note, it's also interesting to mention that with The Multiversity #1's reintroduction of the Champions of Angor as the Retaliators, the population of Earth-8 was expanded to include numerous characters based on other Marvel heroes even outside the Avengers.
There's the G-Men (later renamed the Z-Men), based on the X-Men; Blue Boarder, a take on the Silver Surfer; the Future Family, a Fantastic Four pastiche led by Lord Havok's greatest rival Frank Future; and perhaps weirdest of all, Hyperius, an homage to Marvel's Hyperion of the Squadron Supreme - who is himself Marvel's own homage to Superman.
DC vs. Marvel
Even taking the entire population of Earth-8 including the Retaliators and Extremists into account, we're only just scratching the surface of DC's side of the tradition of Marvel and DC paying homage to each others' characters and creating secret crossovers as a result, let alone what Marvel has gotten up to.
But it all goes back to 1971's twin introductions of the Retaliators (under their original name the Champions of Angor) and the Squadron Supreme (expanded from the earlier Squadron Sinister), illustrating the desire of both fans and creators to see the top characters of Marvel and DC clash, even if it means having to get creative to avoid corporate red tape.(opens in new tab)
And the tradition continues to this day, with the Retaliators returning in Justice League Incarnate #1 for a fight between Darkseid and DC's equivalent of Thanos, and Marvel pitting the Squadron Supreme against the Avengers in its 2021 summer event Heroes Reborn (opens in new tab).
Which publisher will take the leap to create another unsanctioned crossover, and what will it look like? It's not for us to say - but we're excited to see how today's creators continue to find ways to bridge the gap between universes to give fans a version of some of the most desired rivalries of all time.
DC isn't averse to riffing on its own characters and ideas as well as Marvel's, as evidenced in these alternate versions of Superman from around the Multiverse.