The world is rearing up to be amazed by (or find reasons to complain about) Avengers: Age of Ultron, and I'm as excited as any other grown man with the brain of a 12-year-old to hit the cinema and witness the Hulk smashing shit for maybe 10 minutes until he's shot to space and never mentioned again until The Infinity War Part I rolls along.
But you know who no one seems to notice? The real Avengers. The world is littered with amazing individuals who are living their lives as practical embodiments of the cast of Marvel's most profitable franchise, and although we're kind of aware of their existence, we generally fail to connect the dots.
So why should we settle for make-believe Avengers? Get Sam Jackson on the phone and put together the real deal, starting with some of these guys:
#5. Hawkeye: Lars Andersen
As is the custom with popular franchises, the Internet runs rampant with debates about who is the best Avenger and why. I generally prefer not to pick favorites, but if we're talking about real-world substitutes (which we are), I'm going to make an exception: It's Hawkeye. Hawkeye is the best.
Why? Here's why:
That's Lars Andersen, a Danish archer who is able to out-Hawkeye Jeremy Renner and, shit, out-Legolas Legolas any day of the damn week. You may have seen that video when it went viral in January, which is really the only excuse for your jaw not currently occupying the general vicinity of floor. The dude can shoot with absurd accuracy and speed, while doing the sort of acrobatics a 51-year-old man really has no business indulging in. Mobile targets are fair game, shooting upside down is a piece of cake, and even fuckin' grabbing arrows people are shooting at you and firing them back is no big deal.
He even looks appropriately dorky for a Hawkeye.
Granted, Andersen doesn't come without controversy: He claims to be reintroducing the world to archery traditions that may not actually exist. There's a bunch of camera angle trickery, and according to other professionals, Andersen's actual accuracy is arguably subpar. But you know what? When I see a grandpa-aged guy spinning through the air while simultaneously shooting two arrows that both hit their target, I don't give a rotting rodent's anus about inadequate draw and minor shenanigans. Give this man a sleeveless leather vest and a bunch of trick arrows, and watch critics stare in slack-jawed awe as he wreaks a trail of destruction through hosts of soulless abomination robots when lightning inevitably strikes the next IREX convention and an army of actroids starts waging war on humanity.
#4. Thor and the Hulk: Hafthor Julius Bjornsson
You know what I love about research? It's when you start doing grunt work for a column like this, and assume by default that there are two characters that are going to be outright impossible to cast -- and then remember a guy so awesome he's basically both of them rolled into one.
Fans of Game of Thrones may recognize this man:
I still refuse to believe he was not a special effect.
It says a lot about Hafthor Julius Bjornsson that, although he's the third absurdly proportioned giant Ubermensch to portray George R. R. Martin's towering psychopath Ser Gregor "The Mountain" Clegane, you'll be hard-pressed to remember the other two once you lay the eyes on the man. In fact, the real Bjornsson is far more impressive than his borderline superpowered GoT character. He's legitimately one of the world's strongest people that routinely competes in the strongman circuit, and is surprisingly quick and agile for a 6-foot, nine-inch, 420-pound man.
Sure, there's a chance that's filled with feathers or something, but you go tell him that.
So, yeah, he's got the makings of a pretty impressive superhero if you ask me. How impressive? Try "he just broke a 1,000-year-old weightlifting record described only in ancient sagas." It should also be mentioned that the mythical hero who originally set said record broke his fucking back doing it, whereas Bjornsson celebrates his success by casually leaping over a fence and dealing out Hulk screams for everyone. Shit, there's no need for special effects with this guy -- just paint the man green, and he's as close to Bruce Banner as you can get without actually investing in gamma-ray technology with inadequate safety equipment.
Yes, that's a tree trunk the size of a ship's mast he's carrying, and yes, you're welcome.
As for Thor, well, the dude's from Iceland, has a badass beard, and is already called Hafthor, so ... some tasers and a trip to Home Depot's hammer department should suffice, really. Though if you want to nitpick and insist that the characters should be kept separate, I guess we could also give the hammer to Dolph Lundgren. I'm the last guy to say he wouldn't deserve it.
#3. Iron Man: Ned Kelly and a Shitload of Modern Technology
Let's face it: Unless Elon Musk becomes really invested in robot suit technology in the near future, chances are we're not going to see anything approaching a Robert Downey Jr. -style Iron Man in the real world. Oh, we're working on plenty of real-life Iron Man technology because of course we are, but although that shit may well give us a Falcon or a War Machine at some point, it doesn't take us any closer to the real hero -- the Marvel Cinematic Universe's own rascally troll that is Tony Stark.
That's not to say such a man has never existed. In fact, the spider lair they call Australia has one that's already a virtual superhero within the confines of his own, poison-laden country. Shit, the guy even lived through the essentials of Iron Man's freaking origin story: taking on a hostile force with a metal super-suit he built from whatever scrap parts he could salvage.
Eryk Fitkau/Stone/Getty Images
I'm talking, of course, about Australia Bob.
By now, you can recognize every Australian in the vicinity because they're all staring at the monitor and screaming "It's Ned Kelly, mate! Ned Kelly!" at the top of their lungs. They're right, too: as Cracked has already told you, Kelly was a notorious Aussie outlaw that, when a massive police force eventually cornered him, decided to take his last stand in a manner most glorious: by constructing actual fucking battle armors for himself and his gang and wrecking shit. Granted, his armor didn't have an arc reactor or flamethrowers, but to be fair, it was 1880, and the dude was a fugitive bush ranger. However, he has a couple of things going for himself, as Iron Man antics go. One, his makeshift armor was suspiciously similar to superhero attire:
Hulton Archive/Hulton Archive/Getty Images
You know he's a badass when the cops attempting to take him down (who probably had a say about this picture) wind up looking like cowardly mooks.
And two, he looked like Howard Stark's hipster uncle:
Precision beards are for pussies.
See how the similarities keep cropping up? You know what, I'm calling it: If you want a real-life Iron Man, Kelly is your guy. Just find a way to bring him to modern age (I'm fully confident that by the time they're able to make a fully functional iron man suit, they've also figured out time travel), and stick him into, say, the latest model of Raytheon XOS 2 exoskeleton.
Agent Coulson already called dibs on the current one. I'm not kidding -- he's in this video doing just that.
Shit, even if it turns out he's an asshole killer that he technically was, at least we've got our villain, and no one will mind if the Mountain accidentally hammer-punches him too hard.