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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

Marvel

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.

YouTube
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

Marvel

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:

HBO
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.

Examiner
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.

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3
Iron Man: Ned Kelly and a Shitload of Modern Technology

Marvel

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:

Wikipedia
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.

2
Black Widow: Anna Chapman

Marvel

One of the more difficult casting decisions in this experiment is definitely Black Widow, because it's not like the world's crawling with actual spy versions of Scarlett Joh- oh, wait. There she is:

NY Daily News
"'Sup."

That's Anna Chapman, who was born Anna Vasil'yevna Kushchyenko and was (and perhaps remains) a very real Russian spy, suspected to be working for the SVR, Russia's own foreign intelligence service. You may remember her for her involvement in the highly publicized Illegals Program spy ring in 2010 and subsequent banishment, and also from those saucy pictures that one creepy guy on your favorite forum keeps posting whenever Marvel fantasy casting is discussed. To the credit of said guy (Hi, Chad!), the comparison between Black Widow and Chapman is not entirely unwarranted. The resemblance is uncanny, and definitely played up by Chapman herself.

Butterfunk
Apparently, that damn butt pose carries over to real life, too.

So, looks-wise, she's a dead ringer for Black Widow, but can she walk the walk? She is a very public figure in Russia, and has worked for the government in several capacities. Sites that aren't too keen on journalistic integrity (looking at you, Daily Mail) occasionally report on her supposed antics as a honeytrap agent who nearly seduced an Obama insider (utter bullshit). She also famously Twitter-proposed to Edward Snowden, which might have seemed like little more than a C-list starlet's desperate gasp for publicity, but sources strangely enough indicate this might actually have been part of a bigger mission to secure Snowden. So, you know, it's anyone's guess what she actually does, which is ... actually a great thing if you're a spy.

As for fighting ability, she doesn't seem like she'd be able to take down mooks by the dozen (as far as we know), but since she is an actual spy, and extensive Google image searching seems to indicate she's roughly as in shape as Scarlett Johansson -- who is considered fit enough to portray the idealized version of the character -- I'm going out on a limb and say that Chapman can fend off a motherfucker if the going gets tough. Just give her a set of those zappy wrist things, and don't let her in on any secrets you don't mind leaking to Kreml, and we should be golden.

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1
Captain America: Audie Murphy

Marvel

The world is full of amazing war heroes, but the requirements I'm going to set for the real-life Captain freakin' America are pretty damn specific: Not only does he need to be American and a veteran of WWII (step up on that time machine project, science), he also needs to display Steve Rogersian valor and combat ability. Bonus points are rewarded if the soldier starts out as a scrawny, seemingly hopeless little guy before manning up, and extra points for taking part in the nation's entertainment sector as a symbol of courage.

After spending 200 years personally going through the files of every single soldier in WWII (turns out, science did deliver on that time machine), I did manage to find the one person who meets each and every qualification. So, here's Audie Murphy.

GAB Archive/Redferns/Getty Images
That's the smile of a man who sleeps with a gun under his pillow, and can kill you with the pillow.

A veteran of both World War II and a No. 1 on our very first "awesome soldier" list, Murphy entered the Army as a 5-foot, 5-inch bag of bones that had already been laughed out of the Marines and the Air Force. Caring precisely jack shit for this supposed disadvantage and needing no damn super soldier serums, thank you very much, Murphy proceeded to tear through the war performing Rambo-level heroics left and right and walking out of the war as one of the most decorated soldiers in U.S. military history (he had one of each service medal the U.S. had, as well as a couple from Belgium and France for novelty value). When the inevitable biographical movie was made, he was the only man badass enough to play himself, and did it so well he became an actor and a songwriter. Nothing short of an airplane crash could bring the man down, which is presumably why he died in an airplane crash (Red Skull denies his involvement to this day). His only weakness was PTSD, which for these intents and purposes is comparable enough to Cap's constant anguish about literally living in the future.

So, there you go, America. You've had your Captain (well, first lieutenant) for decades now, and he was even more badass than the fictional one. And if you absolutely need to bring him up to date after TARDISing him from that fateful plane in the nick of time and enhance him with a serum that boosts his strength and stamina, well ... scientists are kind of working on that, too.

Pauli Poisuo would barely qualify as D-Man, as Avengers go. Say hi to him on Facebook and stalk his Twitter.

For more from Pauli, check out 5 Awful Things You Don't Realize Until Your Phone Breaks and 5 Sex Toys That Are Clearly Designed for Sociopaths.

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