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:
5Hawkeye: 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.
4Thor 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.