Isaiah Bradley, a successful attempt at creating a super soldier, was unjustly imprisoned by the US government after his time in action in the Korean War. T’Chaka, the father of T’Challa, was one of the previous Black Panthers who operated as the protector of Wakanda before the Avengers existed. Hank Pym and Janet van Dyne were the first Ant-Man and Wasp, respectively, operating as covert superheroes for the US government in the 1970s and 80s.

The MCU timeline only started shortly before the formation of The Avengers, but subsequent movies have retroactively added in several heroes who were in operation far earlier. Even the pre-The Avengers MCU Phase 1 movies get into a few, introducing Steve Rogers from the early 20th century and Thor from far, far earlier. Indeed, Earth has been the home to superhumans, either pubically or in private, for quite some time.

Importantly, not all of the MCU’s heroes from decades or centuries past have happy stories, and a few remained unknown to the public, either on purpose or against their will. Many were precursors to heroes in the current part of the MCU timeline, and others were wholly original entities. Whatever their stories, these 10 MCU heroes existed long before The Avengers made superheroes iconic in the Marvel Universe.


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10 Isaiah Bradley Was An Earlier Captain America

Isaiah Bradley Last Appeared In The Falcon And The Winter Soldier

After the success of turning Steve Rogers into Captain America with Erskine’s super soldier serum, entities and individuals worldwide attempted to recreate the experiment for decades. While the vast majority of these attempted super soldiers were terrible failures, a few worked to varying degrees. One such success is Isaiah Bradley, introduced in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier. Unfortunately, Bradley’s story is a tragic one. After his time in action in the Korean War, the US government, not comfortable with a black Captain America, imprisoned Isaiah for decades and relocated him to Baltimore after faking his death on the official record.

9 Black Panther (T’Chaka) Was The Black Panther Before T’Challa

T’Chaka Last Appeared In Black Panther

T’Challa was the first person to don the Black Panther suit in the MCU (in Captain America: Civil War), but he certainly wasn’t the first. There have been 7 Black Panthers shown or mentioned in Marvel’s movie universe, and many, including T’Challa’s father, T’Chaka, operated long before The Avengers ever came to be. It’s unlikely that more of his adventures as the protector of Wakanda will be explored on-screen, but audiences got a taste via flashbacks in Black Panther.

8 Ant-Man (Hank Pym) Was A Secret Government Agent

Hank Pym Last Appeared In Ant-Man And The Wasp: Quantumania

Scott Lang, Cassie Lang, and Hope van Dyne may be the three currently active Pym-powered superheroes in the MCU, but they certainly weren’t the first. Hank Pym invented the self-named Pym Particles that allow objects to shrink or grow in size, and he used them to be the first Ant-Man in the MCU, operating on behalf of the US government in secret in the 1970s and 80s.

Janet Van Dyne Last Appeared In Ant-Man And The Wasp: Quantumania

, Janet has had an increasingly large role in each Ant-Man movie, but her time as a superhero started long before The Avengers formed. Janet partnered with her husband Hank to carry out covert missions using Pym Tech, but in 1987, one mission went terribly wrong. Janet shrunk too small and was thought to be lost forever, though she really became stuck in the Quantum Realm, where she later spent time with Kang the Conquerer. Janet may not sport The Wasp suit anymore, but Quantumania proves she’s still more than capable of holding her own as a hero.

6 Nick Fury Brought The Avengers Together

Nick Fury Last Appeared In The Marvels

As the founding figure of The Avengers initiative, it makes sense that Nick Fury’s heroic timeline started long before the team came together. Though he’s most famous as the Director (and former Director) of SHIELD, Fury worked his way up the government organization for decades before gathering Tony Stark, Steve Rogers, and the rest. Captain Marvel revealed what Nick Fury was doing for SHIELD in the 1990s, and the story of Secret Invasion teased his clandestine Skrull strike team that he relied on before Earth’s Mightiest Heroes officially joined forces.

5 Captain America (Steve Rogers) Was A World War II Hero

Steve Rogers Last Appeared In Avengers: Endgame

“The Man Out of Time,” Steve Rogers grew up in the early 20th century and got his start with superheroics in the 1940s during the height of World War 2. Captain America’s timeline became complicated after he seemingly sacrificed himself by crashing a plane into the Arctic Ocean to stop a Hydra bomb from reaching the mainland, but he, of course, survived in suspended animation before being revived in the 2000s by Fury and SHIELD. Steve’s current status and whereabouts are unknown in the MCU, but his life has encompassed an impressive and confusing series of decades.

4 Thor Is Thousands Of Years Old

Thor Last Appeared In Thor: Love And Thunder

Thor may have the appearance of someone in their 30s or 40s, but his Asgardian physiology means he’s far, far older. In Avengers: Infinity War, Hulk revealed that he’s an impressive 1500 years old. Given Loki comments on how Asgardians have similar lives to humans, “give or take 5000 years,” Thor should still have a long life ahead of him if he’s able to survive into old age like his father.

3 Captain Marvel (Carol Danvers) Got Her Powers In The 1990s

Carol Danvers Was Last Seen In The Marvels

Carol Danvers didn’t make a big screen appearance until the MCU Phase 3, but Captain Marvel’s’ introduction takes place much earlier in the Marvel timeline. After getting her powers through exposure to the Tesseract, however, Carol spent years on the wrong side of the good/bad divide. She was fed a false narrative about her history and manipulated into working for the Kree Starforce, though she’s been a cosmic defender of good since the 1990s. Moreover, her Air Force callsign is what inspired Nick Fury to call his team of superheroes The Avengers.

2 Sersi (And The Rest Of The Eternals) Are Ageless

Sersi Was Last Seen In Eternals

One of the big selling points of Eternals is that its heroes have been on Earth for thousands of years, witnessing (and sometimes guiding) human evolution and protecting life from the predatory Deviants. Spending their time in the service of the Celestials, the secret to their unnaturally long life spans is an important twist in their debut film. The Eternals are hand-created beings, not naturally born ones, and time will tell if they finally team up with other Earthly heroes when Kang threatens the multiverse in the MCU Phase 6.

1 The Ancient One Is Of Indeterminant Age

The Ancient One Last Appeared In Avengers: Endgame

The MCU doesn’t clarify exactly how old The Ancient One is, but it’s clear that the former Sorcerer Supreme had quite a long life before ultimately dying in Doctor Strange. Spanning centuries (at least), the Ancient One’s time as Earth’s prominent expert on the mystic arts undoubtedly saw the sorcerer come face to face with a bevy of powerful foes. However, the mysteries surrounding the Ancient One are part of the character’s charm and intrigue, so it’s unlikely the MCUwill do much more to spell out their time before meeting Stephen Strange.

Key Release Dates


Deadpool 3

Captain America: Brave New World

Marvel’s Thunderbolts

Blade (2025)

Marvel’s Fantastic Four

Avengers: The Kang Dynasty

Avengers: Secret Wars

 MCU heroes existed long before the Avengers.  Read More