The Top 10 Avengers of 2012

[caption id="attachment_156612" align="alignleft" width="300"]The Avengers Marvel Films[/caption]

The new year is fast approaching and, on the Internet, that means just one thing: Time to put together some top 10 lists. And since "The Avengers" was undoubtedly the film event of the year — $1.5 billion worldwide doesn't lie — we thought it would only be fitting to ring out the old by taking a look at the Top 10 Avengers of 2012.

Just how awesome are the Avengers? They're so awesome that they get a Top 10 list even though there were only six of them in the movie.

And that's because "The Avengers" wasn't just the top grossing film of the year; it's also become the centerpiece for Marvel's ever-expanding film universe. Which means there were characters who didn't even appear in "The Avengers" that still managed to produce some of the most buzzed-about moments of the year in Hollywood.

So grab your Uru hammer and strap yourself in, because this list is about to show you why "The Avengers" aren't just the coolest characters of 2012 — they're also about to become the dominant pop culture characters of the next decade.

10. Vision

[caption id="attachment_156614" align="alignright" width="150"]Vision Marvel[/caption]

Okay, quick primer for those who don't know about Vision: One of the mainstays of the team in the comics, Vision is a synthezoid (like an android, only ... well, okay, he's an android) who was created using the brain patterns of a dead team member. So how does Vision rate on our list? Well, read that description again and then take ten seconds to Google "Agent Coulson Vision." Remember, this is the world of comic book heroes, where being dead doesn't necessarily mean you're dead. Considering how beloved Clark Gregg's dear departed S.H.I.E.L.D. agent is among fans, buzz about the possibility of him being resurrected as Vision in "The Avengers 2" began before the closing credits even started rolling. That's a pretty good start.

9. Spider-Man

[caption id="attachment_156615" align="alignright" width="150"]The Amazing Spider-Man Sony[/caption]

Yes, folks, in the comic books, Spider-Man is a member of the Avengers. Of course, in the real world, there are some villains even the world's mightiest superheroes can't defeat — such as corporate lawyers. Which is why we'll likely never get to see Spidey in an "Avengers" movie, as Peter Parker's film rights are controlled by Sony, not Marvel. Still, you can't deny the great year everyone's favorite wall-crawler had, what with "The Amazing Spider-Man" being successful enough to already warrant a buzz-building sequel. Sure, we'd love to see him trading quips with Iron Man, but this is one Avenger who may actually be better off solo. For now, anyway.

8. The Wasp

[caption id="attachment_156616" align="alignright" width="150"]The Wasp Marvel[/caption]

When her father was killed by agents of a foreign power, socialite Janet van Dyne underwent an experimental process that gave her the ability to shrink, grow wings and shoot bio-energy wasp stings at bad guys. In the comics, she also was a founding member of the team, coming up with the name "Avengers" — in fact, she was in the first draft of "The Avengers" script but was eventually elbowed out due to superhero overcrowding. Now that notorious girl-power champion Joss Whedon is large and in charge of the franchise, though, rumors have been flying that The Wasp will not only have a major role in "The Avengers 2," she'll actually be played by Stephanie Szostak in "Iron Man 3" next summer as well. That's still a rumor, but it's not just a rumor that her partner in superheroing — and the guy who gave her her powers — will be getting his own solo film that leads into "The Avengers 2," making it even more likely we'll be seeing The Wasp very soon. Which brings us to our next Avenger ...

7. Ant-Man

[caption id="attachment_156617" align="alignright" width="150"]Ant Man Marvel[/caption]

For a guy so small he rides ants to work, Ant-Man has been having a very big year. For example, the long rumored "Ant-Man" movie finally got an official green light from Marvel, meaning that Ant-Man — again, a guy who rides and talks to ants as his super power — will be getting his own feature film before such better-known superheroes as Wonder Woman, The Flash and Shazam. The fact that his movie will inevitably lead into "The Avengers 2" and other future projects, assuring him of a larger role (no pun intended) in the shared Marvel universe, is just the frosting on the epic cake that was Ant-Man's 2012. And, oh yeah, word on the street has it that the bonus scene after the credits in "Iron Man 3" is going to lead into "Ant-Man." Who's laughing now?

6. (tie) Black Widow

[caption id="attachment_156618" align="alignright" width="150"]Black Widow Marvel Films[/caption]

Scarlett Johansson's deadly secret agent Black Widow was already familiar to fans thanks to 2010's "Iron Man 2," but while she was cool in that film, she didn't really get to do much other than one scene in which she flopped around a little and knocked out a couple security guards. Ho hum. In "The Avengers," though, Natasha Romanoff got to kick some major butt, anchoring three key scenes in the film: Her opening sequence, where she wrecks some bad guys while tied to a chair; a fantastic verbal game of cat-and-mouse with the god of trickery himself, Loki; and the final showdown of the movie where, oh by the way, she manages to save all of Earth from an alien invasion. Not bad for someone who doesn't actually have any super powers. Now why the heck hasn't Marvel started working on a solo film for her already?

6. (tie) Hawkeye

[caption id="attachment_156619" align="alignright" width="150"]Hawkeye Marvel Films[/caption]

Well, maybe Marvel isn't working on a solo Black Widow movie because they know that fans really want to see a team-up film featuring her and her mysteriously sexy soul mate, Hawkeye. Of course, we do think that Jeremy Renner's ultra-intense bowman could stand on his own, but the chemistry — and still to-be-revealed history — he shares with Johansson's Black Widow makes them a terrific twosome (thus the tie). From a meaningless cameo in "Thor" to potentially getting his own franchise as a result of kicking butt in 'The Avengers"? That's what we call a good year.

4. The Hulk

[caption id="attachment_156620" align="alignright" width="150"]Hulk Marvel Films[/caption]

Third time really was the charm for The Hulk, who disappointed both in 2003's "Hulk" starring Eric Bana and 2008's "The Incredible Hulk" starring Edward Norton. Despite those missteps, Marvel was convinced the character still had appeal to fans and it turned out they were right — all they needed to do was add Mark Ruffalo as the new edition of Bruce Banner, beef up the CGI to levels undreamt of in previous attempts and inject some much-needed humor into the character and movie. Hulk's violent interactions with Thor provided some of the most exciting moments of the film, but it was his epic takedown of Loki that still has fans buzzing. In one year, and with one movie, the Hulk went from two-time Hollywood failure to fan favorite and Internet meme machine. And with Ruffalo so jazzed about being in talks for a new Hulk solo film, well, we have to say that in 2012, Hulk truly did smash.

3. Captain America

[caption id="attachment_156622" align="alignright" width="150"]Captain America Marvel Films[/caption]

And now we get down to the big three. While Thor and Iron Man may be ahead of Cap on our list, in a way "The Avengers" was really Captain America's movie. Think about it: The main story arc is about the team learning to trust each other and work together and at the heart of that is Steve Rogers coming to grips with the modern world and inspiring the others to follow his example once he gets his head on straight. Chris Evans topped his performance in 2011's "Captain America: The First Avenger" as he provided the heart for both the Avengers and, well, "The Avengers." Plus, he's already hard at work on 2014's "Captain America: The Winter Soldier," which was given the green light as soon as the opening weekend box office results of "The Avengers" rolled in.

2. Thor

[caption id="attachment_156623" align="alignright" width="150"]Thor Marvel Films[/caption]

Yes, it's hard to top Captain America's year, but Chris Hemsworth and Thor managed to do just that in a squeaker. Like Cap, Thor also got the go-ahead for a sequel, next year's "Thor: The Dark World," which Hemsworth is currently filming. Plus, Thor not only got to share some hilarious moments with fellow titan Hulk, he also added some major pathos to "The Avengers" thanks to his fascinatingly troubled relationship with his brother, the irredeemably villainous Loki. 2011's "Thor," for all its box office success, was a bit of a niche film — thanks to "The Avengers," though, Thor is about as popular and mainstream as you can get, which is saying something for a figure from Norse mythology. Even immortals recognize a good year when they live one.

1. Iron Man

[caption id="attachment_156626" align="alignright" width="150"]Iron Man Marvel Films[/caption]

Seriously, was there ever any doubt? Robert Downey Jr.'s complex and narcissistic hero Tony Stark entered "The Avengers" as  Marvel's biggest box office draw and he left the same way. There's no question that the good will generated by "Iron Man" and "Iron Man 2" went a long way in getting fans fired up for "The Avengers," so the fact that Stark provided the film with its best one-liners — and the fact that Iron Man ended up saving the day in the last scene while also maybe saving his own soul — ensured that fans walked away from the theater satisfied. Want more? Well, how about the fact that the first trailers for next May's "Iron Man 3" have been burning up the Internet for weeks? Which leaves us with this amazing fact: As great a year as Iron Man had in 2012, he is poised to have an even better year in 2013.

Avengers Assemble.

Get more Best of 2012 here.