John Gholson is a life-long Avengers fanboy who has previously covered all manner of superhero and “normal” movie news on a regular basis for AOL. After dabbling with comic book self-publishing in the 90s, John moved on to study sequential art at the Savannah College of Art & Design, and currently produces a regular web comic, ‘Appetite for Destruction,’ for Tapsauce.com. He’ll also buy any comic with Hawkeye on the cover. You can read his Avengers Countdown here at Movies.com every other Thursday beginning June 9.
“Thor will return in The Avengers.” That simple statement might have meant a lot to a theater full of knowing comic fans, but did it mean anything to the general public? I’m not convinced. Sure, I know who The Avengers are, but I kind of take for granted how perfunctory the whole exchange between Sgt. Fury and Tony Stark was in Iron Man 2. They talked about it, but only in vagaries, and that brief bit of Avengers talk doesn’t affect the plot of Iron Man 2 in any significant way. In a world where general audiences easily confuse The Green Hornet and Green Lantern, is it crystal clear what Marvel Studios is planning to do with their superheroes?
If it wasn’t before, it should be by now. By adding this sting to the end of Thor and advertising Captain America as The First Avenger, they’re letting audiences know -- hey, we’re building toward something. It will be the first time we’ve seen separate films come together into one mega-spectacle ensemble film like this, but I know from discussions with non-fans that Thor opened up more questions about The Avengers than any previous Marvel Studios film.
1. Didn’t they already make this movie with Uma Thurman and Sean Connery?
No. Although it has the same title, and is also a fantasy/sci-fi flick, 1998’s Avengers film is based on a 1960s television series that played fast and loose with the Cold War spy craze. This Avengers is based on Marvel Comics’ long-running monthly title that started in 1963 and features many of their headlining characters in one co-operative super-team.
2. Which Avengers will be in the movie?
We know Iron Man, Thor, Captain America, Black Widow, and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner, as seen in Thor) are a lock. There’ve been some persistent rumors of another female member, but, now that shooting’s actually underway, those rumors seem less likely. Mark Ruffalo will be donning the purple pantaloons to play the Hulk, but to what extent the Hulk is a team player remains to be seen. They could very well follow the comic book origin of the Avengers, in which the team was forced to band together against the Hulk, who was being manipulated by Thor’s arch-nemesis Loki.
3. A new actor is playing the Hulk? What gives?
As much as Marvel might have set out to have Edward Norton return to the part in The Avengers, the star couldn’t see eye-to-eye with the producers of The Incredible Hulk on the final cut of that film. Norton has a reputation as someone who likes to be deeply involved in the editing room, and because of the ensemble nature of The Avengers, they sought an actor who might be a little less demanding in that way. They announced Mark Ruffalo as Bruce Banner/The Hulk at the 2010 San Diego Comic Con.
4. Why was Jeremy Renner in Thor for only, like, five seconds?
The Hurt Locker star plays Clint Barton aka Hawkeye in Thor. It was definitely more of an Avengers “Easter egg” than a crucial plot point, but Marvel wanted to give us a nice tease, so they did. The character lacks super powers, but is a crack-shot archer -- that’s the reason he grabs a compound bow instead of a gun in his scene in Thor. In the comics, Barton, already a skilled archer, is inspired by Iron Man to become a superhero, eventually joining the Avengers.
5. What’s the big deal with that glowing white block in a suitcase that they show after Thor’s credits?
That’s the Cosmic Cube, an artifact that allows its possessor to manipulate reality to their will. Time will tell if it ties directly into the Avengers film, but it does figure in to Captain America: The First Avenger. Captain America’s foil, The Red Skull (played by Hugo Weaving), wants the cube for his own (though it may have had a name change from the Cosmic Cube to the “Tesseract” for the film).
6. Why aren’t Spider-Man and Wolverine on the team?
Neither character are widely thought of as Avengers, regardless of the fact that both of them appear in Marvel’s monthly New Avengers comic, but the real story comes down to rights issues. Spider-Man is all tied up at Sony and 20th Century Fox has Wolverine all to themselves with the X-Men property. I’m sure Marvel Studios would love to bring those characters into the fold someday, but it’s not happening anytime soon.
7. Why aren’t Batman and Superman on the team?
They’re DC Comics characters, owned by Warner Brothers. There’s not even a snowball’s chance in hell you’ll ever see them in a Marvel Studios movie. This is like asking why you can’t get a Whopper at McDonald’s.
8. Why do they call Captain America “the first Avenger?” Isn’t Thor the first Avenger?
Since Captain America was created in World War II, he pre-dates Thor as an Earth-bound superhero (Thor was still hanging out in Asgard during WWII). That’s the geek answer. The real answer is international marketing. The studio gets to sell the film outside of America by making sure everyone knows that it’s related to The Avengers.
9. What exactly are they avenging?
The fact that you can’t buy a Whopper at McDonald’s.
Or maybe not. We’ll find out for sure in May 2012 when it hits theatres.
10. Okay, I’m interested, but there are a lot of Avengers comics on the stand! What’s the difference between them all? Where should I start?
There are four monthly Avengers titles -- Avengers, New Avengers, Secret Avengers, and Avengers Academy. Avengers usually has the recognizable heavy-hitters front-and-center in the storylines, so if you’re looking for Iron Man, Cap, and Thor, this is the book for you. New Avengers focuses on adventures featuring the newer members of the team, like Luke Cage, Spider-Man, Iron Fist, and Wolverine, over the stalwarts. Secret Avengers is an espionage-flavored monthly, with Steve Rogers out of his Captain America costume, leading a clandestine team of fringe characters (Moon Knight, Beast, Black Widow) on covert missions in the Marvel Universe. You might not recognize the teens that make up Avengers Academy, but the hook is interesting -- they’re youngsters that the Avengers are mentoring because they fit the psychological profile of villains.
I’d start with the regular Avengers title, then expand to New, then Secret. Avengers Academy is cool, but may not be what you’re looking for if you want something like the movies. I strongly recommend the recent Avengers Assemble Vol. 1, by Kurt Busiek and George Perez, as a superb all-around introduction to the team, not only to all the characters involved, but also to the specific flavor of Avengers comics at their best.
The Avengers, a Joss Whedon film, stars Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, and Chris Hemsworth. There are 344 days until release.