With Iron Man making a cool half-billion dollars at the global box office, it is only natural that Marvel would want to dig up some more superhero characters to turn into mega-blockbusters . . .

This week already sees the release of Incredible Hulk, another stab at milking money from this particular comic book character. Will it do as well as Iron Man? It seems unlikely. The movie may be a fast-paced, crowd-pleaser, but audiences remembering the disastrous 2003 Hulk movie probably won't bother.

Lined up for Marvel (which now produces its own movies instead of relying on Hollywood to do so): an Iron Man sequel, Thor, Captain America and The Avengers. Like in the comic books themselves, “cross-pollination” seems to be the name of the game. Samuel L. Jackson shows up as Col. Nick Fury of the top secret SHIELD U.S. government organisation after the end titles have rolled on Iron Man to pitch the idea of a superhero team to Robert Downey, Jr.’s Tony Stark. Downey’s character himself makes a small cameo appearance at the end of Incredible Hulk to . . . you guess it, pitch the idea of a superhero team to William Hurt’s General Ross.

And that team? That would of course be The Avengers, a superhero team created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby as long ago as September 1963. Not to be confused with the ‘Sixties British TV series and rotten 1998 movie of the same name, The Avengers have always been a loose collection of existing superhero characters.

Like most superhero teams it has always had an ever-changing roster of members with characters coming and going. (In fact, the only “superhero team” with a more or less consistent team line-up has ironically been the always bickering Fantastic Four – probably because they had been created as a superhero team to begin with and weren’t just a bunch of existing characters thrown together to form a team.)

"Ant-Man is no doubt quite useful at family picnics . . ."

The Avengers have always been a mixture of A-list characters (such as Captain America) and B-listers such as Giant-Man, the Wasp and so on. About the only constant members of the Avengers had been Captain America, Iron Man and (sometimes) Thor. It is no coincidence that one of these characters already have their own movie and that the other two are also slated to get their own movies as well (Thor in 2010 and The First Avenger: Captain America in 2011). The Avengers movie has been confirmed for a 2011 release date and is to be written by Zak Penn, who wrote Incredible Hulk. No announcements on casting yet, but it is practically a given that Robert Downey, Jr. will return as Iron Man.

Putting all these instantly recognizable superhero characters together in one movie is a wet dream come true for any marketer (which is probably why we are going to see a Justice League movie even though fan response has been decidedly negative thus far). Think of how many lunchboxes they will sell!

Without any casting news as yet speculation as to whom the line-up will consist off right now will be quite futile.

However the smart money will be on Captain America, Thor, Iron Man and perhaps the Hulk. Yes, the Hulk was a “member” of the Avengers once. In fact he featured in the very first Avengers comic! Also a clever bet would be B-list superhero Ant-Man, who (you guessed it) can shrink to the size of an insect and telepathically control ants, a superpower that no doubt makes him quite popular at family picnics but which sort of seems somewhat useless otherwise. And if Ant-Man is included, so will the Wasp, who is Ant-man’s miniature wife in the comics.


Next: "Hulk wants Freddie Prinze Junior!"




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