Comic Books Rule the Movie Universe

COMMENTARY | When I was a little kid, my Mom asked me what I wanted for my birthday. I got a subscription to “Justice League of America.” Every month, I checked the mail for my new issue and I really enjoyed seeing Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Aqua Man, the Flash and the Martian Man Hunter joining together as a team. There was so much firepower gathered that it was often hard to find a super bad guy big enough to pose a threat. There was more bang for the buck to get so many characters in one story.

In the summer of 1963, we were blessed with the first publication of ” The Avengers.”
This was a super group that didn’t fit into the goodie two shoes mold. After the breakthroughs of “Spider-Man” and “The Fantastic Four,” Stan Lee and Jack Kirby of Marvel Comics topped themselves with characters who had serious issues.

The early stories led up to the discovery of Captain America, who was frozen alive at the end of World War II. This was portrayed very nicely in “Captain America, the First Avenger.”

Iron Man, Thor and the unpredictable Hulk joined together with the super patriot to fight enemies too powerful for one hero to face alone. Over the years, there was a virtual revolving door on the posh Avenger headquarters provided by the ultra rich benefactor, Tony Stark. The heroes fought together, argued with each other, deserted the corps and then came back again, creating never-ending opportunities to reinvent the book.

Characters introduced as villains could have a change of heart and then join the team as good guys. Sometimes, new members would transfer from other Marvel comics like the mutants of “X Men”,
named Quicksilver and Scarlett Witch. Oftentimes, like Batman, the costumed protagonists would have no super powers at all, but would have skills and gadgets.

So far, Marvel, has done a great job of introducing the heroes with “Iron Man”, “Thor”, and “Captain America” being solid movies. “The Hulk” has had his ups and downs through several incarnations, including an iconic television version.

Looking over the cast, there is a shopping list of “who’s who” of cinematic clout. My personal favorite is Lou Ferrigno, as the voice of the Hulk. Mark Ruffalo gets the mild Bruce Banner side of that character which might provide some comic relief. Seriously, I can’t think of any movie that has had so much depth in the number of characters and in the casting.

It’s impossible not to mention Robert Downey Jr., who is enjoying the best days of his career. The casting talent is so abundant that even smaller parts get a boost from big talent.

Paul Bettany is the voice of the automated house butler and Jenny Agutter from “Logan’s Run” and “Walkabout” is in a minor but memorable role.The list of producers is long and impressive too. Director Joss Whedon of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” fame knows his way around the comic book universe. With it’s parent, The Walt Disney Company, on board to handle the marketing, Marvel Entertainment is launching a franchise that could rival the “James Bond” series.

The release date is for “The Avengers” is scheduled for May 4, 2012, so it’s still a little too early to get in line for your ticket.

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