The Avengers Cast Announcement from San Diego Comic-Con 2010

Photo by Judith Stephens

Of the three comic books I subscribed to directly from Marvel back in the day, in my earliest days of comic collecting, two were team books. One of those two was my favorite series of all time, The New Warriors, which I still think would make for an excellent TV series, and the other was The Avengers, which is due to arrive in movie theaters on May 4, 2012.

Over the weekend, while I was away on a camping trip with my family, the powers that be over at Marvel Studios announced to the San Diego Comic Con crowd the full cast of that upcoming Avengers movie, and most of the tabs I have open in my Web browser right now are devoted to discussions of this major bit of news. Quint from AICN called the moment that the cast assembled on stage the ”[h]ighlight of the Con, without a doubt” and I’d have to say, based on what I’ve been able to gather from my RSS reader since arriving home yesterday afternoon, it was probably the only highlight.

But, oh, what a highlight it was.

The Avengers, if you’re not familiar, are Marvel Comics’s preeminent super hero team. Like DC’s Justice League, Marvel’s Avengers are what happens when you put the biggest, most bad-ass of heroes together in a single book. Though the founding members of the Avengers didn’t quite match the star power of the Distinguished Competition—in what world could Ant-Man and Wasp match up against Superman and Wonder Woman, I ask you—the classic line-up that Marvel has put together for the film version could certainly hold their own, and are well-deserving of the moniker “Earth’s Mightiest Heroes.”

But the reason that Marvel really wins this fight is that they are putting an Avengers movie together, at all. Over at DC, where they’ve handed the keys to their film kingdom to Christopher Nolan (director of Batman Begins and The Dark Knight, and producer on the forthcoming Superman reboot), a Justice League film has been ruled out because of how poorly Nolan believes the worlds of Superman and Batman mix. Marvel, at least, is going to give this whole supergroup concept the old college try.

Yes, it seems crazy to put together a nearly plausible character like Iron Man with a norse god like Thor, but check out this line from the Thor trailer that screened at SDCC: “Your ancestors called it magic, yet you call it science. I can prove they are one and the same.” That, right there, is enough for me. They are recognizing how difficult it may be for the average moviegoer to reconcile the worlds of Thor and Iron Man, and they are doing something about it.

By making the Avengers movie come last, as the sixth in a series (yes, sixthThe Incredible Hulk still counts, even if they’ve recast the jolly green giant), they are giving audiences plenty of time to get used to the idea that all these dudes exist in the same world. Iron Man introduced us to Stark Technologies, which showed up in The Incredible Hulk. Iron Man 2 gave us a glimpse at Captain America’s shield, made reference to the crazy shit that happened in The Incredible Hulk, and gave us a peek at Thor’s hammer. Thor, I’m sure, will give us something else to think about (aside from the line I mentioned above, which already has me thinking), and Captain America: The First Avenger (which, yes, needs a better, shorter title) will give us something more. And, by the time we reach the end of the post-credits sequence of that last pre-Avengers flick, I think we’re going to be salivating for the awesome yet to come.

All that said, what I think is really remarkable about this Marvel series of films is that they are keeping each characters crazier quirks intact, even while they’re trying to mesh everything together. Despite their goal of establishing a realistic world, Thor will still have his crazy hat from the comics (at least for a scene or two). And, despite the fact that red, white, and blue aren’t exactly the best colors to wear in a combat situation, Captain America will still be wearing his classic duds.

The only thing I’m nervous about when it comes to the film version of The Avengers is the director they’ve chosen: Joss Whedon.

Now, I know Joss as a writer, and I adored his Astonishing X-Men run, but I know nothing about him as a director. I am heartened by his comment, “I think it’s completely counterintuitive to have all those people in the same room but that’s the definition of family,” and that gives him some wiggle room with me, but I’m still a bit scared. Does he have any notable experience to speak of? Anyone out there have anything to say to calm my nerves?

I love that they’re bringing Hawkeye in, I love that Hulk is still involved (even if I would have rather seen them hash things out with the ever-difficult Edward Norton than recast the part), and I’m really digging the casting all around. Yes, I still think it would be awesome if the new high-school Spider-Man joined the team, and if we got Hugh Jackman in there as Wolverine or something, but I’ll take what I can get.

How about you?