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The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes
By Bert Ehrmann
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Fort Wayne Reader
To say that the recent movies based on Marvel Entertainment characters has been extremely successful would not be an understatement. The Iron Man films have been very popular and profitable and last year saw the debut of two more hit Marvel movies with Thor and Captain America. And now this summer comes Marvel's latest film that packages all these super heroes and more together into one film – The Avengers.
Originally The Avengers consisted of Iron Man, Thor, The Hulk, Ant Man and The Wasp with the addition of Captain America soon after who acted together as a sort of super-group of super-heroes. Created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby who seemed to have laid the foundations of most everything Marvel makes money on today, the main idea behind The Avengers was that they were solo-heroes who'd team up to do battle with the villains no single hero could beat alone. That and counter DC's comics super-group of super-heroes The Justice League that was also very popular with the fans at the time as well.
The Avengers became a hit with the fans and was one of Marvel's most popular titles. In fact, it was so successful that for a time in the there was a second Avengers title called West Coast Avengers where that group of heroes handled trouble on the “left coast.”
The real beauty of a comic book like The Avengers is that there's really no set cast. If a given super-hero is popular at the moment then they they might find themselves pulling double duty in their own title as well as a temporary member of The Avengers helping sell a few extra issues of that comic as well. Over the years, characters as diverse as Wolverine from The X-Men, Spider-Man and The Thing from Fantastic Four were all members of The Avengers.
The new feature film version of The Avengers, due in theaters May 4, seems to be based on the comic series The Ultimates that was released a few years back that reinvented/rebooted The Avengers. Here, The Avengers are pulled together by the government agency S.H.I.E.L.D. and its leader Nick Fury to do battle with, of all things, a rampaging Incredible Hulk that no single hero can take down alone.
With the feature film version, though, the baddie of the Hulk has been replaced with the evil Loki from the Thor film and his band of mysterious evil minions that threaten NYC and the Hulk is one of the heroes.
However popular The Avengers might be, or might become after the movie, arguably DC's The Justice League is more well-known with the public. A whole generation who came of age in the 1970s and 80s grew up with the Saturday morning Super Friends cartoon that was essentially The Justice League under a different name. More recently there was a Justice League cartoon that ran throughout the early part of the '00s on cable and a modern Young Justice about a new crop of Justice League heroes.
It seems that not only does The Justice League have an appeal to younger parents but also to their kids too.
Yet, so far DC has been unable to take this appeal turn it into a feature film franchise. In fact, while DC owns the rights to some of today's most popular comic characters like Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman, other than the recent Batman films no movie studio has been able to turn any of the DC characters into a successful film. The recent Green Lantern movie was a creative disaster and the most recent Superman Returns movie was lackluster at best. Most embarrassingly was an attempt last summer at launching a Wonder Woman TV series on NBC that never got past the pilot episode and was panned by those who saw it.
A few years ago DC tried to launch The Justice League as a feature film franchise but the movie was eventually cancelled because of money issues. I'm not sure if the people creating the Marvel movies are a) very good, b) very lucky or c) both. But whatever they're doing right seems to be working very well.
A third Iron Man movie and second Thor film are due out next year and a second Captain America film in 2014. If The Avengers film is successful, and I can't imagine that it won't be, expect a second one soon after that. Visit me online at DangerousUniverse.com.